Still, the Jays have missed some of what they gave up to rebuild the team. They lost sluggers George Bell and Fred McGriff in the off-season, and only newcomer Carter proved to be a consistent home-run threat. Instead, the Jays attack is often spearheaded by the speed of its first two hitters in the batting order, White and Alomar. Said Parker: “We need Devo and Robbie to have a good series to make this offence work well.”
The team that the Jays face this week has been largely overhauled since it won the World Series in 1987. Only seven members of that 24-man roster remain. In the past two years, the Twins added pitching stars Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera by trade and Jack Morris from the free-agent market, and saw second-year right-hander Scott Erickson blossom into a potential Cy Young winner as the AL’s best pitcher. And the Twins led the AL in team batting average, largely on the performances of s uch longtime stars as centre-fielder Kirby Puckett and such newcomers as designated hitter Chili Davis, who joined the team this season as a free agent.
Officials of both clubs conceded that no matter who wins, they will pay for their success. MacPhail said that after winning the 1987 World Series, Minnesota lost many of its players because it could not afford to pay them what the market would bear. He said that the 14 players from that squad who are still in baseball now earn a combined annual salary of more than $25 million, which is about the same as the Twins’ total 25-man players’ salary budget for 1991. “We are in a small market, and we really can’t take the economic pressure that goes along with winning,” he said. But Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, whose budget was padded by an estimated $50 million this year from ticket revenues, predicted that his payroll might increase by as much as 25 per cent next season.
On paper, the style and strengths of the AL finalists are so similar that the series should be tight and entertaining. Both have arguably the best pitching staffs in their divisions. Both are defensively sound and have players with character and experience. “We match up well with the Blue Jays,” MacPhail told Maclean’s. “I think the game will be close and the series will go six of seven games.” But Beeston, who had just watched the Jays’ dramatic come-from-behind conquest of the California Angels to clinch the division last week, said that he liked his team’s chances. “It’s going to be tough, but the American League East hasn’t been a picnic either,” he said while ducking the spray of champagne in the winners’ raucous locker room. He added: “It should be a lot of fun from here on in.” And fun, in the Squeaky-Clean Series at least, is what baseball is all about.