- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO Regardless of the outcome of the World Series, the San Francisco Giants played their final home game of the season last night. And that means Dusty Baker, Jeff Kent and Brian Sabean might have made their final appearances at Pac Bell Park as Giants employees.

The tree central participants in San Francisco's run to the World Series have been rumored to be heading elsewhere once the season ends. But given the franchise's success in winning its first pennant in 13 years, it's becoming harder to believe they will bolt town.

Baker's name has come up as a possible replacement for a number of managerial openings, from the Seattle Mariners to the Chicago Cubs to the New York Mets (who now appear to be going with Oakland's Art Howe).

As the postseason has played out, however, Baker has sounded more and more as though he's planning to return to the Giants. The notion that last night's game could have been his last with the club, however, did cross his mind.

"I thought about it this morning when I woke up," said Baker, who has managed the Giants for 10 years. "After that, I just forgot about it. This is no time to get melancholy. This is a time for us to push to the finish line. Other than that fleeting moment this morning, that's the only time."

Baker clearly has the support of his players.

"He means a lot to this organization, this team and I know the players," said closer Robb Nen. "Hopefully, he stays, and hopefully he sticks around with us."

General manager Sabean's contract expires at the end of the season, and he would be a hot commodity on the free-agent market. But he seems even less likely than Baker to depart after helping build a World Series club.

"I've said all along that I don't know if there's a greener pasture out there," Sabean said yesterday. "I know anywhere I go, I'm not going to have any more autonomy or authority than I have here. And that counts for a lot."

Kent's situation is not as clear-cut. The 2000 National League MVP enjoyed another prodigious year at the plate, but his feuds with Barry Bonds are well-documented, as is his desire to escape Bonds' shadow. The power-hitting second baseman, whose contract also expires, would be one of the most sought-after free agents this winter if he chooses to leave.

"We hope he has the appetite to want to come back," Sabean said. "I'm sure we'll have a chance to re-sign him. But maybe he's thinking he's had enough."

Game 7 questions

We know this series is headed back to Anaheim for Game 6 tomorrow night. The question is whether Game 7 will be necessary Sunday night and, if so, who will be each team's starting pitcher.

Anaheim's Ramon Ortiz and San Francisco's Livan Hernandez, who squared off in Game 3, are scheduled to pitch the potential Series-deciding game. Both, however, don't exactly have the blessings of their managers right now.

Ortiz earned the victory in Game 3 but allowed four runs in five innings and afterward complained of pain in his right wrist that later was diagnosed as tendinitis. Angels manager Mike Scioscia has not fully committed to Ortiz as his Game 7 starter.

"Ramon feels a little better today," Scioscia said before last night's game. "He'll actually go out, throw a little bit, a little bullpen. We'll get an indication of what his availability will be."

If Ortiz can't go, Scioscia likely would have to go back to his Game 4 starter, rookie John Lackey, with possibly help from last night's starter, staff ace Jarrod Washburn.

Hernandez has no health concerns, but the Cuban right-hander was horrendous in Game 3, allowing six runs (five earned) in 3⅔ innings. Baker could elect instead to use left-hander Kirk Rueter, who pitched six effective innings in Game 4 on Wednesday.

"Right now, Livan is scheduled to start the seventh game," Baker said. "But everything's subject to change, depending on how Games 5 and 6 go, as far as how deep my starters go."

Quote of the day

Baker, on whether he thinks the surly Bonds is having fun right now: "Who knows what's going on inside of Barry. But, yeah, I believe he's having fun. It's hard not to have fun when you're hitting balls halfway to the moon."

Extra bases

This was the 40th time a World Series was tied 2-2 after four games. The winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series 26 times (66.7 percent), but only twice in the last seven instances. Before last night, 10 of the last 16 World Series games (spanning the last three years) were decided by one run. The Yankees and Mets played three one-run games in 2000 (Games 1, 2 and 4), the Yankees and Diamondbacks played four in 2001 (3, 4, 5 and 7) and the Giants and Angels had played three (1, 2 and 4).

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