Publish date:

Inside Baseball

A's Ablaze
The torrid bat of Miguel Tejada has fueled Oakland's red-hot

Bud Selig and Donald Fehr had barely finished patting themselves
on the back last week before Miguel Tejada began wondering what
the new labor deal meant for him. Would increased revenue sharing
enable the small-market A's to re-sign their All-Star shortstop
when his contract expires after next season? "I'd be really happy
if it does," Tejada says, "because I want to stay here."

The price he'll command is rising faster than Martha Stewart's
legal bills. When the season began, Tejada was known as a
flighty, free-swinging power hitter who was just as likely to
make a superhuman play in the field as he was to botch a routine
one. He hit at least 21 homers and drove in at least 84 runs in
each of the last three years; he also struck out 285 times and
made 62 errors. It was a decent resume, but it still left him
looking up at the American League's mighty triumvirate of
shortstops, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter.
On Sunday, however, when he extended Oakland's winning streak to
18 games with a ninth-inning, walk-off three-run homer against
the Twins, Tejada, 26, just about banged down the door to that
elite club.

He's also putting up MVP numbers: Through Monday--when he added a
game-winning RBI single in the ninth as the A's beat the Royals
7-6 to win their 19th consecutive game, tying the AL record held
by the 1906 White Sox and the 1947 Yankees--Tejada was among the
AL's top 10 in average (.311), home runs (30), RBIs (116), runs
(97), total bases (296) and average with runners in scoring
position (.373). On May 19 Oakland manager Art Howe moved Tejada
into the third spot in the order, where Jason Giambi had been a
fixture until he bolted for the Yankees after last season. Tejada
had spent the off-season at his home in the Dominican Republic
studying video; staring at clip after clip of himself flailing at
breaking balls out of the zone convinced him that he needed to be
more selective. As a result he has cut down significantly on his
strikeouts; he had just 69 in 573 at bats this year. He has also
developed into the run producer the A's desperately needed: In 95
games in the third slot Tejada had driven in 93 runs. Before
Tejada was moved, the A's were 19-23; since then they were a
scorching 67-28.

During the A's recent streak Tejada hit .372 with 18 RBIs. "He's
taken a huge step forward this year," says Oakland first baseman
Scott Hatteberg. "He's absolutely carried us."

On Deck
Next Up in the Week Ahead

HOW THE WEST WILL BE WON. Down the stretch the four AL West teams
will play only one another in the season's final three weeks. The
madness begins on Monday when the first-place A's start a
four-game series against the Angels. The Mariners do the same in
Texas that night.

GIANT KILLERS? Playing for their postseason lives, the Giants--the
only NL team with a winning record (8-7) against the Diamondbacks
this year--wrap up the season series against Arizona this weekend
with four games at Pac Bell Park.

To read Stephen Cannella's weekly Touching Base column, go to

COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN Tejada hit .372 with 18 RBIs as Oakland reeled off an AL-record-tying 19 straight wins.

Keeping Score
Who is helped (or hurt) the most by the new labor deal?


--Smart small-market teams
Increased revenue sharing means that a team like the Twins has
chance to retain young, homegrown stars such as centerfielder
Torii Hunter.

--The Commish
Bud Selig can bask in glow of first labor deal reached without a
work stoppage since '70.

--Washington, D.C.
Contraction is shelved until at least 2007, but Expos can't
survive in Montreal. Our nation's capital is likely new home.


--The Boss
George Steinbrenner's revenue-sharing and luxury-tax bills will
likely top $50 million next year.

--Second-tier players
Demand and salaries for midrange performers will decline as teams
sign pricey superstars, then fill out rosters with low-paid spare
parts to avoid paying luxury tax.

--Spurned teams
Clubs that lose elite players to free agency no longer get draft
picks as compensation.