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Time may be on Seattle's side for keeping Mariners there Threat of Virginia move, late-season playoff chase are aids to stadium vote


The future of the Seattle Mariners may be decided tomorrow when voters in King County decide whether they want to build a new baseball-only stadium to keep the team in the Pacific Northwest.

The club could not have been too upset when Washington, D.C., businessman William Collins was quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelli- gencer as saying that he would be willing to buy the team and move it to Northern Virginia if it goes up for sale.

The prospect of losing Major League Baseball might be enough to frighten Seattle-area voters into approving a new stadium, especially now that the Mariners are within reach of their first-ever playoff appearance.

Timing is everything. The team is making a dramatic late-season run at the California Angels, who are in danger of blowing a giant divisional lead. The falling Angels are in a 5-16 slump. The Mariners went 14-8 over the same period and could soon be safe at home.

AL Central

If you don't think that Frank Thomas is the most dangerous hitter of his generation, then you haven't been paying attention. Thomas, who drove in his 100th and 101st runs on Wednesday, has had 100 or more RBIs in each of his first five full seasons in the major leagues. Only four other players have ever done that -- Joe DiMaggio, Al Simmons, Al Rosen and Hal Trosky. Simmons holds the record with 100-RBI performances in his first 11 seasons. DiMaggio had 100 or more in his first seven years, and Trosky in his first six.

AL East

It wasn't exactly Streak Week in Detroit, but a couple of Tigers middle infielders made history last week when Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker set a major-league endurance record of their own. On Wednesday, they played in their 1,915th game together, surpassing Kansas City Royals greats George Brett and Frank White for the most joint appearances by two teammates in major-league history. That may not sound like a very exciting record, but in the turbulent free-agent era, the fact that they have been together on the same team for 19 seasons is truly amazing. . . . The Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays traded places last week when the Tigers went on a five-game winning streak and the Blue Jays went on a five-game losing streak. The Blue Jays now have an excellent chance to finish last in the division for the first time since they registered five straight last-place finishes in their first five years in the league.

NL West

San Francisco Giants outfielder Deion Sanders surprised no one last week when he began making noises about giving up baseball. The only thing that is surprising is that anyone is still listening to him . This two-sport pingpong was entertaining for a while, but it's time for Sanders to give it a rest. He picked his sport when he signed a five-year, $25 million contract -- or was that a seven-year, $35 million contract? -- with the Dallas Cowboys. It would be nice to think that he'll put all his effort into giving them their money's worth, but don't be surprised if he shows up in camp with the Texas Rangers next year.

NL Central

Give the Houston Astros credit for being the most resilient team in baseball, even if they don't end up in the playoffs. They have survived injuries to their two top offensive players -- Jeff Bagwell and Derek Bell -- and recovered from one of the worst slumps in club history to remain very much alive in the NL wild-card race. They were 5-2 for the week and only 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they could get bogged down in an intradivisional stretch battle with the still hopeful Chicago Cubs.

NL East

The Atlanta Braves became the first team to win division titles in two different divisions when they clinched the NL East title on Wednesday. They won five division championships in the 25 years they were geographically misplaced in the NL West. The Cincinnati Reds, who also were moved out of the NL West when the divisions were realigned two years ago, soon will become the second two-division winner, but the final weeks of the season would have been much more exciting if both of those teams were back in the same race. . . . NL Team of the Week: Amazingly, the hottest team in baseball may be the New York Mets, who lost on Monday and Tuesday, but now have reeled off five straight victories. Former Orioles outfielder Damon Buford has been a big reason, taking over the leadoff role and reaching base in 26 of his last 61 plate appearances (.426 OBP). Third place is not out of the question.

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