SORIANO AVAILABLE?

Despite winning the All-Star Game MVP Award and hitting more home runs than any other major league second baseman this season (23, plus one as a designated hitter through Sunday), Alfonso Soriano (right) of the Rangers may be moving on to his third team in as many years. He's arbitration-eligible after the season and may command more than $7 million in salary in 2005, a price that seems too steep for pitching-starved Texas.

Soriano, 28, can be a dynamic offensive player, but his poor on-base percentage (.322) makes him ill-suited to the top of the order, and his batting average (.279) isn't ideal for a premier middle-of-the-order run producer. Also, his defense remains a drawback: With 20 errors Soriano is on track to become the first second baseman in history to lead his position in errors for four consecutive years.

WRONG PROFESSION

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's return to baseball has ended after one season as manager of the Clearwater (Fla.) Threshers, a Phillies Class A team. Schmidt (left) found out why so few great players remain in uniform after their playing days. "People might think this is the wrong thing to say, but it's been tough for me to take this job financially," Schmidt said. "I've given up a lot of appearance income. I couldn't take this job again. I need to be out earning. I can make more in two hours at a card show than I did in this job." Schmidt also mentioned the mental and physical stress of managing.

COUNTING THE GAMES

At week's end Baltimore first baseman Rafael Palmeiro (right) needed to play 19 more games in the field--140 for the season--to vest a $4.5 million option for next year. Don't be surprised if the club makes sure he comes up short. Palmeiro wants to continue playing, but his .182 average against lefties and .411 slugging percentage (third worst among all regular first basemen) indicate he's more suited to a part-time, less expensive role.

TWO-THIRDS CLUB

Two out of three ain't bad. Just ask the Cardinals (92--44), who passed the .667 winning percentage mark last week. Only 36 teams in baseball history have finished a full season with such a lofty percentage, including seven since the advent of the 162-game schedule in 1961. Here are those teams.

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COLOR PHOTOBOB ROSATO (SORIANO) COLOR PHOTOKATHY WILLENS/AP (SCHMIDT) COLOR PHOTOMARK GOLDMAN/ICON SMI (PALMEIRO)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)