The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week(s) That Was in Baseball: March 28-April 9, 2011
Gas is Up, But You're Not, Manny Ramirez Who Threw Out the First Pitch?
Stewing over Stewie in N.Y. Dodging the Criminal Element at Dodger Stadium

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All Things Being Equal: Our Picks For 2011
TGG's Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio give their predictions for the 2011 MLB regular season. Check it out now!

After Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay
As baseball struggles to grasp video replay, here's a suggestion on how to expand upon it and make it efficient—if not flawless. Check it out now!

Oops, I Did it Again!
It could very well be that Manny Ramirez was arrogant enough to believe the risk was worth it; if he ended up getting caught, the heck with it. What’s losing $2 million from the Tampa Bay Rays when the Los Angeles Dodgers are annually paying him over $8 million in deferred wages through 2013?

Maybe he was trying once more to give birth.

After a lousy start to the season—one hit in 17 at-bats for the Rays—things only got worse when Ramirez was notified that he failed a drug test for the second time in three years and, because it was a second offense, he would receive double the punishment at 100-games. Faced with a mandatory four-month sabbatical, Ramirez said the heck with it. He retired.

At 38 years of age, Ramirez ends a 19-year career with an impressive resume: A .312 career batting average; 555 home runs, 14th on the all-time list; 21 grand slams, second only to Lou Gehrig; 1,831 RBIs, 18th among all-time leaders; and a .585 career slugging percentage, which is ninth all-time.

Bur because of the two failed drug tests—plus the appearance on the “anonymous” 2003 list of 100-plus players who tested positive for steroids—Ramirez’s legacy will forever be tainted with numbers that no one will believe came solely through natural means. He was considered borderline for the Hall of Fame after the first failed drug test in 2009. This second positive makes any future enshrinement in Cooperstown next to impossible. Ramirez has only himself to blame.

The Tale of the Tape
The trial pitting the U.S. vs. Barry Bonds went to the jury late this past week, and by the time you read this there may be a verdict…or, there may not. Testimony lasted nearly three weeks and the defense, apparently feeling confident about their chances, rested without calling a single person to the stand. The jury deliberated for one solid day on Friday but did not come to a verdict; instead, they asked to listen once more to a secret tape recording between former Bonds pal/Federal turncoat Steve Hoskins and Bonds’ one-time trainer Greg Anderson (who again sat in the pen for refusing to testify). That the jury didn’t quickly come back with a verdict bodes less well for Bonds than it does for the Feds. (Some in court said that Matt Parrella's closing argument for the Feds was a hit and may have helped sway opinion within the jury.) We should know for sure this week.

Infant Terrible
This is how bad it’s gotten for the New York Mets: Following their 6-2 Opening Day loss at Miami to the Florida Marlins, the closing moments of the television broadcast back to New York was “accidentally” interrupted by a clip from the animated TV series Family Guy in which toddler-aged Stewie throws his Met cap in disgust as he listens to a Mets public address announcer say, “It’s Opening Day, and here’s the first pitch (crack of a bat signaling a home run)…and the season’s over.” Executives at SNY, the Mets’ broadcast network, were understandably incensed.

This Sunday’s 60 Minutes will profile St. Louis slugger
Albert Pujols, but don’t expect a hit piece. He’s not tied to a boiler room scheme or insurance fraud, but the bulk of the segment will instead focus on his charity work in his native Dominican Republic and for people with Down syndrome, which has inflicted his daughter.

Escape From the Caribbean
Alfredo Simon, the Baltimore relief pitcher who was charged with killing a man in his native Dominican Republic on New Year’s Eve, is back in the States, having obtained a visa to get back to the Orioles. Just wondering: Do you think Simon, who has yet to be cleared of the charges, will ever return to his homeland?

Powerfully Setting the Pace
Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers became the first player ever to hit leadoff home runs in each of his team’s first two regular season games when he went yard to start the Ranger half of the first against the Boston Red Sox at Arlington. He homered again in the third game, though not to start the game—but ended up setting another mark along with teammate Nelson Cruz, becoming the first pair of players to each homer in one team’s first three games.

Game Today...Honestly!
Remember when the Cleveland Indians sold out Jacobs (now Progressive) Field 455 times in a row back in the late 1990s and early 2000s? Those days are a long, long time ago for the Tribe. The ballpark was sold out for Opening Day against the Chicago White Sox, but the Indians couldn’t even draw 10,000 for either of the following two weekend games at Progressive against the White Sox. Sunday’s turnout of 8,726 was, in fact, the lowest turnout ever at the facility that opened in 1994. This, after the Indians were dead last in attendance in 2010.

Quick Adjustment
Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona gave up ten runs in his first start of the year—then gave up none through seven innings of work in his second game, Friday at Seattle. He’s the first pitcher since Dick Harley for the Boston Beaneaters (Red Sox) in 1905 to do that.

Edgar's Awful Saturday
April 2 was a bad day for Edgar Martinez, even though he hasn’t played since 2004. First, David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox surpassed Martinez as the all-time RBI leader among designated hitters when he knocked in a run on a ground out at Texas. (Ortiz’s record-breaking RBI was his 1,004th.) Hours later, Ichiro Suzuki broke Martinez’s mark for the most career hits in Seattle Mariner franchise history when he collected his 2,248th knock at Oakland against the A’s.

Stranger on a Train
Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that Chicago Cub manager Mike Quade took the El train to Wrigley Field on Opening Day, and didn’t get recognized by anyone onboard—not even the guy sitting next to him with a St. Louis Cardinal cap.

Hey McCarver, Wake Him Up!
Is it just us, or does Fox broadcaster Joe Buck seem awfully bored in his first few Saturday afternoon telecasts of the season? Even Ben Stein ("Buehler? Buehler?") sounded more exciting. (One Internet pontificator said that Buck was recovering from laryngitis, so that may explain it.)

Talk the Walk
Jonny Gomes of the Cincinnati Reds: 39 walks in 511 at-bats last season—and 11 so far 18 at-bats this season.

Wounded of the Week
Former Japanese star and first-year Minnesota second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka received a painful reminder that they play rougher on this side of the Pacific. Nishioka was slammed into by the Yankees’ Nick Swisher, who was attempting to break up a double play; instead, he broke Nishioka’s leg. Nishioka is expected to miss at least a month.

Elsewhere, appendectomies struck twice: Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn and St. Louis’ Matt Holliday both underwent the emergency procedure. Neither were placed on the disabled list, but their time away from action will likely last ten or more days.

Also hitting the shelf following Opening Day is Tampa Bay star hitter Evan Longoria (oblique, out three weeks), Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens (also an oblique issue, out two weeks), two Chicago Cub starting pitchers (Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, both out with arm injuries), Pittsburgh starting pitcher Russ Ohlendorf (shoulder, 15 days) and Colorado ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (thumb, 15-days).

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

Who Threw Out the First Pitch?
Following is a list of folks who threw out the ceremonial first pitches at MLB home openers this year:

Arizona: Long-time baseball executive Roland Hemond.
Atlanta: Former Brave manager Bobby Cox, with his successor Fredi Gonzalez catching.
Baltimore: Former Oriole manager Earl Weaver.
Boston: Jim Calhoun, coach of the NCAA men’s basketball champions from the University of Connecticut.
Chicago Cubs: Actor Robert Redford.
Chicago White Sox: Minnie Minoso, 85, who asked once more to put on a uniform and pinch-hit (okay, we’re kidding on that last part—we think).
Cincinnati: Retired Cincinnati police chief Tom Streicher.
Cleveland: Anne Feller, the widow of legendary Indian pitcher Bob Feller, who passed away in December.
Colorado: Unknown. We’ll throw out a wild guess that it was the person who invented the humidor.
Detroit: A “young person from the CATCH organization.”
Florida: Former Marlin third baseman Mike Lowell.
Houston: Astronaut Scott Kelly.
Kansas City: Former Royal Mike Sweeney, who announced his retirement just prior to Opening Day.
Los Angeles: Former pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.
Los Angeles of Anaheim: Pitcher Eli Grba, the first official player for the Angels after being selected first in the expansion draft 50 years ago.
Milwaukee: Eleven members of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
Minnesota: Hall-of-fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, currently battling cancer.
New York Mets: Long-time Met announcer and Hall-of-Fame slugger Ralph Kiner.
New York Yankees: Former star pitcher Mike Mussina.
Oakland: Former star pitcher Dave Stewart.
Philadelphia: Jim Gabel, president of Reebok North America.
Pittsburgh: Bruce Tanner, son of former Pirate manager Chuck Tanner, who died in February.
St. Louis: Former outfielder Jim Edmonds.
San Diego: The just-retired all-time saves leader and former Padre, Trevor Hoffman.
San Francisco: Current pitcher Matt Cain.
Seattle: Marilyn Niehaus, widow of long-time Mariner broadcaster Dave Niehaus.
Tampa Bay: Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Texas: Former Ranger stars Jeff Burroughs and Charlie Hough.
Toronto: Former Blue Jay general manager
Pat Gillick, caught by retired star Blue Jay Roberto Alomar—both named to the Hall of Fame this past winter.
Washington: Five members of the U.S. Armed Forces: Vice Admiral Michael Vitale of the U.S. Navy, Major General Karl Horst of the U.S. Army, Lieutenant General Richard Y. Newton III of the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant General Terry G. Robling of the U.S. Marine Corps and Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft of the U.S. Coast Guard.

When Idiotic Dodger Fans Attack
After the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Opening Day 2-1 victory over San Francisco at Dodger Stadium, three Giant fans were taunted, chased—and then beaten up—by a group of men wearing Dodger clothing. On of those attacked suffered head injuries and was admitted to the hospital in “critical but stable” condition with a medically induced coma. The suspects were seen quickly filing into a four-door sedan being driven by a woman, who was with a boy. (Talk about family values at work.) At upload time, they were still at large. Hopefully the “Dodgers Still Suck” banner flown over Dodger Stadium during the game didn’t assist in enraging the assailants.

Dodger team officials, feeling the heat over the incident with increased complaints over the years about fan safety at Dodger Stadium, have announced they will beef up security—especially in the parking lots after the game, the place and time where the Opening Day incident occurred.  The team has also partnered with the Giants to put up a reward for those responsible; that biscuit has been sweetened to $150,000 through the contributions of others. Perhaps it’s honorable not to snitch on others in gang-infested Los Angeles, but in this case, doing the right thing would be...well, the right thing to do.

When Bats Attack
A 64-year old woman attending the home opener in Kansas City between the Royals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was struck in the face by a bat that had accidentally flung out of the hands of the Angels’ Torii Hunter. What made for bigger news was the alleged slow response of the Royals to assist her; people sitting with the woman said it was 45 minutes before she was finally taken out of the ballpark, as team officials didn’t apparently understand the extent of her injuries. Turns out, she needed “extensive” surgery to repair the damage done to her face, which included a fractured eye socket. A spokesman for the Royals defiantly defended the team’s response but refused to get into specifics.

Let's Play Oddball
Keith Olbermann, recently released by MSNBC, is alive and well and making life difficult not for Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh but, instead, for the New York Yankees—the very team for which he owns front-row season tickets. On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers, Olbermann noticed a Yankee employee seated nearby flashing hand signals to Yankee players on the on-deck circle; he snapped a picture and posted it on his Twitter page.

The New York press got wind of this and once they did, so did MLB. The next day, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman was rolling his eyes over the news, saying that all the employee was doing was telling the players on deck what speed the pitches were since the ballpark’s radar gun reading wasn’t working. Nevertheless, MLB has told the Yankee employee in question—Brett Weber, ID’d as a baseball operations coaching assistant for the team—to stay away from his seat in the stands until further notice. Back to Olbermann: Was he just getting even with the Yankees after being impacted by the ticket pricing controversy at the new Stadium a few years back?

Calling All Pawn Shops
Perhaps major leaguers ought to stay close to their most prized possessions whenever possible. First we heard of Evan Longoria losing his classic Camaro in Phoenix, 2,500 miles away from his spring training presence in Florida. Now comes word that Philadelphia pitcher Kyle Kendrick lost his 2008 World Series ring in a home burglary. His home is in Mount Vernon, Washington; he’s over 3,000 miles away with the Phillies. Here’s the question for the dude who stole the ring: What do you plan to do with it? You likely can’t sell it. You can’t wear it. And you can’t truly kneel to it because, hey, you didn’t earn it…

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
As of upload time, Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays owns the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games; it’s a run that began with his final six games of the 2010 season. Lind is batting .345 since his streak began last September 25.

He Said What?
Online headline from the Associated Press: “Indians release son of Dodgers manager Mattingly.” So how much ransom was paid?

Now Playing at TGG
Ed Attanasio’s interview with Freddy Schmidt, the oldest living ex-St. Louis Cardinal, can now be seen in the They Were There section. Freddy talks about his experiences with Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson and his infamous racist foil Ben Chapman, and his two World Series rings—and why he's lost one of them.

All Things Being Equal: Our Picks For 2011
TGG's Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio give their picks for the best and worst of the upcoming regular season in our annual preview of MLB. Check it out now in our Opinions section.