AFTER ALL the other predictions have been made, after computers and panels of experts and nationwide sports writer ballots have by now forecast the baseball races of '88, it is with great pleasure today that we announce the first and possibly annual (depending on how it holds up come October) Dane Iorg Cast-In-Stone Baseball Predictions.

If the author is to be believed, these may top them all."I guarantee these picks," says Iorg. "You can take these to the bank . . . Of course, myself personally, I don't bet."

You remember Dane Iorg. It hasn't been that long. He retired from baseball two years ago. His retirement was without a lot of fanfare, chiefly because he was playing for the San Diego Padres when they were dropping off the face of the earth. He had his moments before that, however, during a 10-year major league career that started briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1977 and included long stops in St. Louis and Kansas City before the last cup of coffee with the Pads.

Iorg won a World Series in both leagues, something even Babe Ruth didn't do. He was with the Cardinals when they won in 1982, setting a record with a .529 batting average as a pinch-hitter. He was with the Royals in 1985 and delivered the key hit in Game 6 to do in his old teammates, the Cards.

Invented line drive

For his career Iorg hit .276 with a high point of .327 with St. Louis in 1981. "He invented the line drive," Glen Tuckett, Iorg's baseball coach when he played at BYU in the early '70s, used to say, and would probably still say it if you asked him.

Iorg lives in Orem and works as a public relations director for Royal Pharmaceutical, a firm in Bountiful that is no relation to the K.C. Royals and is researching an anti-viral, anti-inflammatory drug that, according to Iorg, "is really an amazing product." He has a brother, Garth, who played in the big leagues, for Toronto, not to mention any number of friends, associates and former managers yet in the majors.

"He says, `Oh, I just want to follow some of the guys I know' well, with all the teams he was on, that's everybody," says Dane's wife, Gay.

So with that introduction we'll get right to the subject. Herewith the CIS (Cast in Stone) forecasts of '88 from a man who has been in both leagues, who has seen the different strike zones, who has experienced the varying nuances of the Homerdome and the AstroDome, who has inside information, and who has enough World Series rings that his hands are balanced.

THE N.L. EAST: 1. New York Mets, 2. St. Louis Cardinals, 3. Montreal Expos, 4. Philadelphia Phillies, 5. Pittsburgh Pirates, 6. Chicago Cubs.

"No doubt the Mets are going to win the East," says Iorg. "Basically, it's talent that wins in the end and they have it. They're probably better than any of the teams I ever played on, or against. They have the potential to be one of the best teams ever in baseball . . . when St. Louis didn't sign Jack Clark somebody was asleep in St. Louis. That surprised me. I think it surprised Whitey (Herzog, the manager) too. Whitey is the best manager in baseball. All the players know that. But he can't beat the Mets without Jack Clark . . . after New York and St. Louis throw a hat over the division. The Cubstraded away Lee Smith and they don't have anyone in the bullpen. I'm afraid for the Cubs."

THE N.L. WEST: 1. San Francisco Giants, 2. Cincinnati Reds, 3. Houston Astros, 4. Los Angeles Dodgers, 5. San Diego Padres, 6. Atlanta Braves. "The Braves will have the worst record in baseball. They'll lose a hundred games," says Iorg. "I love Murph (Dale Murphy) - and the poor guy has to play in Atlanta. I guess if you make $2 million a year you can tolerate some concessions . . . the Giants have great starting pitching and a good bullpen andtheir defense is good. They don't make mistakes. I think they'll win it by eightgames . . . the Dodgers are going to butcher it defensively. Any team that givesyou four outs an inning will find it tough to win . . . the Reds are hard to predict. If Mario Soto comes back they could be strong. Eric Davis is a great ballplayer."

THE A.L. EAST: 1. Toronto Blue Jays, 2. New York Yankees, 3. Boston Red Sox, 4. Milwaukee Brewers, 5. Detroit Tigers, 6. Cleveland Indians, 7. Baltimore Orioles. "This is a tough one," says Iorg, "I'm going to take Toronto. They've been close for about four years. Maybe they can put it all together this year. They have god pitching and good everyday players and everybody hates to go to Canada so that gives them an advatange . . . the Yankees will be close . . . I'll guarantee you there won't be a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, like a lot of people are saying. If there's a Yankees-Dodgers series I'll eat your newspaper . . . Baltimore's got the worst pitching in baseball, outside of Atlanta."

THE A.L. WEST: 1. Oakland A's, 2. Kansas City Royals, 3. Minnesota Twins, 4.Seattle Mariners, 5. Texas Rangers, 6. Chicago White Sox. "The Twins last year were like us (Kansas City) in '85," says Iorg, "kinda lucky. If they didn't have the Metrodome they wouldn't have a chance. It takes you three days to get used to that place _ and then you're out of there . . . Oakland has a powerful lineup and they've acquired good pitching. K.C. will make it close. I know they have good everyday players."

Iorg certainly can't be accused of bias by picking his old clubs, St. Louis and Kansas City, not to win their divisions. Although he does pick his brother's former team, the Blue Jays, to win the wild A.L. East.

"Like I said, you can cast these in stone," he says, obviously enjoying his new role of exalted guru forecaster. Predicting the races is easier than playing in them, although there is the off chance someone will clip and save what you've said and dredge it up like a ghost in October. But as any 10-year veteran ballplayer worth his pension knows, the difference between April and October isn't even worth thinking about.

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