U nconventional wisdom for a Friday morning . . .
Barry Bonds: Mr. Timing. He went one for Atlanta, the Pirates went 0 for Atlanta, and now he's headed for 0 for 3 in National League playoff appearances. When baseball's owners/free-agent bidders watch him now, what do they see? Bobby Bonilla and $30 million and .249 and the Mets in fifth place?
Pittsburgh Pirates: Write off '90 and '91 as choke holds if you want, but this time, the operative term is overmatched. The Braves have more of everything, everywhere except maybe manager, and Jim Leyland overworked his brain cells just to get this far. But there is a newspaper strike in Pittsburgh, so when the Pirates are eliminated at home this weekend, they won't have to read about it.
American League playoffs: Two expiration dates draw near. If Toronto loses, there goes Cito Gaston, into the Canadian sunset. If Oakland loses, there go 13 free agents, into the browsing bins of winter.
Tony La Russa: A good manager, yes. But a magician? Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Ruben Sierra, Harold Baines, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Ron Darling, Mike Moore, Terry Steinbach--yep, the working definition of a bare cupboard.
Jim Abbott: Memo to Gene, Jackie, Whitey, Rich and Dan: According to Buzzie Bavasi, letting Nolan Ryan get away was the worst mistake he ever made. Coming this winter, Ryan II? The choice is yours.
Cal State Fullerton: Welcome to the year of the boycott. UCLA fans say no to the season opener. Fullerton offensive backs say no to the football. Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy says no to the program after 1992. And now, the entire Titan team briefly considered saying no to next week's game at Southwestern Louisiana. All this time, Dr. Gordon has been mulling the future of Fullerton's Division I-A status, yes or no. I would guess he's getting closer to the answer.
Dave Winfield: Life begins at 40, to say nothing about what happens after leaving Anaheim.
Tommy Lasorda: The Dodgers lost 99 games, finished 35 games out of first, finished last for the first time since 1905 and jettisoned the art of infield defense back to the Stone Age. So what did Peter O'Malley tell his reprieved manager behind closed doors? "Just don't let it happen again."
Cincinnati Reds: Lou Piniella wins a World Series in 1990, 90 games in 1992 and announces he has had enough. Bob Quinn brings in Bip Roberts, Tim Belcher and Greg Swindell, and Marge Schott fires him. What's going on over there? The Angels?
The Raiders: The Commitment to 1-4 Boys stop talking to the press after a beat reporter writes that the team is only two guys away from the Super Bowl--a ticket broker and a bus driver. Not only can't the Raiders take a joke, they can't take the truth, either.
The Pac 10: Seven deep for the first time since . . . when? Washington is No. 1, Stanford won at Notre Dame, Arizona almost won at Miami, Cal has Russell White, Washington State has Drew Bledsoe, and USC and UCLA have yet to fall off the map. And the Freedom Bowl has the third-place finisher locked up. There will be no Tulsa this year.
49ers 27, Rams 24: The best-played Rams game in three years. If not a return to 1989, it was, at least, farewell to 1991.
Jim Everett: Amazing what an extra second's worth of protection can do.
The New Orleans Saints' pass rush: I mean, the difference is unbelievable.
Magic Johnson: We're only going to say it once. It's his life.
Dennis Eckersley: American League MVP, and it ought to be by a landslide. And if not, if too many "purists" decree that a relief pitcher is unworthy, the name of the award is downright fraudulent.
Junior Felix, Lee Stevens: So who's the Marlin, and who's the Rockie?
Kirby Puckett: Bonds or no Bonds, if you're going to spend $40 million on anybody, make it this body.
Marcel Lachemann: Ninety Angel losses, and then this. The Lachemann legacy, in brief: He turned Mike Witt into a Cy Young candidate, he taught Chuck Finley the forkball, he molded a 15-game winner out of a hockey player named Kirk McCaskill, he resurrected Bert Blyleven, he rebuilt Mark Langston's confidence, and he chaperoned Jim Abbott right off the University of Michigan campus into the American League. Whichever expansion team hires Rene Lachemann as its first manager gets brother Marcel as a throw-in as pitching coach. It's the best thing Rene has on his resume.
Philadelphia Eagles: Will Buddy Ryan make it down for the Super Bowl?
Miami Dolphins: That should be some story line in Pasadena come January: Keith Jackson faces his former teammates.
Mike Ditka: Now that he's 2-3 in the NFC Central, Ironhead Mike has entered the political arena, informing the world that a Clinton presidency would "set the country back 200 years." Follow your own rules, Mike: No audibles. And to all Chicago Bear fans: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?