Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 1989

SOMEBODY HAS TO OCCUPY CELLAR

December 20, 1989

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It may be the oldest established permanent floating pitching pool in the world. Then again, it may not be.

Whatever, next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the darned thing and I suppose I'll have to enter again for the same reason they say you should climb back on a horse after you've been bucked off.

I finished last in the Kansas City Pitching Pool. Dead last. Of 192 entries, I was . . . yep, No. 192.

Oh, the shame of it all. Oh, the ignominy. But what the heck. . .the guy who finishes last in his class at medical school is still a doctor, isn't he?

The KC Pitching Pool, an annual tradition of Opening Day in the press box at Royals Stadium, is basically the baby of Alan Hoskins, former sports editor of the Kansas City Kansan.

HOSKINS, WHO now works at KC Community College, has lured participants, including several celebrities, from all over the country. For instance, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer filled out forms last year. Robinson finished in a tie for 131st, by the way, while Palmer was 148th which proves that even former pitchers can be humbled.

All you have to do is pick five pitchers. Any five pitchers. If your choices win more games combined than everybody else's five, then you're the winner. It's that simple.

For instance, last year's champ a fellow from Florida tabbed Roger Clemens, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Mike Scott and Rick Reuschel. Among them, those pitchers posted 92 victories.

"That's not a record," Hoskins told me. "We've had people go over 100 before."

It may sound easy to select five pitchers who'll have 20-win seasons, but it isn't. Believe me. What if, for instance, you'd have chosen John Tudor who didn't win a single game in '89? Or Danny Jackson who came off a 20-victory plus season in '88 and won only six games last summer?

SOME OTHER moundsmen with proven double-digit win capacity who faltered last summer were Dwight Gooden (9 wins), Mike Witt (9), Jack Morris (6) and Charlie Leibrandt (5).

In some cases Gooden, Jackson and Tudor, for example injuries were the great unknown. But Morris, Witt and Leibrandt simply lost it or had bad years.

Not that I'm making excuses for my malfeasance. I didn't pick any of those aforementioned pitchers. Why? Because I'm a hunch bettor. I'd rather try to select pitchers who'll surprise the baseball world.

How many pitchers came out of nowhere last year? Not very many, actually. The Cubs' Mike Bielecki and the Orioles' Jeff Ballard won 18 games each. Unfortunately, I didn't pick either one. But nobody else did, either.

By now you're doubtless wondering which Fab Five I did select. Well, it wasn't Stan Clarke, Kevin Appier, Morganna, the Famous Chicken and a slot machine. Fact is, my selections won a total of 47 games.

"We've had people finish last with a lot fewer wins than that," Hoskins told me, obviously trying to cheer me up. "Last year some guy picked three Cardinals pitchers and they were all hurt and they totaled something like 12 wins."

HOSKINS ALSO tried to boost my dauber by telling me Marv Levy once finished last in the pool and, as everybody knows, the former head coach of the Chiefs he's coach of the Buffalo Bills now is a Phi Beta Kappa.

Well, I guess that does make me feel a little better except, on reflection, I'm not sure what Phi Beta Kappadom has to do with forecasting the future.

But on to my picks. My leading winner was Nolan Ryan of the Rangers with 16 victories. Then came Melido Perez of the White Sox with 11 and Dennis Rasmussen of the Padres with 10. Rounding out my Futile Five were Jose Rijo of the hapless Reds with 7 victories and Mike (Stick a Fork in Me I'm) Dunne of the pitiful Pirates with just 3.

OK, so I did poorly. Look at is this way, though. If Dunne had won just 43 more games, I would have been considered a genius. Don't call me, Phi Beta Kappa. I'll call you.

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