TWINS' FUTURESECURE, BUT ...
The Twins didn'tget the retractable-roof stadium that team officials wanted, but they got thenext best thing: an open-air, $522 million ballpark for which the franchisemust kick in only $130 million. Amazingly, the public will foot the rest of thebill--through a Hennepin County sales tax--even though it never had the chanceto vote on funding. The Twins currently have $22 million of their $63 millionpayroll covered by revenue sharing, so when will the expected ballpark revenuesallow general manager Terry Ryan to boost the budget? "I don't think we'llsee an effect until '08 and '09," he says. In the meantime Ryan would dowell to lock up catcher Joe Mauer, 23, and lefthander Francisco Liriano, 22,with long-term deals. Last Friday, on the night the ballpark funding becameofficial, Mauer (right) hit a 427-foot homer and Liriano threw five shutoutinnings in a 3--1 win over the Mariners. With the downtown park expected toopen in time for the 2010 season, the future of baseball in Minnesota neverlooked brighter.
MISERY STARTS ATTHE TOP
CenterfielderJuan Pierre has been one of the biggest disappointments in the Cubs' miserableseason. He has been such a bust atop the lineup that Chicago had a worseon-base percentage out of the leadoff spot (.265 at week's end) than the Bravesand the Cardinals had out of their ninth spots. Over the winter Chicago triedto sign free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal to be its leadoff hitter. First,Furcal (left) balked at the Cubs' request that his contract be voidable if hewere convicted of another drunken driving offense. (He has two convictions inthe last four years.) Then the Cubs made no attempt to come close to theDodgers' offer of $39 million for three years. Furcal had a .343 OBP throughSunday for L.A., which gives him off-field support. Says Furcal, "I'velearned. I don't need [a clause] in my contract. Think about it: Who has moreto lose, the team or me?"
•Be careful,Astros. Caught in a 7--16 free fall at week's end, Houston is in danger ofplaying itself out of the Roger Clemens sweepstakes. Yes, Houston is theRocket's home, but Clemens wants the carrot of a playoff appearance.
•The Marlins arenot yet taking bids on Dontrelle Willis (right), but that should change beforethe July 31 trade deadline. The Diamondbacks, with their deep farm system, mayhave the best chance at landing the lefthander. The Mets, Yankees, Phillies andCardinals will also be involved.
•Jim Bowden'sfuture as Nationals G.M. will depend on the disposition of his DUI case inFlorida. (He was arrested on April 17 for allegedly running a stop sign.) If hebeats the charge this summer, new ownership plans to keep him through 2007. Ifnot, he'll be out of a job.
Extra Mustard by Baseball Prospectus
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE ANGELS? Over the last fourseasons they twice led the American League in batting average and did notfinish lower than seventh. However, during that time their secondary average--ametric invented by Bill James to measure components of offensive productionother than batting average--never ranked higher than ninth. (Secondary averageis calculated by adding total bases, walks and stolen bases, then subtractinghits and times caught stealing and dividing the result by at bats.)Essentially, the Angels' offense was overly reliant on singles. Despite thisflaw the franchise won two division titles and one World Series in those fouryears. But at week's end the batting average for this aging team had dropped to.253 (12th in the AL) while its secondary average remained among the league'sworst (11th), thus exposing the chinks in the last-place Angels' armor. So inrebuilding the lineup, general manager Bill Stoneman must put together a morebalanced group of hitters.
• More from Tom Verducci and Baseball Prospectus atSI.com/baseball.