BALTIMORE (FAF) — The squad of World Series opponents who Earl Weaver will bring to New York to face the World Series Mets in the Fall Fantasy Classic  won’t be lacking for star power, but the absence of a couple of big names will be conspicuous.
“Do we or do we not have seven Hall of Famers on our roster?” an irascible Weaver asked reporters. “I don’t think talent is a problem here. This may be as good a bunch as I’ve managed since 1969. We won 109 games that year, ya know.”
True enough, Weaver’s Junior Circuiteeers, a team consisting of five members apiece from the clubs that faced the Mets in the 1969, 1973, 1986, 2000 and 2015 World Series, drips with accolades, including five men who captured six Most Valuable Player awards and a trio of Cy Young winners. But the New York tabloids will no doubt make back page fodder from a couple of non-selections.
Weaver could not choose Roger Clemens of the 2000 Yankees, thanks to a ruling from Classic Commissioner William “Spike” Eckert. The Mets petitioned the commissioner’s office for the suspension of Clemens from his “irresponsible behavior” stemming from the infamous bat-throwing incident of 2000 in which the pitcher flung the barrel of Mike Piazza’s bat at Piazza after Piazza fouled off one of Clemens’s pitches. Though no action was taken against Clemens at the time, the Mets asked Eckert to invoke the “best interests of baseball” clause to keep the righthander from participating “in such an important showcase”. Eckert reportedly decided in favor of the Mets after plucking a scrap of paper reading “SUSPEND” from a hat in his office.
Opponent general manager Brian Cashman did not file any sort of grievance in return.
The action marked Eckert’s second suspension in advance of the Classic. Previously, he decided, “sans hat,” to ban longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner from entering any of the ballparks in which the games will be played. A source close to the commissioner said, “that one was just a matter of good taste.” Cashman declined to comment.
Clemens theoretically could have been added to the roster as a member of the 1986 Red Sox, but Weaver resisted the urge to add him to a staff that will include his Boston rotationmate Bruce Hurst and three 2000 Yankees: starter Andy Pettitte and relievers Mariano Rivera and Mike Stanton. While Pettitte is practically synonymous with postseason pitching and Rivera is considered the gold standard for relief, Stanton struck observers as a surprise choice, but as Weaver pointed out, the lefty retired all 13 Mets he faced in the 2000 Series, “and the Mets have some tough lefty bats.”
The other 2000 Yankees on the Mets opponents’ roster are first baseman Tino Martinez and center fielder Bernie Williams, meaning — because of the ironclad limit of five players from each team rule — shortstop Derek Jeter will not play in the Fall Fantasy Classic. “We’ll be fine,” was all Weaver would say in response to questions about how he could leave off the 2000 World Series MVP and such an all-around stalwart of the game. Jeter issued no reaction, but is reportedly “too involved firing people in Miami” to turn his attention back toward the field.
“I admire the way Jeter is running the Marlins,” principal opponent owner Charlie Finley told reporters. “Besides, if Williams is around, we don’t have to hire an extra national anthem singer.”
With Jeter inactive, shortstop will be manned for the American Leaguers by Bert Campaneris, who was a thorn in the side of the Mets during the 1973 World Series. Other Oakland A’s on the roster will be that October’s MVP Reggie Jackson, starting pitcher Catfish Hunter and relievers Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles. Jackson, Hunter and Fingers are all in the Hall of Fame, each having played a pivotal role in downing the Mets in seven games in ’73. Knowles pitched in all seven contests, impressing Weaver with his durability.
From his own 1969 Orioles, the manager chose two Hall of Fame position players, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson, and his co-Cy Young winner Mike Cuellar, plus a pair of wild cards: left fielder Don Buford and catcher Clay Dalrymple. “I’m not being coy,” Weaver said. “You guys know why those guys are there.” Indeed, Buford left his mark on the 1969 World Series early, belting a leadoff home run off Tom Seaver in Game One, while Dalrymple owns a .500 career average versus the Mets ace, including a pinch-hit single in the tenth inning of Game Four.
“I’m sorry I can’t have more of my guys,” Weaver admitted after a drag on a cigarette. “I had to leave Boog off. I had to leave McNally off. I’ll miss Blair’s and Belanger’s gloves. Palmer’s good, too, but he drove me crazy. Let him go shoot another underpants commercial.” Weaver added he thought about finding a spot for his second baseman Davey Johnson, but knowing Johnson would be coaching first base for the Mets “made the whole thing too weird.”
Two Kansas City Royals will round out Weaver’s pitching staff: starter Johnny Cueto and swingman Chris Young. Each was highly effective versus the Mets in 2015. Their teammates set to join them on the Fall Fantasy Classic opponents roster are versatile Ben Zobrist, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and World Series MVP catcher Salvador Perez. The selection of Dalrymple and decision to bypass the defensively challenged Jorge Posada likely means Perez will be catching every inning of the Classic, a prospect that doesn’t worry Weaver, who relied on a platoon of Elrod Hendricks and Andy Etchebarren when the ’69 Orioles fell to the Mets.
The rest of the A.L. team will consist of the four 1986 Red Sox besides Hurst: outfielder Jim Rice, his fellow Hall of Famer third baseman Wade Boggs, second baseman Marty Barrett and first baseman Bill Buckner. Bucker’s selection raised a few eyebrows in light of his tenth-inning error that tilted Game Six and perhaps ultimate momentum to the Mets in ’86.
“Ah, I don’t worry about that [stuff],” Weaver said, brushing off Buckner’s moment in the harshest of spotlights. “This is a guy with nearly 3,000 hits and a batting title. What am I gonna do — not take Bill Buckner?”
AMERICAN LEAGUE FALL FANTASY CLASSIC ROSTER
Cuellar, Mike (LHP) – 1969 BAL
Cueto, Johnny (RHP) – 2015 KCR
Fingers, Rollie (RHP) – 1973 OAK
Hunter, Catfish (RHP) – 1973 OAK
Hurst, Bruce (LHP) – 1986 BOS
Knowles, Darold (LHP) – 1973 OAK
Pettitte, Andy (LHP) – 2000 NYY
Rivera, Mariano (RHP) – 2000 NYY
Stanton, Mike (LHP) – 2000 NYY
Young, Chris (RHP) – 2015 KCR
Dalrymple, Clay (L) – 1969 BAL
Perez, Salvador (R) – 2015 KCR
Barrett, Marty (R) – 1986 BOS
Boggs, Wade (L) – 1986 BOS
Buckner, Bill (L) – 1986 BOS
Campaneris, Bert (R) – 1973 OAK
Martinez, Tino (L) – 2000 NYY
Robinson, Brooks (R) – 1969 BAL
Zobrist, Ben (S) – 2015 KCR
Buford, Don (S) – 1969 BAL
Cain, Lorenzo (R) – 2015 KCR
Jackson, Reggie (L) – 1973 OAK
Rice, Jim (R) – 1986 BOS
Robinson, Frank (R) – 1969 BAL
Williams, Bernie (S) – 2000 NYY
MANAGER: Earl Weaver
COACHES: John McNamara (Pitching), Joe Torre (Third Base), Dick Williams (First Base), Ned Yost (Bullpen)
NOTE: Fall Fantasy Classic roster must consist of five players apiece from each New York Mets World Series opponent roster. If a player is injured during the Classic, he may be replaced, but only by a member of his year’s World Series roster.