Despite numerous injuries and a rookie-laden lineup, the NL East heavyweights won nine of 14 to close to within 11/2 games of the division-leading Nationals and take a four-game lead in the wild-card race. With top starters Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton and top hitter Chipper Jones coming off the DL, the Braves can smell another title. Next week they start a stretch of 19 of 25 games at home.
July 24, 2005
Lefty Al Leiter got pulled off the scrap heap and put in Yankees pinstripes, but play-by-play star Al Michaels (right) is in an even sweeter spot. With his ABC contract up, he's being courted by NBC for its NFL coverage. ABC/ESPN's parent company, Disney, has reportedly offered Michaels $12 million to stay on as the voice of Monday Night Football and the NBA--up from the $5 million he made last year.
Allen Iverson drew hoops studs such as Vince Carter and celebs such as Vivica A. Fox to his Celebrity Summer Classic in D.C. (The weekend event included sports tournaments and a kickoff party, and raised money for inner-city kids.) And Michael Jordan is a cover boy once more--on the August Cigar Aficionado, stogie in hand--making news by saying he wants to own a team in Vegas.
How to silence the critics who dissed Cards manager Tony La Russa for starting the underappreciated Carpenter in the All-Star Game? After a scoreless inning in Detroit the 30-year-old righty returned to pitch a shutout, beat Roger Clemens, improve to 14--4 and become the favorite for the NL Cy Young. Carpenter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Attention is not going to change my personality."
Plagued by injuries (Ryan Church, Nick Johnson) and using an ever-changing roster (a major-league-high 46 players this year), the NL East's Cinderella team had lost eight of 11 through Monday and seen its once 51/2-game division lead dwindle rapidly. The team, which has been outscored 377--370 this year, has struggled on the road, where beginning next week, it will play 19 of 25 games.
Rough off-season for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder: LB LaVar Arrington says Snyder owes him $6.5 million of a bonus (the case will go to arbitration); DB Sean Taylor was arrested for alleged assault and missed minicamp; and Snyder is being investigated for violating conservation laws when he cut down 130 trees on his Potomac, Md., property. Bad news too for K-State football coach Bill Snyder: Six signed baseballs (Mantle, DiMaggio) were allegedly stolen from his home.
UNC hoops coach Roy Williams (left) is under fire for breaking NCAA rules by approving gifts to graduating players while at Kansas. Williams says he didn't know the gifts were illegal and is "deeply saddened." One state down, South Carolina's football staff--including coach Lou Holtz, who left last November--was cited for 10 NCAA transgressions and will likely lose scholarships.
How to befuddle the scouts who see promise in the 28-year-old righthander who won 17 games in 2003? Ponson has lost his last four decisions, is Baltimore's only sub-.500 starter (7--8) and he saw his ERA balloon to 6.04 while getting pounded in a loss to the Mariners on Sunday. Said Ponson? Nothing. He has not spoken to the media, nor explained his silence, since July 3.
SI PLAYERS POLL
Would you rather play for the Red Sox or for the Yankees?
Red Sox 47%
Don't know 5%
FAST FACTS: AMONG PLAYERS WITH 10 OR MORE YEARS EXPERIENCE, 54% CHOSE THE YANKEES, JUST 30% PICKED THE SOX.... STARTING PITCHERS WENT FOR BOSTON 55% TO 36%.... AFTER TAKING THREE OF FOUR LAST WEEKEND (PAGE 54), the Yanks are 1,075--896 alltime against the Sox.... Ten active players have been on both clubs: Tony Clark, Roger Clemens, John Flaherty, Tom Gordon, Chris Hammond, John Olerud, Paul Quantrill, Rey Sanchez, Mike Stanton and David Wells (left and right).
Based on a survey of 450 MLB players
For an expanded version of the poll go to SI.com/scorecard.