The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: January 3-9, 2011
The HOF Ballad of Bobby and Bert Hey Michael Young, Can You Move Again?
The Bright Side of Rafael Palmeiro's 11% Ryne Duren, in Memoriam

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Cooperstown Illustrated
Hall of Fame voters this past week inducted pitcher Bert Blyleven and second baseman Roberto Alomar into Cooperstown, otherwise sending a stern message to sluggers of the steroids era that it won’t be easy getting that 75% needed for enshrinement regardless of what herculean numbers—clean or otherwise—they may have produced over the last 20 years.

Alomar received a solid 90% of the vote after falling just short in 2010, his first year of eligibility. Some believe the additional votes came from those who may have penalized Alomar a year for the one thing that, unfortunately, he’s best remembered for: Spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck (and his vicious comments afterward claiming that Hirschbeck was “bitter” since the death of his son) in the heat of the 1996 pennant race. It’s hard to argue against Alomar’s inclusion into Cooperstown based on his more positive moments in baseball: He hit .300 with 2,724 hits, 474 steals and displayed dynamic defense at second base. Alomar played for seven different teams and although he’s heading into the Hall wearing the cap of the Toronto Blue Jays—who he helped win two World Series for—he was at his productive best during his three years in Cleveland (1999-2001), batting .323 while averaging 21 homers, 103 RBIs, 121 runs and 35 steals per season.

As for Blyleven, we couldn’t help but frown at his touch of arrogance when, during a post-election news conference, he applauded voters for “getting it right.” (Jeez—we’ll take it that entitlement never felt so deserving.) We actually don’t think the voters got it right at all; Blyleven was a definitive workhorse who accumulated big numbers over his career (287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts), but consider this: He won 20 games just once (in 1973, while losing 17), never won a Cy Young Award (he received votes in just four different years), was named to just two All-Star games and, while we understand that he often pitched for some miserable teams in Minnesota and Cleveland, he did appear for two World Series champions—the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 Minnesota Twins—but he’s hardly the first person people will associate with those teams. Frankly, how Blyleven went from 14% of the vote in 1999 to 79% 12 years later is beyond us, but his induction is a triumph of quantity over quality.

Of the first-time entrants on the 2011 ballot we spotlighted last week, almost all of them fared terribly. Our “if-we-had-to-pick-one-guy” choice of Jeff Bagwell resonated somewhat with voters, as he attracted the highest percentage of votes among the newbies at 42%. Larry Walker picked up 20% of the vote, two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez just a hair over 5% (barely making the cut just to stay on next year’s ballot), and John Franco, Kevin Brown, Tino Martinez and John Olerud all failed to accrue the 5% vote necessary to remain active for future Hall consideration, until the Veterans Committee picks up their cause years from now.

Which leaves us with Rafael Palmeiro, who managed to get voted on just 11% of the ballots. Last week we made the case against Palmeiro even if he was clean, using the same argument as with Blyleven above—laying out a clear distinction as to whether he was a very good player or a great one, one you don’t have to think about when opining on whether he should be in Cooperstown. Truth be told, we expected a higher percentage for Palmeiro, and his paltry total clearly suggests that voters either agree with us and/or simply feel he cheated. If it makes Palmeiro feel any better, remember that Blyleven got as little as 14% of the vote in his early years of eligibility. We’ll see if time becomes Palmeiro’s best friend.

Tribal Claim
Online headline from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Former Cleveland Indians Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar Elected to Hall of Fame.” Sounds quite ancestral, but trust us, neither player is going into Cooperstown wearing an Indians cap. (Blyleven will likely represent the Minnesota Twins, while Alomar will wear the cap of the Blue Jays.)

The Bronze Boss II
Why build one statue when you can build two at twice the price? The Yankees have erected a duplicate of the life-sized bronze of late owner George Steinbrenner outside of the team’s spring training complex in Tampa; the other one currently stands in the lobby of the new Yankee Stadium. The 600-pound statue shows Steinbrenner standing tall with hands proudly folded in front, wearing a World Series ring from the team’s last championship in 2009. There will be an official dedication of the Tampa statue at the beginning of the Yankees' exhibition season.

Trenders at the Top
USA Today bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir named their top 100 sports personalities who, “for better or worse, drove our traffic” in 2010. Steinbrenner was the only baseball figure to make the top ten, at number ten; Derek Jeter, Stephen Strasburg and Cliff Lee squeezed into the top 20.

Coming Soon to TGG
Look this coming week for the update to the Yearly Reader section to include the 2010 season.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.

Errand Boy Blues
The Texas Rangers’ front office likely drew straws to determine the person whose job it would be to call up team hitting star Michael Young and ask him if he’d like to move positions...again. The team signed free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, which is great for the Rangers except that the position was filled by Young, who’s been chased around the infield throughout his career by management requests to make room for others; he moved from second base to shortstop when Ian Kinsler came along, and transferred to third after the Rangers brought up Elvis Andrus to play short a few years ago. That last request initially didn’t sit well with Young; he angrily stormed out of a restaurant when general manager Jon Daniels and team skipper Ron Washington formally asked, demanding a trade before calming down and changing his mind. If the beleaguered Milton from Office Space had that kind of temperament after being asked to change his desk location over and over again, that movie might have had a different ending.

So the short straw was drawn and Young was contacted—and to everyone’s relief, the anticipated tantrum did not occur. In fact, Young said he would be willing to do what he could to help the team out. So with Beltre on board for five years and $80 million, Young moves to the role of designated hitter—which spells the end of Vladimir Guerrero’s short stint in Arlington. (Los Angeles of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia says he would welcome a return of Guerrero back to the Angels.)

What Fox News and MSNBC Wrought
The nine-year girl who died in the mass shooting in Tucson that critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was the daughter of Los Angeles Dodger scout John Green—and the granddaughter of former manager Dallas Green; she was born on September 11, 2011. Five others were killed in the Arizona rampage; a 22-year old tagged by media with the “lone nut” label is in custody.

Ryne Duren, 1929-2011
An intriguing component of the Webb-Topping Yankees of the 1950s was lost this week when Ryne Duren died at age 81. Duren played for seven teams over ten years, but he was at his most formidable during his three-plus years with the Yankees, throwing hard but not terribly accurate as the team’s closer; he gave up few hits but compensated with many walks, as opposing batters entered the batter’s box kissing their good luck charms out of hope they wouldn’t get struck by one of his runaway fastballs. Wearing thick glasses that some compared to the bottom of Coke bottles, making Duren look like an eyesight-challenged caricature, only added to his wild reputation.

Duren was thrown into the busy Kansas City-New York pipeline of the 1950s when he was dealt to the Yankees in 1958 in a deal that sent Billy Martin and Ralph Terry to the A’s (Terry eventually returned). In his first year wearing pinstripes, Duren saved an AL-high 20 games and was a busy man at the World Series, winning one, losing one and recording a save against the Milwaukee Braves. Duren was a heavy drinker and it ended his career when, pitching in a 1965 game for Washington with a hangover, he was removed, left and drank more, deserted his car, climbed a bridge and began shouting; Senator manager Gil Hodges had to be called out to talk him down. Duren eventually overcame his alcoholic struggles and later began counseling others afflicted with the addiction.

A Necessary Conversion.
When last seen in the majors, Tony Pena Jr. was hitting about as bad as most pitchers…so he became one. After hitting a woefully awful .169 with few walks and no pop in 225 at-bats for the Kansas City Royals in 2008 and an even worse .098 (5-for-51) a year later, Pena Jr. reinvented himself as a pitcher in the San Francisco organization and didn’t do so bad, performing well at Double-A Richmond before hitting a bit of a wall at Triple-A Fresno. Not good enough for the pitching-rich Giants, Pena Jr. was released and this week was picked up by the Boston Red Sox. He is, of course, the son of five-time All-Star catcher Tony Pena.

Tokyo or Bust
It was said that Zack Greinke was hesitant to accept a trade to a big-market team and settled for the laid-back Midwestern berg of Milwaukee. His teammate of the last four seasons, fellow starting pitcher Brian Bannister, wasn’t afraid to think big market…so now he’s in Tokyo. The 29-year old right-hander, owner of a 35-49 record and 5.13 ERA over four years at Kansas City, signed with the Yomiuri Giants and becomes the second starting pitcher from last year’s Royals (after Bryan Bullington) to head to Japan.

Mo' Better Bullpen Blues
The Boston Red Sox have, for now, been denied in their hopes of extending the width of the bullpen behind Fenway Park’s right-center field wall—thus reducing the distance to the power alley from home plate by nine feet. Because Fenway is a designated historical landmark, the Red Sox can’t do as they please with it; they need to get permission from two commissions for any adjustments. The Boston Landmarks Commission had no problem with the bullpen makeover, but the Massachusetts Historical Commission said that the team would not be able to receive tax credits to perform the job, thus putting a financial dent into the Red Sox’ plans. All of this means a few less home runs for Adrian Gonzalez this season.

Baseball's Ten Most Memroable Home Runs
Our list of ten long balls that are the most deserving for their fame, importance and pure spectacle. Check it out now!

After Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay
As baseball struggles to grasp video replay, here's a suggestion on how to expand upon it and make it efficient—if not flawless. Check it out now!