Whither the 23 teams without such a stud at the top of the rotation? Is it worth it to sell the farm to get Schilling from Philadelphia? (No other member of the Starting Nine will be on the free-agent market after this season.) "I'd say it's a lot harder without one, especially in the postseason," Davey Johnson says. "When you've got that one guy who can dominate two or three games in a short series, you have a huge advantage."
The data on studs in October, though, are inconclusive. On one hand, only one of the past 15 world champions lacked a true No. 1: the 1993 Blue Jays, a tremendous offensive club with no pitcher among the top 10 in the American League in innings or ERA. More recently Cleveland has underscored the value of an ace by trying to get by without one. The Indians have lost Game 1 of eight straight postseason series while giving the ball to five starters in those openers (Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Charles Nagy, Chad Ogea and Jaret Wright). As a group Cleveland's starters are 15-14 in the past four postseasons, none of which have ended with a world championship. The franchise hasn't had an ace in his prime since Gaylord Perry in '74.
Then again, the impact of No. 1's often is less in October than it is during the regular season. Our nine current No. 1's are a modest 40-35 in 104 combined postseason games, including a 9-10 mark in 26 World Series starts. Randy Johnson has lost five straight postseason games, contributing to his team's defeat in its past three postseason series. Brown hasn't won any of his four World Series starts, the most recent being the pivotal Game 1 last year when he left with two runners on in the seventh and San Diego leading the Yankees 5-2.
Still, most managers would gladly take the security blanket of giving the ball to that special breed of starter who can exert more influence on a game than anyone else on the field. No better example exists of such an impact than what righthander Jack Morris did for the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Morris threw 10 shutout innings in the 1-0 win, all the while giving the impression that he would still be out there chucking today if the game were still tied. Morris's singular performance actually began with his appearance at a postgame news conference the previous night, following Game 6. Asked if he was ready for his start, Morris leaned into a microphone and announced with the strongest possible timbre, "In the words of James Brown, let's get it on." In those two nights Morris came as close to a definition of a No. 1 starter as you'll ever see.