Jayson Stark
  Injuries: AL | NL
  Weekly Lineup
  Message Board
  Minor Leagues
  MLB Stat Search


Sport Sections
Saturday, August 19
Larry Walker, you've got company

There once was a time, back in their mid-'80s glory years, when a bunch of New York Mets made a guest appearance on "Sesame Street" to help teach the youth of America how to count.

Last Saturday at Shea Stadium, they could have used the youth of America to help teach their left fielder how to count.

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are about to win 15 games or more in the same season for the fifth time. Can you name the three other sets of current non-Braves teammates who have had at least two 15-win seasons together?

(Answer at bottom.)

Yes, the number of the day definitely wasn't "three" on Saturday, when Benny Agbayani gathered in a fly ball by Giants catcher Bobby Estalella and trotted over to hand it to 7-year-old Jake Burns, sitting happily in the box seats.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It stopped seeming like such a good idea when the bulletin reached Agbayani that there were only two outs.

So two runs scored. On a fly ball to the left fielder. And poor Benny had to race over, yank the baseball out of Jake Burns' hands and look to see if there was anybody left to throw out. (Correct answer: Negative.)

"I was sad," Jake Burns told the squadron of reporters that descended on him approximately 2.7 seconds later.

"Not half as sad as Agbayani," said his father, Jim Burns.

Now this created an immediate question that any conscientious baseball fan would ask: If Agbayani had handed the ball to Jake Burns, then gotten it back and thrown out a runner, how would the Elias Sports Bureau have scored the play?

"I would think," said Elias' Steve Hirdt, "that we would have used, as a precedent, the scene in 'Naked Gun' where the umpires have the guy in the rundown. We'd score this play the way we scored that one. We could consult Cowboy Joe West, because he appeared in it."

Benny Agbayani
A moment that will live in infamy: Benny Agbayani retrieves the ball from 7-year-old Jake Burns.

Ah, but that became a slightly moot point, because A) Agbayani couldn't figure out who to throw out; B) Cowboy Joe is currently unavailable for umpiring or consulting duties; and C) the ball was ruled dead anyway. Which clearly meant that the ball could relate to Benny. And vice-versa. Eventually, we're happy to report, Jake Burns got another ball from Agbayani -- and more press coverage than Joe Lieberman. That was the good news in the Burns household.

And eventually, the Mets came back to beat the Giants, getting their man Benny off the hook in the pennant race (although we're still predicting trouble on his M.I.T. application). That was the good news in the Agbayani household.

The bad news, though, is that he has clinched himself a lifetime sentence to blooper-film incarceration. And if he doesn't believe us, he can ask two guys who have been there, done that.

One would be Larry Walker, who caught a fly ball hit by Mike Piazza for the second out on an April 24, 1994 ESPN Sunday Night game and handed it to a 9-year-old Sebastian Nappier sitting in the first row.

Walker had to sprint back and yell to Nappier: "Hey, let me see that for a second." Then he grabbed the ball and fired it back to the infield -- but too late to prevent Jose Offerman from tagging up and going from first to third. Walker's comment at the time, in perfect ESPN-ese: "Dah-da-da. Dah-da-da." His comment last weekend, to the Denver Post's Mike Klis, after watching Agbayani's play: "Good. Now you guys can leave me alone. You've got fresh meat."

But that's what our hero, John Kruk, was saying back when Walker flunked his math test, too. Because five years earlier, Kruk also had caught a fly ball, put his head down and began trotting to the dugout -- without completing his out calculations.

Oops. There were only two outs that night, too. So Bobby Bonilla tagged up and scored from second base.

"I was just happy I caught the damn thing, first of all," Kruk reminisced this week. "Anything after that was a bonus, I figured. And why was Bonilla tagging on a fly ball to left field, anyway? He's the one who screwed up, not me."

Yeah, that's his story. And he's sticking to it. But if Agbayani needs any more good excuses where that came from, he should track down Kruk, who spends his time these days as a guest co-host for MLB radio and presiding over the Stadium Club restaurant in Philadelphia with his pal, Mitch Williams.

Need another excuse? Kruk's got a million of them.

Kruk's theory on Agbayani's play: "He was just helping fan relations. Maybe attendance was down and he was just being a nice guy. He's from Hawaii, right? Aren't most Hawaiians laid back and friendly? Maybe he was just being courteous. He thought the kid seemed like a nice kid. So when he caught that fly ball, maybe he thought, 'This is my chance to give that kid a ball. I have to take advantage of it.'

"Hampton was pitching. He's a sinkerballer. So he probably figured there may not be many more opportunities."

Yeah, sure. That's exactly what he figured.

"He let two runs score," Kruk said. "I only let in one run. So I was twice as smart as he was."

And Kruk was also smart enough to predict that Agbayani will only see this replay another 2,896,438,527 times -- in the next week.

"I've seen mine so many times, it's etched in my brain," Kruk said. "It's something that haunts me to this day. Can't you tell?

"He should just look at it this way: They won the game -- and he's still alive. And I'm sure that from now on, the New York faithful will remind him how many outs there are for the rest of his life.

"At least he can believe them. On the road, it'll be a different story. I'm sure he'll get a lot of crap in Chicago from them bleacher bums. Those damn people don't forget nothing you've done. They're very knowledgeable about screw-ups -- maybe because they're all screw-ups themselves. They remembered every dumb thing I ever did. I know that. They also seemed to know a lot about my mother, too -- stuff I didn't even know."

If it's any consolation to Agbayani, he should be happy to learn that at least Kruk never did anything like that again. Neither did Walker. It's pretty much one brain cramp per lifetime -- because after that, guys tend to develop certain mathematical aids. Or their teammates develop some for them.

Al Leiter told Week in Review, for example, that the Mets would be happy to help Agbayani in the future.

"We should probably put flash cards in the dugout," Leiter said.

After Kruk's gaffe, coach Larry Bowa told him he was going to send him to the outfield in the future with three sticks of gum. He could put the first stick in his mouth after the first out. He could put the second stick in his mouth after the second out. And when he ran out of gum, he could come back to the dugout.

So Kruk says he could be full of helpful tips like that, if Agbayani ever needs to consult with him.

"He should talk to me," Kruk said. "I'm sure we've got a lot in common. Me and him and Larry Walker can go to math class together -- and learn how to count to three."

Horseplay of the week
They say in baseball that you can't win if you don't have the horses. But as far as we know, the Rochester Red Wings, down in the wilds of the International League, are the first team ever to take that expression literally.

Thursday night, the Red Wings scheduled a promotion more befitting the Pony League than the International League, a promotion that should have been sponsored by Jockey underwear, a promotion that only the late, great Harry (The Horse) Anderson could have truly appreciated.

They scheduled a 40-yard pregame race between their center fielder, Jose Herrera, and a horse. But not just any horse -- the Terry Felton of horses, the Sauerkraut Saul of horses, the Prairie View A&M of horses.

We are speaking, of course, of the one and only Zippy Chippy. Career record (against horses): 0-86.

Well, Zippy's lifetime record against humans is now an equally futile 0-1. He was still grazing around the infield, taking in the panorama of Red Wings baseball, when starter Joe Altobelli lowered the starter's flag. And by the time Zippy got those hooves thundering, it was too late to catch up in the Red Wing Derby.

"The race started, and he no want to do nothing," Herrera told Week in Review. "That horse, he no make a good start ever. That's what they say."

That is, in fact, why Zippy has been banned from racing anymore at nearby Finger Lakes Race Track. In his last three races there, he refused to leave the gate, greatly delighting all those who bet against him (by which we mean everyone).

But in this particular race, jockey Pedro Castillo told Week in Review, poor Zippy was set up -- because the race was too short. Not that anyone has ever established Zippy's best distance. But it was clear, after losing by 4½-lengths (horse, not human), that 40 yards isn't it.

"If we'd have raced around the bases, he would have won," Castillo said. "75 yards, 100 yards, no doubt he'd have won. But 40 yards, no. Forty yards, I could beat him myself."

Castillo also complained that Zippy had to carry a jockey, whereas Herrera didn't -- another obvious attempt by the Red Wings to stack the odds.

"He should have had to carry a jockey on his back, too," Castillo said. "That would be more fair. If the horse weighs 1200 pounds and the baseball player weighs 120, then if the horse has to carry 120, the baseball player should carry 1200. That would be more fair. Don't you think?"

Sure. But Herrera was having none of these sour oats.

"I don't need a jockey," he said, with convincing logic.

Actually, Herrera said, when the idea of racing a horse was first proposed to him, he thought initially they wanted him to be a jockey, atop another horse. Then he was told: "No, we want you to race him yourself."

"I say, 'I don't know how I'm gonna beat a horse,' " Herrera said. " 'But I'll try.' "

In the end, though, it turned out to be, in his words, "no problem." But Herrera said he wasn't interested in moving on now to face, say, Fugiachi Pegasus.

"I think hitting a curveball is better than racing a horse," he said. "Hitting a curveball is more nice and easy. The horse is too fast."

Not fast enough, however. Herrera later went out and got two hits Thursday night. So given that he's now a .500 career hitter in games after he races a horse, we asked if he planned to lobby with his agent to negotiate a contract clause requiring that he race one every night.

"Maybe next year," he said, eagerly.

At-bat of the week
There's a segment of the baseball world that thinks only bad things can happen when you let pitchers hit.

Then there's us. At Week in Review, we understand that when pitchers hit, many good things can happen -- because the entertainment possibilities are limitless.

We had more proof of that Tuesday, when the Arizona Diamondbacks allowed reliever Byung-Hyun Kim to come to the plate for just the second time in his American baseball career. The first time, he'd somehow walked on five pitches, against Houston's Yorkis Perez.

But this time, Phillies reliever Wayne Gomes threw Kim a ball, then a called strike. So after that, Kim had no choice but to unleash two of the most unsightly hacks ever witnessed on a major-league stage.

When most guys swing, their bat moves and their bodies stay relatively in the same place. When Kim swung, he appeared to think the only way to get the bat to move was to whirl around with it.

"The first swing," teammate Brian Anderson told Week in Review, "he kind of swung and choppered around. It's a good thing he didn't have any bat speed. He might have left the ground."

Instead, he amazingly made slight contact -- and fouled a ball off a certain body part that will remain nameless.

"He's going to be on the Tom Emanski video with Fred McGriff," said his bullpenmate, Dan Plesac. "It will be one of Emanski's new fundamentals: 'Here's how to swing and foul a ball off your (deleted area).' "

But one bad swing deserves another. So let's just say Kim's second hack -- taken while actually jumping -- was so late, the ball was being thrown around the infield after strike three before Kim got the bat all the way around.

"I've never seen a big-league at-bat quite like that," Anderson said. "I can't believe he managed to swing with both feet off the ground. ... Maybe he was planning to twirl around -- and hit the next pitch on the backswing."

Having watched Kim take batting practice all year, though, his fellow pitchers know he actually has no plan, though he hasn't conceded that point yet.

"He had that at-bat about a month ago where he walked," Plesac said. "And when he came in, we said, 'Hey, good job.' And he said he was looking to hit a breaking ball. He said, 'Throw me curveball, I hit it.' We said, 'Uh, we don't think so.' "

But as long as Kim keeps on throwing those sidearm Frisbees up there and striking out 14.6 per nine innings, they'll be happy to live with his offensive liabilities.

"He doesn't throw like the rest of us," Anderson said. "And he certainly doesn't hit like the rest of us."

Rockie of the week
The Colorado Rockies hit the road last week. And that's always entertaining. So here's our Rockie Road report, from Week in Review's official mile-high correspondent, Rockies coach-witticist Rich Donnelly.

  • Hello, goodbye: The Rockies' trip began with a one-game emergency make-up journey to St. Louis for a quick 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

    "It was like a 2½-hour in-flight movie," Donnelly said. "You get on the plane. You get on the bus. You think you nodded off and dreamt you went to a movie about a game. It was like you saw 'Bull Durham.' Then the next thing you know, you're in Montreal.

    "We spent so little time there, we checked into the hotel, took the bags to the room, and before the bellman could get to the elevator, we called him back to take them out again."

  • The milestone: Last Saturday, third baseman Jeff Cirillo got the 1,000th hit of his career. That was the highlight of his seven-RBI day. The lowlight was rounding first after the hit -- then getting thrown out on the way back to the bag by the laser-armed Vladimir Guerrero.

    "He got the ball," Donnelly said of Cirillo. "But he had two things written on it: 'Got a hit. Got picked off.' Put them both on there. I think Vladimir signed it, too."

  • The windup: The Rockies just called up a pitcher who's the talk of baseball. He's contortionist right-handed reliever Craig House, who won and lost the first game of his career on this trip. It's hard to say who enjoys watching him pitch more -- the Rockies or Denver's most prestigious orthopedic surgeons.

    The great thing about House is that he throws 100 miles per hour. The down side is that he's so unorthodox doing it, he makes Byung-Hyun Kim look like Tom Seaver. He literally leaps off the rubber as the ball leaves his hand.

    "His delivery," Donnelly said, "looks like a combination of a Mike Tyson right hook and Bob Beamon jumping 29 feet at the same time."

  • The crash: In the ninth inning last Sunday in Montreal, Rockies speedster Neifi Perez tried to score from third on a wild pitch. But the ball took a crazy carom, back into the third-base line, where Expos closer Steve Kline was scrambling to scoop it up.

    It was right about then that Perez -- who had just tripled in the tying and winning runs -- arrived. So Kline threw a takedown move on Perez that Stone Cold Steve Austin would be proud of.

    The two of them went sprawling. Perez struggled groggily to his knees. And then, off in the distance, he heard Larry Walker yelling.

    "I told him, 'Touch the plate,' " Walker said. " 'Then I'll give you sympathy.' "

    So Perez staggered on his knees toward home and placed a hand on the plate. And the Rockies won 5-3.

    "He was dazed and confused, on all fours, a foot from home plate," Donnelly said. "We said, 'It's OK if you want to faint. Just make sure to fall on the plate.' "

    Donnelly on Kline's hip check: "I know Steve. He's a wrestling coach at Williamsport (Pa.) High School. If he'd used that move in a wrestling match, he'd have gotten two points. All his students would have been very proud."

  • The hit man: But there was no bigger Rockies story on this trip than Todd Helton. He went 19-for-29, so he headed home to Coors Field, where he'll play 25 of his final 42 games, hitting .396.

    That means Helton -- the starting quarterback at Tennessee before Peyton Manning -- could be on the verge of turning into this year's one-man Mac and Sammy Show. But he has other things on his mind besides trying to hit .400.

    "He's more concerned about Tennessee's opener than hitting .400," Donnelly said. "I think they play Carnegie-Mellon, somebody like that."

    So if teams really want to start getting Helton out down the stretch, Donnelly says they're going at it all wrong if they're just worrying about how to pitch him.

    "Football's getting closer now, so he's getting a little distracted if he walks by a TV and sees Phil Fullmer," Donnelly quipped. "He doesn't know who we're playing. But he knows who they're playing. If they just put those Tennessee games up on the Diamondvision, he might not get a hit the rest of the year."

    Wild pitches
    Box score line of the week
    It's never a good thing when your ace gives up 22 runs in two starts. But that's what just happened to the Seattle Mariners. After allowing 11 runs in 3 2/3 innings against the White Sox on Aug. 9, here's what Seattle's Jamie Moyer did for his encore Monday: 4 1/3 IP, 10 H, 11 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. So that makes 23 hits and 22 runs in eight innings over two starts for Moyer. He and Jose Lima have both given up 10 or more runs in back-to-back starts this year. No starter had matched that feat before them, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since Alex Kellner did it for the 1950 Athletics (11, then 10, on Sept. 9-16, 1950).

    Moyer's airtight alibi: "We're all human."

    Box score line of the week (runner-up)
    There was a time the Orioles were calling Jason Johnson the best 0-7 pitcher in baseball. (Now there's an honor.) But one of those times was not Tuesday, when he became the latest pitcher to run into that White Sox steamroller. His line at day's end:

    5 IP, 11 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 HR.

    Johnson tied the team record for runs allowed, failed to win for the 13th consecutive start and summed it all up by saying: "I pitched horribly. What else is there to say?"

    Box score line of the week (Kevin Brown division)
    Look closely at this line. You may not see another one like this from Kevin Brown for the rest of your life. This was from the Dodger ace's warm and fuzzy homecoming to Florida last Monday: 1 1/3 IP, 7 H, 9 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 trip to the shower room after 42 pitches .

    It was Brown's shortest outing in five years and 212 starts, dating back to June 22, 1995, when he was still with the Rangers.

    Afterward, Brown bolted by the media and tried to flag a cab. Asked about his night, he replied: "If I wanted to talk, don't you think I'd be waiting in the clubhouse?"

    Yogi impression of the week
    Lou Piniella held his first team meeting of the Mariners' season Wednesday. Here's his instantly legendary explanation of why he hadn't held one before now:

    "If it's not fixed," Piniella said, "don't break it."

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves the classic quote of the year.

    Camper of the week
    The Phillies had a Wednesday afternoon game after a long Tuesday night game this week. So manager Terry Francona never left the ballpark. He just slept in the clubhouse, with the assistance of equipment manager Frank Coppenbarger.

    "Frank has one of those blow-up mattresses," Francona told the Philadelphia Daily News' Ted Silary. "Except it unblows as the night goes on."

    Trot of the week
    Apparently, it was such a shock to the other Cardinals when Edgar Renteria hit his first home run in 192 at-bats that he almost wound up getting called out for passing J.D. Drew on the bases.

    Drew wasn't sure the ball had really left the premises, so he'd held up beyond second base to make sure. Whereupon Renteria, trotting merrily, crashed right into him. But it was ruled he never did actually pass him. So the homer counted.

    "He could have picked Drew up and carried him home, if he wanted to," crew chief Brian Gorman told the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Rick Hummel, "as long as he didn't pass him."

    Honoree of the week
    Last Saturday was Bob Uecker Day in Milwaukee. And, in a major upset, Uecker wasn't traded to the Cleveland Indians' broadcast team the day before.

    But unlike most days honoring people like this, when the guests mostly weep and hug, Uecker's guest speakers followed his lead -- and turned the day into an unofficial Bob Uecker roast.

    Bob Costas, for instance, told the real story of why Uecker never got into a game for the Cardinals in the '64 World Series.

    "He said he had hepatitis," Costas said. "He said, 'The trainer injected me with it.' "

    And the commish, Bud Selig, recalled that before he lured Uecker into the Brewers' broadcast booth 30 years ago, he'd actually hired him in a different role.

    "He was the most disgraceful and inaccurate scout in the history of baseball," Selig said. "There were mashed potatoes and gravy all over the scouting reports."

    Lucky drink of the week
    After Tigers pitcher Brian Moehler staggered through an awful July (1-3, 7.27), injured teammate Gregg Jefferies told him he needed to lighten up on days he pitches. Jefferies' suggestion: A Starbucks mocha.

    So before Moehler's Aug. 2 start in Anaheim, Jefferies went out and bought him one. Sure enough. Moehler beat the Angels 5-3. So Jefferies bought another one before Moehler's next start, Aug. 8 in Detroit. And Moehler beat the Orioles 4-1.

    So last Sunday, before Moehler's next start in Oakland, Jefferies went back to Starbucks. But before he could get to the ballpark, he had to stop and visit his mother, and then his sister, in the Bay Area. So he kept shuttling the mocha in and out of refrigerators. But he finally got it to the park, where Moehler downed it -- and got a stomach ache. But he also won again. So obviously, these guys need to say with the mocha. But there's one problem: Jefferies is a free agent after the season and not expected back in Detroit.

    "He has to come back next year," Moehler told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler. "Maybe he and I could do a commercial."

    Test of the week
    Losing is a test. And if you don't believe it, just listen to Pirates catcher Jason Kendall's description of what losing -- which the Pirates have been doing relentlessly of late -- feels like:

    "Every time I catch a game, it's like I'm taking the S.A.T.," Kendall told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Joe Rutter. "Afterward, it feels like I just took a six-hour S.A.T."

    Baby of the week
    The wife of Tigers GM Randy Smith had a baby this week, named Shane Cooper Smith.

    After learning of the baby's name, assistant GM Steve Lubratich told first baseman Shane Halter: "That's the only Shane with a multiyear deal around here."

    Tag team of the week
    The Blue Jays finally activated injured pitcher Joey Hamilton this week. And while technically Hamilton hasn't won a game yet, in reality, he said, he and David Wells have formed a tremendous two-pitcher tandem. "Between me and Boomer, we've got 17 wins," Hamilton said. "We had 15 at the All-Star break, so I'll have to pick it up a notch. We've been slagging since the break."

    Outfielder of the week
    Now that the Orioles have committed to playing Jerry Hairston at second base, they're looking around for places to play Delino DeShields. So Sunday, he started in center field for the first time this season, then moved to left Monday.

    Asked to sum up the difference between playing center and left, manager Mike Hargrove quipped: "Oh, about 180 feet, probably."

    Trivia answer

    Mike Mussina-Scott Erickson (1997-99). Jose Lima-Shane Reynolds (1998-99). Dave Burba-Charles Nagy (1998-99). Back in Braves land, John Smoltz and Maddux have done it four times, Smoltz and Glavine also four times, and Maddux and Kevin Millwood twice.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Week in Review appears each Friday.

    Jayson Stark archive

     Benny Agbayani was glad his error didn't cost the Mets the game.
    wav: 138 k
    RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6