Albert Belle, it turns out, will miss just three games. Only time will tell whether that might cost him a chance to break one of baseball’s most hallowed records.
Belle, leading the majors with 25 home runs, and Cleveland teammate Julian Tavarez each had their five-game suspensions reduced to three games Tuesday by A.L. president Gene Budig.
Belle, who flattened Milwaukee second baseman Fernando Vina with a forearm, and Tavarez, who flipped umpire Joe Brinkman, both appealed the rulings that resulted from a brawl between the Indians and Milwaukee Brewers on May 31.
At his current pace, Belle would hit 60-1/2 home runs, so close to Roger Maris’ mark of 61. The three games Belle sits could mean the difference between history and a near-miss.
“There is no question that this is an act of retaliation by the American League against Belle,” said his agent, Arn Tellem. “It is a disservice not only to Belle, but to the Cleveland Indians and their fans.”
Belle will begin his suspension Friday during a doubleheader against New York. Tavarez, a key member of Cleveland’s bullpen, was to start serving his penalty immediately with Tuesday night’s game against Boston.
Padres, Tigers complete swap
The free-falling San Diego Padres traded two slumping players to the Detroit Tigers for shortstop Chris Gomez and catcher John Flaherty.
The Padres gave up on catcher Brad Ausmus and shortstop Andujar Cedeno, who both began the season as starters but have seen their play tail off in recent weeks.
“We’re getting two quality individuals back. Yes, it will be a change, but this club right now needs a little bit of change,” said Padres general manager Kevin Towers.
The Padres had been attempting to trade for a shortstop for several weeks to replace Cedeno, who has been erratic in the field and at the plate.
Players, owners to talk again
Baseball players and owners were scheduled to meet today for another bargaining session, and a person familiar with the negotiations said there had been some progress in recent talks.
Negotiators met several times last week and again Monday as the sides continued to work toward a labor agreement that would replace the one that expired on Dec. 31, 1993.
Around the league
Catcher Mike Piazza of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the leading vote-getter in balloting for the National League All-Star team. Piazza has received 873,680 votes in fan balloting for the game, to be played July 9 at Philadelphia. His lead - he has 690,174 more votes than Javier Lopez of the Atlanta Braves - is the largest among National Leaguers. … An athletics commission formed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson thinks the Cincinnati Reds should hire a minority chief executive officer during Marge Schott’s absence. Jackson is expected to discuss the issue with National League president Leonard Coleman, said Charles Farrell, executive director of the Rainbow Commission on Fairness in Athletics. Meanwhile, Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer and one of the most successful Reds, has let Coleman know that he would like to be considered for the job.
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