The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: April 16-22, 2012
Is Ivan Rodriguez Baseball's Greatest Catcher? Peter O'Malley, Padre Owner?
Phil Humber's Perfect Saturday The High Cost of Tearing Down the Astrodome

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Outguessing the Mayans: TGG's 2012 Baseball Picks
Our annual, fearless preview of the 2012 major league season, with TGG’s
Ed Attanasio and Eric Gouldsberry releasing their picks for who will arrive, thrive, dive and cry. Check it out and see if you agree!

The Greatest Catcher?
Ivan Rodriguez announced his retirement this week, ending a prestigious 21-year career that included 2,844 career hits, a .296 career batting average, 13 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star Game appearances and an excellent 45% success rate in catching opposing basestealers. He won a World Series for the 2003 Florida Marlins (being named the NLCS MVP in the process) and won the 1999 AL MVP with a .332 batting average and career highs with 35 home runs, 113 RBIs, 199 hits, 116 runs and 25 steals.

Consider this: Rodriguez’s career hit total is more than double the two top active catchers on the list (A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Hernandez); and he had the privilege to catch both Nolan Ryan and Stephen Strasburg, two pitchers born 41 years apart.

The Hall of Fame will likely see Rodriguez’s induction sooner than later despite the fact he arguably emerged from the steroid-tainted Texas clubhouse of the 1990s without being terribly clean. But Rodriguez was so good both at the plate and (especially) behind it on defense, his complete skills package will likely transcend whatever advantage any illegal performance enhancement may have given him in the minds of Cooperstown voters.

But here’s the real question: Is Rodriguez the greatest catcher in baseball history? The vox populi rests these days on Johnny Bench, while others will bring up names such as Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Carlton Fisk and Mickey Cochrane. But Rodriguez must certainly be thrown into the discussion given his impressive resume. Let the debate begin.

Where There's Ruins, There's Money
It cost $35 million to build the Houston Astrodome—and it may cost double that to bring it down. The $78 million estimate from demolition company Sports Corp. is based on the famed stadium’s proximity to Reliant Stadium (current home of the NFL’s Houston Texans), a deep concrete base and a high water table, but other wreckers chafe at the price, saying the actual price to demolish it will be far lower if it ever went to bid. Most other aging facilities have been demolished for no more than $20 million, and many of those have sat right next to sparkling new facilities that would replace the old ones.

The Astrodome was used by the Houston Astros from 1965-1999; it has basically gone unused since being deemed “unfit for occupancy” in 2009.

Padre O'Malley?
Peter O’Malley, the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers who tried unsuccessfully to repurchase the club from Frank McCourt this winter, admitted to the Los Angeles Times this past week that he’s now interested in buying the San Diego Padres, back on the open market after Jeff Moorad failed to land ownership of that club. “The Padres have only been on the market a number of days. I have not talked to (Padres owner) John Moores,” O’Malley said. “We're considering it.”

That's Why They Call it "Working Days"
Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed this week that to avoid the same sort of controversy that dogged Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun over the winter, any samples taken of players to detect illegal performance enhancement must be sent out that same day. Braun was initially tagged for steroid use, then cleared with the collector had the sample sit for several days rather then send it out via FedEx, because there wasn’t a drop-off center within 50 miles of Milwaukee’s Miller Park that could deliver it on a Saturday (when the sample was taken). Yet, according to union head Michael Weiner, tests will continue to be conducted on Saturdays. Are we missing something here?

Joke Choke
C.J. Wilson, the former Texas Ranger now pitching in Anaheim for the Angels, recently commented on his springtime Twitter prank on the Rangers’ Mike Napoli when he tweeted Napoli’s phone number to 120,000 followers. Speaking on Dan Patrick’s radio show, Wilson said: “You can only prank people with a sense of humor, I guess.” Earth to C.J.: Even people with a sense of humor don’t find it funny to have their phone number listed for all to see.

Second First, First Second
The San Francisco Giants lost to the New York Mets on Saturday in ten innings, 5-4, in part because of a botched double play involving Aubrey Huff, the veteran first baseman playing at second for the first time in his career. On a ground ball hit to shortstop Emmanuel Burriss, Huff instinctively moved to his left instead of towards second to make a force on the Mets’ Ruben Tejada; an alarmed Burriss had no choice but to make a late throw to first, where Justin Turner beat it out. The Mets scored on the next play and won the game. Huff’s explanation: “My natural instinct my whole life, ball hit to my right, I go to first.”

When You Ride the Pirates of the Caribbean, You Stay in the Boat
This week’s idiot dunce cap is awarded to the parents who thought it would be a bright idea to place their small kid out on the field at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field—during the seventh inning of Thursday’s 5-3 White Sox loss to Baltimore. White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo chased down the tot and carried him to security; the family was ejected from the ballpark.

Consider it Progress
You can say that Adam Dunn is improving this year. (Could he be any worse than last year?) After a truly awful 2011 campaign in which the Chicago White Sox slugger hit .159 with 177 strikeouts in 415 at-bats, he had his first hit in 16 at-bats against left-handed pitching in 2012 when he smacked a bases-loaded double against Baltimore on Wednesday. Last year, it took him 41 at-bats to collect his first hit against a southpaw and eventually hit .064 against lefties for the entire year.

Citi Facts
A few weeks into the new season and it’s become apparent that New York’s Citi Field is playing like a normal major league ballpark after having its fences moved in. This past Friday, rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis became the first left-handed hitting Met to clear the left-field fence since the ballpark opened in 2009. And after being among the top three or so teams in triples since Citi’s opening (owing to its expansive outfield), the Mets are the only major league team this season yet to collect a three-bagger.

YouTube Clip of the Week
During a postgame press conference, Washington manager Davey Johnson looks more flustered than alarmed when a siren sounds within the building.

Wounded of the Week
The Curse of the Closer continues this week with yet another ninth-inning specialist hitting the disabled list, as Toronto’s Sergio Santos is out for at least 15 days with shoulder problems. And although Washington closer Brad Lidge isn’t on the shelf, coaches are keeping an eye on him after it was revealed that the veteran reliever is suffering from vertigo. A tip for Brad: If you see Kim Novak in the area, run—but not up the stairs!

Also entering MLB’s Hospital of Hurt this past week were St. Louis slugger Lance Berkman (calf), Arizona pitcher Daniel Hudson (shoulder) and outfielder Chris Young (shoulder), Chicago Cub pitchers Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster (both with quad injuries), Milwaukee pitcher Chris Narveson (torn rotator cuff), Pittsburgh pitcher Jeff Karstens (shoulder) and Yankee outfielder Brett Gardner, out after hurting his elbow on a sliding catch.

He Said What?
“No, no, no, no, no!”—A prospective juror in the Roger Clemens retrial, asked if he was willing to serve on a jury.

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
Monday, April 16
In his third start of the year, Detroit ace Justin Verlander throws 131 pitches—the last being a 100-MPH fastball—to complete a 3-2 Tiger win over the Royals at Kansas City. That last pitch strikes out Alex Gordon, batting with one run in and the bases loaded for the Royals.

Tuesday, April 17
Jamie Moyer becomes the oldest player to earn credit for a major league win as the Colorado Rockies defeat the San Diego Padres at Denver, 5-3. Despite pitching a mile high at Coors Field, the 49-year-old Moyer is masterful, allowing two unearned runs on six hits in seven innings. Jack Quinn was 81 days younger when he registered a victory for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1932.

The Texas Rangers pile it on early, late and often at Fenway Park by pounding the Boston Red Sox, 18-3. Six homers are hit by the Rangers, including two by Mike Napoli; Josh Hamilton knocks in five runs. Jon Lester takes the loss for the Red Sox, allowing the first seven runs in two innings.

In his first game pitching at Atlanta since tearing a muscle in his shoulder in 2010, Johan Santana is rudely welcomed back by the Braves—who pummel the New York Mets’ starting pitcher with six runs (four earned) on four hits, a walk and a handful of errors. After 1.1 innings and 55 pitches, Santana is removed—making it the shortest stint among his 266 career starts. The Mets lose, 9-3.

Wednesday, April 18
Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee becomes the first pitcher since Aaron Harang in 2007 to pitch ten innings, allowing no runs, no walks and throwing just 102 pitches—but the Phillies lose at San Francisco in 11 innings, 1-0, as the Giants rally in the 11th off reliever Antonio Bastardo. Lee’s opposite number, Matt Cain, needs only 91 pitches to throw nine innings of two-hit shutout ball—and might have made into the tenth himself had the Giants not felt compelled to pinch-hit for him in the ninth. If not getting the win in ten shutout innings is bad enough for Lee, it’ll later be discovered that he hurts his side while pitching that extra frame; he’s placed on the 15-day disabled list.

In pitching eight innings of shutout ball at Anaheim, Oakland’s Bartolo Colon throws 38 consecutive strikes in one stretch. The Associated Press reports that STATS Inc. can’t find a longer streak since keeping track of pitch-by-pitch data in 1988. The A’s defeat the slumping Angels, 6-0.

The Seattle Mariners top Cleveland 4-1 before 11,343 Safeco Field, the smallest gathering at that ballpark since its 1999 opening.

Thursday, April 19
Curtis Granderson becomes the 20th New York Yankee—and the first at the new Yankee Stadium—to hit three home runs in a game when he goes deep in each of his first three at-bats against Minnesota. The 31-year-old outfielder adds two singles to make it a 5-for-5 night with four RBIs in the Yankees’ 7-6 win over the Twins.

In scoring five first-inning runs to set the tone for an 11-4 rout of the Nationals at Washington, the Houston Astros smack three triples in an inning for the first time in their 51-year existence. The players with the three-baggers are Jose Altuve, Brian Bogusevic and Matt Downs. It’s the first time a team has hit three triples in an inning since Toronto last June.

The Angels’ Erick Aybar celebrates his four-year, $35 million extension signed earlier in the day by committing two errors at shortstop—leading to one unearned run—in the Angels’ 4-2 loss to Oakland.

Friday, April 20
One hundred years to the day that the Boston Red Sox inaugurated Fenway Park with a ten-inning, 7-6 win over New York, history will not repeat itself. Following the pregame pomp and circumstance that included 200 former Red Sox players, the first performance of Fanfare for Fenway penned and conducted by John Williams and the throwing out of the first pitch by Caroline Kennedy (whose great-grandfather threw out the first first pitch in 1912), the Red Sox are beaten down by five Yankee home runs in a 6-2 loss. Two of the Yankee bombs are by Eric Chavez, who had belted just five in his previous four, injury-wracked seasons; another is hit by Alex Rodriguez, who surpasses Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time list with 631. Derek Jeter, meanwhile, takes over sole position of 18th place on the all-time hit list, surpassing former Yankee Dave Winfield. The win is the 15th straight for Yankee starting pitcher Ivan Nova.

The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Cubs at blustery, chilly Wrigley Field, 9-4, and join five other National League teams with their 10,000th victory. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies remain below the barrier among the eight NL teams playing since before 1900; the Yankees lead all American League teams with 9,775.

Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer lines into the first triple play executed by Toronto since 1979—and the first hit into by the Royals since that same year—in the fourth inning, killing a promising rally and figuring prominently in the Royals’ 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium.

Saturday, April 21
Chicago right-hander Phil Humber throws the majors’ 19th perfect game in modern times by retiring all 27 Mariners he faces in the White Sox’ 4-0 win at Seattle. Humber needs just 96 pitches to record what is the third perfecto in White Sox history, after Charlie Robertson (in 1922) and Mark Buehrle (in 2009).

The Red Sox storm out to a 9-0 lead over the Yankees after five innings—then New York counters by scoring 15 unanswered tallies the rest of the way to win their second straight at Fenway, 15-9. Boston starter Frank Doubront pitches six solid innings, but six Red Sox relievers combine to allow 14 runs on 12 hits and five walks over the remaining three frames. The Yankees’ Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira each knock in six runs.

The San Diego Padres end a 13-game losing skid at Petco Park against Philadelphia, defeating the Phillies 5-1. The Padres previous win at home against the Phillies came on August 16, 2008.

Sunday, April 22
The Rangers take a four-game series from the Tigers at Detroit amid controversy in the decisive 11th inning. With the bases loaded and nobody out, the Rangers’ Alberto Gonzalez lays down a squeeze bunt ruled fair by home plate umpire Tim Welke; everyone is safe on the play and Texas takes the lead, but replays show that Gonzalez’s bunt ricocheted off his kneecap, which would have made it a foul ball. Detroit manager Jim Leyland argues to no avail, and the Rangers win, 3-2.

This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
This past week ends with San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval holding the keys to the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games. The Panda has hit in every game he’s played this season for the Giants, batting .333.

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!