- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

Baseball writer Mark Zuckerman ranks the week's most talked-about stories:

1 BRAVES: 11 STRAIGHT DIVISION TITLES
Congrats to the Buffalo Bills of baseball. Hope Scott Norwood isn't your closer.
2 TWINS TO PLAY IN POSTSEASON
Unless Bud Selig tries to contract them first.
3 20-GAME WINNERS GALORE
And, believe it or not, a couple of them don't pitch in Arizona.
4 GIANTS OR DODGERS ONE MAKES IT
Justification No. 1 for the wild card.
5 A'S OR ANGELS BOTH MAKE IT
Justification No. 1 against the wild card.
6 RANDY JOHNSON: 45 WINS IN TWO YEARS
Elmer Dessens: 45 wins in eight years (if he's lucky).
7 OH, THOSE O'S
3-19 since reaching .500? If only the area had a winning team. Say, the Expos?
8 BELLE ARRESTED FOR DUI
Albert would offer his side of the story … if he actually talked to anyone.
9 GRACE SIGNS FOR ONE MORE YEAR
D'backs' only stipulation: Don't ever pitch again.
10 D-RAYS LOSE 100 GAMES
Never fear O's fans, it hasn't gotten this bad. Yet.

AROUND THE LEAGUES
NATIONAL
BRAVES

Greg Maddux
needs two more wins to match one of baseball's most impressive records: Cy Young's 15 straight seasons with 15 wins. Here's hoping he doesn't have any more starts against Florida, though, because the Marlins certainly had his number on Friday: six runs in the first inning, most ever given up by Maddux. "You'll probably never see it again," Florida manager Jeff Torborg said. "Just savor it."
DIAMONDBACKS

It may not strike you as that big a loss, but Arizona will sorely miss Craig Counsell's presence during the postseason. Counsell, who will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck, is an invaluable member of the Diamondbacks who can play three infield positions and provide a key bat off the bench. "There's no doubt about the value he had to this club, both on and off the field," manager Bob Brenly said. "He's a winner and was probably the MVP for the first half of the season."
EXPOS

Frank Robinson
's managerial gig may not be over after all. The Hall of Fame outfielder, who originally took the Expos job saying he would stay just one year, hinted last week that he would come back next year if asked. "I'm a little more open-minded to it than I probably would have been before," Robinson said after meeting with his coaching staff that focused on next season's roster.
GIANTS

If San Francisco outlasts Los Angeles for the NL wild card berth, it can thank one of the strangest scheduling quirks in recent memory a four-game series against the Padres that was played in two different cities. The Giants and Padres played Thursday and Friday in San Diego, but moved up the coast to Pac Bell Park for the rest of the weekend to accommodate the Chargers' home football game at Qualcomm Stadium. The Giants' quick, two-game homestand broke up what would have been a tough, 11-game road trip.
REDS

Cincinnati officially closes Cinergy Field/Riverfront Stadium next Sunday, and Reds manager Bob Boone added a nice touch when he named Jose Rijo his starting pitcher. Rijo, 37, was a star right-hander with the Reds back in the early '90s and has made an inspirational comeback this season. "This is unbelievable," said Rijo, who has pitched out of the bullpen since June. "It's going to be an Opening Day, World Series atmosphere."

AMERICAN
ATHLETICS

Barry Zito
is having a Cy Young Award-caliber season an AL-leading 21 wins, 2.74 ERA, leading the best rotation in baseball but the eccentric A's left-hander figures he has no chance to pick up more votes than Boston's Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. "They're both awesome," Zito said. "And their numbers are basically better than mine. If you look strictly at that, those guys are better." Note to Barry: Don't sell yourself short.
MARINERS

Despite rumors that circulated last week, longtime Seattle manager Lou Piniella says he has no intention of retiring or leaving the Mariners at the end of the season. Piniella was openly critical of the organization for not adding offensive players at the All-Star break, but he appears committed to staying. "I've got one more year left on my contract here," Piniella said. "I expect to be here [next year]."
RANGERS

All those who question the validity of giving Alex Rodriguez the American League Most Valuable Player award when he plays for a last-place club should note that this wouldn't be an unprecedented move. Three other last-place finishers have won MVPs: the Cubs' Ernie Banks (twice) and Andre Dawson and the Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. It should also be noted that A-Rod has far better numbers this year than any of those other three ever did.
RED SOX

So much for that new, feel-good atmosphere in Boston. When the Sox stormed out of the gates to open the season, everyone hailed the new ownership and new manager for bringing a winning attitude to what had been the stormiest clubhouse in baseball. But now that they're out of the race, the demons are starting to creep back. Manny Ramirez was booed after failing to run out a grounder, and Nomar Garciaparra wouldn't take the blame for getting picked off second base last week. Well, there's always next year.
TWINS

Minnesota's fans have come out and supported their team during the majority of this surprising season. But where'd they all go last week, when the Twins (on the verge of clinching the AL Central) played host to the Tigers? In a three-game series, the largest crowd was 13,106, prompting first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to rip the locals. "Everybody says, 'When you win, they'll show up,'" Mientkiewicz said. "Well, we're winning, we're getting down to the end, it's the last time they're going to see us before we clinch, and there's nobody here."
Mark Zuckerman

THE LIST
Longest postseason runs
Team No. Years
Atlanta Braves111991-2002
New York Yankees61996-2001
Cleveland Indians51995-99
Oakland Athletics51971-75
New York Yankees51960-64
New York Yankees51949-53
New York Yankees41955-58
New York Yankees41936-39
New York Giants41921-24

QUOTABLE
"Even though we've been winning since I've been here, these guys don't seem like they have a lot of fun winning. When you win, you should have fun."
Reliever Mike Timlin, on why he doesn't plan to sign a new contract with the Phillies.

"There's no question I want to be here next year, but I don't want to be in the same kind of September next year. I'm not the general manager, but they have to bring new people in, people who will give the effort we're looking for."
Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa on his plans for next season.

"I had no right to collectively and blanketly accuse the team of quitting. I apologized to them."
Broadcaster and former Met Keith Hernandez, on the fierce reaction from the current Mets players to a column he wrote on the Internet.

"Nothing he says motivates me. It motivates himself. I don't look at the newspaper. Whatever he says, I have no clue. He could be talking to himself."
Phillies first baseman Travis Lee on manager Larry Bowa.


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