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Regan could be Dodgers' go-between after Lasorda

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tom Lasorda is like Jason from Friday the 13th: He survives. Somehow, he always comes back. If the Los Angeles Dodgers hadn't qualified for the postseason, that probably wouldn't be the case. Los Angeles owner Peter O'Malley thought Lasorda deserved a 20th year as manager for his long and relatively good service for the club. Another factor, however, is that the club doesn't have an heir apparent.

A few years ago, ex-Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell was being groomed as Lasorda's replacement, but his luster has faded. Rick Dempsey, the manager at Triple-A Albuquerque, is not considered a candidate. The long-term plan is for former catcher Mike Scioscia, thought to be one of the brightest players in the game when he was with the Dodgers, to be prepared by giving him managerial and coaching experience in the minors.

"We don't replace people as often as other organizations," said O'Malley. "Continuity and stability are important to us. If you're going to replace someone, you should have someone you can believe can do a better job."

Scioscia won't be ready for a few more years, and it's hard to fathom that the Dodgers will stay that much longer with Lasorda, who fell asleep in the dugout on several occasions this year.

So who could manage in the interim? Suppose Phil Regan is let go by the Orioles. He and Dodgers general manager Fred Claire are close, and, at one time, Regan was thought to be in the line of succession behind Lasorda. Regan is a former Dodgers player, a prerequisite in Los Angeles. He used to work in the organization as a scout. He is loyal and believes in functioning as a link in a chain of command, something the Dodgers insist upon.

Regan could replace Lasorda at the end of next season (or during the season, if the Dodgers flounder), and manage for a few years until Scioscia is ready.

Mountain of Rockies bills

* The Rockies, like the Orioles, are committed to major money for next season. Colorado owes $24.4 million to seven players, and that's not including free agents Dante Bichette, Walt Weiss and Bruce Ruffin, all important to the Rockies. Bichette, who turned down a two-year, $8 million offer from the Rockies, may not get the kind of money he wants from Colorado. But then, there won't be many teams dangling that sort of contract this winter.

* Toronto second baseman Roberto Alomar told a friend last month that he wants a contract worth about $5 million per year. If it's so, that's very good news for the Orioles.

* Look for the Boston Red Sox, Orioles and Rockies to wage a bidding war for Alomar and Houston second baseman Craig Biggio.

La Russa & Steinbrenner?

* The New York Yankees have joined the pursuit of Oakland manager Tony La Russa. In some respects, it's hard to see this as a match -- George Steinbrenner giving a long-term contract to a manager is almost a punch line -- but on the other hand, La Russa could effectively run the team, using a direct pipeline to the owner. One of La Russa's coaches thinks the manager will wind up with the Orioles.

* Reds owner Marge Schott became the object of derision last week when she called the poor turnout to the playoffs' "disgusting," and suggested that Reds fans are "spoiled." She grew frustrated after the Game 2 loss at the slow pace of the elevator that would take her down to her car; one writer close by counted as Schott hit the elevator button 27 times.

* When Ken Griffey singled in the last inning of the division series against the Yankees, just before Edgar Martinez hit his game-winning double, at least one witness was surprised.

Reds second baseman Bret Boone, a former teammate of Griffey's, was sure Junior would hit a homer. "He is the greatest player ever to walk this earth, the best to ever put on a uniform. He can do whatever he wants. I sat in the dugout [with Seattle] and heard him not only predict he would hit one out, but which field he would hit it to. And he would do it."

Pirates eye Pa. right-hander

* The Pittsburgh Pirates have the first selection in the amateur draft next year, and the early leader for the first pick is Matt White, a right-handed high school pitcher from Waynesboro, Pa.

* Jeff Juden, traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the San Francisco Giants last week, earlier this year asked manager Jim Fregosi why he was being dropped from the rotation. Said Fregosi: "Because you're the most unprofessional player I've ever seen, you big, fat lazy piece of [garbage]." Just a guess, but this also may have led to the trade, as well.

* Somebody asked Indians GM John Hart whether he liked the idea of a Cleveland-Cincinnati World Series. "I like the idea of the Indians and anyone in the World Series," he replied. "I'd play the Little Sisters of the Poor."

Wear a helmet, Jose

* If Jose Canseco, a free agent, returns to the Red Sox, manager Kevin Kennedy said he would play in right field a lot more next year. "Not every day, but he'll see a lot of time out there. There were circumstances involved where I didn't want him to go out there [in '95]. We had a shortened spring training and I didn't want him to hurt himself because his bat was too

valuable to us."

* The Astros' trade for San Diego Padres infielder Ray Holbert this year was a move to find a potential replacement for Orlando Miller, who angered his teammates with his alleged refusal to play with any sort of injury. One time, Biggio even screamed at Miller in front of his teammates in an attempt to motivate him to play, but that didn't work.

* Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin and Atlanta right-hander Greg Maddux, who had a tiff over a supposed beanball in September, patched things up last week, their conversation going like this:

Larkin: "Everything's cool, right? What happened, happened, and it's over." Maddux: "I know, I know."

At the time, though, few understood why Larkin thought Maddux threw at him intentionally -- there was a runner on base and slugger Ron Gant was on deck.

Sosa unlikely to wait for O's

* Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa is four days short of having enough service time to qualify for free agency, which makes it unlikely he'll be with the Orioles next year.

Even if the players are credited with some service time from the strike, that may not happen until next spring.

Hard to believe that Sosa is going to sit and wait that long before re-signing with the Cubs.

* Before Friday night, Reds manager Davey Johnson had been criticized during the playoffs for ignoring parts of his bullpen -- right-handers Xavier Hernandez and Hector Carrasco and left-hander Chuck McElroy -- that helped the Reds win the NL Central.

Johnson had even bypassed that trio to use converted starters Mark Portugal (the loser in Game 2 against the Braves) and Dave Burba. But Hernandez understands.

"He has to go with his hot guns," said Hernandez, who pitched along with Carrasco on Friday night. "I don't like it, but I understand it."

Warning: labor stuff

The way the owners are posturing, it appears they will sit and wait and make the labor leaders sweat and buckle a little before they begin negotiating in earnest, sometime in spring training.

Union leader Donald Fehr faces a major challenge in trying to hold together the players association, because the rank and file seem unwilling to walk out again. Before the last strike, the players were defiant, confident in their resolve against the owners. So often now you hear players talk about how the owners and the union need to hammer out a deal -- Atlanta reliever Mark Wohlers said as much last week -- a subtle difference from a year ago.

Once the World Series is over, the owners will possess the leverage in these negotiations. In the wake of Streak Week and what has become a terrific postseason, the faint hope here is that they choose not to wield the leverage, and instead negotiate in good faith, for the good of a game that is proving to be so resilient.

By the numbers

* Colorado, Houston and Cleveland were the only teams that signed each of their first 15 selections in the June amateur draft. Detroit, Toronto and New York all failed to sign five of their top 15 picks. The Orioles failed to sign three of their top 15.

* The Blue Jays will be in the market for a closer this off-season. Toronto left-hander Tony Castillo failed in eight of his 21 save chances in '95, worst rate in the majors.

* Mike Benjamin, traded from the Giants to the Phillies last week, set a record this year by collecting 14 hits in three games. The rest of the year, however, he totaled 27.

* Every time that an AL team housed in a dome for a full season has qualified for the postseason, it has won the World Series (Minnesota in 1987 and '91, Toronto in '92 and '93). A good omen for Seattle.

* Orel Hershiser's career postseason stats: 6-0, 1.47 ERA.

* Remember how the St. Louis Cardinals always prided themselves on speed? Well, this year they finished 11th in the NL with 79 steals and want to upgrade in the off-season.

* Third baseman Jose Oliva batted .061 with runners in scoring position for Atlanta, prompting a trade to St. Louis. Then he hit .111 with runners in scoring position for the Cardinals. See a trend?

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