Sharing the Pain, But Will They Share the Wealth?
Most major league teams who spruce up for the season in Arizona were happy to hear that the Chicago Cubs and the city of Mesa agreed on a new, $119 million spring training complex this past weekbut smiles turned to frowns when it was learned that the deal called for the project to be partially funded by a ticket surcharge on all spring training games in the Cactus League. Funds will also come from increased car rental taxes in Maricopa County and will be overseen by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. Arizona Diamondback president Derrick Hall told the Arizona Republic: “It’s really a catch-22 because we would love for the Cubs to stayjust not at the expense of our fans. The other 13 teams in the Cactus League feel the same way.”
Great Scott, What Have You Done?
When überagent Scott Boras messes up, the grins on the faces of baseball execs are palpable. That appears to be the case right now as Boras has all but fumbled his attempt to get client Johnny Damon the right deal. Damon would have preferred to remain a New York Yankee, and he did receive a two-year, $14 million offer to stay in the Bronx; Damon (and Boras) rejected the deal, and now he’s one of the last free agents out there, just hoping to catch on with another team. Boras publicly exclaimed this past week that Damon wants to be a Detroit Tigerbut the Tigers publicly replied that they weren’t interested. One unnamed American League executive recently bet that the 36-year old Damon, an outside shot for 3,000 career hits, will now be lucky to get a one-year deal for no more than $3 million.
It's Still McLane's Game
Ownership of the Texas Rangers has changed hands, but the Lone Star State’s other major league team hasn’tfor now. Houston Astro owner Drayton McLane did open the window for an interested buyer but now says that time has passed. The 74-year old McLane, who’s owned the Astros since 1992, said that an investment banking company in New York was given 30 days to come up with an acceptable offer to buy the team, but one failed to materialize.
Who Thought You'd Hear This One?
The Minnesota Twins are projected to have a higher payroll than the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2010.
Live From Fox, It's Saturday Night Live!
For the first time since starting its nationwide regular season coverage of MLB games, Fox will broadcast prime time baseball action on Saturday nights in 2010. Two evening dates during interleague play have been reserved: May 22 and June 26 with regionally chosen games.
As if the New York Mets needed any more controversy on the medical front, they got it anyway this past week when reliever J.J. Putz, now with the Chicago White Sox after spending last year with the Mets, said the team mishandled his arm injury. Putz said that the Mets never gave him a physical when the team acquired him after the 2008 season, and when team doctors found he had a bone spur in his elbow and recommended surgery, the team refused. Eventually Putz did go under the knife, but only after he had pitched 29 times in 2009 through June 4 with a 1-4 with a 5.22 ERA.
He Said What?
Steve Bisciotti, owner of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, on the stratospheric payroll of the New York Yankees: “If I’m a Yankees fan, I’m upset we’re not winning 130 games with the roster that they have and the money that they pay out. I think it’s a disgrace they only beat the average team by ten games in the standings with three times the money. I’d fire that GM. You don’t need a GM. All you have to do is buy the last Cy Young Award winner every year.”
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
It's Miller Time in Cooperstown
In the category of “It’s about time,” the Hall of Fame announced that Jon Miller will be enshrined in Cooperstown’s broadcast wing this summer. The 58-year old Miller is best known for his work on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecasts, as well as his local work for the Baltimore Orioles from 1983-96 and the San Francisco Giants since. A Bay Area product, Miller grew up and once took a tape recorder to the empty bleachers of the Oakland Coliseum to do play-by-play of an A’s game for himself; he later called A’s games for real in 1974, at the age of 22. (TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry still has an audiocassette of Miller and Monte Moore tag-teaming on an A’s broadcast from that year.) Miller’s quick wit, smooth delivery and great storytelling have rightfully earned him his spot in the Hall.
Last week we reported that Pittsburgh hockey legend Mario Lemieux and friends had asked the Pirates to consider selling the team to them. This week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an open letter to Pirate owner Bob Nutting to sell…to anyone. “By selling the team you can finally deliver on your promise of producing a winner, and probably years ahead of schedule,” said the letter, signed by “more than a few Pirate fans.” “You would become an overnight sensation, Pittsburgh's newest baseball hero. It's worth thinking about.” Nutting, whose team payroll is on target to be (easily) the lowest in the majorsand will make a profit as a resulthas recently said that the team is not for sale and will carry on with what likely will be the Bucs’ 18th straight losing season, extending a North American pro sports record.
Still Brushing Back After All These Years
After weeks of taking a critical pounding for his not-so-convincing steroid confession, Mark McGwire finally found a defender of sorts this past week in Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson. The former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher didn’t so much embrace McGwire’s use of steroids or buy into his explanation that they weren’t used for the home runs; rather, he just felt that the critics should just shut up and move on. As for whether he would have taken steroids in his day, Gibson said he would have been temptedand considering the intense manner in which he threw (often directly at hitters), one can only imagine how a rush of steroids would have affected his already fiery demeanor.
Reality Check of the Week
Jarrod Washburn, so good for Seattle for much of 2009 and so terrible after being traded late in the year to Detroit, says he’s feeling unappreciated as a result of not being signed as a free agent and might retire. The Minnesota Twins had offered the 35-year old Washburn a one-year, $5 million deal (which Washburn turned down), which leads us to think: How lucky we would all be to feel unwanted.
Fun Throwaway Super Bowl Fact
For the first time in 18 years, the Super Bowl featured two teams (Indianapolis and New Orleans) which play in markets not represented by MLB.
A Chat With Baseball's Biggest Communist Fan
Lester Rodney, who pressed for racial integration within baseball through the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a good ten years before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away on December 20 at the age of 98. One of the last people he gave an in-depth interview to was our own Ed Attanasio a few years back; that interview is now up in our They Were There section. Check it out now.
New and Improved at TGG
Our intro to the 2000s section of the Yearly Reader, originally written back in 2005, has been retitled and updated to provide a more complete overview of the decade. Also, the Teams section has been updated to include results from the 2009 regular season.
We Ought to Tell You: Our All-Decade Awards
With the end of the Oughts (read: 2000s), This Game Great has released its choices for the best, worst and most memorable of the decade that was. Check it out now.