A Hug to Shrug Over?
The conspiracy theorists among Cardinal nation went into overdrive this past week when St. Louis came to Chicagoand Albert Pujols (in the last year of his contract) openly gave a hug to Cub general manager Jim Hendry, whose team is considered one of the most talked-about in terms of who might get Pujols for 2012 and beyond. The Chicago Tribune went so far as to hire body language experts to get more insight as to what the hug really meant. “Pujols is listening intently,” said Perry Myers, one such expert, “It looks like there’s a serious side to that discussion. Probably not, ‘How’s the wife and kids?’”
Pujols and Hendry could not discuss future deals since that’s illegal while a player is under the current contract. It was also noted that the two have known each other and have been good friends since being introduced through former Cardinal general manager Walt Jocketty ten years ago. Pujols shrugged off the hug, saying, “I do that all the time.”
Clunker for Clunker
Over a year ago, the Chicago Cubs had enough of the tempestuous Milton Bradley and sent him packing to Seattle in exchange for highly overvalued pitcher Carlos Silva, who the Mariners had long since tired of as well. The change of scenery did neither any good, nor has it made for a lot of smiles in either team’s accounting department. Silva at least made it work for the Cubs for half of last year; he was 9-2 with a 2.96 ERA shortly before the All-Star break. But he imploded afterward, looked horrible in spring training, and was released outright by the Cubs. (Silva is trying to rediscover himself yet again by the New York Yankees, who apparently has made it a policy to check out every able-bodied has-been pitcher this year.)
Meanwhile in Seattle, Bradley never got it going for the Mariners. He struggled through an unrecoverable mix of ineffectiveness, injury and intolerable cruelty towards others. This year, things didn’t changeand worse, it began to look as if Bradley didn’t care anymore, floundering about in left field to the point that the Mariners and their booing fans said enough. They released him this past week.
Silva and Bradley ended up being the players the Cubs and Mariners feared they’d be. But the teams were stuck with the contracts, so they had to give them one more shot to earn their keep. The two players didn’t earn it, but they’re collecting anyway; we’re just wondering if the they’ll hook up together in the Caribbean sometime soon, enjoy a few refreshments at a breezy outdoor bar alongside the beach, compare paychecksSilva is owed $12.75 million by the Cubs this year, Bradley $12 million by the Marinersand reminisce about the good ‘ol days, such as they were.
Alas, Killer Meets His Match
There’s a point in a baseball game when you’re so far behind and you see no hope the rest of the way, you throw in the towel; you bring in the stars, let the benchwarmers get in a few innings and get some work out of the borderline reliever who’s happy just to be there. Moral: Tomorrow’s always a new day. The same is not true for Harmon Killebrew, the Hall-of-Fame slugger who’s been fighting esophageal cancer over the last year. This past week, Killebrew sadly sent out a statement declaring he’s exhausted all the options to beat the disease and that his battle “is coming to an end.” He’ll be moving into hospice care, where it’s not a matter of if he’ll die but when. For Killebrew, this was no simple game out of 162; life was at stake. There is no tomorrow. Remember the good times, Harmon.
MLB apparently didn’t do its homework before they took over control of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Turns out that Dick Freeman, a former president of the San Diego Padres and an appointee by commissioner Bud Selig to assist Tom Schieffer with baseball’s handling of the Dodgers, had advised estranged Dodger owner Frank McCourt’s estranged wife Jamie during the couple’s bitter divorce proceedings last year. MLB doesn’t suspect that Freeman was a mole for Jamie, but even if he isn't, don’t you think Freeman is smart enough to figure that it’s not a good idea to be there helping Schieffer look over Frank’s finances?
WTF Moment of the Week
The Angels and Chicago White Sox were tied 4-4 in the top of the tenth inning at Anaheim this past Monday, and Angel reliever Kevin Jepsen was on the mound intentionally walking Paul Konerko to load the bases with one out when this happened…
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Marlon Byrd of the Chicago Cubs ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 15 games. Is Byrd playing it safe to keep the run alive? Who knows, but his last 12 hits have been singles, with no RBIs. Still, anyone who can maintain a .300-plus average will not be frowned upon by his manager.
This Week's Challenger to Matt Keough
Toronto starting pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes failed again in his latest attempt to win while starting, removed on Saturday while trailing 3-2 at Minnesota in the sixth inning; the Blue Jays came back to win in 11, 9-3. Reyes has now gone 26 straight starts without a win, two shy of the major league record held by Oakland’s Matt Keough between 1978-79.
Wounded of the Week
Topping the list of names on the MLB medical watch this week was St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who has developed a case of shingles, a painful condition around the eye. The veteran manager’s return to the dugout is unknown; out of poor taste, the flagship radio station for the rival Cincinnati Reds welcomed the Cardinals to town this week with a promotion from a roofing company offering listeners to win “some Tony La Russa shingles of your own!” (The Reds were not amused.)
Elsewhere, there were a number of not-so-surprising DL announcements. In New York, the Mets discovered that oft-injured starting pitcher Chris Young will be lost for the season due to a more shoulder problems; he has roughly missed two-thirds of playing time over the last four years. Out in Anaheim, Kendrys Morales, the Angels’ emerging star boomer who broke his leg last year stomping on home plate celebrating a game-winning home run, will need yet another surgery on his ankle and will not play at all this season. And in Oakland, the A’s vaunted starting rotation took yet another hit when it was learned that Dallas Braden will have season-ending surgery on his shoulder.
The disabled list also made victims out of the Angels’ Vernon Wells (groin), the Mets’ Ike Davis (ankle), Kansas City starting pitcher Bruce Chen (back), Chicago Cub catcher Geovany Soto (groin), Los Angeles reliever Hong-Chih Kuo (anxiety disorder), and Texas outfielder Julio Borbon (hamstring)meaning that, along with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, all three starting Ranger outfielders end the week on the DL.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
League Vs. League
Our first taste of Interleague play comes this weekend with the usual regional/local conflicts (Oakland vs. San Francisco, Kansas City vs. St. Louis, Florida vs. Tampa Bay). To the National League, we wish nothing but luck, because they’re going to need it. The American League has dominated interleague play over the last seven years, and it hasn’t even been close; the 118 wins for the NL in 2010 (against 134 losses) was the senior circuit’s best effort since 2004, when the AL edged them out, 126-125. Below are some of the more interesting matchups for the weekend:
Texas at Philadelphia: This is the World Series matchup Phillie fans kept dreaming about over the winter, thanks to the San Francisco Giants.
New York Mets at New York Yankees: How many of these Mets will be wearing pinstripes by the end of the year? (Rumors are already swirling of Carlos Beltran making a move to the Bronx.)
Chicago Cubs at Boston: The first visit by the Cubs to Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series, the last time the Red Sox won it all until 2004. The Cubs have been waiting since 1908.
Detroit at Pittsburgh: Rematch of the 1909 World Series. Anyone still around who remembers that? And, three weeks from now, will anyone remember this one?
Steroids Suspect of the Week
Last week we listed New York Yankee pitcher Bartolo Colon as one of many players who have surprisingly gotten their careers back on track this season. Now a little tarnish has been thrown on the comeback. Major League Baseball is investigating Joseph Purita, the Dominican doctor who performed shoulder surgery on Colon last winter, because he has often used Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as part of the procedure. Purita admits using HGH but denied he used it during Colon’s treatment. And what does Colon have to say? “That’s something you’re going to have to talk to the Players’ Association about,” he said on Friday. You could see the deepening squints in the eyes of reporters a million miles away after that comment.
Sold! To the Warden Overlooking Cell Block D
A New York resident named Jamie Pritchard-Holland was ready to sell off a cache of Boston Red Sox memorabilia worth $25,000 through an auction house to help pay medical expenses for a son he claimed was dying of cancer. It turns out Pritchard-Holland was the sick dude. He was arrested this past week for possession of the Red Sox items, which were stolen last year from Fenway Park (apparently not the same heist perpetrated by Ben Affleck’s gang in The Town). And what about the cancer-stricken kid? He doesn’t exist.
What's So Sentimental About Money?
Former Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, a more legitimate owner of memorabilia, says he plans to sell off his horde of relics soon as well. Why? Because he believes the cash he’ll get for it will be easier to split up among his kids when he passes on.
Transcending the Single
Reid Brignac of the Tampa Bay Rays had his first extra-base hit in 105 at-bats when he doubled against Cleveland in Thursday’s 7-4 win over the Indians. The dubious streak was a franchise record.
There’s many problems tied to the Minnesota Twins’ miserable start, but one glaring statistic that stands out is that the pitching staffwhich walked the fewest batters of any team last year, with 383is on pace for well over 600 this year, to go along with an AL-worst 4.94 ERA.
They're Out to Get You, A-Rod
Before Friday’s game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez was hit not once, but twice by baseballs during batting practice. He was first nailed on the hand from a Jorge Posada line drive while standing near first base (one of Posada’s few hits of late); a little later on, awaiting his turn to hit in the batting cage, he was banged on the head by another ball that had ricocheted off the top off the cage. Fortunately, Rodriguez was wearing a batting helmet and was okay, as he was after his earlier hit on the hand.
It's Very Grand, But it Never Happened
The Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers couldn’t get in enough innings before the rains came on Wednesday at Arlington, when umpires called a halt in the middle of the fourth. That’s too bad for the Rangers, who were leading 7-0 thanks in part to Mitch Moreland’s first career grand slam; they’ll have to start from scratch when the game is replayed on July 7, with none of the stats counted from the rained-out gameMoreland’s grand salami included.
It Just Don't Add Up
Just a reminder that baseball, like life, is unfair: San Diego’s Aaron Harang (5-2) has a higher ERA (5.05) than Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie (1-6, 3.95 ERA).
The Philadelphia Phillies finally suffered their first loss of the year playing during the day, losing Saturday afternoon at Atlanta, 5-3. They had come into the game with a 10-0 record in day games, while they were 15-12 at night.
The Toronto Blue Jays are 5-13 in day gamesand 15-7 at night.
Now Playing at TGG
Ed Attanasio’s interview with Freddy Schmidt, the oldest living ex-St. Louis Cardinal, can now be seen in the They Were There section. Freddy talks about his experiences with Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson and his infamous racist foil Ben Chapman, and his two World Series ringsand why he's lost one of them.
All Things Being Equal: Our Picks For 2011
TGG's Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio give their picks for the best and worst of the upcoming regular season in our annual preview of MLB. Check it out now in our Opinions section.
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!