Format much like `Russian roulette,' says Yankees' Torre

If there's a Game 5, Clemens will be starter

Division Series notebook

Baseball

October 12, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre resurrected an old debate yesterday by likening the best-of-five Division Series format to "Russian roulette" that can neutralize stronger teams.

"I think you're under the gun. It's very tough. You'd like to have it four-of-seven in the first series, but which one do you make three-of-five? I don't know. I've never been fond of these things but you understand that these things are very tough," said Torre.

"You can't think beyond today at all in a best-of-five series. You need to win every day and you're never comfortable. I don't care if you're up 2-0, because one game in a short series really changes the momentum, and then if you lose that second game, you realize you're at a disadvantage."

And so the Yankees are after losing their second straight to the Oakland Athletics last night. Oakland won seven more games than the Yankees this season despite their wild-card status.

"Usually the best teams get to postseason and it's a shame that it's Russian roulette at that point ... But we all play by the same rules and the bad break can get the best team of the year out of there."

Clemens still in rotation

Forced from Game 1 by a strained right hamstring, Roger Clemens will start Game 5 if the Division Series returns to New York on Monday, Torre said.

Clemens revealed after Wednesday's four-inning appearance that he suffered a twinge in the hamstring during his last start of the season against Tampa Bay.

"He's obviously not going to be 100 percent, but sometimes 80 percent of Roger Clemens is better than 100 percent of somebody else," said Torre. "This is his responsibility and he knows that."

Should Clemens be unavailable, the nod would likely go to left-hander Sterling Hitchcock.

In hot water

John Rocker, Cleveland's controversial reliever whose insensitive remarks in a 1999 Sports Illustrated article were widely publicized, threw water on fans during Game 1 of the Indians' series against the Mariners on Tuesday.

Rocker told Indians manager Charlie Manuel that he was being harassed by fans sitting near Cleveland's left-field bullpen and admitted he threw a cup of water toward them.

"You guys [media] should see the monster you've helped create," Rocker said to a small group of reporters in Cleveland's clubhouse. "They wouldn't be there if not for the biased coverage, so thank you for making my life on the road hell."

Said Manuel: "He said they were really screaming and hollering at him and he got tired of it. He said he picked up a cup of water and threw it. I told him he definitely won't do that again, and he said he wouldn't. You have to be professional about things."

Indians spokesman Bart Swain said the team asked for extra security near the bullpen for Game 2 yesterday. The visitors' bullpen at Safeco Field has a chain-link fence behind it, and fans can stand at it during the game with an unobstructed view as the pitchers warm up. It's considered one of the worst bullpens in the league because hecklers are so close.

"It's pretty brutal," Rocker said.

Major League Baseball spokeswoman Phyllis Mehrige didn't know if there would be disciplinary action against Rocker.

Snapping comebacks

Houston general manager Gerry Hunsicker met with manager Larry Dierker to reprimand Dierker for his terse and combative answers during a news conference after the Astros' 7-4 loss to Atlanta in the first game of the NL series.

"We all have a responsibility to act professionally and to represent the organization as such," Hunsicker said.

Dierker, who snapped at questioners asking about his strategy, said he was upset about losing a late-inning lead and about having to explain moves he said were similar to ones he had made most of the season to reporters who had not seen his team play all year.

"But I also know it's my job to tell them, and I didn't do a very good job," Dierker said.

Around the horn

Commissioner Bud Selig says he's looking to add some oomph to the All-Star Game by giving the winner home-field advantage in the World Series.

"There's been a lot of conversations about making the game more meaningful," he said. "There have been some interesting suggestions made, one of which is that the league that wins the All-Star Game would have the advantage in the World Series. So, this winter we'll spend a lot of time talking about that, and yes, we will make some changes." ...

The Athletics' 5-3 win over the Yankees in Game 1 of their AL series drew a 5.9 national rating. That's 11 percent higher than the 5.3 Fox had for Game 2 of the division series between the same teams in 2000 - which at the time was the network's worst for prime-time baseball postseason since it started airing games in 1996.

NBC aired Game 1 of that series last year, drawing only a 3.7, up against the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore. It was the lowest-rated division series game ever on a network. Each rating point represents a little more than 1 million television households. ...

A gaunt-looking Carlos Guillen took batting practice for the first time since he was found to have pulmonary tuberculosis, hoping he could rejoin the team this postseason.

"I'm a little weak," said the regular Mariners shortstop, diagnosed Sept. 28. "I got a little tired out there today, but I'd still like to play in the playoffs. That is my goal."

Guillen, 6 feet 1, 202 pounds, lost 10 pounds but has regained all except three. He isn't on the Mariners' roster for the Division Series against the Indians. ...

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox skipped yesterday's workout to be with his sister, Joy Rogers, who suffered a brain hemorrhage on Wednesday. He's expected to return for today's Game 3.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

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