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THE INSIDE TRACK | Morning Briefing

Ask Not What Your Manager Can Do for You

September 09, 1998|MARK HEISLER

Here's how things work these days: The manager, who improved his club by 26 victories last season, asks to have his status clarified by the general manager, who has saddled him with a lame roster, because the owner has the team on a shoestring budget until the new stadium opens.

By way of reply, the general manager fires the manager. There went your career, Buddy Bell.

Pizza magnate Mike Ilitch spends freely for his Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings but says he can't do the same for his Tigers until, as Tiger President John McHale put it, "the funds are available through the amenities in our new ballpark."

Nor is Ilitch's front office blameless in the team's drop below expansion Tampa Bay. The Detroit News' Terry Foster compiled a list of former Tigers--David Wells, Jose Lima, Sean Bergman and Omar Olivares-- all traded.

"We asked a lot of Buddy," McHale acknowledged. "Unfortunately, none of us could figure out a way to ask any less of him."

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Trivia time: In 1970, which Angel beat out Carl Yastrzemski for the American League batting title, .3289 to .3286?

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Progress: At 24, Sammy Sosa joined the Chicago Cubs with a .233 batting average. At 28, he struck out 174 times. At 29, he's chasing the home run record.

"He was a rock head," teammate Mark Grace told the Toronto Globe and Mail's Bill Dedman. "He played Barry Bonds and Rafael Belliard the same."

That was in the outfield. At bat, Sammy was a free swinger, who pulled the ball or missed it.

"Sammy didn't believe there were any base hits in right field," hitting coach Billy Williams says.

This season, almost 25% of Sosa's home runs have gone to right field.

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Sign of the times: Bigsby & Kruthers, a Chicago clothier, has a three-story mural of Sosa on its warehouse next to the Kennedy Expressway, replacing the Dennis Rodman mural it had up for the last two years.

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Solid explanation: Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova apparently has not been home lately. Asked about the falling ruble and faltering economic situation in her native land, she said:

"Everything in the newspapers and everything you see in the TV, it is a little bit overexaggerated. Maybe there is some problems, but they have always been there. It is just right now, maybe it is a little bit more and people are living the same lives they lived before."

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Likes challenges: The Rocky Mountain News reports Mike D'Antoni will be named coach of the Denver Nuggets, who went 11-71 last season.

General Manager Dan Issel says he expects "to have a coach in place by the middle of September."

No word on when Issel will have a basketball team in place.

"There are 29 jobs," said D'Antoni, the team's director of player personnel. "I understand it's going to be a tough job. You're going to get beat, there's a good chance you could fail at it. Before you can turn it around, you'd go through some tough things. But you've got to want it. If you get a chance to show that you can coach and you show you can coach, you're going to be around for a while, whether here or someplace else."

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Trivia answer: Alex Johnson.

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And finally: Mark McGwire's former teammate Rex Hudler, on the Air Force jets' flyover above Busch Stadium on Monday: "It was the Blue Angels? I thought it was another one of McGwire's home runs."

And another Cardinal, John Mabry, on the size of the media contingent: "There are more reporters here than if Elvis found Jimmy Hoffa's body."

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