The ghost of Glenn Davis still haunts the Orioles, who have had nearly a decade to kick themselves for trading away three of their best young players for the injury-prone first baseman.
Finley, who was traded to the Houston Astros along with pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling, has hit 11 home runs to help drive a Diamondbacks offense that should have been handicapped by the loss of power-hitting third baseman Matt Williams. He's not your classic power hitter, but he has evolved from a very good speed/average hitter to a top-flight run producer.
"I'm not trying to hit home runs," he said recently. "I'm just trying to put a good swing on the ball."
He has been doing that consistently over the past year. From May 3, 1999, to May 3 of this year, Finley batted .281 with 40 homers, 116 RBIs, 112 runs, 31 doubles and 10 triples. Not bad for a guy who represented a third of the package that went for a player (Davis) who had a total of 24home runs and 85RBIs in threeyears for the Orioles.
"He's playing about as well as anybody you want to see right now, in all phases of the game," manager Buck Showalter said.
Of course, Finley was the player the Orioles could most afford to include in that deal. They long since had come to regret the departure of Schilling, who has emerged as one of the game's premier starting pitchers, and Harnisch, who also had some big seasons after the deal.
The Chicago White Sox were unstoppable in April, setting a major-league record with 181 runs in the first month of the season, but seem to have lost a little of their edge since Major League Baseball vice president Frank Robinson suspended seven players for their role in the April 22 brawl with the Detroit Tigers.
The White Sox entered Friday with 18 runs in the six games since the suspensions were announced, at least in part because Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez have been out of the lineup serving their suspensions. But hitting instructor Von Joshua said he feels the club lost something in the aftermath of the fight.
"Since the fight, I've watched a change," Joshua said. "That took a little sting out of them. Some players aren't as aggressive. I think we went into the Detroit series [last weekend] and several guys changed the way they were playing. They were tentative. We have to get back to being aggressive."
Finally, the beleaguered Chicago Cubs have something to get excited about. Pitching phenom Kerry Wood is scheduled to make his second start today since coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery, and his 2000 debut on Tuesday night left the distinct impression that he'll make it all the way back.
He didn't have great stuff, but he still cruised to his first victory of the year.
"He's going to get better and better," catcher Joe Girardi said. "We didn't even use all his stuff tonight."
Wood probably won't be at the top of his game for months - most orthopedists contend that it takes about two years to come all the way back from radical elbow surgery - but he has so much natural ability that he already looks like a plus major-league pitcher again.
"The doctors tell you, 'Next year he's going to be Secretariat,'" said manager Don Baylor.
The first-place White Sox should be on top of the world, but they aren't even the talk of their own town.
The Sox entered Friday leading the American League Central by 3 1/2 games, but they're still playing second fiddle to the fifth-place Cubs when it comes to home attendance.
The two clubs played dueling home games Tuesday night, with the Cubs drawing a sellout crowd of 38,121 to Wrigley Field and the Sox drawing 10,397. Of course, that was the night Wood was making his long-awaited 2000 debut, but the Cubs also outdrew the Sox by a wide margin Wednesday. Sox reliever Bill Simas didn't take it personally. Everyone knows that Chicago is a Cubs town.
"They have something going that we don't have - atmosphere and location," Simas told the Chicago Tribune. "Plus, Kerry Wood is a fun guy to watch pitch. If we weren't playing, I'd be over there watching him pitch."
It's the air
Despite the introduction of a couple of cozy new stadiums this year, Coors Field is still without peer when it comes to inflated offensive numbers.
The Colorado Rockies just concluded a six-game homestand in which their pitchers gave up an average of 8.83 runs and the club still won four times.
They did that by averaging 10.83 runs during a homestand in which the winning team didn't score fewer than 12 runs. Through their first 17 home games this year, the Rockies have averaged 9.53 runs and their opponents 7.92.
The Atlanta Braves' pitching staff has been in a class by itself for much of the past decade, but never has the difference in quality been so pronounced as it is now.
The club's team ERA is hovering around 3.00, or about a full run better than the next-best National League team.
How is that possible? Left-hander Tom Glavine said the Braves are able to work consistently down and away, while many teams say the key to success is on the inside part of the plate.
"If you can command that pitch down and away, you're going to be successful," he said. "If you can throw the ball at the knees on the outside corner, there's not a lot of things a hitter can do with it."
Glavine admits, however, that it's easier said than done. It helps that the Braves have put a strong emphasis on quality starting pitching during their decade of National League domination.
"It's awfully hard to do," Glavine said. "Some guys can do it half the time. Our guys can do it nine out of 10 times. There's still a mentality out there to pound guys in. Our philosophy is there's a whole lot more margin for error on the outside part of the plate, than the inside part of the plate."
That philosophy worked particularly well during the recent 15-game-winning streak, during which the pitching staff compiled a 1.86 ERA - the starters going 11-0 (1.91 ERA) and the bullpen posting a 1.70 ERA.
The moon man
Los Angeles Dodgers fan Andrew Tellers has become a minor celebrity in Southern California after he ran onto the field at Dodger Stadium and mooned controversial Braves relief pitcher John Rocker.
"I'm on top of the world right now," Tellers said.
Tellers has been a staple on local talk shows, and one television show gave him $500 for his exclusive story, which should help him pay his fine for misdemeanor disruption of a sporting event.
"John Rocker offended me, and I just had to do it," Tellers said. "When he came out and got booed, I thought I should go out on the field and moon him. My friends were talking me into it and I had a lot to drink.
"He smiled at me the whole time. I said, 'Hey John!' and we made eye contact. Then I dropped my pants and mooned him. He was watching me the whole time."
Stadium police handled Tellers gently and charged him lightly. He could have been saddled with a more serious lewd conduct charge, but got off with a fine. He said later that some of the police even applauded his one-man protest.
"I don't regret doing it," Tellers said, "but I wouldn't do it again. If I could turn back time, I'd still do it again, but I won't do it again."
The Philadelphia Phillies had hoped to take a step forward this year, but they set a team record for losses in April with 17 - and the club's offensive numbers for the month tell the whole story.
The Phillies were last in the league in hitting (.232), last in slugging percentage (.372), last in on-base average (.314), last in runs scored (85) and 15th in home runs (21), but manager Terry Francona has managed to stay surprisingly positive among the ruins.
"That's my job," he said. "Sure, it's tough sometimes. I hate the losing. I hate it more than anyone knows. But I can't come in here dragging my butt. My job is to be supportive. If I come in here dragging my butt, how am I supposed to ask the players to bust theirs?"