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July 08, 1998|ROSS NEWHAN

Tony Gwynn says this is potentially the best San Diego Padre team he has played on, but adds, "We'll ultimately be judged by how we finish. I feel good about the way we're playing, but there's a lot of baseball left. We've won seven of nine against the Giants, but they still haven't gone anywhere. Jeff Shaw should help the Dodgers, and they're notoriously a second-half team. I still think it will be a dogfight."

Gwynn said he would trade his eight National League batting titles for another crack at a World Series "because the game is all about winning," and he knows this may be the last chance for this particular team. If financing for a new stadium isn't approved by San Diego voters, management may not choose to retain free agents Kevin Brown, Wally Joyner, Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley.

"If we don't get [the stadium], I could be the only guy left," Gwynn said. "I'm getting too old to go through another fire sale. I've been through two already. I mean, I've taken a lot of young players under my wing in 17 years, and my wings and feathers are gone."


No question in all-star reliever Troy Percival's mind as to the key for the American League West-leading Angels in the second half.

"Health," he said. "We've been riddled by injuries. We've battled through it, but you can only take so many hits. I mean, we'd like to take some positive hits and get some of our guys back. We've had people step up, but it would be a big boost to get Ken Hill, Jack McDowell and Allen Watson back."

Would he like to see a deal for another pitcher or hitter.

"I don't even look for help that way," he said. "My attitude is that we're going to have to keep battling with what we have.

"I can't worry about what the front office does or doesn't do."

The Angels' second-half schedule is heavy with road games, including trips to the ballparks of the toughest Eastern and Central teams, but Percival said, "The way I look at it is, we've been playing well and they have to deal with us, not the other way around. We can compete with anyone in baseball, including Texas."

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