Spike is in the house
Posted: Saturday October 23, 1999 11:03 PM
Celebrity visit: Ryan Klesko takes a minute to chat with heavyweight champ and Braves fan, Evander Holyfield. AP
CNN/SI.com senior writer John Donovan is on-site at Turner Field in Atlanta. He filed these reports and answered users' questions during the run-up to Game 1 of the World Series.
OUT IN THE LEFT-FIELD STANDS -- Spike Lee, wearing his Yankees jacket of course, was videotaping batting practice and talking to some of the jockocracy before the players had to leave the field a few minutes ago.
El Duque is still out in the outfield, stretching his legs by the foul pole. He still has on his warmup jacket. There is a catcher, Joe Girardi, out there with him.
The concourses are filled fans, milling about. Some are standing in line, trying to get in the cage at Scout's Alley where they can judge their fastballs by a radar gun.
No one has displayed any clever signs -- not yet anyway. However, the foam tomahawks, given out at the gate, are out in force.
STANDING JUST OUTSIDE THE THIRD BASE COACH'S BOX -- Here it is an hour before game time and the Yankees are wrapping up batting practice as Scott Brosius takes his final swings in the cage.
It should be noted it's darn cold in Atlanta tonight (57 degrees right now but it feels chillier). Game-time temperature will be in the mid-50's, with the temps dropping into the 40's in the later innings.
The grounds crew is prettying up the grass (which we are not allowed to tread upon) for national TV and Game 1 is almost officially here.
User question: Will Braves have any advantage, by having four games at Turner Field in this series? Where it is easier for the Braves offense: Atlanta or New York?
Well, the easy answer is it didn't help the Braves any in the '96 Series, when they won the first two in Yankee Stadium, then dropped four straight - including three at home-in losing the Series.
Statistically speaking, thanks to my handy-dandy media guide, the home team wins 54.2 percent of the games, and 58.5 percent of the openers. (What, you think I'm making this stuff up?)
If this gets to a Game 7, which the Series has done 33 times, the home team has won 18 times.
And one more. Heck, they're here for the taking. Only three teams have lost the first two games at home and won the Series: The '85 Kansas City Royals, the '86 Mets-and those '96 Yankees.
I'm sure, by the way, that the Braves would say their offense is better in Turner Field, if for no other reason than the outside influences of travel that affect a team on the road.
BEHIND THE BATTING CAGE -- The team of the '90s debate has been settled.
"We hope that we win it," said Evander Holyfield, WBA and IBF heavyweight champion of the world. "Team of the decade is already something that has been proven. We've won our division every year since '91."
Holyfield, who lives near Atlanta, said he's been a Braves booster for years.
"I'm a team person," he said. "I've been following the Braves since they were in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. I knew my Braves would finally get here [as best team in baseball]."
Who would argue with this guy? Maybe that Lennox Lewis fella.
User question: My question is, how do you think Roger Clemens feels, when really he should be starting tonite's game, if the Yankees went with their rotation of the ALCS?
Well, the five-time Cy Young winner has been a bit dissed by getting moved to No. 4 in the rotation, but he'd be the first to admit - and he has done so - that this is not a typical Clemens year.
And when you have Orlando Hernandez pitching like he has, when you have a tough lefty like Andy Pettitte and the strong big-game play of David Cone, it's really not that awful going No. 4 in that staff.
It does mean that, in all probability, we will see Clemens only once in this Series. But, as was proved today when Tom Glavine was scratched because of the flu and Greg Maddux had to fill in for the Braves, a lot can happen in a week.
IN THE YANKEES DUGOUT -- The big discussion before Game 1 here is Tom Glavine's illness.
Does it really matter?
"Once you get to this point, these guys are professionals," said Ozzie Smith. "It really doesn't change things that much."
Glavine called manager Bobby Cox on Friday night to tell him what was coming.
"Tom has a lot of common sense, as we all do," said Leo Mazzone, the Braves pitching coach. "He called Mad Dog [Greg Maddux] and said, "You'd better get ready to pitch because I'm really sick.' "
Mazzone said he preparing for Glavine to be ready for Game 3, scheduled for Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
User question: Seeing that the Big Cat has been hurt for a while in Atlanta, do you think the Braves could use a one-two punch like Griffey Jr. & ARod of Seattle to compliment their superior pitching and if so would they have to give up too many players to do so?
Geez, who couldn't use Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey? The question is, who can afford them?
The answer is, probably no one. Maybe Seattle will pull out all the stops and try to get them both under contract, but paying them what they're worth could mean nobody else worth a hoot on the team - and that's what both Rodriguez and Griffey say they have to have.
Either one of them in Atlanta? You can bet the Braves will be in the market for a big bat, just in case the Big Cat (Andres Galarraga) doesn't make it back to form after his bout with cancer. And the jury is still out on big-swinging catcher Javy Lopez, too. Rodriguez, remember, is set in Seattle for the 2000 season. A lot can happen in a year.
IN THE BRAVES DUGOUT -- It's a mass media madhouse at Turner Field.
Hundreds of reporters are ringing the field, searching for last-minute quotes and tidbits. Players are surrounded by what the late Howard Cosell used to call the "jockocracy", ex-players now acting as analysts. Rick Sutcliffe is here, so is Ozzie Smith of CNN/SI, Joe Morgan of another network as they used to say, Barry Larkin (wait, he's still a player) and Ken Singleton. Biff Henderson of the David Letterman "Late Show" was crouched interviewing Yankees catcher Joe Girardi around the batting cage.
So it goes as New York and Atlanta prepare to meet in the 95th World Series.
User question: I've never before thought about baseball "today" being fixed until last weeks LCS games 4 and 5 between the Mets and the Braves. The decisions of Bobby Cox #1 to take out Walt Weiss in that last inning they were ahead and replace him with Guillen (who hadn't played in awhile and had been sitting on the bench) made it a little easier for the Mets to win that one. And No. 2 by leaving McGlinchy in the game (when another time he'd be taken out) while they were ahead. They could've essentially wrapped it up in 4 games -- 5 at the most. But by bringing it back to Atlanta for a Game 6 -- brought a sold-out crowd to Turner Field and think of the revenue! I have long since been a Braves fan (even through the rotten years) and the thought of my favorite manager-lets say either "throwing" the game OR making it EXTREMELY likely of losing. Well, it just makes me sick to think that it could possibly be true. What are your thoughts?
Sharon, I'm thinking you're watching too much X-Files.
You can second-guess a manager-heck, you have a responsibility to do it if you're any kind of fan at all-but saying he could throw a game to put a few bucks in Ted Turner's pocket? Like Ted needs it?
Cox has had some screwy moves, but he's also had some good ones. He brought in John Smoltz once to save a game and it worked. Once, it backfired. That's the way managing goes. Same with infield replacements, double switches ... whatever.
I'd buy the microchip in Chipper's brain theory, though.
User question: Do you think the Braves have an advantage against El Duque after having faced him in June and beating him real bad?
Well, the Braves did smack around El Duque (Game 1 starter Orlando Hernandez) earlier this year. It says here in my handy-dandy Yankees postseason media guide that it was on July 16, a Friday it was, and Hernandez lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and giving up four home runs.
That certainly should give the Braves some confidence for Game 1. Hernandez ended up with an 11.57 ERA that day, and the Braves ended up with a .381 batting average against him. In fact, the Braves pounded the whole Yankees staff in that three-game series, hitting .301 in winning two of three in New York.
What's that mean here? Well, the Braves shouldn't be afraid of the El Duque, anyway, or anyone else on the staff.
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