Sunday, July 04, 1999

Casey deserves to be All-Star




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mr. Bruce Bochy San Diego Padres Qualcomm Stadium 9449 Friars Rd. San Diego, CA 92108

        Dear Bruce:

        Knowing how much major-league managers appreciate unsolicited advice, I am naturally reluctant to offer any. Yet I would be remiss (and also short one column) if I did not remind you of your sacred duty to the baseball fans of America.

        To wit: Put on a happy face. Put Sean Casey on the All-Star team.

        The Reds first baseman is Richie Cunningham with bat speed, a bona-fide slugger whose most striking quality is his sincerity. The kid is so decent, so upbeat, so consistently sunny that if you couldn't stick him in your lineup, you'd want him dating your daughter. He has conquered the toothpaste capital of the world with a smile that could have sprung from Crest's marketing department.

        This is a face baseball needs to show to the world, a kinder, gentler happier superstar. The Mighty Casey is a fellow who signs autographs with glee and fields dumb questions with a velvet glove. This is a guy who belongs in Boston on July 13.

        You already know this, of course. A .376 batting average is mighty hard to miss. Casey has spent the whole season among the National League leaders in batting, hits, doubles, slugging, on-base percentage, total bases, winning friends and influencing people. He reminds people of Pete Rose, except he has more power and no known vices.

        Your problem is that hard choices are at hand. All-Star rosters are still limited to 28 players, and expansion has swelled the National League to 16 teams. The rules require that every team — be it ever so humble — must be represented at Fenway Park. Not every team has a deserving player. Not every deserving player can be picked.

        Decisions are especially difficult at first base. The fans will surely anoint Mark McGwire as the starter, and that's as it should be. A man hits 70 home runs in one season, and he deserves an encore before a national audience. But on balance, McGwire's numbers are no better than Casey's this season, and they are not quite as good as those of Houston's Jeff Bagwell.

        Is there enough room for three of these lugs in one locker room? Let's hope so.

        “I'd love to go,” Casey said Saturday night after his league-leading 36th multi-hit game, a 10-0 trampling of the Houston Astros. “It would be a dream to be picked to the All-Star Game. But if it doesn't work out, that's fine. I'd be able to sit back and relax. But I'd rather sit back and relax in Boston.”

        This was typical Casey: Too earnest to avoid the question; too humble to make it an issue. Reds General Manager Jim Bowden said he will resign if Casey is left off the All-Star team — Bowden is inclined toward overstatement — but Casey couldn't make waves if he jumped off a 10-meter diving board.

        He sat at his locker Saturday night in a uniform that appeared to be fresh from the dirt cycle, explaining that his All-Star contingency plans called for a return visit to the spot where he proposed to his fiance. He has been bracing himself for the possibility of missing Fenway Park. If it should come to that, he won't be ripping you in the papers.

        But it shouldn't come to that, Bruce. Reds manager Jack McKeon spoke with you Saturday and came away with the impression that Casey and reliever Scott Williamson both have a good shot at being selected, along with the semi-automatic shortstop, Barry Larkin. Second baseman Pokey Reese figures to be the Red on the Boston bubble.

        “Maybe you could up the roster a couple of spots,” Sean Casey said, helpfully.

        Maybe the All-Star Game should include all of the stars.

        Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your e-mail at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

       



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