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MIKE PENNER

There's Atlanta, Then There's Everyone Else

April 05, 1993|MIKE PENNER

First, there was the foul pole. Then, there was the Great Pole, Carl Yastrzemski, followed by Dick Pole, a journeyman pitcher who won 25 games for Boston and Seattle in the 1970s.

But that was all prelude to the Real Life Major-League Top 25 (Plus Expansion Teams) Poll, which returns today to remind us that if you can't beat 'em, simply buy your league's Cy Young Award winner and add him to starting rotation that already includes 1991 Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine and potential 1993 Cy Young Award winners John Smoltz and Steve Avery.

That ought to take care of the World Series.

Behind the Atlanta Braves, the list of mere mortals this season is a long one . . .

1. Atlanta: Only one question: Who's the second-best team in baseball? Only one answer: the Richmond Braves.

2. Cincinnati: Kevin Mitchell's third stop in as many years, not counting Winchells, Sizzlers and Pizza Huts. If he hits his weight, he wins a batting title.

3. New York Yankees: Newcomers include Jim Abbott, Jimmy Key, Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neill . . . and George Steinbrenner. Buck Showalter either has the best job in the American League or the worst.

4. Minnesota: Kirby Puckett. Kent Hrbek. Dave Winfield. Shane Mack. Brian Harper. Pedro Munoz. Maybe the Twins will pitch, maybe they won't, maybe it doesn't matter.

5. Baltimore: The Fernand-O's. Who'd have thought it?

6. Toronto: Dick Schofield at short? Ed Sprague at third? Dave Winfield, David Cone and Tom Henke in the American League West? Is that a retractable roof on the SkyDome, or a collapsing one?

7. Chicago White Sox: Two pitchers away--Melido Perez and somebody better than Dave Stieb.

8. Oakland: Oh, the A's have been devastated by defections. Right now, they're down to Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson and Ruben Sierra in the outfield; Mark McGwire, Lance Blankenship, Kevin Seitzer and Mike Bordick in the infield; Terry Steinbach at catcher; Dennis Eckersley in the bullpen; Bob Welch, Ron Darling and Bobby Witt in the rotation; and Troy Neel, who hit .351 to lead the PCL last season, at DH. They don't have a prayer.

9. Montreal: Jack Clark couldn't get a tryout with the Mariners, but in Montreal, he is Jacques Clark, Pennant Insurance . Really nothing else you need to know about the National League East.

10. St. Louis: Brian Jordan used to play football. Gregg Jefferies used to play third base. Rheal Cormier? Didn't he used to play for the Canadiens?

11. Houston: Waiting for Phil Nevin. Now that he's moved from third base, where Ken Caminiti plays, to left field, where Luis Gonzalez plays, it shouldn't be long.

12. Texas: Nolan Ryan deserves a better sendoff, but so did Ernie Banks.

13. Kansas City: About these first-place predictions for the new and presumed-to-be immeasurably improved Royals--I thought they signed Greg Gagne, Jose Lind and David Cone, not Luis Aparicio, Rogers Hornsby and Walter Johnson.

14. New York Mets: Ten years ago, the Mets won the National League East with 82 victories. They did it before and they can do it again.

15. Dodgers: Moises Alou bats second for Dad in Montreal, Brian McRae starts in center field for Dad in Kansas City and now Mike Piazza handles the catching for godfather Tommy Lasorda. Nepotism in the '90s--the quickest way to the majors.

16. Philadelphia: The Phillies have become the hip pick to win the NL East, based on the assumption that someone has to. I want to believe, too, but every time I try to picture Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling and Ben Rivera pitching the first three games of the 1993 National League playoffs, my screen goes blank.

17. San Francisco: Like father, like son: Barry Bonds is wearing Bobby Bonds' old No. 25. Like father, unlike son: When Bobby played for the Giants, so did Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.

18. Milwaukee: While Boss Selig is off pretending to run baseball, Phil Garner will pretend to contend with a team without Paul Molitor, Chris Bosio, Kevin Seitzer and Scott Fletcher.

19. Pittsburgh: Not everybody left town. I see Neil O'Donnell stayed.

20. Cleveland: After Little Lake Nellie, the pennant race has been rendered pretty much irrelevant.

21. Detroit: The Village Voice notes that if Little Caesar's Pizza CEO Mike Ilitch conducted business the way Michael Eisner does, his new sports enterprise would be named "the Detroit Tigers! Tigers!"

22. Boston: Red Sox fans still hoping Whitey Herzog replaces Butch Hobson as field manager. How about Angel fans?

23. Seattle: George Steinbrenner, Marge Schott and now the Mariner pitching staff. Lou Piniella must have been Ivan The Terrible in a previous life.

24. Chicago Cubs: Candy Maldonado bats cleanup.

25. San Diego: Trade offers currently on the table: Tony Gwynn-for-Chris Gwynn, Andy Benes-for-Andy Bean, Fred McGriff-for-a case of very expensive Oakley sunglasses and Gary Sheffield-for-Ricky Bones, Jose Valentin and Matt Mielske.

26. Florida: Nice to see Doug Rader, Cookie Rojas and Marcel Lachemann moving on to bigger, better things.

27. Angels: The franchise record for losses in a season is 95. Hence, the new battle cry: "Ninety-three in '93."

28. Colorado: As Don Baylor begins his managerial career at rock bottom, the Angels would like to say thanks for being there.

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