TORONTO -- The impending breakup of the Oakland Athletics was big news during the American League playoffs. Now, the focus is on the Toronto Blue Jays, who also could lose a number of key players to free agency.
There are 12 Blue Jays players who could become free agents, including Joe Carter, David Cone, Dave Winfield, Tom Henke and Jimmy Key, but manager Cito Gaston said yesterday he still feels the club can return to the World Series next year.
"If we can keep our pitching staff together and fill in with a couple of our kids here and there," Gaston said. "Every team is going to lose some players this winter, so we've got a chance to be here again."
Who will stay and who will go?
There are a number of players who seem certain to turn up in different uniforms. The Blue Jays don't figure to make a big push to re-sign Dave Stieb or Alfredo Griffin or Pat Tabler. There also is some doubt they will make a big play for Henke, since Duane Ward is a capable stopper and there is sufficient bullpen depth to replace his set-up innings. But there are some players who must come back for the Blue Jays to remain one of the game's most powerful teams.
It will cost big bucks to bring back Carter, who remains one of baseball's premier run producers. It also will be expensive to retain Winfield, who figures to get at least $4 million through salary arbitration. The club also would like to keep Cone, but there is no guarantee he will opt to return even if the price is right.
"I think you can always improve," he said. "We have a lot of free agents. I'm not sure if they're going to be back next year. So that's the first thing you have to do, that gap right there. As far as position, I think I'd like to improve the bench a little bit. Add some speed."
It will be difficult enough keeping the core of the club intact, but the players who are certain to be back hope the front office continues to show the same commitment to winning that carried the Blue Jays through a successful 1992.
"I think that the club is going to do what it can to keep a good team," Ward said, "but you can't keep a great team together forever. That's something that is part of baseball. It has been true since the first free agents.
Smith 4-for-5 and all-for-Braves
The grand slam hit by Lonnie Smith in the fifth inning last night was his fourth World Series home run. He has appeared in five World Series with four different teams, but all of the home runs have been in the past two years with the Braves.
The four RBI were the most by a player in a Series game since Oakland Athletics outfielder Dave Henderson drove in four runs in Game 3 of the Earthquake Series against the San Francisco Giants in 1989.
Stanton big relief for Braves
Braves left-hander Mike Stanton pitched the final three innings to qualify for the save. He wouldn't have qualified for the save if he had pitched fewer than three innings, because he entered the game with a five-run lead.Game 2 of the 1986 Series.
Plans were set before last night's game for a world championship parade in Toronto today, which struck some as presumptuous -- particularly considering the Blue Jays' come-from-ahead history. But Braves first baseman Sid Bream was not offended.
"Not really," he said. "You have to prepare for these things. I know if they win or lose they'll have a parade. It'll be the same in Atlanta."
Meeting of the Giants
Baseball officials will meet today in Chicago with the San Francisco group trying to keep the Giants in the Bay area, and there was speculation that the investors would be asked to increase their offer.
National League president Bill White said the meeting wasn't major, and deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg said the group headed by Peter Magowan was expected to submit additional details on its bid at the meeting.
Tribute to Barber
Longtime Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully expressed sadness at the passing of broadcasting great Red Barber, who was Scully's mentor in Brooklyn.
"Red Barber had a profound influence on my life and was a major reason for any success that I might have had in this business," Scully said in a prepared statement. "Baseball was richer for him and is poorer in his passing."
Hit and miss
The Blue Jays and the Braves entered Game 5 with a combined .197 batting average. The record for the lowest batting average in a five-game series is .184, set by the Orioles (.146) and New York Mets (.220) in the 1969 Series.
Toronto's .208 combined average going in to the game was one point lower than the lowest average ever by a winning team in a five-game World Series.
The 1905 New York Giants batted a combined .209.