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Tigers are best, top to bottom

Baseball America named the Tigers, the most improved team in the majors, as its Organization of the Year.

Detroit finished third in the American League East at 79-83 after winning 53 games in 1996.

The Tigers' six minor-league affiliates posted a combined 363-320 record for a .531 winning percentage, fifth among the 30 major-league franchises.

The success of the Tigers' minor-league teams is a marked improvement from the spring of 1996, when Baseball America rated Detroit's farm system the second-worst in baseball.

O's decision may be close

BALTIMORE _ Orioles owner Peter Angelos apparently is close to a decision on the status of manager Davey Johnson.

"The ball's in Peter's court. Something should happen soon," a team official said Tuesday.

Angelos has asked Johnson to apologize for telling 2B Roberto Alomar to pay a $10,500 fine to a charity in which his wife is involved. The Washington Post reported Johnson might be willing to admit to a mistake, albeit without malicious or reckless intent.

RENTERIA HONORED: President Ernesto Samper bestowed Colombia's highest honor on native son Edgar Renteria, Marlins shortstop and World Series hero. "All Colombians give their thanks today to Edgar Renteria for making us feel proud again of being Colombians," Samper said at the ornate Casa de Narino presidential palace in Bogota, where he presented Renteria with the San Carlos Cross of the Order of the Great Knight.

INDIANS: Cleveland will not exercise its $4.8-million option on RHP Jack McDowell, who missed the last 4{ months after surgery on his right elbow May 20. LHP Brian Anderson agreed to a one-year, $700,000 contract with a team option for 1999.

METS: New York declined a $4.5-million 1999 option on 2B Carlos Baerga. Under a six-year contract Baerga signed with Cleveland in 1993, the Mets had to decide on his option this month.

RED SOX: P Tim Wakefield has agreed to a three-year, $12-million contract with a $5-million club option for a fourth year.

ROCKIES: Manager Don Baylor said he will try to convince free agents Andres Galarraga and Walt Weiss to re-sign. "You're talking about veteran guys who really are the glue to our club," Baylor said.

YANKEES: A Houston jury took four minutes to clear 3B Wade Boggs of civil assault in a profanity-laced encounter with an airline attendant on a team flight in 1996. The team did not exercise 2B Pat Kelly's $1.4-million option. . . GM Bob Watson said OF Bernie Williams' agent, Scott Boras, has made unreasonable demands. Boras wants $70-million over seven years.

CORDERO CASE: Cambridge, Mass., District Attorney Thomas M. Reilly says he dropped a recommendation that former Red Sox OF Wilfredo Cordero be jailed for assaulting his wife because Cordero took the "first step toward rehabilitation" by admitting he committed the crime. "Once he was willing to acknowledge that, there was no reason to see him jailed or prevent him from making a living," Reilly said.

_ TIMES WIRES

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