The Week That Was in Baseball: March 24-30, 2008
Opening Day for the Graveyard Shift Who's Ready—and Not Ready—for 2008
What's Jose Canseco Babbling About Now? It's a Big, Big, Big, Big Crowd in L.A.

Baseball's Late, Late Show
It was 4:00 a.m. West Coast time on Tuesday when I was awakened by my 14-year old cat, who wanted to go out. So I let him out the door and, seeing the time, had an opportunity to turn the TV on and check out the Boston/Oakland opener from Japan. But I was too tired and I had too much to do in the day to follow, so I went back to bed. This was an Opening Day game best suited for the night owls of the Bay Area and the early birds of Boston, and no one else. Oh, except the Japanese, who got to view this game at their best convenience. But they already have a league. My message is simply this: Leave the international goodwill gestures to exhibitions, and the real stuff to North America. —Eric

Canseco Babble-On
Readers who got a sneak peak of the new Jose Canseco tell-all book, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars and the Battle to Save Baseball, said the book states the following: That Canseco injected Magglio Ordonez with steroids in 2001 when both were playing for the Chicago White Sox; that he introduced Alex Rodriguez to a steroids distributor; that A-Rod kept trying to hit on his wife; that the Bush administration lobbied 60 Minutes and ESPN to edit out accusatory comments he made of Roger Clemens back in 2005; and that, after the 60 Minutes interview,  Mike Wallace approached him to say he was interested in possibly taking steroids himself. (Well, after Debbie Clemens, anything’s possible.) Rodriguez refused to discuss Canseco’s allegations, stating that “it’s over”—while Canseco himself, in a bizarre response, refused to expand or provide proof of his claims on ABC’s Nightline because “the timing’s not right.” If you’re feeling to be in a real anti-Canseco mood, you could no better than check out this long, scathing (and profane—no kids, please) scribe put forward recently by Pat Jordan on

City of 115,000 Angels
Fifty years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers made national headlines for drawing Olympic-sized crowds while awkwardly trying to fit into the oval-shaped Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a stadium made specifically for the Olympics. To celebrate the golden anniversary of their move from Brooklyn, the Dodgers returned to the Coliseum for an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night and drew a crowd of 115,300, which blew away anything they brought in back in 1958. In fact, it’s the highest recorded attendance for a baseball game anywhere—eclipsing the old mark set in (of all places) Melbourne, Australia during the 1956 Olympics. Boston beat the Dodgers, 7-4, a result remarkable in that many expected a much higher score with the distance to the left-field foul pole at a ridiculously short 201 feet—50 feet closer than it was back in 1958. The field’s oblong shape was not lost on the Dodgers’ P.R. department; the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Wally Moon, who made a name of himself back in the Dodgers’ Coliseum years with numerous homers over the left-field fence, called “Moonshots.”

More Partisan Cheese
House Representative Tom Davis, one of the few Republicans who seemed to come away from the Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee hearings in February feeling somewhat skeptical of Clemens’ claims, released a report this past week in which he was less skeptical and accused the Democrats on the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform of a rush to judgment in condemning Clemens. Davis wrote, “It’s a far more complicated picture than some may want to believe. Memories fade and recollections differ.” The question is, Tom: Did Clemens take steroids? We would think the memory of that one hasn’t evaded the Rocket.

The Chemist's Girlfriend Has Ears
BALCO founder Victor Conte has always maintained that he never was directly or knowingly involved in Barry Bonds’ steroid use, but this past week a witness at the perjury trial of cyclist Tammy Thomas—who, like Bonds, is accused of the Federal Government of lying during the BALCO grand jury proceedings—claims that Conte boasted of supplying Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs. Conte immediately sent out a public e-mail missive denying the words of the witness, a former girlfriend of BALCO chemist Patrick Arnold.

No Spokesman of Ours
It probably didn’t thrill the San Francisco Giants to see Thomas walking out of her BALCO trial on Wednesday wearing a Giant cap.

Demoted to Wisteria Lane
It appears that the Tampa Bay Rays are more content starting Willie Aybar, a veteran of two years on the bench and one on injured reserve—along with a history of domestic violence—over super-hyped prospect Evan Longoria at third base for 2008. The Rays believed that the 22-year old Longoria, who hit .262 with three homers and ten RBIs during spring training, would be better served experiencing one last round of seasoning at the Triple-A level in Durham. Many folks in the Tampa area disagree. Given Aybar’s credentials, it’s likely that Longoria will see his first official major league action sooner than later.

Bend it Like Livan
Routine grounders have rarely had been completed in ways that have been anything but routine; we’re immediately reminded of the time some 15 years ago when Terry Mulholland couldn’t get the ball out of his glove on a comebacker, so he simply threw the whole glove to first base to retire the batter. This past week in a Grapefruit League matchup, portly Minnesota pitcher Livan Hernandez ran off the mound to chase a bunt toward first base and, realizing he wasn’t going to be able to reach down and lob it to first base in time to catch Tampa Bay’s Elliot Johnson, kicked it perfectly into the glove of first baseman Justin Morneau. Hernandez claims he did the same trick during a regular season game last year while pitching for Arizona.

Wounded of the Week
The casualties of Arizona and Florida have been tallied, and with this long a list you think baseball detoured through Gettysburg. Among the major leaguers attached to the disabled list as the season opens: Top-line pitchers Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Andy Pettitte, Brad Lidge, Chris Capuano, Noah Lowry, Scott Kazmir and Shawn Hill; everyday regulars Nomar Garciaparra, Curtis Granderson, Jeremy Hermida and Moises Alou; and oft-injured veterans in Scott Rolen, Rocco Baldelli and Mark Prior.

Now Playing: This Great Game Predicts 2008
TGG sages Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio reveal their annual picks for the upcoming major league season. Always fun to do and entertaining to read, check out the fearless forecast here.

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:

31. 1968 84 Wins, 78 Losses
Third Place, 13 Games Back
In the Year of the Pitcher, few hurlers felt as much pain over joy as the Cubs’ Ferguson Jenkins, who, despite 20 wins, suffered nine shutout losses among 15 total defeats. Overall it was a rocky year for the Cubs, who stumbled through the first half of the season (36-45) before decidedly better baseball afterward, but the slow start never allowed them a chance to catch St. Louis for the NL pennant. Billy Williams (.288 average, 30 home runs, 98 RBIs) was one of the few players who appeared unaffected by the dominant pitching, and he was backed up with additional power from Ron Santo (32 homers) and Ernie Banks (26), but the latter two each batted just .246, well below par for both—but still a little above the team average of .242.


Spring Trained? Who's Ready and Not for 2008
After our diligent watching, reading and statistical breakdown of the major league exhibition season, we offer our picks for those who look hot to go for the regular season—and those who look like they need to start camp all over again.

Ready: Josh Hamilton, Texas. Many thought the Rangers would be taking a big chance on a very talented player with a very troubled past. But if Hamilton’s .435 average and 13 extra-base hits (with three homers) in Arizona is any indication, Texas will get a big payoff in the regular season.

Not Ready: Khalil Greene, San Diego. The Padres are thin on hitting as it is, they don’t need Greene, one of their better hitters, to perform as he did in the spring (.190 average, 16 strikeouts in 42 at-bats). 

Ready: Albert Pujols, St. Louis. If Pujols’ elbow is so bad that he’s considering major surgery, then it boggles the mind to think how good he can be if he was 100% healthy. Pujols batted .407 with five homers and 18 RBIs in camp. 

Not Ready: Frank Thomas, Toronto. Has age finally crept up to the 40-year old Big Hurt, or has he simply learned when to turn it on when the games count? Hopefully the latter for Blue Jay fans, who watched him hit .156 with a home run and one RBI in 15 spring games. 

Ready: Scott Podsednik, Colorado. Given up on by the White Sox, the 32-year old outfielder batted .319 with ten steals for the Rockies in Arizona, earning his way onto the Colorado roster. 

Not Ready: Joe Crede, Chicago White Sox. Perhaps the White Sox let go of the wrong guy. Crede hit just .172 and capped his awful spring by bruising his knee. The White Sox are rumored to be using Crede as trade bait, but no fish is going to bite at numbers like those. 

Ready: Brian Anderson, Chicago White Sox. The 26-year old outfielder has a career batting mark of .216, but after hitting .324 with four homers this spring, he looks good to raise that average up a bit. 

Not Ready: Brian Anderson, Tampa Bay. That other Brian Anderson, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2005 because of two Tommy John surgeries, tried to make a comeback in Tampa Bay. Instead he got hurt again and is now facing Tommy John for a third time. So he quit instead. 

Ready: Jake Westbrook, Cleveland. A fragile, forgotten man of sorts in an otherwise superb Indian rotation last year, Westbrook is looking to be noticed anew after pitching 18 scoreless innings in camp. 

Not Ready: Erik Bedard, Seattle. He’s the guy who’s supposed to put Seattle over the top. Instead nine opposing hitters sent his noted fastball over the fence, leading to an exhibition ERA of 8.63. 

Ready: Jared Weaver, Los Angeles of Anaheim. While the Angel staff falls apart to injury, there is one good thing going in Anaheim with Weaver, who won five spring games and put together a 1.37 ERA. 

Not Ready: San Francisco Giant pitchers. The Giant staff—anchored by a respected starting rotation—is supposed to be the saving grace for an otherwise decrepit ballclub. But it authored an ERA well over 6.00 thanks to Noah Lowry’s wildness and Barry Zito’s inability to pitch worth $126, let alone $126 million.

Don't Print Those World Series Tix Yet, Floridians
Those traditional baseball laughingstocks of the Sunshine State, the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, finished Spring Training with a combined 37-19 record. We’ll see if they’re anything close to that after the first 56 combined games of the regular season.

Running in Super Slo-Mo
Yahoo’s team report page for the Giants said this about Bengie Molina, perhaps the slowest active major leaguer: “Bengie Molina (strained quadriceps) is playing again but is slower than normal on the bases.” Perhaps the Giants should look into signing a tortoise as a pinch runner until he heels.

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

Next Week: The Comebacker at Full Strength
The start of the 2008 regular season also means the return of the Comebacker’s picks for the best and worst of the week that was—as well as our choice for the Game of the Week. Check it out in our next edition of the Comebacker.