Best free-agentsigning, American League
Kenny Rogers, LHP, Tigers
First in the league in wins (10) and 11th in ERA (3.44) at week's end, the41-year-old has prospered in Detroit, where he had a 1.76 ERA in six homestarts and was an important veteran presence in a young rotation.
Best free-agentsigning, National League
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B, Dodgers
He had a league-leading .362 batting average and the third-best OPS (on-baseplus slugging percentage), but what was most impressive about the formerAll-Star shortstop's first season in Chavez Ravine was his seamless move tofirst base, where he had committed only one error.
Worst free-agentsigning, AL
Esteban Loaiza, RHP, A's
Shallow-pocketed Oakland can't afford missteps like its three-year, $21 millioninvestment in this 34-year-old journeyman, who arrived in the Bay Area with a4.60 career ERA and a slacker reputation. Loaiza (above) was 3-4 with a 6.34ERA plus one arrest for speeding and suspicion of DUI.
Worst free-agentsigning, NL
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers
L.A. spent a hefty sum ($39 million over three years) for a poor-fielding (16errors, second highest among all major leaguers) leadoff hitter who strikes outtoo often (a team-high 48 times) and doesn't get on base enough (.334 OBP).
Jim Leyland, Tigers
After a seven-year hiatus he returned to take over a team that had lost morethan 90 games five years in a row. In no time Leyland cleaned up a toxicclubhouse, provided stern leadership and rejuvenated the franchise.
Joe Girardi, Marlins
The youngest (and cheapest) team in baseball has flourished under theno-nonsense style of its 41-year-old rookie manager (right). Expected by mostto flop to the tune of 100-plus losses, the post-fire-sale Marlins owned themajors' best record since May 22 (20-9) and, remarkably, were only 2 1/2 gamesout of second place in the East.
Reds New general manager Wayne Krivsky quickly made his mark with two movesthat have been central to his club's strong start: He traded outfielder Wily MoPe√±a to Boston for righthander Bronson Arroyo (9-4, 2.58) in March, then dealta lightly regarded prospect to Cleveland for second baseman Brandon Phillips(.314, seven homers, 43 RBIs) in April. Both players should be in Pittsburghfor the All-Star Game on July 11.
After making questionable moves in the off-season, including signing thirdbaseman Tony Batista (.236 average, .303 OBP before he was designated forassignment on June 14) and outfielder-DH Rondell White (.182, no homers in 181at bats), Minnesota then took too long to move lefthander Francisco Liriano(below) into the rotation (6-1, 1.64 ERA since becoming a starter on May 19),promote top shortstop prospect Jason Bartlett (.368 average since his June 13call-up) and make outfielder Jason Kubel (.515 slugging percentage) anevery-day player--even though it was clear in spring training that all wereready to play major roles. After a 25-33 start, the Twins had gone 14-2.
On May 28, which was designated Jewish Heritage Day at Dolphins Stadium,Florida gave away Mike Jacobs T-shirts. Jacobs, however, isn't Jewish."They said it wasn't done intentionally, but I don't know about that,"said the first baseman. "It's a big joke around the clubhouse."
BEN MARGOT/AP (LOAIZA)
JOEL AUERBACH/US PRESSWIRE (GIRARDI)
LEON HALIP/WIREIMAGE.COM (LIRIANO)