Pierre's good, but he's no Rickey

Hey, when did Juan Pierre turn into the second coming of Rickey Henderson?

Seriously. If you believe what you read and hear -- and I won't get specific because I really enjoy my job -- you'd think that Pierre is one of the greatest leadoff men who ever ran the bases. Hell, one of the greatest players.

Well, he's not. He's a pretty good leadoff man, in part because there really aren't many good leadoff men. He probably ranked among the 50 best players in the National League this season. He's certainly better than I thought he'd be, and is one of the few players whose numbers have actually improved after leaving the Rockies.

But folks, let's not make him into something he's not. He's a singles hitter who finished this season with the ninth-best OPS among Marlins with at least 250 plate appearances. In other words, in any given game there was a pretty good chance that only one Marlin in the lineup -- the pitcher -- had a lower OPS than Pierre.

Yes, they had a pretty good lineup. Yes, Pierre did steal 65 bases. And yes, he's one hell of a bunter. But among all the players who might hurt the Yankees, he ranks somewhere near the bottom. I said it last week but it's worth saying again: the team that wins the World Series will be the team that draws more walks and hits more home runs. Those wheels at the top of the Marlins' lineup? They're just background noise.

A lose-lose situation

With that unpleasantness out of the way, it's time to answer the question that's been haunting baseball fans since last Friday morning: "Who do we want to win the 2003 World Series?"

Yes, it's better to just sink back into your plush sofa and let the baseball wash over you, without a care in the world for who actually wins. But we're not really built that way, are we? More often than not, when October rolls around we find ourselves pulling for one team or the other, even if our favorite has been knocked out long ago (or last Friday morning).

This year, it's not easy.

Sure, there's always a certain pleasure in seeing the Yankees go down. It's very hard to root for a team that's 1) owned by George Steinbrenner, one of the worst human beings in captivity, 2) outspends every other team by a significant margin, and 3) has already won four World Series in the last eight years. What's more, if the Yankees win, we'll all be subjected to the talk about Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Luis Sojo, etc., being "winners," as opposed to excellent players (well, not Sojo) surrounded by other excellent players.

But you know, there are some bad things about the Yankees losing.

If the Yankees lose, they might be just slightly more inclined to get better next season, and that's not good for anybody except them. As you know, their defense at second base and shortstop isn't good, and the Yankees might be even better if they address that deficiency. The Yankees are just sort of scraping by in right field, and if they lose they might be just slightly more likely to break the bank and sign Vladimir Guerrero. They've got some question marks in their starting rotation, and if they lose they might be just slightly more likely to buy every good pitcher that's available this winter.

Granted, they'll probably do most of these things anyway. But if they beat the Marlins, they might spend just a bit less money trying to defend their championship.

Also, if the Yankees lose, the Marlins win.

Don't get me wrong: The Marlins are a good story. They're the underdogs, and nobody -- I mean nobody -- thought, six months ago they'd be where they are now. If they somehow manage to beat the Yankees, you have to be happy for Jack McKeon, who's showing everybody there really is (baseball) life after 70. But it's pretty hard to be happy for anybody else (except maybe Pudge Rodriguez).

The Marlins' owner, Jeffrey Loria, is by most accounts a liar and a cheat (we'll know more this winter, when various court proceedings are resolved). The Marlins' ex-owner, Wayne Huizenga, is another awful man who stands to profit a great deal from the Marlins' success, because he still makes a hefty sum from the sale of concessions and the rental of luxury suites at Pro Player Stadium.

And what of the Marlins' fans? Well, they got fleeced by Huizenga in 1998 (and since), but they haven't exactly been supporting their team, and anyway isn't one world championship enough for a team that's only been around for 11 seasons? You look at the Marlins, who have won more World Series already than the Red Sox and Cubs have won in the last 85 years, and you say, "Why them?"

There's nothing good to be had from anybody winning the 2003 World Series.

Me? I'm just going to settle back into my sofa, and let the baseball wash over me.

Senior writer Rob Neyer writes four columns per week during the baseball season. His new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups," has just been published by Fireside. For more information about the book, visit Rob's Web site.