For the record, do not count Bonds, who hit .167 in the playoffs, among those skittish Pirates. "Their bullpen didn't do [squat] to me," he said after the series. "Myers ain't [squat]."
Like Bonds, Dibble is a show best watched with the sound turned down. Both players reacquainted writers with the bracket keys on their computers last week. Dibble occupied much of his time telling any reporter who would listen—a dwindling number as the days and Dibble wore on—how unhappy he was as a setup man in Cincinnati. "I might be stopping here next year," he said following Game 4 at Three Rivers Stadium. "The winter meetings are coming up, and I'm looking to go somewhere else."
The next day, after the Reds were beaten 3-2 by Cy Young winner-to-be Doug Drabek, Dibble, alone at his locker, shouted through the clubhouse that the breaking-ball pitcher was "a [sissy]." Then he added, "Cy Young, my [butt]."
If the A's were unfazed by the Rocket's red glare in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with Boston, they aren't likely to buy Dibble's act. But these are merely the headlines. There is, of course, a slew of fine print surrounding Dibble. He was fined in September, for instance, for verbally abusing a San Francisco cop assigned to protect the bullpen at Candlestick Park. Two months earlier, he had been fined for dumping a bucket of ice water on a Cincinnati reporter. Ten months before that, he had been fined for ignoring a take sign—a puzzling move on his part given his .000 lifetime average. Four months before that, he had been fined and suspended for chucking a bat halfway up the screen behind home plate at Riverfront. Two months before that, following a disappointing appearance in spring training, he had been fined for overturning tables—picnic tables, for god's sake—and tossing chairs into a pond behind the clubhouse.
"Rob is like a baby," Reds owner Marge Schott said last week. "I'd like to just spank him."
Dennis Eckersley's fist-pumping, by comparison, should go down easily. To be sure, Eckersley and the rest of the Oakland pen will provide a fiercer matchup for the Reds than the Pirates offered—Bill & Ted's Excellent Bullpen, starring Bill Landrum and Ted Power, with cameos by Stan Belinda and Bob Patterson. Low-scoring games, like those in the playoffs, will no longer belong exclusively to the Reds.
Or almost exclusively. In Game 5 in Pittsburgh the Pirates were leading 3-2 with one on and nobody out in the top of the ninth when Davis drove a ball down the third base line. Bonilla, filling in for the injured Jeff King, prepared to make the play. But the ball hit the bag and bounced high in the air, giving Davis enough time to reach first. "By then," said Van Slyke, "I was starting to believe there was no way we were going to win."
After a sacrifice bunt, the Reds had runners at second and third with one out when Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland brought in Patterson, who intentionally walked Sabo, bringing up catcher Jeff Reed. Patterson threw an inside fastball that the fairly fleet Reed fisted to Bonilla, who had 35 errors as a third baseman in 1989. Bonilla, who is well-versed in sportscasterese, began what was, as he put it later, one of the "defensive gems" or "sparkling defensive plays" of the series. He charged the ball and fired it to Jose Lind at second base. Then Lind nipped Reed at first for the game-ending, series-sustaining double play.
Afterward, instead of talking about a Pirate comeback as he had the night before, Bonds inexplicably used Bonilla's play to chastise King, whose injured back had caused Leyland to scratch him from the lineup. "There are minor leaguers who are willing to play hurt," Bonds said. "It's kind of funny—you have a back injury, and two days later you play."
King declined to respond, but he was in the lineup for Game 6 on a drizzly Friday night in Cincinnati. The second-largest crowd in Riverfront Stadium history saw this series perfectly shrink-wrapped in the top of the ninth. The Pirates naturally trailed 2-1. The Reds naturally had a Nasty Boy—in this case Myers—on the mound. Bonilla and Bonds, who were a combined 7 for 39 in the playoffs, naturally didn't get a hit, Bonilla popping to short and Bonds walking to start the inning. Then, with the count full, Carmelo Martinez clubbed a ball to rightfield. "God, come down," said Piniella as it soared. "I thought it was a homer," said Leyland afterward. It might have been, but the Reds' 6'3" rightfielder, Glenn Braggs, burglarized the Bucs before the ball could clear the wall. When Myers struck out Don Slaught to end the series, Cincinnati had its first pennant since 1976.