Fool Us Once...
It would seem incredulous that Alex Rodriguez, in the wake of his highly publicized steroid admission in the winter of 2009, would have continued to take illegal performance enhancement drugs. But all of the self-proclaimed innocence surrounding his chat with investigators this spring about one Anthony Galeathe doctor who treated him for his hip problems a year agois starting to leak a little water. While Rodriguez has talked with MLB on the subject, the FBIthe folks investigating Galeais wondering why they haven’t been able to get a date with A-Rod despite repeated attempts. The New York Times quotes an investigative insider as saying that the FBI has grown curious over Rodriguez’s lack of availability, and so it has started contacting those who’ve worked with him, including disgraced Dominican trainer Angel Presinal, banned by MLB for nearly a decade for providing steroids to players.
Maybe Rodriguez simply doesn’t have the time, but if he’s stonewalling and has something to hideafter all, that hip sure did heal in a hurry, didn’t it?then the resuscitation he forged through the World Series last year will become a footnote, and his legacy could be forever wrecked, even among those who gave him a pass last year.
Will These Games Ever End?
Despite publicly being called out recently by MLB Central for slow play, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox began the 2010 season this past week with three games that ran a total of ten hours and 55 minutesan average of over three and a half hours, or a good 40 minutes above the standard MLB length of time. The slow pace irked the umpires so much that crew chief Joe West put out a rare public rebuke of the teams afterward, calling their snail-like antics “pathetic and embarrassing.” It got so bad during Tuesday’s game that home plate umpire Angel Hernandez began refusing requests for time outs by numerous batters in an effort to move things along. Some Yankee players were perturbed by West’s remarks, saying if they had said the same of the umpires, they would have been fined by MLB.
Bronx Bombin' Away
They wont contribute to a new record for home runs hit at one ballpark in a seasonCoors Field’s 303 blasts in 1999 will remain the record book standardbut the New York Yankees did establish a team mark this past week when they knocked out their 127th homer of the year at the new Yankee Stadium, breaking the record previously set in both 2004 and 2005 at the old stadium.
Brother, Can You Spare Some Sanity?
Never mind that the average baseball salary edged upward during the winter amid the continuing Great Recession; new baseball union head Michael Weiner still thinks there may be collusion going on in the majors. At the heart of Weiner’s paranoia is that some free agents received multiple offers that matched one another. MLB exec Rob Manfred confidently challenged Weiner to prove the allegations, while he probably should have reminded him that baseball would be crazy to risk the kind of damages it suffered in the 1980s when proof of collusion cost MLB nearly $280 million.
Steroids Confession of the Week
As members of the 2000 San Francisco Giants assembled to be honored on the tenth anniversary of the opening of Pac Bell (now AT&T) Park, one of those players admitted that he took steroids. No, it wasn’t Barry Bonds, although he certainly had the opportunity to come clean as he was among those present; instead, it was speedy outfielder Marvin Benard, who actually began using performance enhancement in 2002 to recover more quickly from knee surgery. Benard’s name had already been evoked in the BALCO investigation and listed in the Mitchell Report, so this was not terribly surprising news.
It Takes One to Know One
Speaking of Bonds, one comment he did make to the press when asked to respond to questions for six minutes on Sunday was that he’s “proud” for Mark McGwire. Somewhere, McGwire must be thinking to himself, “Great, just the endorsement I needed.”
Chico and the Woman
An 18-year old Japanese knuckleballer by the name of Eri Yoshida has signed on to play for the minor league Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League. Given the influx of Asian players coming stateside over the last 15 years, this at first glance is not big newsuntil you read that Yoshida is a woman, the first female from anywhere to pitch at the pro level since Ila Borders gave it a shot over ten years ago. Yoshida’s already slated to receive a few extra perks in relation to her male teammates; she’ll have her own locker room, and her own hotel room on the road.
The Boss of Tossed, Continued
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox may be stepping down after this season, but the fire in his belly is still hasn’t slowed. The 68-year old was ejected for the 154th time in his managerial career on Friday after arguing a check swing call in the Braves’ 5-4, 13-inning loss at San Francisco. Think about it; that’s almost an entire regular season’s worth of getting the thumb. No manager or player has been tossed out of major league games more than Cox, who passed up John McGraw for that distinction a few years back.
First-Name Basis Only, Please
Three locker stalls in the Florida Marlin clubhouse at LandShark Stadium, all next to one another, belong to Gaby Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez and Brian Sanches.
The Most Expensive Place to See a Big League Game
Team Marketing Report released its analysis of the cost of living among fans attending major league games and found that Boston’s Fenway Park will, on average, set the average family of four back more than any other ballpark. Assuming that family buys four tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hotdogs, two adult caps, a program and parking, the total tab for Fenway will be $335. Chicago Wrigley’s Field is a close second (at $330), and Yankee Stadium in New York is third at $316. At the other end of the spectrum, the best bargain to be found is in Phoenix, where the cost for all of the above comes out to a mere $115. Overall, the average price of a non-premium major league ticket is $26.74, still far lower than the average ticket in the NFL ($75), NHL ($51) and NBA ($49).
Totally Useless Fact of the Week
Midway through Tuesday’s game at Anaheim between the Angels and Minnesota Twins, the sellout crowd who received free red fleece blankets with Hideki Matsui’s name and number on it was asked to put them on and wear it for five minutes. The fans complied. Why? It put them in the Guinness Book of World Records for “the largest gathering of people wearing fleece blankets of one color in one place.” This is exactly the kind of thing these fans, when they grow old, will tell their grandkidswho will respond with something more intriguing to consider, like staring at a brick wall.
The Old Guard
With the start of the new season, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre can now say they’ve managed in five different decades, going back to the 1970s. Only five other managersConnie Mack, John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Bucky Harris and Leo Durochercan make a similar claim. Those five are in the Hall of Fame.
The Long Flight of Stairs
Matt Stairs officially logged an at-bat on Opening Day for the San Diego Padres, his 12th major league teamtying a record for a position player. The man for whom the 42-year old Stairs shares the mark with is Deacon McGuire, who did it all in a pro career that spanned 28 years, beginning with the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association and ending with the 1912 Detroit Tigers. McGuire played every position except second base, managed six years and coached another six, and even umpired 12 games between 1886 and 1905.
Wounded of the Week
Another interesting addition to the disabled list this week is Los Angeles catcher Brad Ausmus, who at the age of 41 went on the shelf for the first time in his 18-year career. The Associated Press notes that only three other players with at least ten years of major league experiencethe New York Yankees’ Javier Vazquez and Randy Winn, and Atlanta’s Derek Lowehave never been on the disabled list.
Yes, it’s the start of baseball season, which means everybody’s fresh and ready to go, right? Wrong. The ouch couch has already been loaded down as if in midseason form, seating numerous major leaguers in search of the 100% health that has largely eluded them this spring. Among the many hitting the disabled list as of Opening Day: Seattle’s Cliff Lee, Colorado’s Jeff Francis (extending an inactive status that caused him to miss all of 2008), Houston’s Lance Berkman, Texas’ Ian Kinsler, three Philadelphia pitchers (closer Brad Lidge, reliever J.C. Romero and starter Joe Blanton), Oakland’s Coco Crisp, the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy, Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Scott Kazmir, Washington’s Chien-Ming Wang (again) and Boston’s Junichi Tazawa. Rest and peace for the docs in the major league MASH unit already looks like a lost cause this year.
TGG's Predictions For the 2010 Regular Season
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.
New at TGG: The 2009 Yearly Reader PageThe 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.
The One Hundredth Pitch
President Barack Obama continued a tradition that began exactly 100 years ago on Opening Day when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the Philadelphia-Washington game at Nationals Park. Obama respectful came out donning a National jacket, but then showed his true colors when he pulled a Chicago White Sox cap out of his pocket. A century ago, President William Howard Taft threw out the first pitch from his box seat before the start of the opener between the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics. On that day, Taft was rewarded with a one-hit, 3-0 shutout thrown by Walter Johnson. Obama, meanwhile, was likely watching the out-of-town scoreboard on the progress of the White Sox-Indian contest rather than the 11-1 pounding the Nationals were taking on the field from the Phillies.
At the same game in which Taft threw out the first Presidential pitch in baseball history 100 years ago, another baseball tradition was inadvertently created. What was it? See below for the answer.
The "Other" First Pitches
Because we thought you just might be curious, here's a rundown of who else threw out the ceremonial first pitch at major league openers this past week:
ArizonaFormer NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.
BaltimoreBrooks Robinson and Boog Powell.
Chicago White SoxFormer Chicago Bear Richard Dent.
CincinnatiGeorge Grande, retired after 17 years broadcasting the Reds.
DetroitComedian Tim Allen.
HoustonMembers of the next Space Shuttle mission.
Kansas CityWhitey Herzog.
Los Angeles of AnaheimTim Salmon.
MilwaukeeLew Krausse, the Opening Day pitcher for the Brewers in their first ever game back in 1970.
New York MetsDarryl Strawberry.
OaklandMickey McConnell, member of the St. Mary’s basketball team that made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” of the NCAA basketball tournament.
PittsburghAli and Jamie McMutrie, who helped in the rescue of 53 orphans following the earthquake in Haiti.
San FranciscoFormer NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice (with ex-teammate Steve Young catching; shouldn't it have been the other way around?).
Tampa BayAdmiral Eric Thor Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command
TexasDallas Cowboy quarterback legend Roger Staubach.
Meltdown Mariner Milton, Chapter One
It didn’t take long for Milton Bradley to display his dark side in a Seattle uniform. The new Mariner left fielder, razzed by Ranger fans sitting near him at Texas on Friday night, gave them the finger after making a catch in the fourth inning, leading to a cascade of boos from the crowd. After popping up in the eighth, he reportedly “glared” at fans sitting behind the Seattle dugout for ten seconds. (Bradley avoided reporters after the game by wearing headphones.) That Bradley had a rotten first week at the plate probably hasn’t helped his demeanor, but the man has got to play it cool and suppress his emotions; whether he likes it or not, he will be a major target of hecklers. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very, very long season for him (or very short, if the Mariners lack patience for his behavior).
It's a Small Citi After All
For a day, anyway. The New York Mets hit just 49 home runs last year in their inaugural campaign at Citi Field, vilified by hitters as being too tough a place to hit a long ball. The fences were lowered in center field to start this year, but that wasn’t the reason the Mets smacked four homers for the first time at the new ballpark in Friday’s 8-2 win at Washingtondespite gusty winds that knocked down numerous fly balls that ended up high in the jet stream. (Perhaps that the god-awful Nationals were pitching had something to do with the Mets’ power surge.) All four Met homers came courtesy of just two players: Catcher Rod Barajas and outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who each hit two. Only Angel Pagan hit two home runs for the Mets at Citi Field last season, but one of those was inside the park.
The Barkley of Baseball in the Booth
Look out, MLB Network: ESPN has hired the opinionated Curt Schilling as an on-air analyst. You would think the script would be thrown out when this guy hits the air, but Schilling seemed to behave without a memorable comment during his debut before the season opener at Boston on April 4.
Say It Ain't Sew
In a year full or embarrassments last year, the Washington Nationals might have been remembered for a wardrobe malfunction of sorts when several players sported jerseys with the team name spelled “Natinals.” Perhaps the same person responsible for that sewing glitch supplied the uniform for the Giants’ Eugenio Velez, who went on the field in Wednesday’s opening-season series finale at Houston wearing a jersey saying “San Francicso.” All other Giant players had the spelling correct, and Velez didn’t realize the error until someone in the media told him after the game.
Adios, Señor Cuellar
We wonder if there’s been any other pitcher not in the Hall of Fame to win 20 games in a season more times than Mike Cuellar, who passed away on April 2 in Florida from stomach cancer. The native Cuban won 185 games over 15 years, with the bulk of his victories coming over a six-year stretch between 1969-74 when, four times, he won at least 20 gamesand 18 in each of the other two seasons. Despite this impressive run, he was not considered the ace on a talented Baltimore Oriole rotation that also included Jim Palmer and Dave McNally. Cuellar started his major league career briefly in 1959 with two appearances for the Cincinnati Reds, then didn’t return until five years later as a member of the Houston Astros. He was a four-time All-Star and produced a career 3.14 earned run average.
They're Faster at the Start
After 41 years without one, there’s been an inside-the-park home run in an Opening Day contest for two consecutive seasons. Arizona’s Stephen Drew circled the bases with the ball in play during the Diamondbacks’ 6-3 win over San Diego on Monday; a year earlier, Emilio Bonifacio hit an inside-the-park homer for the Florida Marlins in their first game of the season.
Wild, Wild Westbrook
If being the Opening Day starting pitcher means you’re the team ace, then the Cleveland Indians are in a lot of trouble this year. Jake Westbrook got the assignment for the Tribe’s first game at Chicago and did the following: Four innings, five runs allowed on five hits, four walks, two hit batsmen and a franchise record-tying four wild pitches. Westbrook got the Opening Day nod almost by default thanks to an otherwise inexperienced and/or ineffective rotation, all despite not having started a game since 2007 following reconstructive surgery on his elbow.
Sports Illustrated’s in-depth baseball preview believes that there will be a World Series replay of 2008, predicting the Philadelphia Phillies to topple the Tampa Bay Rays in October. The odd part of SI’s choice is that they’re picking the Rays to enter the postseason as a wild card but to advance to the Fall Classic anyway. Hey, we once predicted the New York Mets to head to the World Series as a wild card entrant, but that was sillynot the advancement-to-the-World-Series part, but the thought that the Mets would be good enough to make it to the postseason.
Many In, Many Left On
The Detroit Tigers beat Cleveland on Sunday, 9-8, despite abandoning 18 runners on base throughout. It’s only the second time in 25 years that a winning team has left that many on base in a nine-inning contest.
During the last week of spring training in Florida, Minnesota outfielder Denard Span lashed a foul ball into the stands that made a direct hit...on his mother. Mom is fine after taking one on her chest, but Span nevertheless suggested that protective netting be extended so that it protects fans behind the dugouts as well as behind home plate.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
It didn’t take long for once-and-current Baltimore Oriole Miguel Tejada to kill the suspense on his 21-game hitting streak that began late last year as a member of the Houston Astros and was on active hold throughout the winter. On Opening Day, Tejada went hitless in five at-batsstranding seven runners in the processto quickly end his streak.
That leaves the end of this week to Magglio Ordonez, who ran the streak he began at the end of 2009 to 19 games. The Detroit slugger took a long while to get it going last year but was in high gear by October, and didn’t appear to miss a beat over the winter; during his current run, he’s hitting .480 (36-for-75) with four home runs and 16 RBIs.
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.
In the middle of the seventh inning of the game in which President William Howard Taft threw out the first Presidential pitch, he stood up and stretchedand the rest of the crowd, believing he was readying to leave the ballpark, stood up along with him out of respect. Thus began the seventh inning stretch.