McKeon gets credit for setting tone in Marlins' quick rise

Focus draws praise

Selig jubilant on ratings

O's `fastidious' in search

World Series notebook

Baseball

October 26, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Manager Jack McKeon was a late addition to the 2003 world champion Florida Marlins, but he bonded with the team quickly and created a winning culture in the clubhouse.

Last night, he got to savor the fermented fruits of the first world title of his long career, but in the aftermath, it was still all about the players.

"These guys are a wonderful bunch of guys," McKeon said, "and I couldn't be happier for these guys. They have worked hard all season and nobody gave us a chance and here we are, the world champ. Tremendous story. My hat is off to the players and coaches and the organization."

McKeon took over the team from Jeff Torborg in early April, when there was talk of a midseason breakup. The Marlins were 19-29 at one point later that month, but they have been one of the hottest teams in baseball ever since.

"I'm not saying anything bad about Jeff Torborg," said third baseman Mike Lowell. "He was great. I think Jack just had a different style. I don't think Jeff really had a chance. He was handcuffed by injuries."

Lowell said there was one thing about McKeon that made the players respond to him - his total focus on this season.

"He was only about one thing - winning," Lowell said. "He wasn't kissing up to upper management trying to get an extension for next year. He had a fire. He just wanted to win and he could be right in your face, but the young players responded to him."

Owner Jeffrey Loria responded to him, too, and rewarded him during the series with a brand-new, $125,000 Mercedes Benz convertible. It has been that kind of magical year.

"I took this job with the idea that I could turn this club around and make it a winner," McKeon said. "I didn't have any idea that we would win the playoffs or win the wild card. I had no idea we would get to the World Series and I had no idea we would win the World Series.

"But being with these guys and seeing the attitude and the determination, the desire, we were on a mission."

Selig ecstatic

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig couldn't hide his delight at the way this postseason has played out, or the way broadcast ratings have jumped dramatically this October.

"For sheer sustained drama," Selig said, "this [postseason] has been the best."

The fans obviously agree, since they have been watching the postseason telecasts in surprising numbers.

"They [the ratings] have exceeded everybody's expectations by so much," Selig said. "In a day when every other sports entity has gone down, Fox is up 40 percent. In this environment, it's amazing."

Selig has good reason to crow. He was the architect of the wild-card races and the three-tiered playoff system, and he took a lot of heat in the 1990s from traditionalists who felt he was using gimmickry to mollify a generation of disenchanted fans.

"I pulled up some of the stories that were written 10 or 11 years ago when we decided to add the wild card," Selig said. "I can tell you, they weren't complimentary. But all this has been great for baseball."

Selig on Orioles

Selig said he has been monitoring the Orioles' managerial search carefully and gave the team's front office high marks for the thoroughness of its hiring process.

"I'm very satisfied," he said. "They have been fastidious in what they have done. I have no problems."

The commissioner would not, however, give an opinion on who the Orioles should name to replace Mike Hargrove.

"Those kinds of opinions I keep to myself," he said.

When asked what he thought about the possibility of Eddie Murray getting the job, he dodged the question deftly.

"I'm still mad at Eddie," Selig said. "During all the years that I had the Brewers and we were good and the Orioles were good, he killed us," Selig said. "I've told him that. During that period, he was the best clutch hitter in baseball."

Three days' rest

Marlins starter Josh Beckett - and McKeon - were bucking some serious recent history when the young right-hander took the mound on three days' rest last night.

He became the sixth pitcher in this postseason to start on short rest, and only one of his predecessors - last night's opposing pitcher Andy Pettitte - came out a winner.

Pettitte started Game 2 of this World Series on short rest and pitched 8 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. Three of the other four lost and Oakland A's starter Tim Hudson left Game 4 of the Division Series after one inning with an injury.

Mussina steps up

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina offered to pitch on one day's rest when it became apparent that David Wells was experiencing back soreness before Game 5.

Expansion success

Expansion teams and years in World Series (first year of play in parentheses):

Angels (1961) - x-2002

Mets (1962) - x-1969, 1973, x-1986, 2000

Royals (1969) - 1980, x-1985

Brewers (Pilots 1969) - 1982

Padres (1969) - 1984, 1998

Blue Jays (1977) - x-1992, x-1993

Marlins (1993) - x-1997, x-2003

Diamondbacks (1998) - x-2001

x-won World Series

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