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Cubs, Marlins react to Walker
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10/08/2003  7:52 PM ET 
Cubs, Marlins react to Walker
Boston's second baseman says AL will win Fall Classic
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NLCS skippers Jack McKeon (left) and Dusty Baker both had something to say about Todd Walker's comments on Wednesday. (Anne Ryan/AP)
CHICAGO -- It is only appropriate that on this 100th anniversary of the World Series, there is a little trash talk going on between the boys in the American League and the boys in the National League. And it also is fitting that it was started by someone with the Boston Red Sox, who proved in that first World Series that they were worthy of competing against the more established league.

Which league is better? Boston second baseman Todd Walker took it upon himself to restore that age-old question.

Before Wednesday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, the Associated Press reported Walker said, "The team that wins this (ALCS) wins the World Series. We're the two best teams in baseball. No disrespect to the Cubs and the Marlins, but we're the best two teams."

Them's fightin' words around Wrigley Field. Before the Cubs and Marlins began Game 2 of the NLCS, players and managers universally took some good-natured exception to Walker's comments. It is true that the AL will have the home-field advantage in World Series thanks to Hank Blalock's All-Star Game homer, and it is true that the Cubs and Marlins are both considered LCS surprise teams. But the Cubs won two of three from the Yankees during the regular season, the Marlins have Major League Baseball's best record since mid-May, and there are plenty more reasons these guys have to refute Walker's words.

"The team that wins this (ALCS) wins the World Series. We're the two best teams in baseball. No disrespect to the Cubs and the Marlins, but we're the best two teams."
-- Todd Walker

"He might be right. He can have an opinion," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "Well, I think one of us will have something to say about that. Those are two good teams, but we're not too bad, either. In postseason, you just never know what happens, whose pitchers get hot. Look at some of the past World Series ... 1954, when (Dusty) Rhodes hit that home run against the Indians. The Baltimore Orioles against the Dodgers in 1966. How about the Reds over Oakland in 1990?"

As long as McKeon is bringing it up, it should be noted that Rhodes hit one of only six postseason, extra-inning pinch-homers. Guess who just hit the sixth? It was Mike Lowell, in Game 1 of the NLCS to win for the Marlins.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker was told what Walker said, and then he turned pensive for a moment and esponded: "Nice ... how does he know? He can say whatever he wants. He didn't play in the NL (this season). Maybe in the past ... but when he played against Florida, they weren't very good, were they?"

Marlins reliever Braden Looper: "Did he say it right after they beat Oakland? A lot of things get said when they are tossing champagne around. We're going all the way, that type of thing. I personally think guys say (things) around the clubhouse, possibly for a motivational speech. Maybe that's something they use?"

Cubs bench coach Dick Pole has a unique view of this situation. He pitched the first four years of a six-year career with the Red Sox, and he was a member of their 1975 World Series team -- throwing one inning of relief, in Game 5. Told about Walker's comments, Pole said:

"I'm sure he based that on his vast playoff experience."

Baker to Pole: "How many has he been in?"

Pole: "This is the first."

Pole, with a grin: "So he was saying that the Yankees will win the World Series?"

Mark Newman is a writer for Joe Frisaro and Tom Singer contributed to this story, which was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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