Ubaldo the Man!
Scratch the Colorado Rockies from the short list of major league teams who’ve never pitched a no-hitter. Ubaldo Jimenez fired the franchise’s first-ever no-no on Saturday at Atlanta, blanking the Braves by a 4-0 count. Six walks kept Jimenez from being perfect. This leaves three teams without a no-hitter: The Tampa Bay Rays (12-plus years), the San Diego Padres (now in their 42nd season) and the New York Mets, who, despite a star-studded history of pitchers from Tom Seaver to Dwight Gooden to Johan Santana, have never had one of their pitchers fire a no-hitter in nearly 50 years of existence.
Can't Anyone Here Score a Run?!
The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals can thank ESPN for extra time off on Sunday. Because the network featured them on Sunday night, it gave players from both teams hard-earned extra sleep after a 20-inning marathon on Saturday, the longest game by innings in two yearsand, at six hours and 53 minutes, about as long as a nine-inning game between the Yankees and Red Sox.
It was a game so bizarre, New York closer Francisco Rodriguez threw 100 pitchesmost of them in the bullpen during numerous warm-upsand got the win, while a starting pitcher (Mike Pelfrey) earned the save. It was so bizarre, not one but two position players were thrown on the pitcher’s mound by Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa; outfielder Joe Mather gave up single runs in the 19th and 20th innings and took the loss. There were 652 total pitches thrown, 22 men left on base by the Cardinals (the major league record is 27) and it was the longest game to go scoreless since 1989 when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal Expos took it 0-0 to the 22nd inning. Perhaps the Cardinals knew in advance that this would go long when they scheduled the first pitch at the unusual starting hour of 4:00 in the afternoon.
Open Season Seating
It’s early in the year, the kids are still in school, it’s chilly and that new ballpark smell is becoming more distantly faint for a number of teams who experienced all-time attendance lows at their current venues this past week. In Baltimore, the first official sub-10,000 crowd in Camden Yards history showed up for Monday’s Oriole-Tampa Bay game when 9,129 went through the turnstiles. Had it not been for some last-minute walk-ups in Cleveland on Wednesday, Progressive Field would have also dipped below 10,000 for the first time but managed to report 10,071 for the Indians’ game against Texas; that same night in Toronto, the Blue Jays attracted a Skydome/Rogers Centre record low count of 10,610 for their game against the Chicago White Sox. What’s worth noting is that all three of these ballparks are well remembered for constantly selling out in their heyday; that’s far from the case now.
Cantu Can, Too
Jorge Cantu of the Florida Marlins set a major league record by collecting at least one hit and one RBI in each of the first ten games of the year. The record was previously held by the New York Giants’ George Kelly in 1921.
Eighth is Not Enough
Alex Rodriguez finally hit his first home run of the season on Saturday at Yankee Stadium against Texas, but it was enough to move him into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time long ball list with 584, as one confessed steroid user surpassed another (Mark McGwire). It’s just a matter of time before Rodriguez supplants Frank Robinson, who’s seventh at 586; barring injury or a sudden power outage, Rodriguez will likely finish the season having also passed Sammy Sosa (609) and with a barrage of homers he’ll be breathing behind Ken Griffey Jr.’s fifth-place spot.
Blame it on Rios
It was double frustration in the eighth inning for Toronto Blue Jay fans during an otherwise pleasurable time Tuesday at Rogers Centre against the White Sox. Not only did Toronto starting pitcher Ricky Romero lose out on a no-hitter, but the guy who broke it up with a home run was former Blue Jay Alex Rios, who was all but booed out of town last year. The Jays won the game, 4-2. Rios, who had a miserable second half split between Toronto and Chicago last season, was 6-for-18 in the four-game series at Toronto.
One of Us is Now One of Them
TGG’s Ed Attanasio has become sports editor of the Marina Times, a neighborhood newspaper in San Francisco. This has allowed him to obtain a press pass for MLB games, and so off he’s gone to AT&T Park for numerous Giant games early on this season. Ed will give us a more detailed inside description of his duties at the ballpark in the weeks to come, but some of the early feedback from him about his time in the press box and beyond has been pretty cool.
A Respectful Homecoming
How much does New York Yankee fans miss Hideki Matsui? They gave him a standing ovation for hitting a home run at Yankee Stadiumfor the other team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
A Special Off-Day
It rarely rains during baseball season in San Diego, so why did the Padres and Braves get a day off on Tuesday in the midst of their three-game series? So that the Padres’ Jerry Hairston, a member of the world champion Yankees last year, could go back to the Yankees’ home opener on Tuesday and be part of the pregame ceremony in which World Series rings were handed out. (Hideki Matsui, another former Yankee as noted above, was already present since the Angels were in town.) Hairston returned to San Diego for Wednesday’s Padre-Brave game with not one but three rings; the other two were given to Atlanta players Melky Cabrera and Eric Hinske, also members of the Yankees from last year.
Who Are These Guys?
Complete games are rare to happen very early in the year, when managers are going overboard to protect the arms of starting pitchers for the long term. But this past week, no-namers David Huff and Mitch Talbot went the distance in successive games for the Cleveland Indians, a team that we looked at during our preseason preview and wondered aloud, ‘how is this team going to do it with this staff?’ Efficiency, not overwork, allowed Huff and Talbot to register their complete games; Huff threw 104 pitches, Talbot just 97. It was the first time in 14 years that Cleveland starters threw back-to-back CGs.
Baseball Down Under
Major League Baseball is helping to finance a new pro baseball league in Australia, filling the void left in 1999 when a previous league folded. The Australian Baseball League will consist of six teams nationwide from Sydney to Perth and will play a 40-game schedule starting in Novemberwhen things begin to warm up down under. It’s no surprise that MLB is helping to invest in the circuit given the healthy allotment of major leaguers who have come from Australia over the past few decades.
Catching Up, Early and Often
The San Diego Padres put up 17 runs in their home opener on Monday against Atlanta, the most tallies by any team in one game since offense-challenged Petco Park opened in 2004. Ten of the Padre runs came in the fourth inning; only once in 2009 did the Padres score at least ten in an entire game at home.
Oh, Tommy Boy!
For anyone living near or traveling through Pomona, California in the next few months, check out “Lasordapalooza,” the first major exhibition to survey the life and times of former Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. The exhibit includes art and essays entered in as part of a contest in advance of its opening. Lasordapalooza will be held at the Pomona Public Library (Pomona, be the way, is some 25 miles east of Los Angeles) through May 28. For more information, click here.
Wounded of the Week
This week’s major league roll call of medical ward entrants include Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts (back, out for three weeks); Toronto slugger Aaron Hill (hamstring, 15 days); Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins (calf, two-to-four weeks); beleaguered Baltimore closer Mike Gonzalez (shoulder, 15 days); Los Angeles of Anaheim closer Brian Fuentes (back, 15 days); San Diego starting pitcher Chris Young (shoulder, 15 days); San Francisco outfielder Aaron Rowand (broken cheekbone after being hit by a Vicente Padilla pitch, three-to-five weeks) and Arizona catcher Eli Montero (knee, six weeks).
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.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Finally, a Return to the Great Minneapolis Outdoors
There was a time, not long ago, through all the political disinterest and threats of contraction and relocation, that the Minnesota Twins and their fans felt they would never see the day that finally arrived this past Monday when Target Field officially opened. The 39,000-seat, open-air facility hosted its first regular season game on a beautiful, sunny, 65-degree day (ten degrees above normal) as the Twins defeated the Boston Red Sox, 5-2.
The $545 million ballparkfor which $195 million of which was donated from the Twinshas received stellar reviews so far, on the field and in the stands. Players are calling the field dimensions “fair,” though relievers sitting in the Twins’ bullpen down the left field line are hoping that, sooner than later, a canopy is installed to shield them from the sun that can turn hot once summer takes hold. To keep the field from icing over in the event of those late (or early) Twin Cities winters, 36,000 feet of heat tubing is buried under the turf to keep it no cooler than 55 degrees during the season.
Architecturally, the ballpark rises, recedes and angles off in different directions (symmetry is still a dirty word in ballpark design circles) and is anchored down by a large representation of locally quarried limestone. Beyond the local and modern touches, the ballpark goes delightfully overboard in paying tribute to the Twins’ past, most visibly beyond the center field wall where a giant sign featuring “Minnie and Paul” from the 1960s’ team logo goes into action when a Twin hits a home run, with the two characters shaking hands; someone was asleep at the wheel when Jason Kubel hit the first-ever home run by a Twin on Monday, as the sign stood inert. Nearby in right field, a section of bleacher seats sticks out over the warning track and could make things interesting for outfielders dreading a wayward ricochet.
Target Field is sure to keep its fans busy (if not loaded) with a collection of restaurants and bars so numerous, it could create a nightlife of its own even when the Twins aren’t in town. There are at least six formal eating/drinking establishments on the Target Field grounds, three of them named after Twin legends (Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek) and one using the actual parquet basketball flooring once played on by the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers before their move to Los Angeles.
The everything-you-want-to-know, interactive section on Target Field can be viewed online at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s website.
My (Low) Way or the Highway
For the few Baltimore Oriole fans who don’t already know this, it’s official: Peter Angelos has gone bye-bye. The Oriole owner, who beat the rest of baseball to the punch by igniting the retro ballpark boom in 1992 with Oriole Park at Camden Yardswhich allowed the O’s to effectively compete with the Yankees for the better part of the 1990sreportedly squelched a deal that would have landed team legend Cal Ripken Jr. in the front office. Why? Because according to three separate, unnamed sources talking to Fox Sports, Angelos “did not want Ripken to receive the credit once the team returned to prominence.” All this, despite the fact that Baltimore general manager Andy MacPhail was ready to sign off on Ripken’s return. Angelos thoroughly denied the story on Saturday and MacPhail, without denying anything, told the Baltimore Sun, “We have wasted enough ink on the subject alreadyperiod.” But if true, we now know the genuine thickness of Angelos’ 80-year old ego, thick enough to snub the most popular name in team history while the team sinks in the standings and once-unthinkable crowds of under 10,000 show up to Camden Yards, all to take every personal amount of credit for future success that may never come.
The "Other" First Pitches (Continued)
Last week we followed on the pomp and circumstance that was President Barack Obama’s ceremonial first pitch in Washington by noting who threw out the first pitch at other major league openers. With the last eight home openers this past week, here’s how that list rounded out:
PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia University basketball head coach Herb Magee and Modell’s Sporting Goods representative Bill Mayer.
San DiegoQuarterback Phillip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers.
St. LouisWhitey Herzog, who also threw out the first pitch last week for the Kansas City Royals’ home opener.
MinnesotaRod Carew, Kent Hrbek, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and 17-year old Kirby Puckett, Jr.
TorontoAlex Bilodeau, the Olympic gold medal-winning freestyle skier from Canada.
Los Angeleswill.i.am, singer of Black Eyed Peas.
So Who Threw Out the Ceremonial First Punch?
For the Dodgers’ home opener in Los Angeles on Tuesday, 132 fansalmost one for every section of Dodger Stadiumwere arrested, mostly for drunk-and-disorderly charges.
Very Bad Citizens Bank Park
A New Jersey man, upset that his buddy was ejected for unruly behavior at Wednesday’s Phillies-Nationals game at Philadelphia, put his fingers down his throat and intentionally threw up on the guy sitting in front of him who ratted his buddy out. Oh, he also vomited on the 11-year daughter of that man, an off-duty police officer, and another officer, this one in uniform, who was attempting to arrest him. The 21-year old, 330-pound man was arrested and charged with numerous counts of idiocy.
The Last 42
Yankee closer Mariano Rivera is the only major leaguer in the game still allowed to wear 42 on his jersey. That uniform number, wore by Jackie Robinson, was officially retired from all major league teams in 1997, and all other players who were wearing the number at the time are currently out of the game.
Is This a Sign?
The Chicago Cubs had a lead at some point in each of their first nine games of the season. The last time they did that, it was 1945the year they last went to the World Series.
Seems Like Old Times
The Yankees won their first four series of the season, the first time they managed to do that since 1926.
A Growing Bandbox?
The first homestand of Yankee Stadium’s second season wasn’t complete before two games were played without a home run being hit; last season, there was only one game all season played in which no long balls were smacked.
A Trade That's Working Well For One Team
The Chicago Cubs didn’t care who they gotanyone, someonefrom Seattle, as long as the Mariners took Milton Bradley off their hands. That anyone, someonepitcher Carlos Silva, who the M’s desperately wanted off their hands after a 5-18 record and 6.81 ERA over two injury-marred seasonshas allowed just one earned run and no walks in 13 innings over his first two starts in a Cub uniform.
Teagarden in the K-Garden
With Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the disabled list, here was a chance for back-up catcher Taylor Teagarden to get everyday work in Texas and make an impression. It’s been more like depression; through the first two weeks of the season, Teagarden is 0-for-18 with 13 strikeouts. He whiffed in all six at-bats this past week alone.
Hear it Now
TGG friend Stephen Contursi let us know about a web site he’s put up called “Sounds of Baseball,” which features over 500 sound clips of memorable baseball-related moments, songs, interviews and routines. The site includes clips of everything from Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech to George Carlin’s hysterical comparisons between baseball and football to James Earl Jones’ eloquent speech to Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. Check it out.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Florida’s Jorge Cantu, who we mentioned above for his consistency in not just hits but RBIs to begin a season, ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 17 games. The run actually began at the end of last season, as Cantu collected hits in his final four games.
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.
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.