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STEINBACH CATCHES ON WITH ALL-STAR VOTERS

It looks like Oakland's Terry Steinbach is once again going to ride fans' A's fever into the All-Star game, despite a puny .246 batting average.

And even though, once again, he is clearly not the best choice.Now, before you think this is going to be another one of those "Boy-these-fans-are-stupid" columns, think again. The fact is, I basically favor the way the All-Star voting is done, with fans determining who they want to see on the field. It has been pointed out conclusively that in the past, when All-Stars were picked by players, there were just as many injustices as there are now.

It's just that there are some things I can't understand.

Like why anyone would choose Steinbach over . . . anyone. Of the seven other catchers listed in the most recent All-Star vote totals, every one of them is hitting better than Steinbach. Cleveland rookie Sandy Alomar is batting .298, Toronto's Pat Borders is at .282, Boston's Tony Pena is at .275.

I realize that because he plays for the World Champions his name is recognizable, but what about Carlton Fisk? Has anybody heard of him? He's hitting .265, but he's only third in the balloting, nearly 60,000 votes behind Steinbach.

And it's not like you can say Steinbach has charisma, or a past record of greatness, or even that his lousy baseball card is worth anything. The guy has zippo going for him but keeps getting voted into All-Star games.

Enough on Steinbach.

You could make arguments against most of the current ballot leaders, but at least most of them are hitting decently and have `big' names. But there are a couple other positions where guys who don't deserve it are in the lead, and here are the most glaring examples:

AL first base: Mark McGwire, Oakland, 442,211 votes. McGwire's hitting .225. Detroit's Cecil Fielder, currently third in the voting (he also trails Don Mattingly, .262), is batting .327 with 24 homers and 59 RBI.

AL shortstop: Cal Ripken, Baltimore, 438,784. Ripken's hitting .224. Chicago's Ozzie Guillen, the fourth-leading vote-getter, is hitting .335.

NL shortstop: Ozzie Smith, St. Louis, 509,831. Ozzie's at .235. Cincinnati's Barry Larkin is hitting .346.

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BUFFALO BUTTERFLIES: The word out of Orlando is if that city gets a National League expansion franchise, it will name the team the Sunrays.

OK, they just lost my vote. If I had a vote.

Can you imagine the uniforms?

What would Denver call its team, the Snowballs? Or how about the Phoenix Cactus Flowers?

Why does every new professional team anymore feel like it must have a `different' name? What's wrong with Giants, and Pirates, and Cubs, and Tigers? The guys who name teams nowadays are like those misguided parents who strive so hard to give their children a `different' handle that they saddle the poor tyke with something like LaVernon or StarlaRae.

They should make having an acceptable name a prerequisite for getting a franchise.

And I'll decide if the name is acceptable.

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RYAN REJECTED?: Remember when, just a few years ago, there were people who said Nolan Ryan would never - and should never - be in the Hall of Fame? His critics loved to point out that despite all his strikeouts and no-hitters, Ryan lost more games than he won several seasons.

Such luminaries as Bob Feller and Jim Palmer are among those who have suggested that Ryan is more thrower than pitcher, that he has been more interested in strikeouts than victories, and that he has not been a big winner.

But the fact is that Ryan has consistently won at a higher rate than the poor teams he has played for. Consider:

- In 14 of 22 seasons, Ryan has posted a better winning percentage than his team.

- In seven seasons he had a record over .500 while with teams that finished below .500.

- For his career, Ryan's teams have had an 1,800-1,765 record, a .505 percentage. Ryan, meanwhile, has posted a 294-266 record, for a .525 winning percentage.

He's a Hall of Famer, period. They should waive the five-year wait and put the man in now.

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SHORT STUFF: When Cory Snyder (BYU), Candy Maldonado and Brook Jacoby hit consecutive home runs in the seventh inning Sunday, it was the first time Cleveland has had three straight homers since June 29, 1984 . . . When L.A.'s Ramon Martinez struck out 18 Braves in a recent game, Dale Murphy's contribution was two Ks.