TORONTO — In what is becoming habit, a crowd estimated at 500,000 saluted the Toronto Blue Jays in a downtown parade Sunday. Two going on three?
"We've got the lineup to do it, but we need to improve the pitching," General Manager Pat Gillick said, reflecting on the possibility of three straight World Series championships.
Surviving a massive turnover, the Blue Jays made it two in a row by eliminating the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday on the dramatic homer by Joe Carter in the ninth inning of Game 6.
Gillick said there will be additional changes, but not to the extent of last winter, when Dave Winfield, David Cone, Jimmy Key, Tom Henke, Candy Maldonado, Kelly Gruber, Dave Stieb and Manny Lee were among a dozen players to go.
There will also be changes for the nitty, gritty Phillies, though General Manager Lee Thomas insists his returning nucleus can compete with the Atlanta Braves in the realigned National League East.
"I don't think this is a one-shot club, whether Atlanta is in the division or not," Thomas said, his Phillies having defeated Atlanta in the playoffs after going from worst to first with 97 wins in the East.
The main problem is the bullpen.
Thomas knew he was going to have to improve his set up and long relief situations even before David West and Larry Andersen went up in flames during the postseason, but can he stay with adventuresome closer Mitch Williams, who is under siege in Philadelphia?
"He's a tough guy who can handle adversity," Thomas said for the record Sunday, but sources in the organization now think the slider that Carter crushed for his decisive home run represents Williams last pitch for the Phillies.
Rocks were thrown through windows at Williams' Philadelphia-area home over the weekend, Thomas said, compounding the death threat he received in Toronto on Thursday and which prompted him to skip the last Phillies workout and to start carrying a gun, teammate Dave Hollins told the Associated Press.
Williams bumped into a Times reporter at the Toronto airport Sunday morning and said he was not returning with the team to Philadelphia because his home was being pelted. He said he was going directly to his off-season residence in Arlington, Tex.
Philadelphia fans are considered among the toughest in baseball and are generally credited with burying and/or chasing off Von Hayes, Lance Parrish and Juan Bell among others in recent years.
Williams experienced a love-hate relationship during his club- record 43-save season, but the pyrotechnics of the postseason, including the Carter homer and his inability to preserve a five-run lead in Game 4, may have turned that environment too hostile even for the man whose motto is "No Fear."
The Wild Thing may also have worn out his clubhouse welcome. In an aside to a Times reporter after Game 4, a Phillie starting pitcher said, "No Fear, my -- ."
Would there be a trade market for Williams, considering his recently diminished velocity, his career-long inconsistency and his $2.5 million salary in 1994?
"Tough question, but I think Lee has no recourse but to find out," a front office source said.
He added that the Phillies wouldn't have gotten as far as they did without him and that if Tommy Greene and Terry Mulholland had done a better job as the starters in Games 4 and 6, and if West and Andersen had done better out of the bullpen in those games, Williams might not even have been needed, and Sunday's parade would have feted the Phillies.
"At worst," the source said, "if West and Andersen finish off the Blue Jays in the eighth (instead of loading the bases) last night, Mitch pitches to the bottom of the batting order in the ninth, not the top."
In this era of expansion-diluted pitching, it was glaringly obvious in the Series that not even the two league champions can avoid significant gaps.
How Thomas fills his is uncertain. He has had to rebuild the Phillies without help from a farm system that has also been rebuilt and is two years, Thomas said, from harvest.
However, two potential closers, Ricky Bottalico and their No. 1 June draft pick, Wayne Gomes, could be up by the second half of next season, and touted starter Tyler Green has recovered from a series of injuries and is said to be coming fast.
Aside from the bullpen questions, Thomas hopes to add a left-handed power hitter off the bench. He also may break up his right field platoon, giving the job to Wes Chamberlain and allowing Jim Eisenreich to leave as a free agent, providing a payroll cushion since three of his starting pitchers--Mulholland, Greene and Curt Schilling--are eligible for arbitration.
"I'm very proud of what this team did this year," he said. "A lot of people would like to get to the sixth game of the World Series, and I don't feel we've reached our zenith.
"We also put Philadelphia back on the map. For a long time it was tough to get players to come there. I don't think that's true anymore.