Off-field action colors 1st half

Labor and steroid issues, deaths in St. Louis cast a shadow over the sport

Expos and Twins stay alive

Yankees get richer

Braves still in charge

managers on firing line

All-star Game

July 10, 2002|By Rick Hummel | Rick Hummel,ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Late game: Last night's Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Milwaukee ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at http://www.sunspot.net.

It was a first half like no other in major-league baseball.

Jose Canseco went from left-field candidate in Montreal to comeback candidate in Columbus, Ohio, to a promising, "tell-all' author if anybody will choose to believe the "tell-all' part. No one has yet.

It was a half played with the always-ugly specter of a labor stoppage hanging over everyone's head. Labor stoppage seems to have already begun in Tampa Bay, Toronto and on the north side of Chicago.

It was a half in which the St. Louis Cardinals lost two valued members of their family. Jack Buck's death, in a sense, was merciful, because of the six months of suffering he endured. Darryl Kile's death was puzzling, shocking, devastating.

Barry Bonds, who swung his way to home run records last year, will not be swinging as much on his way to another record. He threatens to walk 200 times this season, which is more than Eli Marrero will walk in his entire career.

The commissioner decided to try to contract two teams, one of them the Expos, but failed to pull it off. Then, inasmuch as this is baseball's team, he let the Expos trade two of their top prospects in a deal for pitcher Bartolo Colon. "We don't need no stinking prospects." say the Expos.

Bud Selig's other contraction candidate, Minnesota, has de fied the small-market disadvantage and should make postseason play. Commish, take a shot at knocking off those Florida teams. Neither Miami nor Tampa Bay wants major-league baseball anyway. Florida gets its fill of baseball in the spring.

The Cincinnati Reds won nine games that Ken Griffey started. And 37 that he didn't.

The New York Yankees stretched their unlimited budget by acquiring Raul Mondesi and Jeff Weaver at little expense, player-wise. The rich get richer and then they wallow in it in October.

Sixteen of the 30 major-league teams reached the break under .500. Only five teams who are not in first place are within five games of the lead. Thirteen of the remainder are 10 or more games back. Nice parity.

The Cleveland Indians have returned to "Mistake by the Lake' status. After winning six of the past seven division championships, the Indians are acting as if they will finish under .500 and will unload as many top-salaried players as they can.

New general manager Mark Shapiro, who is doing the unloading, gets high marks for his accountability, though.

"It's just been a bad job by the front office." Shapiro said. "A bad job by me."

The Atlanta Braves will win their 11th consecutive division title - with no first baseman, no second baseman and no production from their catchers. This is manager Bobby Cox's all-time best job.

And, speaking of managers ...

One of the biggest trends of the first half was to fire your manager. By the All-Star break, seven clubs had changed man agers. And at least six more - Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Texas, Philadelphia, the Mets and White Sox - must be contemplating the same.

The Cardinals" Tony La Russa has managed in the big leagues 25 years - which is three more than the total number of years managed by the skippers of 16 teams - the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Anaheim, Texas, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Milwaukee, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

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