TORONTO -- On the face of it, the 90th World Series looks like a simple clash of personalities. The rough-hewn Philadelphia Phillies have brought their crude crusade to Canada, where they will face the button-down Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 tonight at SkyDome.
It is more than that, of course. This Fall Classic has been turned into a class struggle. The Blue Jays are the best team money can buy, and the Phillies are the best team for the money. The Blue Jays are a bunch of All-North American boys, and the Phillies are fighting each other for a place on Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed list.
If it is about talent, the World Series championship will remain in Toronto and the Blue Jays will become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the New York Yankees did it in 1977 and '78. If it is about mystique, the Phillies are positioned perfectly for an upset. They are the team that good taste forgot, but there is no question that they can play.
The Atlanta Braves can vouch for that. They spent $15 million for their starting rotation this year, only to be run over in the National League playoffs by a team Blue Jays Game 1 starter Juan Guzman described yesterday as resembling a bunch of "truck drivers."
"These guys have been called the 'Beasts of the East,' and they have been characterized as a bunch of nuts," Phillies manager Jim Fregosi said. "They have been characterized a number of ways during the course of the year. I call them a group of diversified personalities. I think the world of them. They play hard every day. They compete. If that's being crazy, I like them that way."
The Phillies have gotten a lot of mileage out of their spit-and-don't-bother-to-polish image, but only time will tell if it will have the desired effect on the Blue Jays. The Jays have all the postseason experience. They have baseball's best offensive lineup. And, according to manager Cito Gaston, they can go spit for spat with the Phillies if necessary.
"I think we have the same kind of personality," Gaston said. "We have hard-nosed players who play the game hard. They might get a haircut a little more often, but they still play the game hard. I don't care about long hair as long as you play hard. We're winners just like they are, and our guys are tough just like theirs are. Just because you shave more often doesn't mean you're not tough."
That was the consensus in the Blue Jays clubhouse after yesterday's workouts. They have reached the postseason in four of the past five years. That kind of consistency requires a certain amount of toughness.
"I think too much is made of appearances," Game 2 starter Dave Stewart said. "I think that the game is played between the lines, and that's where it should stay."
Between the white lines, the Blue Jays appear to have a definite advantage. They have an All-Star at almost every position. They have a steady closer. They have a playoff-seasoned starting rotation, even if it isn't quite comparable with last year's.
Guzman won both of his playoff starts impressively. Stewart registered the other two victories and was chosen the ALCS Most Valuable Player. Former Orioles right-hander Curt Schilling will be the starter for the Phillies tonight, and Terry Mulholland will start Game 2.
Schilling did not win a game in the NL playoffs, but he was selected Most Valuable Player of the NLCS after strong performances in Games 1 and 5. He struck out 19 batters in 16 innings and had a 1.69 ERA against the Braves, but he'll be facing a better offensive lineup -- top to bottom -- in tonight's opener. How he'll approach that lineup was not clear, and Schilling didn't make it any clearer yesterday.
"I'm going to look at video and see how pitchers have had success against them," Schilling said. "I don't want to say which pitchers because that might give away my strategy. But I wouldn't want anyone to think I have an idea of what I'm going to do, because I don't yet."
The World Series could come down to who sets the pace and who can hold things together at the end.
Phillies leadoff batter Lenny Dykstra has captivated the baseball world with his take-no-prisoners approach, but the Blue Jays' lineup begins with a player who might be the best leadoff batter in the history of the game.
Rickey Henderson was a no-show in the American League Championship Series, batting .120, but he remains one of the most dangerous and distracting players.
"I've had some nagging injuries that have held me back," Henderson said, "but I've been taking some treatment, and I think I'm starting to hit the ball better. I'm anxious to go out there and do what they brought me here to do. . . . I know I'm ready to break loose. I've been ready to break loose."
Dykstra didn't set the NLCS on fire, but he delivered a winning home run in Game 5 that set the Phillies up for Wednesday night's pennant clincher.
If the NLCS was any indication, there will be no shortage of suspense in the World Series.
Phillies closer Mitch Williams appeared in four games and made three of them very interesting. He had a 2-0 record, two saves and a 1.69 ERA, but the numbers don't tell the whole story. He blew two saves behind Schilling, but Philadelphia came back to win both games in extra innings.
Toronto closer Duane Ward did not have great numbers in the ALCS, but he is a more stable on-field personality than Williams, and that figures to be an advantage for the Blue Jays.
"Mitch puts you on the edge of your seat every time he goes out there -- that's just Mitch Williams," said Ward, who had two saves in the playoffs.
"Those guys over there are used to it. I try to get the job done with as few pitches as I can. With Mitch, it seems like he tries to get it done with as many pitches as he can, but he gets the job done. That's the bottom line."
The designated hitter rule always becomes an issue in October, so it was no surprise that the opposing managers offered different opinions as to its effect on this World Series.
Gaston said it would work to the advantage of the Phillies, because their pitchers have been hitting all year and they have a couple of good hitters on the bench -- Pete Incaviglia and Ricky Jordan -- to fill the DH spot in the American League city.
Fregosi said the Blue Jays have the advantage because they get to play by American League rules in four of the possible seven games.
This situation does appear to favor the Blue Jays, because the Phillies have no one to counter MVP candidate Paul Molitor in the DH slot. If Gaston was going to lose Molitor during the three games in Philadelphia, it might be different, but he probably will move Molitor to third base for a couple of those games.
Fregosi will use Jordan at DH in tonight's game. He also announced yesterday that Mariano Duncan will start at second base, Jim Eisenreich will start in right and Milt Thompson will start in left field.
The SkyDome may take some getting used to, but the Phillies manager said yesterday that he doesn't think it will be a significant factor.
"That's why we're here working out today," Fregosi said, "to get accustomed to it. That's also why Toronto will be working out at our place on Monday, to get used to the Vet. But really, It's not going to make any difference at all once the Series starts."