This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: December 31, 2012-January 6, 2013
Will A-Rod be Hip Enough to Topple Bonds? A Bad Week in the Hunter Household
Is Ugueth Urbina Rehabilitated? Who’s That Kid Who Hit it 515 Feet?

Hip Flop
Once upon a time, Alex Rodriguez was considered even money at best to break Barry Bonds’ all-time career home run record of 763. But not only are those odds lessening, so is any chance that Rodriguez will add even one blast to his HR total this coming season. Doctors are patiently trying to get Rodriguez, in need of yet another hip-related surgery, prep time—call it “pre-hab”—to be able to effectively perform the procedure and get him properly and quickly rehabbed for game-ready action. The earliest any surgery would take place is later this month; Rodriguez is expected to miss at least half of the 2013 season.

In July, Rodriguez turns 38. If he returns in midseason and hits home runs at the rate he has over the last four years, he won’t reach Bonds until roughly the end of 2017—when he’s 42. With his hip as pesky as it’s been, that adds up to some pretty rough odds—not exactly the even money once predicted.

Unhappy New Year, Mr. Hunter
This past week was one which Torii Hunter would have preferred a do-over. The 37-year-old outfielder, newly acquired by the Detroit Tigers, started the week in hot water when he was quoted by the Los Angeles TimesKevin Baxter as saying he would be “uncomfortable” playing with a gay teammate. In response to the expected commotion the article created, Hunter broke out the “misquoted” defense, saying Baxter “took two completely separate quotes and made them into one…”

The week only got worse when Hunter got word that his son, Torii Hunter, Jr.—a gifted high school athlete—broke his leg while practicing drills for an all-star football team. He’ll miss his final season of prep baseball, for which he’s also considered a top college prospect.

Taking the Mound From a Different Kind of Pen
Former closer Ugueth Urbina is lobbying to make a major league comeback at age 38, saying he’s “more mature” than before. Let’s certainly hope that’s true, because the last we heard of him, he was being sentenced for attempted murder in his native Venezuela after leading a group of men on a rampage against workers at his family’s ranch in late 2005. A two-time All-Star with 237 career saves and a league-leading 41 in 1999 for the Montreal Expos, Urbina served half of his 16-year sentence and was released last month. He’s hoping to use winter ball in Venezuela as a springboard to get a spring invite in the majors.

We Think he Passed the Audition
News was made at Marlins Park this past week, and it thankfully had nothing to do with Jeffrey Loria. The ballpark was the site of Power Showcase, a display of high school baseball stars trying to show off their prodigious talents. Not failing the exam was David Denson, a 6’3”, 250-pound resident of Covina, California who nailed a drive high off the video scoreboard in right-center field; the blast was measured at 515 feet, a mere 13 feet longer than the previous event record set in 2009 by current Washington outfielder Bryce Harper.

Before everyone goes gaga over Denson, a few things: One, he wasn’t facing live pitching but a soft-tossing batting practice hurler a la the Home Run Derby; two, he was using an aluminum bat, which is known to add distance to any fly ball compared to a wooden stick. Still, Denson—on his way to the University of Hawaii, lucky bum—outdistanced the longest major league homer of 2012, when Marlin slugger Giancarlo Stanton connected for 494 feet at Denver’s Coors Field.

Maybe the Security Dude was a Tiger Fan
San Francisco closer
Sergio Romo was arrested on New Year’s Eve at Las Vegas’ McCarron International Airport when he failed to show proper ID to a TSA agent and got angry about it. Just asking, Sergio: Were you wearing that “I just look illegal” T-shirt from the Giants’ victory parade at the time?

You’re in the American League Now
The 2013 regular season will officially kick off on Sunday, March 31 with a nationally televised curio: The Houston Astros’ first game as an American League outfit, taking on cross-state rival Texas in a home game at Minute Maid Park. One thing’s for sure; this will likely be the biggest buzz afforded to a team coming off a 100-loss season in quite some time.

Pointed Out
Last August 5, a 17-year-old seated in a luxury box gone wild at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium aimed a laser pointer at players on the field during a game between the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants, causing a stoppage in play; even after being pointed out, he continued to point back, defiantly with laughter. That kid, one
Eric Bogard, finally faced the music this past week by pleading guilty to his actions. His punishment: Six months of probation. However, if he gets in trouble with the law during this time, he’ll get jail time and a permanent record. So here’s a note to Bogard’s parents: Keep the pointer locked away in the liquor cabinet.

Reclamation Central
Winter is showing to be the time in which major league pitching stars of yesteryear try and prove they have something left. Last week it was former Tampa Bay ace Scott Kazmir who hooked onto a minor league contract with Cleveland; he was followed this past week by Dontrelle Willis (rumored to have inked with the Chicago Cubs), Javier Vazquez (hoping to hook on with the Washington Nationals after taking the 2012 season off) and Brandon Webb, the former Cy Young Award winner who hasn’t thrown a regular season pitch since the start of 2009 and is soliciting attention from numerous teams in hopes of making a comeback for 2013. The Colorado Rockies, desperate for any warm body to fill their rotation, appear to be the team most interested in Webb.

If We Had a Hall-of-Fame Vote
For those who missed our thoughts on this coming Wednesday’s Hall-of-Fame vote, here they are again.

The most highly anticipated Hall-of-Fame vote will be revealed on January 9, with first-time nominees Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa—all major focal points of the steroids era—ready to discover where they stand among those holding the keys to Cooperstown. The star-loaded ballot also includes first-timers in 3,000-hit man Craig Biggio, slugging catcher Mike Piazza and outspoken championship pitchers Curt Schilling and David Wells; holdovers from previous ballots will include Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and, of course, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

Now comes something really dangerous: What would TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio do if they were given HOF voting powers? Well, here’s your answers:

Barry Bonds
Eric: Yes. Ed: No.
In Eric’s eyes, Bonds was already Hall of Fame-worthy when he began juicing up around 1999, per the solid timeline of evidence and testimony revealed over the years. Ed says no on the principle that he would not vote for anyone who took steroids.

Roger Clemens
Eric: Yes. Ed: No.
Ed sticks to his guns and says Clemens is not deserving for his juiced past. For Eric, the evidence on Clemens is murkier than with Bonds; when did he do it, and for how long? His feeling here is that the majority of Clemens’ 354 wins must have come cleanly, so the benefit of a doubt is given.

Sammy Sosa
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Agreement on a good player who cheated to become great. And let’s face it, Sosa excelled because of the PEDs; no other player has ever bloated to power in so obvious a way. Sosa’s been linked to the (not-so) secret 2003 list of players who tested positive, and perhaps most damning of all, he refuses to say whether he took steroids—only stating that he’ll answer when he gets elected into Cooperstown. Ain’t happenin’, brother.

Craig Biggio
Eric: Yes. Ed: No.
The common wisdom is that anyone with 3,000 hits gets an automatic pass into the Hall (unless you cheated—sorry,
Rafael Palmeiro), but Ed says not so fast, my friend. Biggio’s .281 average doesn’t sit well with him—while for Eric, Biggio’s 3,060 career knocks, 1,844 runs (15th all-time) and 668 doubles (fifth all-time) does.

Mike Piazza
Eric: Yes. Ed: Yes.
True, Piazza was below average defensively—opposing baserunners occasionally ran at will on him—but no other catcher consistently powered the ball with such authority and with solid batting averages (he holds a career .308 mark). Rumors abound over Piazza; was he on steroids? Was he gay? (Yeah, and the Playboy wife is just a front.) The only thing proven above is the hard stats. We’d vote him in.

Curt Schilling
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Three 20-win seasons, three times striking out 300 batters, three World Series rings, his refreshing candor and his bloody sock will appeal to many HOF voters, but his inconsistency and injury record keep him from meeting the threshold of greatness, in our eyes.

David Wells
Eric: No. Ed: No.
A poor cousin of sorts to Schilling, with the same outspoken personality and knack for being at the right place, right time, appearing in 11 postseasons. No current Hall of Famer has a higher career earned run average than
Red Ruffing (3.80), and we doubt voters will likely raise the bar with Wells (4.13).

Jack Morris
Eric: No. Ed: No.
All those wins, all those innings and those three rings—yes, we get that. We also get that his 3.90 career ERA is also higher than Ruffing’s. It could be argued that
Dan Petry was a more effective pitcher during Morris’ height of fame in Detroit.

Jeff Bagwell
Eric: No. Ed: No.
A product of the steroid era, Bagwell would get no votes from us—not as an indictment on any supposition that he took PEDs, but that his often voluminous numbers came during a time when they were relatively easy to earn.
Albert Belle, Juan Gonzalez and Mo Vaughn put up equally frightening numbers during the same time…and just how far did they get with Cooperstown voters?

Tim Raines
Eric: No. Ed: Yes.
Thumbs up for Raines from Ed, who likes what “Rock” did at the plate (.294 average, 2,605 hits), on defense (six times leading outfielders in fielding percentage) and especially on the basepaths (808 steals, 1,571 runs). For Eric, Raines falls into the
Tony Oliva/Vada Pinson category: A great career start, but too soon of a fade to be considered for the Hall.

Don Mattingly
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Alas. Everyone loves Donnie Ballgame, but you simply can’t earn HOF status stat-strapped by a bad back for half of your career. Ed envisions a future where Mattingly gets in should he rise to the occasion and wins rings as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers; we’ll see.

Edgar Martinez
Eric: No. Ed: No.
Ed’s personal HOF rules state that you need to play at least 20 years just to be considered for Cooperstown; Martinez played 18. Eric cites the case of
Buzz Arlett, who might have had a great career had the designated hitter been around 80 years ago; anyone who plays only 34 games in the field over his last ten years (as did Martinez) just doesn’t seem deserving, regardless of how good he hits.

Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro
Eric: No. Ed: No.

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