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  Sat, October 23, 2004


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One Serious match game
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

And in Game 1, the New York Yankees will start ... Oops, sorry.

Force of habit.

We're also in the annual habit of critiquing the rosters of the two contenders for the World Series, from top to bottom.

Jim Fregosi, the former Blue Jays manager and The Toronto Sun's official post-season prognosticator, yesterday rated and compared each position for the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox.

This is our 15th year looking at the rosters. The late Chicago Cubs scout Huey Alexander handled the first 10 years, picking the World Series winner nine out of 10 times.

Fregosi, an executive with the Atlanta Braves, has picked up the baton. He expects the World Series, which begins tonight at Fenway Park in Boston, to conclude a week from tonight in the same ball park.

"St. Louis has the best lineup," Fregosi said from Tarpon Springs, Fla. "Boston has the better starting pitching and St. Louis has the better bullpen.

"It will go seven games and St. Louis will win. I guarantee you this, if St. Louis goes up 3-0 they won't lose."

We realize that whoever gets the most hits between St. Louis second baseman Tony Womack and Sox second baseman Mark Bellhorn will not decide the outcome, but position-by-position matchups provide a valuable, close-up look at the two teams.

"Boston is coming off the greatest comeback in baseball history," Fregosi said.

Fregosi, who managed the Philadelphia Phillies against the Jays in the 1993 World Series has two of his former players playing key roles in Red Sox starter Curt Schilling and third baseman Scott Rolen of the Cardinals.

"He (Schilling) pitched a shutout against the Jays in Game 5, with about 138 pitches and came to me a day later volunteering to pitch in relief."

In each position, players for the visiting Cardinals are listed first as Fregosi puts the lineup under the post-season microscope, with his comments, followed by a rating out of 10.

CATCHERS

- Mike Matheny

(.257 average, five homers, 50 runs batted in).

- Jason Varitek (.296, 18, 73) or

- Doug Mirabelli (.281, 9, 32).

Fregosi: "Matheny is a defensive specialist, one of the best in the NL. He's very weak with the bat. That's the main difference between the two leagues, one goes for offence, one for defence. "When we had Matheny with Toronto in 1999 we played Darrin Fletcher ahead of him because of Fletcher's offence. Both catchers have a certain presence. Varitek is the heart and soul of the Red Sox lineup."

- Rating: Varitek 9, Matheny 5.5.

FIRST BASE

- Albert Pujols (.331, 46, 123).

- Kevin Millar (.297, 18, 74).

Fregosi: "Pujols is the best young player in our game today. Even though he does not play a key position, he can play third, he can play left field. For me, he's been the best right-handed hitter in the game. He is dominant. Millar is not very good defensively, he's a typical AL first baseman-DH type.

-Rating: Pujols 10, Millar 5.

SECOND BASE

- Tony Womack (.307, five, 38).

- Mark Bellhorn (.264, 17, 82).

Fregosi: "Two very offensive second baseman, neither are outstanding with the glove, but they contribute to both clubs. Womack had a lot of infield hits and steals bases. Bellhorn strikes out and hits home runs. You wouldn't try to build your team around either one."

- Rating: Womack 4, Bellhorn 4.

THIRD BASE

- Scott Rolen (.314, 34, 124).

- Bill Mueller (.283, 12, 57).

Fregosi: "Rolen is one of the best third baseman to ever play the game. He came up in 1996, the last year I managed Philadelphia and broke his hand. I'd seen him in spring training and of course over the years. I always used to say that Brooks Robinson was the best AL third baseman and Michael Jack Schmidt was the best in the NL. I believe Rolen is right in that category. Muller is a guy who hits great at Fenway. He's an above average third baseman, but he doesn't generate the power for the position. He's a third baseman who hits at the bottom of the lineup, even though he won a batting title.

- Rating: Rolen 10, Mueller 6.

SHORTSTOP

- Edgar Rentaria (.287, 10, 72).

- Orlando Cabrera (.264, 10, 62).

Fregosi: Rentaria has been the premier shortstop in the NL for a couple of years, the total package. He's not afraid to get a big hit to win a game, he's a solid, solid hitter and will be a premier free-agent shortstop this winter. Cabrera was not having a year with Montreal, but he's played better since he got to Boston.

- Rating: Rentaria 8, Cabrera 6.

LEFT FIELD

- Reggie Sanders (.260, 22, 67).

- Manny Ramirez (.308, 43, 130).

Fregosi: Sanders is a guy who always shows up on winning teams. He is a very streaky player who still runs good and is better defensively, but he lacks consistency. The best right-handed hitters in the game for me are Pujols and Ramirez.

They're 1-2.

- Rating: Ramirez 8, Sanders 5.

CENTRE FIELD

- Jim Edmonds (.301, 42, 111).

- Johnny Damon (.304, 20, 94).

Fregosi: "Edmonds had more power and throws well. He's made some of the greatest catches I've ever seen. I played against Willie Mays and watched Andruw Jones, Edmonds is amongst the best. Damon is a speed guy, an on-base guy. He hit over .300, drove in 94 runs, scored 123 times, he might have had the best year for a lead-off hitter since Lenny Dkystra scored 143 runs in 1993. And Damon drove in six runs in what might have been the biggest game ever played. He does not throw well.

- Rating: Edmonds 8, Damon 7.

RIGHT FIELD

-Larry Walker (.298, 17, 47).

- Trot Nixon (.315, six, 23).

Fregosi: "Walker rejuvenated himself going into a pennant situation. He was often injured at the end of his career with Colorado. He is the greatest Canadian hitter to ever play the game. Nixon was been hurt most of the year. The key to the series is playing right field at Fenway. It's one of the toughest fields to play in all of baseball.

- Rating: Walker 7, Nixon 6.

DH

- John Mabry (.296, 13, 40) or

- Roger Cedeno (.265, 3, 23.

- David Ortiz (.301, 41, 130).

Fregosi: "AL teams build their clubs with prominent DHs. Boston has an advantage in Fenway, but not in St. Louis when they have to put Ortiz at first. Ortiz had as good a year as you could have. He got every big hit you could ask a guy to get.

- Rating: Ortiz 8, Mabry 3.

CLOSERS

- Jason Isringhausen (4-2, 2.87, 47).

- Keith Foulke (5-3, 2.17, 32 saves).

Fregosi: They both had very good years. Isringhausen probably has a little bit more experience and this is the biggest show. He cuts the ball a lot now like Mariano Rivera. Foulke has a great change which everyone saw against the Yankees."

- Rating: Isringhausen 7, Foulke 6.

STARTERS

- Woody Williams (11-8, 4.18), Jason Marquis (15-7, 3.71), Matt Morris (15-10, 4.72), Jeff Suppan (16-9, 4.16).

- Tim Wakefield (12-10, 4.87), Curt Schilling (21-6, 3.26), Pedro Martinez (16-9, 3.90), Derek Lowe (14-12, 5.42).

Fregosi: "St. Louis has a rotation of very competent, experienced pitchers. They all won 15 games but that was because of the offence and the defence. Their starters do not compare with Schilling and Martinez. Schilling pitched a shutout in Game 5 of the World Series against Toronto for the Phillies in 1993. I think he's only had two post-season losses and he was hurt the first one against the Yankees.

- Rating: Boston 8, St. Louis 6.

RELIEVERS

- Julian Tavarez (7-4, 2.38), Kikio Calero (3-1, 2.78), Ray King (5-2, 2.61), Steve Kline (2-2, 1.73), Cal Eldred (4-2, 3.76).

- Bronson Arroyo (10-9, 4.03), Ramiro Mendoza (2-1, 3.52), Curtis Leskanic (3-5, 5.19), Alan Embree (2-2, 4.13), Mike Myers (5-1, 4.64), Mike Timlin (5-4, 4.13).

Fregosi: "The lefty combo of Kline and King is better than Embree and Meyers. Boston's right-handers are better than the Cards.

- Rating: St. Louis 7, Boston 6.