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Monday, May 6
Updated: May 7, 5:29 PM ET
Baker's Dozen: The week in preview

By Jim Baker
Special to

1: Best Matchup of the Week
San Francisco at Montreal: Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Someone reading this four months from now -- after the Expos have faded -- might look back and think it silly. In fact, the Expos might even be at .500 by the time this series starts. Just once, though, it feels good to put them in the driver's seat.

2: Worst Matchup of the Week
Milwaukee at Chicago Cubs: Thursday through Sunday

Did somebody say runs? These two enter the week tied for 14th in the NL in runs scored. If not for the presence of the Pirates, they'd be entangled at the bottom of the league in that, the most important of categories.

Which leads me to this:


There is a place I used to go.
I can't recall it's name.
A charming spot as I recall
one with much acclaim

Now ‘tis just a memory --
a vague and hazy image.
A hallowed spot of glowing white
worthy of pilgrimage.

In days of yore I'd visit there
at least five times a day.
But now it seems I'm growing weak
and that I've lost my way.

In my mind I picture it,
forbidden and alluring.
Would that I could drop in there
when I go out touring.

But fate it seems has other plans
for one the likes of me.
That wondrous place that haunts my dreams
I know I'll never see.

3: Mismatchup of the Week
Boston at Tampa Bay: Monday

A loss will allow the Devil Rays to match their longest-ever losing streak of eleven.

There occasionally come revelatory moments in a season that, in one pitch or one play, sum up the entire existence of a franchise. Consider Saturday night's game between these two teams. The Devil Rays tallied twice in the eighth inning to pad their 3-2 to lead to 5-2. With Victor Zambrano pitching for Tampa Bay in the ninth, the Red Sox got runners on first and second but expended two outs in the process. Up stepped Nomar Garciaparra and Zambrano, rightfully so, threw one in the dirt. I say rightfully so because Garciaparra will swing at anything on the first pitch, up to and including a throw to first base to hold a runner. True to form, he swung from the heels and missed. Ditto on the second pitch: another unhittable offering and another strike, this time on a foul ball.

As the Devil Rays announcers correctly pointed out at this juncture, "there is no need to come over the plate right here." But Zambrano did and Garciaparra yanked one into the corner for a run-scoring double. You could almost fill in the rest of the inning with a crayon. Manny Ramirez was walked intentionally and Shea Hillenbrand was sent up to pinch hit. There now follows a sentence the likes of which I defy you to find in any game account from 2001: "Hillenbrand worked the count to 3-0." But his is the new Shea Hillenbrand, remember, the one who has taken it upon himself to learn the strike zone after years of neglect on this matter in the Red Sox system. After taking a called strike, he let fly on a fat pitch and sent it upward.

What followed was discombobulating to the eye. Having seen thousands of flyballs on television in the course of a lifetime, one gets used to a certain rhythm of things. The ball goes up and the ball comes down in a predictable amount of time. One also expects certain results by watching the outfielder. (A good parent will teach their child not to scream at every flyball at a game. "Just watch the outfielder and hold your reaction until then," they should admonish. In fact, a key signpost on the road to maturity is the day a kid stops screaming his head off every time a flyball is launched.)

In this case, Jason Tyner settled as if to catch the Hillenbrand fly and waited ... and waited. Finally, the ball came down much closer to the infield than where he was standing. It had hit the catwalk for a grounds rule home run -- scoring four and sealing the fate of the Rays once again. Ultimately, it all came down to that 0-2 pitch to Garciaparra -- a man begging for the opportunity to beat a pitch out of the strike zone into the ground for an inning-ending 6-4 forceout.

Such is the fate of misbegotten teams.

4: The From the Sublime to the Ridiculous Matchup of the Week
New York Yankees at Tampa Bay: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Looking for a reason why the Yankees got swept by the Mariners in their own park? Obviously, they were looking ahead to their next opponent, the Devil Rays. It's like dating Halle Berry one day and Moms Mabley the next. Yes, one is bound to be easier than the other, but what is gained from the experience?

5: The Why Has God Forsaken Us? Matchup of the Week
Pittsburgh at Arizona: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

So called because the Pirates must face both Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in their three-game set. While I have listed the Red Sox-Rays game as the biggest mismatch of the week, that is based on where the teams are at this point in the season. In terms of pure probability of victory, Monday's game in this series (Josh Fogg vs. Randy Johnson) has got to be the most lopsided. In fact -- and the faint of heart might want to avert their eyes at this point because I am about to mention a criminal activity -- the Diamondbacks are -320 according to one of those illicit off-shore gambling dens you've read about in the pulp comics. For the uninitiated, that means you would have to bet $320 to win $100 on them to win. That's pretty darn high, but can you -- even for a moment -- envisage any other outcome?

6: Old School Matchup of the Week
St. Louis at Chicago: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

This is a heck of a rivalry, but it's looking like another year where the Cubs will take a backseat to their neighbors to the south. In fact, since the beginning of World War II, Chicago has managed to finish ahead of St. Louis only 14 times, with one tie. The last time was in 1998 (by six games, costing Mark McGwire the MVP Award he so richly deserved). The high-water mark for the Cubs came in their 1988-90 run. Otherwise, it's been all Cardinals.

7: You Can't Go Home Again Matchup of the Week
San Francisco at New York Mets: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Who said that? "You can't go home again?" I think they meant to say, you can't live at home again. You and your mother will eventually come to blows about how late you're staying out and the strange noises coming from your room. Here is a list of all the teams that have gone home again in the 20th Century -- not to live, but to visit:

The Obvious
Los Angeles @ New York Mets, 1962-present
San Francisco @ New York Mets, 1962-present
San Francisco @ New York Yankees, 2002
Atlanta @ Milwaukee, 1998-present
Atlanta @ Boston, 1997-present
Oakland at Kansas City, 1969-present

The Defunct But Still Possible
Milwaukee @ Seattle, 1977-1997

The Defunct
Minnesota @ Washington, 1961-1971

The Possible
Baltimore @ St. Louis
Oakland @ Philadelphia
Los Angeles @ New York Yankees

The Hypothetical
Texas @ Washington, 2003- ?
Minnesota @ Washington, 2003- ?

The Obscure
New York Yankees @ Baltimore, 1954-present (the Yankees played in Baltimore in 1901-02)
Baltimore @ Milwaukee 1970-1997, (the Orioles moved from St. Louis in 1954 and to St. Louis from Milwaukee in 1902)

8: The Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen Matchup of the Week
Cleveland at Baltimore: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

If this were 1996 or 1997, boy -- you'd sure be in for something here, let me tell you. Why back then when Jesse Orosco was only 40, he pitched for the Orioles when a game between these two teams meant something. Oh, they had lineups then! Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson (wait, he's still around, but he was different back then, I tells ya!), Manny Ramirez, Matt Williams, Brian Giles, Eddie Murray ... every man jack of them a cut above. Now ...

... they enter play right around .500, surprising for the Orioles and about expected for the Indians. Baltimore pulled this same stunt last year, lest we forget. They made a run at .500 and then faded into oblivion. Given the sorry state of the Blue Jays and Devil Rays, perhaps their fade won't be as decisive this time around.

9: Rich Man Poor Man Matchup of the Week
New York Yankees at Minnesota: Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Unlike their slacking counterparts in the National League, your junior circuiteers are still lighting up the scoreboards. These two teams have scored about the same number of runs (165-162 Twins) and posted similar team OPS to date (.811 to .801, Twins). Before we get carried away with the notion that Minnesota is pulling off some kind of heist with their much lower payroll, know that the Twins have surrendered 30 more runs than has New York. In spite of all that, they do have the better record.

Here's the big difference, though. If things remain as they are with both teams in contention three months from now, the Yankees will go out and get whomever they need to seal the deal. The Twins will not.

10: The Red Sox Finally Meet the Varsity Matchup of the Week
Boston at Seattle: Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Apart from four games against the Yankees, the Red Sox have yet to play a substantial opponent in 2002. That all changes this week when they travel to Oakland and Seattle both. Seattle and Boston have been roadmasters this year, going 14-2 and 12-2 respectively. Just wait until the Mariners get their home game together, then you'll see something.

In how many seasons in the recent past have the Red Sox had a piece of first place only to relinquish it at season's end? 1972. 1974. 1977. 1978 ... do I have to keep going? I'll skip forward to ... 2000. 2001. And now, 2002? Did the schedule makers set them up just to continue this tradition?

Red Sox pitchers have allowed four more baserunners than they have innings pitched (245 to 241). That's just cold, regardless of who they've been playing.

11: The Excuse Me I Believe You Have My Seat Matchup of the Week
St. Louis at Cincinnati: Friday, Saturday and Sunday

So named because the Reds are where the Cardinals were predicted to be. Just give it time, though.

12: The This Time Our Opponent Really Does But You Still Can't Wear a T-Shirt Stating as Much Matchup of the Week
Toronto at Seattle: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

According to reports, vendors were selling "Mariners Suck" T-shirts outside of Yankee Stadium during the recently completed sweep of the Yankees by those Seattlers. As we know, Mariners management will not allow their fans to wear reciprocating accouterment, showing the door to anyone who fails to comply with their no "Yankees Suck" T-shirt policy.

So, the T-shirt I'd like to see sold outside Yankee Stadium the next time the Mariners visit would be one that reads thusly:

"Mariners Suck for Not Letting Their Fans Say We Suck"

13: Divisional Pride Matchup of the Week
Check out ESPN Insider for the details on baseball's best and worst divisions in 2002.

Jim Baker's 'Baker's Dozen' column appears on Mondays during the baseball season. He also writes Monday through Friday for ESPN Insider.

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