BOSTON -- Last year Toronto catcher Ernie Whitt complained about the way Rickey Henderson stole bases. This year Boston designated hitter Dwight Evans complained about the way Dennis Eckersley celebrates strikeouts.
Far be it from anyone to suggest this pattern is related to the AL East's 1-10 record against Oakland the last three postseasons. Or, in Evans' case, the strikeout that ended the Red Sox's final threat last night.
If you can't beat 'em, attack their table manners.
TTC "I don't appreciate someone showing someone else up," Evans sniffed after Eckersley fanned him on three pitches -- with two outs, men on first and third and the Red Sox trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning.
"Everyone says he's excited. He does this, he does that. I don't think as players we should show each other up. He woke me up. I look forward to our next confrontation, I really do."
Evans stared at his former Boston teammate as he exulted over his strikeout. Eckersley grew so unraveled, he pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save in Oakland's 4-1 victory at Fenway Park.
This is the guy who has issued just seven walks in 131 innings the past two seasons. He routinely shows emotion after big strikeouts, and Boston manager Joe Morgan didn't even address that issue in his post-game remarks.
"Eck is amazing," Morgan said. "He never walks anybody, he throws nothing but strikes and nobody can hit him. Our guys went up in the ninth inning and everyone took the first strike. I told them, 'Never take the first strike, because all he throws are strikes.' "
Evans, meanwhile, could not be appeased.
"I don't think it's the proper etiquette," he said. "People say he's always done that. I've seen him at the peak of his game. I've seen him rock bottom. I've seen him dig out of holes on and off the field.
"I really admire the way he has handled himself. But I don't think the way he handles himself on the field is proper."
* THE CURSE OF SPARKY: For the past seven years Detroit manager Sparky Anderson has picked Toronto to win the AL East. Vowing not to make the same mistake again, he already has chosen a new favorite for 1991.
"Baltimore will be the club to beat next year," Anderson told the New York Times. "I like their whole team. They look like they're going back to the type of ball they want to play. They play steady baseball every day."
This gets better.
"I love the young first baseman," Anderson said of David Segui. "Defensively no one in either division is better than him.
"The second baseman is outstanding. Billy Ripken can play second base as well as anyone in our game. The shortstop, Cal Ripken, is outstanding. They have a third baseman [Leo Gomez] they tell me is a heckuva player.
"Bob Melvin is one of the five best catchers in the game today. I'm talking pure catching; I'm not talking about hitting. In the outfield, they're trackers. They track the ball."
Finally, Anderson raved about the Orioles' "good young pitching staff."
Remember, this is the guy who predicted great things for such Tigers busts as Chris Pittaro and Torey Lovullo. A valentine from Sparky is the baseball equivalent of a letter bomb.
* RAH-JAH REPORT: As usual, Roger Clemens wasn't talkinyesterday, so someone asked teammate Mike Boddicker about the condition of his right shoulder.
Boddicker turned to Red Sox PR director Dick Bresciani anjoked, "Dick, didn't Roger do any interviews again?" Then he added, "Roger is fine. He'll be ready to go Thursday if need be."
Thursday is Game 5 -- if necessary. Morgan seemed decidedlpessimistic when asked if Clemens could return on three days rest for Game 4.
"What if you're down 0-3?" Morgan asked. "You might as well juswait another day. You still have to win four in a row, no matter what you do. I know he could get it started. But I wouldn't want him in there unless he's 100 percent."
* MEDICAL UPDATE: A's shortstop Walt Weiss suffered a left knee strain when Ellis Burks slid into him breaking up a double play in the eighth inning. A's manager Tony La Russa said his availability won't be known until tomorrow, when Game 3 will begin at 3:18 p.m.
If Weiss is sidelined, the A's likely will use Mike Gallego at short and Willie Randolph at second, the combination they went with in the final two innings last night. Gallego shifted from second, where he started over Randolph the first two games.
La Russa showed great confidence in Gallego by permitting him to bat with runners on first and third, one out and the score 2-1 in the eighth inning. Gallego, a .206 hitter, flied out to shallow right. The A's did not score.
* BOB WELCH, FUGITIVE? Apparently he was joking, but last night's winning pitcher told the New York Times that he sometimes makes improper use of his split-fingered fastball.
"If it's not working I just grease it up," Welch said. "It'll work one way or the other. It's better when you spit on it, but I'd never admit to that. I'm scuffin' it, cheatin'. What do you think, I've been hanging around here and not learning anything?"