- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

Baseball writer Mark Zuckerman ranks the week's most talked-about stories:
1 A'S SHUT OUT IN QUEST FOR 21
Well, sure have you ever seen anyone hit on 20?

2 EXPOS: STAYING OR LEAVING?
They'd like an answer ASAP. Four people have already called about 2003 season tickets.

3 BONDS: PITCHERS DON'T DESERVE MVP
Neither do outfielders who can't make the playoffs.

4 A-ROD BACK-TO-BACK 50 HRs
Why isn't he getting credit for his other accomplishment back-to-back last-place finishes?

5 METS FINALLY WIN AT HOME
Somehow they lost 15 in a row without ever playing Oakland.

6 REVENUE SHARING WILL HELP BREWERS, PIRATES MOST
Really, we figured the Yankees would benefit most.

7 YANKEES VOTE 'NO' ON NEW CBA
See above.

8 ANDY BENES BEATS ALAN BENES
Betcha didn't know either one was still in the league.

9 WELLS HAS TWO TEETH KNOCKED OUT
We could make a joke about him looking better now, but that would be too easy.

10 PETA WANTS VEGETARIAN SAUSAGE IN MILLER PARK RACE
They thought about using Bud Selig, but he's only a spineless weenie.

AROUND THE LEAGUES
NATIONAL
CUBS

Yet another foreign-born player made history last week. When the Cubs called up first baseman Hee Seop Choi on Tuesday, he became the first position player from Korea to make a major-league roster. The folks in Chi-town have some lofty expectations for Choi - the 23-year-old hit 26 homers with 97 RBI and a .406 on-base percentage at Class AAA Iowa. But if he simply helps the Cubs reach .500 again, the locals will be ecstatic.

DIAMONDBACKS

Arizona has a roster laden with veteran players, but this is ridiculous: The D'backs have acquired one-time prospect Felix Jose from the Mexican League and they're actually giving him playing time down the stretch. The 37-year-old outfielder, who debuted with Oakland in 1988, was hitting .383 with 27 homers for the Mexico City Red Devils, and Arizona figured he was worth taking a chance on.

GIANTS

Has Jeff Kent lost his gourd? Or is he simply letting the Giants know his intentions to leave town this winter? The All-Star second baseman, unprovoked by anyone, ripped San Francisco's Pac Bell Park last week. "It's brutal to play in this ballpark," Kent said of one of the best stadiums in the world. "What was the wind tonight, 15-20 mph? And it was only 50 degrees. Candlestick was more offensively friendly." He failed to note that he's still hitting .323 at home this season.

METS

Mo Vaughn
may be having a rough season, but at least he's taking responsibility for it. The hefty first baseman told manager Bobby Valentine that he plans to work hard this winter to get in shape (he's currently listed at 275 pounds). "How I appear will change a lot of things," Vaughn told the New York Times. "If I want to be in my mind what I can be, this is what I got to do."

PIRATES

Speaking of veteran players who have suddenly reappeared: Did you happen to see who shut out the Braves for 8⅓ innings last Wednesday? That's right, none other than Salomon Torres. The 30-year-old right-hander, who last pitched in the major leagues in 1997 (and last won a game in 1996), tossed a four-hitter against the playoff-bound Braves a comeback performance for the ages. "I never thought about this," said Torres, who came up with the Giants in the early '90s, "not even in my wildest dreams."

AMERICAN
ATHLETICS

As amazing as the A's 20-game winning streak was, they still find themselves in a heated, three-way pennant race. Following its streak-ending loss at Minnesota Friday night, Oakland led the AL West by a scant two games over the Angels, who have won 20 of their last 26. If they're not careful, the A's could conceivably miss the playoffs despite the longest winning streak in 67 years. "It was a fun ride," center fielder Terrence Long said. "Now we've got to get back to the reality we've got a division to win."

MARINERS

The third team still in the AL West race, of course, is Seattle, which is currently on the outside looking in one year after winning an AL-record 116 games. Entering play yesterday, the Mariners trailed Oakland by six games and Anaheim by four, but they'll have plenty of opportunities to make up the difference down the stretch. Beginning today, the three teams embark on a frantic 21-day sprint to the finish line, with 20 of the days featuring head-to-head matchups between two of the three.

TIGERS

A fond farewell to Jose Lima, one of the most animated (and possibly certifiably nuts) pitchers in recent memory. Fed up with his act, the Tigers released Lima on Saturday, ending a tumultuous tenure in Detroit. Only three years ago, the right-hander won 21 games with the Astros. In three seasons with the Tigers, he won a total of 17 times (and posted a 7.77 ERA this year). "Lima Time" has officially come to an end.

TWINS

If the small-market Twins want to keep their first-place team intact for years to come, they'll have to be willing to pay for it. Minnesota, which is working on a paltry $41 million payroll this season, could be faced with a team salary of close to $60 million in 2003 if GM Terry Ryan elects to keep the entire roster intact. Increased revenue sharing will help, but the club must pump a few more dollars into salaries if it wants to keep a good thing going.

YANKEES

New York manager Joe Torre, well on his way to yet another division title, has a tough decision to make in the coming weeks: Which four starting pitchers does he go with for the playoffs? Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte would appear to be locks, leaving David Wells and Orlando Hernandez for the final spot. Not an easy call to make but then again, who wouldn't want to be in that position?
- Mark Zuckerman

THE LIST
Longest postseason droughts:

TeamLast appearance
Montreal Expos1981
Milwaukee Brewers1982
Kansas City Royals1985
Anaheim/California Angels1986
Detroit Tigers1987
Minnesota Twins1991
Pittsburgh Pirates1992
Philadelphia Phillies1993
Toronto Blue Jays1993
*Tampa Bay Devil RaysNever
*Joined league in 1998

QUOTABLE
"That's one of the most amazing parts of all this. We've been the hottest team in years, and we're still one bad series away from second place. It just reminds us to treat every game the same way and not think about the streak."
A's left-hander Barry Zito, on the 20-game winning streak that left Oakland with a narrow lead over the Angels in the AL West lead.

"It was one of the better snaps I've seen. His veins were popping out everywhere. He put a lot of fear in some of the younger players. It was strict rage. It was beautiful."
Pirates catcher Jason Kendall, on a curse-filled, clubhouse tirade by manager Lloyd McClendon.

"You could hear everything. It was funny. It was like a golf or tennis match where everyone is quiet until the ball is hit."
Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal on playing before the smallest Montreal crowd an announced 2,134 in Olympic Stadium's 26-year history.


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