High times in Arlington, where the ball club—led by sweet-swinging second baseman Ian Kinsler (right)—had the AL's best record (30--20, through Sunday) and was drawing 16.4% more fans per game than it had at the same point last year. Manager Ron Washington: "It's easy to have fun."
The Vikings' top draft pick was feeling the love at minicamp. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell says he has already drawn up 20 to 30 plays for the speedy RB-WR; in some the ex-Gator takes a direct snap. Minnesota QB Sage Rosenfels: "Percy is a special athlete."
Though he missed a month with a strained rib-cage muscle, the Cardinals' ace had a 3--0 record with an 0.62 ERA at week's end. As the oft-injured righthander, who's evoking memories of his 2005 Cy Young season, explained, "My stuff is good ... that is a fact."
The latest of Stars owner Tom Hicks's experiments: bringing back Nieuwendyk as G.M. The ex-sniper doesn't have much experience—he was an assistant G.M. in Toronto—but he won a Cup with Dallas in '99, and he's brainy; the Cornell alum was at times his own agent as a player.
That lousy preseason (12--21) was an omen. Last in the NL Central at 20--28, and hurt by underperforming stars—righty Roy Oswalt had a 4.62 ERA, slugger Lance Berkman was hitting .230—Houston was in danger of falling too far to ever get up. Declared Berkman, "It's time to start winning games."
In February he carried the ball for the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. Now? Teamless. The Broncos, who signed the free agent, released him over concerns about his recently scoped right knee. The unkindest cut lies ahead: Arrington needs microfracture surgery.
The Angels righty may be wishing he stayed on the DL. In four starts since returning from a sprained elbow ligament, he was 0--2 with an untenable 9.50 ERA. Santana says he's healthy, but those numbers (and his flat fastball) hardly recall his 16-win form of 2007.
The Cavaliers' swingman made the least of his opportunities in the Eastern Conference finals, shooting 3 for 14 from the field and averaging 1.8 points. He has never been to an NBA Finals and now the free agent (the Cavs don't want him back) may never play with LeBron again.
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
WHICH TEAM WILL WIN THE WORLD SERIES?
Boston Red Sox 31%
Los Angeles Dodgers 22%
Toronto Blue Jays 9%
St. Louis Cardinals 9%
Chicago Cubs 6%
Poll was conducted in mid- to late May, just as Toronto began a nine-game losing streak and the Yankees (seventh in the poll at 3.6%) were in a nine-game winning streak.... The defending champion Phillies were ninth (3.1%).... Jason Bay (above, left) had 15 homers and 49 RBIs through Sunday for the 29--22 Red Sox.... James Loney (above, right) had 38 RBIs for the Dodgers, who were a big league best 35--17.
Based on a survey of 341 major league players.
JOHN BIEVER (KINSLER)
JOHN BIEVER (SZCZERBIAK)
ROBERT BECK (ARRINGTON)
BRAD MANGIN (CARPENTER)
TIM DEFRISCO (DODGERS)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (RED SOX)