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How badly did the National League play? Let us count the ways ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore


And about the National League: What are they playing over there, slo-pitch softball?

It's called the senior circuit, but they're looking an awful lot like sophomores, huh?

After losing the All-Star Game last night at Camden Yards, their losing streak is up from one hand to two. Six in a row.


The good news was this: They lost by seven runs last year in San Diego, and only six this time. At that rate, they'll win again shortly before the end of the century.

After last night's performance, it would be foolish to expect anything before then.

But wait, there was more good NL news: "As far as I can tell," Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin said, "no one got hurt."

Yes. Wonderful. Kirby Puckett was an easy pick as the Most Valuable Player, but the National League offered numerous candidates as least valuable.

John Burkett was certainly a contender. Supposedly the best pitcher in the league right now, he bore a striking resemblance to Tony Arnold in middle relief last night, giving up three runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning.

"A great experience," said the first-time All-Star. And what's really great?

Another contender for least valuable was John Kruk, the phat Phillies phirst baseman, a .350 hitter who struck out twice in three at-bats.

"My guess," he said, "is that they will never ask me back."

Kruk's fourth-inning whiff against Randy Johnson had to be seen to be believed. Johnson's first pitch sailed about five feet over Kruk's head. On the next pitch, right down the gut, Kruk didn't flinch. Then he flailed badly at two fat curves.

"Probably," Kruk said, "the worst at-bat of my life. Not that I was surprised. I had nightmares about that guy. Six-foot-10, throwing sidearm, 90 miles an hour. Give me a break."

Other candidates for least valuable included DH Mark Grace and catcher Darren Daulton, neither of whom hit the ball out of the infield. But the winner had to be the entire Atlanta Braves contingent, which was somewhere between rotten and particularly rotten.

Two errors. Two wild pitches. A key bad throw.

"What's the deal?" asked pitcher Steve Avery when the questions turned negative after the game. "Everyone says we stink."

Well. . . .

The wild pitches were particularly timely. The AL had a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth and John Smoltz was on in relief of Avery. Boom. One wild pitch let in a run. Boom, the second wild pitch let in another.

At that point, the restless crowd broke into a fine rendition of the tomahawk chop, minus only the moaning.

How bad was the National League? They sparked the first outbreak of mass sarcasm on record in Baltimore.

"Don't ask me what the deal is with this losing streak," Tony Gwynn said. "Give them the credit. They did it again. When we got up early I really thought this was the year."

The early lead came on a huge two-run homer by Gary Sheffield. The NL bench poured onto the field to congratulate him.

"We were fired up," Gwynn said. "We felt good. After getting behind so fast last year [6-0 in the top of the first], we thought we were going to prove a point. But they didn't let it faze them. They just came right back and kicked our butts."

Did they ever.

"I don't think they're the better league, I really don't," Gwynn said. "I can't say that, I'm a National League guy. But six in a row, that's pretty many. I guess you'd have to say that they're the better league right now."

Over in the American League clubhouse, there wasn't much doubt about it.

"To me, it's pretty simple," Roberto Alomar said. "We have more better young players than they do. More young players with big numbers. The numbers speak for themselves. I do think the AL is a little better right now."

And here's the funny part: They did it last night with the B team. Without Mickey Tettleton or Rickey Henderson or Gregg Olson or several other players who belonged on the team but didn't make it because Cito Gaston was hellbent on his Blue Jays players getting their All-Star bonuses.

Next year, maybe the NL should get a couple of extra roster spots. Or four outs in an inning.

Or Bill Wegman on the mound for the AL.

"All I know," NL manager Bobby Cox said, "is that six is too many."

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