The Week That Was in Baseball: March 22-28, 2010
The Doc's in Trouble Again Who's Ready—And Who's Not—for 2010
Matt Bush Takes the Josh Hamilton Route
Who Cracked Artie Moreno's Windshield?

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TGG's Predictions For the 2010 Regular Season
Yes, folks, it’s here. Our annual, detailed preview of all major league teams is now live. Will the Yankees and Phillies repeat? Can the Rockies carry on the momentum? Just how much better are the Mariners? And do the Pirates, Padres, Nationals and Royals have any chance at all? Check out who we think will rise, fall, stabilize and collapse in 2010.

It's All Yours, Phoenix
The end of spring training brings about the end of exhibition baseball in Tucson, where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are playing for the last time; both move up to the Phoenix area in 2011, which means that for the first time, all cactus League participants will be playing a short drive from one another. Thus completes a trend of physical contraction that started in the early 1990s when the San Diego Padres moved in from Yuma and the Angels departed Palm Springs.

Bad Doc Redux
Former star pitcher Dwight Gooden, who experienced a turbulent but sometimes brilliant career over 16 years, was back in the news for the wrong reasons—again. Assumed by many to have gone cold turkey following a seven-month stop in prison for continued substance abuse back in 2006, Gooden suffered a relapse when he was involved in a car accident while under the influence of drugs. Worse than that, he fled the scene of the accident. Even worse than that, all of this took place while having a child seated in the back of his car. According to the Associated Press report, Gooden had time to shake hands with the driver he hit because he’d been recognized. How it went from a cordial greeting to fleeing the scene will have to be addressed in court.

Won't Get Fooled Again
Burned by the news that three of their prospects from the Dominican Republic have tested positive for steroids, the Cleveland Indians became the latest major league team to announce that they’ll start their own testing of players from Dominica to make sure they’re clean. Some five other teams have also started this policy and more are sure to follow as some Dominicans, most of them looking to escape rampant poverty, are so desperate to make it big in baseball that they’ll risk getting nailed with illegal performance enhancement.

This Week's Trivia Question
When he was with the New York Yankees,
Johnny Damon was smart enough to never sport his World Series ring from 2004, when he was a member of the archrival Red Sox. But now that he’s employed by the Detroit Tigers, he can wear two championship rocks: The Red Sox ring, and the one he received for being on last year’s Series-winning Yankee squad. Flashing rings for both the Yankees and Red Sox does seem intriguing, almost like hanging up framed letters of commendation from the Hatfields and McCoys side-by-side. In fact, there are only two other players who have received World Series rings from the Yankees and Red Sox; name them. Answers at the bottom of this column.

Hamilton Avenue: The Long, Painful Road Back
Matt Bush is following in the footsteps of Josh Hamilton, and he’s hoping that the worst of the paces are behind him. Bush’s journey to date has been eerily reminiscent of Hamilton: A number one pick in the draft, followed by wasted talent and wasted nights on alcohol and drugs. This past winter, the Tampa Bay Rays gave Bush a shot—but only on the condition that he attend the Winning Inning Baseball Academy in Florida, where Hamilton cleaned up before rediscovering his career. Now Bush hopes to do the same. Read more from Joe Smith’s fascinating article in the St. Petersburg Times.

Maybe One Day It Will Make a Difference
There was incessant grumbling last October (and early November) about how many unnecessary off-days took place during baseball’s postseason; even commissioner
Bud Selig agreed that things could be shortened up. And so he had it done—by one day. The two League Championship Series will have the off day between the fourth and fifth games removed, since there’s no travel involved. We tracked the scheduled dates for the 2010 postseason and wondered why much more could have been done. After all, why start three first-round series on a Wednesday when the regular season ends the Sunday before? And why do you need ten days between the start of the first-round and the start of the LCS, when the LDS is only a five-game series? Baby steps, indeed.

Does Artie Have AAA?
Hideki Matsui, now with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, tagged a pitch foul this past Wednesday that hit off the ballpark’s overhang and into the parking lot beyond—cracking the windshield of Angel owner Artie Moreno’s Mercedes. Matsui made quick amends on the very next pitch, hitting his first home run of the spring to help the Angels beat Kansas City, 8-6. Meanwhile, Moreno is looking into valet parking across the street.

This Week's Episode of Divorce McCourt
Jamie McCourt really knows how to take the high road, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, in her continuing battle with estranged husband Frank over control of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Los Angeles Times reported on her latest public statement through her lawyers: “Frank (and his lawyers)…make some hurtful and unnecessary personal comments about me. I would prefer not to address such accusations or to discuss my belief as to Frank’s extramarital activities.” Sure, Jamie, don’t discuss it. Very slick.

Hey, It Don't Cost Nothing
We discovered this past week that The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, one of the better baseball documentaries ever made, can be viewed online and for free. The 1999 film, which won numerous raves and awards, looks into the former slugger’s struggle to fit into a society of sport that at times was anti-Semitic.

Time to Invest in a Psychologist?
The Kansas City Royals are in desperate need of good pitching beyond reigning Cy Young Award recipient
Zack Greinke, but they don’t need this: This past week, Danny Duffy, a 21-year old top prospect of the Royals who flourished on the mound at the Class A level last season, has left the game for personal reasons. Some believe he may be experiencing the same symptoms of social anxiety disorder that plagued Greinke at the beginning of his career. Duffy had been in Royal camp in Arizona, and although he had elbow issues that cut down on his workload, it is not believed to be a factor in his decision to quit.

Bell and Strikes
TGG Facebook friend
Rusty Shaffer, texting in from a little league contest in Phoenix, discovered that the umpire behind the plate was former major leaguer Jay Bell, who played some of his best years with the Arizona Diamondbacks and, like many ex-major leaguers, are retired in Arizona. Nice to see some of these guys are still connected to the game in the most innocent of ways.

Wounded of the Week
Maybe now we know why the Chicago Cubs want a new spring training facility. While eating before game time at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona, Cub star
Derrek Lee had his antiquated (we assume) chair collapse from underneath him, and the ensuing fall left his back in some pain. Fortunately, the aching was brief and Lee returned to action later in the week. The chair, meanwhile, has been optioned to Double-A.

On a more serious note, major leaguers fell prey to more mainstream injuries that will likely cost them a shot at Opening Day action. They include St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina (oblique), Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (neck and back) and Detroit relievers Bobby Seay (torn rotator cuff) and Zach Miner (shoulder), both of whom are out indefinitely.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
The 2010 regular season begins with
Miguel Tejada holding the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 21 games. Any prolonging of the streak near Joltin’ Joe territory will run into controversies on two fronts: The recordbook officially does not embrace anyone whose run is split over two seasons and, even if it did, how would it take into account a record split between two leagues? Tejada began the streak as a member of the NL’s Houston Astros; he’ll continue it in the uniform of the AL’s Baltimore Orioles.

He Said What?
“In baseball, they’ve got Milton Bradley. I’m that guy. You need people like me, so you can point your finger and go, ‘There goes the bad guy.’”—Milton Bradley channeling Scarface in an interview with The Sporting News.

TGG Programming Note
The Comebacker takes next week off but will be back on April 11 with the return of our picks for the best and worst of the week as the 2010 regular season goes into action.

This Week's Trivia Answer
Ramiro Mendoza and Eric Hinske are the only players besides Johnny Damon to receive World Series rings from both the Yankees and Red Sox. True, there were an many players who won championships for both New York and Boston back in 1910s and 1920s, but rings were not part of the spoils in those days.

Spring Trained? Who's Ready and Not for 2010
It’s that time of spring where we take a look back at the bulk of spring training numbers and determine who may or may not be ready for the regular season. Keep in mind, just because a pitcher is being lit up doesn’t exactly mean he’s not there yet; many players like to experiment or work on their less successful pitches without much regard for the line score. For hitters, there are the unknown prospects who are playing like the second coming of Babe Ruth—until you realize that most of their at-bats are taking place against other unknown prospects, thus minimizing the quality factor of their numbers. Having said that, we hold no such bias and simply take the numbers at face value.

Remember: Last year, we officially placed Hanley Ramirez, Cliff Lee and Mark Reynolds in the “not ready” column, while it appeared that Milton Bradley, Khalil Greene and the San Francisco Giants’ hitters were “ready.” With exhibition baseball, you just never know, but here we go anyway. (Full disclosure: The statistics listed below are through March 26.)

Ready: Brian McCann, Atlanta. For the Braves to have a shot of upending the Phillies in the NL East, they’ll need someone on offense to step it up as Chipper Jones begins to fade with age. McCann’s .500 average with power this spring gives Atlanta hope that he’ll be that guy.

Not Ready: Nate McLouth, Atlanta. Meanwhile, the spring of McLouth, another pseudo-marquee Brave, has been abysmal with just five hits in 44 at-bats and 15 strikeouts—heightening fears in the Brave front office that his stock continues to fall since his trade from Pittsburgh last season.

Ready: Delwyn Young, Pittsburgh. The back-up outfielder may see a role as a starter sooner than later if he keeps up the power surge (a major league-leading six home runs in spring training); it’s an eye-opener given he has ten career blasts in 513 regular season at-bats.

Not Ready: Brandon Moss, Pittsburgh. Another reserve outfielder for the Bucs, Moss will be happy at this point just to make the roster. Why? Try two singles in 33 at-bats with no RBIs. Hopefully Moss has a gentile disposition—for if not, this performance will leave him feeling like Dave Moss, the irritably profane salesman with a Hyundai as played by Ed Harris in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Ready: Mike Sweeney, Seattle. Is the 36-year old ready for a renaissance following five years of injury-plagued struggle? The Mariners, in search of all the power they can muster, certainly hope so. Sweeney is hitting .577 (that’s right—15 hits in 26 at-bats) with seven extra-base hits.

Not Ready: Billy Buckner, Arizona. Baseball’s first Billy Buckner—yes, the one who let the ball roll through his legs—could probably go out and have a better spring than the game’s second version. The current Billy has a crippling spring ERA of 11.66.

Not Ready: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia. One of the game’s most notorious streakers—no, not the naked kind—is having it bad this spring with just four hits in 41 at-bats. Look at it this way: Sooner or later he’s bound to turn it around on a dime and get hot, so better to get the big slump out of the way while the games don’t count.

Ready: Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota. After a full-fledged revival in 2009 (32 homers after just three in 2008), Cuddyer looks ready to take his game to an even higher level this season if his .500 average this spring counts for anything.

Ready: The Minnesota Twins’ starting rotation. Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey and Francisco Liriano have been absolutely dynamite for the Twins in Grapefruit action, combining for a 9-0 record and a 1.88 ERA; they’ve walked only ten batters in 67-plus innings. This is just the lift the Twins, without Joe Nathan to close, are looking for within their staff.

Not Ready: The Washington Senators’ pitching staff. But then again, these guys never seem to be ready. A grisly 6.66 ERA actually gets higher if you take away the superb spring numbers of rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg, who for some reason starts the year in Double-A.

Ready: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington. If the Nats can’t pitch, at least some of them can hit. Zimmerman is the sure thing in the lineup and has proved it this spring, hitting over .400 with five homers.

Not Ready: Justin Maxwell, Washington. On the other hand, some Nats can’t hit. Maxwell has all but lived on the bench in two previous seasons at Washington, but he’ll be back in the minors with these numbers: Five hits in 49 at-bats, with 20 strikeouts.

Ready: Tim Hudson, Atlanta. Repaired, rebuilt and, if a 1.35 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 20 innings this spring holds true for the regular season, rejuvenated. Another must-succeed element if the Braves are to make a run at the postseason.

Not Ready: Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay. A 3-for-36 spring is not a good sign for a guy who’s got power but has seen his batting average slip precipitously over the last few years. Pena needs to reverse course when the games count, or his impending free agency will become a yawn.

Ready: Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay. If Pena continues his collapse into the regular season, maybe this young guy can learn to play first base (he’s played almost every other position in his pro career to date). A component of the trade that sent Scott Kazmir to Anaheim, Rodriguez has smoked opponents this spring, hitting .420 with 11 extra-base hits (including six homers) among 21 total hits.

Not Ready: Rich Harden, Texas. Ranger fans are starting to get a bad feeling that moving Kevin Millwood out to bring in Harden as the staff ace was not a good thing. Harden has not only been hit hard (18 earned runs allowed in 17.2 innings), but he’s been erratic to boot, walking 15.

Not Ready: Kevin Millwood, Baltimore. Take heart, Ranger fans: Oriole Nation shares your pain. Millwood has been clocked about as well, allowing 12 runs on 21 hits in just eight-plus innings. It all evens out, we suppose.

Ready: Todd Wellemeyer, San Francisco. Young phenom Madison Bumgarner was pegged to be the fifth starter in the rich Giant rotation this season, but the well-traveled, common Wellemeyer has been uncommon this spring and earned the spot instead with a 1.35 ERA and 3-0 record.

Not Ready: Ben Sheets, Oakland. The tall veteran made news a few weeks back when he allowed ten runs without retiring a single batter, but put all of that aside and his ERA is still nearly 10.00. Sheets is tanned and rested after a year off from elbow surgery, but he hardly looks ready. The A’s are crossing their fingers hard on this one.

Ready: Randy Ruiz, Toronto. We listed the long-time minor leaguer who has DH written all over him as one of the Teasers of 2009 when he hit ten home runs in just 115 at-bats for the Blue Jays late last season. Ruiz has continued to pound on opponents this spring, hitting over .400 with three homers. He’s likely to make the Opening Day roster.

Not Ready: Lars Anderson, Boston. The big Californian slugger tagged as a prized prospect in the Red Sox organization didn’t make the grade this spring; in fact, he didn’t even make it to first base, going hitless in 18 at-bats before being moved on to the minors.

Not Ready: Kevin Hart, Pittsburgh. The 27-year old struggled late last year with the Pirates, but that was nothing compared to the horror show he put on this spring, allowing five runs on eight hits and thirteen walks over just 4.2 innings. Initially projected as a fifth starter, Hart’s exhibition mishaps have instead ticketed him to Triple-A.

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 at TGG: The 2009 Yearly Reader Page—The Salvation of Alex Rodriguez
Our Yearly Reader page covering the 2009 season is now live, including the "It Happened In..." section, final standings and the Leaders and Numbers page breaking down the best hitters and pitchers from each league.

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