There may be no good reasons left to show up at Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium before the start of the NFL season. The Florida Marlins are on pace to win 47 games this year and they already have lost two marquee players to season-ending injuries.
The latest to go down was outfielder Gary Sheffield, who tore ligaments in his left thumb Saturday and will be lost for the remainder of the season. The not-so-fresh fish already had lost premier closer Bryan Harvey, which probably cost them any realistic chance to be competitive in the tough National League East.
Owner Wayne Huizenga has spent a lot of money to make the club presentable in its early years, but the loss of Harvey and Sheffield have a double-barreled detrimental effect. The club still is on the hook to pay them, and now must try to draw during South Florida's steamy summer months without much to offer an already cynical public.
Is all of the great baseball being played in Ohio, or what? The Cincinnati Reds have been just as dominating as the Cleveland Indians, tied with Philadelphia for the best record in the National League. Their 28-14 record might be more impressive than the Tribe's 30-11 mark when you consider that they got off to that horrible 1-8 start. Since then, their winning percentage is .818 (27-6), better than the Indians (25-7, .781) over the same span.
It's got to be bad enough to be the Pittsburgh Pirates without your spring roster decisions coming back to haunt you. Pitcher Tim Wakefield was released in spring training, only to surface as one of the reasons the first-place Boston Red Sox were able to thrive in the absence of injured Roger Clemens. Wakefield went to 4-0 with his near no-hitter on Friday night. The Pirates have just one starting pitcher (Arundel High School's Denny Neagle) with a winning record.
The San Francisco Giants have reacted predictably to the loss of third baseman Matt Williams, who was still leading the league in all three Triple Crown categories nearly a week after he suffered a season-threatening foot injury. The club is 3-5 since he went down and has lost four in a row. The Colorado Rockies figured to be the main beneficiary of San Francisco's bad fortune, and they have been. The mountain men have gone 6-2 to reassume the lead in the NL West. . . . Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette extended his hitting streak to a club-record 16 games with a two-hit performance yesterday. He was once a struggling California Angels prospect who was dismissed as a trade possibility by the Orioles. Now he may be baseball's best hope for a Triple Crown winner in the 1990s.
The Boston Red Sox were knocked all over Fenway Park by Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire this weekend, but still came off a tough (3-4) week at home with a seven-game lead. The near-term schedule favors the Red Sox, who face the struggling Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers this week. But if the Orioles can hang tough against Cleveland, they might be in a position to make a move next week, when the Red Sox travel to Cleveland and then visit Camden Yards. . . . No one knows why Yankees fans booed unmercifully when well-known Broadway actor Adrian Zmed sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on Saturday. He doesn't look anything like Danny Tartabull.
Not everyone favors the new three-tier playoff system, but don't expect to hear any complaints from the Kansas City Royals. They are playing winning baseball, but probably wouldn't have a playoff prayer without the new system. The Indians appear to be the dominant team in the AL Central, but the Royals could be in position for a wild-card berth if the AL East remains soft. Despite a big start by all four AL West teams, no one seriously expects two West teams to advance. . . . How long can the Minnesota Twins afford to hold onto stopper Rick Aguilera? He's pitching well (1.72 ERA, eight saves) and they already are out of contention, so why not send him to a contender and save his salary?
American League West
The Orioles got to see yesterday why the surprising California Angels may turn out to be the real deal. The combination of flame-throwing youngster Troy Percival and all-time saves leader Lee Smith shortens the game to a very manageable seven innings. If the Angels can get a little more consistency out of their starting rotation, they'll be in the race until the end. . . . Of course, that's assuming Johnny Oates doesn't keep the Texas Rangers on a roll forever. If Juan Gonzalez takes off after hitting his first two homers this weekend, the Rangers, who have won six of their last seven, could make it a one-horse race in a hurry.