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  Sun, September 12, 2004


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Elliott on baseball column
Still Stew-ing over GM snub
By BOB ELLIOTT, TORONTO SUN

Dave Stewart, the former Blue Jays right-hander and assistant general manager, still is bitter over not being hired by Jays president Paul Godfrey after the 2001 season.

Stewart phoned talk-show host Jim Rome on Friday to say the reason he did not get Toronto's GM job was because of prejudice and the fact ownership felt "more comfortable" with someone else. That someone else would be J.P. Ricciardi.

Stewart said Ricciardi was "less qualified."

Stewart, now an agent who represents Oakland A's third baseman Eric Chavez, said considering the Jays' lack of success maybe "they both should be fired."

NO UNIT

Why were the New York Yankees unable to pry lefty Randy Johnson away from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline?

Well, the Yanks did not have a lot to offer, considering:

- Alfonso Soriano went to the Texas Rangers to acquire Alex Rodriguez.

- Brandon Claussen was dealt to acquire third baseman Aaron Boone.

- Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman were shipped to the Minnesota Twins for second baseman Chuck Knoblauch.

- Ricky Ledee was moved to land David Justice.

The Yankees still can brag about their homegrowns up the middle in catcher Jorge Posada, shortstop Derek Jeter and centre fielder Bernie Williams as well as closer Mariano Rivera.

Yet, the fact is the minor-league system has not produced a regular player to wear Yankee pinstripes since Joe Torre took over as manager in 1996.

ROAD SHOW

The Rangers begin a season-ending stretch of 20 consecutive games within the AL West tomorrow. They start with a four-game series at Oakland. The Rangers are 4-9 against the A's this season and are 5-20 at the Coliseum since opening day 2002.

Lefty Kenny Rogers started on three days' rest yesterday against the Blue Jays so that he can be used in the final game of the series at Oakland. Rogers is a career 20-3 at the Coliseum.

200 PLUS

Oliver Perez of the Pittsburgh Pirates has 212 strikeouts, making him only the second pitcher in the club's 118-year history to reach 200. Bob Veale did it four times.

Though only 23, Perez also understands the significance of 200 strikeouts. Perez's fastball touches 97 m.p.h. and is consistently in the 92-94 range. He has been compared to the Big Unit and throws two different types of sliders.

B.C.'S NEXT THREE: YOUNG CANUCK STARS ARE CARRYING ON THE LEGACY OF WEST-COASTER LARRY WALKER

WHO IS Ari Mellios?

Well, if he's not the best sandlot coach in Canada, he's the one with his chest stuck out the farthest.

Mellios coached both Justin Morneau and Jeff Francis with the North Delta (B.C.) Blue Jays.

Morneau hit 40 homers with 120 RBIs, while batting .424 for North Delta in 1998.

Now, he hits cleanup for the Minnesota Twins. Mellios made the short trip from North Delta to Seattle recently when the Twins visited Safeco Field.

"I wasn't in tears, but it really hit me -- how far he's come and in such a short time -- when I saw his name on the scoreboard and then the announcer said: 'Now batting, Justin Morneau,' " Mellios said from North Delta.

Morneau was a third-round selection by the Twins in 1999. He was given a $295,000 US signing bonus by Twins scout Howie Norsetter to forego a scholarship at San Francisco.

Francis went 18-1 and 19-0 his final two years for North Delta. He couldn't throw the ball straight. Movement, not velocity (only 82 m.p.h.) made him almost unbeatable.

Wooed by Villanova and San Diego State as a high schooler, Francis headed for the University of British Columbia.

There, he grew, his velocity jumped and the Colorado Rockies gave him a $1.85-million US bonus as the ninth overall pick. He reached the majors last month and earned his second big-league win yesterday for the Rockies.

This week, Francis was named minor-league player of the year by Baseball America after going 13-1 with a 1.93 ERA for double-A Tulsa and 3-2 with a 2.85 ERA at triple-A Colorado Springs.

Other recipients to reach the majors are Mike Marshall (Dodgers), Ron Kittle (White Sox), Dwight Gooden (Mets), Mike Bielecki (Pirates), Jose Canseco (A's), Gregg Jefferies (Mets), Tom Gordon (Royals), Sandy Alomar (Padres), Frank Thomas (White Sox), Derek Bell (Jays), Tim Salmon (Angels), Manny Ramirez (Indians), Derek Jeter (Yankees), Andruw Jones (Braves), Paul Konerko (Dodgers), Eric Chavez (A's), Rick Ankiel (Cardinals), Jon Rauch (White Sox), Josh Beckett (Marlins), Rocco Baldelli (Devil Rays) and Joe Mauer (Twins).

While Morneau, hitting .265 with 17 homers and 47 RBIs entering play last night, has an outside shot at rookie honours in the American League, the Pittsburgh Pirates are lobbying for outfielder Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., to beat San Diego Padres shortstop Khalil Greene for the National League award.

Bay has a Heisman Trophy-like public relations machine behind him, as the Pirates are e-mailing voters with notes slugged Bay Watch. Some of the Bay Watch items:

- With his 23rd home run yesterday, he tied the Pirates rookie record set by Johnny Rizzo in 1938 and later by Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in 1946. Bay has the most homers by a Canadian-born rookie in more than 40 years.

- He leads all major-league rookies in homers, RBIs (71) and slugging percentage (.577).

- He is one of only two active players to have two-career eight-RBI games. Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra is the other.

- His slugging percentage would rank third among NL rookies behind Wally Berger's .614 with the 1930 Boston Braves and Albert Pujols' .610 in 2001 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

ANATOMY OF A SLUMP

THE SURPRISING Cleveland Indians sat one game out of first place in the AL Central on Aug. 15. They proceeded to lose 16 of their next 20 games to fall out of the division race.

In those 20 games, the Indians were outscored 118-87, but if you throw out consecutive shutout wins by scores of 9-0 over the Chicago White Sox and 22-0 over the New York Yankees, they were outscored 118-56 in the other 18 games.

The Indians had losing streaks of nine and five games. They snapped the most recent slide on Monday with a 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners, a five-hitter by C.C. Sabathia.

The win by Sabathia was the Indians' 68th, matching their 2003 total. They desperately would like to finish the season with a winning record -- and they may have the schedule to do it. Fourteen of their final 23 games are against Seattle, Detroit or Kansas City.

Cliff Lee, who was 9-1 at the all-star break and 10-1 one start into the second half, then went 0-6 with a 10.51 ERA in a nine-start slump, which included him firing his glove into the SkyDome crowd after a loss. He finally snapped that streak Wednesday with a 9-5 win over Seattle.

WORTH REMEMBERING

Three years ago yesterday we phoned the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, fewer than two miles north of Ground Zero, to speak to White Sox coach Wallace Johnson. His words still ring true:

"I looked into the faces of some of our young pitchers. I don't think they fully understood how the day's actions will affect the world we live in," Johnson said after a team meeting in the lobby. "I'm not saying I'm any smarter, but I've lived longer and it won't be years from now until they understand the severity of what happened Sept. 11, 2001."

EX-BLUE JAY OF THE WEEK: TANYON STURTZE, N.Y. YANKEES

WHEN WE saw Tanyon Sturtze at the end of the 2003 season, we figured he was headed for the same pitching staff as Luke Prokopec.

Sturtze allowed 157 base-runners in 89 1/3 innings in 2003 after starting the season in the rotation but later lost his spot.

While Prokopec is out of baseball, Sturtze was let go by the Jays and headed into free agency.

The New York Yankees saw something in Sturtze and signed him this past winter to work in long relief. With his win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Thursday, he is 6-2. He worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings in the win over Tampa Bay.

Sturtze, who has a 5.57 ERA, has allowed 94 hits in 64 1/3 innings.