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Original Issue

2 St. Louis Cardinals The Redbirds have a home run king but still lack that elusive trump Card: an ace

Seventy home runs can put a man on the covers of magazines and
under the covers with Helen Hunt's character on Mad About You,
but that doesn't get you to first base with the women of
Jonathan T's hair salon in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.--at least
not at 1:50 p.m. on Wednesdays. Earlier this month Mark McGwire
stopped by for a trim only to be politely turned away because
the shop was closing in 10 minutes. Maybe this wasn't the
unkindest noncut of all but merely a sign that normalcy might be
returning to McGwire's life.

McGwire reduced an entire sport to four or five nightly plate
appearances of home run derby, obscuring nearly everything else
in baseball, including the Cardinals. "Our record?" says pitcher
Matt Morris. "To be honest, I don't think I know what our record
was last year." Like anyone else, the Cardinals can tell you
70-66 (McGwire over Sammy Sosa), but they fumble for 83-79, a
mark that left third-place St. Louis 19 games behind the
National League Central-champion Astros.

The home run chase deflected scrutiny from the team and provided
it as big a boost as McGwire's blasts. Last September, during
the height of McGwiremania, St. Louis went a stealthy 18-7.
"Mark didn't get any more attention than Michael Jordan got, and
[Jordan's] got six rings on his fingers," manager Tony La Russa
says, scoffing at suggestions that the attention paid to McGwire
hurt the team. "So why wasn't Michael Jordan a detriment to the
rest of the Bulls' winning a championship? And why did we play
so well at the end during the craziness? Because having Mark on
our team is a big plus."

McGwire said he'd like to hit at least 50 home runs in 1999,
which would make him the first player to reach that mark in four
consecutive seasons. During the winter La Russa, who has never
been the clown prince of baseball, told Cardinals boosters in
semi-jest that McGwire could hit 75, basing the number on the
hope that McGwire gets a lot more than 500 at bats. (In 1998 he
had 509, plus a National League-record 162 walks.)

St. Louis has to find a way to parlay McGwire's home runs into
more offense. The Cards were sixth in runs despite leading the
league with 223 homers, but then they didn't have young
outfielder J.D. Drew in the lineup every day. Drew was up for a
cup of coffee in September (he batted .500 with runners in
scoring position), but he could end up owning Starbucks before
long. Drew will play mostly leftfield, although he should see
some time in center, his natural position, early in the season
when the Cardinals proceed cautiously with Ray Lankford, who had
off-season arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Between Drew
and free-agent pickup Eric Davis in right, St. Louis should
easily compensate for the free-agent defection of Brian Jordan
(.316 with 25 homers and 91 RBIs) to Atlanta.

St. Louis could be better up the middle as well. Though they
lost second baseman Delino DeShields to free agency, the
Cardinals significantly upgraded themselves at shortstop by
trading for All-Star Edgar Renteria (.288 lifetime average). For
now, light-hitting veterans David Howard and Pat Kelly will
platoon at second and possibly bat ninth, behind the pitcher.
(Last year the Cardinals were 46-36 with the funky batting order
devised to get McGwire, who batted third, to the plate in the
first inning while giving him the feel of being a cleanup hitter
the rest of the game.)

The bullpen, which blew 31 saves last season, has been
reinforced by the acquisitions of former Dodgers' lefty Scott
Radinsky and ex-Phillies' righty Ricky Bottalico (34 saves in
both 1996 and '97). Juan Acevedo (13 saves in the second half)
will be in the closing mix too, though he could join Manny Aybar
and Kent Bottenfield as swingmen, thereby giving La Russa some
flexibility as he attempts to patch the holes in a middling
rotation that has been decimated by injuries for a second
straight year.

Before the start of last season, La Russa appeared to have two
blossoming aces: righthanders Alan Benes and Morris, who were a
combined 21-18 with a 3.07 ERA in 1997. However, Benes, 27, has
yet to recover from the right shoulder injury that sidelined him
for all of '98 and will likely be out until midseason. Morris,
24, who had seven wins and a 2.53 ERA after sitting out most of
the first half of last year with a strained right shoulder, will
be out for the season with a right elbow tear he sustained in
spring training. Suddenly the optimism generated by the club's
off-season improvements has been replaced by a palpable anxiety.
"It's very unfortunate," McGwire says of Morris's injury. "He's
one of the top up-and-coming pitchers in baseball. It's not good
to start the season like this."


COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Even McGwire's understated skipper has joined in the hype by suggesting Big Mac could go deep 75 times in '99.


By the Numbers

1998 Team Statistics (NL rank)
1998 record: 83-79 (third in NL Central)

HOME RUNS 223 (1)
OPP. BATTING AVG. .269 (13)
ERA 4.32 (8)
FIELDING PCT. .978 (14)

Power Line

Last season Mark McGwire not only set the major league
single-season home run mark but also set records for most homers
over the course of two seasons, three seasons and four seasons.
McGwire needs 38 homers in 1999 to establish a record for a span
of five years.

Span Record Holder, Season(s) HR Runner Up, Season(s) HR

One season Mark McGwire, 1998 70 Sammy Sosa, 1998 66
Two seasons Mark McGwire, 1997-98 128 Babe Ruth, 1927-28 114
Three seasons Mark McGwire, 1996-98 180 Babe Ruth, 1926-28 161
Ken Griffey Jr., 1996-98 161
Four seasons Mark McGwire, 1995-98 219 Babe Ruth, 1927-30 209
Five seasons Babe Ruth, 1926-30 256 Babe Ruth, 1920-24 235
Six seasons Babe Ruth, 1926-31 302 Ralph Kiner, 1947-52* 271
Seven seasons Babe Ruth, 1926-32 343 Jimmie Foxx, 1932-38* 313
Eight seasons Babe Ruth, 1926-33 377 Jimmie Foxx, 1932-39* 348
Nine seasons Babe Ruth, 1920-28 421 Jimmie Foxx, 1932-40* 384
10 seasons Babe Ruth, 1920-29 467 Jimmie Foxx, 1930-39* 415

*Overlapping spans by Ruth are not included.

Next Up...

Rookie leftfielder J.D. Drew is going to see more smoke than
R.J. Reynolds. Drew will bat in front of Mark McGwire,
guaranteeing him a glut of fastballs from pitchers who don't
want to work to Big Mac with anyone on base. "The pitchers can
only mess around with him [Drew] so much, because they can look
over to the on-deck circle and see what's coming," manager Tony
La Russa says. After his September call-up last year, Drew
socked five homers and had 13 RBIs in 14 games, earning the
label of "stud" from McGwire. Why not? Drew averaged one homer
every 7.20 at bats, slightly better than Big Mac's ratio of one
every 7.27.

Projected Roster With 1998 Statistics

Manager: Tony La Russa (fourth season with St. Louis)


SS Edgar Renteria[1] R 140 .282 3 31 41
LF J.D. Drew (R) L-R 35 .417 5 13 0
1B Mark McGwire R 3 .299 70 147 1
CF Ray Lankford L 30 .293 31 105 26
RF Eric Davis[1] R 87 .327 28 89 7
3B Fernando Tatis* R 177 .276 11 58 13
C Eli Marrero R 211 .244 4 20 6
2B David Howard S-R 279 .245 2 12 0


OF Darren Bragg [1] L-R 294 .279 8 57 5
IF Shawon Dunston*[1] R 326 .222 6 20 9
OF Willie McGee S-R 358 .253 3 34 7
IF Pat Kelly R 388 .216 4 14 5
C Alberto Castillo[1] R 427 .205 2 7 0


LH Donovan Osborne 105 5 4 6.0 1.27 4.09
LH Kent Mercker 171 11 11 5.5 1.56 5.07
LH Darren Oliver* 173 10 11 5.5 1.68 5.73
RH Kent Bottenfield 204 4 6 5.8 1.38 4.44
RH Manny Aybar 250 6 6 4.9 1.62 5.98


RH Juan Acevedo 27 8 3 15 1.14 2.56
LH Scott Radinsky[1] 215 6 6 13 1.35 2.63
RH Ricky Bottalico[1] 262 1 5 6 1.82 6.44
LH Lance Painter 290 4 0 1 1.48 3.99
LH Mike Mohler[1] 300 3 3 0 1.57 5.16
RH John Frascatore 308 3 4 0 1.37 4.14

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Combined AL and NL stats