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Truth, justice and Torre's way

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 8, 2001


They were champions of the cause. Defenders of free will.

When the Mariners were threatening to have six starters elected to the All-Star team by ballot-stuffing fans, they proclaimed to be instruments of a just system devised by Major League Baseball.

So why did they get so huffy when it came time for Yankees manager Joe Torre to exercise his pennant-winning right to choose All-Star reserves?

"I'm not upset, but (expletive) the Yankees," reliever Arthur Rhodes said after Torre named seven Yankees Wednesday among the American League reserves.

The Mariners have four starters in the game, and at the time Torre added two Seattle reserves, and they believed their MLB-best record should have entitled them to more All-Stars than any other team.

"You would think when you have the most wins and having the year we're having as a team, you would have the most," reliever Jeff Nelson said.

Nelson, since added to the team Saturday, had a point, but where was this righteous indignation a couple of weeks ago when Seattle's David Bell was leading the voting at third base and Mike Cameron was threatening to crack the starting outfield?

At the time, the Mariners were believers in the system. They said it was appropriate for their fans to vote as often and with as much bias as they liked.

As it turned out, that is exactly what Torre did.

Did Torre lean too heavily toward the Yankees? Of course. At the time of the selections, New York was a half-game ahead of the Red Sox in the American League East. Yet the Yankees (whose closer, Mariano Rivera, was replaced on the roster by Nelson) have six All-Stars and the Red Sox have one.

But Torre's picks were defensible. And, as the manager, that is his ultimate responsibility.

Should Seattle's Aaron Sele have a spot on the team with a 9-1 record? Yes, but not necessarily over New York's Roger Clemens, who was 12-1. Should Jamie Moyer have gotten a call with a 9-4 record and a 4.75 ERA? Possibly, but Andy Pettitte's 8-4 record looks better with a 2.95 ERA.

In the end, we say to the victor go the spoils.

BOWING OUT: Mets manager Bobby Valentine has been skewered from Houston to Philadelphia to Florida for his All-Star selections, but he does not deserve flak for leaving Greg Maddux off the team. The Braves' ace was leading the NL in ERA, but apparently talked Valentine out of selecting him. "Baseball is an important part of my life but it's not everything in my life," said Maddux, who was planning a family vacation during the break. "My kids are old enough where they can have fun without staying in the car seat all day."

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Seffner's Sterling Hitchcock made it back into a Padres uniform just in time to facilitate a trade. Hitchcock missed the past 13 months after Tommy John surgery, but returned this week with excellent control and a decent fastball. Scouts from the Dodgers, Rangers, Pirates and Reds, along with Arizona GM Joe Garagiola, were on hand to see his first start. The Padres are supposedly looking for Arizona first baseman Erubiel Durazo in exchange for Hitchcock.

NOT HOLDING PAT: The Cubs are holding on in the NL Central, but are looking to make a deal for offensive help. Chicago ranks 14th out of 16 NL teams in scoring. "Offensively we feel we need to get better to stay where we're at," assistant general manager Jim Hendry said.

IN NEED OF A CHANGE: Minnesota's continued success is only part of Cleveland's problem. The Indians are getting horrible starting pitching with Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley and Dave Burba all performing well below expectations. Cleveland starters have thrown fewer innings than any team in the league and the John Rocker trade eliminated two workhorses from an overused bullpen.

GM IN WAITING: Word in Pittsburgh is that Frank Wren was able to use his job interviews with the Pirates to assure he would be John Schuerholz's successor in Atlanta. Wren, a St. Petersburg native who was a finalist for the Devil Rays' GM position, had two interviews with Pirates ownership before withdrawing to remain as Braves assistant general manager.

CLOSING TIME: The Diamondbacks were supposedly in the market for a closer after Matt Mantei was scheduled for surgery, but they may not need one. Byung-Hyun Kim has been extremely effective since assuming Mantei's role.

LAST WORD: John Jaha was 1999's Comeback Player of the Year, but had no illusions about a second shot at the award after injuries limited him this season. He retired to return to Portland, Ore., to be with his wife their and three children, ages 2-6. "I've got a tougher job now than baseball," Jaha said, "raising three kids in this world."

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

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