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Baseball writers were quick to criticize Al Rosen of the Giants and Jack McKeon of the Padres for complaining to league president Bill White about Atlanta's using rookie pitchers in its recent series against Houston.

Rosen and McKeon felt the Braves' action - tantamount, in their minds, to throwing ballgames - might hurt their chances in a tight pennant race. Atlanta's executives, meanwhile, accused their NL West counterparts of paranoia and pettiness.OK, Rosen and McKeon were being paranoid. But know this: If Atlanta is in a tight pennant race next year (script by Rod Serling) and the Giants or Padres bench their best pitchers to look at some rookies, the cries out of Georgia will be heard in the Rockies.

Everyone in a pennant race is paranoid, and for good reason. It means a lot to win a division, and the opportunities just don't happen that often.

Rosen and McKeon should be excused for their alleged classlessness. What did it hurt Atlanta, anyway?

And the Braves should be reminded that baseball people have long memories.

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ROOKIE MYSTERY: Why is everyone making Jerome Walton a lock for Rookie of the Year when his teammate, Dwight Smith, has posted better numbers? Through Monday's game, Walton had batted .297 with 5 HR and 45 RBI in 465 at-bats, while Smith had hit .320 with nine HR and 50 RBI in 328 at-bats. Walton has more stolen bases than Smith (24-9), but Smith strikes out considerably less, has a better on-base percentage and a whoppingly better slugging percentage (.497-.391).

Smith has fewer at-bats because he's been platooned with Lloyd McClendon, but he's still been more productive with fewer opportunities. Besides, Walton also has been platooned lately since the Cubs acquired Marvell Wynne.

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HOMER SHORTAGE: The Mets' Howard Johnson came up just a little short in his quest to be the second member of the 40 homer, 40 stolen base club. HoJo got the 40 steals but is five shy of the 40-HR mark.

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BET ON BO: Pittsburgh's Jim Gott of Provo was recently named to USA Today's All-Brittle team, for those players who always seem to be injured, along with S.F.'s Atlee Hammaker, L.A.'s Kirk Gibson, John Tudor and Mike Marshall, and St. Louis' Willie McGee.

Prediction: In five years, Bo Jackson wil be a unanimous first-team pick on this squad.

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IT AIN'T THE SAME: A New York columnist suggested this week that Darryl Strawberry is kidding himself to think that life would be sweeter on a West Coast team. The writer said Strawberry would receive the same intense media scrutiny in Los Angeles that he has been subjected to in New York, and that he would just end up miserable again, even if he received regular doses of Tommy Lasorda hugs.

What this writer is ignoring, however, is the difference in fans in New York and Los Angeles. When the New York Daily News criticizes a player, the fans there go to the ballpark and start booing the guy the first time he swings and misses a pitch.

When the L.A. Times criticizes a player, the fans go to the ballpark hoping to find some reason to cheer for the poor schmuck. You have to be a real jerk for a long time before laid-back L.A. fans get uptight enough to boo.

At a game this summer, for instance, always-injured Mike Marshall had already been to the plate several times and looked terrible when he came up again in the ninth with the Dodgers down by one and a man on. Marshall, looking like he was hitting with a blindfold on, struck out swinging.

No boos. Even though he deserved them.

In New York, they would have thrown sharp objects at him.

The media may be similar in the two cities (though that point could be argued too), but the fans aren't.

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SHORT STUFF: Dale Murphy was picked on Sports Illustrated's All-Decade team, edging out Dave Winfield, Dwight Evans and Andre Dawson. Detroit's Jack Morris, who had more wins (162) in the decade than any other major leaguer, was SI's righthanded pitcher of the 80's.

Gott is a potential free agent, and the Pirates say they want to re-sign him, but they want to load his contract with incentives for appearances and innings since he's coming off elbow surgery.