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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

With Worrell and Beck, It's More Like Relieve It or Not

September 17, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

I can still picture Earl Weaver smoking as he anxiously paced in the tunnel from the dugout to the clubhouse, too nervous to watch as his erratic relief pitchers labored to get someone, anyone, out.

Give Bill Russell and Dusty Baker each a cigarette.

A blindfold, too.

They are doomed to sleepless nights, prematurely graying hair and a legion of second guessers because of their common affliction, closers who too often don't close.

In fairness, the Giants' Rod Beck went into Tuesday's game tied for the National League lead in saves with 37 and the Dodgers' Todd Worrell was tied for fourth with 35. But they also were among the league leaders in blown saves, Worrell with 10 and Beck seven.

Their latest misadventures occurred Monday night, when neither could retire the side in the ninth inning. The Giants lost. The Dodgers won, but it took 15 innings and five more pitchers.

George Genovese, a longtime scout for the Giants who now works for the Dodgers, has been following both teams. He said Tuesday that Worrell's fastball doesn't move as it once did. Same with Beck's out pitch, he said. The forkball doesn't fork as much.

As the teams enter the regular season's final 11 games, including two against each other tonight and Thursday in San Francisco, Genovese said the bullpens will decide which team wins the NL West.

Advantage Dodgers, he said.

That doesn't mean he believes Worrell is more dependable than Beck. In fact, Beck has a 3.82 earned-run average to Worrell's 5.56, the third-highest among NL relievers.

But the Dodgers are deeper in relievers. Not only that, Russell has been more flexible in choosing which one will close. Or at least he was until Monday night, when he persisted on using Worrell, who had pitched the two previous days.

As for Baker, he's committed to Beck, even though the Giants have another proven closer, Roberto Hernandez. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they probably won't see him after the eighth inning.

"I wouldn't want to be either Billy or Dusty," Genovese said. "They have to first guess."

When dealing with their bullpens, guess is the operative word.

*

Mark McGwire would have been a valuable addition to our community for more reasons than the 40, 50 or 60 home runs he would have hit for the Angels. . . .

During his news conference Tuesday to announce he has signed with the Cardinals, he openly wept when asked about the foundation he's starting in St. Louis and the West Coast for physically and sexually abused children. . . .

He initially preferred to play in Southern California to be close to his son, Matt, 9, who lives with McGwire's ex-wife in Costa Mesa. . . .

"Matt's a big boy," McGwire's former wife told him. "He'll accept what's going on." . . .

Disney could have afforded McGwire with the $50 million received from Edison International, but, as you might recall, I already spent all but $10 million of that for Paul Kariya. . . .

In retrospect, it would have been better to give the cash to McGwire and charge Kariya to that new Mighty Ducks MasterCard. . . .

So Disney sold naming rights to Anaheim Stadium for $50 million over the next 20 years. . . .

Estimates are that naming rights to the proposed new arena in downtown L.A., hard by one of the busiest freeway exchanges in the world, would go for $150 million. . . .

Location, location, location. . . .

Did anyone in sports have a worse Tuesday morning than Ray Rhodes? . . .

After a post-midnight flight back to Philadelphia following the disappointment in Dallas, he was driving to work a few hours later when his truck was rear-ended. . . .

The only reason the Eagles had a chance to beat the Cowboys, besides a vision-impaired official, was because Dallas' prevent defense allowed them to drive 82 yards in less than a minute. . . .

In the previous Monday night game, Kansas City won on a late touchdown pass against Oakland's prevent defense. . . .

So what exactly does a prevent defense prevent? . . .

Ronnie Lott, who played a lot of it during his career, defends the defense. He says the problem is with the defenders. . . .

"If defensive players played it with the same intensity they do the rest of the game, you'd see a lot different results." . . .

One problem, he says, is that most teams are more serious in practice about their two-minute offense than their two-minute defense.

*

While wondering if the Eagles would vote for instant replay today, I was thinking: It's time for the Cowboys to reload, that's not another Barry Switzer joke, wake me when Oscar De La Hoya fights Terry Norris or Felix Trinidad.

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