The Week That Was in Baseball: April 27-May 3, 2009
We May Need to Go There (Again), A-Rod Baseball Heritage Held Hostage
Speed Week With Carl Crawford
Keith Olbermann's Worst Persons of the Week

Who Can We Trust, A-Rod?
Alex Rodriguez blew it back in February when confronted with evidence of steroid use, answering Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts with, “You’ll have to talk to the union.” Under immense pressure, Rodriguez eventually came clean and admitted taking the juice, stating he only did it from 2001-03.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice? Excerpts from the new unauthorized A-Rod book, penned by Roberts, claim that Rodriguez not only took steroids when he was in high school, but also after arriving in New York to play for the Yankees. Worse, not only does the book claim that Rodriguez was a lifelong steroid user, but that he was also a game fixer—tipping off opponents of what pitches they were going to get in the hopes that, someday, those same players would return the favor.

The evidence is almost all hearsay, with most claimants believing Rodriguez was on steroids simply because it appeared he was—so it’s bound to draw some skepticism, as it should. Doug Mientkiewicz, a former high school teammate of Rodriguez now sitting on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bench, denied the prep accusations, saying the 25 pounds of added weight between A-Rod’s sophomore and junior years had more to do with puberty, especially given that he grew three inches during that time. 

Yet all of this comes down to Rodriguez’s initial reaction. When the media approached him with the latest accusations, this is what he said: “I’m not going there.” Not “It’s all garbage.” Not “I deny it all, I laid out what I did back in February and I stand by it.” Perhaps Rodriguez feels a sting from the media as a result of the circus of a few months ago and therefore would prefer to not say anything, but if the truth is on his side, you got to go for something a little more convincing than, “I’m not going there.”

Don’t fool us again, Alex Rodriguez, we’re not ready to shame ourselves.

Six-Pack Theft
Sometime early this past week, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon must have gone up to Carl Crawford and told him: Run. And that's exactly what Crawford did. The 27-year old outfielder stole 11 bases on the week, capped by a six-steal performance on Sunday against Boston at St. Petersburg, tying a major league record shared by three other players: Eric Young in 1996, Otis Nixon in 1991 and Eddie Collins, who did it twice within an 11-day period in 1912. Crawford's stolen base splurge gives him a major league-high 17 for 2009; he has yet to be caught.

Grand Spree
We didn’t know if it was our imagination or if there really has been an outbreak of grand slams being hit so far in 2009, but when the Phillies hit two in Monday’s wild 13-11 win over Washington, we had to finally set everything aside and look it up. We weren’t imagining; for the month of April there were 27 grand slams hit, which put baseball on pace to crank out 215 for the season—which would easily outdistancing the 124 hit in 2008 and smash the current mark of 176 set in 2000.

The Un-Record, Epilogue
One outing after having his consecutive scoreless inning streak end with an unearned run, Kansas City phenom Zack Greinke went to the mound on Wednesday in the continuation of pursuing something slightly less magnificent: A run of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. That, too, came to an end with two out in the first inning when Toronto’s Vernon Wells punched out a run-scoring single that stopped Greinke’s streak at 44 innings and ruined his 0.00 ERA. Although mortal for the first time in 2009, Greinke was still tough enough to clamp down on an overachieving Blue Jay offense and tossed seven solid frames to nab his fifth win of the season, 11-3.

That's a Lot of Win-Win in the Dugouts
When the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves hooked up this past weekend, the series represented a matchup of the third and fourth winningest managers in baseball history: Tony LaRussa (2,478 wins) and Bobby Cox (2,338). Were the 4,816 combined victories between the two the highest for a head-to-head matchup? We looked it up and found the answer to be no. The record belongs to Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, who pitted against one another in the second game of a doubleheader on April 30, 1950 with 5,777 combined wins; it would be the final year managing for both.

A Tale of Two Youngs
This past Monday, San Diego’s Chris Young—who, if he plays long enough, may break Nolan Ryan’s all-time record for most stolen bases allowed by a pitcher at 757— gave up eight steals in just three innings of work at Colorado against the Rockies; five of those swipes were perpetrated by Dexter Fowler, tying a modern major league record for rookies. Meanwhile in Phoenix, the other Chris Young—the Diamondbacks’ speedy 25-year old outfielder—stole two bases among five overall taken by Arizona in its 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

First-Time Thief
Maybe it was a way to tell the Rockies that we, too, can run. A night after Colorado ran wild on Chris (San Diego) Young, the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez swiped his first base in his 558-game career, the longest stretch without a stolen base since Darrin Fletcher (658 games) from 1989-1997. Gonzalez previously attempted a steal in 2006 but was tagged out.

Nobody's Perfect, But a Few Are Damn Close
Last week we reported on Patrick Schuster, a Florida high school pitcher who had thrown four straight no-hitters. Now that Schuster has shown his mortal side and had his run end with a relative subpar effort (three runs on five hits in five innings) this past week, the prep flavor of the week has become Rachele Fico, a softball pitcher in Monroe, Connecticut, who entered this past week with four consecutive perfect games tossed; that ended when she walked a batter on Thursday to “settle” for a no-hitter. Fico, a junior, has been all but perfect over her three-year high school career, with 33 no-hitters, 16 perfectos and an ERA of—are you sitting?—0.04.

Back Down to Earth
The Tampa Bay Rays, your defending AL champions, have now lost six straight series in a row. During 2008, they never lost more than two in succession. They avoided a seventh straight series lost when it took three out of four games at home against Boston this past weekend.

Light Show, Light Crowd
Maybe it’s the recession, or maybe it’s just that fireworks aren’t the automatic drawing card they used to be. Ask the Texas Rangers, who held Fireworks Night on Friday against the Chicago White Sox—and drew 23,836, half the capacity of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Okay, How 'Bout Free Luxury Box Night?
The Pittsburgh Pirates must have taken our advice from last week, when we noticed startlingly low crowds amid wet weather and a recession, and held Free Umbrella Night this past Friday against Cincinnati. The free chutes came in handy as showers fell—yet only 14,000 showed up.

Elias Sports Bureau Fact of the Week
The New York Yankees became the first team in 90 years to break up a scoreless duel after six innings by notching double-digit run totals (ten) in the seventh during their 11-0 rout of the Tigers at Detroit on Tuesday. The Cincinnati Reds last performed the feat in 1919, scoring ten runs in the 13th inning against Brooklyn to break up a 0-0 tie.

It Just Don't Add Up
Brad Penny of the Boston Red Sox: An 8.66 ERA with 21 runs (17 earned) allowed on 24 hits and 11 walks in 17.2 innings in April. His record: 2-0.

We Tried to Get Lucky
Jack “Lucky” Lohrke, a major leaguer from 1947-53, died this past week at the age of 85 in San Jose. The San Jose part led me to ask Ed Attanasio, the force behind TGG’s They Were There installments, if he had ever driven down the street to talk with Lohrke. No, said Ed, although he tried and was rebuffed by Lohrke, who said, “you scribes have never been fair to me.” Lohrke’s career got off to a promising start, clubbing 11 homers in 324 at-bats as a 23-year old rookie for the New York Giants in 1947, but it gradually went downhill from there, reduced to a seldom-used bench player by 1953 for the Phillies before exiting the majors. —Eric

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
There’s a continuing, twisted sort of symbiosis taking place in Washington: The Nationals keep losing, and Ryan Zimmerman keeps getting hits. The 24-year old third baseman extended his hitting streak to 21 games, leaving him with the longest active streak as of Sunday, the longest in the majors so far this season, and the longest in Washington since Mickey Vernon hit safely in 20 straight games in 1953 for the Senators. Zimmerman’s run hasn’t exactly been making the Nationals the king of baseball, though his teammates will be the first to confess that it will take more than an individual DiMaggio-like milestone to turn around the Nats, who are 6-15 during Zimmerman’s streak.

Now Playing on TGG
Check out Eric Gouldsberry's new Opinion piece on whether the strikeout is an overrated statistic.

For baseball historians, Paper of Record was a godsend. A web site that contained microfilm of various newspapers from around the globe in PDF format, Paper of Record’s crown jewel was the digital library of The Sporting News from its very first issue in 1886 through the early 2000s. It was amazingly convenient and critical for many of us who do their research on the game of baseball. This Great Game derived a fair amount of its information for the Yearly Reader section from TSN PDFs via Paper of Record.

This past week we called up Paper of Record on our browser to do some fact-checking and, out of left field, the address took us to the Google News Archive. Okay, so it appeared Google had taken over and would somehow direct us to the TSN as Paper of Record did before. No such luck. There was no sign of TSN anywhere.

Upon further investigation, we discovered that Google bought Paper of Record in September 2006, according to a response from Paper of Record founder Bob Huggins on a Google help page. Huggins claims that TSN refused to sign on with the switch to Google, and an attempt for the PDF material to be purchased by SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research) also fell through because it was not “financially viable.” He also implied that TSN was acting ambivalent over the issue, that it “should be involved, but isn’t.”

We’re something of a late arrival to the primal scream therapy session over all of this, given that the deal was consummated over two years ago and the TSN archives apparently “disconnected” at the end of last year (although we swear we were able to log in and access some files as late as a few months ago), but we agree with the mass majority: This is no way to hold genuine baseball heritage hostage. It’s an issue that likely boils down to money—and worse, this standoff involves not one but two 800-pound gorillas: Google and American City Business Journals, which owns TSN. Outside of a grass roots e-mail bitch campaign, there’s not much we can think of to help forge a solution, but if you have one, let us know. Meanwhile, it looks it’s back to the 20th Century, the local library and the Lazy Susans.

Forget Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and all those other conservative blowhards: Keith Olbermann’s worst persons in the world this past week were the New York Yankees, who, after suffering through the early embarrassment of empty seats in the exorbitantly high-priced Legends Suite sections at the new Yankee Stadium, decided to lower pricing on the most expensive of those seats by 50%. That sounds like progress, but not to Olbermann, who owns three season tickets in the Legend Suites that were not reduced from the $850 per-seat, per-game cost. Instead, the Yankees are offering Olbermann and others holding similar seats with extra tickets. Olbermann was not amused. “If (the Yankees) are offering selective refunds, depend on it: There are going to be lawsuits,” he said. “The silver lining here is that even more charities are going to be getting even more tickets from me.”

The Pharmicist Made Me Do It
Philadelphia reliever J.C. Romero, serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s performance-enhancement policy, is suing both the maker of the supplement that got him into trouble and the folks who sold it. Romero’s claim is that he was misled into thinking he was buying a legit product that instead contained androstenedione, which MLB has declared illegal to digest—never mind that the drug was manufactured by an Illinois firm founded by former BALCO chemist Patrick Arnold. That Romero is going aggressive and filing suit perhaps shows that it was not his intent to cheat, but next time it would serve him better to play it safe and settle for a One-a-Day vitamin.

K.C. and the Sunshine Bonds?
The appearance of a cheerful Barry Bonds at the Giant-Dodger game in San Francisco on Monday certainly dredged up the question once more around the country: Can the disputed home run king still play at 44? Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star sure would like to think so and, mixing in conspiracy theories of Bonds being blackballed, wants to see him in a Royal uniform. Whitlock embraced the notion that Royal players wouldn’t mind seeing Bonds on their team, even though some used the caveat, “as long as he’s not disruptive.” And that’s the problem. Bonds would be disruptive. He has been since Day One. That’s why a guy who might still possess surging power and provoke fear in pitchers won’t ever be signed again. That’s not blackballing. It’s a bad reputation that’s come back to haunt.

The Threesome Rules in the Citi
Maybe Chief Wilson, who set the major league season record with 36 triples in 1912, would have felt at home in Citi Field, the New York Mets’ new ballpark. While home runs are flying out of the new Yankee Stadium, triples seem to be the extra base hit of choice at the Citi; through their first 12 games this year, the Mets have hit more triples (ten) than homers (seven). It’s a different story for the visitors, who’ve collected just one triple to go with 11 home runs.

No Thanks, Mike Hargrove, We Got This One Covered
The first three innings of Cleveland’s 9-8 win over Boston on Tuesday lasted one hour and 55 minutes—three minutes longer than it took for the White Sox to defeat the Seattle Mariners in the entire first game of a doubleheader on that same day at Chicago, 2-1.

Returning the Favor
Last week, the Kansas City Royals set a team record by grounding into six double plays at Cleveland. This past Thursday, they tied a team mark by turning six twin killings on defense, helping to secure an 8-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City.

So Who Bats Ninth?
For the first time in 44 years, the Los Angeles Dodgers listed their starting pitcher outside of the number nine spot when Eric Stults batted eighth against the Giants at San Francisco on Wednesday. The idea was to have outfielder Juan Pierre bat ninth and give the Dodgers three speedy contact hitters to bat in front of Manny Ramirez on the second go-around—an approach used frequently over the past few years by St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa with Albert Pujols looming in the Cardinals’ three spot. Back in 1965, the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale batted seventh, not so much to get him out of the way for the second time through but, to be honest, because he was having a much better year than most of the everyday Dodger hitters—finishing the season with a .300 average and seven home runs in 130 at-bats.

Keeping Up With the Red Killers
Every time we see Houston ready to play against Cincinnati, we lock in on two Astros who’ve been outrageously dominant over the years against the Reds: Pitcher Roy Oswalt and first baseman Lance Berkman. Oswalt continued his mastery of the Reds, firing seven strong innings on Monday to improve his lifetime record against Cincinnati to 23-1. Berkman homered and walked in that game, but then went unusually hitless in the final two games of the series at Great American Ballpark, where he now has a career .352 average with 20 homers and 50 RBIs in just 44 games.

Unlucky to the Max
Last week we noticed how Arizona pitching ace Dan Haren was off to a terrific start even if his record didn’t reflect it, thanks largely to a severe lack of support from his offense. Max Scherzer can relate. Haren’s teammate in the rotation, highly touted for his blazing fastball, has still yet to pick up a win in his first 11 major league starts, losing six. Like Haren, it would help if Scherzer were given some run support; the Diamondbacks have only scored 27 tallies in Scherzer’s 11 starts.

Wounded of the Week
It’s almost astonishing that Oakland über-GM Billy Beane hasn’t gotten rid of über-injured Eric Chavez by now. The 31-year old third baseman was at one time a defensive standout and dependable power hitter, but that was then. This is now: Chavez is headed to the disabled list for the fourth time over the last three years (and believe us, that count should seem a bit higher), with a strained right forearm being the culprit this time around. Since July 26, 2007, Chavez has appeared in only 31 of 213 Oakland A’s contests.

Somehow, Chavez missed out on the cavalcade of pain suffered by the A’s in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss at Texas. Oakland witnessed the early departures of Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Ellis, reliever Santiago Casilla (all with calf injuries) and starting pitcher Brett Anderson (blister); all but Anderson joined Chavez on the DL.

Plenty of other major leaguers not wearing the Kelly green and gold felt the pain and landed on the DL this past week, including the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, Houston closer Jose Valverde, Seattle closer Brandon Morrow, Cincinnati third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner (whose continued shoulder problems briefly forced the Indians to juggle their lineup to include a 14-man pitching staff). Finally, back-up Detroit catcher Matt Treanor—hitless in 13 at-bats so far in 2009—is out for the season with a torn labrum, meaning he’ll get to spend more time at home with wife Misty-May Treanor, the Olympic volleyball star who herself is going through an extended recuperation from a Dancing With the Stars injury.

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