The average time of a nine-inning game increased six minutes this season to 2 hours 53 minutes, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician. That's one minute short of the record length set in 1994. Commissioner Bud Selig was angry with the length of games during the 1997 World Series, when the average was 3:31.

"The 'Unfinished Symphony' had a better chance of finishing before that game last night," he said after watching Game 3 between Florida and Cleveland last 4:12.

Length of games has mostly increased over the years. In 1981, the average was 2:33.

* ATTENDANCE LEVELS OFF: Baseball's average attendance dropped this year for the first time since 1995, the season after the 7 1/2-month strike. The 30 major league teams averaged 29,210 fans per game, according to unofficial figures compiled by the commissioner's office. That's a 0.3 percent drop from last year's average of 29,285.

* 'BIG LEAGUE' STUFF: Danys Baez abandoned Cuba's national baseball team in August with dreams of playing in the major leagues. Scouts who watched him work out yesterday in Costa Rica said his 98-mph fastball might get him there.

"He's definitely big league material," Dodgers scout Mike Brito said. "The velocity is extraordinary. Without doubt he has a good future."

* RANDOLPH WILL TALK WITH ROCKIES: Yankees Coach Willie Randolph will interview for the Rockies' vacant managerial position when the playoffs end. Randolph, 45, a former Yankees second baseman finishing his sixth season as third-base coach, said the Rockies sought permission for the interview to replace Jim Leyland. A Yankees spokesman confirmed that permission was granted.