The Week(s) That Was in Baseball: May 2-8, 2011
Year Two of the Return of the Pitcher • Early Comeback Player of the Year Candidates
The Sober Facts of MLB and Alcohol • "30" and Out For Andre Ethier
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|All Things Being Equal: Our Picks For 2011
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After Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay
No-Hit Fever: The Sequel
Justin Verlander’s second career no-hitter, accomplished on Saturday at Toronto, came four days after Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano finished off the White Sox at Chicago in what was not only his first no-no, but his first career complete game in 95 starts.
Liriano took the mound at Chicago with a 1-4 record, a 9.31 ERA and the public threat of demotion from his manager, Ron Gardenhire. What a difference two hours and nine minutes make; that’s the length of Liriano’s gemimperfect as it was, as he walked six batters and threw barely half of his pitches on the evening for strikes.
Verlander showed much more control in working through his no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers at Toronto. He was just five outs shy of a perfect game, but walked J.P. Arenbicia with one out in the eighth; he was the only baserunner to reach base against Verlander, who threw 108 pitches74 of them for strikes. Verlander becomes the 27th major league pitcher to earn multiple no-hitters.
Almost simultaneous to Verlander was the effort by Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo, who took his own attempt at a no-hitter into the eighth inning at St. Louisonly to be foiled by a leadoff single from the bat of the Cardinals’ Daniel Descalso. It was the only hit allowed by Gallardo, who also walked four, in eight innings of workand it came a day after the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia took a perfect game into eighth inning, and a day after Atlanta’s Derek Lowe took a no-hitter into the sixth at Philadelphia, and three days after the Boston Red Sox were held without a hit from multiple Los Angeles of Angel pitchers into the seventh inning. Then there was Sunday; Florida’s Anibal Sanchez, who came within a few outs of his second career no-no a few weeks earlier, took the Washington Nationals hitless into the seventh at Miami.For those who think otherwise, let it be known: The steroid era really is over.
It's Time to Lock Up the Liquor Cabinet
For all the funny stories that have been written about ballplayers and booze, there has been recent caution from some truly sad alcohol-related chapters of late. Josh Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP, nearly had his career ruined by alcohol even before it started; Miguel Cabrera, last year’s runner-up in the vote, went on a drunk driving adventure in Florida this springnot his first alcohol-fueled controversyand easily could have found himself dead from a head-on collision. Far less lucky was St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock, who in 2007 was killed when he crashed his truck while drunk, and Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher Nick Adenhart, who just hours after his first major league win in 2009 was broadsided and killed by a drunk driver with a previous DUI conviction.On top of all of that, six major leaguers have been arrested for driving while drunk this year alone. Public pressure is beginning to mount upon baseball, and MLB is quite aware to the point that it intends to come up with solutions to curb the problem in its upcoming bargaining talks the players’ union. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote thoughtfully of some common sense ideas this past week. The powers that be need to read it.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
This Week's Challenger to Matt Keough
No Rest For the Weary
Back From the (Storm) Front
Wounded of the Week
Elsewhere, announcements of major leaguers making the DL came fast and furious: Among those out for at least 15 days is Minnesota’s Jim Thome (oblique), Milwaukee outfielder Nyjer Morgan (fractured finger), Brandon Lyon (partial tear of rotator cuff), Tampa Bay starting pitcher Jeff Neimann (back), Philadelphia starting pitcher Roy Oswalt (back), Los Angeles closer Jonathan Broxton (elbow), Washington outfielder Rick Ankiel (wrist) and Boston reliever Bobby Jenks (biceps).
Finally, as former Cy Young Award winner and social anxiety disorder survivor Zack Greinke returned to action with the Milwaukee Brewers following a rib injury, teammate Zach Braddock went on the DL with a “sleep disorder.” No details as to what was causing the lack of sleep.
Where Have You Been?
Josh Beckett. After slipping to a career-worst 5.78 ERA last year thanks in large part to a bad back, the oft-injured Boston star pitcher is simply back, with a 2.35 ERA through his first six starts; opponents are betting just .162 against him.
Carlos Beltran. Persistent knee problems over the last few years had many wondering if the five-time All-Star would ever return to prime form. The questions seem to have been answered in the affirmative, for now: He’s on pace for a .300-25-100 campaign.
Lance Berkman. After a substandard first half and even more forgettable late-season exile to the New York Yankees, Berkman appeared to be experiencing the first stages of the big fade out of baseball. Instead, he’s sprung back to life in a big way for St. Louis, hitting near .400 while listed among the league leaders in home runs and RBIs.
A.J. Burnett. The often ridiculed Yankee starting pitcher who looked absolutely clueless on the mound late last year has collected himself back to respectability so far in 2011, with a 4-2 record and 3.71 ERA. If he keeps up the early pace, his 1.17 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) will match a career best.
Bartolo Colon. One of many reclamation projects brought in by the Yankees this spring, the 37-year old former Cy Young Award winner (from 2005, his last good year), is showing much spark of old with a 2-1 record and 3.86 ERA in seven appearances, four of them starting assignments.
Jeff Francoeur. Once ticketed for stardom in Atlanta, Francoeur instead saw his career diminish to that of benchwarmer status late last year with Texas. Kansas City gave him a new opportunity as its has tried with so many other castoffs over the years, but unlike those other players, Francoeur has successfully seized on that opportunityhitting .302 with eight homers, ten doubles and 24 RBIs in 33 games.
Todd Helton. He may not be vintage Mr. Rockie from his jaw-dropping days circa 2000, but with a .313 average and three homersplaying everyday, no lesshe’s easily on his way to having his best campaign in years.
Adam Lind. After a breakout 2009 season (.305 average, 35 homers, 114 RBIs), Lind’s performance suffered a precipitous drop last year. He’s bouncing back so far this season, on pace to match those impressive numbers of two years ago.
Kyle Lohse. Arm woes limited the 32-year old Cardinal pitcher to 18 starts and a dreadful 6.55 ERA last year; he’s obviously feeling better now, if his 4-2 record 2.24 ERA and 0.86 WHIP are any indications.
J.J. Putz. Once the most dominant closer in the AL, Putz had been bouncing around from team to team doing set-up relief after major elbow pains removed him from the marquee. Now he’s back in the closer’s role with Arizona, and thus far has been perfect in seven save opportunities.
Pablo Sandoval. Many hardcore Giants fans spent the winter willing the Panda to lose 40 pounds after a highly disappointing sophomore year in 2010. Shed the weight he did, and his rookie flair has returnedthat was, until a broken wrist intervened (he’s out until June).
Between Chavez Ravine and a Hard Place
Of course, McCourt (and his wife Jamie, who continues to remind us that she owns half the team) would like to keep the franchise, but even he admits that’s looking less likely as each day passes. He won’t even bring up the subject when baseball’s owners meet this week for their quarterly get-together because, as one insider told the Los Angeles Times, “he believes he’s got an audience of one…The owners aren’t going to turn on the commissioner.”
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Lost and Not Found
Check the Glove For Holes
Useless STATS Inc. Fact of the Week
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