SI Vault
Edited by Jack McCallum And Richard O'Brien
July 25, 1994
King Cornered
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July 25, 1994


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Having had the audacity to steal the bat in the first place, why did the thief—who even Cleveland general manager John Hart conceded was "someone internally with the Indians"—turn in what was apparently Belle's corked bat? An attack of conscience? A nudge from Indian management? A threat from Frank Thomas to put a big hurt on him?

How will the incident affect Belle, one of the league's most feared hitters this season? Now that the cork is out, will his performance go flat? Will he suddenly start bunting for base hits? And has he heard about Superballs?

Finally, is it time to stop talking about the lively ball and start talking about the lively bat?

Power Play

Well, here's a marriage made in heaven. Or somewhere else. The St. Louis Blues, long known for their profligate spending and loopy decision making, and Mike Keenan, he of the arena-sized ego and penchant for bridge burning, are now united. It's doubtful they'll stay together till death do them part, but there you are.

Keenan's sudden landing on Sunday night in St. Louis, where he will hold the dual titles of coach and general manager, put a surprise ending on a turbulent three days. A brief chronology:

•Last Friday, 31 days after coaching the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years, Keenan abruptly quit, claiming the Rangers had breached his contract by failing to pay him his postseason bonus of about $600,000 within 30 days of the end of the season. Never mind that none of the other Rangers had received their bonuses; Keenan used the loophole to declare himself a free agent, despite having four years remaining on a Ranger contract that was to pay him $980,000 a year.

•Twenty-four hours later Keenan and his lawyer met with Detroit Red Wing owners Mike and Marian Ilitch. That meeting seemed to confirm earlier reports that the Red Wings and Keenan had been negotiating even as the Rangers made their historic run for the Cup. But just as everyone was ready to transfer Keenan to the Motor City, Keenan struck his deal with Mike Shanahan, chairman of the Blues.

Keenan is unquestionably a successful coach (476-311-77 in his nine seasons), but he is also a power-hungry egotist who has gone out on a sour note wherever he has been. Keenan said he had adopted a kinder, gentler attitude with the Rangers, a claim disputed last week by some players, including forward Craig MacTavish, who, after signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, told a friend he had left the Stanley Cup champs because he couldn't stand playing for Keenan. Also, the relationship between Keenan and New York general manager Neil Smith had been strained since October when Keenan publicly stated he couldn't win with the players Smith had given him.

Perhaps Keenan is in the right place at last. But the Blues should take note: For a man who demands team play of his charges, Keenan has proved to be anything but a team player himself.

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