The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: May 7-13, 2012
Josh Beckett, the Lat and the Links Josh Hamilton: Superman for a Week
Say Goodbye to the Ol' Bluff to the Right, Bluff to the Left Bam Bam, Bryce Harper

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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!

Teed Off
Controversy erupted in Boston this past week—gee, what else is new—with the latest chapter in the soap opera saga of the dysfunctional, last-place Red Sox. After informing the team that his shoulder was acting up and being given a skip in the rotation, star pitcher Josh Beckett decided that it was okay to get in 18 holes at a nearby golf course. Now, we’ve played enough golf to know that any shoulder pain could play havoc with your swing and risk further injury, and that’s the kneejerk reaction from just about everyone who heard of Beckett’s round. The Red Sox shrugged, backhandedly defending Beckett’s decision in public but likely seething in private; Beckett himself was defiant, saying what he does on his precious day off (he says he gets only 18 a year) is his business, not anyone else’s.

First off, Beckett does not get 18 off-days a year; he gets roughly 150, which is the number of days he’s not starting on the hill. (Sorry, shagging batting practice flies and tossing a few warm-ups everyday doesn’t count as hard labor.) There are plenty of chances to get in a round of morning golf and still have time to mosey out to the ballpark for a night game—all this, on top of the four months (or in Boston’s case, five months) in the offseason to do whatever you want. And with Beckett’s salary, the golf world is his oyster.

And speaking of salary, when you’re getting paid $17 million a year and the very machinery you depend on is acting up, you don’t imbibe on outside physical activity; you sit. The better advice for Beckett would be to stay in the clubhouse and fuel up on fried chicken and beer. (Oops, sorry…)

The Fearsome Foursome
The 2012 baseball season is barely a month old and we’ve already seen both a perfect game and a four-homer performance. That’s the first time both achievements have taken place in the same year.

Several weeks ago it was the Chicago White Sox’ Phil Humber with the perfecto; this past Tuesday, it was Texas slugger Josh Hamilton who parked four long drives over the fence at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the Rangers’ 10-3 win over the Orioles. Hamilton had time to add a double to his onslaught, giving him 18 total bases on the evening—an American League record, and one shy of the all-time mark set in 2002 by Shawn Green. (Fun side note: Ranger teammate Adrian Beltre, who batted behind Hamilton, was batting in front of Green during his record-breaking day.) Hamilton is the sixth player in AL history, and the 14th major league player since 1900, to hit four homers in a game.

There was a distinctive Texas flavor to the Baltimore arms who served up the gopher balls to Hamilton. The first two homers were hit off Oriole starter Jake Arrieta, a graduate of TCU in Ft. Worth; the second was smacked off Zach Phillips, who toiled in the Ranger farm system for nearly seven years before hooking on with the Orioles; and the fourth and final blast was thrown by Darren O’Day, who played for Texas from 2009-11.

A Balk in the Right Direction
The move that everyone loves to hate may be a thing of the past next season. MLB owners and executives are looking to make illegal the old fake-to-third-and-then-to-first routine, the act of a pitcher bluffing a throw to third in the hopes of decoying the runner behind him into taking a few steps too many away from first base. Not only does the play never work, but it instantly leads to catcalls from spectators who cry, “Balk!”

The fans may now get their wish. Only the players’ union—which is said to be reviewing the change—stands in the way of the move being outlawed as a balk. There will certainly be one bloc of players who won’t mind the ban: Left-handed pitchers, who because of their stance on the mound toward first base find it very difficult to make such a move in the first place.

That Must Have Been Some Coughing Fit
Some people look at the San Francisco Giants as Ground Zero during the steroid era (thanks to Barry Bonds and the other BALCO clients), so it didn’t thrill them to learn that middle relief pitcher Guillermo Mota flunked a PED test this past week; because it’s his second infraction (he was previously zinged as a member of the New York Mets in 2006), he’ll have to sit out a whopping 100 games. With his 39th birthday around the corner, one wonders if the Giants will bother bringing him back.

Naturally, Mota, his agent and the players’ union are appealing the suspension. Mota’s claim: The positive test was a result of taking cough syrup, which contains a “tiny” amount of Clenbuterol, the offending drug.

Jerry McMorris, R.I.P.
Amid the insanity of the 1994 squabble between players and owners that led to the most crippling and shameful strike in baseball history, Jerry McMorris stood out as a beacon of hope. As owner of the second-year Colorado Rockies—which was filling up 80,000-seat Mile High Stadium on a chronic basis before Coors Field’s 1995 opening—McMorris didn’t want to see the game silenced and took charge (at then-interim commissioner Bud Selig’s behest) with an 11th-hour compromise that sought to jumpstart negotiations and keep the season going. But union head Don Fehr, poisoned by his years of mistrust with ownership, held firm and rejected the proposal, ending all hopes to avert a strike.

McMorris, who owned the Rockies through 2005, died this past week of cancer at the age of 71. He will be remembered in a highly positive manner in Denver, where he helped big league baseball become a reality after decades of futile attempts by others, and he oversaw the emergence of a vibrant and vastly entertaining team in the Rockies, who were never a constant winner but, with their mile-high altitude and pre-humidor conditions, rarely provided for a dull moment.

It's Called a Slump, Bryce
Reality came back and punched Bryce Harper in the face this past Friday. Actually, he punched himself—with a splintered bat, no less. In the midst of a 0-for-5 night with three strikeouts at Pittsburgh, the 19-year-old star-to-be for the Washington Nationals got so upset with his performance that he took a swing at the clubhouse wall with his bat—which broke apart, sending a portion ricocheting near his left eye and opening a cut that ultimately required ten stitches to seal up. His teammates, who, like most ballplayers, find a sense of humor in anything, razzed Harper afterward by calling him “Bam Bam.” Let’s see if it sticks—and if it does, Harper may have to get permission from former Yankee Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens.

An Inge of Difference
If Detroit Tiger fans hated veteran third baseman Brandon Inge before he was recently shipped off to Oakland, they hate him even more now. Four times over a five-game stretch that ended on Friday, Inge knocked in four runs; the last player to accomplish that was Lou Gehrig back in 1931. In 11 games overall since joining the A’s after his release from Detroit, Inge has hit four homers with 17 RBIs—all but matching his total with the Tigers over 111 games from 2011-12.

A Blight on the Right
Texas reliever Alexi Ogando entered Saturday’s game against the Angels having retired all 29 right-handed batters he had faced this season. That’s when Peter Bourjos snapped the skein with a bunt single, of all things. Two batters later, catcher John Hester singled for the first pure hit with a right-handed bat off Ogando.

The Best Kept Secret in Cincinnati
What’s keeping the Cincinnati Reds from making Aroldis Chapman their closer? With Sean Marshall fading as the fill-in for injured Ryan Madson, Logan Ondrusek has been given a few shots to close, and he has been effective—but Chapman thus far has been phenomenally lights out. In 13 games, he’s pitched 17.2 innings, allowed no runs on just six hits and four walks while striking out 31. Yes, the 23-year-old Cuban émigré has shown a habit of falling apart as he did about this time last year, but the Reds can’t fear the unexpected. The man is on fire; give him the shot.

The Singles Guy
Miami’s Emilio Bonifacio struck his first extra-base hit of the season in the Marlins’ 5-3, 12-inning win at Houston on Wednesday. The double by Bonifacio, playing in his 31st game of the year, snapped a string of 28 straight singles—a franchise record.

Wounded of the Week
A very busy week for new injuries was particularly brutal for the Washington Nationals, who lost both outfielder Jayson Werth for over a month to a broken wrist and up-and-coming catcher Wilson Ramos for the season with an ACL tear; the San Diego Padres, whose already thin rotation took a big blow with the loss of starters Cory Luebke (possible season-ending surgery) and Joe Wieland (elbow); and the Milwaukee Brewers, who for the second straight week lost an everyday player (shortstop Alex Gonzalez) to a season-ending ACL injury.

Also hitting the shelf this week is yet another closer in the Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Marmol (hamstring), Baltimore third baseman Mark Reynolds (oblique), Oakland slugger Yoenis Cespedes (hand), Cincinnati third baseman Scott Rolen (shoulder), Colorado pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (shoulder), Los Angeles’ Juan Rivera (partial hamstring tear), New York Met shortstop Ruben Tejada (quad), and Los Angeles of Anaheim reliever LaTroy Hawkins (broken pinky) and catcher Chris Iannetta, undergoing surgery on his right wrist after hurting it during Jered Weaver’s no-hitter a few weeks back.

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, May 7
One day after pounding a grand slam—his first career home run—against Baltimore in a 17-inning game at Boston the previous day, the Red Sox’ Will Middlebrooks knocks out two more homers with a double and five RBIs to help Boston punish the Royals at Kansas City, 11-5 and break a five-game losing streak. Middlebrooks nine RBIs on the year are tied for the most by any major leaguer ever through his first four contests.

After going hitless in his first six major league at-bats, the New York Mets’ Jordany Valdespin hits a pinch-hit, three-run homer off the Phillies’ Jonathan Papelbon to break a 2-2 ninth-inning tie and give the Mets a 5-2 victory at Philadelphia. It’s the first blemish for Papelpon, with eight saves in eight opportunities this year, since joining the Phillies.

Texas infielder Brandon Snyder, originally the property of the Orioles, plays against his former team for the first time and knocks in six runs on a home run and three singles as the Rangers run away with a 14-3 rout at Baltimore. Snyder’s homer is the second of his career, and his six RBIs are one more than his career total through his previous 27 games at the big league level.

Colorado’s Drew Pomeranz becomes the first pitcher in the majors to homer this season when he goes deep against the Padres at Petco Park. It’s the longest that a season has progressed without a home run by a pitcher since 1994. Despite the blast, the Rockies lose to San Diego, 3-2.

Tuesday, May 8
Josh Hamilton homers four times—each time with Elvis Andrus on base—and adds a double to establish an American League-record 18 total bases as the Rangers clobber the Orioles again at Baltimore, 10-3. Hamilton takes over Matt Kemp for the major league lead in homers with 14.

Despite leaving the game early with a tightened hamstring, Will Middlebrooks lashes out a double against the Royals to become the second-ever player to net an extra base hit in each of his first five major league games. The other player is Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter, in 1938. The Red Sox lose to the Royals, 6-4.

For the first time in over a year, Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw loses at Dodger Stadium as he gets edged by the San Francisco Giants, 2-1. Kershaw had won 12 straight at home, ten in a row overall and six straight against the Giants.

Wednesday, May 9
A night after earning his first save following his forced promotion to the closer’s role in the aftermath of Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury—but leaving the bases loaded in the process—David Robertson isn’t so lucky the second time around. Given a 1-0 lead going to the top of the ninth at Yankee Stadium, Robertson allows the Rays to rally for four runs—capped by a three-run home run by Matt Joyce. Tampa Bay’s Fernando Rodney—himself an accidental closer with Kyle Farnsworth on the shelf—pitches the final two innings to earn his second win of the year; he’s also 9-for-9 in save opps with a 0.57 ERA.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally give some offensive love to pitcher Ervin Santana, providing six runs of support—double the amount they’ve generated for him over his previous six starts—as Santana pitches 7.1 strong innings to earn his first win of the year in a 6-2 win at Minnesota over the Twins. The Angels had previously been shut out in their last five games with Santana on the mound, a major league record.

Thursday, May 10
Two days after Hamilton’s home run binge, the Orioles get even. Baltimore’s first three batters—Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis—all homer to lead off the bottom of the first inning, the first time that’s ever been accomplished in an American League game. (It’s previously happened twice in the NL.) The breakout of sluggery is the beginning of an all-or-nothing night for Texas pitcher Colby Lewis, who throws seven innings, retires 18 straight batters at one point, strikes out 12 and gives up five hits—all homers. He’s the first pitcher ever to give up at least five homers in a game while striking out at least ten. The Orioles clip the Rangers in the first game of a doubleheader, 6-5.

Stephen Strasburg strikes out 13 Pittsburgh Pirates—one shy of his career high, established when he whiffed 14 Pirates in his 2010 major league debut—as the Washington Nationals win at Pittsburgh, 4-2. In one stretch, Strasburg strikes out seven straight.

Barely a day after news broke that Boston pitcher Josh Beckett golfed while taking extra time away from the rotation to rest a bad back, the 31-year-old right-hander is shelled for seven runs in 2.1 innings and is mercilessly booed off the field by the home Fenway Park crowd as the Red Sox lose to Cleveland, 8-3. When Michael Brantley doubles to end Beckett’s night in the third inning, a fan is heard to yell: “Fore!”

Friday, May 11
A high-profile pitching matchup highlights the year’s first game played between AL West rivals Texas and Los Angeles of Anaheim at Rangers Ballpark, with former Ranger C.J. Wilson dueling against first-year phenom Yu Darvish. But heavy rain spoils the proceedings in the bottom of the first—and when play resumes two hours later, Wilson returns to the mound to get pounded for four runs while recording only a single out before being removed. Darvish hangs in and pitches 5.1 frames, while Josh Hamilton continues his eye-opening power surge with two more homers; the Rangers rout the Angels, 10-3.

Milwaukee closer John Axford blows his first save opportunity in 49 chances—the fourth longest streak in major league history—but the Brewers rebound with two in the ninth to tie the Chicago Cubs, and win 8-7 in the 13th on a Corey Hart run-scoring single. It’s likely that baseball isn’t front and center on Axford’s mind; his pregnant wife goes into labor after the game. He leaves a note behind for reporters explaining his absence in the clubhouse after the game.

Saturday, May 12
Guess who’s back on the mound for the Angels? Some 15 hours after throwing 22 pitches before rain and ineffectiveness stopped him, C.J. Wilson returns to the mound for his second start in as many days and makes 93 more tosses, lasting 5.1 innings and leaving with the game ties at 2-2. The Angels bounce back to win after his removal, 4-2. The last pitcher to start back-to-back games was the Rangers’ Aaron Myette in 2002.

Sunday, May 13
Andy Pettitte returns to the mound after a year of retirement and puts up a fair effort against Seattle at Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees lose, 6-2. The 39-year-old lefty throws 6.1 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks.

A three-hour, 30-minute rain delay is worth the wait for the Cincinnati Reds and Joey Votto—who hits three home runs, including a grand slam to win the game over Washington in the bottom of the ninth, 9-6. It is said to be the first time in major league history that a game-winning slam is hit by a player belting his third homer of the game.

This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox ends the week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games. The 28-year-old shortstop is hitting .350 during his run with eight doubles and a pair of home runs.

It Had to be Dunn (Reprise)
Adam Dunn is undoubtedly having a much better year than 2011—as we’ve said before, he couldn’t be any worse. He’s already matched his entire home run total of last season with 11 and has a .257 batting average that’s respectable by his standards. But Dunn established a feat of ignominy this past week that his dreadful 2011 campaign has little to do with it; he struck out in 36 straight games, the longest streak in baseball history by a position player. The all-time record remains with a pitcher: Bill Stoneman struck out in 37 straight games (collecting 61 K’s in just 92 at-bats) for Montreal from 1971-72.

A Bandbox for One
If there’s a group lobbying against the hitters’ clamor to bring in the fences at Minnesota’s Target Field, they have the perfect spokesperson to speak their case: Toronto slugger Jose Bautista. In 47 career at-bats at the Twins’ ballpark of two-plus years, Bautista has clubbed ten homers—more than four other players for the Twins have done in far more games.

He Said What?
“Hey, I’m from the Bronx, I’m not a scholar.” —Convicted steroid dealer Kirk Radomski, testifying in the Roger Clemens trial, after he mispronounced the name of a steroid.

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!