The Week That Was in Baseball: February 18-24, 2008
A-Rod's Freudian Slip? Ballpark for Sail in St. Petersburg
Roger Clemens, Pretty as a Picture at Canseco's Party Mariotti vs. Guillen, Continued

Did I Say Nine or Ten? What I Meant Was...
In his first visit with the media since arriving at New York Yankee spring camp in Florida, Alex Rodriguez stated he was tested “nine or ten” times in 2007. It was soon after pointed out to him that no one gets tested that much unless there’s a previous positive test, leading Rodriguez to later release a statement through the Yankees saying he was “using exaggeration to make a point” that MLB’s testing procedures were working. Still, conspiracy theorists such as Jose Canseco will no doubt use Rodriguez’s initial words as fodder for their version of the truth.

The Smoking Photo
Roger Clemens has denied using steroids, but former trainer Brian McNamee may have DNA evidence against it. He says he never talked about using steroids with Andy Pettitte, but both Pettitte and his wife state under oath that they did not “misremember.” That’s two strikes in the court of public opinion against Clemens, and now this might be strike three: After strong denials from Clemens that he didn’t attend a 1998 party held by Jose Canseco—as McNamee claims—a photo has apparently turned up in which an 11-year old boy is pictured with Clemens at that very party. Interestingly, the father of the boy first contacted Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin on February 12—a day before the hearings—but Hardin didn’t mention anything of the photo at the hearings. Frustrated and angered by Congressman Dan Burton’s attack on McNamee’s credibility, the father then contacted McNamee lawyer Richard Emery, who says that a second photo has the boy posing with Canseco on the same day as well. Funny how just about anything Clemens claims these days just doesn’t pass the smell test—except that it stinks.

Boras to Death
The last six months for agent Scott Boras will not be those that will have a chapter entitled “Happy Times” in any future biography. First, he alienates client Alex Rodriguez after telling the world—during the final game of the World Series—that A-Rod is opting out of his contract with the New York Yankees. (A disgruntled Rodriguez re-signed with the Yankees without Boras’ help.) Then he’s fired by Kenny Rogers after he tried to shop the Detroit pitcher around to the highest bidder—to the disgust of Rogers, who had earlier let the Tigers know he would return in 2008. This past week, Boras took a real public beating from Gary Sheffield, an ex-client who is entrenched in a grievance with Boras over his previous contract with the Yankees; Sheffield claimed he negotiated the contract by himself, but Boras wants five per cent—or roughly $2 million—of that deal. Sheffield branded Boras a “bad person” and said, when the case is over, he would have a lot of “ugly things” to say about Boras. “It ain’t going to be pretty,” Sheffield said. “No fine is going to be big enough. No suspension is going to be long enough.” There was some good news this week for Boras: He picked up a new client in Manny Ramirez, whose contract expires after this season.

The Yearly Reader: 2007
This Great Game’s update to the Yearly Reader section has been completed with our review of the 2007 season. Entitled “Bow if You Will, Spit if You Wish,” the page takes a detailed look at Barry Bonds’ overtaking of Hank Aaron’s home run record and the controversial path he took to get there. Also dissected is the sudden late-season rise of the Colorado Rockies, and how they may have finally conquered the mile-high atmosphere of Coors Field. Along with the 2007 page is our news-and-notes “It Happened In...” pop-up, our “Leaders & Numbers” review of the most productive players during the season, and a pop-up of the final 2007 standings. Enjoy these latest additions, and please read responsibly.

Pound for Pound, the Finest Cheerleaders in Baseball
The Florida Marlins are recruiting overweight male cheerleaders to be called the Manatees for their games this season. While the Marlins are performing those auditions, they ought to also be recruiting fans for the Manatees to perform in front of.

Cardinal Barry?
St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was, for the second straight year, interested in signing Barry Bonds to the Cardinals. Apparently the idea of having Bonds bat behind Albert Pujols was too tantalizing for LaRussa not to think of the possibility, so he raised the idea to St. Louis management—which all but instantly said no. You would think, after all LaRussa had to put up with Scott Rolen, that the thought of trying to rule over Bonds in the clubhouse and dugout would cause a bit of restlessness. Bonds, who turns 44 this season, remains unsigned—and judging from the lack of chatter among general managers out there, probably will remain so until someone gets very desperate.

Wounded of the Week
You’d think we’d hold off on this segment of the Comebacker until after the season started, but apparently it’s become something of a rite of spring to see players show up in camp after a restive winter…and hurt themselves. Among those feeling the pain before the first pitch of spring training games are: Brad Lidge, Lance Berkman, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Backe (the victim of a sharp grounder during batting practice), and Mark DeRosa, who suffered an irregular heartbeat during practice and had to be whisked away to a hospital before walking out in good health.

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:

36. 1978 79 Wins, 83 Losses
Third Place, 11 Games Back
The Cubs were not to be confused with a great team in 1978—they normally weren’t during the dying days of the Wrigley family’s reign—but they put up a good fight for much of the year, trailing in the NL East by as little as two games in late August before folding up shop with a losing September. Chicago hit a collective .264 to lead the NL, but beyond that there was little to scare opponents. Only one hitter (Dave Kingman) reached double digits in home runs, while only one pitcher (Rick Reuschel) reached double digits in wins. Bobby Murcer’s nine homers and 64 RBIs were a severe drop-off after 27-89 production in 1977, signaling the beginning of the end for the one-time New York Yankee darling who regressed into trade bait. The bullpen was sharp with closer Bruce Sutter (27 saves), and future closers Willie Hernandez and Donnie Moore providing sound set-up work.


Setting Sail in St. Pete

A week after the Florida Marlins, at long last, got a stamp of approval on a new ballpark, the Sunshine State’s other team, the Tampa Bay Rays, have initiated their own drive for a new facility. Architectural renderings of a proposed new waterfront venue in St. Petersburg made for good eye candy this past week and, if anything else, reminded people across the nation that there actually is a major league baseball team in the Tampa Bay area. After reviewing the illustrations above, a number of thoughts came to mind. One, how will that translucent roof hold up to hurricanes? And, when closed, will that roof pose the same kind of glare-related issues that tortured outfielders during the early days of the Houston Astrodome? Finally, on the plus side, it’s refreshing to note that the ballpark design dispenses with the old-time, retro look that has long since worn out its welcome 15 years and 15 ballparks since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened.

Jay's Just Wild About Ozzie
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti has always been known to wield one of the more poisonous pens among sportswriters, and he saved all of his venom this past week for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who once grilled Mariotti for being a “f—king f-g” and, he has proclaimed this spring, will return to being a mean, foul-mouthed “assh—e” after playing nice over the past year. Mariotti wrote of the man he calls the “Blizzard of Oz:” “Guillen’s 15 minutes expired two years ago…the Blizzard is a has-been now, a rebel without a clue. If he were a rapper, he'd be Vanilla Ice. If he were a trashy figure skater, he'd be Tonya Harding. If he were dead, he'd be Anna Nicole Smith.” Gee, Jay, was it something Guillen said?

You Can Go Home Again
Of all the free agents still left unsigned, Shannon Stewart was one of the few that seemed to stand out. Although he’s 34 and has a history of injuries, the veteran outfielder had a solid campaign last year in Oakland, batting .290 in 146 games. Stewart was finally taken in by the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that he gave the best years of his career (1998-2002), for a minor league contract. If he makes the Opening Day roster, Stewart’s locked in for a $1.5 million salary this year.

YouTube Clip of the Week
You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t, you’ve got to. Sophomore Philadelphia pitcher Kyle Kendrick was the target of a very elaborate prank that involved teammates, staff (including manager Charlie Manuel) and even the Phillies’ beat reporters. Check it out here.

He Said What?
Tampa Bay outfielder Jonny Gomes on former teammate Delmon Young, now with Minnesota: “He was a real big Delmon Young fan.”

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