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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

For That Amount, Drew Can Afford to Have Some Faith

July 21, 1998|MARK HEISLER

J.D. Drew, the Philadelphia Phillies' first-round draft pick in 1997 who refused to sign a contract, has joined the St. Louis Cardinals' double-A Arkansas Travelers, impressing teammates, who feared he'd be a cold-hearted mercenary, and fans, who feared he'd be a high-priced bust.

"The way he came in made it easier," first baseman Mike Hardge said. "He came in and wanted to get to know everybody. . . . We're all doing the same thing. He's just making a little more money."

Drew, who played for $1,000 a month for the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League last summer when the Phillies refused to come up with an $11-million deal, took $7 million from the Cardinals. He says it was "a matter of principle for me. I believe God has a plan for my life."

Notes Mike Leahy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "This is what, in the profession, we call a nice spin. . . .

"In truth, God sat out the Phillies-J.D. Drew negotiations. The tactics of Drew and his piranha agent Scott Boras were strictly hardball. . . ."

Now all Drew has to do is show he's worth it. He had seven hits and three home runs in his first 14 at-bats but then went four for his next 25.

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Trivia time: Which relief pitcher holds the record for innings worked in a season?

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Welcome to pro ball: Bidding wars and labor strife. If women's professional basketball can survive the '90s, it has a bright future.

Last week the National Basketball Players Assn. said it wants to unionize the WNBA players. No doubt, the union is interested in the plight of female players, although no one mentioned it before.

The rival ABL just landed its own TV deal with CBS. Of course, the league will pay to have its games televised but plans to spend millions to promote itself, and whatever it takes to keep the WNBA from raiding it for players, like Dawn Staley of the Philadelphia Rage.

CBS is managing to restrain its delight. Asked if it might expand next year's coverage, which consists entirely of two finals games next April, vice president of programming Rob Correa said: "We'll see how it does."

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Semi-retirement: Louisville, which won two NCAA basketball titles and sent four teams to the Final Four in the '80s, has fallen on hard times, with the team losing 20 games last season and no sign of a fast turnaround.

Assistant coach Scooter McCray, who handles recruiting, has been reassigned. His boss remains in place, however.

Notes The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy, delicately: "Coach Denny Crum showed in 1995-96 and 1996-97 that if given anything at all to work with, he could produce high-quality teams. But Crum has not had a great passion for recruiting in recent years. . . ."

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Trivia answer: Mike Marshall, who pitched 208 innings in 106 games for the Dodgers in 1974.

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And finally: Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, on the celebrations in Lebanon, Egypt and the West Bank of Israel after Iran's World Cup victory over the U.S. soccer team: "Apparently, it comes down to this: Once you have been hung with the nickname the Great Satan, it's tough to get folks on your side."

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