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October 11, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Electrons About Baseball

by Joe Sheehan

Last night, the Mariner bullpen continued to pitch like something out of a W.P. Kinsella novel, getting the last seven outs of a 2-0 win in Game One of the ALCS. For the third straight game, they backed up a great start, this time by Seattle's Freddy Garcia. Garcia had a great fastball all night; more importantly, he threw strikes, walking just two hitters and not going 2-0 on anyone until he had two outs in the sixth inning.

This Yankee team just hasn't looked that impressive. They squeaked by the A's thanks to great pitching, but even at that they scored just 19 runs in the series. In the ninth inning, with the tying run on first base and two outs, Joe Torre let Luis Sojo bat, an effect of dropping Jose Canseco from the postseason roster for Jason Grimsley. Why the Yankees needed a second mopup right-hander behind Dwight Gooden, as opposed to a pinch-hitter with some power, is a mystery.

For all the talk about how much the Yankees improved their bench this season, their postseason roster includes Luis Polonia, Jose Vizcaino, Chris Turner and Clay Bellinger. Only Glenallen Hill has much value. Sojo's at-bat last night was an indictment of that group. In DH games, it only hurts so much, but in non-DH games, Gooden starts to look real good as a pinch-hitter.

It probably won't matter. If the Mariners can get to four runs each night--not a guarantee--they should be able to reach the World Series.

In other news, the Blue Jays dumped manager Jim Fregosi, ending a two-year forced marriage in the wake of Al Gore...er...Tim Johnson's Adventures in Storytelling.

Blaming Fregosi for the Jays' inability to close the gap between them and the Yankees or snatch a very winnable division is just wrong. No, Fregosi isn't a particularly good manager, and he doesn't have an extended record of success. Firing him won't hurt or help; the Blue Jays' problem in one step further up the org chart, in the GM's office.

Gord Ash has had the core of a 95-win team for the past three years, and he's let the opportunity for glory slip through his fingers. The Jays' core talent matches up well with the Red Sox and Yankees, but the complete lack of a bullpen in front of Billy Koch and the lineup scar at second base were too much too overcome this year. There's nothing Fregosi could have done about that.

A similar case can be made in the Davey Johnson firing. Johnson was given a $90 million roster, but $30 million of that money was tied up in players like Carlos Perez and Jeff Shaw and Mark Grudzielanek, players who do no more for a team than guys making the minimum. I don't think Johnson did anything close to his best work in L.A., but I do think Malone did a lot more damage than he did, and doesn't deserve to keep his job, either.

Malone made the bed, but it was Johnson who lay in it and it's Johnson who now finds himself, um, on the floor. Or something like that.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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