In case you hadn't noticed, there is a lot of similarity between what's going on in Cleveland these days and what happened three years ago in these parts.
The Indians not only have an identical game plan on the field -- they also are preparing to move into a new park that is a near-mirror image of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Not only that, the owners also have the same last name, though not necessarily the same economic philosophies.
"I want a contender, positive cash flow and fair return on our investment," is how Richard Jacobs describes his goal as Cleveland's owner. His timetable for the Indians is to win 70 games this year, reach the .500 level next year and be a contender when the new stadium (Gateway) opens in 1994.
Sound familiar? That's roughly the way the Orioles went into the 1989 season, when they surprised even themselves by winning 87 games and were not eliminated from the division race until the next to last day of the season. Three years later, the park at Camden Yards is a reality, and the Orioles are giving a good impression of a contender.
In Cleveland, construction of the team and the stadium is under way. The Indians have made trade-off deals with their best young players, signing 12 to multi-year contracts that carry beyond their early arbitration years. "This is the only way to build and keep a team," said Jacobs, whose input is being felt on and off the field.
Jacobs' willingness to deflect $70 million of potential income during the next 15 years to construction costs allowed plans for the Gateway to survive. The funding of the $163 million project is unusual in that the cost is being divided equally between the private and public sectors.
The private portion comes from a bond sale and revenues generated from 21-24 luxury boxes by a "Founder's Club." These are the plushiest of the 118 suites available for lease (there are 78 at Camden Yards). The public money is coming from a 15-year "sin" tax on alcohol and tobacco.
Of the 94 suites already sold, 23 "Founder's Club" companies agreed to 10-year leases -- with all of the money (as much as $1 million) paid up front, and going directly to stadium costs. During the course of 15 years, $70 million of revenue will be diverted from the club's income to the Gateway's general operating fund.
That part, of course, doesn't sound familiar.
The park itself is almost a replica of the Orioles' new home at Camden Yards. Designed by the same firm, HOK in Kansas City, the ballpark is being built downtown and will contain approximately 42,000 seats. The most significant difference to the casual observer, however, is that the Gateway's right field will look like left field at Camden Yards, and vice versa.
"There's not much you can do to re-invent the wheel," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' vice president in charge of public relations. "We told them what we were looking for and how we wanted it to fit into the urban area.
"Having had the chance to see the new Comiskey Park [also designed by HOK] and the plans for Camden Yards, we knew the direction we wanted to take. But there will be enough for people to know they are in a different park."
Still, the biggest difference will be that more spectators will be sitting in the sun in right field.
Keeping up with Fay: It's getting tougher to keep score in the continuing Fay Vincent-George Steinbrenner debacle. First the commissioner said he had reached a decision about whether to lift the Yankees owner's suspension, and had informed Steinbrenner of his verdict -- but delayed an announcement, saying it would come a week later.
It was almost as if Vincent was testing Steinbrenner to see if he would "leak" the news, which he has been known to do. Then, after uncovering "new" evidence, Vincent backed off and decided to question certain witnesses to see if Steinbrenner had violated the terms of his suspension by participating in day-to-day operations of the Yankees.
The first person summoned was Gene Michael, the Yankees' general manager, who apparently decided he might need counsel. He also apparently figured it might be a good idea to get a lawyer familiar with the case.
But Bob Costello, who had been previously involved in this matter, was a little too familiar for Vincent, who barred him from representing Michael, who is caught in the middle of the muddle. All I want to do is build a team," said Michael, who insists he's had no contact with Steinbrenner.
Obviously, Vincent had decided to allow Steinbrenner to return to full control of the Yankees next year, otherwise these additional hearings wouldn't be necessary. But, even if his reasoning for disallowing Costello had merit, you have to wonder if it really matters.
It certainly can't be that he thinks Michael's testimony would be influenced by Costello's presence. One of the conditions set by Vincent when Steinbrenner was suspended was that all key Yankee employees had to sign a statement each month saying they'd had no direct contact with The Boss.
But those statements were not submitted to Vincent. Instead they went to David Sussman, who is the Yankees' chief counsel. Now, if you were an employee of the Yankees, do you feel that might have been a little intimidating?
A little O's trivia: And no peeking.
When he played third base in the ninth inning of that 15-1 fiasco in Detroit last weekend, Jeff Tackett became the 38th player used by the Orioles at that position since Brooks Robinson retired in 1977. No, you don't have to name the other 37.
A little-known fact is that the Orioles have used 32 of the 38 since trading Doug DeCinces after the 1981 season. Here are two questions related to the post-No. 5 era:
Who was the Opening Day starter at third base the year after Brooks retired? (Hint: He's a former teammate who's still playing).
Who are the five who played the position after Brooks retired, but before the DeCinces trade?
The best of Sparky: Speaking about the Tigers' need for immediate help, manager Sparky Anderson compared his team to the Toronto Blue Jays. "We're going to the fast food place," he said. "We need it now.
"Toronto can go to a gourmet restaurant -- they can wait to order."
After his team scored six times to take a 6-0 lead in the second inning Thursday, then had to break three ties for a 14-10 win, Anderson said: "I'd make [pitching] roster changes during the game if they allowed it."
In that game, which lasted four hours and one minute, Anderson might have had enough time. The first 3 1/2 innings took two hours. At one point, Anderson was spotted wearing a baseball glove in the dugout.
"I tried on [Rob] Deer's glove just to get a feel for it," Anderson said. "We got a hit, so I kept it on. It was one of those innings we got a lot of runs."
An unhappy camper: Montreal's Delino DeShields is unhappy because of what he said he believes to be unreasonable treatment by the Expos.
"I feel the organization has put too much pressure on the young guys," said DeShields, referring to himself, Larry Walker and Marquis Grissom. "They expect me to perform like Ryne Sandberg -- and that ain't the way it is right now.
"I've been here three years. They expect you to play like guys making $2-3 million, but they pay you $300,000. I've had enough of all that -- I'm playing for me."
He had good intentions: Reliever Scott Bailes decided to have T-shirts made to commemorate the Angels' near-tragic bus crash while en route from New York to Baltimore one month ago today.
The only problem was he got the date wrong. The shirts say May 22, 1992, but the accident took place in the early hours the day before.
"Typical left-hander," said manager Buck Rodgers, retaining his sense of humor despite being the most seriously injured member of the Angels. Rodgers is still in a wheelchair, and not expected back until at least late next month.
Trivia answer: Eddie Murray was the Orioles' Opening Day third baseman in 1978 (DeCinces played second base).
The five who followed Brooks, but not Doug, in addition to Murray, were: Kiko Garcia, Dan Graham, Wayne Krenchicki and (drum roll please) the pride of HTS -- John Lowenstein.