The Perfect Mother's Day GiftFor Grandma, Too
Earlier this past week, Alex Rodriguez said of young Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden, who publicly recycled his anger over A-Rod’s walk on the mound after a foul ball a few weeks back: “I really don’t want to extend his extra 15 minutes of fame.” It appears that Braden managed to that himself on Sunday, tossing modern-day baseball’s 17th perfect gameand tenth in just the last 30 yearsin a 4-0 masterpiece over the Tampa Bay Rays at the Coliseum. It was the second perfecto thrown by an Oakland pitcher; the first was by Catfish Hunter, who retired 27 straight Minnesota Twins in 1968.
The 26-year old Braden, earning his first shutout and complete game in the process with his 53rd career start, dedicated his Mother’s Day gem not only to his motherwho died of cancer a little less than a decade agobut also his grandmother, who told the press after the game, “Stick it, A-Rod.”
A Mother's Day Card From Milton Bradley
The next day, Bradley fulfilled an obligation along with teammates Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Sweeney to talk to students at a local elementary school and, perhaps for the first time, began the process of looking himself in the mirror. Bradley calmly and poignantly recalled to students his struggles growing up in Long Beach, watching his hard-working mother come home and dealing with bills that she could often not pay. It was a human side we had not heard from Bradley, and perhaps the emotional coattails of the moment is what moved him to next sit down with Wakamatsu and Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik and confess that he needed help. The Mariners obliged and placed Bradley on the restricted list, a stay shorter than the minimum disabled list visit of 15 daysbut one that keeps him from being a part of the team as he deals with the demons that have plagued him throughout his major league career. Good luck to him.
Baseball’s self-professed bad guy bared his soul this past week in ways that almost made you feel genuinely sorry for the man. It all began for Milton Bradley this past Tuesday when, struggling along with a batting average barely above .200, he was removed after striking out twice by Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu, who claimed Bradley wasn’t “fit” to play anymore. We’re assuming Wakamatsu was referring to Bradley’s mental fitness, a state of mind confirmed by Mariner teammates who said that Bradley’s mindset was “not good.”
We Should All be So Lucky
But weep not for Byrnes, whose perceptive, outgoing personality will certainly lead to a broadcasting career (he’s already done analyst work on national TV and local sports talk radio in San Francisco); according to friend and ex-player F.P. Santangelo, Byrnes spent his day after his release from Seattle taking a nice drive down to his Half Moon Bay, California home, where a tee time on a golf course awaited; he also was said to be joining a softball team over the hill on the San Francisco peninsula. It all adds up to one nice, if not unintentional, golden parachute.
Unemployment can be painless when you know you have $10 million coming to you. That’s probably the tact Eric Byrnes is taking. Once a terrific and exciting player in Arizona, Injuries heavily took their toll and greatly reduced Byrnes’ effectiveness to the point he struggled to keep his batting average over the .200 mark. Exiled to Seattle over the offseasonbut still being paid an eight-figure salary by the Diamondbacksa healthy Byrnes only got worse, bottoming out when he inexplicably pulled back the bat on a suicide squeeze attempt at a pivotal moment late in an April 30 game against Texas; he later struck out looking in the at-bat, labeled by an Associated Press reporter as the worst in the history of the game. (The Mariners lost the game in extra innings, 2-0.) Known for wearing his emotions on his sleeves, Byrnes bolted out of the clubhouse on his bike before the press could get to him, and past Mariner general manager Jack Zduriencik before he could tell him what he eventually would say a few days later: Goodbye.
Is There a Remedy For a Cold Coghlan?
The sophomore jinx certainly seems to have struck reigning NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who hit .321 in 2009including a raging .372 clip after the All-Star break. As of Sunday, the 24-year old outfielder was hitting just .206 with no extra base hits in 102 at-bats.
A Starlin is Born
Starlin Castro, the 20-year shortstop who made quite a splash at Chicago Cub camp in Arizona and for whom we gave the honor for having the best name at spring training, was called up from Class-AA ball this past Friday and, in his first major league game, homered in his first at-bat, tripled in his third, and knocked in a total of six runs at Cincinnati against the Reds. The RBI count is a record for a player in his first game.
A Two-Base Trot
Pittsburgh outfielder Lastings Milledge has learned many a lesson the hard way during his short time in the majors, including this one from this past week: If you think you’ve hit a home run, check with the umpire and not the fireworks operator. Late in Thursday’s 11-1 rout of the Chicago Cubs, Milledge hit a line drive that hit off the top of the PNC Park wall, but he thought it had cleared the fence and bounced back off the bleachers onto the field; so did others in the ballpark, including the Pirates’ broadcasters and the people running the fireworks that light up whenever a Pirate player hits a home run. When Milledge heard the booms, he let up and started into a home run trot; somewhere between second and third base, he felt a tag from behind and saw a nearby umpire raising his thumb in the air to declare he was out. The Pirates took it all in stride given that they were way ahead late in the game.
Incompetence Strikes Twice in the Same Place
A fan sitting in the suite level of Yankee Stadium during Tuesday’s Yankee-Oriole game dropped not one but two foul balls hit at him in the space of ten minutes. At least he should have been given credit for paying attention to the game while hanging out in one of the ballpark’s more lavish settings.
3D House of Baseball
For the first time, a major league game will be broadcast in 3D when the New York Yankees telecast two home games against Seattle on July 10-11 in the burgeoning format. Fox will provide the first nationwide 3D broadcast of a MLB game a few days later at the All-Star Game in Anaheim.
Yes They Can
For the first time since Citi Field opened last year, the New York Mets hit back-to-back home runs when Ike Davis and Rod Barajas belted consecutive shots over the fence against San Francisco on Saturday. The Mets won, 6-4.
Wounded of the Week
Also making the disabled list this week is Los Angeles shortstop Rafael Furcal, Atlanta infielder Yunel Escobar and starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens, San Francisco shortstop Edgar Renteria, Kansas City outfielder Rick Ankiel and Yankee first baseman Nick Johnson, who’s made too much of a habit making the DL over his career.
The MLB medical ward spotlight this week is on veteran pitcher Kelvim Escobar, who’s appeared in just one game since winning 18 for the Angels back in 2007. He won’t be pitching again until 2011, at least, after it was revealed this past week that he would need another surgery on his right shoulder. The Mets had signed him to a one-year deal that guarantees Escobar $1.25 million. This, after the Angels paid him $28.5 million from 2007-09the last two years of which he spent almost entirely on the shelf.
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Don't Taze Me, Bro!
A big topic in water cooler conversations everywhere this past week centered around an incident in Philadelphia in which a 17-year old kid, on a dumb dare to his father, ran out on the Citizens Bank Park field during the ninth inning of Monday’s Phillie-Cardinal game and was brought down by a Taser gun wielded by a security guard in front of 44,000 fans. The ensuing debate weighed on whether the use of the Taser gun was over-the-top, or if it was justifiable given thathey, you never know if one of these goons will one day do more than just make a fool of themselves, like going up to a player with a knife in his hand. (Remember Monica Seles?)
If the use of the Taser gun was meant as a deterrent to make others think twice before disrupting a game, it didn’t seem to work; just one night later, another fan ran out on the field at Philadelphia (Tweeting to the world his intentions just moments before) and was apprehended without use of the Taser. Another sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park, tired of these idiots, loudly booed his presence.
Here’s one reason (among others, we hope) that Phillie fans were ticked at these morons: The Taser incident on Monday took place just as Phillie pitcher Cole Hamels was ready to start the ninth inning working a six-hit shutout. Perhaps distracted, he immediately gave up two doubles to allow the Cardinals to tie the game and hasten his exit, which was ultimately won by the Phillies in ten innings, 2-1.
Robin Roberts, 1926-2010
It’s hard to believe that Robin Roberts, who passed away this past week at the age of 83, failed to win 300 major league games despite being one of the hardest workingand at times, bestpitchers during his 19-year career. Starting his tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1948, Roberts came into his own in 1950 when he won 20 games for the first of six straight campaigns as the Phillie “Whiz Kids” stormed to their first NL pennant in 35 years. Throughout the 1950s, Roberts was the consummate workhorse, constantly toiling over 300 innings per year, but the hard work eventually caught up to him late in the decade as his ERA went north and his winning percentage south. Sent off to Baltimore, Roberts’ workload reduced and his effectiveness returned, albeit in less spectacular fashion. After bouncing around the NL for a brief bit, Roberts retired in 1966, owner of a 286-245 record and 3.41 career ERA. In terms of awards, Roberts’ reign on the mound was ill-timed; he never won a Cy Young Award because the honor wasn’t given out until 1956, just as his A-game began to lose traction. Roberts does hold one major league career mark: The most home runs allowed by a pitcher, at 505likely to be broken sometime this year by the Phillies’ Jamie Moyer (who’s at 498).
One For the Old Guys
Speaking of Moyerwho’s one of two active players (Tim Wakefield being the other) born when Roberts was still pitchinghe became the oldest major leaguer to throw a shutout when he blanked the Atlanta Braves on two hits this past Friday in Philadelphia. The 47-year old Moyer needed just 105 pitches and went the distance for the 32nd time, and for the first time since 2007; his shutout was the tenth of his 24-year career. Previously, Phil Niekro was the oldest to toss a shutout when he did it in 1986 at age 46.
In 1948, Harwell began his major league broadcasting career in the strangest of waysby being traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for a catcher from the minor league Atlanta Crackers, the only time a broadcaster has been part of a baseball trade. He worked throughout the 1950s as the announcer for the Dodgers, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles, but began his long tenure with the Tigers in 1960, where he would remain through 2002 except for a brief exile from 1991-92. Harwell is so beloved in Detroit, he is immortalized in bronze at Comerica Park.
Alas, we knew this day would come after Detroit Tiger broadcasting legend Ernie Harwell told the baseball world back in September that he was terminal with an inoperable form of bile duct cancer. That day came Wednesday, when he died at age 92. The Tigers found out about his passing during the seventh-inning stretch of their ballgame against the Twins at Minnesota’s Target Field. The Minnesota fans, in tribute, gave Harwell a standing ovation when his picture was shown on the ballpark’s big screen.
Support Your Local Cy Young Award Winner
If only the Kansas City Royals could do just that for Zack Greinke. So far in 2010, they aren’t. At this point last year, Greinke was flying with a 6-0 record and 0.40 ERA; given those electrifying numbers, it didn’t matter what kind of support Greinke was given, but the Royals tallied a total of 28 times during those six starts anyway. This year, Greinke is 0-4 in seven starts, but his ERA is still a stellar 2.51; the big problem is that the Royals have scored only 17 total runs in his seven outings. Perhaps the rest of the Royals need to understand that just because Greinke is taking the mound doesn’t mean that he, all by himself, can will the game.
YouTube Clip of the Week
Local Cleveland radio/TV fixture Bruce Drennan angrily summed up the frustrations over the Indians’ miserable start in this entertaining rant during his TV show “All Bets Are Off” this past week. The Deadspin post author compared Drennan’s act as a hybrid of Don Rickles and Gilbert Gottfried; we see a closer kinship to Louis Black.
Throwing in the Towles?
When J.R. Towles came up for a late cup of coffee in 2007, he looked like a star of the Houston Astros’ near-future when he hit .375 with a home run and 12 RBIs in 14 games. Given the job to start the 2008 season on the basis of his late-season success, Towles stank up the jointhitting an atrocious .137 in 54 games. After moving more slowly in 2009when a brief call-up led to another sub-.200 performancethe Astros believed he was finally mature and ready to reach his potential this season by, once again, making him the starting catcher. And once again, Towles failed the test, hitting just .191 with one home run in 17 games. Frustrated, the Astros have sent Towles packing once more to the minorsthis time, to Double-A Corpus Christi.
Not Wasting Time
The Minnesota Twins scored two or more runs in the first inning of six straight contests in a streak that ended this past Thursday; it was the longest such streak in the majors since 1971.
In the Cycle Mode
Milwaukee’s Jody Gerut came into Saturday’s game at Arizona limping along the season with just four hits on the seasonand doubled his total in one night as he became the unlikely pick for the first major leaguer to hit for the cycle in 2010, collecting a single, double, triple and home run against the Diamondbacks. The 32-year old Gerut knocked in four runs during the Brewers’ 17-3 rout.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Alex Rios is not only our reigning AL hitter of the week (see above), but he also has the majors’ longest active hitting streak as of Sunday. He’s a long way from Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56-game streak, but no one else in the majors has safely hit in more consecutive games than Rios, who’s at 11 for the Chicago White Sox after a 4-for-4 performance against his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
TGG's Predictions For the 2010 Regular Season
Our annual, detailed preview of all major league teams is now live. Will the Yankees and Phillies repeat? Can the Rockies carry on the momentum? Just how much better are the Mariners? And do the Pirates, Padres, Nationals and Royals have any chance at all? Check out who we think will rise, fall, stabilize and collapse in 2010.