The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: February 20-26, 2012
Ryan Braun's Technical Houdini Act The Rise of Mannyball in Oakland?
Tommy Hanson's Wild Ride Who Wants to Curse the Red Sox Now?

Ducking the Suspension
Ryan Braun comes off as a guy who seriously never meant to take any illegal performance enhancement. Major League Baseball is equally insistent that its PED results on Braun are accurate and he should pay the price.

Mediator Shyam Das took Braun’s side of the story this past week in the dispute over whether Braun should serve a 50-game suspension for wildly enhanced levels of testosterone last fall. It was the first time a steroids-related suspension was overturned, and it all came down to a technicality: That the person responsible for sending on Braun’s blood sample missed a FedEx cutoff and had to store it in his refrigerator for two additional days, breaking what was considered proper protocol. In response to Das’ opinion, MLB angrily howled, claiming the sample was properly stored and that no tampering or degradation took place. Braun embraced the decision, telling reporters this past week that “the truth prevailed.”

For the Milwaukee Brewers, Das’ denouement was a blessing. Already having lost Prince Fielder via free agency to Detroit, they were brooding over the possibility of losing Braun, the other half of their once-potent one-two punch at the plate, through the end of May. Brewer owner Mark Attanasio (who is distantly related to TGG’s own Ed Attanasio), supported Braun from the start and was relieved with the verdict.

For MLB, this is a reality check, the cap on a bad week for its tough reputation with players who cheat, having already allowed Manny Ramirez to lower his second PED suspension from 100 to 50 days to encourage someone (in his case, the A’s) to sign him. The fear is that players will be more persuaded to take a chance and cheat, hoping it can bend or even beat the system—as Braun very possibly may have done.

IOU This
So Josh Hamilton turns his career (to say nothing of his life) around with the Texas Rangers, being coddled, looked after and kept dry and not-so high. And so this week he reports to camp and says: “I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”

It must be contract negotiation time.

Hamilton’s current deal is up at the end of this season and he apparently is ready to test the open market, with no “extra consideration” for the Rangers for a hometown discount. As Michael Corleone says to brother Sonny in The Godfather: “It’s not personal, it’s business.” But you have to imagine that the perceived lack of gratitude on Hamilton’s part towards the team that helped make him a star and a new human being is rubbing Ranger fans the wrong way.

What's Spanish for 'The New Guy'?
Albert Pujols showed up at Los Angeles of Anaheim camp and immediately took issue with the Angels’ advertising campaign that’s labeling him as “El Hombre.” It’s Spanish for “The Man”—and having been a St. Louis Cardinal for the last 11 years, Pujols claims that designation is reserved for one man and one man only: Stan Musial. It’s bad enough for the ad agency firm behind the campaign to occasionally have to bridge creative differences with the marketing department, but then to have find themselves at odds with someone like Pujols? What a tough racket it sometimes is.

You Get the Ballpark, But I Got You Surrounded
Two of the roughly ten eligible groups of bidders left attempting to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped out of the running this past week: A group including former Dodger manager Joe Torre, and another fronted by former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley. Reason? Because they want to buy the parking lots that go with Dodger Stadium. But, current owner Frank McCourt—who made his fortune by building and operating parking garages back in Boston—won’t give them up. Fans are so fed up with McCourt’s antics, we’d be curious to see if they park down the street and walk to Chavez Ravine rather than put more money into his pocket.

Brother, Can You Spare a Chopper?
As the Mets plead poverty and fight off financial apocalypse in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, owner Jeff Wilpon, manager Terry Collins, general manager Sandy Alderson and a few other front office employees took a helicopter from their spring training site in Port St. Lucie to Miami to watch a NBA game between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks. Obviously the hard times are being felt elsewhere within the organization.

A New Nose For Niese
At some point last year, then-New York Met Carlos Beltran looked at teammate/pitcher Jonathan Niese and said something to the effect of: “Dude, you need a new schnozzola.” Niese took a look in the mirror of his protruding, hook-shaped nose and agreed—but only after Beltran jokingly agreed to pay for it. Meeting the dare, Niese recently went under the knife and received a refined nose and a bill for $10,000—which he passed on to Beltran, now with the Cardinals. Will Beltran pay? Yes.

Wounded of the Week
If there ever was a Hall of Fame dedicated to those who racked up disabled list visits, Joel Zumaya and Grady Sizemore would be right up there as first-ballot selectees. Zumaya, who missed all of last season and has missed parts of the previous four years before that, torn an elbow ligament at Minnesota spring camp this past week and is declared, once more, out for this season. Meanwhile, Sizemore—the Cleveland outfielder once one of the game’s prime talents—will miss Opening Day with back problems. Sizemore has missed roughly 270 games due to various injuries over the past three years.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
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Gas is Expensive, But Manny Isn't
What the hell, thought Oakland general manager and Brad Pitt-portrayed Billy Beane this past week: What have we got to lose in signing Manny Ramirez? For $500,000—a figure near the major league minimum—not much.

Bringing in the controversial 39-year-old star slugger, exiled last season after being nailed for his second PED positive test, to Oakland gives the A’s many plusses: It adds even more intrigue (after last week’s signing of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes) to a roster which just a few weeks earlier was both boring beyond belief and dead on arrival; it allows Ramirez to show that he still belongs; and, likeliest of all, it gives Beane solid leverage come the trading deadline in July if Ramirez is back to piling up big numbers.

So for A’s fans, enjoy Ramirez for the precious little time you’re likely to see him—starting in late May after his 50-game suspension expires, and ending on or just before July 31. Because he’ll be gone to another team (for more of Beane’s precious prospects) if Ramirez does well—or, if he doesn’t, don’t be surprised to see him just quit and fade away from the game all over again.

For now, hope springs eternal at a time of the year when even the Pittsburgh Pirates publicly feel good about their chances, and so you have Ramirez talking a turning of a new leaf. He arrived at camp admitting past mistakes without getting into detail, and suggested that he’s turned his life around through religion after being prodded to do so by his wife—whom he allegedly beat up last year.

We’ll see how long this goes before turning sour. For Ramirez, it would hardly be the first time.

Hex From an Ex
Just what the Boston Red Sox need: Another curse. In Fort Myers, Florida—the Red Sox’ former spring training home left abandoned by the team’s move 13 miles away to JetBlue Park, the field dimensions and wall heights of which perfectly match Fenway Park—local merchants aren’t happy. In fact, Skip Mufalli, owner of Toots Dollar Store, thinks the Red Sox have it coming to them. “They snubbed us, and now they’ll be snubbed,” Mufalli said of the Red Sox, who suffered for 86 years under their previous hex. If this one takes solid root and becomes equally as nasty, our grandkids might be talking the legend of the Curse of Mufalli in 2098.

Laying Down the Dry Law
The beer lobby might also be considering whipping up a curse on the Red Sox. After last year’s collapse in Boston, partly attributed to a lackadaisical clubhouse attitude headlined by in-game drinking of beer by players, new manager Bobby Valentine has laid down the law and shut off the tap: No alcohol will be allowed in the Red Sox’ locker room. Hey, what an environment for Josh Hamilton to step into for 2013.

The Dukes of Hazard (Continued)
Another month can’t seem to pass without former major league talent (and problem child) Elijah Dukes having his rap sheet expanded. Okay, so we exaggerate, but only a little. This past week, the former Tampa Bay Devil Ray and Washington National was arrested for possession of marijuana while driving. It’s the fifth time in the last 12 months that Dukes has been cuffed.

Eat Your Heart Out, Disney World
The last thing Orlando needs is another thrill ride, but Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson accidentally created one of his own this past week while driving to Braves camp. Hanson’s car blew a tire and caused him to swerve off the road; the ensuing bumping about caused him to smack his head against something in the car, causing a Grade 1 concussion—the lowest level of such injury. He suffered a few other bruises, but overall it appeared he would have a full recovery within a week.

My Angel is the Centerfold
Tampa Bay star hitter Evan Longoria revealed this past week that he’s dating a glamorous public figure. No it’s not actress Eva Longoria. It is, instead, Jamie Edmondson, the Playboy Playmate of the Month for January 2010. We would give you the link to Miss January, but we might get in trouble with our wives.

Muscling Out the Little Guys
Is this how heartless and predatory baseball owners have become? In Chicago, Cub owner Tom Ricketts has bought out a McDonald’s right next to Wrigley Field and ordered a vendor who’s been selling T-shirts in its parking lot for the last 40 years to vamoose…replacing it with a vendor of his own. The Pesha family, which had run the T-shirt operation, claims it has a lease agreement good through 2020 and is suing the Cubs.

TGG Goes to CafePress
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