D2 SUNDAY. SEPTEMBER 29, 1996 SPORTS THE SALINA JOURNAL COMMENT T BASEBALL HAL BOCK Tlie Associated Press Are baseball playoff spots settled yet? Baseball's bigger but not necessarily better playoffs are scheduled to begin Tuesday and hopefully by then, everybody will know whether they're in or out and where they should report to play their games. Don't laugh. For the second straight year, baseball's come one, come all postseason left one team not sure when or if it had clinched a berth. A year ago, somebody had to nudge the Cincinnati Reds to tell them they had nailed down the National League Central Division. This year, the New York Yankees were astounded to learn that they were no longer in the waiting room but instead already assured of some American League October action. All of this is a function of the wild card, a gimmick designed to expand the playoffs. Where once October had two baseball teams in the postseason and then four, it now has eight. The butterfly is becoming a caterpillar instead of the other way around. More is not better. More is simply more. Postseason expansion has not made life simple for the participants, either. In the final week of the regular season, the Yankees, in a life-and-death struggle with Baltimore, thought their magic number was two when it really was one. A simple mistake. They had not factored in the effect of a loss by Seattle, playing in the AL West, on their situation in the AL East. Gene Orza, associate general counsel of the players' association and one of the architects of the grand old game's fancy new system, doesn't understand the confusion. To him, all this is blissfully simple. "Whenever the leading wild-card team is in the same division with the first-place team, the magic number is reduced by one," he said. "Baltimore had to eliminate Seattle." Seattle's loss had guaranteed the Yankees no worse than a tie for the wild-card spot, and in a tie with Baltimore, New York would prevail because of a better head-to- head record. Let the champagne flow. The Yankees conducted the required clubhouse party, but only a malicious person would suggest that they might have been better off squeezing in as the wild-card team instead of the division winner. As a wild card, New York would have played Cleveland, a team the Yankees handled all season, in the first round. As division winners, they are paired against AL West champion Texas, a more daunting challenge. During the frantic days of August and September, when it seemed the Yankees might allow their 12-game AL East lead to completely evaporate, manager Joe Torre was asked about how nice it was having the wild-card security net positioned under his tumbling team. He bristled at the question. He is a traditionalist and was not interested in finishing second, even though second could have been better in the long run. So what did the Yankees gain for finishing first in the AL East? The same thing St. Louis got for being best in the NL Central. Both are at home for the first two games of the best-of-5 first round of playoffs this week and play the final three games on the road. Cleveland and Atlanta, equipped with the best records in baseball, both have to open on the road before playing the last three at home. Where the series begins has nothing to do with a team's regular-season record. Rather it involves a pre-set rotation, which this year awards first-round home- field edge to the AL West and Central and NL East and West. After all, Orza explained, baseball has always followed a rotation and never considered won-lost records. "This involves doing the most you can do in a clash with tradition and administrative convenience," he said. "We are following a baseball tradition." Orza maintains that having the last three games at home really is an advantage, even though it's a short series. "I understand the psychology that says 2-3 doesn't give a home- field advantage," he said. "Empirically, that's not sound. It does. We studied them." That should be comforting to the Indians and Braves when they're playing those first two games on the road. NL West tide still unsettled The Associated Press San Diego's Tony Gwynn hugs teammate Jody Reed while catcher Brian Johnson looks on after the Padres pulled even with the Dodgers in the NL West with a 4-2 victory in Los Angeles on Saturday. Padres clinch playoff spot, but play LA for division crown today By The Associated Press SAN DIEGO — After 12 long, sometimes embarrassing seasons, Tony Gwynn and the San Diego •Padres are finally back in the playoffs. This time, Gwynn takes with him Ken Caminiti — who could be the franchise's first NL Most Valuable Player — Steve Finley, Wally Joyner and Rickey Henderson, who helped make 1996 the most exciting season in club history. While the 1984 Padres clinched in mid-September, the '96 version survived a 4-19 June swoon, then battled the defending NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers seven times in the final 11 days before clinching a at least a wild-card bid. The winner of today's Padres- Dodgers game will take the NL West title. It took two general managers, new owners and a big trade to rebuild from the devastating fire sale of 1993 that left the Padres a stripped-down junker that lost 101 games. "To me, this club was made in December 1994 when that Houston trade was made," said Gwynn, the only player left from the 1984 World Series team — and from 1992's opening day lineup. "That signaled to me that we were well on our way to turning this thing around a lot Baseball playoffs : v DIVISION SERIES " American League Tuesday •„;; Texas (Burkett 5-2) at New York (Cone 7-2), 7:07 p.m. (NBC) ~ Cleveland (Nagy 17-5) at Baltimore' (Wells 11-14), 12:0? pli. (ESPN) •••;•; National League ;••»• Tuesday it? Los Angeles or San Diego at St. Louis, 3:07 p.m. (ESPN) Wednesday . Atlanta at San Diego or Los'An- geles, 3:07 p.m. (ESPN) $ quicker than people thought we were." On Dec. 28, 1994, the Padres announced a deal that made fanl an|d baseball people alike say a cbllec- tive "Wow!' ! j Third baseman Caminiti* and center fielder Finley were amotig the six players who came over Jro^n the Astros in the 12-player deal, the biggest in baseball in 37 years. ! "That trade was huge," current GM Kevin Towers said. "You'take Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti out of this lineup, and we're a different ballclub. The fans, everybody,' said, 'Hey, there's light at the end of tHe tunnel.'" .^ < Was there ever. That trade-took Towers' predecessor, Randy Sinith, about four months to put together. It also added about $8 million ijn salary. But it was heartily op- dorsed by new owners John Moores and Larry Lucchino. -.' Belle fuels Tribe's win over Royals By The Associated Press KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Albert Belle hit his 48th homer, and Kevin Seitzer went 4 for 4, lifting Cleveland over the Kansas City Royals 5-4 Saturday night and giving the Indians a chance for consecutive 100-win seasons. If Cleveland wins today, the 1 AL Central champions (99-61) would be the first team to win 100 games in consecutive seasons since Baltimore in 1979 and '80. Belle's towering two-run shot off Chris Haney tied it 4-4 in the < - sixth and - gave him 148 Indians 5 RBI, boosting Royals 4 him past Col- 1 • orado's Andres Galarraga for the major- league lead. His total is the highest in the major leagues since George Foster had 149 for Cincinnati in 1977 and the most in the AL since Ted Williams and Vern Stephens each had 159 for the 1949 Boston Red Sox. Sandy Alomar gave Cleveland a 5-4 lead with a solo homer in the seventh off Bob Scanlan (0-1). Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his 39th save in 44 chances. Kent Mercker (4-6) pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Jack McDowell, winning for the first time since the Indians acquired him from Baltimore for Eddie Murray on July 21. The Indians, who clinched their second straight AL Central title on Sept. 17, open their best-of-5 series at Baltimore on Tuesday. Seitzer, who stretched his hitting streak to 14, hit an RBI double in the first, and Omar Vizquel's sacrifice fly made it 2-0 in the second. Kansas City took a 4-2 lead in the fourth on Keith Lockhart's bases-loaded single, Jose Offerman's RBI grounder and Rod Myers' two-run single. T HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS Cardinals retire Ozzie's No. 1 jersey 41-year-old shortstop calls retirement ceremonies his most memorable moment By R.B. FALLSTROM The Associated Press ST. LOUIS — It's not every day that an athlete gets his jersey retired. Especially one who's still playing. After ceremonies Saturday by the St. Louis Cardinals to honor shortstop Ozzie Smith concluded, No. 1 headed for his position with his trademark backflip. "It's a great situation for a great man and a great player," said Willie McGee, Smith's longtime teammate. "You can't say any more than that about a person." The 41-year-old Smith announced in mid- June that he'd retire at the end of the season, and has been collecting farewell gifts in all of the NL cities. The Houston Astros gave him a pair of cowboy boots he wore to home plate while delivering the lineup card one game, and defrocked Reds owner Marge Schott stuck a Schotzie cap on his head in Cincinnati. In St. Louis, they're not just taking the number off his back. At emotional pregame ceremonies before the Cardinals-Reds game, Smith received two new cars, one The Associated Press Ozzie Smith looks at his No. 1 jersey that was retired Saturday. He stands with his son O.J. and daughter Taryn. from an auto dealer friend and one from the Cardinals' owners, plus a baby grand piano from his teammates. "I've often been asked what is my greatest highlight?" Smith said. "Being here today with my family and 50,000 of my closest friends has to be the highlight. "Thanks to each and every one of you for traveling down my yellow brick road." The last few days have been a whirlwind of farewell tributes, with Smith honored at a program at the Fox Theatre on Thursday, and members of the 1982 World Championship team joining him for pregame ceremonies on Friday night. Smith's 14-year- old son, O.J., sang the National Anthem on Saturday. Smith even got to do a little tap dance routine on the Fox stage. "I didn't have a whole lot of time to work on it," Smith said. "It's one of the things I always wanted to do, and I'll master that . one day." Just like shortstop. A commemorative issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, sold outside sold-out Busch Stadium before the " : ' game trumpeted the accomplishments of the future Hall of Famer. Smith holds major-league records for assists and double plays, committed a record- low eight errors in 1991, started 12 consecutive All-Star games and won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1980-92. He's going out at the top of his game, too. After undergoing shoulder surgery and batting only .199 last year, Smith has bounced back in a reserve role behind Royce Clayton. In 48 starts and 221 at-bats, Smith entered the day batting .285 with two home runs, 17 RBI and seven steals as the Cardinals prepared for their fourth postseason appearance in his 15 years with the team. Orioles / Alomar appeals 5-game suspension FROM PAGE D1 An attorney for the players union, Michael Weiner, said that Alomar's appeal means he can continue playing until the appeals hearing. Weiner said that hearing probably would be during spring training next year. After Friday's game, Alomar said of Hirschbeck, "I used to respect him a lot. He had a problem with his family when his son died — I know that's something real tough in life — but after that he just changed, personality-wise. He just got real bitter." Hirschbeck's ,8-year-old son died of a rare brain condition three years ago. The umpire's 9- year-old son is also afflicted with the malady, umpire Jim Joyce said. Hirschbeck was told by reporters of the comment in the umpire's dressing room Saturday morning, and immediately went into a profanity-laced tirade. "He brings up my son? I see him on street and I'll ...," Hirschbeck said before calling Alomar a series of names. At that point, Jim McKean, head of the umpire crew, wrapped his arms around Hirschbeck and asked reporters to leave the room. The incident didn't end there. Moments later, Hirschbeck charged into the Orioles clubhouse, yelling that he would "kill" Alomar. Joyce, another member of the umpire crew, chased after him and grabbed the umpire before he could reach Alomar. Joyce had Hirschbeck in a bear hug as he pulled him from the clubhouse and into the umpire's room. Alomar, who was not in the clubhouse at the time, said after the game, "I apologize to him. We didn't understand each other. What happened last night was the heat of the moment, and we'll just leave it at that." Alomar did, however, claim that he should not have received the suspension, claiming "nobody knows my side." Hirschbeck did not work the game Saturday between the Orioles and Blue Jays at McKean's request. The umpires called the game with a three-man crew, and the umpires also planned to work tp- day's game without Hirschbeck. "We're both human beings and we both made mistakes," Alomar said. "Right now I'm not going fo think about it. I'm going to think about Cleveland." ' The incident began whefn Hirschbeck tossed Alomar froni Friday's game after the player continued to question a strike call. After being ejected, Alomar charged from the dugout and h^d to be restrained by Baltimore manager Davey Johnson. < Johnson wasn't able to stop Alb- mar from spitting in Hirschbeck^s face. ! Salina Central dominates in winning South meet! Mustangs qualify in all four finals in scoring 34 points in tournament By LARRY MORITZ The Salina Journal His team played so well that Salina Central coach Jim LoVullo was able to compare the Mustangs' performance at the Salina South Invitational to the near ideal weather conditions Saturday. "We played as well as the weather was nice," LoVullo said after his team easily captured the tourney team title. "We won some close matches and that was nice because it has been awhile since everyone won their close matches. "Plus, when you come out of pool play 8-0, you have to be pretty pleased. It was a good team victory and nice to get all four in the finals. Each kid contributed to the team title." Central's four entries each went 2-0 in pool play and qualified for the tournament finals. The Mustangs' 34 points topped Russell in second with 22, while South and Abilene tied for third with 20 points. South athletes played in the championship match of two divisions, including Rebecca Dunlap turning in a strong performance in winning the No. 2 singles title. "We tied for third which is wonderful," South coach Cindy Meek said. "When you break it down I'm one happy coach because we had some tremendous individual accomplishments." Salina entries won three of four divisions as Central swept the doubles finals. Lindsay Warrington and Rochelle Hamman, who have played No. 2 doubles most of this season, moved up to No. 1 and went 3-0 Saturday. Warrington- Hamman survived a close match in the finals, defeating Junction City's Dena Boiler and Betsy Edwards 8-6. "We had some girls in different positions today and they came through," LoVullo said. "I had to give my No. 2s a chance to play some No. Is and with the way we moved people around, I'm real happy with the way they performed." The championship match in No. 2 doubles was an all-Salina affair, as Central's Shusten Turnquist and Jennifer Mize defeated South's Becky Day and Hannah Kelley 8-0. Dunlap had her toughest match of the day in the finals at No. 2 singles, where she topped Central's Sara Stroer 8-3. "When you look at Rebecca's scores — 8-1, 8-1 and 8-3 — she had a fantastic day and didn't make mistakes," Meek said. "One of the best things to happen was Hannah and Becky's play. In the course of this season they had made a lot of unforced errors and had not put things together, but today it worked for them." One of the most dominating performances of the day came from Russell's Carrie Wendt in No. 1 singles. Wendt had little trouble on her way to the title, losing J only four games in three matches. Wendt topped Central's Lpur'a Seaton 8-1 in the championship round. • Abilene did not have a member reach the finals, but the defending tourney champs, djd have three third-place finishfe$, including Sarah Jackson's 8-6. wjn over South's Julie Mueting 8-6 at No. 1 singles. Also taking third for Abilerie were Gretchen Guccione in No.; 2 singles, and Sarah Stredney* and Molly Whitehair in No. 1 doubles. Russell's Sari Biles and Greta Ganske took the third-placje medals in No. 2 doubles.
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