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Twins, Expos need more than Ws

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002

Wins alone will not alleviate their problems.

Commissioner Bud Selig said as much last week about the Expos and Twins, two clubs that baseball tried to eliminate in the offseason.

Finances, or lack thereof, eventually will determine their fate.

Montreal ranked 30th and Minnesota 29th in revenue generated last season. The Expos' average attendance this season (8,158) was the worst in the majors through Friday, and the Twins ranked ninth in the American League, averaging 22,934 in nine games at the Metrodome.

But forget the numbers for a moment. Step back. Admire.

The Expos lead the NL East, and the Twins are within a game of first in the AL Central.

Oh, the irony.

"We're fortunate to have guys that are self-motivated and will work their butts off every night regardless of what people in baseball are trying to do," Minnesota first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said.

The Twins say they aren't using what transpired during the offseason as motivation and don't expect any special treatment.

"People aren't going to let us win because of what happened over the winter," Mientkiewicz said. "Don't get me wrong, the offseason was the toughest I ever had to deal with. We don't wish this on anybody."

But there is the unfinished business from last season to address.

Aided by an eight-game losing streak in mid-August, including five against the Rays, the Twins collapsed in the second half, lost the Central lead to the Indians and missed the playoffs.

"This team doesn't need any outside influences to get motivated," Mientkiewicz said. "We don't need someone who's always on us constantly to be motivated. Because we're motivated from ourselves, motivated from not wanting to let the other 24 guys down on any particular night.

"We've got a lot of reasons to be excited around here."

BONDS' PICK: Less than 200 homers away from Hank Aaron's record 755, Barry Bonds doesn't envision himself breaking the mark.

Bonds, who has 575 home runs, picks Alex Rodriguez to unseat Aaron. The 26-year-old Rangers shortstop had 249 before Saturday and no fewer than 41 in each of the past four seasons.

"I think A-Rod is the guy you need to watch," Bonds said.

LONG TIME COMING: It took him 5,348 at-bats and just more than 14 years, but Seattle utilityman Mark McLemore got his first grand slam Monday.

"I didn't know exactly the number (of at-bats)," McLemore said, "but I knew it was never."

Milwaukee second baseman Eric Young, who has 4,603 career at-bats, took over the No. 1 spot for most at-bats without a grand slam. The top four players all-time without a grand slam are in the Hall of Fame -- Ozzie Smith, Sam Rice, Nellie Fox and Frankie Frisch.

A LITTLE HELP: The Cubs averaged 3.8 runs per game through Friday, and Fred McGriff was a big part of that. The cleanup hitter and former Rays first baseman had a .216 average with 1 homer, 10 RBIs and 13 strikeouts entering Saturday.

"These guys have hit all their lives," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "It has been a slow month. But I'll keep writing their names in the lineup because guys have to turn the corner.

"I know when I got older, I said, "Am I finished?' You're just trying to get through April, and you're wondering if you're ever going to get another."

LIMITED AVAILABILITY: Reports from Japan last week indicated that Yomiuri Giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe would allow Hideki Matsui, nicknamed "Godzilla," to come to the United States.

But there is a limit. Watanabe said he would be willing to let Matsui go if the Yankees, Mets, Cubs or Mariners pursued him. Matsui hit .333 with 36 homers and 104 RBIs last season.

ODDS AND ENDS: Omar Vizquel's stolen base Monday marked the Indians' first in 87 innings. ... Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are the first teammates to strike out 17 in a game in the same season. ... The Braves used 23 pitchers last season. Through Wednesday they had activated 16, including four rookies who made their major-league debuts. ... Rockies third baseman Jeff Cirillo made his first error in 99 games April 20, tying John Wehner for the major-league record for most games without a error. ... Four of the Phillies' five starting pitchers have an ERA over 5.00.

THE LAST WORD: "He made enough money off me to buy a boat. He better be happy for me." -- Reds pitcher Jose Rijo on receiving a congratulatory telegram from Dr. James Andrews after he made his first start since 1995 on April 21. Andrews performed five surgeries on Rijo's right elbow.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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