The Week That Was in Baseball: April 30-May 6, 2012
Mo Better Bruise in K.C. • The No-Hitter's Silly Superstitions
Are the Rays Cursed by the Number One Pick? • The Bill Buckner Ball Gets Rich
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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!
Oh No, Mo!
This past Thursday, while the New York Yankees were taking batting practice, future Hall-of-Fame closer Mariano Rivera was deep in the outfield shagging flies and loosening up, as he has basically done every game for the last 17 years. Chugging along the warning track, he took a misstep and suddenly collapsed to the ground, cringing in pain. One of the game’s TV cameras just happened to be following him at that moment and recorded the incident; it had torn ACL written all over it, and sure enough, that was verified a day later, ending Rivera’s season in the unlikeliest of manners.
Rivera was off to one of his typically solid starts; he had saved five of six opportunities and recorded a 2.16 earned run average. He had hinted that, at age 42, this season might be his lastand for all the wrong reasons, it might be. But the freak mishap has emboldened Rivera to insist that he’ll be back in 2013. Only his middle-aged knee will determine that.
With Rivera out, the Yankees can take advantage of their insurance policy on Rivera: Rafael Soriano, who was brought in last year as a set-up man and possible replacement for Rivera should he begin to show career rust. Lost amid his new role in 2011, Soriano might be able to find some purpose now that the closer job is hisbut he may also have to share the load with David Robertson, who’s thrown 12 scoreless innings to start the year after bouncing back from his own freak injury, which occurred when he slipped down a staircase carrying boxes during spring training.
Here We Go Again
Has He Ever Been "Georgia Impeached"?
Greasing the Gem
Then there’s the somehow debatable practice on whether broadcasters doing play-by-play should note to viewers that a no-hitter is in progress. The Angels’ crew, led by Victor Rojas and analyst (and former pitcher) Mark Gubicza, did not mention the no-hitter in progress at all, out of superstition. Okay, this sounds silly; we can see avoiding a jinx in the dugout because the very people playing the game could be mentally affected. But the announcers? Give us a break. Tell your audience what’s happening.Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the routine that the longer a no-hitter goes, the more likely you’ll reap the benefits of a close balls-and-strikes call from the home plate umpire. In this case, Weaver may have become the beneficiary of the most generous strike zone since Eric Gregg opened it up for Florida’s Livan Hernandez in the 1997 NLCS against Atlanta. According to Brooks Baseball (a web site which analyzes balls-and-strikes calls), nearly half of the strikes called by home plate umpire Mark Carlson during Waever’s no-hitter were said to be outside of the strike zone.
Tampa Bay and the Curse of the Number One Pick
This past week, Tim Beckhamthe Rays’ top choice from the 2008 draftwas suspended 50 games by baseball for violating the game’s substance abuse policy; the problem is not steroids, but marijuana. It’s Beckham’s second suspension.
Beckham is hardly the first top pick in Tampa Bay to mess up. In 1999, the then-Devil Rays selected Josh Hamilton, who quickly proceeded to descend into the abyss of near-fatal substance abuse before going cold turkey and becoming one of the game’s best playersalas, not for Tampa Bay. Four years later, Delmon Young was selected first and became known as a problem child for throwing bats at umpires and wrecking clubhouse chemistry when he finally reached the majors; his troubles continue with Detroit with his recent race-based incident in New York. And this past spring, the Rays took a chance on Matt Bush, picked number one by San Diego in 2004; but that experiment crashed when Bush went on a drunk-driving, hit-and-run adventure, seriously injuring a motorcyclist. Bush is currently in jail awaiting his trial, unable to pay a $440,000 bailreduced this past week from $1 million.Beckham, Hamilton, Young and Bush weren’t just their team’s number one picks, but the top choices for all of baseball.
Through the Legs and All the Way to the Bank
The Day the Older Generation Got the Last Say
For TV Land Junkies Only
Wounded of the Week
Rivera’s injury wasn’t the only odd incident of the week. San Francisco reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who last year sliced his hand with a knife while working the family barbecue, sprained his knee when his four-year-old son jumped into his arms. He’s out 15 days.
Baseball’s other blows of woe sidelined Tampa Bay star hitter Evan Longoria (hamstring tear, out six-to-eight weeks), Boston’s Kevin Youkilis (lower back, 15 days), Washington's Jayson Werth (broken wrist, at least two months) Oakland’s Coco Crisp (ear infection, 15 days), Milwaukee first baseman Mat Gamel (torn ACL, out for the season) and repeat offenders in Minnesota’s Justin Morneau (wrist, 15 days) and the Yankees’ Eric Chavez (concussion, seven days).Finally, San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval suffered a broken bone in his hand, the same injury that sidelined him for six weeks last seasonexcept that this time, it was the other hand. Only with switch-hitters.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
Tuesday, May 1
Buck Showalter becomes the 58th manager in major league history with 1,000 career wins in style, as his Baltimore Orioles swamp the Yankees at New York, 7-1. The victory is also sweet for Oriole starting pitcher Brian Matusz, who compiles his second straight quality start (his first two since 2010) and his first win after losing 12 straight decisions, one shy of a franchise record.The Angels’ Jerome Williams fires his first major league shutout in nine years with a 4-0 blanking of the Minnesota Twins in Anaheim. It’s also the longest period between complete games by a major leaguer since Lindy McDaniel went through a 13-year stretch, from 1960 to 1973. Williams allows three hits and a walk and strikes out six.
Wednesday, May 2
The Orioles shut down the Yankees at New York, 5-0, and end pitcher Ivan Nova’s winning streak at 15one shy of the Yankee record held by Roger Clemens in 2001. Underscoring how pitching for the Yankees can be a benefit in the win-loss column, Nova’s earned run average during his 15-0 run was a plain 3.61.
In a wild 11-inning affair at Atlanta, Philadelphia starting pitcher Roy Halladay has his worst outing in six years, allowing eight runs in 5-plus innings after being handed an early 6-0 lead; the Phillies fight back to take a 12-8 lead in the eighth, lose it a half-inning later when the Braves pile on five runs, then ruin Craig Kimbrel’s opportunity to close it out in the ninth with a game-tying single by Shane Victorino. But the Braves finalize the scoring in the 11th when Chipper Jones lands a two-run homer into the seats to give Atlanta a 15-13 wintheir first in nine tries against the Phillies. Carlos Ruiz’s seven RBIs for the Phillies are wasted.
The Texas Rangers lose consecutive games for the first time this year when they get thrashed by the Blue Jays at Toronto, 11-5. Texas had lost the previous night to the Jays, 8-7.
Thursday, May 3
After Chicago starter Ryan Dempster throws eight beautiful shutout innings at Cincinnati, beleaguered closer Carlos Marmol is asked to save a 3-0 lead in the ninth; he can’t. The first five batters he faces all reach, three by walk; a fielding error by Ian Stewart doesn’t help. The Reds tie in the ninth and win it an inning later on Scott Rolen’s sacrifice fly; after the game, A day later, the Cubs announce that Marmol is out as closer.
The legend of Bryce Harper continues to grow in Washington. A night after smacking three hits (including two doubles off the wall), the 19-year-old phenom is given the number three spot in the batting order and responds by hitting an opposite-field line-drive double to left that scores the eventual game-winning run in the sixth inning, as the Nationals edge Arizona at Nationals Park, 2-1.
Friday, May 4
Not even a return to the home of his former glory can lift Miami closer Heath Bell out of his funk. The former Padre blows his fourth save in seven opportunities as his former teammates force extra innings in a wild game ultimately bailed out by the Marlins in 12, 9-8. Steve Cishekthe man who could become the new Marlin closer if Bell doesn’t shape up soonpitches the final three innings and earns the win to improve to 4-0 with a 0.63 ERA.
Saturday, May 5
Sunday, May 6
The Baltimore Orioles outlast the Red Sox at Boston in 17 innings, 9-6, in a game that ends with position players taking the win and loss on the mound after both teams had exhausted their bullpen. Oriole designated hitter Chris Davis, hitless in eight at-bats with five strikeouts, throws two scoreless innings (allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two) to pick up the win; Darnell McDonald, who had taken over for David Ortiz in the DH spot, gets tagged for the loss when he pitches the 17th for Boston and gives up three runs on two hits and two walks. It’s the first time that both teams in one game have used non-pitchers on the mound since 1925, when future Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and George Sisler dueled as a season-ending publicity stunt. The Oriole win also gives them their first sweep at Fenway Park since 1994.
In the final game of a raucous, festive series at Washington's Nationals Park, the Phillies beat up on the Nationals 9-3and hit teenage wunderkind Bryce Harper in the back after he had previously doubled and then stole home. Breaking traditional code, Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels admits after the game that he intended to hit Harper, a statement which likely will draw a fine and suspension.
This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
A Force All of His Own
Why Stop at Second?
He Said What?
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