A lot has been written about Dale Murphy, the two-time NL MVP who is stranded with pathetic Atlanta despite dozens of trade rumors involving him.

And while the uncertainty, along with his poor recent production, may be weighing him down, he isn't letting it show."Everybody wants to be with a winner, but no one is happier to be where he is than I am," Murphy said recently. "I want to help turn this thing around. I don't feel like we're as far away as people think we are. We have a lot of good young arms in the organization and we have some guys in Triple-A who are close."

Even if the Braves are close to turning it around, and we realize Murphy is using the word "close" in its loosest sense, chances are Murphy will never play with another winner in Atlanta. The word is he has a sore left shoulder that's hampering his swing, and things like that are hard for 33-year-old hitters to overcome.

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THESE ARE CHAMPS?: As of Saturday, not one of last year's division champs was higher than third place. Oakland is in third and playing solid ball, considering they are without the services of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. But Boston is in fifth (although only a game behind that division-leading powerhouse, the Orioles), and the miserable Mets and dismal Dodgers are both in last place.

And what's happened to the World Champs? Their pitching is good, with a team ERA of 3.39, but their hitting is last in the NL at .204. Mike Marshall (.346), Kirk Gibson (.267) and Mike Scioscia (.286) are all hitting at decent clips, but look at the rest of this terrifying lineup: Willie Randolph, .211; John Shelby, .206; Jeff Hamilton, .162; Alfredo Griffin, .147; Eddie Murray, .135. The really scary thing is that with the exception of Murray, all those guys are capable of maintaining those lofty numbers for an entire season.

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SHORT STUFF: Murphy hit his 335th career homer Wednesday, tying him with Hank Aaron for the most HRs in Atlanta Braves history...Wade Boggs is so bothered by the Margo Adams hoopla that it took him all of nine games to climb to the top of the AL batting standings. After Thursday's game, he was hitting .441. Hate to see something really bug him...Bountiful's Kelly Downs, after attempting to force a runner at second base but throwing the ball into center field, said, "That was the best movement on any ball I threw all night." Which is a sad commentary on the Dodgers, who Downs had just limited to eight hits and three runs (only oneearned) in eight innings.