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Apolitical blues

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Sept. 29

Tell me your name
In the Athletics clubhouse celebration last Sunday, Barry Zito found himself in a conversation with an older man, who asked him if he is happy playing in Oakland. "Absolutely," said Zito, "but I wish that guy Schott (meaning owner Steve Schott) would open up his wallet and get Jason (Giambi) and the rest of these guys signed."

Minutes later, a teammate asked Zito, "do you know who you were talking to?"

"Jason's dad," said Zito.

"Wrong," said his teammate. "That was Steve Schott."

Short people
Alex Rodriguez is the first shortstop ever to hit 50 homers in a season. Dating back to Opening Day, 1990, Angels shortstops have combined for 47 homers.

The last Angels shortstop to reach double figures in homers was Dick Schofield (13) in 1986.

Prodigal son
Of the Marlins young gun rotation, rookie Josh Beckett had the highest salary this season, $1.175 million. Matt Clement ($900,000). Ryan Dempster ($400,000), Brad Penny ($250,000) and A.J. Burnett ($260,000) followed.

Incidentally, Penny registered 99 mph on the radar gun in his last start on Monday against the Braves.

What do I have to do to make you love me?
On Saturday night, Sept. 22, the Phillies hosted the Marlins a day after closing within a half-game of the Braves for the NL East lead. They drew just 23,017 fans to the game at Veterans Stadium.

People like you
Players who have stolen bases in four different decades: Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Ted Williams.

Everybody needs a little sanctuary
Several Jewish players, including Braves starting pitcher Jason Marquis, did play this past Wednesday on Yom Kippur. Astros catcher Brad Ausmus explained that he "was trying to atone for my poor first half."

We learned the sea
For those who discount the Bay Area as a baseball mecca, the Giants and Athletics are going to draw more than a combined 5.3 million fans this season, a testament to how excellent the two teams are and the magnificence of Pac Bell Park.

This must be the place
To appreciate from where Padres pitcher Brian Tollberg came: he played for the Chillicothe Paints of the Frontier League, where, because of the lack of available motels, visiting teams used to stay in the vacant mental ward of a local V.A. hospital, sleeping on cots lined up one after another.

On top of the hill
With the help of Rob Tracy of the Elias Sports Bureau, Peter Palmer's Total Baseball, Bill James and other statistical and analytical gurus, here is my placing of Roberto Alomar among the best second basemen in history:

1. Rogers Hornsby
2. Charlie Gehringer
3. Alomar
4. Joe Morgan
5. (tie) Ryne Sandberg, Jackie Robinson

The long climb
At this time of year, teams rate all minor-league players and prospects and rank organizations in terms of talent. One club rates by categories of projected major-league talent level, with Cubs pitcher Juan Cruz and Reds outfielder Adam Dunn at the top of the potential superstar level and with the Indians, Padres, Devil Rays, Cubs and Yankees as the deepest in terms of good everyday player prospects. Another club rates the two best organizations as the Phillies for pitching and the Rangers for position players.

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