The Week That Was in Baseball: February 16-22, 2009
The Question Now for A-Rod: "And Since 2003?" The Kid Returns to Seattle
Have Cash, Will Get Swindled
Spring Training's New Palace

A-Roid, Act II
Human nature has a funny way of showing off, and we saw it not only in the second (and far more public) confession of Alex Rodriguez at New York Yankee camp this past week, but in the media’s reaction to it. The new information fronted by A-Rod, that an unnamed cousin talked him into steroids at a time when he was naïve and stupid, could very well have been truthful as it was plausible. But reporters who attended the packed news conference and the columnists watching on TV revealed an unforgiving skepticism as it often their prerogative to do.

Follow-up questions weren’t allowed at Rodriguez’s news conference, and thus the media asked them in print the next day, to be left to our opinions. Such as: How can you be so “stupid and naïve” at age 27? How could you stop taking “boli” (Primobolan, we presume) because you feared MLB was getting serious about drug testing, well before they actually did? Why did you keep taking the drugs for three years when, initially, you didn’t think it worked? (Actually, that was asked directly to A-Rod, who fudged and struggled to answer.) And who is this cousin of yours you put $252 million worth of trust into?

Some Answers, And a Few More Questions
Rodriguez’s news conference showed that with each step he takes forward, he seems to take two back. In the aftermath, the media went into TMZ mode and hunted down the anonymous cousin, locating him in Miami under the name of 46-year old Yuri Sucrat—who refused to confirm, deny or discuss. More ominously, the New York Daily News connected some dots from Sucrat and stumbled upon a well-known trainer from the Dominican Republic, Angel Presinal, who’s been barred from MLB clubhouses since a 2001 incident in Toronto involving a gym bag loaded with steroids—and as late as 2007 was hanging out on a constant basis with Rodriguez, even on the Yankees’ road trips.

Presinal, labeled as an “unsavory character” from one unnamed source in the Daily News article, has worked with numerous MLB players past and present besides A-Rod, including David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Vladimir Guerrero, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Tejada, Jose Guillen and Juan Gonzalez—the latter three of whom were implicated in the Mitchell Report. Presinal also appeared prominently in the report, especially in regards to Gonzalez, the two-time MVP then playing for the Cleveland Indians; even though Presinal picked up the bag of steroids at a Toronto hotel while Canadian authorities were watching, he later claimed under questioning that the bag belonged to Gonzalez. (The Mitchell Report, however, had an Indian security employee stating that Presinal, under further questioning, did confess to packing and carrying the bag for Gonzalez, something Presinal now denies.) The Canadians did not press charges for reasons that, according to MLB honcho Rob Manfred, “still escape us.”

Speaking of MLB, it wants to have a chat with Rodriguez regarding Presinal.

The Most Valuable Clean Player
When Jose Canseco admitted to taking steroids during his 1988 MVP season, Mike Greenwell—the runner-up in the voting—lobbied that he should have the honor transferred to him. Now that we know that Rodriguez was juiced in his MVP year of 2003, what does that season’s runner-up, Carlos Delgado, think? “I thought I had a pretty good chance to win it myself before any of this came out,” said a philosophical Delgado, who with Toronto in 2003 hit .302 with 42 homers and 145 RBIs—and cleanly, he insisted. “But it didn’t happen, so I wasn’t going to let that kind of overshadow the season I had.” If it’s any consolation to Delgado, he has our top spot in the 2003 Production Index ahead of Rodriguez and other AL hitters.

Taking One More For the Disputed Home Run King
Also this week in Steroidland, Judge Susan Illston followed through on her initial threat and threw out Barry Bonds’ three positive drug tests and doping calendars by his personal trainer Greg Anderson for Bonds’ upcoming perjury trial. Illston’s decision was based on the virtual certainty that Anderson will refuse to testify at the trial. Should Anderson refuse, he’ll likely be cited for contempt and thrown back in the slammer, where he previously spent a year and a half for zipping up on behalf of his childhood friend Bonds.

Not That There's Anything Wrong With It
Italy’s World Baseball Classic team has invited Mike Costanzo, who played at the Triple-A level in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization last year, to a tryout. Not to be outdone, the American WBC team—desperate for someone, anyone to play on its roster—has put out a call for George Costanza, former assistant to the traveling secretary for the Yankees.

If This Item Causes Laughter For Four Hours, See a Doctor Immediately
Viagra isn’t quite steroids, although Rafael Palmeiro once pitched it on TV. But there is one admitted user of Viagra at major league camp, and that’s Brian Bocock, who was the San Francisco Giants’ Opening Day shortstop last year and stayed there before hitting deficiencies brought him back to the minors. But before you think other deficiencies led him to take Viagra, you’re going down the wrong drug aisle; it was one of many remedies Bocock was asked to take after he began suffering from a circulation disorder. Still, you can’t help but chuckle over a guy with the last name of Bocock taking Viagra (though it would have been funnier had the user been former Giant pitching coach Dick Pole).

Czech This Out
The Cleveland Indians have signed 16-year old catcher Martin Cervenka, born and present in the Czech Republic. Cervenka first attracted the Indians’ attention while showing off his skills at MLB’s European Academy in Italy. The Indians’ plans for Cervenka are long-range to say the least; they’ll let him finish out high school, which for Cervenka is another three years, and then they’ll send him to Australia for a few years more of maturing. In case you’re wondering, only five Czech natives have ever made it to the majors, the last and most prominent of whom was Elmer Valo, a career .282 hitter with a terrific eye for balls and strikes (101 walks and 16 strikeouts in 1952, for instance) who first played for the 1940 Philadelphia A’s and last for the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies.

He Said What?
George A. King III (not to be confused with King George III) of the New York Post on the Alex Rodriguez news conference: “It wasn’t as bad as R. Budd Dwyer’s last press conference 22 years ago.” For those of you who don’t remember, Dwyer was the embattled Pennsylvania state treasurer who, under major political and emotional duress, held a news conference to answer the charges—and used the occasion to put a gun to his mouth and commit suicide.

Would You Say No to Willie?
The Atlanta Braves must be starting to think if a higher power has it in for them. Spurned at the eleventh hour by numerous players throughout the offseason—most glaringly when free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal allegedly agreed to a deal with Atlanta, only to turn around and have the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the offer—the Braves got stung again this past week when Ken Griffey Jr. okayed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Seattle Mariners. This, less then a day after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the future Hall-of-Famer had approved a deal with the Braves.

Griffey appeared to lock in with Atlanta, given the team’s spring training and regular season proximity to his Florida home, but reports say that none other than Willie Mays called up Griffey and prodded him to go to where it all began 20 years ago in Seattle. Memo to Griffey: If you’re truly looking to go home again, the Kingdome has since been demolished. (Some believe Griffey fled to Cincinnati in 2000 because he feared that the relatively spacious dimensions of Safeco Field would hurt his chances of becoming the all-time home run king.)

Frozen Out
Those who earn their money through big league baseball might want to start scrutinizing how to better store it. First, Ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff swindled big chunks of dough from folks like Sandy Koufax and New York Met owner Fred Wilpon; now comes news this past week that another scam artist billionaire in sheep’s clothing, R. Allen Stanford, has affected two members of the Yankees: Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady. Though neither player has forever lost their money—yet—their accounts have been frozen by Federal authorities, meaning they can’t access it. Damon lamented to reporters than he can’t pay any bills until then.

A Kindler, Gentler Sheff?
Last year, when outspoken Detroit slugger Gary Sheffield was embroiled in a contract-related lawsuit with his former agent Scott Boras, he promised he would air some very dirty laundry on the superagent, who eventually won $550,000 against Sheffield. That was then, this is now; given the chance to make good on his promise upon his arrival at Tiger camp, here’s what Sheffield had to say: “No comment.” Apparently, a suspension would be too long enough, a fine too big enough for Sheffield to yap away.

Springtime's Shangri-La in Pictures
You’ve heard a lot about it, now you can see it—even if it’s not quite 100% complete: Camelback Ranch, the spanking new 141-acre spring training facility shared by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Arizona. The Chicago Sun-Times has the words and pictures to prove it.

Hudson on the Pacific
No one on the Arizona Diamondbacks is going to miss Orlando Hudson, who finally shed his free agent status and signed this past week with the Dodgers, more than pitcher Brandon Webb. One reason that Webb has gotten so many double plays out of the numerous ground balls he’s forged was because Hudson, playing behind him, had terrific range that saw him perennially lead major league second baseman in assists. Hudson’s likely replacement, Felipe Lopez, often has the bat to make things work offensively but is a definite defensive downgrade.

Enjoy the Partially-Obstructed View Until 2059
Not everyone in Boston is in love with Fenway Park. Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley: “(Fenway Park) is still too small, too cramped and too uncomfortable. It is a ballpark whose seats have trouble accommodating the ever-expanding 21st century backside, and the sightlines are laughably poor in some sections.” Buckley also was pained to hear from Red Sox execs this past week that the team intended to play at Fenway for 50 more years.

The Mouth Gets 85
Lastings Milledge of the Washington Nationals bowed to newly-signed free agent arrival Adam Dunn by giving him his uniform number of 44. Milledge will now wear 85, in honor of the year he was born. Washington manager Manny Acta couldn’t help but notice the similarity in Milledge’s brash, sometimes controversial personality with that of football’s Chad Johnson, who also wears 85 for the Cincinnati Bengals—and placed a strip of white tape over Milledge’s locker that read, “Ocho Cinco 85,” a reference to the name Johnson attempted to legally embrace as his own last year.

Manny Impostor?
As we type, Manny Ramirez is still unsigned—yet the uniform number he wore in Boston, 24, is employed again. The irony is that the number is now worn by Takashi Saito, who played last year with the Dodgers—the team Ramirez was traded to at the end of July.

Wounded of the Week
The performance of Colorado pitcher Jeff Francis over the past two years served as a microcosm of the Rockies: A 17-9 record and 4.22 ERA for the 2007 NL champion Rockies, 4-10 and 5.01 for the 74-88 edition in 2008. Let’s hope the Rockies don’t continue to be in sync with Francis this year, or they may very well be AWOL; Francis, struggling with a bad shoulder, has opted for surgery that will likely keep him completely out of action for 2009.

Also from the Ouch Couch this week comes this Purple Heart effort from Kansas City outfielder Jose Guillen, who discovered he had an ingrown toenail—and removed it himself over one painfully excruciating hour. Okay readers, take a deep breath and then continue.

Now Playing at TGG
Our 2008 Yearly Reader page is now uploaded along with its accompanying Leaders+Numbers page dissecting the most productive hitters and pitchers of 2008, final standings and the "It Happened In..." installment highlighting the recordbreakers and events of the season that was.

TGG Video Update
Our video page has been updated with a retrospective of Barry Bonds' final game (or so we assume) in San Francisco on September 26, 2007 as filmed by our own Steve Friedman.

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