Reds end dynasty talk, make A's pass the broom


October 21, 1990|By PETER SCHMUCK

In Sunday's editions, it was reported incorrectly that Harold Baines of the Oakland Athletics is the only active major-league baseball player to have had his number retired. Baines' number was retired by the Chicago White Sox. Eddie Murray of the Los Angeles Dodgers also has had his number retired, by the Baltimore Orioles.

Did this really happen? Did the Oakland Athletics finally prove the myth of National League superiority?

The 87th World Series was supposed to be another showcase for the best baseball organization on the face of the earth. The third straight appearance by the A's was supposed to secure their standing as one of the most dominating teams in baseball history.

But they ended up turning the fall classic into the classic fall.

The Cincinnati Reds were decided underdogs coming into the Series. Souvenir broom salesmen were doing a thriving business in anticipation of a four-game Oakland sweep. But it was the Reds who whisked the A's right out of Riverfront Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum with resounding victories in games 1 and 3 and a late-inning comeback in Game 2 before last night's clincher.


It was enough to make you wonder whether the A's might just be a product of American League mediocrity.

Not that they aren't very good. They are, and they have averaged 102 victories since 1988 to prove it. But when faced with solid -- not dominating, just solid -- National League competition, they have come up short as often as they have come out on top.

Freeway series flashback: The A's won 104 games in 1988, swept the playoffs and took on a Los Angeles Dodgers club that was not even considered the best team in the National League in 1988. Oakland went down in five games, dispatched by a hot pitching staff or dismantled from within by an over-eager offensive lineup -- or a little of both.

Bay Bridge Series flashback: The A's swept the San Francisco Giants in four games, but there were some extenuating circumstances. For one, the Giants barely could piece together a pitching staff from the list of arthroscopic surgery candidates on their postseason roster. The A's, meanwhile, were able to use Stewart and Mike Moore for all four games.

Regular season in review: The A's won 103 games this year, but played more than half of their schedule against the division that sent the Boston Red Sox to the American League Championship Series. The only other team in the American League to win 90 or more games was the Chicago White Sox, who won eight of their 13 games against Oakland.

What does all this prove? Nothing except that talk of an Oakland dynasty might have been premature. The A's still appear to have the best team on paper, but it was a different story on the field.


The winter meetings, scheduled for the first week of December Los Angeles, have been endangered by the rift that has developed between Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

MLB has been looking for some financial concessions in the new working agreement between the major and minor leagues. Commissioner Fay Vincent has heeded a call from the Major League Umpires Association to push for better pay for minor-league umpires. The major-league teams also are trying to reduce the amount of money they contribute to minor-league operations.

If no agreement is reached soon, the 26 major-league entourage are expected to pull out of the Los Angeles meetings and move their portion of the annual convention to another site -- probably Dallas. An announcement to that effect could be coming in the next 10 days.


Oakland outfielder Jose Canseco might have a point this time. became an easy scapegoat after the A's lost the second game of the World Series, but there was at least one other candidate.

Manager Tony La Russa, who criticized Canseco's fielding effort on Billy Hatcher's triple that helped bring the Reds from behind, made enough questionable moves to warrant a second-guess or two.

* He sent Bob Welch up to hit with a runner on base in the eighth, even though Welch had barely survived a rocky seven innings and figured to be out of the game at the next sign of trouble.

* He had Dennis Eckersley warming up in the eighth, but brought in Rick Honeycutt with runners at first and third and one out. He later said that since there was a good chance of the tying run scoring no matter who was on the mound, he didn't want to end up in a situation where Eckersley was pitching in a tie game on the road.

* He brought Eckersley into the game in the 10th . . . with the score tied on the road.

Canseco did make a poor play on the ball by Hatcher, which got the A's into the mess in the first place, but he also had driven in two of his team's four runs.


Is it possible that Jose Rijo was right after all? He said after Game 1 that the Pittsburgh Pirates might be tougher than the A's. He later said that he just meant the Pirates were tougher on him because their lineup featured more tough left-handed

hitters. Perhaps no explanation was necessary.


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