The Week That Was in Baseball: April 20-26, 2009
Solving New Yankee Stadium's HR Binge Is Zack Greinke's Record Pursuit Dead?
The Marlins: MLB's Once-and-Current Profiteer Kings
Boston's 100-Year Old Batboy

The Mystery of "Coors Field East"
In the aviation world, it’s known as wind shear. At the new Yankee Stadium, it’s known as an excess of home runs. And so perhaps it’s a downdraft of wind that’s caused an uptick in balls flying over the fence with alarming frequency at the new $1.5 billion ballpark, with 26 homers in its first six games. The power surge was unexpected; after all, the new Stadium’s dimensions are exactly the same as those of the old Stadium, and it’s situated in virtually the same direction—so the wind currents should be roughly the same. But meteorological experts believe the culprit may be the ballpark structure itself. Most of the seating is now in the lower two levels, and the third deck—a voluminous structure in the old Stadium—is smaller and more recessed in the new facility. This allows wind to flow through more easily and kick up toward the outfield, hence the wind shear effect. Also, the main concourse is wider and more open, allowing for an additional push of air. It’s early to be sure, but pitchers beware as the season progresses.

A Dynasty of Profit
Forbes Magazine’s annual audit of major league teams—the list commissioner Bud Selig loves to hate—was released this week. Once again, the Florida Marlins put in the fewest expenses—and made the most profit at $43.7 million, proving once more that owner Jeffrey Loria cares more about the bottom line than the standings; yes, the Marlins are off to a good start, but Loria could easily spend a little extra cash to make them even better. The Washington Nationals were close on the heels of the Marlins, netting a $42.6 million profit—but then again, if you had a small payroll, a new ballpark you paid little to build and refused to pay rent on, and raked in $28 million in local TV revenue even though no one watched, you might make out pretty well, too.

On the flip side, only two franchises lost money in 2008, according to Forbes: The New York Yankees (a $3.7 million loss) and the Detroit Tigers, who were an alarming $26.3 million in the red.

Maybe Free Umbrella Night Would Help
If other teams are trying to avoid appearing in the red for Forbes’ 2009 list, this past week’s attendance results didn’t bode well. It was so quiet at ballparks across the East, you could hear drops of water fall from the rain that fell hours earlier as a double whammy of cool, wet spring weather and the continued bad economy contributed to swaths of empty seats—leading to record low crowds in Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland since the opening of their current ballparks; worse, pesky rain delays reduced the official gate counts by as much as half. (San Francisco also drew its lowest attendance since opening AT&T Park at 26,000, but bad weather had nothing to do with it; it was a beautiful 75 degrees by the bay on Wednesday.) Warm weather is sure to come and school will soon be out, but this is not a good start for major league teams trying to gather up on revenue.

A Leap of Faith Over a Spring of Profits
It was reported this past week that fans spent $359 million for Cactus League baseball in Arizona during spring training, a 7% increase from last year. But before everyone goes dancing in the streets over such a stat in tough economic times, it should be remembered that there was a 29% increase in games played in the desert from last year, the contributing factors of which were an extra week of games due to the WBC and the addition of two teams (Los Angeles and Cleveland) from Florida.

Support Your Local Ace
Dan Haren finally earned—officially—his first victory of 2009 after being charged with losses in his first three starts—but he really should be 4-0, not 1-3. The Arizona right-hander has posted a 1.38 ERA and .194 batting average allowed in his four outings this season, but his Diamondback teammates have supported him with a total of three runs. He barely managed the win on Wednesday against Colorado when he was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the seventh inning of a scoreless tie by Ryan Roberts, who singled in a run as Arizona “piled on” two runs that ultimately resulted in a 2-0 win for Haren.

Keep Pounding That Radio Button
In 1957, overzealous Cincinnati fans, egged on by the Reds’ front office, stuffed the ballet boxes and voted seven Red players onto the NL All-Star Game starting lineup. Commissioner Ford Frick put the kibosh on the rush, overrode some of the results and ended All-Star voting among the fans for 12 years. Perhaps those that ignore the past and condemned to repeat it; in Baltimore, the Orioles are offering fans five bucks off a ticket to a future home game if they go to their web site and vote for their favorite players—Orioles, we’ll assume—a total of 25 times. So much for one person, one vote.

You'll be Hearing From the SPCA
Would it have killed the Wrigley Field security guard scurrying after a cat that ran loose on the field to do something other than to pick it up by the tail and drop it into the stands during Tuesday’s 7-2 Cub victory over Cincinnati? (Even though the feline wasn’t black, curse conspiracies were inevitable; the Cubs were ahead when the cat entered the field, at 2-1, before ultimately losing.)

One and Done
Ichiro Suzuki’s leadoff home run against Tampa Bay in Seattle on Thursday accounted for the game’s lone run, only the 22nd time in major league history that a 1-0 game was decided by a homer in a team's first at-bat.

Desert-Jà Vu 
It was an interesting quirk in the schedule to see the Colorado Rockies making their second trip to Arizona in two weeks. The good news for the Rockies is that they held their own in both series against the Diamondbacks (winning three out of six total games); the better news is that they won’t have to return to Phoenix until mid-September, meaning they’ll avoid the wretched mid-summer Arizona heat, roof or no roof at Chase Field.

He Said What?
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Gerber, commenting on the Yankees’ inability to fill up their pricey Legend Suites seats at the new Yankee Stadium: “It’s incomprehensible that you watch a game, and there will be front row seats empty.” Not the idea quote you’d expect to hear from a guy whose league occasionally employs the tactic of sticking all of its fans on one side of the stadium so it looks like a big crowd on television.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 15 games. He hasn’t exactly been ripping the cowhide off the ball—he’s barely batting above .300 during his run—but he’s been awfully steady, collecting either one or two hits in each game of the streak. Zimmerman has only gone hitless in one game this year, on April 7 at Florida—the season’s second game.

All Things Being Equal: TGG's Picks for 2009
Currently posted in our Opinion section is our predictions for the 2009 regular season. Look it up and compare to what teams have done in the first few weeks—but remember, there's still 25 weeks left to go.

Coming Soon to TGG
Look this coming week for Eric Gouldsberry's new piece for the TGG Opinion section on whether the strikeout is overrated.

The Un-Record
Zack Greinke’s march on the record book towards Orel Hershiser was stopped this past Friday when he allowed a run for the first time in 38 innings against the Detroit Tigers. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Greinke’s run, the only blemish in an otherwise stellar night in which he went the distance and gave up just three hits, was unearned. Which brings us to this: Will people still care if Greinke, who’s now gone 42 innings without allowing an earned run, continues firing blanks until he reaches 60 innings to pass Hershiser’s mark for scoreless innings thrown (earned or unearned)? And if so, will the debate began to boil over, in a Ruth-Maris sort-of way, as to whether Greinke’s streak will be regarded as “true?”

The Youngest Ever?
Albert Pujols, a Hall-of-Fame-caliber hitting machine from the get-go, knocked in his 1,000th run on Saturday with a grand slam against the Cubs in St. Louis. We wondered if Pujols, now 29, became the youngest player to reach 1,000 RBIs and were surprised that the media made no reference to that fact, so we looked it up ourselves. The answer we came up with was Mel Ott, who was barely 27 when he surpassed 1,000 in early 1936. Jimmie Foxx was a little older when he reached the milestone in 1935; in modern times, both Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. (both at 28) earned 1,000 RBIs at an earlier age than Pujols. The difference with Ott, Foxx, Rodriguez and Griffey was that all four players began their careers in their teens; Pujols began his at 21.

Acing His Tests
Forget the college recruiters; major league scouts are buzzing around Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida to check out one Patrick Schuster, a senior who’s thrown four straight no-hitters. Remember that this is high school, so games only go seven innings (and one of Schuster’s gems lasted only five because the mercy rule kicked in with his team ahead, 10-0), but it’s an impressive run all the same. Schuster’s next scheduled stop is the University of Florida, but he’s saying he’ll change course if a major league team drafts him before the end of the fifth round and gives him gobs of bonus money.

Baseball's New Feng Shui
There’s been a noticeable increase of major leaguers wearing mouthguards this season. It’s something you see often in football and hockey, for obvious reasons given the high-contact nature of those sports. But outside of protecting your teeth from a head-high pitch, what’s the point of wearing mouthguards in baseball? Apparently, a dentist in Nova Scotia discovered a few years ago that wearing one takes the stress off the jaw and, as a result, improves muscular activity and the oxygen flow throughout the body—all without an injection or a pill. It’s not the rage in the majors yet, but look who’s wearing them: Ryan Howard, Manny Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia, among others. There’s certainly one side benefit for umpires: It’s hard for players to argue when they have a wad of plastic in their mouth.

Blame It on Gabbard
Darren O’Day began this past Wednesday at his Florida home as a reliever without a team. By the end of the day, he was a Texas Ranger in Toronto, arriving at Rogers Centre in the eighth inning after a series of flights and a shove through customs; he was so new, the Rangers didn’t even have a uniform with his name, so they had him put on a Kason Gabbard jersey, something of a curio given that Gabbard had been with Triple-A Oklahoma City since Opening Day. The Gabbard sighting confused the Blue Jays’ Kevin Millar, the first batter to face O’Day; he knew about the stuff Gabbard had, but this right-hander wasn’t throwing hard, left-handed fastballs. Millar eventually figured everything out; he hammered a deep fly off O’Day and to the wall to bring in the game-winning run in the Blue Jays’ 8-7, 11-inning win over the Rangers. Maybe some in the Ranger organization feel compelled to blame the loss on Gabbard anyway; they traded him to Boston just a few days later.

Past Present
Few if anyone living today has personal memories of baseball as far back as Arthur Giddon, who served as a batboy for the Boston Braves from 1922-23 and handed sticks to players like Stuffy McInnis and Rube Marquard. Giddon, who turned 100 on Sunday, was honored the day before at Fenway Park by the Red Sox and was made an honorary batboy, wearing a Red Sox jersey with the number 100 and the name “Big Pappy.” If the Braves of lore were looking to the younger Giddon as a good luck charm, it didn’t work; the Braves lost exactly 100 games in both seasons in which he served as batboy.

Doubled Up, Again and Again and Again...
Kansas City set a team record by hitting into six double plays, all in consecutive innings from the third through the eighth, at Cleveland this past Tuesday. To say the erasures hurt the Royals’ cause was an understatement; they lost to the Indians, 8-7.

For Those Who Hate the Yankees
The New York Yankees have given up a total of 38 runs over their last two games played on Saturday.

Belated Power
Veteran Detroit slugger Magglio Ordonez entered Saturday’s game at Kansas City with a .279 batting average—and a .279 slugging percentage. But he finally earned his first extra base hit of 2009 when he homered in the ninth inning against the Royals. It was Ordonez’s 66th at-bat of the season.

Wounded of the Week
Kerwin Danley must be the Eric Chavez of umpires. The arbiter was knocked out of a ballgame for the third time since 2006 when a shattered bat from Texas’ Hank Blalock struck him in the head during the Rangers’ 5-4 win at Toronto on Tuesday. Danley was removed via stretcher and held at a hospital overnight with a concussion; he was also carried off almost an exact year earlier when a Brad Penny pitch head him in the head, and he left a 2006 game (under his own power) between the Cubs and Astros after also getting nailed.

As for the players, there was a flood of new entrants into the major league medical ward this past week. Among the more intriguing patients to enlist was Toronto rookie pitcher Ricky Romero, who we’re told strained his oblique muscle after sneezing in the clubhouse listening to rap; his teammate B.J. Ryan, for whom the Blue Jays officially traced his extreme lack of velocity to a stiff back and shoulder; and New York pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who had to have something wrong after an 0-3 start with a 34.50 ERA—and the Yankees determined that something to be hip weakness (though we never looked at Wang as a groovy kind of guy). Also on the Ouch Couch this week is Atlanta catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Garret Anderson, Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew, two more Los Angeles of Anaheim pitchers (Kevin Jepsen and Darren Oliver), Texas starting pitcher Kris Benson and Oakland reliever Joey Devine (out for the season with elbow problems).

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.