What the devil's going on? Tampa Bay's newly rechristened baseballers had wonsix straight through Sunday and were off to the best start (14--11) in their11-year history. One ace (James Shields, above) two-hit Boston to complete asweep. Another (Scott Kazmir, last year's AL strikeout king) could be back thisweek, recovered from elbow trouble.
He's feeling wanted. The former U-Mass, former Nets and current Memphiscoach—he's gone 104--10 over his last three years there—signed a five-yearextension that averages $2.35 million and should keep him put: He gets a $5million bonus if he stays to the end of the deal.
Danica's got company! Force became the first woman to win a Funny Car race,beating papa John, among others, at the NHRA's Southern Nationals. After Ashleydid a quarter mile in 4.837 seconds in Atlanta, proud John evaluated: "Shedid her job. She didn't do anything stupid at the starting line.... I loveher."
Not a bad weekend for Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima. His batting averagedidn't swell much (he was at .197 after a 1 for 4 on Sunday), but his walletdid: Seattle gave him a three-year, $24 million extension.
A familiar scene in Texas: The Rangers (9--17 through Sunday) were dead last inthe AL West. Who to blame? Hitters like Ben Broussard (.173 batting average)?Pitchers like Jason Jennings (above, 7.46 ERA)? Team president Nolan Ryan,explaining a 2--8 slide: "[We] had a total breakdown in all aspects of ourgame."
The coach was axed by the Bobcats after just one season. Why did they shovehim? Let's count the ways: A 32--50 record didn't sit well, nor did Vincent'sripping his team for not wanting to win, nor did his rankling of star players,nor did his clashes with the front office....
His win in Saturday's Nationwide series was overshadowed by rumblings about hiswanting out of his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, his losing the pole positionlate during qualifying for the Sprint Cup race at Talladega and then this: acrash and a 38th-place finish on Sunday that kept Stewart winless in his careerat 'Dega's main event.
A weekend to forget for Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. After going 0for 6 on Friday night, Ortiz—whose batting average slipped to .177—sat out thenext two games with a bruised knee.
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
Who is the best defensive player in the majorleagues?
Torii Hunter, Angels CF 16%
Omar Vizquel, Giants SS 11%
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners CF 9%
Andruw Jones, Dodgers CF 7%
José Reyes, Mets SS 6%
Players couldn't vote for a teammate.... Hunter has won seven straight GoldGlove Awards.... Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glover, got the most votes fromplayers born outside the U.S. (20.6%).... The top 10 vote getters were allshortstops or centerfielders except Toronto third baseman Scott Rolen (sixth,5.4%).... Phillies SS and reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins was seventh (4.7%).
[Based on a survey of 495 MLB players] • For more onthe poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.
LM OTERO/AP (JENNINGS)
CHUCK BURTON/AP (VINCENT)
AUTO IMAGERY INC./AP (FORCE)
JOHN BIEVER (CALIPARI)
AL MESSERSCHMIDT/GETTY IMAGES (SHIELDS)
CHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI (HUNTER)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (VIZQUEL)