Long wait for a long flight

  • KIRBY ARNOLD and LARRY HENRY / Herald Writers
  • Monday, October 9, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writers

NEW YORK — It’s not like they were all dressed up with no place to go.

But the situation the Seattle Mariners found themselves in late Sunday was close to it.

The Mariners practiced early that afternoon at Safeco Field, leisurely got dressed and hung around the clubhouse waiting for Game 5 of the New York-Oakland series to determine their destination.

If the Yankees win, the Mariners take an all-night flight to New York. If it’s the A’s, they make a 1 1/2-hour jaunt to the Bay Area and arrive by bedtime.

"We hung around and watched a little football," pitching coach Bryan Price said of the clubhouse scene. "Then we got the Jamie Moyer news, and that was heart-wrenching."

Moyer, the left-handed pitcher who the Mariners had planned to start in Game 4, learned he would miss the series with a fractured kneecap, suffered in a simulated game on Saturday.

Price and a few other drowned their sorrows at a pub near Safeco Field, then returned early in the evening to follow the Oakland-New York game.

"We were originally going to leave about 7 o’clock, but that game was only in the fourth inning by then," Price said.

New York took a six-run lead in the first inning, Oakland climbed back to trail by two, and the Mariners finally made their way to an awaiting charter jet at Boeing Field in Seattle still not knowing if the A’s could complete their comeback.

"We were all on the plane about the time the last out was recorded," Price said. "A few cell phones went off, and that’s when we knew where we were headed."

John Halama won’t start until Wednesday’s second game of the ALCS, but that doesn’t mean the Mariners think he’s less of a threat to beat the Yankees than Game 1 starter Freddy Garcia.

To the contrary, in fact.

"By throwing John in Game 2, he’ll get two road starts in this series," Price said. "The first-game starter will pitch on the road once."

Halama, a Brooklyn native, is known for maintaining his composure even in a hostile place like Yankee Stadium. He is 2-1 in his career against the Yankees and won his only start this year at Yankee Stadium in an 8-5 victory on Aug. 7.

If the series goes seven games, the Mariners’ rotation would be Garcia today and Halama on Wednesday at New York, Aaron Sele on Friday, Paul Abbott on Saturday and Garcia on Sunday at Seattle, and Halama on Tuesday, Oct. 17 and Sele on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at New York.

Manager Lou Piniella said Abbot would be available in the bullpen for the first two games.

The Seattle media doesn’t bother Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez about his future anymore, knowing he won’t say where he wants to play next year after he becomes a free agent.

New York reporters got their licks at A-Rod on Monday, backing him against the dugout railing with pens, notepads, tape recorders and cameras.

He didn’t flinch.

"I’ve heard it’s the Dodgers, I’ve heard it’s the Mets," he said. "I’ve heard a lot of speculation. Right now, I’d like to play with the Mariners."

Chuck Armstrong didn’t get to become the Mariner team president without being prepared.

When the Mariners reported to Yankee Stadium for their first workout Monday afternoon, temperatures were in the mid-40s, catching some members of the media without the proper clothing.

Not Armstrong. He wore a wool topcoat and a stocking cap.

Just about what you’d expect of a lawyer and former naval officer.

The weather was so cold that first baseman John Olerud took ground balls with one hand tucked in his back pocket. Nary a one did he muff.

The cold weather was no drastic change for Rodriguez.

"In Safeco, we’ve got 50-degree weather in June and July," he said. "This is lovely weather."

Piniella, asked if the close friendship between Rodriguez and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is good for baseball, thought back to his playing days when opponents weren’t that chummy with each other.

"I don’t think players were as close as they are now," he said.

Then he ran off a list of Yankee coaches who he played with and who he considers good friends.

"There’s a lot of friends of mine over there," Piniella said. "But at the same time, we’re going to try and beat their brains in."

After the Mets and Yankees won their division series on Sunday, the newspaper headlines and subway chatter smacked of a Mets-Yanks World Series.

Yankees manager Joe Torre danced around the question of who he’d prefer to play, the Mets or St. Louis Cardinals.

"I hate to be selfish, but if there’s a choice of one of the two teams getting there, I hope it’s us," he said. "St. Louis and the Mets. I’ve managed and been fired in both places."

Everywhere Piniella turned, he couldn’t escape questions about the Mariners’ 1995 playoff victory over the Yankees. A couple of samples:

  • Do you realize that your victory over the Yankees helped start the changes that brought Joe Torre here and, ultimately, two World Series championships? "Well, then they should have given me a bonus for that," Piniella quipped. "I’ll talk to Mr. Steinbrenner about that in Tampa this winter."

  • Did you see that series as a turning point for the Yankee organization? "I think it was a bigger turning point for us than it was for the Yankees," Piniella said. "What we did that year helped save baseball in Seattle. We’ve got a new stadium now and we drew 3.2 million people this year."

    Rodriguez did his best to answer a few questions about ‘95 as well. "That was my first year and I didn’t play very much in that series," he said. "My remembrance was that I sat there consoling Joey Cora."

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