The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: March 5-11, 2012
Fighting Words Between the A's and Giants Is the Designated Hitter NL-Bound?
For Sale: Two Seattle Kingdome Dugouts Spring Training Homes of the Stars

TGG Programming Note
The Comebacker is taking a week off and will return with a brand new edition on March 26.

Where Were You Guys?
The return of spring training means the long awaited, highly anticipated returns of star players who’ve been out of action for a while. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who last pitched against major league competition on September 2, 2010, may be coming to the end of his painful trek with shoulder issues as he pitched two scoreless innings in his spring debut for the New York Mets this past week; the Mets badly need him at anything close to top form to give the beleaguered team some sense of hope for 2012. Another ace, St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright, also threw two scoreless (and hitless) frames in his first stint on the mound since missing all of last season with Tommy John surgery to his elbow. Finally, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey—who suffered 2011’s most newsworthy and controversial injury when he was bowled over at home plate by Florida’s Scott Cousins, breaking his leg—saw game action for the first time this spring, catching two innings and flying out in his only at-bat.

Who Owns the Way to San Jose?
The war of words is starting to heat up between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants in their ongoing squabble over who owns the territorial rights to technology-rich (and just plan rich) San Jose, the epicenter of Silicon Valley. (Sorry, earthquake veterans—bad choice of words.)

Oakland owner Lou Wolff, who has been far too much of the nice guy as he tries to forge an agreement to allow his team to move into a new San Jose ballpark, began taking the gloves off this past week. He claims that the Giants actually don’t own the rights to San Jose because, when the A’s gave the area to them back in 1992, it was only under the condition that the Giants actually move there. (The Giants attempted to get voter approval for a San Jose-area ballpark, but the measure failed.) The Giants quickly countered, stating that their ownership of San Jose has been confirmed four separate times by baseball. While both teams squawk, Bud Selig’s appointed three-man committee to determine a new site for the A’s remains silent as it has for nearly three years now, apparently doing little more than watch the grass grow.

Absent a move from Selig and his Three Stooges, the A’s should take the suggestion of local sports columnist Ray Ratto: Just put a shovel in the ground, build the dang ballpark and let the Giants sue.

Don't Bother, He Won't Answer
Someday, Steve Bartman just might acquire a sense of humor and laugh off his infamy. So far, that has not happened; he has completely avoided the spotlight and shunned all offers (some of them financially sweet) to poke fun at his unintentional “interference” in Game Six of the 2003 NLCS at Chicago’s Wrigley Field that possibly cost the Cubs a National League pennant. That’s too bad, because a Los Angeles ad agency had visions of his perfect coming-out party: An ad in which he would celebrate a Cub championship—after watching them win on the video game MLB 12: The Show. The Chicago Tribune says that Deutsch Los Angeles considered using Bartman for the ad, but didn’t even bother to ask him—knowing that he likely wouldn’t have come out of his shell. Maybe we should give Bartman a benefit of a doubt—he might have said yes to the idea, no? No.

eBay Item of the Week
Got room in your backyard for a dugout or two? Both the home and visitor dugouts used in the Seattle Kingdome, the home of the Mariners from 1977-99, are on the auction block this week. That’s right—both dugouts, fully intact with bench, batting racks and covering, at $7,500 each. That’s a steep discount from the $40,000 originally paid, after the dugouts were removed ahead of the facility’s demolition in 2000. But remember, if you buy, you’ll have to find a way to transport them to your final destination.

Our thought: Have the Mariners take the dugouts and install them in their team store at Safeco Field or their Hall of Fame.

To Live and (Nearly) Die in Venezuela
Washington catcher Wilson Ramos recently made news when he was kidnapped in his native Venezuela while playing winter ball, but he wasn’t the only major leaguer who had an unwilling dalliance with danger in that hazardous country. Minnesota’s Joe Benson, hoping to upgrade his game after a brief first appearance in the majors last season, wasn’t in Venezuela more than a few hours when the car he was being escorted in hit an intentionally-placed boulder in the road, disabling it; once he and his driver got out to check the damage, they heard a rustling in some nearby bushes. “I figured it was of two things,” Benson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “a mountain lion or bandits.” It was the latter: Benson was held up at gunpoint, and the thieves proceeded to take his laptop, cell phone, clothes and baseball equipment—except his cleats. At least the bandits spared Benson’s life, and despite all of this, he went on to “sleep like a baby that night”; he was ultimately reimbursed by his wintertime team, the Tigres de Aragua, for everything he lost.

Use the Force, Young Yankee
It spooked us when he first browsed through this item: Donnie Moore was in the New York Yankee clubhouse, ripping apart a soda can, tearing apart a telephone book and rolling up a frying pan “like a burrito” in front of the Yankee players. But this wasn’t the ghost of Donnie Moore, the former Angel closer who apparently showed more frightening rage in 1989 by critically wounding his wife before fatally turning the gun on himself. Far from it: This Donnie Moore was a motivational speaker, a chapel leader for the A’s invited to Yankee spring headquarters in Tampa to preach the gospel of “do anything” to the Yankees.

Second baseman Robinson Cano certainly was impressed with Moore’s mind games, telling reporters afterward: “That guy was amazing. To see that guy roll that frying pan was pretty exciting. And to rip a can in half, rip the phone book, it was unbelievable. It shows you can control, with your mind, what you can do.” Next week’s guest: Yoda.

Wounded of the Week
This week served as a reminder that major league ballplayers are not impervious to injury once they step off the battlefield. To wit: Tampa Bay ace David Price, toweling off after throwing a couple exhibition innings, endured back spasms and is sitting out a number of days. Not far away at Yankee camp, reliever David Robertson—he of the one AL MVP vote last year—rolled his ankle while carrying recyclable trash down some steps at his home. He breathed a huge sigh of relief when the tests came back negative, positive news for a Yankee team that could really use his help in the bullpen this coming season; as it is, he’s expected to miss no more than a week of action.

On the field, a couple of unintentional beanings were in the spotlight. Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold took a fastball to the jaw from Tampa Bay pitcher Alex Cobb; the crowd held their breath as Reimold stayed face down on the ground for several minutes before being carted away, but X-rays came back negative and he’s expected to return to action this week. Out west in Arizona, Milwaukee speedster Njyer Morgan was also rattled in the noggin by a curveball from the Giants’ Barry Zito, which leads us to postulate: If you can’t escape pain-free from a Zito curve, no pitch is safe.

He Said What?
Last week, it was Tampa Bay’s Luke Scott dishing it out on Boston fans; this week, it’s former Red Sox—and current Philadelphia—closer Jonathan Papelbon who couldn’t resist taking a shot, telling a Philadelphia radio station: “The difference between Boston and Philadelphia, the Boston fans are a little bit more hysterical when it comes to the game of baseball. The Philly fans tend to know the game a little better, being in the National League, you know, the way the game is played. I’ve had a guy take off his prosthetic leg and throw it in the bullpen in Boston.”

Now Playing at TGG
Our review of the 2011 season is now live in our Yearly Reader section. Check out the season that was now!

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

Near San Francisco on March 24? Check This Out
The George Krevsky Gallery in San Francisco is holding the Art of Baseball: 15th Annual Exhibition, starting on March 24 at 3:00 p.m. with an opening reception and continuing through April 28.

The exhibit includes 76 drawings, paintings and scupltures from 46 wonderful artists, including our own Ed Attanasio, who is featuring his heralded "Bushers" art that we'll soon be highlighting on TGG.

For more information, go to the exhibit web site.

Sharpen Your Claws, Purists
Is the designated hitter headed for the National League? Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, considered one of the game’s more connected reporters, believes so, writing this week: “…The thinking is that baseball, as it continues its progressive era, has embarked on a path in which it seems inevitable that all of its teams play by the same rules.” Because of the 2013 realignment that will move Houston to the American League and create the need for interleague games year round, it will demand more of a sameness in terms of the rules. And baseball will likely side with the AL variety of play and the DH. Commissioner Bud Selig recently told Verducci that the use of the DH throughout all of baseball would only take place thanks to a “cataclysmic” event such as major geographical alignment—which also could be upon us over the next ten years or so.

Once a Juicer, Always a Juicer
What cojones Jose Canseco has. The self-admitted steroids abuser, attempting his latest comeback in Mexico at age 47, has been suspended from the Mexican League for refusing to take a doping test—all after admitting that he’d been taking drugs to increase his testosterone, because his previous steroid use sapped him of any ability to produce it naturally. Canseco confused the issue by saying he’d been banished for failing a test he never took. As for the doping test, why bother? We already know he’s a dope.

Go Directly to Jail
Another ex-major leaguer and current problem child made news this past week. Lenny Dykstra, the former outfielder for the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement. The sentence may be the tip of the iceberg for the troublesome Dykstra, who seemed not to go a month without making headlines in the worst way; he’s still on the hook for 13 additional criminal counts that could keep him in the slammer for up to 80 more years.

Which Wind Will Prevail?
The Miami Marlins performed a dry run on their new ballpark, currently named Marlins Park, this past week. As the team played against the University of Miami before a capped crowd of 10,000 (the Marlins refused filling up the rest of the 37,000-seat venue), all eyes were on how the ballpark played; one game later, the jury is still out, especially with the roof open. Some Marlin players believed the jet stream was turning the park live for hitters during batting practice, while others felt the breeze would more often than not blow in and keep balls from flying. With the roof closed—as it was midway through the Marlins’ 7-6 win over UM because of approaching rain—there was consensus that the conditions would favor the pitcher, given the spacious field dimensions of the field, with power alleys up to 390 feet and the deepest section measuring 420 feet.

Spring Training Homes of the Stars
Want to know how players like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Matt Kemp and Aroldis Chapman live during spring training while not at camp? This list of spring training homes used by baseball stars shows that players have come a long way from the days of old when they came to Arizona or Florida and checked in at the local motel. This topic would make for a wonderful hour-long show on HGTV, though we have to ask: How is it that the picture of Ichiro Suzuki’s 10,000-square foot Florida home looks more like a common abode in an unincorporated area near Phoenix?

Trivia Question
This past week, the Pittsburgh Pirates took a rare deep dip into their bank account and gave star outfielder Andrew McCutchen the second largest contract in franchise history: Six years, $51 million. What remains the largest deal ever given by the Pirates? Answer at the bottom of this column.

Will This Make Translators an Endangered Species?
Like many Japanese ballplayers in the majors, Kosuke Fukudome apparently hasn’t found the time to learn English. So Adam Dunn, Fukudome’s new teammate after the latter switched over from the Chicago Cubs to the White Sox, tapped into the app store to come up with a communicative solution: An app that translates English into Japanese. All Dunn does is type in what he wants to say into his cell phone, and a female voice repeats it in Japanese to Fukudome. To which Fukudome might mutter in his native tongue: “Makes sense, Adam, you played like a girl last year…”

Care to Settle This Over Paintball?
Fans and players of the San Diego Padres took issue with a lighthearted survey of the best and worst uniforms in the majors by’s Jim Caple. It wasn’t just that Caple selected the Padres as the team with the worst, but he singled out the team’s camouflage jerseys that are meant to pay tribute to the armed forces, which have a heavy presence in the San Diego area. Perhaps Caple’s biggest insult is that he felt the Padres looked ready to play paintball wearing the unis—something soldiers in Afghanistan would much prefer to do rather than putting their lives on the line against the Taliban and other assorted wackos.

Out, Scout!
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy stirred up some hackles this past week we he told a scout for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to leave during a morning practice session at the Giants’ home spring field of Scottsdale Stadium. Jeff Schugel, the scout in question, was perplexed—“In 25 years, I’ve never had that happen to me,” he told reporters—and so were other baseball insiders who believed that Bochy broke unwritten baseball code. Bochy later explained that there were drills the Giants were going to perform that he didn’t want Schugel to see. Like, are the Giants practicing their game plan for the Super Bowl?

Here’s a strange irony to all of this: Bochy and Schugel are said to be good friends.

Jerseys With Guns Don't Kill People
The Houston Astros are going to get their way after all—maybe not in the standings, but in the retro fashion arena. A few weeks back it was reported that Major League Baseball said no to the Astros using throwback uniforms from the franchise’s early days, when they were known as the Colt .45s—because the jersey prominently featured a firearm. In a rare case of backing off, MLB this past week ceded the duel after the Astros and their fans protested. The pistol-packed uniform is scheduled to be used twice this season, first on April 10 against Atlanta (which, by the way, includes a tomahawk on its jersey).

Lock the Liquor Cabinets
If it’s spring training, it must be DUI time. The exhibition seasons in Florida and Arizona don’t pass without a number of baseball players tanking it up a little too much for law enforcement to appreciate, and this week showed no exception. Colorado pitcher Alex White was arrested for driving under the influence, and what an influence it was; his alcohol blood level was an intoxicating 0.174, twice the legal limit. Out east, Baltimore minor league pitcher Ryan O’Shea also got booked for DUI.

TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!

Trivia Answer
Catcher Jason Kendall received a six-year, $60 million deal from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000, which remains the highest in franchise history.

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