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24C THE PALM BEACH POST SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 1998 NCAA Tournament: Men's semifinals, 1C O Venus Williams wins Lipton title, 1C 99B IBase T ' ' Z ' I t "ii'-f t -f " ' v. w "''' - .- . y 'i ... , . - . . .... .. .. ... - .... .. . v- - ' -V --V- ----- ' i . , 1 AKE COVER! Story by Cheryl Rosenberg Photo illustration by Sherman Zent champion Florida Marlins might find that out by the time this season ends. The Marlins' off-season fire sale left the pitching staff depleted. Starters Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Tony Saunders; relievers Dennis Cook and Robb Nen all gone. Sager and Justin Thompson are the only pitchers still with the Tigers from that '96 season. There's good reason for that, according to General Manager Randy Smith. The Marlins' cost-cutting has forced them to fashion a staff entirely of young but talented players. The Tigers' staff was mainly about having somebody stand on the mound and throw. They went to the park each day with the idea they could win. That would last, on a good day, until about the third inning. By then, the Detroit Tigers usually would be in a hole. At the end of that 1996 season, the team had lost 109 games. Most of the blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the pitchers, who finished with a post-World War II major-league record 6.38 ERA. "It's pretty embarrassing when you go home and your friends say, 'could have pitched on that team,' " said A.J. Sager, who made 22 relief appearances that season. There is no glory in making that kind of history. The defending World Series Wacky winds are blowing around baseball. Is it El Nino? The jet stream carried the Brewers into the National League. Desert storms kicked up some Diamondbacks. Devil Rays washed ashore in a dumpy dome. And the Marlins were buried under a blizzard of trades, leaving behind a pitching staff that might be pelted like no other in major-league history. Ilease see PTTCHERSZoC A Redbird romance: McGwire, Cards a perfect match, 15C Meet the Martins: There are several new faces in '98. 17C e Winds of change: Major league baseball forecast, 12-13C Pick your data: Team-by-team schedules. 14C '