This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: March 31-April 6, 2014
What's Wrong with MLB's Expanded Video Replay Marlins to Fans: 'Tough'
Miguel Cabrera's Projected Career Numbers Barry Bonds Returns to Pittsburgh


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
22 5 11 2 0 2 5 3 0 0 1

Is he back? The one-time AL MVP whose stock has fallen over the past few years—leading to much frustration in the Angels front office that paid him big gobs of guaranteed money before 2013—had a most impressive week to begin the season. There was one nightmarish flashback on Wednesday when he struck out in each of his four at-bats against Seattle, but otherwise he was vintage Josh and more. Five days of the good against one of the bad? The Angels will take that with Hamilton anytime.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
29 7 10 3 0 2 12 3 0 0 2

Last year, the imposing Miami slugger went the first 12 games of the season without a home run or RBI. As he sank, the Marlins sank with him. But the new baseball year has brought a different Stanton, and by extension a new Marlins vibe as they racked up a tankful of runs this week. Stanton’s two homers included the longest blast in Marlins Park history. If this is what the big guy’s going to offer in 2014, opposing pitchers beware.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
19 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

It’s amazing how hot and cold this guy runs. Last year, he got off to such an underwhelming start in Chicago that he dared the Cubs to trade him—and they did. With the Yankees in the second half, he exploded. Not here he is back in pinstripes doing his DOA bit. But don’t worry—he’s bound to come alive sooner or later. For the Yankees, who’ve now lost Mark Teixeira (again), they’re banking on ‘sooner.’ They have to.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
19 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Anyone pick this guy for their fantasy leagues? C’mon, speak up. The Reds had a lot of issues in their first week of the season, but Cozart’s pure collection of zeroes—he didn’t even walk—is troubling for someone who has put a bat to the ball in the past and for whom the Reds are hoping will blossom at some point. If it doesn’t happen soon, look for Cozart to start seeing the bench—or maybe even the minors.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Scott Feldman, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 13.2 5 1 1 4 0 3 0 0 4

The Astros have two wins on the year after Week One, and they have the 31-year-old Hawaiian native to thank for it. Feldman was terrific in his two starts, as opponents hit just .091 against him—and we’re talking esteemed hitting teams in the Yankees and Angels. Houston has swung and missed bringing in veteran hurlers in the Jim Crane era (see Erik Bedard), but they may have a winner in Feldman if he can keep anything close to this up.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 12.2 11 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 7

The Brewers are heavily relying on their 28-year-old ace to return to A-list form after a disappointing 2013 season; they may be realizing their biggest hopes after his first two starts of 2014. Gallardo quieted down the Braves on Opening Day at Milwaukee, then turned in an even more stellar effort at Boston against the defending champion Red Sox on Sunday.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 0 2 4 4 3 0 0 0 0 0

The White Sox were hoping to anoint the third-year reliever as the team closer, but he’s been bedeviled by hip issues all spring—and Opening Week only proved worse as he faced five batters over two games and failed to get any of them out. It was about at this point that the White Sox decided that the disabled list might be a better place for Jones. We’ll see him back in late April, hopefully better and more healthy—for Chicago’s sake.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado Rockies

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 8.2 8 9 8 5 0 1 0 0 10

The 33-year-old Mexican native won 16 games despite averaging less than six innings a start last year. That dropped to four per start in two outings this past week—but no wins were to be found, as he struggled against the Marlins on Opening Day and then the Diamondbacks this past Saturday. The Rockies always thirst for pitching at Coors Field and need De La Rosa to bring back the rabbit’s foot or whatever got him all those wins last season, but this is hardly progress.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (4-1)

The springtime thaw felt much warmer after a successful first week at home for the Tigers, who (for the moment) schussed some of the soothsayers by taking a short two-game series over the upstart Royals, winning both games in walk-off fashion. It took a terrific Sunday effort from the Orioles’ Chris Tillman to outduel Justin Verlander and prevent the Tigers from finishing the week undefeated. Detroit now heads west to the warmth, palm trees and beaches of San Diego and Los Angeles. Stay focused, boys.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Francisco Giants (5-2)

We said it in our season review; the Giants have been second to none in the even-numbered years this decade. So here we are in 2014, and guess who’s got the NL’s best record as of upload time? What’s really working for is a hitting game that was tough to talk positively about last year, as the Giants racked up runs on the road at Arizona and San Francisco. Now they come home to AT&T Park, where it’s harder to score; let’s see if the home cooking produces a tasty result.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Baltimore Orioles (2-4)

Despite Tillman’s gem as mentioned above, it was still a lousy week for a team that eagerly wants to prove it belongs in a tough division most are expecting them to wilt within. The O’s stumbled at home to the defending champion Red Sox to start, then lost two of three at Detroit on the weekend. The vaunted Baltimore defense committed only one error, but solid glovework can’t take you far when your hitting and pitching are both off.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Arizona Diamondbacks (2-7)

Even when you throw out the two Australian losses to the Dodgers (we didn’t), no one stunk up the Senior Circuit more than the D-Backs. We didn’t think much of the Arizona bullpen in our 2014 preview, and although nine games is hardly a significant sample, nothing’s surprised us so far. Until Wade Miley’s nice effort Sunday at Colorado, the starters didn’t fare much better. The Snakes need to rattle themselves back to life, or we’ll see how much loyalty management has for manager Kirk Gibson.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, March 31
The Pittsburgh Pirates benefit from a replay reversal and defeat the visiting Chicago Cubs on a tenth-inning solo shot from Neil Walker, 1-0. In the top of the tenth, Emilio Bonifacio—who would collect four of the Cubs’ six hits on the day—is declared safe at first in a pick-off attempt, but the Pirates challenge the call and get it overturned, ending a possible Chicago threat.

Detroit shortstop Alex Gonzalez, quickly brought in from Baltimore to replace the injured Jose Iglesias, triples in the tying run in the seventh inning before delivering a walk-off single in the ninth to give the Tigers a 4-3 Opening Day victory over the visiting Kansas City Royals.

In the first regular season interleague game played in March, the Philadelphia Phillies outlast the Rangers in a 14-10 slugfest at Arlington. Jimmy Rollins belts a grand slam for the Phillies that’s also his 200th career home run; Texas starter Tanner Schneppers, the first major leaguer to make his first career start on Opening Day since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, bombs on the mound by allowing seven runs in less than four innings of work. Phillies counterpart Cliff Lee allows eight runs in five innings—and gets the win.

Former Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, making his first appearance as a member of the Oakland A’s, enters a 0-0 game in the ninth inning and gives up two runs to the Cleveland Indians, resulting in the A’s tenth straight Opening Day loss—a major league record.

Miami ace (and reigning NL Rookie of the Year) Jose Fernandez picks up where he left off from last year, stifling the Colorado Rockies with nine strikeouts and only one run allowed through six sharp innings as the Marlins roll at home, 10-1. Casey McGehee, back in the majors after a year of exile in Japan, knocks in four runs on a pair of hits.

Nelson Cruz proves his bargain-basement worth with Baltimore by scoring both of the Orioles’ runs—the latter on a tie-breaking, seventh-inning homer—to lift the O’s to a 2-1 win over the defending champion Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards. The Red Sox’ lone run comes courtesy of a solo shot from Grady Sizemore, the oft-injured outfielder making his first major league appearance since 2011.


Tuesday, April 1
In his first appearance since June 2012, Toronto pitcher and Tommy John survivor Drew Hutchison throws 5.1 shutout innings, allowing three hits and three walks to lead the Blue Jay to a 4-2 win at Tampa Bay. Attendance in St. Petersburg for the second game of the year: 11,113.

After losing on Opening Day, the Atlanta Braves get even with a 5-2 victory at Milwaukee. Braves hitting star Freddie Freeman, who had never had an extra-base hit in 61 previous career at-bats against the Brewers, slams two solo home runs.

Sorry, Ian Kinsler: The Rangers will not go 0-162 on the year. They might be 0-2 if not for Adrian Beltre, the All-Star third baseman who ties the Phillies in the seventh on a run-scoring double and then singles in the winning run in the ninth to give the Rangers a walk-off, 3-2 win over the Phillies.


Wednesday, April 2
Fred Toney and Hippo Vaughn nearly get company: For six-plus innings, Atlanta’s Aaron Harang and Milwaukee’s Matt Garza—each making their career debuts for their teams—holds the other team hitless. But a double no-no is not to be, as both pitchers give up hits in the seventh inning. Chris Johnson’s home run becomes the only tally of the game as the Braves win, 1-0.

On a cold day before a sparsely attended (10,625, announced) crowd at Chicago, the White Sox score two runs in the ninth to tie Minnesota and then win it in the 11th, 7-6. Leury Garcia uses the element of surprise—a bunt hit on a 0-2 pitch, something no major leaguer did for all of last year—to reach first, and then gets help scoring from Twins pitcher Sam Deduno, who balks Garcia to second and then throws two wild pitches to send him home.

For the second straight game, both the Tigers and Rangers win in walk-off fashion. Detroit beats the Royals in ten innings, 2-1, on an Ian Kinsler single; the Rangers rally for three runs, the final tally coming on a Jonathan Papelbon bases-clearing walk to Shin-Soo Choo, for a 4-3 comeback win over Philadelphia.

Mark Buehrle is one out shy of pitching the majors’ first complete game and shutout of the season, and strikes out 11 batters—one shy of his personal best, and the first time in 287 starts he’s collected at least ten K’s—in Toronto’s 3-0 win at Tampa Bay. Bronson Arroyo remains the pitcher with the longest run of starts without ten or more K’s, at 311.


Thursday, April 3
In his first start of the year after being given a six-year, $25 million extension, Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer throws six strong innings as the Rays defeat Toronto, 7-2. The scoring is capped by Evan Longoria, whose three-run, seventh-inning homer ties Carlos Pena on the all-time franchise list with 163. Crowd at St. Petersburg: 9,571.

Trailing 5-3 in the seventh, the Marlins rebound with one run and, in the eighth, four more to complete a 8-5 comeback win over Colorado. It’s the first time in 113 tries that the Marlins have won after trailing by two or more entering the seventh; the last team to go that long in a similar situation was the 2002-03 Tigers, which lost 128 straight.


Friday, April 4
It looks rough at first for Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka in his American debut; he serves up a home run to the first batter he faces (Toronto’s Melky Cabrera) and gives up three runs over his first two innings, but he settles down and follows up with five shutout innings, emerging with the win as the New York Yankees defeat the Blue Jays, 7-3. Tanaka strikes out eight and walks none.

The Rockies’ home opener against Arizona is an especially big occasion for Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon, who ties a franchise mark with six hits that include three doubles and a home run to aid in the 12-2 thrashing of the Diamondbacks.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ home opener gets off to a bad start before it even begins when outfielder Yasiel Puig is scratched for showing up late to the ballpark. (Evidently the request for Puig to stop speeding is working.) The visiting Giants take advantage, scoring six runs in the first inning off starter Hyun-Jin Ryu before coasting to an 8-4 win.

Giancarlo Stanton sets the bar high for anyone attempting to crush a longer home run, as the Marlins’ primary power source launches a 484-foot shot in the first inning of Miami’s 8-2 win over the visiting San Diego Padres. Stanton’s blast is the longest in the short history of Marlins Park.


Saturday, April 5
The Twins pile it on early at Cleveland and defeat the Indians, 7-3, giving manager Ron Gardenhire his 1,000th career victory. Gardenhire is the third manager in franchise history (after Bucky Harris and Tom Kelly) to record 1,000 wins; among active managers, four have more victories—a list headed by the Giants’ Bruce Bochy (1,535).

The struggling Reds are sending a note to injured closer Aroldis Chapman: Get well, very soon. Chapman’s replacement, J.J. Hoover, is given a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth against the Mets, but he loads the bases up and Ike Davis clears them with a grand slam to give New York a 6-3 win.

Desperately in need of pitching depth, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim get it from former Arizona prospect Tyler Skaggs (traded to the Angels for slugger Mark Trumbo), who’s terrific in throwing eight innings and allowing just an unearned run on four hits in the Angels’ 5-1 win at Houston.


Sunday, April 6
In his first start of the season, Texas’ Yu Darvish matches zeroes for seven innings with Tampa Bay counterpart Alex Cobb—but the Rangers prevail with a two-run homer in the eighth by Elvis Andrus off Cobb’s replacement, Joel Peralta, on their way to a 3-0 victory. Darvish strikes out six and now has 504 for his career; no pitcher has reached 500 K’s in fewer innings to start a major league career than Darvish (401.2).

In the Yankees’ 6-4 win at Toronto, Derek Jeter knocks out two hits to surpass Paul Molitor for eighth on the all-time list. Jeter’s 3,320 career hits are now 99 shy of no. 7, Carl Yastrzemski.


Quotas and Challenges and Errors, Oh My…
This Week in MLB Video Replay Gone Wrong
wounded of the weekWe begin this new in-season installment of why Major League Baseball’s idea of comprehensive video replay is inferior to our own. Our method relies on reviews initiated by a video crew (as opposed to managers) near the press box area (as opposed to an elaborate mishmash of monitors in New York) done with expediency and no quotas; only a minute would be required to review because, if you can’t find anything definitive within a minute, you won’t find it in two or three or four.

For the record, the first review under MLB’s new system took place this past Monday in Pittsburgh, where Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria wanted a reversal on an out call at first base that ended a double play in the fifth inning. Officials in New York took a second look and upheld the umpires’ original call. A little later in Milwaukee, umps ruled the Brewers’ Ryan Braun safe at first on an infield grounder, and opposing Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez asked for a replay; that original call was overturned, resulting in the first reversal under the new system.

But as managers, players and fans all attempted to get use to MLB’s expanded video philosophy, a dark side emerged that confirmed our fears for how it would not work for the best.

The most glaring example of the system’s weaknesses took place Tuesday at Phoenix. With San Francisco leading Arizona in the fourth inning, 4-2, the Diamondbacks’ A.J. Pollock appeared to be picked off at first base by Giants pitcher Matt Cain, but the umpire ruled Pollock safe; Giants manager Bruce Bochy challenged the call, a gopher guy came running out with a bag of portable communication devices and, some three minutes later, the umpires denied Bochy because video showed inconclusive evidence that Pollock was out.

Pollock later moved to third and, when Cain uncorked a wild pitch, headed home; Buster Posey quickly retrieved the carom of the ball and darted it to Cain, who reached over home plate for a sliding Pollock—who stepped on Cain’s glove before touching the plate. Pollock was nevertheless called safe, and what would have been a slam-dunk reversal couldn’t be reviewed because, by losing the first challenge, Bochy was out of options.

Trust us: This won’t be the first time this scenario plays out. But had MLB used our system of video replay, this scenario would never play out. Under our system, there would have been a review of Cain’s near pick-off at first, called for by the review booth upstairs—and although our conclusion would have been the same, it would have been resolved much quicker. But because our system involves no quotas, there would have been a replay on the tag at home—and it would have likely been reversed, with Pollock out. All of this would have been adjudicated in quicker time, and more correctly. After all, the whole point of comprehensive video review is to get the calls right. Not some of them, in MLB’s alleged interest of time. All of them. Quickly and effectively.

Oh, by the way: Arizona won the game. By a run.

And Another Thing...
Comprehensive video replay also exposed an unwanted element we hadn’t even harped on: Managers walking out on the field to basically chat with umpires in an attempt to stall and allow time for their replay camps to determine whether to ask for a review. This needlessly adds to the “interruption time” that stops the game; when you read those mlb.com stories that say this review lasted two minutes or that one two and a half, it likely doesn’t include the time spent by managers slow-cooking the umpires while their own guys in the review booth decide whether to call for the challenge.

Not surprisingly, the managers are learning this new tactic on the fly. An example of failing the crash course occurred Wednesday in San Diego when Padres skipper Bud Black came out to talk with the umpires after a close play at first against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But part of Black’s stalling strategy apparently was to wait for his crew upstairs to receive the go code to challenge and then emerge from the dugout. When he did, the umpires notified him that a challenge could not be granted because he took too long to leave the dugout, which one must do before the batter steps in the batter’s box and the pitcher steps on the rubber. This would have been moot under our system; a replay would have already been started (and probably completed) before Black walked out to the umpires.

For Counting Out Loud
Certainly the strangest review to occur in the regular season’s first week came on Thursday when the umpires themselves asked to confirm a batter’s count in Houston. The New York Yankees’ Yangveris Solarte drew the count to 3-1 in the ninth inning, but home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi thought it was 2-1. When Solarte told him the true count, Cuzzi reportedly replied, “Of course you’re going to think it’s 3-1.” Not even the other umpires apparently knew the count, because they asked for a confirmation from New York. The time wasted from the time Cuzzi brought the other umps together until Solarte stepped back into the batter’s box was three and a half minutes; even the Houston TV crew broadcasting the game had the 3-1 affirmed via the video truck at the ballpark well before the umpires heard back from New York. Amazing.

GIF of the Week
A day after their video headaches, the Giants appeared to get even with A.J. Pollock during Thursday’s matinee at Phoenix; they released the bees on him.

How Far Can Miggy Go?
Miguel Cabrera reached an early milestone in his remarkable career to date when he stroked his 2,000th hit on Friday against Baltimore. Just a few weeks shy of his 31st birthday, Cabrera became the seventh youngest major leaguer to reach 2,000, and the youngest since Hank Aaron over 40 years ago.

So how much does Cabrera have left in him? The Detroit Tigers must think he has a full tank, given the record $292 million extension they handed him a few weeks ago. Since joining the majors late in 2003, Cabrera has been durable and dangerous on an almost automatic scale; even when he dealt with groin issues for much of 2013, he still managed to play almost every day and captured his second straight American League MVP award.

But some forecast something different for Cabrera as he heads into the next ten years; they not only suspect that his increasingly portly build will tip the scales and begin to affect his hitting, but his physical endurance will also break down. To that end, the designated hitter rule will certainly come in handy, as it’s assumed he’ll be occupying that role full-time by the time he’s 35. If Cabrera does manage to stay reasonably healthy and maintain much of his Hall-of-Fame stature at the plate, what kind of numbers should he expect to retire with? Here’s a modest prediction:

* With 2,000 hits already in his back pocket, he is a shoo-in for 3,000. If he can somehow stay at peak form for the long run, don’t be surprised if he finishes closer to 4,000.

* With 366 home runs, he has a strong shot at 600—maybe even 700.

* With 1,263 RBIs, he’s likely to reach the 2,000 barrier currently surpassed by three others in the history of the game. It’s possible he can surpass Aaron’s all-time mark of 2,297.

* With 1,065 runs, he has a shot at 2,000 but will likely fall into the 1,800-1,900 range.

* With 414 doubles, he could reach close to 700 and maybe above, squarely putting him on the all-time top ten list. As he slows and fattens, his ability to reach second on a base hit will diminish with time.

That’s Your Problem
The Miami Marlins can’t even get it right when their ballpark gets a rare sellout. Don’t get us wrong; the ballplayers got it right—they routed Colorado, 10-1, on Opening Day—but the front office botched up the convenience factor for the fans. For those fortunate enough to get to the ballpark on time as excessive traffic made life difficult, they soon discovered that the Marlins apparently left their concessions joints understaffed and understocked, as fans complained of lines that lasted up to three innings long.

Did the problems lead to an apology from the Marlins? Are you kidding? These are the Marlins, masters at infuriating their fans—a fact confirmed by team president David Samson, who blamed the fans for deciding to leave too late and thus extending the lines late in the going once they did arrive late. Fair points, but the tone wasn’t quite what one should give when your reputation in Florida is on a par with Casey Anthony.

Who’s Got Your Name and Number
According to a tweet from MLB, David Ortiz’s jersey reigned this past offseason as the most popular based on sales. He was followed by Boston teammate Dustin Pedroia, the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw. If Alex Rodriguez was looking for a healthy populace of defiance, it’s not reflected here; his no. 13 for the Yankees is not among the top 20 released by MLB.

Damp if They Do, Damp if They Don’t
Friday’s game between Oakland and Seattle at the Coliseum was postponed even though the skies above the Bay Area were clear. Reason? The A’s took a chance and decided to leave an already wet field untarped the night before in the hopes it could dry out. But the weather forecasters they relied on got it wrong, and nearly a half-inch of rain fell on an exposed field, making it unplayable the next evening. Most new ballparks have elaborate drainage processes that allow a field to dry quickly, but not the 46-year-old Coliseum, compounded by a below-sea-level location that invites unwanted field moisture from the nearby San Francisco Bay—to say nothing of their internal sewage issues. Memo to Bud: Just let the damn team move to San Jose.

The PED Police is On It
Joe Dunand, a high school senior from Miami, hit home runs in eight straight at-bats—on eight swings—during a tournament in Phoenix. If there’s been anyone else at the prep level who’s done the same or better, it can’t be found. So while that’s amazing, here’s the fascinating part: Dunand’s uncle is one Alex Rodriguez.

Who Needs A-Rod?
Yangervis Solarte, Rodriguez’s replacement at third base, had multiple-hit performances in each of his first three games as a Yankee, totaling seven hits. The last Yankee player to do that? Joe DiMaggio in 1936.

Auction of the Week
It was announced this past week that the 1957Norman Rockwell painting entitled “The Rookie”—showing a well-dressed, unidentified newbie showing up in the clubhouse of the Boston Red Sox and being eyed down by veterans Ted Williams and Jackie Jensen, among others—will be auctioned off by its current (and anonymous) owner on May 22. You got $20 million? You’re going to need it and perhaps more if you want the painting; Christie’s is predicting a sale price as high as $30 million.

Returning on Thin Ice
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ brass was crossing its fingers during Opening Day pregame ceremonies at PNC Park as Andrew McCutchen was formally handed his 2013 NL MVP plaque by Barry Bonds, making his first official visit to the Steel City after he turned his back on the Bucs for San Francisco riches following the 1992 season. Pirates fans have been said to have an unforgiveable attitude towards Bonds since then, but when he was introduced before the largest crowd in PNC Park history (39,833), he was greeted with a mix of cheers and boos. Apparently time has healed some of the anger. Some of it.

Opening Daze
In six Opening Day starts for the Yankees,
CC Sabathia has a 7.71 ERA. He gave up six runs in six innings at Houston this past Tuesday to open the season for New York, which lost 6-2. But hey, Sabathia’s in good company; only two other pitchers who’ve pitched a minimum of 30 Opening Day innings have worse ERAs—and they’re both Hall of Famers: Phil Niekro and Early Wynn.

But of Course—They’re the Mets
The Washington Nationals struck out 31 New York Mets over their first two games—the most racked up by any team in the first two games of one’s season.

And the Hits Just Keep Coming
Extra innings helped, but the Cubs’
Emilio Bonifacio collected nine hits in the Chicago Cubs’ first two games of the season, setting an all-time mark previously held by the Cardinals’ Showboat Fisher in 1930. The Cubs lost both games in ten and 16 innings.

Snipping the Flowers
Just because you’re having a great game doesn’t mean you’re going to get to finish it. Ask
Tyler Flowers, who had a 4-for-4 day going for the Chicago White Sox on Thursday and was the team’s last hope with the Sox trailing Minnesota, 10-9, in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Or at least he was the team’s last hope until he was told to sit and be pinch-hit for by veteran Paul Konerko, who grounded out to end the game. According to Elias, the last time a player had a 4-for-4 game interrupted by a pinch-hitter took place in 2007 when Cincinnati’s Norris Hooper was sat down for Ken Griffey Jr.—who proceeded to strike out.

Intentional Walk > Unintentional Walk-Off
Like all things on campus, college is all about learning—as in, learning how to intentionally walk a batter. Here’s a demonstration of how not to do it, courtesy of Auburn’s
Jay Wade.

You Get the Finger You Deserve
In Thursday’s game between the Cardinals and Reds at Cincinnati, St. Louis first baseman
Matt Adams attempts a diving catch of a foul ball over the tarp—then shoves the first-row Reds fan who ends up with the ball. The fan responds in kind with a middle finger. Adams later claimed that he meant no ill will and was trying to balance himself back to his feet, but that’s hard to believe looking at the clip; MLB is investigating. You just don’t do that to a paying fan, especially when you’re entering his territory.

That’s So Popcorny
When you don’t have a glove to catch a foul ball, try doing so with a big tub of popcorn. Or maybe not.

Off With His Head!
The Cubs have themselves a new mascot, but they would like you to know that this is not that guy.

Flowers, Yes—Beer Cans, No
It’s not unusual for fans to leave their empty or near-empty bottles/cans of alcohol just before entering the gates of a major league ballpark—they can’t bring any in, after all—but they need to be more careful about where they place them. Or, perhaps, the Texas Rangers need to find a better place to display the statue dedicated to fan
Shannon Stone, who died in 2011 after diving over the outfield bleacher railing trying to catch a ball lobbed into the stands by the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton.

League vs. League
The National League hasn’t had a winning interleague record against the American League for ten years running, and things didn’t get off to a promising start in 2014 when the Phillies dropped two of three at Arlington against the Rangers. But then came a surprise; the champion Boston Red Sox were swept over the weekend at home by the Milwaukee Brewers. So while it’s early, the vibe feels good for the NL, winners of four of six games this past week
.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekInjuries this past week included nerve irritation in the elbow for Los Angeles reliever Brian Wilson, hamstring injuries for Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes (after just one inning of the season) and oft-injured New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, a broken hand for Washington catcher Wilson Ramos (who’ll miss up to six weeks), season-ending Tommy John surgery for New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell, a “gluteal strain” for Chicago reliever/closer Nate Jones, and a bad calf for Boston infielder Will Middlebrooks.

The umpires were not spared, either. Tim McClelland, the second longest active serving arbiter behind Joe West, has decided to sit out the entire season because of a bad back; he plans to return in 2015.

And under the category of ‘just plain odd’ comes the broken leg suffered by Los Angeles of Anaheim hitting coach Don Baylor after former Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero nailed it on the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day at Anaheim. If this is a bad omen for the Angels’ season, God help them.


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