Oakland left fielder Rickey Henderson, whose offensive exploits led the Athletics to a five-game victory over Toronto in the 1989 championship series, broke his self-imposed ban on talking to reporters long enough to say that he is hoping for a repeat of his performance three years ago.
In 1989, Henderson set a league playoff record with eight stolen bases, batted .400, walked seven times, drove in five runs and hit two home runs during Game 4. He scored or drove in 13 of Oakland’s 26 runs during that series and was voted most valuable player of the series.
“I’m taking that approach, that I can dominate like I did in 1989,” Henderson said during Oakland’s workout Tuesday at the SkyDome. “I’m going out there to remember the things I did and focus on having fun, like I did then. I was mainly going out there and enjoying myself.”
Running against the Blue Jays, he said, wouldn’t be tough. Then again, he is the all-time leader with 1,042 stolen bases and doesn’t consider any team capable of stopping him.
“In my career, it hasn’t been hard for me to steal against any pitcher,” he said. “I can probably run against any pitcher or catcher. The biggest thing is to be able to get on the basepaths. I’m a better base stealer than I was when I was younger. I might not be faster, but I’m smarter. I’ve learned about how to read the time and pick a key to run on.”
Said Toronto catcher Pat Borders: “If he steals me blind, he steals me blind. There’s nothing I can do about it. He’s got speed and he’s going to get his stolen bases. The best thing you can do is keep him off base, but Rickey’s a good hitter, and you’re not going to do that.”
Said Blue Jay Manager Cito Gaston: “I said in ’89, ‘We’ll just throw the ball to third base and hold him there.’ You can’t pitch out and stop him. Hopefully, we’ll keep him off base. That’s all you can do.”
If the Blue Jays lose, Gaston’s job will be in jeopardy, and he knows it.
“We should have won in ’85,” he said. “I look back at that and I think it was just a year for Kansas City to win. In ’84, we had some injuries. In ’89, it took everything we had just to win the division and we went up against a great Oakland ballclub. Last year (against Minnesota), we should have won the third ballgame (after leading, 2-0). We had some runners on base and should have gotten them in. When we didn’t, I think they started to say, ‘I think we can beat those guys.’
“It’s different guys here and, hopefully, different results.”
Toronto left-hander Jimmy Key said he has no quarrel with being sent to the bullpen so Gaston can use a three-man rotation of right-handers Jack Morris, David Cone and Juan Guzman.
“I agree with it,” Key said. “It was the right decision because of the way Guzman can dominate and the way he pitched Saturday.”
Guzman turned in an eight-inning, one-hit performance Saturday against the Tigers.
Key, who was 13-13 with a 3.53 earned-run average this season, will be joined in the bullpen by Todd Stottlemyre, who was 12-11 with a 4.50 ERA.
The A’s took outfielder Dave Henderson, who has a sore hamstring, off their postseason roster and added outfielder Eric Fox. Injuries limited Henderson to 20 games and a .143 batting average this season.
The Blue Jays took catcher Mark Maksudian off of their 25-man postseason roster, replacing him with Randy Knorr.
Oakland hitting instructor Doug Rader, the former Angel manager, is enjoying his first taste of postseason play. Rader never made it to the playoffs as a player in 11 seasons with the Astros, Padres and Blue Jays; nor did he make it as a coach and manager of the White Sox or Angels.
But he is happiest merely about being healthy. Rader was overcome by dizzy spells during the summer and had to skip several road games. His illness was originally diagnosed as an ear infection, but was later found to be meningitis.
“By the time they found out what it was, I was on the mend,” he said. “It was pretty dicey for a while.”