Tougher, But Tough Enough?
This past week, baseball management and union officials revised and strengthened its performance-enhancement drug policy for the third time in four years. It calls for, among other things, a six-fold increase in total tests given to players and the assurance that the current independent drug-test administrator cannot be fired at any time by either management or union officials. The new rules also allow players to be contacted before any punishment against them, and to review and respond to any such allegationssomething the union idiotically discouraged players from doing to stiff-arm Mitchell Report investigators. Most curious of all, the amended rules grants amnesty to any players named in the Mitchell Reporta sign that commissioner Bud Selig, perhaps performing damage control on his legacy, has taken a page out of Mark McGwire’s playbook and doesn’t want to talk about the past, a mood certainly reflected in his statement that “it is time for the game to move forward.” Outside critics of baseball’s drug policies said that the revised agreement is a step in the right direction, but not a big enough onestating that there still is no true independent agency allowed to review players’ tests, or that Major League Baseball continues to lack a test for Human Growth Hormone (HGH).
Focus was the word for Arizona pitcher Doug Davis on Tuesday, making his last start before Friday’s successful surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid. He was sharp all around, throwing six strong innings with seven strikeouts, picking off a runner and singling twice with a sacrifice fly in three plate appearances as he helped lift the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 10-5 victory over Los Angeles. When he left the game after six innings, he was given a standing ovation from the 28,000 in attendance and even received congrats from Dodger players and umpires. Davis is expected to recover up to six weeks from the surgery before returning to the mound.
You're Just Half the Ball that 756 Was
The ball that Barry Bonds hit for his 762nd and, perhaps, final home run of his career was sold via an online auction this past weekend for $376,612 and change. The price is half that of Bonds’ record-breaking 756th home run ball, bought by fashion designer Marc Ecko last summer. The original owner of 762, Jameson Sutton, had hoped his ball would fetch up to a million dollars online; but with Bonds’ perjury court date moved to after the 2008 regular season and rumors spreading that Bonds might get signed at mid-season by a team needing a push to the postseason, potential buyers may have been scared off, believing Bonds has more homers in himthus making the number 762 irrelevant and worthless.
Outing of the Week
Ed Sprague, who played in the majors from 1991-2001, this past week admitted that he took both androstenedione and amphetamines in the midst of his career. The timing of his usage went hand and hand with his best year of 1996, when he hit 36 home runs and knocked in 101 runs (albeit with a .247 batting average, to match his 11-year career average) for the Toronto Blue Jays. He only hit 14 the next year with a .228 average, then barely eclipsed 20 homers only twice more before regressing to bench duty to finish out his career. Sprague, now a baseball coach at the University of Pacific in Stockton, California, told the local press about amphetamines: “That was the ultimate part of the game…It was in the locker room forever.”
I'm Not Jimmy Rollins!
In the season’s first matchup between NL East rivals New York and Philadelphia this past Tuesday, the Phillies’ Chase Utley was hit three times by pitches, tying a major league record matched numerous times in the past.
The Rookie Rocket
Rookie Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Cueto became the first pitcher in baseball’s post-1900 modern era to strike out at least 18 batters without a walk over his first two starts.
Monday’s 2-1 win for the Colorado Rockies at home against the Atlanta Braves lasted two hours and five minutesthe shortest nine-inning game in the 14-year history of Coors Field.
He Said What?
“Someone said, ‘Go out and go 4-for-4,’ and I did.” Alex Rodriguez, who struck out four times in four at-bats at Kansas City in the New York Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Royals on Tuesday.
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.
We've Kicked Him Enough, Let's Give Him a Standing O
Bill Buckner, making his first appearance at Fenway Park in over ten years, received a thunderous ovation from forgiving Boston Red Sox fans as he threw out the first pitch of the Red Sox’ home opener on Tuesday. The cheers may have been a sign from the Red Sox Nation that Buckner has endured enough mental anguish from his bonehead play that helped the New York Mets win the 1986 World Series. This may be bad news for some of the other offenders who’ve been relatively spared the wrath of the fans over 1986: Reliever Calvin Schilardi, the losing pitcher in both Games Six and Seven, and manager John McNamara, who, in Game Six, went against his conventional strategy of replacing the weak-kneed Buckner with a lead in the ninth inning because he wanted him on the field to celebrate a Red Sox championshipone that never came.
Return to Oz
A week without Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen opening his mouth is like a week...well, there is no such thing as a week without Guillen opening his mouth. This past week, Guillen twice was in the news for comments he made. Early on, he opined that Ivan Rodriguez and Roberto Alomar were the two best major leaguers to come out of Puerto Ricoeven better than the popular choice, Roberto Clemente. When Guillen’s words hit the island, a firestorm of protest erupted as if he had committed the ultimate blasphemy. Cooler heads sided with Guillen’s freedom to have an opinion once in a while, but the reaction was different when, later in the week, he accused umpire Phil Cuzzi of having a vendetta against him after being tossed by Cuzzi in Monday’s game against Minnesota. MLB promptly fined Guillen an undisclosed amount of money, which was said to be on the high end.
Squatting to 3,000
Ivan Rodriguez, Guillen’s man, might soon be able to make a claim no one elsenot even Clementecould. The Detroit catcher collected his 2,500th career hit on Wednesday and, at 36, has a decent shot at 3,000which would make him the first catcher in major league history to reach that plateau.
When it Rains...
It’s been so bad for the Detroit Tigers, even second baseman Placido Polanco is making errors. In the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Boston, Polanco threw wildly on a relay for his first error in 911 chances and 186 games, both major league records. He erred again a night later.
What's Your All-Star Line-Up Done Lately?
Speaking of the Tigers, they've already been shut out more times (four) in the first two weeks of the season than they were for all of 2007 (three).
One of the biggest surprises of the season’s first few weeks is the performance of the Baltimore Oriole bullpen, which began last season so highly touted but ended in helpless ruin. Oriole relievers allowed just three earned runs through their first 29 innings of work, but on Friday night they suffered their first big implosion of the year, allowing eight runs on eight hits, five walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch in 1.2 innings at Tampa Bay.
Wounded of the Week
Twice this past week, players headed to the disabled list likely brought more cheers than woe from their teams’ fans. In Tampa, third baseman Willy Aybar was sent to the shelf with a sore hamstringthus making room on the roster for blue-chip prospect Evan Longoria, who many Ray fans felt should have been there on Opening Day. Across the country in San Francisco, Dave Roberts had surgery on a problematic left knee, leading the way for speedy youngsters Fred Lewis and/or Rajai Davis to take over and give hope to Giant fans fatigued with over-the-hill veterans infesting the team’s roster. Finally, from the “Again!?” file, fragile Oakland ace Rich Hardenwho started just 13 games from 2006-07is back on the DL after two starts this year with shoulder problems.
Sigh of the Tiger
After two years of somewhat rapid decline following a 22-win season in 2005, Dontrelle Willis was hoping to reverse direction with a strong year in Detroit. Instead, it only seems to be getting worse. In his first two starts of 2008, Willis has pitched five innings and allowed one hitbut he’s also given up nine walks (with no strikeouts) and four runs. He lasted just two batters in Friday’s start at Chicagowalking bothbefore hyperextending his knee following through on a pitch, leading to a trip on the 15-day disabled list.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.