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East Carolina Hall of Famer and
former baseball coach Keith LeClair.
 (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

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From The Dugout

[Editor's note: This feature coordinated by Denny O'Brien]

Keith LeClair is mesmerized with one of Major League Baseball's most compelling sequences of postseason storylines ever ó but not too mesmerized to cloud his razor-sharp insights into the ongoing World Series or hinder his expert answers to your questions.

Coach is back this week with more in-depth analysis. Got a question about the World Series? Feel free to aim your best pitch right here:

 Or, if you just want to send Coach LeClair a personal note, do so at this address:

An October for the Ages

By Keith LeClair

Has this not been the greatest postseason in recent years?  Did you know every series except the Yankees-Twins has gone down to the last game?  In a baseball era with salaries skyrocketing and team payrolls over $100 million and to still have a team like the Marlins on the verge of winning the World Series is remarkable.  Just think, the Yankees payroll is almost triple of that of the Marlins.

How about this?  In May, the Marlins fired their manager ó Jeff Torberg ó and had to go get Jack McKeon off a farm tractor at age 72 to manage their club.  If thatís not wild enough, the Marlins averaged about 16,000 a game in attendance during the regular season, and I would say a third of those tickets were probably giveaways.  And now look ó almost 70 thousand fans a game.

Itís truly amazing what has taken place during these playoffs.  You have a fan in Chicago trying to catch a foul ball that may have cost the Cubs a chance at the World Series.  The fans are so upset that the guy canít go to work and has even received death threats.  Not to mention Gonzalez kicks a double-play ball after that, which would have gotten the Cubs out of the inning.  The poor fan eventually may even have to move out of Chicago for doing what 99 percent of us would have done if we were sitting in his seat.

Then look over in Beantown, where they are about to run Grady Little out of his job for not taking their $100 million dollar man out of the game.  All this could only happen in Chicago and Boston, where the fans swear there is a goat and a curse of the Bambino living.  The people literally think that is the case and I am not joking.  I am telling you we may never see a playoff in baseball quite like this again ó unless Boston and Chicago make it to the Series, and then only God knows what will happen in that one.

Time to get back on track with whatís taking place in the World Series between the Marlins and Yankees.  Right now the Marlins are out-hustling and playing the Yankees.  The Yanks are down 3-2 and have some serious issues on offense.  The biggest one being Soriano going into the tank.  If you have ever played the game, you can feel for what he is going through, because at one time or another, we have all been in his shoes.  The ball when it leaves his hand looks like its the size of an aspirin.  Itís gotten so bad, Torre sat him and played Enrique Wilson at second.

 Now you're having to hit your hottest hitter, Jeter, in the leadoff hole with a pitcher hitting in the nine hole, so your RBI opportunities become limited.  To make things worse, Giambi canít play first because of a sore knee and they are afraid Pierre and Castillo will take advantage of his inability to move.  If thatís not bad enough, David Wells goes down with a bad back in the first after bragging on his non-conditioning program.  And if thatís not bad enough, they look like the Bad News Bears trying to execute a rundown, costing them two runs.

Yes, the Yankees are in trouble, but one saving grace is that they leave the National League park and get their DH Giambi back, which really will help them.  They didnít look comfortable playing without the DH, and like I said in last week's article, itís a much tougher transition going to National League rules compared to the American League.

The one key the Yankees have going for them is a fresh Pettite and Mussina.  They need a big start out of Andy Pettite to give the Yankees' middle relief a break and force a game seven.  Game Five really taxed the Yanksí pen, especially after the extra innings loss in Game Four.  The other big question is what Jack McKeon will do with his rotation for Game Six and Seven.  Do you throw Beckett and Palvano on three days rest or start Redman or Willis in Game Six and have Beckett on four days rest for game Seven?  Thatís a tough call for any manager, although what Beckett did to the Cubs with only two days rest may help make that decision.

Personally, I think if you pitch Beckett in Game Six and lose, youíre probably not going to win Game Seven.  I would start Redman and get Willis up quick if he runs into any problems early and keep both Beckett and Palvano for Game Seven if needed.  That way, even if you lose psychologically, you know your ace is fresh and ready to go in Game Seven.  As I have said before, I am not a fan of throwing guys on three days rest.

The Yankees have to start finding a way to get a lead and make Rivera a factor for the final two games if they are to come back and win.  The Marlins have basically made Rivera a non-factor up to this point in the Series, which is a credit to their ability to manufacture runs in the middle innings.  If you have noticed, the Marlins have had some big two-out hits in the games they have won, and the games they lost they left a lot of men on base.

I think Torre will put Soriano back in the lineup and put him in the nine hole.  The DH will allow Johnson to move up to the two spot and give the Yankees a more balanced attack at the top of their lineup.  I look for the Yankees to move runners early in the game and to try to score early and put some pressure on the Marlins.  The Yanks know ó and so do the Marlins ó that Rivera needs to have the ball in the eighth and ninth with a lead for the Yankees to win.  The Marlins, on the other hand, need to keep this from happening.

I still believe the Yankees will win this Series, but only if they can start swinging the bats.  I look for two great games and a dramatic Game Seven, win with Rivera getting two saves to bring another title to the Bronx.  I truly would like to see the Marlins win this thing and show smaller market teams they can compete and win.  I also would like to see Jack McKeon win a title and make those tractor rides that much more enjoyable.

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02.23.07 10:27 AM


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