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Baseball blues

GRANT'S TOMB:

August 17, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

With the mighty Boston Red Sox plummeting out of the playoff race, a baseball fan must find other things to occupy his time during these dog day afternoons of August.

While thoughts of holding up a bank and shouting "Attica! Attica!" are quite appealing, I have held myself to more mundane activities and ultimately even more ordinary thoughts.

OK, let's face it, the losing Red Sox are certainly hurting me and ultimately leading me to consider other, more exciting aspects of the national pastime.

First of all there's Barry Bonds. Can the grumpy man from San Francisco catch Mark McGwire? I say no. My reason being that the San Francisco Giants are in a pennant race and winning games has always been more important to Barry than hitting home runs.

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That said, I would like to qualify my response by saying Barry certainly has the ability to catch Big Mac. I just don't think he has the mind to do it.

McGwire blasted 70 home runs with no pressure to win any games. I'm sure that each and every time he went to the plate he was looking to go yard. The same cannot be said for Bobby's kid. He's got to be a situational hitter as he tries to help the Giants catch the Diamondbacks in the National League West. And you can certainly figure that is what Barry will be.

From Barry Bonds in San Francisco I head north on Interstate 5 to Seattle, home of the mighty Mariners. As of the writing of this column, the Mariners are 54 games over .500 and headed easily into the playoffs. The Mariners are a juggernaut.

I'm not sure what's gotten in to the boys from the rain-soaked Northwest. Bret Boone has basically replaced Alex Rodriguez's bat, Mike Cameron is playing a solid centerfield in Ken Griffey Jr.'s stead and Freddy Garcia seems poised to become one of the game's top pitchers.

Then there is Ichiro. Let me assure you, this guy can hit. Having had the privilege of seeing the Mariners take on the Padres earlier this season, I can attest to his hitting prowess. He seems to have the ability to turn his body and with a wave of his bat, slap the ball wherever the defense isn't.

To be honest with you, I'm not surprised about how well he's playing. No, what surprises me is the fact that he isn't hitting .400. He seems to have the speed and the bat control to reach that number. Maybe it is something he can shoot for after a season of getting "acclimated" to big league pitching.

While Ichiro is for real, what about the M's? Well, I just have to say their record speaks for itself. There seems to be little else to add about a team that is 87-33. They're just a really solid baseball team. They sort of remind me of the late-'90s Yankees. They are not a team built around one central superstar, but a true team in every sense of the word. If one guy doesn't step up, then another does the job for him. From their first hitter to the last guy on the Mariners' bench, the team from Seattle is a squad that should not be taken lightly. I would not be surprised if this group wins it all.

Lastly, in this triumvirate of tantalizing baseball tidbits is baseball's iron man, Cal Ripken. This guy should have announced he was retiring three or four years ago. He is hitting over .300 since and seems to hit a home run every game.

The same thing seems to apply for Tony Gwynn. The portly Padre is hitting close to .400 and actually has a chance to reach that mark for the entire season. It would be with a limited number of at-bats, but that hardly seems to blemish the importance of the mark.

So there you have it. Three of the best things baseball's got going, three things to watch even as your favorite team goes slip- slidin' away, three things to consider as another BoSox bid for a World Series title blows out the window.

It seems ultimately the Red Sox have learned that Mr. Paul Simon was ultimately right when he said, "You know the nearer your destination, the more you're slip-slidin' away."

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