SI Vault
Jeff Pearlman
October 26, 1998
Start the Bidding Kevin Brown could be the key to a robust free-agent signing period
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October 26, 1998


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?A wild card in all this could be the Indians, whose need for an ace was evident yet again this postseason. Cleveland, which is interested in Orioles free-agent second baseman Roberto Alomar, is expected to make a strong bid to acquire Atlanta's 16-game winner, Denny Neagle, who would solidify the Indians' rotation. The Braves would surely ask for reliever Paul Shuey in return, but the Indians are loath to put the hard-throwing righty on the market.

?No matter where Brown signs, his package will be closely watched by Astros lefthander Randy Johnson, who wants one more rich, multiyear contract and has hinted that he won't return to the National League. Although Johnson went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA for the Astros the last two months of the regular season, there are questions about the 35-year-old's durability. When Johnson pitched against San Diego in the National League Division Series, Padres pitching coach Dave Stewart was shocked that his fastball was clocked at 91 mph—tops. "The difference from what we're used to seeing was huge," says Stewart. "Throwing 90 is still good, but it's not unusual. Heck, I've seen him throw 96,97,98.1 guess he was tired—it's been a long year for him. But he's also getting up there in age. I don't know what he has left."

Heard at the World Series
Little Hope for Davey Lopes

Davey Lopes, the Padres first base coach, has interviewed for four manager's jobs in the last three years without ever getting called back for a second interview. Lopes, who is African-American, does not blame this on his race so much as on his reputation. During his 16-year playing career, Lopes was tagged as a cantankerous, ornery guy. "I've pretty much accepted it," says Lopes. "I don't believe I'll ever get a chance to manage." San Diego players and coaches say Lopes has as much baseball knowledge as anyone in the game. "He'd be a great manager," says Kevin Towers, the Padres' G.M. "The problem is, I think a lot of general managers want a guy they feel comfortable with immediately. Maybe Davey doesn't give that warm first impression, but he knows the game."...

Keep an eye on the internecine battles in Toronto, where Blue Jays skipper Tim Johnson had his problems in '98, his first year as a big league skipper. By the end of the season Johnson and pitching coach Mel Queen were openly feuding, and several veterans were tiring of Johnson's rah-rah attitude. Nevertheless, he got Toronto into the wild-card hunt after the club dumped Juan Guzman, Tony Phillips, Ed Sprague and Mike Stanley before the trading deadline, and Randy Myers a week later. Also credit Johnson for developing young outfielders Shawn Green and Shannon Stewart. Johnson and Queen were scheduled to meet this week with general manager Gord Ash to clear the air....

During the National League Championship Series against San Diego, Braves closer Kerry Ligtenberg shocked teammates by shaving his trademark lamb-chop sideburns. "I was tired of looking like a dirtbag," he said. "Besides, I wanted to change our luck." Didn't work.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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