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Tom Verducci's View
Tom Verducci
September 22, 2003
WORKING OVERTIME
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September 22, 2003

Tom Verducci's View

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Team

Years

Red Sox

15 (1919-1933)

Athletics

10 (1915-1924)

Phillies

7 (1994-2000)

Marlins

5 (1998-2002)

Padres

5 (1999-)

Blue Jays

4 (1994-1997)

WORKING OVERTIME

What's wrong with Mariano Rivera? The rest of the Yankees' bullpen. At week's end the New York closer, despite six blown saves, had the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.7 to 1) of his career and the best ERA (1.78) in his career. But without reliable setup men, manager Joe Torre had forced Rivera into games with a career-high season total of 35 runners on—and 17 of them scored (49%), much worse than Rivera's career rate entering the season (27%).

Rivera's job has been more taxing than that of the typical pampered closer, such as the Dodgers' Eric Gagne, who generally enters at the start of the ninth inning and had inherited only 10 runners all year. Manager Jim Tracy cost Los Angeles a key game last week against the Diamondbacks by not using Gagne with two outs in the eighth inning—an automatic spot for Rivera—allowing two other relievers to blow a four-run lead.

The Yankees are asking more of Rivera, 33, at a time when he has lost about 3 mph on his fastball. Opponents were hitting .239 against him, the highest since he was a rookie in 1995. As Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck says, "He's doing everything he used to do, but instead of doing it at 97, it's 94. He's gone from Superman to extremely good." Rivera would be a more effective closer if relievers Jeff Nelson, Chris Hammond and Gabe White could get through the eighth inning cleanly.

SERIES HANGOVERS
The Marlins have ended their streak of five losing seasons since they won the World Series in 1997. The Padres, meanwhile, have extended their post-World Series funk to five. Here are the longest streaks of losing seasons after appearing in the World Series:

WILY IS FREED

Cancel the telethon. Hold off writing your congressman. All it took to release Wily Mo Pe�a from captivity on the Reds' bench were injuries to fellow outfielders Austin Kearns, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Reggie Taylor, Ruben Mateo; the trade of outfielder Jose Guillen; the firings of manager Bob Boone and general manager Jim Bowden; and maybe even the closest pass to Earth by Mars in 60,000 years.

Pe�a, 21, is the rookie Cincinnati could not send to the minors without risking that he would be claimed on waivers by another team. So they mothballed him, giving him only 53 at bats through July 30. At week's end, however, Pena had played in 14 straight games and hit .298 with his first, second and third homers of the year, serving notice that he not only remembers how to play the game, but also could become a big-time power hitter if given the chance.

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

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