One Thug Down, One to Go
Los Angeles police on Sunday arrested the primary suspect in the beating of San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow, who suffered critical head injuries in the Dodger Stadium parking lot following the Opening Day contest between the Giants and Dodgers. The suspect, identified as 31-year old Giovanni Ramirez, was taken into custody without resistance from an apartment complex in East Hollywood. This will hopefully open the way to finding the other suspectnot to mention the woman who allegedly whisked them away and could be considered an accomplice to the crime.
The arrest comes on the heels of increased awareness over the hunt for the suspects; earlier in the week, the Dodgers doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest to $200,000, and a local billboard advertiser placed “wanted” notices containing sketches of the two suspects on 200 billboards throughout the Los Angeles basin.
Stow was recently transported back to the San Francisco Bay Area and remains in critical condition, though he is showing small signs of improvement.
Houston, We've Gotten Rid of the Problem
Overall, McLane had a nice run with the Astros; in 19 years running the club, the team made the postseason six times and appeared in its one and only World Series in 2005, getting swept by the Chicago White Sox. It also suffered only four losing seasons under McLane, but three of those had come over the last four seasonsand the Astros’ record is the NL’s worst to start 2011. As we have noted repeatedly over the years, the Astros have slipped into a sort of irrelevancy, with uninspiring play looked over by uninspiring leadership, and that goes all the way to the top and McLane, who hasn’t looked terribly interested in running the Astros of late and has been looking to sell for several years. Hopefully for Astro fans’ sake, Crane can immediately pump in some enthusiasm (if not cash) into the program. This franchise needs it.
The Drayton McLane era is over in Houston, and not a moment too soon. The Astros were sold this week to local businessman Jim Crane, who last year was one of the unsuccessful bidders to buy the Texas Rangers via the auction block. Crane, who grew up parking cars for Cardinal fans in St. Louis, bought the team for $680 million and becomes the fifth owner in the 50-year history of the franchise.
There's Still Some Juice Left in the Tank
Jason Giambi, benchwarming these days for the Colorado Rockies, came into Thursday’s game at Philadelphia with three hits on the entire season to date. Within the first five innings against the Phillies, he matched that totalwith home runs for all three hits, knocking in seven runs. It was Giambi’s first three-homer game of his career and, at 40 years and 131 days, he became the second oldest player in major league history to record the hat trick of sluggery; Stan Musial holds the mark when he went deep thrice at 41 years and 229 days in 1962. Giambi struck out in his final two at-bats of the night, defeating a bid to hit more over the fence; the Rockies won, 7-1.
This Week's Challenger to Matt Keough
Poor Jo-Jo Reyes can’t get a break. He was so close to victory on Friday night against Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when taken out with a 2-0 leadthe first time in 50 major league appearances, via start or relief, in which no team had scored on him. Then the Blue Jay bullpen came inand blew it, giving up five runs in the final two innings to hand the Astros a 5-2 win and keep Reyes out of the winning column yet again. He has now failed to pick up a win in his last 27 starts, just one shy of the all-time record set by Oakland’s Matt Keough between 1978-79.
League vs. League
In the abbreviated first round of interleague play for 2011, the American League edged out the National League in head-to-head competition, winning 22 of 42 games played this past weekend. The AL, which has dominated interleague action over the last seven years, took 10 of 14 on Sunday to take the season lead. Interleague play resumes on June 17, continuing through July 3.
From Near-Perfect to Perfectly Bad
Pitcher Armando Galarraga, he of the gracious attitude and feel-good headlines last year while with Detroit, was designated for assignment after a poor start for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Galarraga won his first three games despite a 6.00 ERA; he wasn’t so lucky in his next five starts, going 0-4 as the ERA remained high. He also allowed more home runs than any other pitcher, giving up 13 in just 42.2 innings. Galarraga asked for one more start, reminding us of the moment in The Godfather when Abe Vigoda, knowing he’s about to get offed for being a traitor, pleads to Robert Duvall, “Can you get me off the hook, for old times’ sake?” To which Duvall, as perhaps did Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, told him with a chilling smile: “Can’t do it Sally.” At least Galarraga will always have that perfect game from last…oh, that’s right, Jim Joyce…
Are You Sure?
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo went on the record this past week to state that 18-year old phenom Bryce Harper will not be playing for the Nationals at any time this yearnot even as a September call-up when the rosters expand to 40 players. Rizzo may have to remind himself to never say never; that’s because Harper, who’s been scary good wherever he’s played, has only gotten better since getting his vision cleaned up. He’s currently hitting .359 with ten home runs and 34 RBIs in 40 games for Hagerstown in Class A ball.
That's No Way to Treat a World Series Ring
About two months ago we reported the theft of Kyle Kendrick’s World Series ring in a larger burglary that took place in his Washington state home. A gang of five men was arrested shortly thereafter, but the ring was not recovereduntil this past Wednesday, when a man familiar with the accused but not connected to the events was able to lead police to a swamp where, voila, the ring was somehow found. Kendrick won his prize pitching for the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies.
Albert Pujols finished the week having gone homerless in 103 straight at-bats, the longest of his ten year-plus career. The power outage, combined with a .269 season average (Pujols' career mark coming into the year was .331) is not helping the St. Louis superstar slugger increase his market value as his contract expires at the end of the season.
Feast and Famine
Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA in first six starts, 0-4 with a 5.25 ERA in his next four.
Offense Fit For a King
With a 6-1 win at San Diego on Sunday, Seattle ace Felix Hernandez received six runs of support or more for the fourth time this seasonone more than he got for all of last season, when he picked up the AL Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 record.
That Blankin' Petco Park
The San Diego Padres, minus Adrian Goznalez (now in Boston), were shut out for the sixth time at home in 2011 when they got blanked by Seattle on Saturday, 4-0. This already ties the Petco Park season record for most shutout losses by the Padres since the ballpark opened in 2004.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers ends this week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 12 games. That’s one shy of his personal best mark, a 13-game run split between the end of the 2009 season and the start of the 2010 campaign.
Wounded of the Week
A week just can’t seem to go by without someone on the Oakland A’s pitching staff getting nailed to the disabled list. This week, the A’s doubled their displeasure by sending not one but two starting hurlers to the shelf: Tyson Ross (oblique) and Brandon McCarthy (shoulder). The A’s end the week with five pitchers from their staff inactive due to injury.
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, something had to behind reliever Aroldis Chapman’s extreme wildness of late, and so the Reds sent him to the disabled list with what they described as shoulder inflammation.
Up the road in Cleveland, the Indians’ two hitting stars of yesteryearGrady Sizemore and Travis Hafnerreturned yet again to the DL, which in this case is a real shame since both players were actually doing very well while healthy.
Among the other enlistees into MLB’s medical ward this week were the New York Mets’ David Wright (back), Boston starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow), Florida ace Josh Johnson (shoulder), Philadelphia outfielder Shane Victorino (hamstring), Baltimore first baseman Derrek Lee (oblique) and second baseman Brian Roberts (concussion), San Francisco infielder Mark DeRosa (a career-threatening re-injuring of his wrist) and Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez (leg).
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
So Long, Killer
A week ago, we sadly all knew that Harmon Killebrew’s time in life was counting down following his announcement that he was giving up the fight against esophageal cancer. We didn’t knew how little time he actually had left; just a few days after releasing his statement, Killebrew passed away at the age of 74.
No right-handed hitting American Leaguer hit more home runs than Killebrew’s 573 until Alex Rodriguez passed him up in 2009; it could be argued that he remains at the top by purists who disown sluggers, like Rodriguez, who’ve fattened up their stats on steroids. Killebrew did collect home runs at the expense of a weak batting average; his career mark was only .256 with a personal best of .288 in 1961. But he made it up by amassing 100-plus walks seven times, including an AL-leading 145 in 1969the same year he won his first and only MVP award by reaching career highs in homers (49) and RBIs (140). Seven times, Killebrew hit 40 or more homers, six times leading the league; he was named to 11 All-Star teams.
He derived the nickname Killer purely on his slugging abilities; otherwise he was a gentle, quiet man who never smoked or drank, thanks in part to his conversion to Mormonism midway through his career. Though he spent his first seven years in the majors at Washingtonthe first five of which seeing scant activity, partly owing to his status as a “bonus baby” signee, not allowed to spend his first two years in the minorsit was in Minnesota where Killebrew secured his fame and became immensely popular.
The massive Mall of America contains a red box seat nailed well up against a wall overlooking one of its river chute rides (it’s not just a mallit’s everything else, including an indoor amusement park); that is said to be the spot where Killebrew’s longest home runa 522-foot blast in 1967 at Metropolitan Stadium, which is now where the Mall of America sitslanded, in that same red seat.
A Likely Unlikeness
It’s been generally believed that Killebrew was the source for the abstract hitter featured in the current Major League Baseball logo, created in 1968; even Killebrew himself claimed it was his likeness that was used. However, as memories of Killebrew swirled around in the wake of his death, it was revealed by Jerry Diorthe designer of that MLB logothat the Killebrew connection is but a myth. Dior said he worked from numerous photographs to create the silhouette, but he “can’t swear” that any of them didn’t contain Killebrew; ultimately, the icon was of a “nondescript” type. Dior chatted with Killebrew before his death and they sorted out the truth, saying that it was a “great phone call” and that Killebrew was “nice person” and a “great guy.”
Dior also said he was proud that the logo has survived for over 40 years virtually as it was drawn up; he said he worked only a few hours on it, using the then-cutting edge methods of marker and paper to comp up the logoall in an age when identity/logo design was that simple and didn’t involve brand meetings, focus groups and $150,000 worth of creative from a bunch of creative directors sitting comfortably on a boat by the bay (yes, Landor, that’s you).
So you may ask: Who’s represented on the This Great Game logo? The answer can be found at the bottom of this column.
All This, Over a Nickel?
That the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992 is bad P.R. enough, so they weren’t thrilled to learn that a local tavern decided to begin a promotion in which it would reduce the price of beer by five cents whenever the Pirates lost. Most teams would spin it with a smile and laugh the promotion off, but not the Bad News Bucs. An employee of the front office fired off a mass e-mail from her office telling people to boycott the tavern, the Stroll Inn.
If that wasn’t enough, Pirate president Frank Coonelly personally called the tavern’s owner, Estelle Aversa, and was said to berate her over taking the story to local TV (though don’t you think the story would never had gotten legs had his employee not sent that e-mail?). Aversa was taken aback, later telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “(Coonelly) treated me like I worked for him.” But Aversa is happy with the overall publicity, as more folks are walking through her door knowing there’s better than a 50% chance they’ll be saving a little on their beers when the Pirates are playing.
Roadkill No More
The Pirates are at least not making the nickel reduction on beer at the Stroll Inn automatic when on the road. They’re 13-12 away from PNC Park this season; they won 17 games on the road for all of 2010.
A League of His Own
When Chicago White Sox ace Mark Buehrle becomes a free agent after the season, he’ll likely take a good look at switching leagues and suiting up for a NL team. Why? He’s made the most of his interleague starts against NL teams, improving his career mark against the senior circuit to 24-6 in 38 starts with a 3.34 ERA after a 9-2 win over Los Angeles on Saturday. The victory places him alone in first place among pitchers with interleague wins, breaking a tie with Jamie Moyer.
Deadball Era Redux?
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies became the first team since the start of divisional play in 1969 to go seven straight games with three runs and six hits or fewer; they barely ended the run on Saturday when they scored two runsbut on eight hitsagainst Texas.
The Tampa Bay Rays began the season with 22 straight home games in which they scored five runs or fewer, the longest such stretch to begin a year since the 1908 Brooklyn Superbaswho, by the way, finished 53-101 that year. (The Rays, meanwhile, are at the top of the AL East standings.)
How messy was the Cincinnati Reds’ 7-5 win over the Chicago Cubs this past Tuesday? All seven runs allowed by the Cubs were unearned, and Red hitters only got credit for two RBIsthat’s just the third time over the last 50 years that so few RBIs were collected among that many total runs.
How to be a Hero on Your Day Off
For much of Atlanta’s game with Houston on Tuesday, Brave catcher Brian McCann was sitting on the bench, enjoying a day off. By the time the game was done, in 11 innings, he had hit two home runsone in the ninth as a pinch-hitter to tie the game, the other a two-run shot to win it. The only other major leaguer who accomplished that feat was Jeff Heath for the Boston Braves in 1949.
Splurge Note I
The 17 runs scored by Washington on Friday at Baltimore were the most the Nationals have tallied in a game since moving from Montreal in 2005. The run total was especially unexpected, given that the Nats had scored 17 total runs over their previous six games and had been shut out four times in their previous ten, including the two games (at New York against the Mets) prior to their rout of the Orioles.
Splurge Note II
In six games against the Chicago Cubs in the 1918 World Series, the Boston Red Sox scored a total of nine runs but still won the series, four games to two. In their first encounter with the Cubs at Fenway Park since then on Friday, the Red Sox piled up 15 runs. Obviously, there was nothing Hippo Vaughn and Lefty Tyler could do about it this time around.
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!
Originally, we used Joe DiMaggio as the source for the This Great Game logo when we designed it back in 2002, but we quickly caught on that his likeness could lead to some unwanted residuals down the line for the DiMaggio estate. So we changed it, using a hybrid of many different sluggers, with a strong influence from Reggie Jackson’s swinging motion (reversed so he was batting right-handed).