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The good and bad of 1999

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 1999

Five managers on the bubble

1. Ray Miller, Orioles: Coming off a poor year, and owner Peter Angelos makes Georege Steinbrenner look like Gandhi.
2. Phil Garner, Brewers: Won’t be around to head into the new stadium next season.
3. Jimy Williams, Red Sox: Could take the fall for GM Dan Duquette’s horrible off-season.
4. Bobby Valentine, Mets: Fourth on the all-time list of managers who have been around the longest without reaching the post-season.
5. Tim Johnson, Blue Jays: Surprising first season followed by a turbulent off-season. Not a good combination because it raises expectations and lowers tolerance.

Five worst off-season signings

1. Jose Offerman, Red Sox (four years, $26-million): This could challenge for the worst signing of the decade. Not only is he not worth the money, but the Red Sox fell short in signing true impact players. They would have been a lot better off using some of Offerman’s money on Mo Vaughn, Albert Belle, Bernie Williams or Kevin Brown.
2. Kevin Brown, Dodgers: (seven years, $105-million): A good contract in 1999-2000. A decent contract in 2001-2002. A bad contract in 2003-2004. A horrible contract when he’s in semi-retirement in 2005.
3. Pete Schourek, Pirates: (two years, $4-million): This is a team with no money. So they sign an injury-prone guy who has averaged 6-7 with a 5.12 ERA the past three years.
4. Jack McDowell, Angels (one year, $500,000): Anaheim flushed a half-million dollars on this one. The guy is as brittle as they come and had season-ending (probably career-ending) surgery a month after signing his contract.
5. Every free-agent signing by the Diamondbacks: Okay, so maybe it’s jealousy here in the expansion ghetto, but Arizona seemed to add about two years too many to every contract.

Five best off-season signings

1. Bernie Williams, Yankees (seven years, $87.5-million): First of all, the Yankees have the money and were going to spend it on someone. It was far wiser to keep Williams around and hope to hold on to the magic of 1998.
2. Jose Canseco, Devil Rays (one year, $3-million): A relatively low-cost contract with the potential for high yield.
3. Mo Vaughn, Angels (six years, $80-million): One of the game’s true impact players going to an underachieving team.
4. Wil Cordero, Indians (one year, $500,000): Morality issues aside, this guy will help Cleveland in 1999.
5. Hal Morris, Reds (one year, $400,000): Yes, we’re in the minority on this one. So the guy does not drive in enough runs for a first baseman, he’s still a career .306 hitter and he’s playing for chump change.

Three teams rising . . .

1. Angels: Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad and Troy Percival are among the best young players at their positions. And now Mo Vaughn will teach them how to be winners.
2. Diamondbacks: You can disagree with some of their personnel decisions, but you can’t argue about their commitment to winning.
3. Reds: This may be a reach, but the rotation is among the top five in the league, and Cincinnati has a 50-homer guy (Greg Vaughn) and a former MVP (Barry Larkin) in the lineup.

. . . and falling

1. Red Sox: They like to think of themselves as contenders. They’re not. They will plummet after the All-Star break.
2. Royals: After four straight losing seasons, they are still heading downhill.
3. Padres: They beefed up in ’98 to fool taxpayers into paying for a new stadium, and now they surrender unconditionally.


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