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Thursday, October 24, 2002
Road Dog's raw baseball

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Dusty, you asked.

Dusty Baker
Just one simple move can make Dusty Baker a better manager.
After the Giants tied the World Series at two games apiece with a 4-3 win in which cleaner Barry Bonds was intentionally walked thrice, Baker said, "Any of you guys have an idea of how to hit it better, I wish you'd tell me."

You can't say that around Page 2 without somebody picking up on it. So, in a continuing series of Page 2 couple-of-longneck-bottles-of-suds inspired PSA's, Road Dog lustily roared this in reply:

"Dusty! Wake the flock up! You gotta hit Barry third!"

It made sense to me. It's so obvious. It's his only way.

Mike Scioscia, Sosh, a National League manager in American League clothing, has tipped his hand. He'll walk Bonds in any situation, short of walking in a run, and take his chances with the other guys hitting behind Barry. "No knock on them," said Sosh. "It's just that, where Barry is, he's incredible right now."

Ball in your court, Dusty. As they say on the wood and in the 'hood, Sosh ain't no joke. He's managing cut-throat, to win the game. Now we know why the 103-win A's never could get rid of the Angels. They're that good, and that well-deployed.

Dusty has to hit Barry third, if he wants the Giants to have the best chance of taking this series. Why? Let us count the ways. And it affects the game from beginning to end

Barry Bonds
Why not give Barry Bonds more chances to use that .705 on-base percentage?
It gets Barry up in the first inning, no matter what. Right now, if the Angels get three-up, three-down, they've won a small battle right away. Hitting Barry third makes that impossible.

If either the 1 or 2 hitters gets on in the first inning, it freights Sosh's decision to walk Barry whenever Barry comes up with more liability. Now, do you walk Barry, pushing runners to first and second, with one out, in the first inning, right away? Maybe you do. Sosh probably does. But it gives two hitters an opportunity to drive in run(s) immediately, right off the bat, so to speak.

Hitting Barry third takes better advantage of his outrageous .705 on-base percentage in the Series, which may climb higher. He has three hits -- all home runs. (Parenthetically, I laughed when Dog said, after it was estimated the ball Barry hit off a 98-mph Troy Percival fastball in Game 2 in Anaheim went 485 feet, "So, what, the Mick hit a ball 591 feet, 20 percent farther, nearly 50 years ago, launched off a pitch that was going nowhere near 98?" Oh, please. There's Barry, there's Babe Ruth, and there ain't nobody else in the room).

In 17 plate appearances, Bonds has reached 12 times. The Angels have turned him into a potential run-scorer by taking the bat out of his hands. Dusty has to hit Barry third. It matters some how he hits them after that, but not as much as hitting Barry third.

Also, flopping Barry in the order may jump-start Jeff Kent, who Giants GM Brian Sabean praises (?) by calling him "a great mistake hitter." Must not have been many mistakes made on him lately.

Plus, it may mean another AB for Bonds at the end of the game.

Hitting Barry Third. Gotta do it. Now. Dog's right on this one.

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Any doubt George Clooney is playing Robb Nen in the movie?

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Baker and Scioscia were world champion players, ex-Dodgers, old National Leaguers, and everybody knows they both manage in the National League style, but Scioscia is particularly impressive doing it in what has suddenly become an impressive, timeless Series.

Mike Scioscia
Mike Scioscia doesn't just tip his hand, he's waving it in front of the Giants.
Timeless because of the high quality of play from good characters like Eckstein, Francisco Rodriguez, Glaus, Erstad, Spiezio, Snow, Aurilia, Bell, Weber, Felix Rodriguez, Worrell, Nen ...

Timeless also because of the Rocky Quotient. The Rocky Quotient was also called "simple dramaturgy that helps the audience identify" by John Avildsen, the director of "Rocky II." It's clear in nearly all nationally compelling sporting matchups. Something about the competitors brings a polarizing effect. Ali-Frazier, for example, had Stage 10 Rocky Quotient. Celtics-Lakers had Stage 10 Rocky Quotient. Angels-Giants has Stage 7 Rocky Quotient. You need a transcendent Af-Am talent, better if it's controversial, somehow a social pariah, or at least brooding, or "unlikable," or just in the wrong color jersey, come to think of it.

Barry Bonds fits the bill there.

David Eckstein is Rocky.

The Kid can play, can't he? Really play. So can Rich Aurilia.

And Barry ... my God ... so the storyline is perfect.

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Somewhere, a fat Italian-American ex-manager is laughing. Tommy Lasorda did not teach Dusty and Sosh everything they know about managing, but he can claim that he did.

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Larry Johson cartoon
Baker can transform Bonds from a walker to a slugger again.
"You get giddy sometimes," Dog said after Dusty made a few shaky decisions in Game 4. "After they took the lead, Dusty kinda got a little giddy. Shouldn'a had Sanders buntin' on a 2-1 pitch with Snowball at second in the eighth. The last time Sanders bunted, old man Bush was prezzie. Fouled out.

Worse was sending Bell from first on a full-count pitch to the pinch-hitter, Ramon Martinez. Strike '-em-out, throw-em-out. Dusty feared the double-play there, but Frankie's a strikeout pitcher if it ever was one. If Bell holds, Lofton's up, Sosh has to lift Frankie, bring Schoeneweis to face Lofty. Burns Schoeneweis, just in case the Angels tie it and Barry gets up in bottom nine. And, there's no guarantee Barry would get up in the ninth with Lofton leading off, because Barry was hitting cleanup not third! All together now, Dub ..."

"HIT BARRY THIRD! %#&$!".

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They were setting off fireworks and popping champagne corks all over the East Bay last night. Not because the Giants won Game 4, necessarily, but because the Albatross has left the building and has landed in Queens. The New York Mets took a used Art Howe off Billy Beane's hands, and Beane must be giddy with delight.

Jeff Kent
Jeff Kent has hit just three mistakes in his 16 World Series at-bats through four games.
Now the A's, the best team not to make the World Series recently, will surely promote from within, either the bench coach Ken Macha or minor-league skipper Bob Geren. They need to watch tape of Billy Martin.

"Whatever edge you got, press that," Billy said once, when I asked for his secret. "It's no secret. I call the pitches. And I can't worry about what I don't got. And I pay f%@$!# attention to the matchups, and to the game today. Not the game tomorrow."

So Dusty, in the games at hand -- HIT BARRY THIRD!

Then look over at Sosh and nod. Your move, Big Catch.

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If you can't get into this World Series now, hell, you not only don't have much baseball exposure, you never even had a childhood. Or a pulse. You're barely even American.

This is great!

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."