Baseball Questions to Ponder As the Cold Weather Settles In

The major-league baseball calendar has entered its fourth and final annual phase. Spring training, the regular season, and postseason are over, "hot stove" discussions in full swing. Some of the topics generating the most interest follow:

Are the champion Florida Marlins coming apart at the seams?

Possibly. Club owner Wayne Huizenga, who bankrolled the champions, is in the process of selling the club, which he says won't be able to return to the World Series unless a new revenue-generating domed stadium is built. Outfielder Moises Alou, a central figure in the team's title run, has been traded to Houston in an early sign that high-salaried players may be jettisoned. Slugger Gary Sheffield could be among the next to go. Manager Jim Leyland, while agreeable to staying on, doesn't seem inclined to put down roots.

Who won the major postseason awards?

The American League hardware went to Seattle's Ken Griffey (MVP), Toronto's Roger Clemens (Cy Young, top pitcher for the fourth time), Boston's Nomar Garciaparra (top rookie), and Baltimore's Davey Johnson (top manager). The National League lineup looks like this: Colorado's Larry Walker, a native-born Canadian (MVP), Montreal's Pedro Martinez (Cy Young), Philadelphia's Scott Rolen (rookie), and San Francisco's Dusty Baker (manager).

Why did one of baseball's best managers walk out on the Orioles?

Davey Johnson and club owner Peter Angelos did not see eye to eye. The relationship further eroded when an angry Angelos learned that Johnson had directed second baseman Roberto Alomar to pay a disciplinary fine to a charity for which Johnson's wife works. Soured by the controversy, Johnson resigned the day he was named American League Manager of the Year. Pitching coach Ray Miller was made Baltimore's fourth manager in five years.

Who are the biggest stars likely to to be traded?

Pitchers Randy Johnson of Seattle and Pedro Martinez of Montreal.

What triggered all the realignment talk and what's happened?

A stopgap plan to shoehorn the 1998 expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays into the American League by grouping them with Seattle, Oakland, Anaheim, and Texas in the West Division didn't fly. A broader examination of existing league and divisional alignments followed. A major overhaul involving 15 teams was rejected by team owners. Other less radical alternatives were floated, but in October the decision was made to switch just one team from the American to the National League, providing a 16-14 split important to interleague scheduling. Kansas City passed, opening the door to Milwaukee's jump. Further realignment could follow by 1999.

Why are the Brewers, the first team to switch leagues this century, so pleased about joining the National circuit?

For one, Milwaukee used to be a National League city. When the Braves played there between 1953 and 1965, they won the 1957 World Series against the Yankees, then lost to New York the next year. The move also places the Brewers (a 1970 expansion team) in the NL Central with the Chicago Cubs, a logical geographic rival.

What is the procedure for stocking the two new expansion teams?

Tomorrow, Nov. 18, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays will rummage through players deemed expendable by the other 28 major-league clubs. Existing major-league teams can protect 15 players during the first of three selection rounds.

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