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The 10 most intriguing people in this World Series - and going behind the pay wall

Hideki Matsui hits a run-scoring single during the

Hideki Matsui hits a run-scoring single during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALCS. (Oct. 22, 2009) (Credit: AP)

1. Alex Rodriguez. Sort of an easy one, no? He makes his World Series debut with 583 career homers. Only one player has been a Fall Classic freshman with more career homers - yup, Barry Bonds, with 613. Ken Griffey, Jr. (630) hasn't made it there (and probably is done playing), and Sammy Sosa (609 never made it there.

Has A-Rod already ensured, with his fantastic first two rounds, that the chatter will stop about his inability to "come through in the clutch," or what have you? Or that he was somehow a "losing player" because he had never played in the World Series - never mind that he was playing for a team that considered Carl Pavano a $39.95 million player? One would hope so.

In any case, we are of course curious how A-Rod will finish up what has been the most fascinating season in a fascinating career.

2. Charlie Manuel. Yeah, what the hell, a sleeper pick. Ole Charlie belies the cliche, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Because to a often-snobby Northerner like myself, when I first met the West Viriginia native Manuel during his days of managing the Indians, I thought, "Why did the Indians hire Foghorn Leghorn as their manager?"

When Ed Wade hired Manuel to manage the Phillies in 2005, I argued, in print, that it was proof of Wade's incompetence, and that the GM should be fired. As it turned out, the Phillies did fire Wade after that '05 season, but his replacement - future Hall of Famer Pat Gillick - saw Manuel's value and kept him around. Manuel has outstanding people skills, and if his in-game moves sometimes give Phillies fans indigestion, enough of them seem to work out.

And now, Manuel is in a position to win his second straight World Series. However much we overrate managers - and we do - it's still impressive, for a guy who looked to be over his head back in Cleveland.

3. George Steinbrenner. Back in 2004, when the Yankees first acquired A-Rod, The Boss already was speaking to friends about his own mortality, and about his desire to see his team win one more time.

Tomorrow night, when the Yankees kick off their first Fall Classic appearance since '03, King George is scheduled to be in his luxury box - in the Bronx for the first time since the Stadium opener back on April 16. Do you think he'll grumble, "Gosh, i'm getting a little tired of these Lee-Sabathia matchups"?

In any case, it'll be great to see The Boss, of whom we often seem to speak of in the past tense even though he's still with us.

4. Hideki Matsui. It's easy to forget, now, that Matsui came to the Yankees from the Yomiuri Giants, the Yankees of Japan, with the expectation that he would be a World Series regular. In the interim years, Matsui's reputation in his native country has been damaged by his absence from the two World Baseball Classics. He would surely regain some luster with a strong performance in his first World Series since his rookie year (when he played very well, by the way).

5. Jimmy Rollins. His great reputation belies his so-so numbers, but like with Manuel, being the starting shortstop on a repeat World Series winner would open some doors for him, when you combine it with big individual postseason moments and a boisterious personality.

6. Derek Jeter. Can't put him too far behind Rollins. Remember when we used to talk about Jeter matching Yogi Berra's 10 World Series wins as a player? That probably wouldn't happen, now, even if Jeter played until he was 50; it's just too hard to get through three rounds of playoffs.

But it's intereting to compare "middle-aged Jeter," if you will with his younger self. He's more elegant than explosive now, and he's still a huge asset. And, of course, his every move sets off the debate of "He's superhuman and can do no wrong in October" vs. "He's the luckiest player in baseball history. Stupid Nick Punto, making him look good again."

7. Brad Lidge. Relievers are volatile by nature, but my goodness, this guy is like the John Travolta of closers, going from sensation to bust and back and forth again. He didn't blow a save opportunity last year, and this year, he lost his job in September - only to regain it in the postseason.

This month has become "Survivor: Closers," with, in order, Ryan Franklin, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, Brian Fuentes and Jonathan Broxton all blowing ninth-inning leads in playoff games their teams proceeded to lose - and now their clubs are eliminated. Only Lidge and his Yankees foe Mariano Rivera have been perfect so far. Can both keep it up? Or will one join the list of six, making a difference in this Series? You've got to make Lidge the more likely candidate to fail.

8. (tie) Phil Coke and Damaso Marte. That's right. These guys figure to work, both of them, every single game, thanks to the Phillies' preponderance of lefty hitters (Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley) in the middle of their lineup. Yankees skipper Joe Girardi seemed to elevate Marte over Coke, based on his selection of Marte to pitch in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 5. But this is clearly a fluid situation, and again, they're both going to be needed.

10. Pedro Martinez. If you had told me in, say, May, "Pedro Martinez will start a World Series game for the Phillies," I would've told you, "Oh, yes. And on the very same day, I'm going to be named Secretary of the Treasury." But the White House hasn't called yet, and I don't see them calling. While Pedro is going to be starting against the Yankees.

>> Check out Pedro Martinez's top moments against the Yankees

I'd put Pedro higher on this list - what a pleasure it is to watch him pitch - but I really think that the Yankees hitters are going to devour him. As do a scout and coach with whom I spoke yesterday.

--Here's all of Newsday's coverage of the World Series, including my column on how the Yankees might have the Kryptonite to slow down Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard.

Photo credit: AP

>> PHOTOS: Ten reasons to fear the Phillies | Phillies arrive in NY for World Series | Yankees celebrate 40th AL pennant | ALCS highlights

>> BLOGS: E-Boland and the Bombers | Davidoff's Baseball Insider

>> MORE: World Series pitching capsules | Pedro Martinez's top moments against the Yankees | Tale of Two Cities: NY vs. Philly | VOTE: Who wins the series?

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OK, let's kick off this pay-wall discussion with a personal anecdote. Back in 2005, a gentleman named Mark Sabia was caught and exposed as a journalstic fraud. He had convinced virtually every professional sports league that he ran a legitimate television show up in Westchester, and everyone knew him for his Doogie Hower-esque appearance (more youthful than dashing, if you know what I'm saying) and loud outfits.

It was a hilarious story, and a producer from "Inside Edition" called me and said he wanted to interview me for a piece on Sabia. I said sure - back in those days, Newsday used to pay me for every TV appearance I made, so I set the bar even lower than I do now.

I went to their Manhattan studio, and the producer started asking me questions about Sabia - what was he like, blah, blah, blah - until he got to his money question. He clearly had scandals like Jayson Blair and Dan Rather/George W. Bush in his mind, and was trying to tie those in with this Sabia deal.

"What does this say about the state of journalism?" the producer asked, in his best Barbara Walters voice.

"Um, nothing," I responded.

"Well, he pretended to be a journalist," the producer countered.

"Right," I said, "He wasn't a journalist. So it says nothing about journalism. It says that the professional sports leagues should be more careful about giving out credentials."

I think I let the producer down.

In a very similar vein, I have read many reactions to the Newsday pay wall, and laughed at how many people are getitng it wrong, from well-meaning Tweeps of mine to well-meaning bloggers.

What does Newsday's pay wall say about the state of journalism, and newspapers in particular, and, to be even more specific, newspapers' on-line content?

Nothing. Well, virtually nothing.

If you seriously think that the Cablevision folks expect a slew of people around the country and world to say, "Five dollars a week? Where do I sign?" then as Bill Murray said in "Stripes," "I want to party with you, cowboy."

No, this has almost nothing to do with newspapers, and everything to do with the unique condition of a newspaper being owned by a cable company.

I get what Cablevision is trying to do here. They're trying to stay ahead in the more lucrative game of Internet access; as you can see in the linked story, those who subscribe to Optimum Online will continue to get Newsday.com for free. They're using Newsday.com as a carrot in the bigger battle against a certain, unnamed competitor.

That Newsday.com happens to be a newspaper entity is only midly relevant. Cablevision might be doing the same play if we made bacon, rather than a newspaper. It's very simple: "You can use our competitor for Internet service and pay an extremely high price for Newsday.com (or, Newsday brand bacon), or you can use our Internet service and get Newsday.com (or, Newsday brand bacon) for free." If you like Newsday.com even a little bit, why wouldn't you just use Optimum Online?

Unquestionably, a worker bee like myself takes a hit. It's going to be more difficult to expand my own brand name, if you will, if my stuff here isn't getting linked by other blogs.Twitter (which I will still use, probably more so) will carry me only so far.

But that's not Cablevision's problem. It shouldn't be. If my career suffers some, then I feel better about my job. Because I like the fact that Cablevision views Newsday as an asset, and looked a situation that no one besides the Wall Street Journal has solved - how to make good use of on-line newspaper content - and is trying something different.

I know that some of the regulars here, like Jim and Poppy, will stick around because they're Newsday subscribers. I suspect that others will somehow keep showing up, and I'll be like Charles Grodin in "Heaven Can Wait," shocked that Warren Beatty's character is still alive.

Yet for those of you who won't stop by anymore, both commenters and non-commenters, you will be missed, absolutely. Thank you for your patronage. I hope we can reunite someday.

In the meantime, stop by today for updates, before the wall goes up tomorrow.

Tags: Pedro Martinez , Derek Jeter , Jimmy Rollins , Alex Rodriguez , Charlie Manuel , Joe Girardi , George Steinbrenner

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