A-Rod to test market

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, October 17, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

NEW YORK – They had spent weeks deflecting questions about their uncertain futures, saying they had a more important task to accomplish in the playoffs.

Then, in the moments after the season ended for the Mariners, Alex Rodriguez and Lou Piniella quietly wondered whether they will wear Seattle uniforms again.

Rodriguez, a Mariner since he was drafted by the organization in 1993, is eligible to become a free agent 15 days after the World Series ends.

Piniella, whose first season as Mariners manager was 1993, has a contract that expires after this season.

Rodriguez said after Tuesday’s game that he will file for free agency, but he didn’t indicate what his plans are.

“My decision will take a little time,” he said. “I’m going to test the free-agent market.”

Most speculation centers on Rodriguez going to one of the few teams that can afford to pay his next contract, which could be worth $20 million or more per year. The Mariners say they will make a serious run at retaining him.

The Mariners also say they would like Piniella to return but he, too, may test a market that contains several managerial openings.

Piniella said he wants to go back to his home in Tampa and wind down from an intense finish to the season.

“I won’t think about it for a little bit,” Piniella said. “It takes a week or so to wind down. You’ve got your adrenaline going every day. There’s a big game every day, and it takes a week to get it out of your system. But that’s what we’re all in this for.”

Dark clouds covered New York all day, but not a drop of rain fell until an hour and a half before game time Tuesday.

Neither team took batting practice, and the only activity on the field consisted of team and major league officials scrambling to learn the latest weather reports.

Mariners general manager Pat Gillick looked skyward and asked of anyone close enough to respond, “Can we play in this?”

Ten minutes later, manager Lou Piniella stuck his head out of the dugout tunnel, looked up and gave Gillick his answer: “We can’t start in this.”

Gillick, Piniella and other Mariners officials then huddled with Sandy Alderson of the commissioner’s office to hear the latest weather report: rain until about 8:30 p.m., then nothing for the next several hours.

The rain eased up earlier than expected and, although it never stopped, the grounds crew pulled back the tarp about 40 minutes before the first pitch and the game began on time.

When Piniella said he would stick every available left-handed hitter in his lineup against Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez, he meant EVERY left-hander.

Piniella’s lineup included an all-lefty outfield with Al Martin in left field, Stan Javier in center and Raul Ibanez in right. Mike Cameron, who had started every postseason game in center field and played 155 of the 162 regular-season games, didn’t start.

Mark McLemore’s double in the eighth inning snapped the longest postseason scoreless streak by a pitcher in history.

Yankee closer Mariano Rivera hadn’t allowed a run in 34 straight postseason innings until McLemore’s hit, which bounced off the first-base bag and into right field to score Edgar Martinez from third and John Olerud from second, bringing the Mariners to within two runs of the Yankees, 9-7.

Rivera, who entered the game with Martinez at first, was charged with the run scored by Olerud, to whom he had yielded a double.

Rivera broke the old record during Friday’s Game 3 in Seattle, passing Whitey Ford’s mark of 33 straight scoreless innings.

“It had to end sooner or later,” a smiling Rivera said in Tuesday’s postgame celebration. “I’m just glad that we were able to win the game.”

How good does the Randy Johnson trade look now?

The Mariners, forced to trade their star pitcher at the trading deadline in 1998, got three no-name minor leaguers from the Houston Astros.

All three have big names now, each having made an impact on the Mariners’ postseason run. Pitcher Freddy Garcia, who has emerged as the Mariners’ No. 1 starter, was 2-0 in the playoffs with a 3.60 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 15 innings. John Halama compiled a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3innings (all at Yankee Stadium), and infielder Carlos Guillen smashed a two-run homer into the upper deck in Tuesday’s Game 6 of the ALCS.

Johnson left the Astros after half a season (and an 0-2 postseason in ‘98) and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs didn’t even make this year’s postseason party.

Mariners manager Piniella, who played for and managed the Yankees years ago, was asked after the game to talk about the importance of baseball in New York and what a Subway Series will mean.

“Baseball has always been special in this city,” he said. “The Mets have their legion of fans and the Yankees certainly have theirs. Now they can go spill beer on each other, get raucous with each other, and I can watch it from afar.”

Tuesday’s victory left Yankee pitcher Orlando Hernandez with an 8-0 career record in the postseason. His half-brother Livan Hernandez, now with San Francisco and formerly with Florida, has a 5-0 postseason record. Both defected to the United States from Cuba.

Chuck Knoblauch, who has been on each of the Yankees’ four pennant-winning teams in the past five years, was asked before Tuesday’s game what he admires most about manager Joe Torre’s personality.

“I don’t know if it’s his personality,” Knoblauch said, “but his communication skills with each individual player is his biggest asset, because he know when to say the right thing at the right time to the right people.”

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