Best in the Buckeye state. Rookie ace—and All-Star!—Edinson Volquez (above) is rolling at 11-3; unsung second sacker Brandon Phillips had gone a blistering 16 for 32, and was errorless in 77 games, and Cincinnati's first four-game sweep in two years (they knocked off the Nats) had them within dreaming distance of a wild-card berth.
That would be Jeff Finger (right), the middling Avalanche defenseman who became the Maple Leafs' $14 million man (over four years). That's a 600% raise for the 240th pick of the 1999 draft. Finger to Toronto's Sun: "I'm sure a lot of people are wondering, 'Who the heck is this guy?'"
The Twins' Mauer (left, .325 batting average) is an All-Star, as is his teammate, good old reliable Nathan (25 saves, 27 chances), who as a New York native is stoked for the Yankee Stadium event. Nathan to Minneapolis's Star-Tribune: "It's definitely going to bring some goosebumps."
Talk of his being washed up was pure bull. The Yanks' 39-year-old righthander Mike Mussina (right; that's not his real head), all but written off before the year, is now a staff-best 11--6.
Their pennant hopes are gone, and so is ace C.C. Sabathia, shipped to Milwaukee. Is anyone really to blame for Cleveland's 37--51 record? Actually, yes. Closer Joe Borowski (7.56 ERA) got sent to the minors; outfielder Franklin Gutierrez (above) had gone, check this out, 0 for 28. No wonder the team was a disappointing 21st in attendance.
It's been hellish for Troy. Hitting .166 the Rockies shortstop got pulled by his manager midgame. Then he slammed a bat in anger and sliced up his throwing hand so badly that it needed 16 stitches. He called the splinter-wound "kind of a stupid injury." Agreed.
Cold Hand Lukes
After a Sunday trouncing by the Rays—which he helped along by failing to cover first during a second-inning rally—Royals righty Luke Hochevar (left) had let up 13 runs in his last 10 innings. In Baltimore, outfielder Luke Scott gets pulled for defense, but now it's his offense (a 2-for-18 stretch) that's sputtering.
Upset? And how. Heavily favored UFC light-heavyweight Quinton (Rampage) Jackson lost his title to the hands—and feet, and knees—of former Georgia police officer Forrest Griffin.
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
Should Roger Clemens ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Yes ......... 88%
No ......... 10%
Don't Know ... 2%
Should Pete Rose?
Yes ......... 85%
No ......... 14%
Don't Know ... 1%
This year's induction ceremonies are July 27 in Cooperstown; closer Goose Gossage is the only player going in.... Clemens, eighth all time in career wins (354), denies charges by his former trainer Brian McNamee that he used steroids and HGH.... An All-Star at five positions and the majors' alltime hits leader, with 4,256, Rose has been banned from MLB since 1989 for gambling.
[Based on a survey of 495 MLB players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.
RICH KANE/US PRESSWIRE (GUTIERREZ)
DAVID E. KLUTHO (FINGER)
MITCH STRINGER/CAL SPORT MEDIA (HOCHEVAR)
ROBERT Y. ONO/CORBIS (MOOSE)
AL TIELEMANS (MUSSINA)
AL TIELEMANS (VOLQUEZ)
ROBERT SARGENT/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (MAUER)
RONALD C. MODRA (ROSE)
SIMON BRUTY (CLEMENS)