|  Baseball Index  |  Peter Gammons Bio


Mulder matures into ace

Special to

Oct. 10
A's 5, Yankees 3
When Mark Mulder went to pitch for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod League after his sophomore season at Michigan State in 1997, he was raw. He didn't play baseball his freshman year, then as a sophomore he played first base more than he pitched, because he batted over .400. But, to quote Doris Troy, all it took was just one look: the poker face, the perfect delivery in which he stayed over the rubber in the same position for every one of his 100 pitches, the angle he created, his ability to work both sides of the plate, throwing two- and four-seamers.

Later that summer, Bobby Orr, a VP at Woolf Associates, played golf with Mulder to recruit him as a client. Mulder beat him the last three holes in the match-play competition, and Orr was not only stunned by Mulder's poise, but was convinced the then-20-year old had the makeup of a Tom Glavine, a 200-game winner.

Understand, Mulder hasn't pitched anywhere near as much as a Barry Zito, but as he carved up the Yankees in Game 1 at The Stadium, his expression was that of a guy eating breakfast. He hit 96 on the gun. He threw groundballs, he cross-seamed, he threw changes, a great curveball, backdoor sliders. He showed he is that rare pitcher who can throw it by hitters, and play five-pitch inning baseball.

But that is what the A's are about: talent, poise, a little cockiness. They are what they are because their front office and organization can judge, evaluate and project talent (hey, Mets fans, like Rogers and Taylor for Long and Isringhausen?). In fact, they are Bud Selig's worst nightmare, because if the "small-market" A's ever make it to the World Series, how do you shut down an industry?

The A's are what they are because of competency; the Pirates are what they are because of the opposite. Just what the Players Association argues.

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 1
You don't have to be Walt Jocketty to know that the single most significant pitcher acquired at the trading deadline was Woody Williams. The stories about his brilliant 4-1 conquering of Randy Johnson -- and forget the "postseason" stuff, the man has had a lot of bad luck and the way he pitched in '95 got Safeco built -- you will see all his glorious stats in St. Louis, right down to this being seven straight starts in which he's allowed two earned runs or less and completed seven innings.

Williams and Barry Zito and big curveball pitchers have been immensely helped by the strike zone emphasis, both on the high strike and because umpires are trying to call pitches by where they cross the plate, not where the catchers receive them.

But, in reality, Williams wasn't traded at the deadline. He and Ray Lankford cleared waivers after the deadline and then when each cleared, they were swapped, with St. Louis making up the difference in salaries so that the Padres pay Lankford is what they would have paid Williams. Now, don't bash the Astros, who decided not to trade for the Houston native when he gave up five homers in one game in Enron. Understand this: if anyone had claimed Williams when he went on waivers the first of August -- anyone, the Mariners, Indians, Red Sox, anyone -- the Padres would not have taken him off and that claiming team would have had him for nothing but the $7 million he's owed next season.

Let's say the Indians or Red Sox or Orioles had put in a claim. The Cardinals wouldn't be going home to a sold-out ballpark in the best baseball town in America with a split won against Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.

Braves 1, Astros 0
It's unfair to start piling onto the Astros, and their history of never winning a postseason series. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine have been brilliant; Glavine's unrelenting willingness to throw changeup away after changeup away -- two straight at 3-and-1 with two on to Chris Truby in the fifth -- kept the Astros off-balance. Then the third member of the Heart Brigade, John Smoltz, proved he can maintain his velocity on back-to-back days by coming in and throwing 97 mph in the ninth for the save.

And the 'Stros were unlucky, as Brad Ausmus' potential two-run homer missed going out by no more than 16 inches. Oh yes. They made the deal almost every team would have made, for Pedro Astacio, and decided not to chance Woody Williams in Enron Field.

That said, the good folks in Houston are ticked, as their players grumble about manager Larry Dierker who clearly is testy after the team's late-season struggles, was criticized for not pitching to Barry Bonds and in the opener for not bringing in Octavio Dotel with a lead in the eighth inning. But if the Astros go down in Atlanta -- and no team in the Division Series has lost the first two games at home and won the series -- there will be some serious questions asked about this team.

Is this a flawed offensive team? In 13 postseason games with the Bagwell/Biggio team, they have scored one or no runs eight times. One NL team's report is simply, "they do not make adjustments to right-handers' sliders and curveballs down and away or left-handers' changeups away." Owner Drayton McLane is not going to lose money next season to be disappointed, and as Moises Alou and Pedro Astacio head to free agency and Dieker's future is debated, some changes may be forthcoming.

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories

Gammons: Day one notes

A's get best of Clemens in New York, take series lead

Williams outduels Big Unit as Cards even series

Braves send Astros to brink with 1-0 win

Gammons: column archive

 Dan Patrick Show
Jason Giambi realizes that Oakland's superb second half positions the Yankees as underdogs.
wav: 206 k | RealAudio

 Dan Patrick Show
Jason Giambi continues to put the finishing touches on his MVP speech.
wav: 672 k | RealAudio Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
Copyright ©2000 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site.