WHO WANTS TO BE AMILLIONAIRE (AGAIN)?
Roger Clemens(right) will have substantial incentive to come out of retirement this summer.The Astros, joining the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers last week in what promisesto be a full-blown bidding war, told Clemens's agents, Randy and AlanHendricks, that they are prepared to pay prorated full value for the pitcherwho earned $18 million last year while leading the majors with a 1.87 ERA. Itwill be difficult for the 43-year-old righthander, who has been keeping his armin shape by throwing batting practice to his son Kory's high school team, toturn down about $10 million to pitch half a season for a contender.
"The Astrosdealt themselves into the picture," Randy Hendricks said by e-mail lastweek. "All four teams are competitive, on and off the field. Roger willdecide what he is going to do by early June at the latest." If Clemensdecides to return under that timetable, he is prepared to make two or threeminor league starts and move up to the big leagues around July 1. His hometownAstros, off to one of the best starts in franchise history (19-12), are thefront-runners, with New York the most likely option if those negotiations breakdown.
CANO CAN DO
The Yankees werenot quite sure what kind of player they had in Robinson Cano (left) when theypromoted the second baseman to the majors on May 3 last year. But in his firstcalendar year in the big leagues, in which he played 153 games, Cano made afirst impression similar to that of his heralded double-play partner, DerekJeter, in 1995-96. Here's how they compare in their first 153 games.
•It's time to givepitchers a chance to reclaim the inside corner of the plate by banning theprotective gear hitters wear on their elbows and arms. Last week Jason Kendallof the A's charged John Lackey of the Angels (right) after Lackey jawed at thearmored Kendall for attempting to turn his body into an inside pitch fromLackey.
•Just when itappeared the Royals could not embarrass themselves further, they started alineup last Saturday in which no player was younger than 28--and seven starterswere 31 or older. Nothing like being bad and old.
•Think it's hardto find a closer? Think again. Eight of the top 10 save leaders at week's endwere not regularly closing games before 2003: Jonathan Papelbon, Brad Lidge,Bobby Jenks, Derek Turnbow, Frankie Rodriguez, Jose Valverde, David Weathersand Danys Baez. (The exceptions: Tom Gordon and Jason Isringhausen.) What'shard is finding one who can hold the job.
by Baseball Prospectus
IS THE TWINS'SEASON OVER? Last year the Astros fell 15 games below .500 and 15 games out offirst place in late May before recovering and going to the World Series. Sowhat does that say for the Twins, who at week's end were 13--18 and nine gamesbehind the AL Central--leading White Sox? The news is surprisingly grim:According to the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report (based on a team'srecord, its strength of schedule and its run differential), Minnesota's shot atreaching the postseason has dropped from 2 to 1 at the start of the season to200 to 1. Two factors put the Twins in a worse position than that of lastyear's Astros. First, the AL is loaded at the top--BP estimates that it willtake 97 wins to get the wild card, which means Minnesota will have to play at a.641 pace the rest of the way for a better than even-money chance at theplayoffs. Second, the Twins had been outscored by 49 runs, a larger deficitthan those of the last-place Devil Rays, Pirates and Marlins.
• More from TomVerducci and Baseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.
BILL LIVINGSTON/WIREIMAGE.COM (CLEMENS)
CHRIS BERNACCHI/SPORTPICS (CANO)
MATT BROWN/ICON SMI (FIGHT)