SECURE, BUT ...
The Twins didn't
get the retractable-roof stadium that team officials wanted, but they got the
next best thing: an open-air, $522 million ballpark for which the franchise
must kick in only $130 million. Amazingly, the public will foot the rest of the
bill--through a Hennepin County sales tax--even though it never had the chance
to vote on funding. The Twins currently have $22 million of their $63 million
payroll covered by revenue sharing, so when will the expected ballpark revenues
allow general manager Terry Ryan to boost the budget? "I don't think we'll
see an effect until '08 and '09," he says. In the meantime Ryan would do
well to lock up catcher Joe Mauer, 23, and lefthander Francisco Liriano, 22,
with long-term deals. Last Friday, on the night the ballpark funding became
official, Mauer (right) hit a 427-foot homer and Liriano threw five shutout
innings in a 3--1 win over the Mariners. With the downtown park expected to
open in time for the 2010 season, the future of baseball in Minnesota never
MISERY STARTS AT
Juan Pierre has been one of the biggest disappointments in the Cubs' miserable
season. He has been such a bust atop the lineup that Chicago had a worse
on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot (.265 at week's end) than the Braves
and the Cardinals had out of their ninth spots. Over the winter Chicago tried
to 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 he
were convicted of another drunken driving offense. (He has two convictions in
the last four years.) Then the Cubs made no attempt to come close to the
Dodgers' offer of $39 million for three years. Furcal had a .343 OBP through
Sunday for L.A., which gives him off-field support. Says Furcal, "I've
learned. I don't need [a clause] in my contract. Think about it: Who has more
to lose, the team or me?"
Astros. Caught in a 7--16 free fall at week's end, Houston is in danger of
playing itself out of the Roger Clemens sweepstakes. Yes, Houston is the
Rocket's home, but Clemens wants the carrot of a playoff appearance.
?The Marlins are
not yet taking bids on Dontrelle Willis (right), but that should change before
the July 31 trade deadline. The Diamondbacks, with their deep farm system, may
have the best chance at landing the lefthander. The Mets, Yankees, Phillies and
Cardinals will also be involved.
? Jim Bowden's
future as Nationals G.M. will depend on the disposition of his DUI case in
Florida. (He was arrested on April 17 for allegedly running a stop sign.) If he
beats the charge this summer, new ownership plans to keep him through 2007. If
not, he'll be out of a job.