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McGwire Goes Boom While Angels Go Bust

September 14, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

With each booming home run, it's clear what the Angels missed when they failed--or simply were unable--to trade for Mark McGwire before the July 31 deadline.

Can they recoup this winter, when McGwire will be a free agent?

Does McGwire still have the same yearning for Southern California, so that he can be close to his son, Matt, who lives in Orange County?

"If you ask me right now, it's the National League for me," the St. Louis Cardinal first baseman said in San Francisco this week, which doesn't eliminate the Angels since most realignment scenarios have them moving to the NL.

In the meantime, McGwire said he has been treated "incredibly" by the St. Louis fans and organization, that he has enjoyed the reunion with former Oakland A's and current Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa and that his son "absolutely loved" St. Louis when he visited in August.

"Mark's very happy. He loves everything about St. Louis," Los Angeles-based agent Bob Cohen said. "Will he consider re-signing with the Cardinals? Yes. Is he going to re-sign with the Cardinals? I can't answer that, but what I've always said is that the team that traded for Mark would have an advantage because he's a very centered guy and isn't looking to jump around. If he's happy in his surroundings, he's going to want to stay."

Ultimately, however, somebody is going to have to show McGwire the money.

If there was any doubt as to where he fit in the salary structure, another year of 50 home runs has removed it. McGwire is a big-time attraction and run producer. He may justifiably seek more than Albert Belle's

$11 million a year, which could eliminate the Angels, who may not have totally recognized the big picture in July, the potential savings in trading for and re-signing him then rather than as a free agent--let alone his impact on the field and at the gate.

"If the A's had wanted a couple of prospects and money it would have been one thing," a club official said. "But it didn't make any sense to add to the lineup if we had to subtract from it at the same time."

The A's wanted center fielder Jim Edmonds rather than left fielder Garret Anderson, and the Angels were reluctant to yield Edmonds, particularly at a time when a sore shoulder would have prevented Darin Erstad from moving to center field, making room for McGwire at first.

Of course, Edmonds has had a series of physical problems and the Angel offense--save for Tim Salmon--has expired while McGwire has exploded.

After going without a home run in his first 26 at-bats with the Cardinals, he began the weekend averaging one every five at-bats.


This would have been McGwire's third season of 50 or more home runs, but on the final day of his rookie season with the A's in 1987, with 49 homers and the wind blowing out at Chicago's Comiskey Park, McGwire returned to Southern California to be with his then-wife when Matt was born.

"I told myself that I'll have another shot at 50, but I'll never have another first child," McGwire said. "I've never regretted it."


So Mike Piazza hasn't carried the Dodgers, according to Colorado Rocky Manager Don Baylor?

Piazza has merely been the NL's top gun since the All-Star break. He began the weekend with a second-half average of .358, along with 18 homers and 55 runs batted in.

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