Seattle Cal Ripken's victory lap at Safeco Field gave baseball a great reason to smile. Now, it's time to get serious.
The second half of the season starts today.
The Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies are trying to hold onto their surprising first-place perches.
Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez are chasing Mark McGwire's homer record, and Rickey Henderson is aiming at Ty Cobb's career runs mark.
The Boston Red Sox are hoping Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra are soon healthy so they can make a run at the New York Yankees. The Atlanta Braves are trying to overcome Rafael Furcal's injury, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are doing the same with Darren Dreifort.
Only Ichiro Suzuki, Freddy Garcia and the Seattle Mariners can relax. With a 19-game lead over Oakland in the AL West, they can start printing playoff tickets although there's no chance manager Lou Piniella will allow his players to let up.
The second half starts this afternoon at Wrigley Field when the White Sox travel across Chicago to play the Cubs. The Cubs, with a three-game edge over Houston in the NL Central, seemed poised to make the first big trade after the break.
Wanting to add power, the Cubs were close to getting slugger Fred McGriff from the Tampa Bay for two players in the minors.
"That would be great," Cubs star Sammy Sosa said, his eyes widening.
Pitchers Sterling Hitchcock of San Diego, Pedro Astacio of Colorado and Ugueth Urbina of the Montreal Expos could be on the move.
It's unlikely, however, that David Wells will be dealt by the White Sox before the July 31 trading deadline. Out of action with an injured back, the left-hander might need season-ending surgery.
The Mariners, the most impressive team in the majors at 63-24, could add a quality pitcher and a productive bat to play left field before August. Seattle is already loaded, having put a record eight of its players in Tuesday night's All-Star game.
The three-time defending World Series champion Yankees are traveling to Florida, where they'll give the Marlins a firsthand look at what other top AL teams might face in the postseason.
Mike Mussina starts tonight, followed by All-Stars Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
Derek Jeter, who became the first Yankee to homer in the All-Star game since Yogi Berra in 1959, said New York's fate depends on Clemens. The Rocket is 12-1, tied with Arizona's Curt Schilling for the most wins in the majors.
"It all revolves around him. We feed off Roger," Jeter said. "The man just knows how to win."
Yankees manager Joe Torre, meanwhile, offers praise to Jeter.
"He wears the game on his sleeve and there will come a day when he'll be like Ripken as one of those people we're looking to hold onto," he said.
Schilling, who ducked out of starting the All-Star game in order to be ready for Arizona's game at Anaheim on Friday night, and Randy Johnson hope to hold off Bonds and the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
Bonds leads the majors with 39 home runs, still putting him ahead of McGwire's pace when he hit 70 in 1998. Gonzalez, who beat Sosa in Monday's home run derby, is next with 35.
Henderson would like to make history in two ways down the stretch. He needs 40 hits to reach 3,000 and 29 runs to break Cobb's career record of 2,245.
Ripken provided one of the majors' best moments of the season when he homered in the AL's 4-1 win over the NL on Tuesday night. At 40, he was oldest player to hit a home run in an All-Star game, and also its oldest MVP.
Ripken's next big moment on the national stage could come Sept. 23 when he plays his final home game at Baltimore. His last game is scheduled for Sept. 30 at Yankee Stadium.
"The only thing he's got left," Oakland star first baseman Jason Giambi said, "is to hit a home run in his final at-bat."