The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: January 24-30, 2011
Baseball's Most Powerful Businessplayers What Did Fred Wilpon Know, and When?
Chuck Greenberg, Anti-Yankee Obstructionist U2—You Sunk My Baseball Series!

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The Almightiest According to Bloomberg
Bloomberg Businessweek released its list of the “Power 100” in sports—professional athletes ranked by a mix of performance and income from their employers and endorsees. Twenty-three baseball players made the list, with only six in the top 50, led by Albert Pujols in the nine spot; next was Derek Jeter at #26, followed by Roy Halladay at #30. The number one ranking belongs to Indianapolis Colt quarterback Peyton Manning.

One thing that popped out amongst the order of baseball players is that three New York Yankees—Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira—ranked ahead of Alex Rodriguez, who’s 81st on the list. The steroid rap is a bitch, isn’t it, Allie...

We Just Did it For the Phillies
So the Texas Rangers couldn’t grab star pitcher Cliff Lee on the free agent market, but they’re happy enough to brag that they kept the Yankees from getting him. Ranger owner Chuck Greenberg believes that by making a last stab attempt to sign Lee in Arkansas, he delayed Lee’s decision and allowed the Philadelphia Phillies to enter the sweepstakes and make an eleventh-hour offer—which Lee accepted. And how are the Yankees responding to Greenberg’s claims? “I think Chuck is delusional,” said Yankee president Randy Levine, “He’s been in the game a few minutes, but it seems to be that he thinks he knows what everybody else is thinking. He should really let Cliff Lee speak for himself.”

Levine wasn’t through: “If (Greenberg) wants to impress us, then he can get the Rangers off of welfare and show how they can be revenue-sharing payers, rather than recipients for three years in a row, without financing from Major League Baseball. That would really be something.” Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.

Colon Growth?
After losing out on Lee and Zack Greinke, the Yankees this past week finally got their pitcher: Bartolo Colon! (Apparently, Mark Mulder wasn’t available.) The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner, last seen pitching in the majors in 2009 for the Chicago White Sox, signed a minor league deal with the Yankees and will make $900,000 if he makes the team—and even more if he meets certain incentives. A major shoulder injury crashed his career after winning the Cy, winning just 14 games (losing 21) over the next four years. Colon, who will be 38 in May, didn’t even pitch last year.

How to Dismantle a Baseball Series
Last year, the G20 summit in Toronto knocked the Blue Jays out of town and forced them to play three “home” games in Philadelphia, batting last in front of Phillie fans. This year, it’s U2’s turn; a concert by the iconic rock band has forced the Florida Marlins to move a scheduled home series against the Seattle Mariners at Robbie-Pro Player-Dolphin-LandShark-Whatever Stadium to Seattle, where they, too, will bat last and wear the home unis some 3,400 miles away from home. The two teams are still ironing out the details of how the revenues gained from the series will be split, but here’s one thing we can guarantee: They’ll draw more fans for a Mariners-Marlins series in Seattle than they will in Miami—unless U2 performs after the game.

Just Too Tired to Keep Going
Rocco Baldelli, still just 29, said enough and retired this past week from baseball. The once-promising Tampa Bay outfielder had his career curtailed when he was discovered to have a rare condition that brought on accelerated muscle fatigue. Baldelli gave it one last try late in 2010, but despite a home run in his first at-bat for the Rays, overall he didn’t show the flair that made him an instant hit back in 2003 at the age of 21, and his muscle issues didn’t help. He will remain with the Rays in a front-office capacity.

In Case No One Noticed...
Also stepping down from the game this past week—officially, anyway, as he hasn’t played in a major league contest since 2007—was pitcher Mike Maroth, baseball’s last 20-game loser. The southpaw was the go-to guy on the Detroit mound in the early 2000s, and despite his wretched 9-21 performance in 2003 (for a team that lost 119 games), he appeared to be an ace on the rise in the two years to follow—peaking in 2005 with a 14-14 mark in 209 innings. A year later, the Tigers would go on to the World Series—but Maroth could only watch, sidelined with elbow injuries that required surgery after starting the year at a promising 5-2. Following another 5-2 start in 2007, he was traded to St. Louis where he tanked, losing all five of his decisions with a 10.66 ERA. Maroth never appeared again, though not for a lack of trying, as under-the-radar stints with the Kansas City, Toronto and Minnesota organizations resulted in more injuries.

A Wilponzi Scheme?
There was much talk of how financially fluid New York Met owner Fred Wilpon was after one of his investors, one Bernie Madoff, was arrested for swindling incredible amounts of money (try $65 billion) via a Ponzi scheme. The facts being reported in the media seem to be just as fluid. How much did Wilpon invest? How much did he make? How much did he lose? Reports vary. The one concrete bit we got was that Wilpon entrusted $523 million to Madoff and made $48 million on the deal. But Wilpon says he’s also lost millions because of Madoff. So what is his bottom line?

That’s what Irving Picard, the trustee representing the victims of Madoff, wants to know. Apparently, Picard’s not counting Wilpon as a victim; he’s suing Wilpon, asking for $500-$700 million to help repay those who lost everything. The lawsuit suggests that Wilpon, simply by not having his bank account cleaned out, was complicit in the Madoff mess—a notion Wilpon’s friends and colleagues say is ludicrous.

Bracing for the worst, Wilpon announced that he’ll sell up to $170 million of his ownership in the Mets (retaining control of the team) to help pay potential losses from the lawsuit; among those interested in buying a piece of the Mets is the son of Martin Luther King Jr. It also explains why the team has been relatively quiet in the offseason chase for free agents.

Fear the Weird
Pitchers don’t report for spring training for another two weeks or so, but San Francisco closer Brian Wilson’s flair for the eccentric is already in midseason form. Wilson showed up on TBS’s Lopez Tonight this past Thursday wearing a sailor’s costume that looked suspiciously like the old sailor’s sculpture outside the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui (he’s the one above at left). As for Wilson, all we can say is that if he’s trying to get a good laugh at his own expense, he did well.

Paging Paul Bunyan
The deforestation of Target Field has begun. Fourteen black spruce trees standing behind center field at the Minnesota Twins’ new ballpark will be removed after complaints from hitters who said that the trees made it difficult for them to spot pitches out of the background. (The hitters would like to see the fences moved in a little here and there as well, but they may have to armwrestle the pitchers to get their wish.) Relax, environmentalists: The trees will not be chopped down and grounded into paper to be used as game notes at Target Field, but rather they will be moved to a location to be determined within the ballpark’s grounds.

Also coming out of the land of the Twins this past week was news that the team will unveil a bronze sculpture of former Twin star Tony Oliva outside of Target Field, and that Bert Blyleven’s number 28 will be retired. We wonder if Blyleven will borrow from his Hall of Fame election speech and thank the Twins for finally “getting it right.”

So, Does He Get the Call Right in the Book?
Jim Joyce, the umpire who blew the call on what should have been the final out of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game last season, says he’s teaming up with the former Detroit pitcher (now with Arizona) on a book project about the game last June 2 that became baseball’s most bittersweet one-hit shutout. Our first question: Just how long is this book going to be?

They Said What?
Headline on the Yahoo baseball page: "Rangers invite P Bush to spring training." Shouldn't that be "former P Bush" and, since he once owned the ballclub, can't he get an invite to the Rangers any ol' time?

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