From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / September 1, 1999

The 1999 baseball season can be compared to The Godfather, Part II. Ok, soit’s not as critically acclaimed as its predecessor (i.e., the 1998 season).It’s still an award-winning production in its own right.

Coming into this week, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were up to their old tricks. Remember last year at this time when we wondering if they couldcatch Roger Maris? Well, a year after both did, they are at it again. Sosahit his 54th Sunday while McGwire had 51 after the weekend. Both couldcome close to duplicating last year’s figures without all the hoopla of last year.

If last year was the best ever than this season is not far behind. How manyseasons have had the drama of two players reaching 3,000 hits (Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs) and another hitting 500 home runs (McGwire)? Two long standing records may fall. Randy Johnson already has 301strikeouts and could break Nolan Ryan’s (and in the same year as Ryan is elected to the Hall of Fame) record of 383 K’s, set in 1973. And Houston’sCraig Biggio had 53 doubles into the weekend and is on pace to beat Earl Webb’s record of 67 established way back in 1931.

Who can forget David Cone’s perfect game, one year to the date that former teammate David Wells threw his? Or McGwire’s performance in the Home Run Hitting Contest at the All-Star Game? Or Ted Williams’ appearance to throw out the first ball at that game? Two of the best young players in the American League, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter, are one-two in the batting race. One of the game’sclassiest players, Larry Walker, leads the National League. Cincinnati’sSean Casey, given up on by Cleveland and New York, is one of the league’s leading hitters and enjoying every moment of it. And little heralded ScottWilliamson, who pitched at Tulane, leads the National League in ERA and is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.

You want pennant races? Atlanta and the Mets are battling for the NL East title with Houston and Cincinnati are going toe to toe with each other in the Central. And all four are in the hunt for the wild card if they fail towin the division. And while the division races in the American League areall but sewn up, Boston was just one game up on Oakland in the wild card race as of Sunday.

Arizona, in just its second year of existence, appears to have the NL West locked up. And the Diamondbacks, behind Johnson, have something mostteams in their first few years don’t have, pitching, leading the league in ERA.

There have been disappointments – Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles – and surprises – Oakland, Cincinnati, Arizona and Toronto.

So, maybe it’s not fair to compare the 1999 season to 1998. That is, it’snot fair to the 1998 season. Because for once, the sequel may be just asgood as the original.

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