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MLB acts the bully with Expos

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

Shame on Major League Baseball. Shame on it for treating the Montreal Expos this way. MLB, which technically owns the Expos, could not have made things more difficult on them if it had sent them into every game with Wiffle Ball bats and no gloves.

It's bad enough that the Expos had to play 22 games this season in Puerto Rico, but it's even worse that the Expos, whose shot at a National League wild-card spot is fading by the second, weren't allowed to add September callups for the stretch drive.

"It's not a happy clubhouse," said catcher Brian Schneider, the team's union representative.

The Expos claim this is MLB's punishment for the players for opposing another proposed split in home games between Montreal and either San Juan or Monterrey, Mexico, in 2004.

"Not only is that incorrect," commissioner Bud Selig said, "it's just not fact."

Selig defended MLB's actions, saying, "There are 27 on the roster, and two more are coming off the disabled list. That's 29. That should be more than enough to get them through the last 21/2 weeks."

But here's the rub: MLB got an extra $7-million to $10-million by playing in Puerto Rico, yet it won't spring for callups.

Meantime, after promising that a split between Montreal and San Juan would be a one-year experiment, MLB likely will have the same scenario for the Expos next season. The players voted to play all their home games in Puerto Rico next season, but MLB does not consider that an option.

So look for the Expos to split their home schedule again, then perhaps move to Northern Virginia in 2005.

BRINGING HEAT: No one wants to meet the Cubs in the postseason. Why? Pitching. Entering the weekend, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano were 14-2 with an ERA better than 1.50 since the All-Star break. With those two, Matt Clement and Kerry Wood, the Cubs have four 12-game winners for the first time since 1969. If all four can get 13, it would be the first time four Cubs had won that many since 1945.

"It seems like every guy they bring in throws 95 to 99 (mph)," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said.

GAS-S-S: Remember this name: Edwin Jackson. He's a right-handed pitching prospect for the Dodgers. After being named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Jackson jumped from Double A to the majors on his 20th birthday and beat Randy Johnson on the road with a fastball that reached 98 mph.

"He reminds me of Dwight Gooden," manager Jim Tracy said. "It's easy gas."

STERLING PERFORMANCE: Former Armwood pitcher Sterling Hitchcock has revived his career after going from the Yankees to the Cardinals. He allowed one run in his first 13 innings as a starter and will stay in the rotation down the stretch.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST: This makes sense: If Seattle DH Edgar Martinez retires after the season, his void could be filled by Texas' Rafael Palmeiro, who will be a free agent.

After all, Palmeiro has hit more homers against the Mariners than any player.

Palmeiro said he won't decide where he'll play next season until February, but added, "This is a great place to play, the atmosphere, the fans, the whole thing. It's as good as it gets."

THE MIGHTY HELTON: Only 15 players have had a season of 50 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Colorado's Todd Helton is on the verge of doing it for a third time. He and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein are the only ones to do it twice.

Five have a chance this season to join the players who have done it once, including Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff. The others are Anaheim's Garret Anderson, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Toronto's Vernon Wells.

MINOR MOVES: Between 1969 and 2001, the Pirates minor-league teams amazingly combined for one winning season. But this season, the Pirates' six minor-league affiliates were a combined 399-288 for a .581 winning percentage, the best of any organization. All six made the postseason.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ... : Remember Wilson Avarez? He signed a fat contract with the Devil Rays, then promptly went 17-26 over five injury-plagued seasons. After a complete-game shutout of the Padres on Friday he is 5-1 with the Dodgers in 18 games, including nine starts, with a 2.16 ERA. He has struck out 72 and walked 19. And hitters are batting .221 against him.

"I'd like to do the same thing next season, be in the bullpen and then start whenever they need me," Alvarez said.

"I don't want to go anywhere else, because (Dodgers GM) Danny Evans gave me the chance to be somebody again. That means a lot to me."

UNHAPPY CAMPER: Speaking of former Rays, is Jose Guillen ever happy? After joing the Athletics last month, Guillen said he wanted to stay in Oakland for a long time. But because the A's have not made any overtures about next season, Guillen is threatening to test the free-agent market.

"Right now, I don't know, it's kind of hurting me," Guillen said.

"I just want to finish the last month and see. I might have to test free agency."

ELITE COMPANY: With his 17th homer of the season last week, San Francisco's Marquis Grissom joined Barry Bonds, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson and Roberto Alomar as the only players to have 2,000 hits, 200 homers and 400 steals.

THEY MIGHT NOT BE GIANTS: Don't be surprised if the Giants don't re-sign stars J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, Benito Santiago, Jose Cruz, Felix Rodriguez and Tim Worrell after this season.

Santiago recently was named to the all-time San Diego Padres team by the fans and though he says he wants to stay in San Francisco, the Padres do need a catcher and could make Santiago an offer he can't refuse.

UH-OH: People in Atlanta are holding their breath.

Closer John Smoltz, who supposedly is suffering from a little tendinitis, has been meeting with orthopedist James Andrews in Birmingham.

The Braves say it is no big deal and Smoltz will be ready for the postseason.

SHORT HOPS: In their first 145 games, the Reds had used 120 lineups. ... The Brewers are assured of a losing record for the 11th consecutive season. They'll be joined by the Pirates before the season is over. Those are the longest active losing streaks of the four North American professional sports. ... The Rockies are virtually assured of having their major-league record streak of eight league batting titles ended. The previous record was set by the New York Giants from 1910-13.

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

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