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On the Duquette watch

MAILBAG: Sept. 10

Q: Who do you think would be a good GM in Boston if Dan Duquette does indeed get fired? Is John Hart a possibility? -- Kevin Bergstrom, Auburn, Mass.
There are reports that the sale -- and when the wired Will McDonough is in the urging phase, one wonders -- could be done by Nov. 1. That would give the new owners time to rebuild the organization. If Tom Werner and Les Otten get the club, Duquette will stay. Otherwise, my guess is that they will hire someone new, and Hart is a possibility; just check the man's record. The club president will be a key.

Q: Everyone always talks about the great young trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Do you think Houston could have the next trio of young studs in Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller and Carlos Hernandez? Is there a chance they could turn out to be better? -- Leslie Dupuis, Deweyville, Texas
There's a chance, of course. Oswalt seems to be Hudson, Miller is terrific, and while Hernandez is hurt, I am a big Tim Redding fan. Only time will tell.

C.C. Sabathia
Indians starter C.C. Sabathia has Rookie of the Year numbers, but Ichiro is tough competition.
Q: C.C. Sabathia has had a remarkable season for the Indians and is a crucial reason why they will be in the playoffs. How do you see the voting for the AL Rookie of the Year turning out? Will the outstanding performance of a "true" rookie ignite more debate over whether Ichiro Suzuki should really be considered a rookie? Does Sabathia have a legitimate chance? -- John Snellings, Charlottesville, Va.
My thoughts have been known for a long time -- I feel that to make Kazuhiro Sasaki or Ichiro the Rookie of the Year is an insult to Japanese baseball, which is a major league.

Q: After reading about Manny Ramirez wanting out of Boston, I wondered who would take him and what the Sox would get back. The Red Sox have pitching needs and right-side infield holes. Maybe a Ramirez for Edgardo Alfonzo-Glendon Rusch deal with the Mets would work. -- R.J. Hawk, Clemson, S.C.
Manny will not be traded. What he intended was that the insanity around the clubhouse was driving him crazy and he couldn't deal with it. As his agent Jeff Moorad told me, this is the first time for this experience, with so many people going after one another, and that he will help Manny through it.

Q: With the Yankees pretty much a lock for the postseason, and since it's looking like they'll play Oakland, do you see the Yankees and A's using three- or four-man first-round rotations, since it backfired last year on Joe Torre with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte getting bombed in Games 4 and 5? -- Frank Wagenblast, Edison, N.J
I think Mussina will go in Game 3. Clemens roaring to the mound in the Stadium and Pettitte at home make them the favorites in that and in all series until proven otherwise.

Q: I have a question about your thesis that the best AL teams have had the best pitching. While it's certainly true that the top teams have solid pitching, it seems that the real connective tissue between the top AL teams is great hitting. In runs scored in the AL, Seattle is No. 1, Cleveland No. 3, Oakland No. 4 and New York No. 5. The pitching-poor Rangers do sneak in at No. 2. In runs allowed, Seattle and Oakland are 1-2, but Anaheim and Boston come in before New York, and Cleveland is mediocre at best. Doesn't it seem, from this data, that what has really marked the best teams is offense? -- Mikael Haxby, Philadelphia, Pa.
Your point is well taken, but when it gets to October and you have to play good teams every day, those five-inning starters from Boston wear down. Anaheim's starting pitching is pretty good at the top of the rotation, and Scioscia has done a remarkable job with the bullpen. Those three teams all can win it all because of their pitching.

Q: What do you think needs to happen to turn around the dysfunctional O's: Peter Angelos sells the team, Syd Thrift goes away, or both? They keep defending the farm system, but I sure don't see a Furcal, Berkman, Zito, Mulder, Dunn, etc., down there. -- Rich, Baltimore, Md.
I think Angelos has learned a lot, and if he can get a strong GM and let him do his work, with the scouting department working so well and some good people there, I think it can work with Angelos. The Red Sox made it to the ALCS with their ownership.

Q: With the success of Ichiro, what are the chances that Kazuo Matsui and Hideki Matsui will play in the U.S. next year, or other stars from Japan? -- Rob Teaker, Grand Rapids, Mich.
I think there's a very good chance, and I actually think Tsuyoshi Shinjo will open the door to more players because he was a .249 hitter in Japan. Problem is, few of those players have the athletic skills Shinjo brought to the Mets.

Q: I was watching Baseball Tonight, and I noticed the Expos have had three straight games with only about 3,000 people in the stands. If they are not moved or removed from baseball, something is wrong. Obviously, the population of Montreal couldn't care less. Otherwise, they would try to fill the place to save the team. What's the most likely scenario for the Montreal Expos? -- Pat Morgan, New York City
Bud Selig would like to fold the Devil Rays and move the Expos there. If it doesn't happen, MLB might have to allow Jeffrey Loria to move to Washington, which they do not want to do. Last Thursday, with the minor-league playoffs under way and no more than two games in any league, 11 minor-league and independent league teams outdrew the Expos, including Staten Island.

Q: Now that Ivan Rodriguez will miss the last month of the season for the second year in a row due to injury, how is this going to affect his "trade value"? Since it's obvious that his knees are starting to break down after 10 years of catching, should the Rangers sign him to a long-term deal or go ahead and trade him? What in return can Doug Melvin get for him? -- Dave Normanski, Ennis, Texas
I think what will happen is that he will play it out to free agency next season, then walk.

Q: The NL Cy Young Award looks to be a three-horse race. I am partial to the long shot, Matt Morris, but I think either Curt Schilling or Randy Johnson will get it because of their names. How would you handicap it and do you think Morris has a shot? -- Tim Swallers, Crown Point, Ind.
I don't think so because of his lack of publicity, but I do think he deserves serious consideration. We make far too much of strikeouts. I like some of these pitchers like Morris and Mulder who can have a stretch of easy innings because of their power sinkers and have a better chance to go deep into games rather than having to be removed in the seventh inning with 15 strikeouts and a two-hitter.

Q: Have you ever listened to the group "The Tragically Hip"? If not, I would suggest "Fully Completely" or "Road Apples." Poetry put to music, I tell you. Let me know what you think. -- Brian Andersen, Des Moines, Iowa
I will stop at Strawberries tomorrow.

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