NEW YORK -- Democrats thought Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in the presidential debates, Republicans disagreed. Similarly, insiders choosing a winner in the World Series fell along partisan lines -- those who've been in the National League picking the Braves, those from the American League going with the New York Yankees.
Former Orioles outfielder Merv Rettenmund, now a hitting coach for the San Diego Padres: "I don't see that the World Series is going to be that close. The Braves will win. I'm not that familiar with the Yankees' hitters, but they're going to have to cover the strike zone on the outside corner, and they're going to have to make tremendous adjustments. For example, I don't see where Cecil Fielder is going to be a factor. If the Braves get a good [scouting] report, they can handle him.
"I like the Braves' attack. Freddie [McGriff] is consistent, they've got [Ryan] Klesko, they've got some youth, they've got some speed. Grissom is having his best season in five years."
How could the Braves lose? "They've got no bullpen," Rettenmund said, "besides [Mark] Wohlers. I don't care who they have coming out of the bullpen, they're hitable. If it's [Mike] Bielecki, or [Greg] McMichael, you can hit those guys. If you get their starters out before the seventh, then you're in business. If you get their starter out by five innings, the game is yours. But obviously St. Louis couldn't do that."
Orioles hitting coach Rick Down, the former hitting coach of the Yankees: "I like New York. I like their starting pitchers, with those left-handers -- [Jimmy] Key, [Andy] Pettitte, even [Kenny] Rogers -- against the Braves, who have mostly left-handed hitters. McGriff, Chipper Jones -- a switch-hitter who's a better left-handed hitter -- Klesko. They can get a lead, and then turn it over to the bullpen, with Mariano Rivera and [John] Wetteland. They're similar to the old Cincinnati Reds and the Nasty Boys, with Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton and [Randy] Myers.
"I like the way Bernie [Williams] and Derek Jeter are playing, [Darryl] Strawberry. With the rain, they've got another day to help Strawberry's broken toe, [Paul] O'Neill's hamstring, and I'm sure it'll help Wade Boggs' back. They've been playing banged up a bit."
Why would New York lose? "Their [lack of] left-handed pitching out of the bullpen," Down said. "They don't have that left-handed specialist, like a Tony Fossas. Nobody is going to be shaking in their boots facing Graeme Lloyd. And although Mariano Duncan's been pretty solid, defense at second could be a problem."
Chicago Cubs manager Jim Riggleman: "I'd give you the usual bit about how both teams are great, they've done a lot to get there. But if you put a gun to my head and asked me who's going to win, I'd say Atlanta. Pitching -- pretty much every day they can put a great pitcher out there, whether it's a pure power pitcher like John Smoltz, or an artist like Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine. In a seven-game series -- that's a lot of ballgames -- your strengths definitely come out. The Braves pitching always come up so big.
"But there's something about the Braves, and you've got to give [manager] Bobby Cox a lot of credit for this: Whenever you played them, no matter the circumstances, even when they're 12 games ahead or a day game after a night game, they're trying to beat you to death. It was like every game was huge to them."
Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco: "I think it's going to come down to the bullpen, and the Yankees have a great bullpen, and the Yankees are tough on the road. As we really know. I'm going to say Yankees in six."
New Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller, formerly the pitching coach with Pittsburgh: "Well, I've basically been watching the same pitching staff for six years now. Glavine is tough, if you don't score in the first. Even when Maddux doesn't have it, you'll score [only] four, and you need to put a whole bunch of hits together to do it. [Smoltz] was unbelievable this year -- he had the whole thing going, the hard sinking fastball, the slider, the forkball, the changeup. They throw strike one as good as any staff I've ever seen, as good as the Orioles' teams I had.
"The Braves can be pitched to. They're not an unbeatable offense. But they've got good 3-4-5 hitters, some young guys in Andruw Jones and [Jermaine] Dye, who can hit it out if you make a mistake with the breaking ball. And they've got the Postseason Mr. Everything, the magnificent Mr. [Mark] Lemke, who hasn't missed a fastball above his belt in the playoffs. The kid at third [Chipper Jones] is very, very underrated, the whole package. Bobby Cox has told me he's never seen a kid like that, who didn't let success go to his head. He's like a young Cal, who loves to play."
Miller used to be the pitching coach for Braves left-hander Denny Neagle. How will Neagle do? "He'll do fine," said Miller. "He hasn't pitched much over the last month, and that might have been the best thing that happened to him, because he wears down in the second half of the year. He's always got that good changeup, which keeps you from charging out at [fastballs]."
New York Yankees
vs. Atlanta Braves
Best of seven
Today: Atlanta (Smoltz 24-8) at New York (Pettitte 21-8), 7: 30
Tomorrow: at New York, 7: 15
Tuesday: at Atlanta, 8: 15
Wednesday: at Atlanta, 8: 18
Thursday*: at Atlanta, 8: 15
Saturday*: at New York, 8: 01
Oct. 27*: at New York, 7: 35
* - If necessary
TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/ WBAL (1090 AM)
Pub Date: 10/20/96