Reggie Jackson, who had hoped to make this a full-season farewell tour, is now hinting he may announce his retirement at next month's all-star game in Oakland.
Although he had dreamed about going out in an October blaze of glory, both the statistics and circumstances say this might be the time. Not only is he hitting .196 in his return to the Athletics, the team of his original glory days, he hasn't homered since April 30. And worse, he finds himself shuffled to the side on a team dominated by young sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.
The A's also have found a young star in center fielder Luis Polonia, and with Dwayne Murphy ready to come off the disabled list, they face a numbers problem. Jackson could ease it by stepping aside, but publicly, at least, he's stopping short of saying exactly what his plans are. At the same time, he's leaving little doubt that his ride is almost over.
"I've tried everything I can think of," he said. "I've tried different stances. I'm still in good shape. I still get around on most fastballs. If it doesn't work, I've got to get the Greyhound bus out of town and take a ride to -- what's that place in the desert? -- Death Valley."
Last week when he seemed down, a reporter said, "Well, you got a hit tonight." Jackson snapped, "Yeah, off Scott McGregor, who's about to be released." Valenzuela's Velocity Off
Jackson isn't the only one with problems. The Los Angeles Dodgers are worried about Fernando Valenzuela, who didn't have a pitch clocked at faster than 83 mph in his last Dodger Stadium start. After not missing a start in six-plus seasons, Valenzuela appears to have some sort of arm trouble, having allowed 56 base runners in his last 32 innings. "He just doesn't have the pop on his fastball anymore," New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez said . . .
Likewise, the Mets are concerned with Ron Darling's puzzling slump. He hasn't won since April 22 and has been consistently behind in the count and taking long amounts of time between pitches. "I almost fell asleep watching," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said after Darling's five-inning, four-run start against the Dodgers Wednesday . . . Then there's Mets reliever Jesse Orosco. Right-handed hitters are batting .333 off him . . .
More problems: The New York Yankees are watching two of their best April pitchers struggle. Charles Hudson has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 12 2/3 innings (three starts), and Dennis Rasmussen has allowed 15 in his last 11 1/3 innings. Hudson continues to have the weirdest split in the game, with a career record of 19-7 in day games and 19-38 at night . . .
A bigger problem for the Yankees might be the current disabled status of Rickey Henderson with a sore shoulder and pulled hamstring that keep him from running well or swinging for power . . . Houston pitchers already have allowed seven grand slams, two short of the all-time record (by the 1950 St. Louis Browns). Reliever Julio Solano has allowed three and was on a pace to break the record himself until sent down last week . . Texas relievers have given up grand slams to first batters three times . . .
The Atlanta Braves privately are predicting their No. 1 draft choice might be in the major leagues within about six weeks. Left-handed pitcher Derek Lilliquist struck out 190 and walked 30 in 136 2/3 innings during his final year at the University of Georgia, and, with all kinds of pitching problems, the Braves have nothing to lose. General Manager Bobby Cox personally scouted Lilliquist six times . . .
The Yankees apparently have some interest in trading for Atlanta's Rick Mahler, winless in his last 11 starts. And the Braves might finally be ready to trade Mahler. Not that they don't need pitching. They just nominated David Palmer to be National League pitcher of the month, and he was 4-0 with a forgettable 5.19 ERA in May . . . San Diego Padres owner Joan Kroc apparently will bring in former National League president Chub Feeney to run the baseball operation, which could be bad news for current general manager Jack McKeon . . .
New Detroit Tiger Bill Madlock so far has played first and DH, but would be the 26th third baseman for Sparky Anderson, who said, "I don't know how much he's got left, but with as much bad pitching as there is today, if he has anything left, he should hammer these guys." . . . Bad pitching? Joe Cowley, sent to Maine by the Philadelphia Phillies, walked 11 in 2 2/3 innings in a game last week . . .
Boston's Jim Rice didn't homer in May, the first time he has gone a whole month without a homer since September 1974. In fact, in the last 10 days, pitchers intentionally walked No. 3 hitter Wade Boggs five times to get to Rice. Boggs is hitting .410 since being moved to the No. 3 spot, and, for the first time in years, Rice is not the most feared Red Sox hitter . . .
Remember those four famous free-agent catchers? Through Thursday, Rich Gedman, Lance Parrish, Bob Boone and Rick Dempsey were hitting .221 with six homers and 38 RBI . . . In Cleveland, Dempsey has lost his job to Chris Bando, and it appears his career is about over . . . San Francisco's Jeffrey Leonard might be the National League's best left fielder, but the Cubs aren't far behind with the platoon of Brian Dayett and Jerry Mumphrey, which began the weekend hitting .383 with six homers and 26 RBI . . .
Injury of the week: White Sox infielder Donnie Hill has been sent on a rehabilitation assignment to attempt to adjust to wearing glasses. He gave up contact lenses recently after suffering from watering eyes and blurred vision. "The doctor said it could take a year to get used to glasses," he said . . .
Houston Manager Hal Lanier just finished a nice six-game trip: $2,000 stolen from his hotel room in St. Louis; 71 hits and 58 earned runs off his pitchers in six games; and, finally, at Wrigley Field, a 22-7 loss . . . The Philadelphia Phillies are hitting .233 as a team, 18 points lower than anyone else. One day this week they started four players with a total of 22 hits -- Bruce Ruffin, Steve Jeltz, John Russell and Rick Schu . . .
The Minnesota Twins blew 26 leads in the seventh inning or later last season, and they swore that wouldn't happen this year, especially not after they traded for reliever Jeff Reardon. Instead, they've already blown 10 late leads. Reardon did it on back-to-back nights in Boston, then announced he had a sore shoulder . . . Bret Saberhagen got his 10th victory two days sooner than Roger Clemens got his in 1986, and nine days sooner than Denny McLain got his in his 31-win year, 1968 . . .
The Tigers don't know what to do with reliever Willie Hernandez, who has two seasons and $3 million remaining on his contract. One thing they're sure of is that he's just about useless to them, having appeared in six games (all losses) and rolled up a 9.45 ERA. He has made only one scoreless appearance. A Rotating Rotation
Rookie Bob Malloy, a former University of Virginia star, didn't have a long stay with the Texas Rangers. He made two starts and allowed eight earned runs with six homers in 11 innings before being sent back to the minors. As the weekend began, Texas starters had allowed first-inning runs in nine straight games and 13 of 14. Looking for answers, Manager Bobby Valentine has shuffled his starting rotation four times in 3 1/2 weeks: replacing Mike Mason with Mike Loynd; replacing Bobby Witt with Malloy; replacing Jose Guzman with Greg Harris, and replacing Malloy with Mike Jeffcoat. Charlie Hough is 4-2, all other starters 4-17 . . .
When Tommy John passed Jim Palmer on the all-time list this week, he received two pair of autographed Jockey shorts from Palmer, who wrote: "You passed me with 269 wins, but just try to fit into these shorts." . . .
The California Angels are now optimistic that Kirk McCaskill, recovering from elbow surgery, might be ready to pitch early next month. He wasn't expected back until August or later . . . The renowned Dodgers farm system? At Class AAA Albuquerque, eight of the 22 players were released by other teams.