The Ace That Wouldn't Leave
Jake Peavy just wants to stay in San Diego. Wouldn’t you? The Padres, desperate to cut costs despite a decent start to the 2009 season, tried once again to ship away the former Cy Young Award winner when they struck a deal with the Chicago White Sox. The only problem was that Peavy, who has full veto power over any trade, refused to sign on. Peavy later explained that he loves the city, and is even happy with the Padre organization, warts and all. Attempts by the Padres to trade Peavy to Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs this past winter also fell through.
Time to Tarp the Upper Deck?
Atlanta’s Turner Field joined the ranks of MLB ballparks that have witnessed record-low crowds so far this season. The Braves drew 15,364 for Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Colorado, the smallest at the facility since it opened in 1997. Also absorbing record low turnouts so far in 2009 have been Progressive Field in Cleveland (11,408), AT&T Park in San Francisco (23,934), Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati (9,878), Petco Park in San Diego (13,646), Nationals Park in Washington (12,473), Rogers Centre in Toronto (12,145), and Rangers Ballpark in Texas (12,184).
In the continued hopes that MLB Central is starting to get it, it was announced this past week that the 2009 World Series would start a half-hour earlier than usual, meaning that maybe the kids will actually get to espy an inning or two until bedtime. Now if MLB could move the whole series up a few weeks to avoid running the season into November, which is a virtual certainty this year.
Protection is Everything
The Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, before Alex Rodriguez made his belated season debut: A .198 average, five homers and 15 RBIs in 25 games. Since: A .377 average with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 16 games. One stat that has gone down for Teixeira since A-Rod’s return: Walks. Teixeira walked 19 timesfive in one gamewithout Rodriguez in the lineup to protect him. Since A-Rod’s return, Teixeira has walked only seven times.
Hey, Don't You Look Familiar?
Tony Gwynn returned to the plate this past week for the San Diego Padres, only it wasn’t that Tony Gwynn. It was Junior, the 26-year old son of the Hall of Famer Senior who played two stellar decades in a Padre uniform. Gwynn Jr., now in his fourth year in the majors, was traded from Milwaukee to the Padres and received a standing ovation when he came to the plate for his first appearance in San Diego, as a pinch-hitter who walked to help a ninth-inning, game-winning rally for the Padres over San Francisco on Thursday. Gwynn Jr. has had nowhere near the same impact as his father, spending most of his time in the majors on the bench with a sub-.250 average; he had yet to log a single at-bat with the Brewers this year before his trade to the Padres.
National Disgrace, Part I
In a streak that ended this past Tuesday, the Washington Nationals scored at least five runs in ten straight gamesand still lost nine of them, thanks to a truly bad bullpen that finishes this past week with a 3-16 record and 6.28 ERA.
National Disgrace, Part II
D.C.’s alleged major league team is so bad, it lost to local rival Baltimore on Friday when Danys Baez, a relief pitcher from a team in a league where the pitchers never hit, batted for himself and knocked out an infield single and later scored the eventual winning run in the Orioles’ 4-2, 12-inning win at Washington. It was the first career hit for Baez, a nine-year major league veteran, in four at-bats.
Doin' the Dozen
The country didn’t exactly stop and go “wow” in one collective breath over this item from the past week, but it’s one for the recordbooks in any event: Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury tied a major league record for the most putouts in a nine-inning game when he collected 12 in the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over Toronto at Fenway Park. The mark had previously been established by Earl Clark of the Boston Braves in 1929 and Minnesota’s Lyman Bostock in 1977.
Off the Waterfront
Kiss the proposed waterfront ballpark in St. Petersburg goodbye. The Tampa Bay Rays were hoping to squeeze in a new venue at the site of Progress Energy Park (aka Al Lang Field) next to Tampa Bay, but there was so much initial resistance to the idea that the Rays themselves decided to pull the plug on the option. It’s too bad, the renderings released last year of a modern ballpark with a sail-like retractable roof on the waterfront looked very cool. The Rays might have to refocus their efforts on the best available land, which happens to be where their current home, Tropicana Field, sits.
Steroids Suspect of the Week
The last time Adrian Beltre was performing in the final year of a contract, he put up unbelievable numbersa .334 average, 200 hits, 48 homers and 121 RBIsin a 2004 season that easily sticks out from a career ledger that has otherwise been one year after another of .250-to-.270, 15-to-25 homers and 75-to-90 RBIs. His current contract with the Seattle Mariners expires at the end of this season, but he’s hardly been powering it up with an encore; in fact, he’s been pretty awful, batting .215 with three homers, 19 RBIs and seven walks through the season’s first quarter. In these suspicious times, we can’t help if wonder if that list of 100-plus steroid positives from 2003 included Beltre, a year before his out-of-nowhere career year.
Texas Hold 'Em Scoreless
Nolan Ryan's vow to shape up the Texas Rangers' starting rotation through a vigorous exercise regimen appears to be paying off. With Brandon McCarthy's nine-hit shutout at Houston on Sunday, the Rangers' rotation has combined for five complete games and two shutoutsall but mirroring their total for the entire 2008 season, and a sure improvement over 2007, when not one Ranger starter went the distance in any game.
A Rookie Hazing
When it’s blowout time, bring in Dave Davidson. The 25-year old Canadian native was dumped out on the mound on Friday by the Florida Marlins for his 2009 debut after starter Ricky Nolasco’s latest breakdown. Davidson pitched one inning and threw 52 pitches, allowing five runs on four hits and four walks. Davidson has pitched in two previous major league games, for the 2007 Pirates, contributing to blowout losses of 15-3 and 16-4 by allowing five earned runs in two innings of work. On the plus side, Davidson did get a single in his first major league at-bat while getting roughed up by the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the Marlins, 15-2.
For Barry's Bullpen, a Rare Night Off
San Francisco’s Barry Zito pitched eight innings for a complete game on Tuesday at San Diegothere was no ninth for him because the Padres had already won, 2-1and went the distance for the first time since August 12, 2003, a stretch of 185 games. That fell eight games shy of the major league record set by the Giants’ Kirk Rueter, who toiled from 1999 to the end of his career in 2005 without a complete game. (In fact, only four of Rueter’s 130 wins were accomplished going the distance.
Zero Tolerance: It May Happen
TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry writes in our Opinion section about how MLB can forge a zero tolerance policy on steroids in baseballand possibly weaken or even break the player’s union at the same time. Read it here and give us your thoughts.
The Race for 3,000
Milwaukee’s Jason Kendall and Colorado’s Todd Helton each knocked out their 2000th career hit this past week, joining 15 other active players already over the milestone; Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Bobby Abreu should join the group as early as this coming week, followed shortly thereafter by Houston’s Miguel Tejada. All four players are 35, which means that their chances of reaching 3,000 hits are unlikely. But which other active players over 2,000 do have a decent shot at it?
Ken Griffey Jr. is the current leader with 2,706 hits, but many believe that he has no more than two years (this one included) left in him; same with the next three on the listOmar Vizquel, Ivan Rodriguez and Gary Sheffieldso their chances of reaching 3,000 are all less than 50-50. In fact, looking at the list, three playersall Yankeeslook to have a good shot at it: Derek Jeter (35 years old, 2,586 hits), Alex Rodriguez (33, 2,414), and perhaps even Johnny Damon (35, 2,321).
Big Papi Can!
We knew David Ortiz wasn’t going to go the rest of his career without another home run, although it began to seem he like might. Ortiz connected for the first time since the end of last seasonending a personal record stretch of 149 at-bats in which he had gone homerlesswhen he blasted a two-run shot to straightaway center field at Fenway Park in the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over Toronto this past Wednesday. Ortiz was given words of encouragement before the game from his father, who told him to forget about the slump and have fun, because things aren’t going to get any worse. Thanks, Dad.
Forbes List of the Week
Forbes Magazine puts out so many surveys on the financial state of baseball, they might as well as create a spinoff magazine called Baseball Business Weekly. This week’s list focuses on major league teams that get the most bang for their buck through fan and local TV/radio revenue relative to their market sizes. The article released by Forbes is entitled “Baseball’s Most Valuable Fans,” though it should be more accurately labeled as baseball’s best marketeers. And for that, the trophy goes to the San Francisco Giants, who raked in $78 per fan in 2008. The Giants were followed on the list by Milwaukee, Boston, Cleveland and St. Louis. Not surprisingly, the rear was taken up by the poorly-attended, poorly-run Florida Marlins, who managed only to gain $11 per fan; second worst, more surprisingly, was the Texas Rangers, with Washington as the third worst.
Who Are the Real Dip(lomat)s Here?
The International Baseball Federation, stung by the withdrawal of baseball from the Olympic Games, are lobbying to have the game put back inand brought a bunch of foreign diplomats to a major league game to initiate some influence around the globe. Was it Yankees-Red Sox that the IBF took the diplomats to, or Giants-Dodgers, or Cubs-Cardinals? No. The game they attended was Pirates-Nationals in Washington, attended by an alleged crowd of 17,854 and won 2-1 by Pittsburgh on a ninth-inning wild pitch. Next time, IBF, make a case to the Steinbrenners for deep discounts on those empty Legends Suites seats.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Jacoby Ellsbury, who began the season with the majors’ longest active hitting streak held over from 2008, is back on top with the current longest run as he finishes this past week with a hit in 19 straight games. The Red Sox’ speedster is batting .329 during his current streak, which began on May 2.
This Week's Challenger to Ted Williams
Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game hit streak may have ended a few weeks ago, but the 24-year old Washington third baseman continues active on an even longer, extensive run: Most consecutive games reaching base. Zimmerman has made it safely to base via a hit or walk in 42 straight games. For the many who’re asking this next question, here’s your answer: Ted Williams owns the all-time record at 84 straight games.
This Time, We Meant It
Last week, Andy Sonnanstine was forced to bat for himself when the Tampa Bay Rays screwed up the lineup card. This past Friday, with the Rays in Miami for an interleague matchup with interstate rival Florida, Sonnanstine was back at the plate thanks to the lack of a designated hitter on the NL Marlins’ home turf. As in his previous performance, Sonnanstine wasn’t half badsingling and walking in five plate appearances to aid a monster attack by Tampa Bay, which drubbed the Marlins, 15-2. With batting experience from interleague play of the past, Sonnanstine’s career average is at .353 (6-for-17) with a double, two RBIs and three walks.
Time Out, Moms!
We saw the headline stating that two people were charged for precipitating a brawl at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium during May 17’s Royals-Orioles game. But this was hardly your typical fracas involving a bunch of drunken, borderline trailer trash lowlifes in the bleachers; it started, instead in the newly built children’s playground area when one mother accidentally walked in front of another attempting to take a picture of her child. Hotter heads prevailed for the next few minutes with profanities, kicking, hitting and spitting involving the two women and their husbandsall within plain sight of other children and their horrified parents, some of whom claimed that security detail at the scene were reluctant to get involved. It took some on-site police officers to finally step in and break things up. Two assailants were charged with “city ordinance violations.”
Wounded of the Week
This was a bad week to be a pitcher trying to avoid the disabled list. Some big names from the mound hit the shelf: Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez, Texas’ Vicente Padilla, Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival, and the Cubs’ Rich Harden; the Cleveland Indians, whose pitching staff is already banged up, lost two hurlers (Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes) to the DL in one game. And in San Francisco, it looks like another season without Noah Lowry, who missed all of last season after surgery to his forearm; the Giants now think Lowry’s circulatory problems are connected to his rib cage, and so he went back under the knife this past week to have a rib removed; Lowry’s agent, Damon Lapa, was not amused by the chain of events and publicly accused the Giants of misdiagnosing the original injury.
Across the bay in Oakland, it looks like Eric Chavez may finally have to give it up. A walking DL case over the past three years, he found out this week that he has a herniated disc, requiring surgery that may end his baseball career.
Finally, we note the end of the year for Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks, who tore a muscle in his wrist after striking out. Tis a shame for Weeks, whose offensive output (.272 average, nine homers and 24 RBIs in 37 games) was decidedly up over years past.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.