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Pressing the Suits

Nine burning questions about the second half of the season (and beyond) were put to 22 baseball executives

1. Whichfree-agent-to-be has done the most to bolster his stock in the first half?

Ichiro Suzuki, OF,Mariners 27%
Torii Hunter, OF, Twins 18%
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees 14%

Loose lips:"Pretty quietly Ichiro (right) is having an outstanding season, even by hisstandards." . . . "Hunter has been out of his mind. His best year byfar. Someone's going to look at his numbers and pay big."

2. Whichfree-agent-to-be has hurt his stock the most in the first half?

Andruw Jones, OF,Braves 77%
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox 9%

Loose lips:"Andruw was a $100 million guy before the season. It's going to beinteresting to see how far he falls." . . . "A year ago Jermaine Dyewas an MVP candidate. Now he's killing the Sox."

3. Which player(in either league) has been the biggest surprise so far?

Jeremy Guthrie,RHP, Orioles 18%
Josh Hamilton, OF, Reds 18%
Sammy Sosa, DH, Rangers 14%

Loose lips:"Amazing what Josh Hamilton (right) is doing after falling so far. Showsyou how much talent he has." . . . "Guthrie's more than a surprise. Helooks like he can be something special."

4. Which team willwin the NL pennant?

Padres 41%
Mets 36%

Loose lips:"The Padres' bullpen is second to none. They've got the starters, if ChrisYoung (below, right) stays this good. [Greg] Maddux has been there. [Jake]Peavy is obviously an ace." . . . "The Mets still are the class of theleague with their lineup. Scary."

5. Which team willwin the AL pennant?

Red Sox 50%
Tigers 27%

Loose lips:"Boston is the most balanced team and still has offensive upside in thesecond half. The Tigers are a close second, but their bullpen is a mess. Howthey do is contingent on the trades they make to bolster [the pen]."

6. Which team willwin the World Series?

Red Sox 45%
Tigers 27%

Loose lips:"No NL team is even close to the top four AL teams, so you have to thinkthe winner is coming from the AL."

7. Given a choicebetween Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols over the next five seasons, whom wouldyou take?

Rodriguez55%
Pujols 36%

Loose lips: "Ilike A-Rod (right) based upon position, but I would go with Pujols simplybecause he brings fewer distractions."

8. Which team is adark-horse contender for 2008?

Diamondbacks36%
Rockies 27%
Brewers 14%

Loose lips:"Some of Arizona's position players are struggling, but by next yearthey'll be better." . . . "I like the Rockies. [Their front office] hasstopped doing the dumb stuff."

9. Who is yourbreakout player for the second half?

Tim Lincecum, RHP,Giants 18%
Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox 14%
Andruw Jones, OF, Braves 14%

Loose lips:"Oh, my goodness, is Lincecum (right) talented. He had a rocky start, buthe's figuring it all out. He could dominate the rest of the way."

THREE PHOTOS

BRAD MANGIN

PHOTO

JOHN W. MCDONOUGH

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HEINZ KLUETMEIER