The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
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!
Sometimes, you’ll be knocked out for the count when you least expect it. St. Louis speedster Vince Coleman was minding his own business before the fourth game of the 1985 NLCS when he was accidentally rolled over by an automatic tarp; he missed the rest of the postseason. Then there was Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Kendrys Morales, who stomped on home plate after hitting a game-winning homer a few years back—and broke his leg.

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 last—and 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 his—but 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
The remake of the Roger Clemens trial began this week with less-than-thrilling news for the prosecution: Star witness Andy Pettitte, Clemens’ former teammate and buddy, admitted to defense lawyers that there was a 50-50 chance he “misunderstood” when Clemens allegedly told him he was taking Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Clemens, who is being tried for lying to Congress, told a Congressional panel in 2008 that Pettitte “misremembered” his conversation with him.

Has He Ever Been "Georgia Impeached"?
One of the pundits analyzing the Clemens trial is a former Federal prosecutor. His name: Ty Cobb.

Greasing the Gem
While Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher Jered Weaver was pitching his first career no-hitter this past Wednesday against Minnesota, several rules of thumb regarding no-nos came into play. First, there was the rule of thumb that a pitcher, while deep into his gem, must usually sit by himself in the dugout and stay there while his team is at bat. But after eight no-hit innings, Weaver was not to be found in the Angels’ dugout. So where was he? In the John. “I had to pee so bad it was unbelievable,” he later told reporters.

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
It’s safe to assume that when the 2012 major league draft kicks up later this year, the Tampa Bay Rays might be inclined to say “pass” during the first round. Say “first-round draft pick” to anyone in the Rays’ front office and you might see shaking and shuddering in response.

This past week, Tim Beckham—the Rays’ top choice from the 2008 draft—was 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 players—alas, 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 bail—reduced 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 ball that smacked off Mookie Wilson’s bat and through Bill Buckner’s legs in the fateful sixth game of the 1986 World Series—one that the New York Mets stole from the Boston Red Sox, who otherwise would have wrapped up their first championship since 1918—was auctioned off this past week for an astounding price of $418,000. The buyer wished to remain anonymous; the seller was songwriter Seth Swirsky—who bought the ball in 2000 for a relatively cheap $64,000. (Actor Charlie Sheen sold it to Swirsky at a loss; he had bought it eight years earlier for $93,000.)

Sod Story
How bad was it in April for the Miami Marlins, who couldn’t hit or win (8-14)? The grass in their new ballpark has been having a hard time staying green, which you’d think is the last thing that could go wrong in South Florida. The Arizona Diamondbacks had the same problem when it opened up Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field), a similar retractable-roof venue in 1998, but that was no surprise given how it’s always hot and dry in Phoenix. The Marlins’ problem is something of the opposite: It’s been exceedingly wet and the sun hasn’t been out as much as expected, and that has tempered the grass’ growth. So the team has brought in sun lamps to jumpstart the turf.

The Day the Older Generation Got the Last Say
Coming into this season, the last time two players 40 years of age or older hit a walk-off homer in the same year came in 1986 when Davey Lopes and Hal MacRae went deep. This Wednesday, two players did it on the same day. First in Denver, 41-year-old Jason Giambi bailed out Colorado with a three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to give the Rockies an 8-5 win over the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers, who had tied it in the top of the inning. Later in the evening, Atlanta’s Chipper Jones—who just a week earlier had hit the big 4-0—landed a game-winner in the seats to cap a wild night in the Braves’ favor over the Philadelphia Phillies in 11 innings, 15-13.

Muscular Mercenary
With a home run for the Dodgers on Friday at Chicago, Jerry Hairston Jr. has hit home runs for six different major league clubs over the last three years; during this span, he’s also gone deep for Cincinnati, the New York Yankees, San Diego, Washington and Milwaukee. No other player has hit homers for so many teams in as short a stretch.

For TV Land Junkies Only
To replace veteran Mark DeRosa on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals brought up Tyler Moore from the minors. Can Van Dyke be far behind?

Wounded of the Week
The Curse of the Closer continues. Everyone knows about Mariano Rivera’s freak pregame injury in Kansas City that will sideline the Yankee closer for the rest of the year. Gaining less attention was the placement upon the disabled list of San Diego closer Huston Street, who’s ailing from a shoulder issue. That now makes nine teams—nearly a third of the major league makeup—trudging along without their closer.

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 season—except that this time, it was the other hand. Only with switch-hitters.

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 30
Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun becomes the first player in Petco Park’s nine years of play to hit three homer runs in a game to lift the visiting Brewers to an 8-3 win over the San Diego Padres. The reigning NL MVP knocks in six runs, collects a franchise-record 15 total bases and also triples, making him the first player to hit three homers and add a three-bagger in the same game since Fred Lynn did it during his fabled 1975 rookie campaign.

In their 22nd game of the year, the Pittsburgh Pirates finally score more than five runs for the first time with a 9-3 beating of the Braves at Atlanta. Yamaico Navarro and Pedro Alvarez both homer to help the Bucs’ cause; the major league record to start a season without six or more runs remains held by the 1972 Brewers at 31 games.

Tuesday, May 1
It’s official: Frank McCourt no longer runs the Los Angeles Dodgers. All the papers are signed and ownership of the Dodgers is transferred to a group fronted by Magic Johnson and former Atlanta executive Stan Kasten. The purchase is confirmed at a record $2.15 billion.

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
A day after Williams’ shutout, Jered Weaver throws the Angels’ tenth no-hitter in franchise history in a 9-0 whitewashing of the Twins. Weaver throws 121 pitches and allows only two baserunners: A seventh-inning walk to Josh Willingham and a second-inning passed-ball, third-strike gift to Chris Parmalee, who reached after Chris Ianetta failed to record the putout on one of Weaver’s nine strikeouts. The Angels score all nine of their runs through the first four innings; Albert Pujols is a quiet 1-for-5 and extends his homerless streak to start the year to over 100 at-bats.

The Orioles shut down the Yankees at New York, 5-0, and end pitcher Ivan Nova’s winning streak at 15—one 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 win—their 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
Pittsburgh pitcher Erik Bedard, continuing his exceptional start after several injury-torn campaigns, strikes out seven in a row—part of 17 overall retired by Pirate pitching—to help defeat the Cardinals at St. Louis, 6-3. Both strikeout figures are all-time team records.

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
For the fifth straight time, the Angels’ Ervin Santana starts a game in which his team can’t score; it’s a major league record. Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez shuts out the Angels, 4-0, on six hits and hands Santana his sixth defeat of the year without a win.

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 Cishek—the man who could become the new Marlin closer if Bell doesn’t shape up soon—pitches the final three innings and earns the win to improve to 4-0 with a 0.63 ERA.

Saturday, May 5
Denard Span’s rolling ground ball up the middle for a fourth-inning base hit is the only thing keeping the Twins from being no-hit for the second time this week. Minnesota is otherwise shut down by Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, losing 7-0 at Seattle.

After failing to pick up a win in his first five starts of the year—despite a 2.25 ERA—the sixth time is the charm for Johan Santana, who pitches seven innings and earns the victory for the New York Mets over Arizona, 4-3. It’s Santana’s first win since 2010.

Sunday, May 6
Albert Pujols probably feels 100 pounds lighter. After a career-long streak of 139 at-bats without a home run, the first-year Angel takes the weight of a world’s worth of criticism off his shoulders and finally goes deep for the first time this season in the fifth inning off Toronto pitcher Drew Hutchinson. The blast aids the Angels in their 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.

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 9-3—and 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
Angel Pagan of the San Francisco Giants extended his career-best hitting streak to a healthy 20 games, the longest active run in the majors at week’s end. He’s not necessarily destroying opponents during his streak; he had his first extra-base hit and RBI in over a week on Sunday at home against Milwaukee.

A Force All of His Own
Matt Kemp (12) outhomered both the San Diego Padres (11) and Chicago Cubs (nine) in April.

Through his first 25 games of 2012, Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has committed seven errors. He was tagged with six all of last season, when he played 140 games.

Why Stop at Second?
San Diego second baseman Orlando Hudson leads the majors with four triples; he has no doubles as yet on the year.

He Said What?
“Maybe the Padres should move the fences back.”—Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune, after witnessing Ryan Braun’s three-homer performance at Petco Park on Monday.

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!