MATTINGLY RIGHT, BUT DO YANKS CARE?

Published: Thursday, Aug. 25 1988 12:00 a.m. MDT

With his outburst Sunday, Don Mattingly came another step closer to being the sort of leader the New York Yankees have lacked since Don Baylor departed shortly before the 1986 season.

That's fine. But what good is a leader without followers? The measure of Mattingly's tirade will come not from the reaction of owner George Steinbrenner _ he won't change _ but from his teammates.

Sure, the Yankees lack starting pitching. But they also have made matters worse for themselves by playing without unity and gumption. The only emotion they play with is fear _ fear that if they step the slightest bit out of line, George might spank them.

Dave Righetti backed Mattingly, who berated Yankees management for showing a lack of respect for its players. But Righetti was wrong in saying, "It had to come from an everyday player." That's the kind of thinking that's left the club devoid of a reliable stopper in the rotation and the bullpen. Leadership is defined by heart, not games played.

There was Rickey Henderson reacting with his typical indifference, and Willie Randolph reacted with resignation.

Then there was the shameful reaction of Dave Winfield. He managed to divorce himself from everything by issuing an offical "no comment."

Here's a guy who has proven himself to be a successful leader in his free-lance ventures _ fighting drugs, writing books, helping charities _ but has shown zero leadership in his place of employment.

The Minnesota Twins arrive at the ballpark so early for night games you'd think they were playing a day game. The Detroit Tigers are known for lingering for hours after a game; when they played a doubleheader against Boston that lasted past 2 a.m., no one was in a rush to depart.

It's different with the Yankees. It's not uncommon for reporters to arrive for a game before players. And when the Yankees lose, they react with indifference. They scatter to the trainers' room, players' lounge or parking lot rather than risk having to answer a question.

Rafael Santana and Don Slaught, two of the lesser soldiers in terms of the importance of their roles, are left to speak for the club. The New York Mets must laugh at such a notion. Santana was a respected player on that club, but his voice was hardly heard or needed there in a clubhouse full of strong wills and hearts.

Mattingly's outburst was not contrived. He had been simmering for some time. Two days before, a Seattle player asked a reporter, "How's Donnie doing? I hear he's really getting frustrated there." But if Mattingly did not seek a reaction, he deserves one. It might prompt his teammates to show some anger about losing and some confidence, even cockiness, about winning. It might create something close to a united atmosphere in the clubhouse. It might inspire his teammates to at least show some life and some backbone.

Or it might do nothing at all. It's up to them.

While Jose Canseco is making a run at 40 homers and 40 stolen bases, the Baltimore Orioles are having trouble producing a 10-10 man.

In fact, they have only one 5-5 player, Ken Gerhart. Baltimore has something of a tradition of fielding players who combine power with a lack of speed. Baltimore has had only three 20-20 players in its history: Reggie Jackson, Paul Blair and Don Baylor. And it has produced only four 10-10 players this decade: John Shelby, Mike Young, Doug DeCinces and Eddie Murray.

There is no earthly explanation for relief pitcher Juan Agosto to be 10-0 with the Houston Astros. Until this year, it had taken his entire career - spanning 198 games with the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins and Astros - to win that many games, while losing 11.

Rafael Palmeiro is regarded as one of the better young hitters in baseball. But that should be qualified to omit the occasions when the Chicago Cubs slugger is batting with runners in scoring position. At those times, his bat turns into a wet noodle.

Consider how Palmeiro has fared in the last two seasons with and without runners in scoring position:

Palmeiro, who has batted anywhere form second through sixth, has driven in only 30 of a possible 155 runners in scoring position this season. That means he's left 125 runners at second and third in his 122 games. He has only nine extra-base hits all year with runners in scoring position. He has only eight RBI in his last 50 games. And he recently hit in 20 straight games while managing only five RBI in the streak.

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