It's Back to Business for Baseball
Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
ATLANTA (AP) â€” Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams would love to visit Turner Field later this year. So would David Wells and Carlos Delgado.
Chipper Jones, Andres Galarraga and Tom Glavine would welcome them.
Once their All-Star fun was over, players began to focus on another topic Wednesday: What's on tap for the second half?
Probably pennant races for the surprising Chicago White Sox and improved St. Louis Cardinals, and home run chases by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. And surely lots of rumors as the July 31 trading deadline approaches.
Wednesday produced a trade with a direct impact on pennant prospects.
The New York Yankees sent four minor leaguers to Cincinnati for Denny Neagle, the Reds' best starter and one of the top pitchers on the market. The left-hander with the $4.75 million contract is a free agent after this season.
Jones and the hometown Atlanta Braves hope this season means holding off the New York Mets in the NL East and making a ninth straight trip to the NL championship series. Maybe even a repeat matchup with the Yankees in the World Series.
Both the Braves and Yankees come out of the break in first place.
``We're in the lead right now. Hopefully we can stay there for 75 more games and give ourselves another opportunity to get there,'' Jones said.
That would be fine with Jeter and the Yankees.
The two-time champions would like a chance to win their fourth crown in five years. And if it means returning to Atlanta, that's fine.
``We've been fortunate here. We played some big games,'' Jeter said.
Jeter did it again Tuesday night, getting three hits as the American League beat the Nationals 6-3. He became the first Yankees player to be MVP of the All-Star game, although the award was not handed out until 1962.
Wells, leading the majors with 15 wins, is trying to pitch Toronto into postseason play for the first time since 1993. The Blue Jays begin the second half only three percentage points behind New York.
``The Yankees are right there, we're right there. There's a couple of teams that are close, and I think that the best pitching wins,'' he said. ``I think with the young staff that we have, these guys don't know what they have yet.
``I see it. It's a matter of these guys putting it together, because they have tremendous arms. This could be a good year for Toronto.''
The Boston Red Sox also are close in the AL East, and they should get a boost when ace Pedro Martinez returns from the disabled list. He's scheduled to pitch Thursday night when Mike Piazza and the Mets visit Fenway Park to start the second half.
Martinez, sidelined by an injured muscle in his side, and Piazza, out with a concussion after being beaned by Roger Clemens, were among several top names missing at the All-Star game.
Minus seven elected starters, the game was a bit short on star power â€” and power, period. In a year full of flying baseballs, Jones hit the only home run â€” there were seven foul popups for outs, however.
Alex Rodriguez could not start at shortstop for the AL because of a concussion and an injured knee. He's expected to miss at least the rest of the week for the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners.
McGwire was out because of tendinitis in his knee. The St. Louis slugger leads the majors with 30 home runs, while Sosa, now saying he wants to remain with the Chicago Cubs, is at 23.
``We are going to go out there and try to finish strong,'' Sosa said. ``You have to understand that in the first half, I was kind of like really, really not happy. But I believe now that I'm back.''
Sosa, who won the All-Star home run derby, still has to pass Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. Both have 28 homers, and neither felt well enough to play Tuesday night.
The final week of interleague play this season starts Thursday and features a matchup of first-place teams that hold the biggest division leads â€” Cardinals-White Sox at Comiskey Park.
Players on those two teams got to see plenty of each other at Turner Field, even though winning pitcher James Baldwin did not face Jim Edmonds, whose over-the-shoulder catch in center field was the play of the day.
Chicago's Magglio Ordonez hit a double off Darryl Kile, while St. Louis' Edgar Renteria grounded into a game-ending double play turned by second baseman Ray Durham.