This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2008 issue
Summer cruisin'. Baseball's best team (69--42) had an 11 1/2 game lead in theAL West through Sunday—and had slugger Mark Teixeira in the clubhouse, freshfrom Atlanta. They pitch (3.90 ERA), they score (six or more runs eight timesin 11 games) and they whup teams on the road (38--21). Could Torii Hunter(above) be Series bound?
Heady times in Green Bay. A crucial offensive star came back after missing thefirst days of practice—oh, and Brett Favre was around too. Running back Grant,who busted out with 956 yards last season, came into the fold a happy camper:He'd signed a four-year deal that could be worth up to $30 million.
The Twins' pennant hopes got a whole lot healthier. Liriano, the 2006 phenomcoming off arm surgery, sizzled in the minors, then went six shutout innings onSunday to beat Cleveland. "Been a long time," said the lefty, whohadn't won in the bigs for two years.
That epic victory in the Wimbledon final is paying off—along with a run of 32straight wins. Nadal just unseated Roger Federer for tennis's No. 1 ranking.Kick back and relax 'til the U.S. Open? Uh, no. "I'm out to try to win amedal [in Beijing]," the Spaniard said.
Aching and out of it. Chipper Jones is on the DL, starter Tim Hudson's gone forthe year (just like John Smoltz), and Mark Teixeira's been dealt to the Angels.Relying on guys like outfielder Jeff Francoeur (above), who was batting .231,Notlanta went 5--10 and fell 10 games back in the NL East. Said Chipper,"This is a tough pill to swallow."
He's back, but is he into it? The receiver, signed by the Raiders after aninjury-plagued and TD-less 2007 in Denver, weighed retirement (and returninghis $11 million bonus) last week before being coaxed back by owner Al Davis.Coach Lane Kiffin was not amused: "I'm worried about where he's atmentally."
Rumors that he'd be dealt to a contender never came true, so the allegedlypromising righty remains in Pittsburgh, where his dreadful season (4--8, 6.14ERA) got even more painful: He left Sunday's game after four innings with backpain.
Uneasy strokes the arm that wears the crown. Or something like that. A dayafter learning he'd move up to No. 1, Nadal got mashed in straight sets byNovak Djokovic in Cincinnati. Said a surprised Djokovic, "The way he wasplaying, we all thought he's not going to lose."
SI PLAYERS MLB POLL
Who is the most dangerous clutch hitter inbaseball?
David Ortiz, Red Sox DH 22%
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers LF 18%
Albert Pujols, Cardinals 1B 12%
Derek Jeter, Yankees SS 10%
Chipper Jones, Braves 3B 6%
Players could not vote for a teammate.... Ramirez was the top choice amongpitchers, drawing 19.1% of their vote, and AL voters (25.1%).... Ortiz missed45 games this year with a wrist injury but still had 47 RBIs in 63 games....Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who led the majors with 156 RBIs lastseason, finished tied for 10th with 1.8% of the vote.
[Based on a survey of 495 MLB players] • For more onthe poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/players.