WOULD MAJOR LEAGUE baseball fly in Denver? Boy, would it ever. Asterisks will fall like novice skiers on the Aspen slopes if baseball awards Denver an expansion franchise.
Ruth vs. Maris arguments will cease forever. Instead, debates will pit the likes of Lloyd McClendon vs. Wade Rowdon, Brad Komminsk vs. Steve Stanicek, Steve Kiefer vs. Casey Parsons. They all set career highs for homers while playing in Mile High Stadium.
McClendon swatted 24 in 433 at-bats during the 1986 season. Rowdon hit 19 in 457 at-bats during '85. Komminsk had 32 in 494 at-bats and Stanicek 25 in 474 at-bats while teammates in 1987. Kiefer cracked 31 in 361 at-bats that same season, while Parsons had 20 in 520 at-bats during 1983.
And we won't even get into Joey Meyer, who averaged a homer almost every 10 at-bats (29 in 296) before pulling up lame during the '87 season.
Remember Fran Mullins? Denver knew him well in '83 when he had 18 homers in 355 at-bats. How about the vaunted home-run power of Joel Skinner? Ten homers over 141 at-bats in '84.
Indianapolis pitching coach Joe Kerrigan shudders at the thought of what baseball's real power hitters could accomplish playing a full season in Denver. "Someone's going to hit 70 home runs and drive in 180," Kerrigan said. Preposterous? Maybe not.
A check of statistics from 1983 to '89 shows Denver led the American Association in homers five times and finished third twice. It led the league in batting average five times and finished second twice. Denver players averaged a homer every 36 at-bats during those seasons. No American Association team had a higher ratio.
Accordingly, Denver's team ERAs were aired out. The best was 4.02 in 1985, the worst 5.54 in '87. Denver has finished last in ERA twice and next-to-last three times in those seven seasons. And through Monday, the Zephyrs' staff was chugging along, last at 5.14, while five other American Association teams were below 4.00.
What's that you say? Just move back the fences? Forget it. They're already in Wyoming. It's 348 down the left-field line, 365 to right and 420 straightaway. Move them back any further and outfielders will need golf carts.
"I don't care how big they make the stadium," Kiefer said. "They're going to hit home runs. It's unbelieveable how the ball carries there so much."
Even if Denver passes its stadium referendum, it would be late 1994 or 1995 before the new park is completed. In the interim, it's presumed a Denver expansion franchise would use Mile High Stadium.
"If they play in Mile High, no way," Kiefer said. "Somebody will hit 70 home runs there."
Nashville's Skeeter Barnes, a former Zephyr who homered 18 times with Denver, has an answer.
"They could put up a Green Monster. That wouldn't be a bad idea."
Mike York has not missed a scheduled start since moving out of the bullpen at the beginning of the 1987 season. York's five-hit, 12-strikeout victory over Nashville Monday came in his 93rd straight start. He started only one game his first four professional seasons.
York's 12 strikeouts broke the Bisons American Association record of 11 held by Rick Reed (twice), Cliff Speck and Jerry Don Gleaton.
Released from the Mets organization at the end of spring training, Tonawanda's Billy Scherrer, who has redefined the word "journeyman," signed a contract to play in Italy.
But Scherrer, 32, said the move to keep his career alive never felt right from the start.
"First time I ever went to an airport asking myself, 'what am I doing?,' " he said.
Scherrer played two weeks with Nettuno of Rome before returning to the States. Maybe it was the aluminum bats, or the two-games-a-week schedule, or the lack of telephones, or the shortage of clothes dryers that convinced Scherrer to leave. But one thing seems obvious: He's not a big soccer fan.
Idle a month since returning from Rome, Scherrer was granted a tryout Monday by one of his many former teams, the Nashville Sounds. And if that doesn't pan out he'll keep looking, at least until the end of this season.
"There isn't anything better to do on this Earth," Scherrer said.
If no teams show an interest, Scherrer plans to get into coaching or scouting next year.
An American Association umpire who has followed the National League expansion race raises this intriguing question: Would it be in Buffalo's best interests to qualify for the American Association playoffs this season?
Think about it. Figure the Bisons clinch with less than a week left in the regular season. That would leave the front office only a few days to promote and sell playoff tickets. And whenever school is in session, group sales customarily are reduced to a trickle.
Would all 9,000 season ticket-holders exercise their playoff option, or would the number be cut in half? Would the walk-up push the crowd figures to more than 16,000, or would Buffalo's first baseball playoff team since 1983 draw fewer than 10,000 a game?
Won't attendance suffer if the Pittsburgh Pirates, contending for the National League East crown, raid the Herd when rosters are expanded Sept. 1?
The expansion sites will be named a year after this year's playoffs. If there is a post-season in Buffalo, the city's response could weigh as heavily as the major league season-ticket drive.
ESPN is not televising this year's Triple A All-Star Game from Las Vegas. Instead, the cable sports network will show a major league game rescheduled for that date because of the season-delaying lockout. The Triple A All-Star Game will be shown in areas carrying the Prime network.
Is the live ball back? Not in the American Association.
The Association's 1990 home run pace is almost identical to last season's, when the eight teams combined to hit 649. At least two clubs -- Iowa and Oklahoma City -- have a shot at 100 homers. Last year, Denver was the first league leader to not reach 100 (the Z's had 97) since Minneapolis hit 81 in 1945.
Meanwhile, Iowa's Jeff Small led the Association with a .317 average at the start of Tuesday's games. That would be the lowest average to lead the league since 1909. And, for the first time since 1916-18, the Association's team batting leader could finish below .270 for a second consecutive year. Denver led the league at .261 last season, and Indy topped the Association at .270 through Thursday.
Since the offenses have been sluggish, the pitching must be dominating, right? Right.
The Association hasn't had a 16-game winner since 1977 (Omaha's Gary Lance). It hasn't had a 20-game winner since 1960 (St. Paul's Jim Golden). But Omaha's Pete Filson entered the week with 11 wins, Buffalo's Dorn Taylor was next with nine and the season was still shy of the midway point.