The Week That Was in Baseball: February 25-March 2, 2008
Beyond Game of Shadows The Six Sins of a Cardinal
The Hard Line on Hard Hats The Ballpark Formerly Known as Wrigley Field?

Bonds' Grand Jury Hearing: The Whole Story
Ever since it was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle three years ago, we only had access to portions of Barry Bonds’ infamous 2003 grand jury appearance at the BALCO grand jury hearings—which ultimately led to a perjury indictment against him. This past week, the entire transcript of the hearing was made public under orders from Judge Susan Illston, who will likely preside over the upcoming Bonds perjury trial.

Most of the transcript’s sexy bits were previously revealed in the Chronicle and the book Game of Shadows, but there was some new, intriguing information in the fully loaded version. The “documents and more documents” Bonds decries, derides and denies in the hearing that were confiscated from trainer/good buddy Greg Anderson show results of numerous blood and urine tests—two of which show higher-than-normal levels of anabolic steroids. The subject referenced in each of these tests varies from “Barry” to “BB” to “BLB” to “Barry Bond.” One other curious moment occurs at the very beginning of the hearing, when assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Nedrow says that he was informed by Bonds lawyer Michael Rains that Bonds was “likely to refuse to testify on the basis of his Fifth Amendment privilege.” Bonds did talk, and he evoked one phrase over and over, that Anderson “wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize our friendship”; it puzzles us as to why Bonds would have shown so much loyalty to a guy who, according to his own testimony, fed him a cock-and-bull story that the flaxseed oil he gave Bonds was really a steroid. Wouldn’t the all-controlling Bonds have been at least a little upset about such a violation of trust? Click here to download a PDF of the entire hearing, courtesy of the New York Post.

No Country for Old Steroid Users
If Bonds somehow gets back in uniform this season, where will he play? Last week, we reported that St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa was interested in having Bonds bat behind Albert Pujols, but when he approached Cardinal management about the idea, he was all but laughed out of the room. This past week, it was reported that both Tampa Bay and Toronto entertained thoughts of hiring Bonds; each conversation lasted no more than five minutes, and the thought was no longer entertained. There are still rumors of Bonds being signed by Seattle, a place Bonds fantasized about playing in after being warmly received during a 2006 visit with the San Francisco Giants. The Oakland A’s were also earlier rumored to be interested, but the youth movement taken on there makes it highly unlikely that a crusty old, indicted presence the size of Mother Russia would make for a enlightening fit. And that’s the core of Bonds’ problem in baseball: Great bat, even as he approaches 44 years of age, but not worth the Chernobyl in the clubhouse.

Time Out, Both of You!
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was able to get LaRussa to talk about major leaguers and steroids at Cardinal camp in Florida, and it pretty much melted into a spat that only an exhausted mommy would have dared broken up. After the Cardinal manager defended Mark McGwire, Burwell jumped on him. “Wait a minute, Tony. You still don’t believe McGwire used performance-enhancing drugs?” LaRussa: “Absolutely not.” Burwell: “C’mon.” LaRussa: “Absolutely not. If you see Mark today, he still looks like he did then.” Burwell: “No, he doesn’t.” “Yes, he does.” “No, he doesn’t.” LaRussa finally rescued the conversation back to an adult level by throwing his arms in the air and stating, “Are you asking for my opinion or yours?” It’s off to the kids’ table for both of you.

The Yearly Reader: 2007
Check out This Great Game’s 2007 update to the Yearly Reader section. Entitled “Bow if You Will, Spit if You Wish,” the 2007 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.

Boxed In
In the wake of last year’s tragic death of Scott Coolbaugh, the first base coach for Class-AA Tulsa who was killed on the field by a line drive, Major League Baseball has instructed all base coaches this season to wear batting helmets. And that’s not all. This past week, MLB also decreed that the base coaches must stay within their outlined boxes near the bases until after a batted ball has gone past the infield. The two base coaches for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Larry Bowa and Mariano Duncan, already are defying the orders and taking their spots in the field without the helmets; an especially disdainful Bowa said he would wear shin guards, a chest protector and a mask at some point to protest the new rule change. Mr. Bowa, let us introduce you sometime to Coolbaugh’s widow.

Advantage, Dry Heat?
Some five years ago, it appeared that the Cactus League was on the verge of becoming an endangered species, with major league teams heading eastward to Florida from Arizona for spring training. Now the desert is making a comeback. The Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals have recently relocated to Arizona; next year, the Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians arrive back in town. The Cincinnati Reds are also threatening to abandon their longtime spring home of Sarasota and move west, which would evenly split team membership to 15 in each state. From what most people opine, the Reds’ move is about as far as any mass exodus will go, so for now the only sweat on the foreheads of Florida state officials is only due to the springtime heat.

Wounded of the Week
Where do we start here? Spring training action has barely begun and already the bodies are piling up in the medical ward faster than you can say Tommy John. Omar Vizquel, Alfonso Soriano, Scott Kazmir, Sergio Mitre, Cameron Maybin, Eric Chavez (his back, again), Alex Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Chad Billingsley, Jake Westbrook, Fernando Rodney, Kevin Millwood—the list goes on and on, it seems. At this rate, will there be anyone left by the All-Star break?

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:

35. 1972 85 Wins, 70 Losses
Second Place, 11 Games Back
After a 3-10 start, the Cubs won 31 of their next 43 games and looked ready to make a race of it with the defending world champion Pittsburgh Pirates in July; instead they retreated back to substandard play and quickly lost ground on the Bucs, never to recover. Complicating things was the late-season departure of 67-year old manager Leo Durocher, for whom many had believed had lost the strategic edge after nearly five decades in baseball. Whitey Lockman took over and the Cubs responded well (39-26) with his leadership, but he ultimately could not keep the tight ship Durocher excelled at. Billy Williams, at age 34, rediscovered his terrific hitting stroke (.333 average, 37 homers and 122 RBIs) and finished runner-up in MVP voting for the second time in three years, losing out each time to Johnny Bench; Ferguson Jenkins won 20 games for the sixth straight year. The Cubs would not enjoy another winning season until 1984.


C'mon Alfonso, It's Just Another Brick in the Wall
The Chicago Cubs are working with high-priced outfielder Alfonso Soriano on reducing his fear of the Wrigley Field wall, the only major league facility whose outfield perimeter is not padded—unless you think the ivy is a suitable replacement after it fully sprouts a few months into the season. The Cubs believed Soriano gave up too easily on numerous catchable falls hit toward the wall last year, and so they have him—along with the team’s other outfielders—working on mastering last-second decisions on whether or not to make the catch close to the wall. What will also help in 2008 is that the warning track at Wrigley has been brought in a few extra feet to give outfielders extra notice.

C'mon Lou, It's Just Another Spider in the Ivy
The Chicago Tribune article on Soriano evoked another former Cub—Lou Novikoff, who played for Chicago during World War II—who also made a bad habit of pulling up in front of the wall. His reasoning was a bit more unique; an apparent sufferer of arachnophobia, Novikoff never wanted to get mixed up with the ivy because of the spiders that may have been hanging out there.

Chew on This, Wrigley
The Cubs are making noise about selling the naming rights to Wrigley Field, which have Cub fans and baseball purists around the country up in arms. The claim the team makes is that the Wrigley Company has been getting free advertising for years by having its named blessed upon the park, never mind that the ballpark was self-named in 1926 by its owner, William Wrigley; but it has been a few decades since the Wrigley family/chewing gum empire has been out of the Cub picture. The team’s current ownership, the Tribune Company, is hoping that a 20-year rights naming deal will fetch $400 million and help upgrade the 94-year old facility so that the Cubs will feel inclined to remain there.

It's Not Easy Being Speezy
Given the emotional tsunami that was Ryan Hancock’s fatal drunk-driving crash that swept the St. Louis clubhouse last year, the Cardinals went through great pains to make sure that veteran infielder Scott Spiezio could recover from alcohol and drug abuse. But on December 30, Spiezio went out to dinner, drank heavily, went to another restaurant, drank more, got into his BMW, drove wildly and crashed it, ran off on foot, found a friend to assist him—then, inexplicably, beat up his friend—found home and locked himself in his closet while his wife deflected police with a cover story that he was in bed with pneumonia. All of this according to an Irvine, California police report made public this past week as it charged the 35-year old Spiezio with six misdemeanor counts. Perhaps the Cardinals might have given Spiezio one last chance (that is, if he avoided jail), but apparently when team officials found out only vague details of the incident in mid-February, they met with him and his agent—both of whom said nothing of alcohol or assault related to the evening’s events. That may have been the final straw for the Cardinals, now that they know the whole, alleged story; they released Spiezio this past Wednesday. The good news for Spiezio is that he will be paid $2.3 million by the Cardinals this year; the bad news is that he may have to spend most of it on legal fees.

Welcome Back, Nick
In his first game since breaking his leg 17 months ago, Washington first baseman Nick Johnson was hit on the right arm in his first at-bat, and then barely avoided a collision in foul territory chasing after a pop fly—the same scenario that resulted in his broken leg back in September 2006.

YouTube Clip of the Week
Fifty years ago, the movie version of Damn Yankees! expressed the frustration of a baseball nation tired of watching the New York Yankees win year after year. Check out the trailer for the big screen adaptation of the Broadway hit, directed by Stanley Donen with choreography by Bob Fosse.

He Said What?
President George W. Bush, as he introduced members of the Boston Red Sox to the White House on Wednesday: “I’m sorry Manny Ramirez isn’t here. I guess his grandmother died again.”

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