After hearing that a rugby league in England was using a blood test to snoop out players using Human Growth Hormone (HGH)and stumbled upon a positive resultMajor League Baseball announced this week that it was going to move forward on using the same test on minor league players. The majors wait, and probably will have to until the players’ union consents to allowing blood tests. (As of right now, they’re fine with testing major leaguers through urine samples, which anti-doping experts have scoffed at as highly ineffective.) MLB hopes to have the testing of minor leaguers in place later this year.
File this one under “Why didn’t they think of that sooner?” The Boston Red Sox announced plans for a new $75 million spring training facility in Florida that will include a playing field duplicating the dimensions of Fenway Park, complete with a replica of the famed Green Monster in left field. It won’t totally be Fenway, as clearly evidenced by a planned seating capacity of 11,000, but it will feel like home for the players, who could find themselves getting acclimated to Fenway before they ever even set foot in it.
The Ego in the House
Manny Ramirez just can’t be comfortable in spring camp unless it’s all about him. Apparently not acting too humble after getting nailed for illegal performance enhancement last season, to say nothing of his statistical plunge following his suspension, Ramirez faced reporters at Los Angeles Dodger camp in Arizona and proclaimed that he would not return to the Dodgers after his contract expires this year; a day later he laughed it all off and said he was open to resigning with the Dodgers after all. This was all likely just a plot by Ramirez to stay in the limelight, however shamelessly, and to possible let other teams know that he’s not bound to a Dodger discount for 2011.
A Hotdog With a Little Too Much Mustard
Perhaps MLB should add hotdogs to its recently revealed list of banned weapons in the workplace: A fan hit by a hotdog thrown by the Kansas City Royals’ mascot at Kauffmann Stadium last season has sued the team because, he claims, it hit him in the eyeresulting in a detached retina and cataracts. John Coomer, who infers in the lawsuit that he was accidentally but carelessly hit at close range, wants the Royals to pay $25,000 for his medical expenses. As for the mascot, Sluggerrr, anyone who does that kind of damage could only mean one thing: There’s competition for the fourth and fifth spot in the Royal starting rotation.
Dye Another Day?
If, during the All-Star break last year, some guy would have told you that Jermaine Dye would have been out of a job entering 2010, you would have laughed him off. The veteran slugger was hitting over .300 with 20 home runs and looked ready to make a big splash on the free agent market. But he declined precipitously after the break, fueling the perception in many general managers’ minds that, at 36, he’s over the hill and not worth a big contract. Dye told the Chicago Sun-Times this past week that he’s “shocked” no one has given him what he believes is a respectable deal, instead given offers that do not promise him much money and/or full-time work. Chances are, Dye will find a suitor who’s in desperate need due to injuries on its roster, but the freefall from grace early last year has been humbling for the 14-year vet.
Wounded of the Week
Among the week’s other more relatively mundane maladies reported throughout spring training comes this humorous tale: Detroit manager Jim Leyland is hobbling about on a likely broken toe after he had it run over…by a golf cart.
Khalil Greene wigged out even before he stepped on the field with his new team, the Texas Rangers. Last year, the shortstop landed in St. Louis but twice had to go on the disabled list due to social anxiety disorder; given a new chance with the Rangers this year, Greene made it to Arizona for spring camp but then informed the Rangers that he had suffered a relapse. Because of this, the Rangers have voided Greene’s deal for 2010, which would have paid him $750,000.
The Illustrated Man
Eric Hinske’s best playing days may be behind him, but he’s wowing his new teammates in Atlanta in another waywith a massive tattoo that covers his upper body to the point it looks like he’s wearing a highly decorated short-sleeve shirt. No expense, time or pain was spared; the entire tattoo took two years, some 20 sittings covering 45 hours and $5,000 to construct. Hinske described the process to USA Today: “It’s like you’re getting stung by a bee for three or four hours. It was fun.” If anything else, Hinske will feel at home walking into any Harley dealership.
The Braves’ Nate McLouth gave up his uniform number 13 to the newly arrived Billy Wagner, who signed on with Atlanta to become its new closer. McLouth then chose 24 as his replacement. Why? Because “24” is his favorite TV show. Maybe McLouth will next get a $5,000 tattoo of Jack Bauer.
Park at Your Own Risk
We know it’s barely the beginning of spring training, but if 20-year old Jason Heyward smashes the baseball as frequently and as long as he’s been doing so far, then the Atlanta Braves definitely have something. Heyward has done so much damage to cars parked in the lot located well behind the outfield wallAtlanta assistant general manager Bruce Manno has already received a $3,400 bill to fix the roof of his car dented from one of Heyward’s monster shotthat the team has decided to install protective nets behind the wall to keep more vehicles from getting dinged up, if not worse.
Misery Loves Company
David DeJesus has been one of the more reliable assets in an otherwise paltry offense for the Kansas City Royals, who we recently bestowed as the worst team of the 2000s. If DeJesus, a native of New Jersey, has been looking for positive escapism during the winter, he hasn’t been getting it from his favorite basketball team: The 6-52 New Jersey Nets. “Thank God that I’m not around New Jersey to see all of the highlights,” said DeJesus in Royal camp this week, which led us to retort: What highlights?
He Said What?
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, on team owner Jerry Reinsdorf: “As soon as he dies, I’ll get the f**k out.”
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Blood Brother Feud
A year ago, Jay McGwire promised he would pen a book that would tell all about the behind-the-scenes steroid juicing of his older brother, Mark McGwire. That book, Mark and Me, came out this past week in the wake of McGwire’s recent steroid confessions. Jay says that he introduced Mark to steroids in 1994 and continued to supply them for a few years before personal problems caused him to stop, but claims that Mark continued using them afterward through other channels. He also says there’s no way Mark took steroids simply to healas he claimed when he finally starting talking about the past last monthbut to also become more powerful. Finally, Jay seemed astonished that the Mitchell Report folks never attempted to contact him during their investigation.
Jay and Mark have been estranged since 2002 when Mark allegedly hit Jay’s son for causing him to spill his coffee at a family function. Mark replied to Jay’s new book this past week, calling it a sad day for the family and that he would never reconcile with his brother.
Last and not least, below is a photo from the book. This is no cheap Photoshop job or Monty Python illustration; that’s really Jay’s scrawny head atop a hulking frame (left, next to Mark).
Last of the Boones?
A year after undergoing heart surgery, Aaron Boone has decided to retire from baseball. The 36-year old is the youngest player of the Boone baseball family that started with his grandfather Ray Boone in the 1950s and continued with father Bob and brother Bret. Boone was never a consistent full-time fixture, but he saved his best for 2003hitting .267 with 24 home runs, 96 RBIs, 23 steals, and becoming a playoff hero for the New York Yankees with an 11th-inning, series-winning home run in Game Seven of the memorable ALCS against Boston. Boone will stay connected to the game, as he’s been hired to do on-air work for ESPN. As for whether there are more Boones out there, Bob Boone once told the Washington Post: “I have four grandsons. I expect they won’t be telling their fathers they want to play piano and not baseball.”.
Who's the Hot Chocolate Vendor With the Earpiece and Sunglasses?
Baseball may have to rethink a May 25-27 interleague series in Toronto when the Philadelphia Phillies come to town. It has nothing to do with Blue Jay fans’ potential anger toward Roy Halladay and his return to Toronto; actually, the series coincides with the G-20 Summit. scheduled just blocks away from Rogers Centre. The Pirates encountered the same problem late last year when the G-20 invaded Pittsburgh, discouraging fans already not discouraged from the Bucs’ lousy season from showing up for a scheduled game against Cincinnati; that contest drew hundreds, not thousands, as security blanketed the area.
Wanna See the Yankees? See the Pirates First
You would think the Los Angeles Dodgers are doing well enough they don’t have to stoop to this, but they are anyway: You can’t buy individual game tickets to the Dodgers-Yankees series on June 25-27 without being forced to buy tickets to other Dodger home games in June, part of a packaging concept that aims to keep attendance high outside of that highly anticipated interleague series. This from a team that led the majors in attendance last season. Was this a suggestion from Frank McCourt’s divorce lawyer?
She Must Have Had a Jeff Kent Autograph Under the Bed
Apparently, having Barry Bonds hang around the home 12 months of the year proved too much for his second wife, who this past week filed for divorce from the disputed home run king.
Best New Name at Spring Training
Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs.
Now Playing at TGG
Ed Attanasio chats with Tom O'Doul, the cousin of the late, great Lefty O'Doul in a new installment of the 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.
Coming Soon to TGG
Look this coming week for our Yearly Reader page covering the 2009 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.