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Sandy Alderson is baseball's best dresser, which is not to say he's among baseball's best-dressed. On the day last week that Alderson dressed Willie McGee in an Oakland Athletics uniform, for instance, he dressed himself in blue jeans and a muted blue Hawaiian shirt. The day before, Alderson put Harold Baines in the home whites of the A's, but he put himself in khaki shorts and white sneakers.
These are the clothes Alderson wears to work as the vice-president of baseball operations for the world champion Athletics. But if you think Alderson suffers sartorially in the company of the rest of baseball's general managers, think again. As the Sept. 1 deadline for setting postseason rosters passed, the game's G.M.s came clothed in one of two fall fashion lines: There were those wearing barrels, and there was Alderson, dressed in fleece.
"I'm mad," says Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, whose team, it appears, will be fed to Oakland in the American League playoffs.
"It's unbelievable," says Kansas City Royals manager John Wathan.
It is. As of Aug. 28, the day before the trades, the A's had lost five of their last seven games, had recently lost center-fielder Dave Henderson to a knee injury, had watched Jose Canseco struggle with back ailments and had begun to hear gleeful whispers from around the league: Ha! Look at Oakland! Chinks in the armor!
If there are chinks, said Alderson & Co., we will fill them. And they did, with gold.
Other contenders, of course, made their own last-minute repairs for the stretch drive. The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Zane Smith and Carmelo Martinez. The New York Mets traded for Tommy Herr, Pat Tabler and Charlie O'Brien. The Cincinnati Reds picked up Bill Doran. And the Red Sox bagged relief pitcher Larry Andersen. Not exactly the kind of moves to strike fear in opponents' hearts. No white flags were reported.
Alderson, meanwhile, traded two minor leaguers—players to be named later—to the Texas Rangers for designated hitter Baines, an All-Star in four of his last six seasons. While Baines is batting .285 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs this season, he has hit .333 in 36 lifetime at bats against Roger Clemens and .367 in 49 at-bats against Mike Boddicker. Clemens and Boddicker are righthanded; Baines bats lefty. Clemens and Boddicker are Boston's aces; Baines is one of baseball's most notorious clutch hitters. (Warming up for a Labor Day clash with the Red Sox, Baines, on Sunday, hit a homer in Oakland's 4-2 win over Texas.)
Three hours after the Baines announcement broke loose, on Aug. 29, the A's announced that all hell had done the same. Alderson had peddled reserve outfielder Felix (the Other) Jose, who had been filling in for the injured Henderson, and two more minor leaguers to St. Louis for centerfielder McGee, whose .335 average with the Cardinals may well be good enough to win the National League batting race—at just about the time McGee swings into the American League Championship Series.
Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart admitted to being astonished that Baines and McGee could be gotten "as easy as we got them. I figured it would take a lot more than two minor leaguers to get Harold Baines."