First the steroids, then the cousin, now this. Alex Rodriguez’s spring of discontent continued with the revelation that he has a torn muscle in his hip, and what followed was a week of careening speculation over whether A-Rod would go under the knife now, wait until later, or just go on playing until it hurt too much. The decision was finally made Sunday for Rodriguez to undergo minor surgery to repair the hip in advance of a more serious procedure that ideally would be done after the 2009 season. As it is, the arthroscopic surgery done this week will keep Rodriguez out of action through the end of April.
The start of the second World Baseball Classic produced many a yawn in the sports world, but the one result that shook up the ennui in even the most disinterested of us took place Saturday when the Netherlands teama squad featuring only four players with mostly scant major league experiencesnuck in three first-inning runs and then held on for dear life to stun the star-laden Dominican team, 3-2. Sure, the Dominican side was missing some pretty big namesAlex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez among thembut even with veteran major leaguers at every position, you would have expected a walk in the ballpark for Dominica. Then again, maybe that’s what the Dominicans were thinking as well. Sydney Ponson, currently unemployed in the baseball world but easily the most experienced major leaguer on the Dutch side, started and tossed the first four innings and allowed both Dominican runs, but four relievers with no experience in the majors at alltwo are toiling in the minors, the other two play for Dutch teamsheld the Dominicans scoreless over the remaining five innings.
Foe For a Day
It obviously took some getting use to seeing Derek Jeter play against his own New York Yankees. When Jeter knocked in two runs for Team USA during its exhibition against the Yankees on Tuesday, the person running the TV scorebox at the top of the screen accidentally credited the Yankees with the runsbriefly showing a 3-0 Yankee lead, instead of 2-1 for USA.
Lock the Door, Mr. Bonds is Knocking
With Barry Bonds’ perjury trial likely delayed until late 2010, his agent Jeff Borris publicly declared to USA Today this past week that he would be contacting all 30 major league teams and letting them know that Bonds is available. This is like having the neighborhood bully knock on the doors of the 30 kids he’s been terrorizing, and asking if he could come in and play. Good luck, Jeff.
What's Next, Bear Wrestling?
For Ron Gant, it was dirt biking. For Aaron Boone, it was pick-up basketball. For Jeff Kent, we hear that it was popping wheelies on a motorcycle. These three players indulgedand ultimately became hurtin hazardous off-field activities that ended up voiding contracts with their major league employers (except for Kent, who officially still embraces the car-wash version of events). In the standard contract, here’s one banned recreational activity that probably never made the list: Anaconda hunting. That’s right, while other major leaguers spent their winter staring at their all-terrain vehicles and wishing they could hit the wild open spaces, Omar Vizquel went deep into the jungles of his native Venezuela and captured, along with some friends, an honest-to-goodness anacondaeven if it was a 90-pound baby. (Anacondas, found primarily in the South American jungles, average 20 feet in length and can weigh up to 300 poundsand, according to Vizquel, can eat an alligator.) Vizquel showed a video of the experience on his laptop around the Texas Ranger clubhouse and told reporters that the capture gave him an adrenaline rush and left him “a little scared,” maybe because he feared Mama Anaconda was in the vicinity. Because Vizquel was a free agent at the time, he was free to do whatever extreme exercise he wanted, but after hearing of his adventures, the lawyers must be performing some amendments to the standard contract language.
The Blue Indian
Piggybacking on the above item, Cleveland pitcher and reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee was asked to take a ride on an F-16 fighter jet in Arizona as part of a public service commercial. He accepted and, according to the pilot, survived as one of the 5% of those who take such a flight for the first time and don’t throw up. As for whether the Indians were worried about this very hazardous off-field activity, Lee remarked: “(If) there’s a crash, the contract won’t matter anyway. Then you look at the life insurance policy.”
The Real Deal
Any NL West foes of the San Francisco Giants who are hoping that Tim Lincecum’s Cy Young Award effort of 2008 was a fluke had better take note: In his first three spring training appearances, Lincecum has pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and a walk. Yes, it’s early and it’s exhibition baseball, but Lincecum is definitely for real.
Save Them for Later
Andruw Jones, now playing for the Texas Rangers, participated in two exhibition games on Friday and racked up five hits. For the record, it took Jones 15 days last year to collect his first five hits for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who let him go after a miserable season in which the former All-Star batted .158 with three home runs in 209 at-bats.
He Said What?
Ron Borges of the Boston Herald on the re-signing of Manny Ramirez at two years and $45 million: “If (Ramirez’s contract) makes him a loser in negotiations with the Dodgers, where do I sign up?”
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.
Gas Was Down, And So Was Manny
Ramirez was all smiles when he reported to Arizona, but that likely due to the fact relieved that the negotiations were done. In the end, the Dodgers, buoyed by a lack of competition and a tanking economy, were the winners. Ramirez won, sort of, in that he still got a little more than before; after all, any raise in this day and age is a win. That leaves the loser tag squarely upon Boras, or at least his reputation; he promised a nine-figure contract but couldn’t get any other team to sucker up to Ramirez and, more importantly, couldn’t sucker the Dodgers into his “mystery team” trap.
Manny Ramirez laid down and forced his way out of Boston in hopes of voiding the final two years of his contract, worth $40 million for 2009-10, to find something far more lucrative on the free agent market as promised by Scott Boras. But the series of disruptive stunts Ramirez performed in Bostonarguably costing the Red Sox another world championship, less arguably another AL pennantscared off many would-be takers, worried that he might once again pound sand in odd manners if things didn’t go his way. The only team willing to consider Ramirez was the incumbent Los Angeles Dodgers, more focused on recalling his remarkable performance in his short time for them last season (including the playoffs, Ramirez batted .410 with 21 homers and 63 RBIs for the Dodgers in 61 games). But because the Dodgers lucked into becoming a monopoly on seeking Ramirez, they signed him on their terms: Two years, $45 million. That represents a $5 million upgrade to what Ramirez would have received had he stayed in Boston, small change compared to what he had hoped.
Gas is Down, But Not Necessarily Airfares
Last year, when JetBlue briefly gave travelers an opportunity to fly some of their flights for $9 in tribute to Ted Williams (who wore number nine), we joked that it probably wouldn’t sound like much of a bargain if they did the same for Manny Ramirez, who was wearing 99 for the Dodgers. Guess what JetBlue did this past week: They announced another limited sale with fares based on, you guessed it, Ramirez’s 99. To make things less attractive, the $99 fares for cross-country flights between the L.A. area New York and (ironically) Boston are one-way, meaning the actual round-trip cost is $198; you can find similar fares without too much effort anytime you want via Kayak or Travelocity.
When Dennys Reyes made his major league debut for the Dodgers in 1997 at the age of 20, he was hailed as the next Fernando Valenzuela; a pudgy Mexican native with serious potential. Being regarded as the next Mike Morgan would have been more accurate. Dennysmania never took hold, and Reyes this past week signed on with the St. Louis CardinalsReyes’ tenth team, and eighth over the last seven seasons. We evoke Morgan’s name because he holds the record for the most teams played for in a major league career, at 12. Given that Reyes is only 31 and that left-handed relievers usually attract a long shelf life in the majors, it’s a good bet that he’ll likely pass up Morgan someday.
Down, Dow, Down!
Add the bleacher bums at the Metrodome to the very small list of those who want to see the stock market continue to drop. The Minnesota Twins announced this past week that they’ll be pricing the seats behind the left field fence for Monday games based on how the Dow Jones Industrial average is doing. For example, if the Dow is in the 6,000s (as it sank to last week), the price for a ticket would be $6. The seats normally sell for $21.
A Day Later, a Year Older
Vladimir Guerrero, in a talk with reporters about his offseason knee surgery, blurted out through an interpreter that although he’d like to feel like he’s 25 years old, he has to face up to the fact that he’s actually 34. That surprised those who had Guerrero’s birth dateFebruary 9, 1976committed to memory. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did the math and asked Guerrero to clear up the discrepancy, and so he didadmitting that he was, in fact, born a year earlier in 1975, making him 34. This will hardly upset the Angels, who have Guerrero under contract for just one more season, but it might tempt teams vying for Guerrero’s services after 2009 to give him one less year in guaranteed wages.
No Ozzie, No Turbulence
Chicago’s two teams, the Cubs and White Sox, shared a charter flight on their way to an exhibition game in Las Vegas this past week. Despite the somewhat toxic relationship between the two teams over the years, everyone played nice on the flight, according to reports. Then we found out why: Outspoken White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen wasn’t on the flight to stir things up. He came to Vegas early with his wife.
Wounded of the Week
Beyond the runaway train of attention that was Alex Rodriguez and his torn labrum, there was plenty else to talk about in baseball’s injury ward this past week. In Oakland, they embraced Justin Duchscherer and got rid of Rich Harden because the latter never could stay healthy, but now Duhscherer’s status is in doubt due to elbow issues; he’s not likely to be around on Opening Day for the A’s. Colorado reliever Taylor Buchholz is out until May due also to elbow woes, and in Los Angeles, Ivan DeJesus Jr.one of the Dodgers’ top prospectsgot a big break, but not the kind he wanted. He suffered a broken left leg in a “B” game and may miss the entire 2009 season.
From the Menu
Headline on the Chicago Sun-Times’ website this past week: “Sox to get sandwich, 2nd round pick for Cabrera.” We’re guessing that the White Sox couldn’t get the chips and soda added on to get the discounted full meal price.
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.