Hot Little Havana Nights for Ozzie
Despite Guillen’s presence and his apologies, many of the anti-Castro supporters stubbornly refuse to believe him, perhaps a symptom of the fact that until Castro dies and Cuba’s regime falls, they’ll be right and anyone who dares thinks otherwiseas Guillen apparently impliedwill feel their wrath with no mulligans attached.
Free speech is a bitch in Miami, and Ozzie Guillen has felt the power of manic anti-Fidel Castro Cubans living in the strange sort of exile that is the Little Havana community of Miami. Under enormous pressure from that highly influential bloc of expatriate citizenry, the Miami Marlins suspended their manager for five games this past weekeven after Guillen had left the Marlins in Philadelphia, returned to Miami and apologized in person to the very people he infuriated when, the week before, ill-advised comments from a Time magazine article quoted him as saying that he liked and respected Castro for his resilient communist rule of Cuba.
If Not for Money, Then for Power
So let us get this straight: Major League Baseball is extolling the virtues of the money it’s all but swimming in these days, buffeted by the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers for a whopping $2.15 billion that kicks Frank McCourt out of the gameand they’re objecting to the deal? That was their official position in bankruptcy court this past week, where a judge granted approval of the sale of the team to a group fronted by basketball legend Magic Johnson.
What’s irking MLB officials is that the call became the judge’s, not theirs; it’s a simple matter of power that baseball feels its has exclusive rights to per the antitrust exemption granted to the game in 1922. The spark that ignited MLB’s fury was their claim that the Dodgers broke a promise to provide details on the sale of the team’s parking lots at Dodger Stadium; its fear is that McCourt, who MLB has a nuclear dislike for, may still have partial ownership in the lots with the sale approved.
The judge in the case, Kevin Gross (not to be confused with the Kevin Gross who won 142 games from 1983-97), was practically shocked by MLB’s stance, having expected a “celebratory-type occasion.” But he still approved the deal, and MLB will have to live with it.
Denied by a Supermodel
In Miami on Sunday, Omar Infante hit the first home run at Marlins Park for the home team (J.D. Martinez, a Miami native, hit the first official round-tripper with the visiting Houston Astros two days earlier), and the fan who caught it thought it was more important to hand the ball over as a gift to a Victoria’s Secret model, standing nearby doing a TV interview, than to cash in on a potentially valuable souvenir. The model, Elsa Hosk, said thanks but no thanks. No word on whether the fan next tried to offer the ball to one of the body-painted dancers inside the Clevelander lounge behind the left-field wall.
Dominican Disco Inferno
Last week, we listed Vlaidmir Guerrero as one of a number of former star players who’s been coming up empty in seeking a new major league employer. Maybe he could use the work. On his free time this past week, Guerrero was arrested in his native Dominican Republic for allegedly assaulting a police officer at a discotheque. Guerrero later turned himself into and denied the accusationsand chances are, he won’t spend a day in jail. Because as we’ve seen with other major leaguers gone bad on Dominican soil, if you have the money to keep the accusers quiet and/or happy, you’re free.
A Squirrelly Tribute
It’s official: The Rally Squirrel can get a free meal at any restaurant in St. Louis. The critter that famously crossed home plate during the NLDS between the Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies last Octoberand, according to media-fed myth, jumpstarted the Redbirds to a world titleis emblemized on the official World Series rings given to member of the Cardinals this past weekend.
Jayson Werth knocked in the winning run for the Washington Nationals in the 13th inningon Friday the 13th. The Nationals’ 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds was the first time a game had been won in 13 innings on a Friday the 13th since 1963; in that game, the winning run was knocked in by Dick Schofieldwho just happens to be Werth’s grandfather.
Whenever You're Ready, King Albert
Albert Pujols is homerless through his first nine games (totaling 37 at-bats) with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; it’s the longest he’s gone into a season without launching one over the fence.
It's Finally a Hit
The Seattle Mariners were hitting a lifetime .000 against Texas pitcher Neftali Feliz going into their game against him at Arlington, where he was making his major league debut as a starter on Tuesday. They didn’t get a base hit until the fourth inning when former Ranger Justin Smoak smacked a two-out single; until then, they were 0-for-58 against Feliz.
I Have a Feeling We're Not in Florida Anymore, Timmy
Inspirational football quarterback Tim Tebow, recently traded to the New York Jets, attended Sunday’s game between the Yankees and Angels at Yankee Stadium and was shown on the big video boardwhich led to a chorus of boos from the crowd. Just to be sure he wasn’t the one being hissed at, basketball star Dwayne Wadeseated next to Tebow and also shown on the big boardtipped his Yankee cap to the crowd, and received a large dose of cheers.
Clemens v. U.S., Round 2
The perjury retrial of Roger Clemens begins this week with jury selection. As you may or may not recall, the first trial was broken up by an angry judge after a prosecutor made the glaring error of ignoring a pre-trial instruction not to present hearsay evidence that a former teammate told Clemens’ wife that the 354-game winner had confessed to using steroids.
WTF Moment of the Week
The New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey successfully bunts Josh Thole up to second basebut then this happens.
Wounded of the Week
Another week, another marquee closer down. San Francisco’s Brian Wilson was declared all but done for the season after experiencing discomfort in his elbow; the Giants feel the problem is grave enough that he’ll have to undergo Tommy John surgery. It would be the second such procedure for the all-star reliever, who went under the knife during college.
Joey Devine can relate to Wilson. For the second time in just three years, the Oakland reliever will also be undergoing Tommy John surgery. Devine has only appeared in 26 games (all from last year) since the end of 2008.
Injuries of a lesser sort this past week also befell Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder, out up to eight weeks) and Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain (groin, 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.
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
The year’s first complete-game shutout is thrown by the disgraced Barry Zito for the San Francisco Giantsat Denver’s Coors Field, no less. Zito allows four hits and walks none in the Giants’ 7-0 win; it’s his first shutout since 2003, a run of 274 straight startsthe longest streak between shutouts in major league history. (The recently retired Tim Wakefield started his final 353 games without a shutout.) Tom Glavine is the only other left-handed pitcher to visit Coors during its 18-year history and leave with a shutout.
Monday, April 9
The highly anticipated major league debut for the Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish is a mixed bag. The Japanese import walks his first batter on four pitches and ultimately allows four runs in the first inning on 42 pitches, gives up another run in the secondthen settles in, leaving with two outs in the sixth and the Rangers ahead, 8-5; Texas adds to the lead late and gives Darvish the victory in a 11-5 rout of the Seattle Mariners in Arlington. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Darvish is the first pitcher in 102 years to allow four or more first-inning runs in his big league debut and still get credit for the win.
Tuesday, April 10
In his first starting assignment after 154 relief appearances (mostly as closer), Texas pitcher Neftali Feliz throws seven shutout innings and gets two more from the Ranger bullpen to preserve a 1-0 win over Seattle. Feliz allows four hits and two walks.
For the first time in 35 years, broadcasting legend Vin Scully misses the home opener of the Los Angeles Dodgers as he sits out with a cold. He misses a good one; Andre Ethier hits a go-ahead, eighth-inning home run on his 30th birthday to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chavez Ravine, 2-1.
In his first game of the season after a late exhibition stint on the disabled list, Chipper Jones homers to help the Atlanta Braves to a 6-4 win over the Astros at Houston. It’s Jones’ 455th career longball.
New York Yankee starting pitcher Freddy Garcia throws five wild pitches in his start at Baltimore, tying an American League record. The Yankees are able to overcome Garcia’s wildness and defeat the Orioles in 12 innings, 5-4.
Wednesday, April 11
The Detroit Tigers lose for the first time this season in unlikely fashion. Reigning AL Cy Young Award and MVP winner Justin Verlander takes a one-hut shutout into the ninth inning against Tampa Bayand proceeds to give up three singles and a walk; two of the runners score before he’s removed, the other two tally after he leaves. The Rays defeat Verlander and the Tigers at Detroit, 4-2.
The Kansas City Royals are showing why they’re missing closer Joakim Soria, out for the year with Tommy John surgery. They take a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 12th at Oakland, but former Dodger closer Jonathan Broxton walks two and hits back-to-back hittersthe last one sending home the winning run for the A’s. It’s the last time since August 11 of last year that a game ended with a batter getting hit with the bases loaded; ironically, Jonny Gomes was the player taking the pain at the plate in both instances. It’s the first time since 1966 that a game ended with back-to-back HBPs.
Thursday, April 12
The Minnesota Twins rebound from an early 6-0 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 10-9 at Target Field. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneautwo former MVPs who have fallen on hard times due to injury through the past few yearsboth homer for the first time this season; the Twins collect 20 hits and leave 14 men on base.
Friday, April 13
Aaron Harang, who pitched last year for the San Diego Padres, faces his old teammates in a Dodger uniformand after giving up a leadoff hit to Cameron Maybin, strikes out the next nine batters to fall one shy of the major league record. Harang strikes out 13 overall over 6.1 innings; the Dodgers win in the bottom of the ninth, 9-8.
In the Giants’ home opener against Pittsburgh, Matt Cain fires a one-hit shutoutwith opposing pitcher James McDonald ruining a bid for a perfect game with a two-out single in the sixth inning. Cain strikes out 11 batters in the Giants’ 5-0 win over the Pirates.
Saturday, April 14
The Cleveland Indians survive a wild contest (and a wild third inning which feature two hit batters, two bench-clearing scrums and three ejections) with the Royals to win at Kansas City in ten innings, 11-9. The excitement in the third begins when Royal starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchezwho hit the Indians’ Shin-Soo Choo and sent him to the disabled list for six weeks last year while pitching for the Giantshits him again in the knee, infuriating the star hitter. Cleveland will blow a 9-2 fifth-inning lead, but Choo comes to the rescueand quiets the Kansas City crowd riding him after the meleeby smacking a two-run double in the tenth to win the game.
Sunday, April 15
Ivan Nova earns his 14th straight win on the mound by pitching six innings, keeping the Angels behind the Yankees by a final count of 11-5. The 25-year old Dominican right-hander won his last 12 decisions of 2011 and is 2-0 to start this season.
The Dodgers sweep the Padres with the help of one of the more unusual triple plays ever seen. With the game tied at 4-4, two Padre runners on base and no one out in the top of the ninth, Jesus Guzman fights off a Javy Guerra pitch coming right at his chest; Guzman pulls back, but the pitch hits his bat two feet into fair territory. The Dodgers alertly throw to third, second and first bases to complete their first triple-killing since 1998and the first 2-5-6-3 triple play in major league historywhile the less-alert Padre runners think that home plate umpire Dale Scott has called time and/or a foul ball. In the ensuing argument, Padre manager Bud Black is ejected; the Dodgers score a run in the bottom of the ninth to win, 5-4.
This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
Since it doesn’t appear that Magglio Ordonez and his 18-game hit streak from last year won’t be coming back to baseball life anytime soon, we enter the new week with the longest current hitting streak by an active player belonging to Baltimore’s Adam Jones, who’s hit safely in 12 straight gamesnine this season and three to end the 2011 campaign.
TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!
Now Playing at TGG
Here it is! Our annual, fearless preview of the upcoming major league season is live, with TGG’s Ed Attanasio and Eric Gouldsberry releasing their picks for who will arrive, thrive, dive and cry in 2012. Check it out and see if you agree!