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October 19, 1999 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-19

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12 The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Bruised and battered Piazza ready for Game 6

U

Los Angeles Times
ATLANTA - Mike Piazza said the
dogged New York Mets have put a little
hurt on the Atlanta Braves, got inside
their head a little.
Now, if he could only do something
about his own discomfort, the aches and
pains that have restricted his production
and raised the question again of whether
the renowned catcher will eventually
move to another position to save his
body and bat.
"I'm definitely not getting younger,
and it's definitely catching up to me,"
Piazza said of the wear and tear of his
position as he relaxed yesterday and
expressed confidence he would be
behind the plate tonight when Al Leiter
tries to sustain the Mets' momentum in
the National League Championship
Series.
The Atlanta Braves still lead the best-
of-seven series three games to two, but
losing those two Saturday and Sunday
might have shaken their confidence
some.
"We feel like we've scored a break-
through that will hopefully carry over,"
Piazza said. "We feel like we've put a
little pressure on them and that hopeful-
ly they'll come out pressing. We feel that
if we can win (Game 6), we have a bet-
ter than even chance of winning the next
night."
Suddenly they are the Miracle Mets
again, celebrating the 30th anniversary
of the original's improbable World
Series victory.
Sunday's 4-3, 15-inning victory
brought out the historians, but history
will also document that the Mets have
won only one game in the last two years
at Turner Field and that Atlanta starter
Kevin Millwood represents a formidable
executioner.
It is also a fact that the reborn and
resilient Mets are hitting .188 through
five games, with Piazza, in the middle

between games.
"It's frustrating," he said. "You want
to be the guy who gets the big hit, but as
a catcher and hitter, you're only as good
as your hands, and right now I have a lot
of weakness and pain. I've even thought
about going to a lighter bat or choking
up and modifying my swing. I mean, it's
obvious that I'm not swinging well, but
I'm just looking for any way to con-
tribute - as a catcher or hitter. If it's a
broken-bat single, that would be great."
Piazza's succession of injuries has
followed a season in which there was no
relief for the Mets or their catcher down
the stretch. He appeared in 140 games,
hitting 40 home runs and driving in 124
runs. He may be the most productive
catcher in baseball history, but it has
long been theorized that he might be
even more productive playing a less tax-
ing position.
The issue has come up again with
Piazza's injuries and first baseman John
Olerud's eligibility for free agency.
There has been speculation that
Olerud would like to return to his Seattle
roots, but General Manager Steve
Phillips said, "We have every intention
to re-sign John. But even if we don't,
that doesn't change Mike's situation. We
still expect him to be the catcher next
year and we would resolve the first base
situation some other way."
Phillips said that when Piazza was
signed to the seven-year, S91-million
contract, "we discussed the possibility
that at some point in the seven years he
might shift positions, but that it would
be at the back end. Mike and I agreed he
would continue to catch for a number of
years. A catcher gets banged up. It's not
news. We knew that when he signed the
contract."
Said Piazza, "If at some point they
want to talk about it, we'll talk about it.
Right now, my concentration is on
catching."

AP PHOTO
Keith Lockhart contributed to Mike Piazza's bruised left forarm when he drove into
the catcher helmet-first in a 13th-inning collision at the plate Sunday.

of the lineup, three for 20 in the series
and five for 29 in postseason play, with
one RBI.
Piazza's medical chart is far more
impressive, and he read from it Monday:
A sprained left thumb made worse
by the reaction to a cortisone injection,
knocking him out of the final two games
of the division series.
A lingering wooziness from the
concussion suffered in the jarring colli-
sion with Bret Boone in Game 3 of this
series.
* A sore left hand suffered when hit
by Andruw Jones' backswing Sunday.
A badly bruised left forearm suf-
fered when hit by Ryan Klesko's back-
swing and again by Keith Lockhart's
helmet in another collision in the 13th

inning. After that, Piazza, with tingling
in his hands and overall general sore-
ness, decided it was time for treatment
and left the game.
Piazza, 31, shook his head and said,
"It's weird. I can't explain why I'm so
banged up. It's just been a bad week or
two. Maybe it's something I've done
that's coming back to haunt me and I
need to do a good deed like helping an
old lady across the street. My left arm is
so sore I'm looking for a donor. Maybe
I should call up Arnold Schwarzenegger
or something."
As Piazza received ice and whirlpool
treatment before the Mets left New York
yesterday, he said he couldn't help but
think that maybe he should have played
football so that he would have a week

AP PHOTO
The Curse of the Bambino strikes again, this time in the form of errors and poor umpiring.
As a result, Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe will watch the Word Series on TV this weekend.
Yankees back in Series

Saban: Spartans overconfident

EAST LANSING (AP) - For six weeks, the
Michigan State football team was happy to deal
with success. Now, the Spartans have to deal
with failure.
Coach Nick Saban said yesterday he had seen
the warning signs of overconfidence before his
team was drubbed 52-28 by Purdue on
Saturday. Now, he says, it's time to see if the
Spartans can focus again on the ways it won the
first six games of the year.
"The chestapounding is the first indication to
me ... you're getting a little full of yourself,"
Saban said at his weekly news conference.
"That's not necessary and that's not how you
handle things with class; it leads to a lack of
attention to detail, a lack of fundamentals.....
You see yourself as something bigger than you
really are."
Michigan State, which had risen to fifth in
the nation in the national AP poll, took a tumble
to I Ith following its manhandling by Purdue. It
faces 17th-ranked Wisconsin this week.

Saban said he tried to warn his players not to
get too cocky, but success can be hard to han-
dle.
"You know everybody gets these images of
grandeur when they look in the mirror and all of
sudden all the things you dreamed about when
you we a kid are suddenly a reality to you. You
look in the mirror and instead of seeing yourself
you see John Elway or whoever your idol is at
your position," he said.
"it was a big concern of mine that we were
falling into that trap, that we lost sight of our
commitment, that we had to refocus and recom-
mit to it, or we were going to have trouble."
Sure enough, the Spartans had big trouble
with Purdue. They made mistakes and drew
penalties while Drew Brees, the Boilermaker
quarterback, picked them apart.
"I told them that, if your vanity gets in the
way, this can be a cruel profession, you're going
to get slammed," Saban said. "And that's exact-
ly what happened."

YNANKEES
Continued from Page 11
inning rally fell short, and their fans are
left hoping for better luck next century.
Game 1 of the World Series will be
Saturday night at the home of the NL
champion. Atlanta leads the New York
Mets 3-2 in the NLCS, with Game 6
Tuesday night at Turner Field.
It will be the Yankees' third trip to the
World Series in four years, and an
opportunity for them to win their 25th
title. All of those championships have
come since Boston won its last champi-
onship in 1918, two years before the Red
Sox sold Ruth to New York.
Hernandez, blowing on his hand to
keep warm on a chilly night, improved to
4-0 with an 0.97 ERA in five career
starts in the postseason.
El Duque shut down the Red Sox on
three hits through seven innings, but left
after Jason Varitek homered to start the
eighth and Nomar Garciaparra followed
with a double.
Mike Stanton relieved, setting off a
series mix-and-match moves by man-
agers Joe Torre of the Yankees and Jimy
Williams of the Red Sox.
Allen Watson wound up walking
pinch-hitter Butch Huskey to load the
bases with one out. But just like always,
the Red Sox fell short against the

Yankees.
Ramiro Mendoza came in from the
bullpen and kept it at 4-1, striking out
pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg on a 3-2
pitch that bounced and getting Trot
Nixon on a foul pop.
Jorge Posada hit a clinching two-run
homer off Tom Gordon in the ninth.
This first-ever postseason meeting
between the Yankees and Boston ended
up the same way regular-season duels
did for so many years, from the days
when Joe DiMaggio led New York over
Ted Williams and the Red Sox, to the
afternoon when Bucky Dent's homer
won a 1978 AL East tiebreaker.
Despite the disappointment, the Red
Sox fans did not let their frustration spill
over. Maybe a heavy security was
responsible but it was quite a different
scene from Sunday night, when the
Fenway faithful littered the field with
debris after an umpire's bad call.
Twice during the series, umpires
admitted blowing calls against Boston.
The Red Sox did not help themselves in
the five games, though, by making 10
errors.
Rather, all that promise the Red Sox
held - they rallied from an 0-2 deficit
to beat Cleveland in the best-of-5 divi-
sion series, then roughed up former star
Roger Clemens in Game 3 of this series
- went to waste.

*

AP rnu10
Quarterback Bill Burke wasn't exactly John Elway in Michigan
State's 52-28 fall to reality against Purdue last Saturday.

fl

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