<§azette BASEBALL Tuesday, October 29, 2002 — Page 17 Champion Angels take short trip to Fantasyland A XT A T ¥T»T» f f~\ _ IT- m — - ^*^ ANAHEIM, Calif. — Troy Percival fantasized a thousand times about throwing the final pitch in Game 7 of the World Series. Strikeout, groundout or pop fly, he always won. Scott Spiezio was only three when he started imagining himself at bat in a Game 7. He fell asleep at night listening to subliminal messages on tapes his father played to build his 'confidence. Darin Erstad envisioned flying through the air, snaring the last out. -He had already made a diving catch in the game and three in the Series. So when the time came for the final out, he simply waved his arms in center'field, settled under the ball with his legs pumping in place, then caught it and leapt in one exhilarating motion. The Anaheim Angels, the team that Disney bought but never loved, took a short trip to their own Fantasyland in a World Series that showed how Steve Wilstein good baseball can be and how little the rest of the country cared. This was a team that deserved more acclaim and a lot more attention than it got in beating the San Francisco Giants. The record-low TV ratings really mattered only to Fox and shareholders in their parent company, but they reflected the apathy for this World Series outside California. Which is too bad. The Angels were the kind of team that is everything good about sports. A team mat emphasized clubhouse camaraderie over star power. A team that believed in itself when nobody else did. A team that produced more surprise endings than Hollywood comes up with in 10 years. Baseball is a notoriously parochial game. Root for the home team, if they don't win it's a shame, and to heck with everyone else. Californians were riveted by the Series, ardent baseball fans nationwide stayed with it, but a lot of others watched "The Sopranos" or football or went bowling. Maybe that's what baseball gets for turning people off with all the strike talk this summer. Or maybe that's what happens when the biggest star, Barry Bonds, is walked 13 times. But true baseball fans know that the game, especially in the compressed span of a World Series, is more than die sum of its stars. It's about clutch hitting by unexpected players, pitchers who step up and do the job. In Game 7, it was struggling Bengie Molina and Garret Anderson lunging out of their socks on doubles that scored all the Angels' runs, and it was three rookie pitchers who handed off the ball to each other as smoothly as a relay team passing a baton. lohn Lackey, five days after turning 24, had been a major leaguer for all of 125 days. Brendan Donnelly, 31, was pitching in Puerto Rico a year ago. Francisco Rodriguez, 20, started the season in Double A. Together, they combined for eight innings of one-run, five-hit ball and watched the bullpen ace, Percival, finish it up the way lie had always dreamed. In truth, there was far less drama in Game 7 than there had been the night before. How could it be otherwise? The Giants led 5-0 in the seventh inning of Game 6 and seemed to be closing in. on their first World Series championship since 1954. Then amid the tumult of clattering Thunderstix by fans in a sea of red, the Angels mounted the biggest comeback by any team facing elimination in the Series. Three runs in the seventh, three more in the eighth, a close-out in the ninth. Right "there, the Angels cut the heart out of the Giants and set up the finish. Percival saved that game, too, which was the best save of the Series after J.T. Snow's rescue of Dusty Baker's 3-year-old bat boy son at home plate in San Francisco. This was a Series that had the precious little moments and the big ones. It had Bonds erasing any doubts that he could perform on the grand stage. He batted .417, the highest in a seven-game Series by anyone in 23 years. He homered four times, one shy of Reggie Jackson's record but in the company of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Duke Snider. He had a Giants could well lose Baker, Kent By JAMIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer ANAHEIM, Calif. — Dusty Baker .walked out of the visitors' clubhouse at Edison Field carrying his SVa-year- >old boy, both father and son uncertain of their baseball futures. -~ The Giants' 4-1 loss to Anaheim in 'Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday night could have been Baker's final hurrah in a San Francisco uni- 'form, and for some of his key play- •ers, too. And as for his son, Darren, baseball officials probably will discuss whether there should be a minimum age for bat boys because of his 'near accident at home plate in Game -5. • • The Giants were so close to the franchise's first World Series charnpi- 'onship in 48 years. On Saturday, San 'Francisco held a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning before the Angels -launched the biggest comeback ever 'by a team facing elimination. '• Now that the season is over, the Giants could be different within days. Baker, whose contract is up, hoped 1o hear a lot earlier that the Giants wanted him back. '• "I don't know right now," he said after finishing his 10th season as Giants manager. "My gut right now, it's ;just heavy." > •;•; . 1 The 53-year-old Baker, who took •the Giants to their first World Series since 1989, said early in the playoffs :that he did not intend to "break the bank" — meaning the $6 million a <year Joe Torre got from the Yankees — "but I want to be near the bank." Many managerial jobs have already been filled, but there still remain attractive openings with Seattle and the Chicago Cubs. Baker isn't the only Giant who could be leaving. Second baseman Jeff Kent must decide whether to leave San Francisco as a free agent. And general manager Brian Sabean will be awaiting a call from owner Peter Magowan to work out a new deal. Magowan is leaving the 'managerial decision to the GM. If Baker leaves, it would be the end 'of an era that began when he arrived in San Francisco before the 1993 sea- 'Son. He led the Giants to 103 wins his first year — but they didn't make the playoffs. " 1116 organization has definitely prospered because of Dusty Baker. If that day comes (when he leaves), which I'm truly honest I don't know, it would be very sad." — Dave Righetti, Giants pitching coach The Giants won the NL West in 1997 and 2000, but didn't win a playoff series until his team knocked off Atlanta and St. Louis to reach the World Series this year. The likable Baker would be missed for the way he handled personalities in the clubhouse, allowed players' sons to run around the dugout and for his friendly interaction with fans. "The guy has meant so much to the city, the area, the last 10 years of managing its ballclub," pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "He's done a terrific job. He's brought a lot of spirit. The organization has definitely prospered because of Dusty Baker. If that day comes (when he leaves), which I'm truly honest I don't know, it would be very sad." Kent, the 2000 NL MVP, could be one of the top free agents on the market after prospering for six years in San Francisco. Closer Robb Nen, third baseman David Bell, right fielder Reggie Sanders and center fielder Kenny Lofton also could leave via free agency. As long as Bonds is in the Giants' lineup, they'll be a team worth watching. Bonds led the majors with a .370 average, hit 46 home runs and put to rest any questions about his poor postseason past. The 38-year-old Bonds hit .356 with eight home runs, 16 RBIs and 27 walks in the postseason'. But what October showed is that the Giants need more capable hitters behind Bonds.to make the opposition pitch to him. Manager Dusty Baker might return to the Giants' dugout next season, but it's unlikely his son, Darren, wilL (AP photo) Dugout kids might get the boot By The Associated Press Baseball might stop all that child's play in the dugout. Many fans got a kick out of those cute kids serving as bat boys for the San Francisco Giants during the World Series. But commissioner Bud Selig doesn't think it was harmless fun and plans to consider new rules regarding who is allowed in the dugout. "Nothing's been decided. I know it's an issue tltat will be addressed," Rich Levin, a spokesman for Selig, said Monday. Darren Baker, the 3'/2-year-old son of Giants manager Dusty, Baker, was nearly hurt at home plate in Game 5 last Thursday when he ran out to retrieve a bat while tile ball was still in play. J.T. Snow scooped up me youngster by the neck of his jacket and took him out of harm's way, just as David Bell came speeding around third. Sons of other Giants also served as bat boys, including those of Barry Bonds and Shawon Dunston. Kannon Kile, the 5-year-old son of late pitcher DarryJ Kile, was an honorary bat boy for the St. Louis Cardinals during die playoffs. "Obviously, this thing got out of hand," Selig told the New York Daily News. Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, has said there are currently no rules regarding ages for bat boys. Giants owner Peter Magowan has said he would be against age limitations. "If they said no kids under 15 in the dugout, we'd certainly be against that," Magowan said during the World Series. "I think our fans love our bat boys. They're nice looking, they're well-behaved. I think it's one of the reasons players want to play for the Giants." Magowan was sure the rules of bat boy ages would be examined by baseball during the offseason, and age restrictions could be implemented. "I wouldn't be surprised if that's the result," Levin said. Devil Rays hire Piniella; Mets turn to Howe By TOM WITHERS •AP Sports Writer ... In the latest round of managerial shuffling, four teams settled on new skippers Monday. -: Lou Piniella was introduced as the .Tampa Bay Devil Rays' manager and rJie New York Mets finally announced the hiring of Art Howe away from Oakland. • The Athletics will promote bench coach Ken Macha in his place, his agent said, and a Cleveland Indians team source told The Associated •Press that Eric Wedge will be their •next manager. Piniella agreed to become the 'Devil Rays' manager after asking his 'former team, the Seattle Mariners, to release him from the last year of his contract. PINIELLA HOWE Piniella wanted to negotiate with the Mets, too, but the Mariners sought an agreement on compensation before allowing Piniella to talk with other teams. The Mets and Mariners never settled on compensation, but the Devil Rays did — All-Star outfielder Randy Winn became a Mariner on Monday. Piniella will become the majors' second-highest paid manager after signing a $13 million, four-year contract. Howe's introduction Monday was also a formality — word that the Mets would hire him leaked last Wednesday night, although the Mets refused any confirmation or announcement until the World Series was over. Howe agreed to a four-year contract worth $9.4 million after being released from the last year of his deal with the Athletics. Howe managed the A's to 383 victories the last four seasons, matching Joe Torre's total with the New York Yankees. There were AL West division titles in 2000 and 2002 and a record 20-game winning streak this season, part of a second straight 100-win year for the Athletics. But the A's were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the third straight year. A top candidate for several managerial vacancies this fall, Macha spent four years as a manager in the Boston Red Sox organization before joining the A's as a bench coach before the 1999 season. He was the Eastern League manager of the year in 1996 with Double-A Trenton, and he led Triple-A Pawtuckel to two winning seasons. At 34 years old. Wedge will become the youngest manager in the majors. In fact, he'll be younger than two of his players: Ellis Burks (38) and Omar Vizqucl (35). Pittsburgh's Lloyd McClendon, who is 43, had been the youngest manager in the big leagues. Wedge managed Cleveland's Triple-A team in Buffalo the last two seasons. General manager Mark Shapiro chose Wedge over loel Skinner, the club's former third-base coach who managed the Indians for 76 games last season after Charlie Manuel was fired. Despite being passed over, Skinner is considering a position on Wedge's stall, another team source said. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wedge, who will turn 35 on Jan. 27, will be the youngest manager to make his major league debut since Bobby Valentine in 1985. Valentine was fired by the Mets after a last-place finish this season, creating the opening for Howe. Before the World Series began, Texas hired Buck Showalter and Detroit hired Alan Trammcll. The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs are still without managers. Glavine, Thome, I-Rod, 67 others file for free agency By RONALD BLUM 'AP Sports Writer ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tom Glavine, Jim Thome and Ivan Rodriguez were among 70 players who filed for free agency Monday as baseball's offsea- son began. • Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, who is under contract, also opted to explore the market, his iright because the team exercised a Iprovision in his deal that would defer ;most of his salary without interest. • Meanwhile, Adanta Braves catcher Ijavy Lopez decided against free lagency, deciding to exercise his $7 million option for 2003. Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jeff Kent, Robb Nen and Cliff Floyd are among the 184 players potentially eligible to file for free agency by the Nov. 12 deadline. Clemens is expected to decline his $10.3 million option with the Yankees, because his deal also includes a $10.3 million buyout. New York has an $11.5 million option on Pettitte. Shawon Dunston and Bill Mueller filed Monday from the NL champion San Francisco Giants, who lost Game 7 of the World Series 4-1 to Anaheim on Sunday night. No Angels filed. San Francisco has two key players who are eligible but didn't file Monday: Kent, the 2000 NL MVP, and closer Nen, who must decide whether to exercise a player option for 2003. Thomas, a two-time AL MVP, has until Dec. 7 to sign with another club or keep his contract with the White Sox, which calls for annual salaries in the next four seasons of $250,000 plus $10,125,000 deferred over 10 years without interest. His contract had contained annual salaries of $9,927,000, including $3,827,000 deferred with interest, but the White Sox exercised a clause that allowed the team to change the salary because he didn't make the All-Star team and isn't going to finish among the top 10 in MVP voting or win a Silver Slugger award this season. Chicago general manager Kenny Williams and Thomas' agent, Arn Tellem, said they will continue negotiations. "Although we are not surprised that Frank exercised his right to shop his services on the open market, and we understand there is a risk.diat he might find a more attractive offer elsewhere, we remain hopeful that' we can reach some sort of agreement thai would keep Frank with the White Sox," Williams said. Chicago notified Thomas on Oct. 6 it was invoking the clause. "We have had some very positive conversations over the past two weeks," Tellem said. "The White Sox have expressed their interest in retaining Frank, and we will continue to hold discussions with the Sox even while we are evaluating other options for Frank." Thome and his agent, Pat Rooney, arc to meet Thursday with Indians owner Larry Dolan and general manager Mark Shapiro at Jacobs Field. The club will make a formal proposal to its career home run leader. .700 on-base percentage, the liighest in a World Series that went more than four games, and he broke Jackson's 1977 slugging percentage record with a 1.294. Bonds likely would have been the Series MVP if the Giants had finished it off in Game 6 or come back in Game 7. As it turned out, die Angels succeeded in minimizing his impact, which is about all they could do. Troy Glaus, who hit .385 with three homers and eight RBIs, won the MVP, though he didn't think he deserved it. The real winner, he believed, was the team as a whole. That's all Glaus talked about when the cameras were on him and the microphones were in his face. The team. The shared victory. In the end, that's what this World Series was all about and what so many people missed. Steve Wilstein is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him firstname.lastname@example.org TV ratings plunge to new lows By JOSH DUBOW AP Sports Writer The highest-scoring World Series ever turned out to be the lowest- rated, too. Despite an exciting, seven-game Series won by the Anaheim Angels against the San Francisco Giants, Fox got an 11.9 rating and 20 share for the all-California matchup, Nielsen Media Research said Monday. That rating is 24 percent below Arizona's seven-game victory over the New York Yankees last year, which got a 15.7/25, and is 4 percent below the previous record, the Yankees' five-game win over the Mets in die 2000 Subway Series (12.4/21). In the past 11 years, the rating for the Series has gone down by 50 percent. Minnesota's seven-game victory over Atlanta in 1991 got a 24.0 rating and 39 share. The top Series rating was a 32.8/56 for Philadelphia's six-game victory over Kansas City in 1980. "While the viewership was not as high as we had hoped, the fact is tha 1 Fox won six of the seven nights World Series games were played, won the week in households and adults 1849, and will finish ahead of our business forecast," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said in a statement. Anaheim's4-l victory Sunday night got a 17.9 preliminary rating and 28 share, down 24 percent from Arizona's 3-2 win in Game 7 last year, which received a 23.5/34. With the Yankees not in the World Series for the first time since 1997, the Series set record lows for an opener (9.4), Game 2 (11.9), Game 3 (10.8), Game 4 (11.8), Game 5 (10.0), Game 6 (11.8) and Game 7. Still, Fox estimated the seventh game was seen by 57.9 million viewers, the most-watched program of the new television season. The World Series averaged only one-third the rating of the most recent Super Bowl (40.4/61) and was less than this year's NCAA basketball championship game between Maryland and Indiana (15.0/24) and Miami's national football championship-winning Rose Bowl victory over Nebraska (13.8). Still, it was higher than this year's Daytona 500 (10.9/26), the NBA Finals (JO.2) and the NHL's Stanley Cup finals (3.6/7). Baseball commissioner Bud Selig did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Mis spokesman, Rich Levin, called the ratings drop part of a cycle that included an increase last season. "While there were a lot of unknown faces and that hurt in the short term, we put a lot of new faces on the national stage, and that bodes well for the future," Levin said. On Saturday, Fox Sporls chairman David 1 Sill said baseball's labor strife: this year was partly responsible for the decrease. "Once again, baseball managed to turn off its loyal fans," Hill said, "f hoped it would pick up when we got to the postseason. It certainly hasn't been what I hoped it would he." Baseball players and owners argued for much of July and August, with players threatening to strike. The sides struck a deal Aug. 30, just 2Vz hours before the scheduled start of the walkout. News Corp., Fox's parent, took a $909 million charge against earnings in February, saying it had overpaid for its sports deals: $4.5 biliion for the NFL, $2.4 billion for baseball and $1.9 billion for NASCAR. Fox is in the second year of its six- year baseball contract. "Baseball's got to be concerned about its future," Hill said. "1 would imagine they'll read the writing on the wall at the very highest levels and get their house in order." The rating is the percentage of TV households in the United Slates watching a broadcast, and each national point represents 1,055,000 homes. The share is the percentage watching a program among those households with televisions on at the time.
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