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February 16, 1998
Icy Massacres In Nagano, 2+4=2
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February 16, 1998


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Harold Baines, Orioles





$1.2 million

Edgar Martinez, Mariners





$3.1 million

Dean Palmer, Royals





$5.8 million

Manny Ramirez, Indians





$2.75 million

Paul Sorrento, Devil Rays





$2.6 million

Icy Massacres
In Nagano, 2+4=2

It was a politically correct, TV-savvy International Olympic Committee that rushed women's hockey into these Winter Games. Putting women in the rink was a mistake—albeit a well-meaning one—simply because there is no depth in their game. Go beyond Canada and the U.S., and the rest of the six-team field in this embryonic sport is still pretty much Yada versus the People's Republic of Yada.

In Nagano last week Canada dismantled Japan, a rapidly submerging hockey nation, 13-0. The U.S. beat up 5-0 on chippy China, a country with fewer than 100 females playing organized hockey, and then held Sweden to three shots in a 7-1 win. The smallish Finns can play a little, but there are only two real heavyweights, teams that play with speed, toughness and a clue.

Also without much lost love. "I think Canada's incredibly dirty," says U.S. center A.J. Mleczko, who came away banged and bruised after a pre-Olympic series between the two teams. "Of course, when I'm slashing them, it's a different story."

The slashing will probably begin in earnest on Saturday, when the two familiar rivals meet in the round-robin final, and will no doubt continue in the gold medal game scheduled for Feb. 17. Until then, you can leave women's hockey off your radar screen...if it wasn't already.

Referee Turns Coach
A Man for Two Seasons

During his 12-year career as a catcher with the Atlanta Braves, Bruce Benedict was a two-time All-Star and a fine defensive catcher. But he didn't hit a lick (.242 lifetime average), wasn't fast (12 stolen bases), didn't get on base all that often (27 walks per season) and wasn't even much of a bunter. What kept Benedict around for so long—and what makes him manager Bobby Valentine's catching instructor on the New York Mets these days—is his mind. The guy called one helluva game, and, in fact, that's exactly what he's doing now, at age 42, as one of the top college basketball referees in the Southeastern Conference.

"In this business, you need people who can make a quick decision, and make it well," says John Guthrie, one of the SEC's associate commissioners, of Benedict, who is wrapping up his sixth year of refereeing for that conference. "It's kind of like throwing out runners in a first-and-third situation, and Bruce was good at that, too."

Benedict, who lives in Atlanta with his wife, Kathleen, and their three children, began officiating junior high and high school games in 1985, mostly as a way to keep active between baseball seasons. After hearing of Benedict's work, Guthrie invited him to an SEC officials training camp in '88. For two more years he worked high school and small college games, with hopes of a summons to the big time. That came in '90, when he started working Division I games. In '92 he joined the SEC full time.

Guthrie says Benedict would be a shoo-in for tournament duty save for one snag: This Friday, as he has for the past 20 Februarys, Benedict will bolt to Florida for spring training. "It's bittersweet for me," says Benedict, who played high school basketball. "I'd love to be a part of the excitement of college basketball in March. But being a coach with the Mets is a real love, too."

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