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BASEBALL EXTRA | AROUND NL

Gwynn: Walker Not Only MVP, He's Greatest

September 21, 1997|ROSS NEWHAN

A fifth season of 200 hits has kept Tony Gwynn within striking distance of Larry Walker and an eighth National League batting title, but "don't try to compare our seasons," the San Diego Padre right fielder said of the Colorado Rocky right fielder. "It's not even close. I could play this game for the next 100 years and . . . never have a year like Walker's. He's having a year that everybody in this game dreams about. What more can a guy possibly do?"

Win the most-valuable-player award?

"To me there's no question Walker is the MVP in our league," Gwynn said. "I know he'll be penalized for playing in Coors Field, and people will take into account that the Rockies aren't in first place, but that shouldn't matter. Not this year. Right now, he's not only the MVP, but he's the greatest player in the game."

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The recent tribulations of Rod Beck and Todd Worrell have helped Jeff Shaw zoom into the NL save lead. However, the Cincinnati Red right-hander hasn't needed much help, recording saves in 14 consecutive appearances through Thursday. If Shaw follows teammate Jeff Brantley as fireman of the year, the Reds would become the first team with different back-to-back winners.

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Add Reds: Interim Manager Jack McKeon, 66, has been retained for 1998 because of his good touch with young players, but one young player who may not be back is second baseman Bret Boone. Boone has made only two errors and will lead his position in fielding percentage for a third consecutive year, but a season-long batting slump and the $9.5 million he is owed over the next three years have prompted rumors that he won't be protected in the expansion draft or that he'll be traded--either directly or through the draft--to the Chicago Cubs as successor to Ryne Sandberg. "Boone would look good in blue," Mark Grace said.

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Mark McGwire will not win either the American or National league home run title, but he will be officially recognized as the major league winner if he edges Ken Griffey Jr.

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Denny Neagle goes after his 21st victory today against the Montreal Expos in a start pushed back three days because of a small tear in the Atlanta left-hander's right shoulder. Neagle may require off-season surgery and may be vulnerable to line drives through the middle because of restricted motion with his glove arm, but he will make one more regular-season start after today to prove his playoff reliability and enhance his Cy Young credentials.

"Obviously, from a selfish standpoint I've got a chance at an award that might not come again in a lifetime for me," he said. "I just want to be able to get two more starts, help the team out, help myself out, put up some numbers and then leave everything else in the hands of whoever."

How this will play out in the playoffs isn't certain, but it's definitely a concern for the Braves.

Neagle needed someone to stand next to him and catch return throws when he last threw in the bullpen.

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Greg Maddux has 19 victories in 32 starts and has walked only 19 batters in 224 2/3 innings. The Atlanta ace may record more victories than walks, a rarity, but he said: "The only really stupid stat I think about is having a higher batting average than ERA." Maddux has a 2.20 earned-run average but is batting only .094.

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