10/02/2002 10:19 pm ET
Justice comes through again
Outfielder's postseason experience valuable to A's
By Kent Schacht / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Call him "Papa Postseason" or the "Prince of Playoffs," but don't dare call David Justice "Mr. October."
"Reggie is Mr. October," countered Justice at the suggestion that Jackson's famous nickname could also be his. "Like I told Reggie. 'They're just joking.' Don't y'all get Reggie riled up now. Reggie is Mr. October, always will be and deservedly so."
The suggestion that Jackson and Justice could share that moniker isn't far fetched, though, especially after Wednesday's 9-1 A's win in which Justice went 2-for-5, including a triple that drove in three A's runs
Justice, who is playing in the postseason for the 10th time in 12 years, is 4-for-10 with four RBIs in the ALDS so far. With a single in the third inning Wednesday, he moved past Pete Rose into second place all-time in playoff hits (88) with his triple. He also added to his record playoff RBI total (now 63) and also holds records for games played (109), walks (64) and at-bats (387).
During the regular season, his first with the A's, Justice hit .266, hitting 11 homers and driving in 49 runs. But he meant far more to the 2002 AL West champs than his numbers showed.
"Today gave you a little glimpse of how important he has been to this club," said manager Art Howe. "He has come up with a lot of great hits all season long, but he has been a leader for this team. And being in the postseason as much as he has been in, it's great to have him on the field for us."
Rookie second baseman Mark Ellis, who has hit behind Justice since late August, agreed, noting how much he's learned from watching the veteran.
"His knowledge of the strike zone is just amazing, especially this time of year," said Ellis. "Certain pitchers get ahead and then they try to nibble a little bit. He doesn't let them do it. He gets his pitch and he takes advantage of it.
"With runners in scoring position, he's amazing. He always seems to bear down and get the big hit."
With the calmness only a player with triple-digit playoff appearances can demonstrate, Justice attributed many factors to his success in October.
"It's a different feel," he said of October baseball. "It's a different season. I'm able to focus a little better for two or three weeks a lot better than I can for six months. Every at-bat is so important that you really have to focus, while during the season, sometimes it's tough to focus for 500 at-bats. For 25 or 30, it is a lot easier."
For Justice, that ease equals enjoyment.
"For me it's fun," he said. "You can't come through every time, and I haven't come through every time. But just going to the plate in big situations, it's exciting. I just feel very blessed. There are some great players that have played this game and never experienced some of the things I've experienced in the postseason."
Some of those things include a World Series appearance against the Twins in 1991 while a rookie for the first of Atlanta's amazing run of playoff teams. Justice said he sees many similarities between these young and fun A's and the '91 Braves.
"This team reminds me of the early days with the Braves. So does Minnesota's team, though. They remind me of us, too," said Justice. "Both teams are young, both teams have good pitching, both teams have a mix of veterans, they play a solid game -- very much so like us back in the day."
So as long as comparisons are on the table, who on the '91 Braves does the 2002 David Justice most resemble?
"I'm probably like Terry Pendelton on that team," said Justice. "He's a good guy -- like my big brother. Terry was awesome. Not only could he still play, but he was someone you could go talk to, he was a veteran who had a lot of knowledge about life."
Justice has said he'll probably retire after this postseason, but has left his foot in the door a bit, often citing how much fun this A's team has been. One thing could significantly ease his decision.
"If we win the World Series," said Justice, "I'm definitely taking it to the house, that's for sure."
Kent Schacht is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.