If you were picking the American League pitching staff for next month's all-star game, where would you start?
How about with last year's staff?
That staff had Bert Blyleven, Willie Hernandez, Jay Howell, Jimmy Key, Donnie Moore, Jack Morris, Dan Petry and Dave Stieb.
The staff for the '80s, baseball people said. The staff for 1985, as it turned out.
How much could you have won on a bet that said the American League all-star staff for the July 15 game in Houston would have none of the '85 pitchers on it, but would have Roger Clemens, who appeared in 15 games in 1985; Don Aase, who had three saves at the all-star break last season; and Mike Boddicker, who went 7-17 after May 20?
Clemens, Aase and Boddicker have had more impact on their teams -- and their league -- than any other three pitchers this season, but an equally remarkable story is what has happened to the 1985 all-star staff.
Going into Friday's games, only one of them had a winning record: Morris (7-4, 4.49 ERA).
Three are on the disabled list: Howell (0-4, five saves), Moore (1-3, seven saves) and Petry (4-5).
The other four haven't been effective: Blyleven (5-5, 5.56), Hernandez (3.63 ERA despite 14 saves), Key (5-5, 4.67) and Stieb (2-8, 5.64).
Of the group, none has had a more puzzling season than Stieb. For a long while, scouts whispered that he was suffering from, but not admitting to, arm problems.
Now, his fastball and slider are clocked in the high 80-mph range, but he still is being hit often and hard. And early. In 16 starts, he has allowed 72 earned runs -- 31 of them, or 43 percent, in the first or second innings.
"I don't think I'm pitching any differently in the late innings than I am in the early innings," Stieb said. "The problem is, after it happens, you know you have to shut them out the rest of the way."
The Blue Jays are more encouraged about Key, who had a 13.05 ERA on May 7 but has allowed only 16 earned runs in 67 innings since. With John Cerutti up from Syracuse and pitching well, Toronto may be one Stieb hot streak away from getting back in the AL East race. Fernandez One to Watch
Although Cal Ripken of the Orioles will be the American League's starting shortstop, it would be hard to argue against Toronto's 23-year-old Tony Fernandez, who put together nine multi-hit games in a row before being stopped yesterday.
Always a spectacular -- although careless -- fielder, Fernandez had only five errors entering the weekend. He made 30 last season, and Milwaukee Manager George Bamberger said, "I love that kid. He may be one of the greatest who ever lived." . . .
If Bo Jackson stays with baseball -- and dozens of people in the game doubt he will -- he could earn $1.16 million by the end of the 1988 season. His contract with the Kansas City Royals calls for $1,013,000 in guaranteed salary (a $100,000 signing bonus plus salaries of $200,000 in 1986, $330,000 in 1987 and $383,000 in 1988).
If he reaches the major leagues by 1988, he'll receive an additional $150,000 bonus.
The impact of that contract -- a staggering one by baseball standards -- already has been felt because the Pittsburgh Pirates haven't been able to sign University of Arkansas third baseman Jeff King.
The Pirates reportedly have offered the draft's No. 1 pick a one-year $160,000 contract, which is what most first-round selections can expect to make. But King's agent, Randy Hendricks of Houston, said, "We're not going to sign a joker's contract."
The No. 2 pick, left-handed pitcher Greg Swindell, has been offered about $150,000 by the Cleveland Indians, and some reports have Swindell asking for $250,000. . . .
Give the San Francisco Giants credit. Undermanned, they had hustled to the top of the National League West entering this weekend -- in part by pulling off 12 suicide squeezes, executing 56 of 94 hit-and-run plays and stealing 82 bases (The San Francisco team record is 140).
They also got there because Manager Roger Craig has gotten through to Juan Berenguer, who was no small part of Detroit's 1984 championship. Craig has made Berenguer the Giants' stopper, and in his last 17 appearances through Friday, Berenguer had allowed 14 hits and one earned run in 30 innings. He had 38 strikeouts in those 30 innings.
Craig calls Berenguer "My Panama Goose." His teammates call him "Ugly," or as catcher Bob Brenly said, "If I drove up to a restaurant and he was doing the valet parking, I'd go eat somewhere else."
Five Giants have hit their first career homers this month, and you know you're going good when pitcher Mike LaCoss, who has never had more than one RBI in a season, gets seven in three months. Demotion Turned Down
The Yankees asked pitcher Ed Whitson to accept a demotion to Class AAA Columbus after he allowed 24 runs in a 16-inning stretch. He refused. . . . With the Yankees' latest infield shuffle, second baseman Willie Randolph has played with 25 shortstops in 11 seasons. "Every once in a while," Randolph said, "I'll look up and think, 'Who is that at shortstop?' " . . .
After 1,025 pro at-bats, Cleveland catcher Andy Allanson hit his first homer Tuesday. The next night, he celebrated with three passed balls and an error and by failing to stop three Tom Candiotti wild pitches. . . .
The moral is: Don't pitch on opening day in Cincinnati. The last three pitchers who did that were all released before the all-star break -- Steve Carlton by the Philadelphia Phillies this season, Steve Rogers by the Montreal Expos last season and Mike Torrez by the New York Mets in 1984. Atlanta and Cincinnati both are interested in Carlton, and the Yankees appear to have some interest. . . . Rookie mistake: New White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi's lineup card Wednesday had both John Cangelosi and Harold Baines playing center field. . . .
Frank Slaton, the brother of California pitcher Jim Slaton, went on a hunger strike two weeks ago today. He said he wouldn't eat again until Jim got a victory, which Jim hasn't had since May 11. The day the hunger strike began, Jim was removed from the Angels' starting rotation.
"Make that a win or a save," Frank Slaton said.
As of Friday, Frank had lost 16 pounds, but people near him say he's in no danger of dying.