As baseball begins, let thee count ways

Plenty to crunch when doing a number on 2000 season

Opening Day

April 03, 2000|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

If we need to be reminded that baseball is a numbers game, all you have to do is check out Florida Marlins reliever Antonio Alfonseca, aka "Pulpo." That's Spanish for "Squid."

Why do they call Alfonseca "Squid?" Because he has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Could have called him "Digital."

As the 2000 season begins in earnest today, here's a look at baseball by the numbers. You may need these kinds of mathematical diversions to get you through a 162-game season.

2. The number of women San Diego Padres outfielder Al Martin allegedly has married. How does the guy remember the count at the plate?

3. As in the number of consecutive World Series titles the New York Yankees will have strung together if they win it this year. The Yankees can become the first team since the 1972-1974 Oakland Athletics to pull off the hat trick. Every other contender is hoping that the Yanks, particularly their pitchers, are getting old and brittle.

5. The Atlanta Braves, in a rare pitching panic, are searching for a fifth starter after spring elbow surgery knocked out John Smoltz.

8.46-to-1. Pedro Martinez's amazing strikeout-to-walk ratio.

9. How many hits Cal Ripken needs to reach the coveted 3,000 plateau. Of course, the Cal-culator is the man who made numbers fashionable merely by showing up every day. After voluntarily ending The Streak at 2,632 games in 1998, Ripken missed 76 because of injuries last year.

12. Minutes it takes for the roof on the new Houston Astros stadium (Enron Field) to retract.

24: 8. As in Psalms 24: 8 -- Andres Galarraga's favorite Bible passage. He quotes it to explain how God picked him up in a white light and carried him from his living room to the bedroom after his chemotherapy. Welcome back, Big Cat.

24-32. The St. Louis Cardinals' record last season in games in which Mark McGwire hit home runs.

26, 27, 28 and 29. June dates for the first home run derby in Cincinnati between Ken Griffey and Big Mac. McGwire opens the season in St. Louis today for a three-day homestand against the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa. You don't think baseball had any hand in that scheduling, do you? It should be covered like a launch at Cape Canaveral.

36. Number of years it has been since Houston's National League franchise -- former tenant of the Astrodome -- played a baseball game outdoors at home.

39. This is the number Ripken wants everyone to stop talking about -- his age.

50. It may take that many New York police officers to guard the Atlanta bullpen, when Big Apple-basher John Rocker plays against the Mets at Shea Stadium on June 29-July 2.

53. Number of times a locomotive steam engine might be chugging along a track atop an outfield wall, celebrating each Jeff Bagwell homer in Houston.

55. If you don't hit at least this many dingers in the NL Central, you won't be in sniffing distance of the home run race.

65. McGwire's home run slump last year.

70. If Big Mac's single-season homer record -- which isn't even cold yet -- can be broken, might this be the year? Seeing far more fastballs in the NL, Griffey just might push McGwire and Sosa to new heights -- and lengths.

81-81. An identical Twins record that Minnesota has no chance of approaching with the game's smallest payroll ($17 million).

82. The number of years the Boston Red Sox have gone without winning a World Series.

Make it 83. The Red Sox were not only jinxed by being picked by Sports Illustrated to win it all but also were on the cover.

140. Number of homers Tampa Bay's "Four Baggers" -- Jose Canseco, Greg Vaughn, Fred McGriff and Vinny Castilla -- might hit this season. Conducting their own intra-office home run race might be the high point of the Devil Rays' season.

307. That's the number of feet from home plate to the right-field stands in the San Francisco Giants' new stadium, Pacific Bell Park. Barry Bonds, Pacificly, should enjoy the shortest porch in baseball.

450. Number of times Canseco, Vaughn, McGriff and Castilla may strike out.

1,009. Number of runs the Cleveland Indians scored last season -- most in the last half-century for a single season.

1,010. What the Indians may need to score if they don't find a suitable closer.

2001. For Cubs, it's wait 'til then.

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