Bryce Harper, the top pick in last year's MLB draft by the Nats, has been as good as advertised at Class A Hagerstown (especially since getting contact lenses). He's hitting .381 with nine home runs and a 1.141 OPS in 35 games, while drawing comparisons to minor leaguers of yore Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Maria Sharapova won the biggest clay-court title of her career on Sunday by knocking out Sam Stosur 6--2, 6--4 in the Italian Open final. Afterward the Russian, who will be a favorite in next week's French Open, predicted, "This is just the start of everything."
The Marlins' Sanchez boys—1B Gaby (.331, seven HRs) and SP Anibal (2.90 ERA; 20 K's and two wins last week)—have Florida rolling and within reach of the red-hot Phillies in the NL East. Time for a nickname? The Jets use Sanchize, so maybe the plural Sanchi?
The AL's hottest team still trails Cleveland in the Central, but Detroit's seven straight wins and third-in-the-AL 187 runs scored had it leading the wild-card race through Sunday. And Lions QB Matthew Stafford declared himself 100% recovered from shoulder surgery.
The Mets (19--21) are improving, but skipper Terry Collins continues to bungle bullpen maneuvers and lineups. Plus he recently criticized outfielder Jason Bay for missing two games to attend the birth of his child. "Twenty-five years ago nobody left," Collins said—and maybe he has a point. The Mets were better 25 years ago.
A MAN THIS LONELY
Hours before being benched for Game 6 against OKC on Friday the 13th, unlucky Memphis swingman Sam Young had his Camaro stolen when he left it running at an ATM. The ride was recovered, but Sam was sad again on Sunday, with just four points in the Grizz's series-ending loss.
After Rangers forward--heel Sean Avery voiced his support of same-sex marriage last week, NHL agent Todd Reynolds and Canadian sportscaster Damian Goddard tweeted with criticism. In a twist, Avery came out the hero: The media ripped Reynolds, and Goddard was fired.
New York City was snubbed last week in its bid to host next year's NHL Winter Classic (it will be in Philly instead, ouch); the soap opera Yankees were swept at home by the Red Sox; and in case you forgot, the Knicks and the Rangers combined for one 2011 playoff win.
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
WHO IS THE NICEST PLAYER IN BASEBALL?
Jim Thome, Twins DH 21%
Ra√∫l Iba√±ez, Phillies OF 7%
Mike Sweeney, Retired 1B 5%
Johnny Damon, Rays DH 5%
Joe Mauer, Twins C 4%
Yankees OF Curtis Granderson and SS Derek Jeter also received 4% of the vote... . Among the top 25 vote-getters, only one pitcher, the A's' Craig Breslow (1%), was named, while nine first basemen were cited... . Pedroia was No. 3 in fan voting but received only two player votes (1%).
Based on 290 MLB players who responded to SI's survey
Facebook Fan Picks
28% JIM THOME, TWINS
17% DEREK JETER, YANKEES
10% DUSTIN PEDROIA, RED SOX
JEFF MORELAND/ICON SMI (HARPER)
CLIVE BRUNSKILL/GETTY IMAGES (SHARAPOVA)
MARK GOLDMAN/ICON SMI (SANCHEZ)
JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES (STAFFORD)
RICH PILLING/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (THOME)