The Week That Was in Baseball: January 28-February 3, 2008
Ramblin' Roger's Crackhead Defense How's Your Minor Leaguer Trading Today?
Miss, Is the Umpire Next Door the Grand Wizard? Johan Santana's Met Life

The More You Talk, the More it Sounds Like Crock
San Francisco radio sports talk host Rod Brooks recently said that Roger Clemens was using a “crackhead defense”—one in which someone high on drugs would talk on and on and on to eventually convince himself, among those who cared to listen, that he wasn’t guilty of anything. Brooks’ opinion appeared to earn the ultimate justification this past week when Clemens’ lawyers whipped up and released a 49-page document defending how the 354-game winner could have been so successful so late in his career without the benefit of steroids. Memo to Clemens: You had us at “McNamee’s lying.” So until you take the oath in Washington, shut up.

Men in Blue...And White Sheets?
In the wake of the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal that rocked the NBA last year, Major League Baseball decided it was a good idea to do some background checks on their umpires, just to make sure. However, whether the men in blue frequented the sportsbook wasn’t the only thing MLB wanted to know. According to officials from the umpires’ union, neighbors of some umpires who reside in the South were asked whether the arbiter next door was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, or if he grew pot, or if he threw wild parties or beat his wife. The KKK query was enough to get Jesse Jackson out of the center of his universe to publicly criticize MLB. World Umpires Association spokesman Lamell McMorris was equally appalled: “To try to link our umpires to the Ku Klux Klan is highly offensive. It is essentially defaming the umpires in their communities by conducting a very strange and poorly executed investigation. It resembles kind of secret police in some kind of despotic nation.” A MLB spokesman stated that the union’s claims were “inaccurate,” but neighbors who had first-hand knowledge of events verify that they were quite accurate. If proven true, you simply have to shake your head and perhaps even pound it on the table trying to understand why MLB continues to be so thickheaded in flexing unnecessary muscle.

Baseball Web Sites From the Heart
The great thing about baseball on the Internet is how people channel their passions for the game by creating a myriad of different sites with a myriad of different topics—all for our benefit. So while This Great Game sets its ambitious sights on comprehensive major league history, we discover sites that are simply more personal and slice-of-life but with the same level of dedication as TGG. Case in point: Friend and colleague Ken Camozzi, creative director for Silicon Valley ad agency DRB Partners, spends a good chunk of his spare time on two stylish sites inspired from the memories of his late grandfather “Genial” Gene Camozzi, a semipro star from 1915-1940 in Northern California. Baseball Blues speaks directly to the elder Camozzi’s baseball life, while Old Coast League is a portal for vintage Pacific Coast League history and artifacts. The latter site currently posts terrific 1918 footage of Opening Day festivities for the PCL’s Oakland Oaks, featuring an appearance by the legendary Cap Anson.

The Tall of Fame Re-Ups
Jon Rauch, currently spotlighted in our “All of Fame” opinion piece as the tallest player (6’11”) in the history of the majors, avoided arbitration and signed a two-year, $3.2 million deal to stay with the Washington Nationals. Besides leading the majors in height, Rauch also made more appearances (88) than any other pitcher in 2007.

Dario and a Friend Named Joe
This week brings our latest installment of They Were There, with former major leaguer Dario Lodigiani speaking to TGG’s Ed Attanasio about being robbed of the opportunity to end good friend Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak (when it was at 25), his kick-back experience playing ball and drinking on Hawaii during World War II, and a funny story involving himself, DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe during a fishing excursion. Check it out here.

In honor of the Chicago Cubs' 100th anniversary of their last World Series title, This Great Game is counting down the 40 years between 1909 and 2007 in which the Cubs came nearest to winning another. Our Tragical History Tour of Wrigleyville continues this week with:

39. 1971 83 Wins, 79 Losses
Tied for Third Place, 17 Games Back
The Cubs finished over the .500 mark for the fifth straight year—something the team hadn’t done since the 1930s—and Ferguson Jenkins collected a NL-high 24 wins, but the Cubs couldn’t topple the eventual World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates, tying for third in the NL East after closing to within 4.5 games of the Bucs with a mid-summer rush of victories. One area that hurt the Cubs was a year-long downturn in production from their star hitters (Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Jim Hickman and Johnny Callison), but worse, the team had to weather through a stormy clubhouse soap opera starring manager Leo Durocher, who openly knocked heads with Santo and first-year Cubbie Joe Pepitone (yes, nearly ten years after he introduced the hair dryer to the majors, Pepitone was still derided by the aging, old-school Durocher for using it). Making team morale even lower, owner Philip Wrigley published an apology for the team’s disappointing performance in the local papers, finishing with this PS: “If only we could find more players like Ernie Banks.”


Now This is Mad Money
Randy Newsom, a minor league pitcher in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, decided to take the fantasy league concept one step further. So he came up with the idea to sell shares of stock…in himself. The idea was that if Newsom progressed and advanced to the majors and eventually garnered a multi-million dollar contract, shareholders could get a sizeable piece of the action. But MLB, the players’ union and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) all warned Newsom that the legality of his venture was dubious at best. (And you know you’re in trouble when management and the union line up on the same side to disagree with you.) So Newsom has agreed to put the idea on hold, but he’ll pursue an arrangement of his plan that would satisfy the powers-that-be…should that ever occur.

The Ace of Ace$
After enormous speculation, the Minnesota Twins finally unloaded Johan Santana to the New York Mets this past week for four prospects with little or no major league experience. Quickly thereafter, the Mets signed Santana to a six-year contract extension that makes the All-Star pitcher the first in history to exceed an annual salaried average of $20 million. The raising of the salary bar is also good news for next year’s crop of free agents, which will be headlined by C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Adam Dunn, Joe Nathan and Francisco Rodriguez.

Yes, Virginia, There Really is a Seven-Figure Salaried Florida Marlin
Former All-Star Luis Gonzalez, 40, signed a one-year deal with the Florida Marlins this past week. Congrats to Gonzalez, who is now the highest-paid Marlin—at $2 million.

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