This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: May 19-25, 2014
The Battle to Name the Next Commissioner Julio Franco Hits Away at 55
One Last Time at Candlestick for the Giants? Tom Ricketts States His Case


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
22 9 10 3 0 4 7 3 2 0 0

It appears that the Orioles’ $8 million investment in Nelson Cruz is paying off handsomely. The 33-year-old Biogenesis graduate didn’t have a bad day all week, and it made us wonder why he needed the steroids in the first place (assuming, of course, that he’s currently clean…). He ends the week leading the majors with 16 homers and the AL with 44 RBIs; at this rate, Cruz will probably earn the extra $750,000 in incentives—and the Orioles will be happy to pay it.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
28 3 14 8 1 0 5 3 0 0 0

The 27-year-old catcher has emerged as one of the game’s most underrated players, but more weeks like this and it will be hard to keep him under the radar much further. Lucroy had four multi-hit games and increased his season average to .331, which just happens to be the fourth best in the majors; additionally, he’s eighth in on-base percentage and second in doubles, with 20. Look for his name on the All-Star ballot—and give it a good punch. He may deserve it.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Josh Reddick, Oakland A's

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
18 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0

It may be good times for the A’s, but Reddick isn’t feeling the same vibe—not at the plate, anyway. The outfielder with terrific defensive skills (and he’s showed them off of late) could only muster a measly single on a week that included a return to Toronto, where last year he went nuts with five homers over two days. Reddick’s season average has sunk to .216, and that’s below a career mark that itself (.237) isn’t too pleasing to think about.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
19 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

This DJ was not spinning a sweet tune this week. LeMahieu isn’t the first name to come to mind when thinking about the potent Colorado offense, but he was still hitting .300 coming into the week—yet he proceeded to fire blanks day after day, with just one single to account for. Perhaps as a warning shot across the bow, the Rockies brought up Josh Rutledge from Triple-A to back up LeMahieu—and possibly take his place if the slump continues


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 17.2 9 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 14

Some Astros fans might grate over the fact that their team has a pitcher named Dallas, but the way Keuchel’s pitching, he could go by Teheran and they’d still love him. (Sorry, Julio Teheran.) Keuchel is giving the Astros consistent pitching, the likes they haven’t experienced since Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens reigned. He missed a complete-game shutout by a single out on Monday, then went the distance on Sunday at Seattle—allowing just an unearned run on his own error. Keuchel has won his last four starts, striking out 28 while walking one over 34.1 innings.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 17 6 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 21

We know that Josh Beckett threw the season’s first no-hitter on Sunday, but this is to honor the Best of the Week, not the Best of the Day. So we go with Wainwright, who was a Paul Goldschmidt double away from his own no-no this past Tuesday, before toying with the Reds for eight more shutout innings and 12 K’s on Sunday. With his NL-leading eighth win at Cincinnati, he now has 107 for his career—passing Slim Sallee for eighth on the Cardinals’ all-time list.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 1 6 8 6 3 0 0 0 0 1

Baseball can be a funny game—or not so funny if you ask Tillman, the Orioles’ ace who followed up his first career shutout with his most disastrous stint five days later. It happened on Wednesday when the Pirates boggled Tillman for one-plus innings, racking up eight runs as both he and the Orioles’ respected defense got wild. Who knows, maybe Tillman the Shutout Guy will return in his next start, but this was a bad bump in the road.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 4 9 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 3

The veteran right-hander can relate to Tillman. Jackson also came off a terrific start previous to this week’s stinker effort when he tossed seven shutout innings and accumulated 11 K’s against a good Milwaukee team. Then he took on a relatively weak San Diego offense—and got pummeled before being removed in the fifth. Jackson has a reputation as an innings eater, but he’s 11-22 with a near-5.00 ERA over his last year-plus with the Cubs and, as we’ve often say, what good is it if the innings he eats up are lousy?


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Toronto Blue Jays (6-0)

You know your team is hot when you knock off the other hot team, as the Blue Jays did this weekend when they swept away the A’s, winners of 11 of their previous 13. Thanks to a lively power splurge from Juan Encarnacion and a healthy (for now) Jose Bautista, the Jays have taken over first place in the AL East, a hard thing to do. Manager John Gibbons still worries about a pitching staff whose ERA is the majors’ seventh worst, but it held certainly held its own this past week, allowing 15 runs over six wins


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
St. Louis Cardinals (5-1)

It hasn’t been the ideal start for the defending NL champions, with a .500-ish record that made them all but forgotten given all the lofty preseason expectations they received. But this week showed definite signs that it was all coming back together, starting with a fairly easy sweep of the Diamondbacks at home before taking two of three on the road at Cincinnati during the weekend. It gets fun this coming week as the Cardinals host the Yankees and Giants.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (0-6)

How hard they fall. Last week, we declared the defending champions as the AL’s worst; this week, they got even worse. The Dead Sox extended their losing skid to ten games—their longest in 20 years—couldn’t keep a 5-0 lead on Saturday at Tampa Bay, and on Sunday got so fed up with it all that they got into a benches-clearing scrum with the Rays. An offense scoring just 2.4 runs per game during their slide hasn’t helped; Boston now sits ugly in the AL East basement.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Washington Nationals (2-5)

Last week we lightly praised the Nationals as the NL’s best as they appeared ready to grab the top spot in the NL East, but that got followed up by a mostly frustrating week in which they lost five of seven despite a plus-two run differential. Put the blame on a series of single-run losses, including a somewhat heartbreaking 15-inning defeat against the Reds that began the week. The Nats get a chance to put their house back in order this coming week with Miami and Texas in town.


Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, May 19
Without first-year slugger Jose Abreu, the Chicago White Sox manage to overcome a first-inning, 5-0 deficit at Kansas City and edge the Royals, 7-6. It’s the third time in the last four years the White Sox have come back from five runs down to win—and all three times, it’s been against the Royals.

Todd Frazier’s two-run homer in the top of the 15th finally sends the Cincinnati Reds home as 4-3 winners over the Nationals at Washington. The Nats had tied it in the ninth on a Scott Hairston sacrifice fly.


Tuesday, May 20
Masahiro Tanaka finally loses…and it’s the Chicago Cubs, of all teams, that beat him. At Wrigley Field, Tanaka’s pro baseball-record streak of 34 straight wins is broken as the Cubs put up four runs (three earned) in six innings off the Japanese import to ease past the New York Yankees, 6-1.

Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who homered just three times in his first 30 games of the season, matches that figure in one night as he produces his second career three-homer game and knocks in five as the Orioles triumph at Pittsburgh, 9-2. The losing pitcher is Francisco Liriano, who at 0-4 remains one of just four starting pitchers (Jeff Samardzija, Kyle Kendrick and Pirates teammate Charlie Morton) who are winless on the year.

St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright allows only a fourth-inning double to Paul Goldschmidt and completes a one-hit, 5-0 shutout of the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks. It is Waiwright’s seventh win of the year and his eight career shutout.

Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto falls apart for, essentially, the first time all season when he gives up six of the Nationals’ seven sixth-inning runs, leading to a 9-4 loss at Washington. Cueto had come into the game having thrown at least seven innings and allowing two or fewer runs on five or fewer hits in each of his first nine starts. Doug Fister earns his first win and Denard Span collects five hits for the Nationals.

In the first game of an important early-season series at Coors Field, Colorado is one strike away from a loss to first-place San Francisco when Nolan Arenado belts a double off the top of the left-field wall, scoring two runs to give the Rockies a walk-off, 5-4 win.

Atlanta’s Julio Teheran throws his second shutout of the year as he six-hits the visiting Milwaukee Brewers on 128 pitches, 5-0. Teheran’s worst moment occurs in the seventh inning when he pitch he throws is wickedly fouled off by the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez and strikes the head of a young child in the stands; he is taken to a hospital but released the next day, said to be “doing well.”


Wednesday, May 21
Major league ERA leader Jeff Samardzija, watching from the dugout, is three outs away from his first victory in ten starts—but the Cubs louse it up for him once again, blowing a 2-0, ninth-inning lead to the Yankees before losing in 13, 4-2. Samardzija remains winless despite a stellar 1.46 ERA.

The first-place A’s simply refuse to go down without a fight—and almost without a hit. Oakland prevails at Tampa Bay, 3-2, despite just one hit—a fourth-inning solo homer from Brandon Moss. The other two runs come courtesy of a second-inning error from Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez. Only three times since 1920 has a team won with one hit while allowing at least two runs to their opponent.

Detroit closer Joe Nathan blows a two-run lead in the ninth, and reliever Al Alburquerque balks in the winning run for the Indians in the 13th inning as Cleveland finishes off a three-game sweep of the previously red-hot Tigers at Progressive Field, 11-10. Two Tigers are ejected in the sixth inning; Miguel Cabrera for arguing a check swing, and manager Brad Ausmus for arguing Cabrera’s ejection.


Thursday, May 22
The New York Mets topple the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field, 5-3, notching three runs off Zack Greinke—snapping his record mark of 21 straight starts with two or fewer runs allowed. Asterisk alert: Only one of Greinke’s three runs is earned, so that streak continues.

It’s a fantastic return to the mound for the Whtie Sox’ Chris Sale after missing a month to injury. The Chicago ace no-hits the visiting Yankees into the sixth inning and gives up just that one knock in six total innings with ten strikeouts in the Sox’ 3-2 win. In Sale’s last start before hitting the shelf, he had also allowed just a hit with 10Ks, over seven innings.

Toronto piles up seven runs on Boston starter Jon Lester in the first two innings, and the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle does the rest by going seven strong to earn his major league-leading eighth win in a 7-2 victory over the struggling Red Sox at Fenway Park. In the merry-go-round AL East, the Jays are now all alone in first place—while the defending champion Red Sox are a game out of last.


Friday, May 23
With the retractable roof open, pitcher-friendly Marlins Park becomes a bandbox for a night. A ballpark-record seven home runs are hit—including two each from Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, Garrett Jones and Milwaukee’s Mark Reynolds—in the Brewers’ 9-5 win over the Marlins. It’s the first time in three years that three players have each gone deep twice in the same game.

A seesaw affair at Chicago finally ends in favor of the White Sox as Adam Dunn launches his tenth career walk-off homer, a two-run, 435-foot smash to right, to deliver a 6-5 victory over the Yankees; only Boston’s David Ortiz has more walk-off homers among active players with 11.

Scratch Charlie Morton from the above list of winless pitchers. After nine starts and six losses to start the year, the Pirates’ right-hander holds down Washington to a run over 5.2 innings, then sits on pins and needles in the dugout as the Nationals come tantalizingly close to tying the game before the Bucs finally prevail at Pittsburgh, 4-3. It’s the first win for Morton over his last 14 starts dating back to last September, a stretch in which he produced a not-too-shabby 3.67 ERA.


Saturday, May 24
The Red Sox start play with an eight-game losing streak and pile up five first-inning runs on Tampa Bay ace David Price—and they still lose. Price settles in and throws seven more innings without allowing another run, the Rays come back to tie the game and, in the 15th, win 6-5 as Cole Figueroa scores on a throwing error by Boston reliever Andrew Miller. It's the third straight walk-off win for the Rays.

The Yankees, making a habit of last-minute thrills in their weeklong trip to Chicago, are trailing 3-0 and down to their final out to the White Sox when they erupt for a three-run rally to tie; in the tenth, Jacoby Ellsbury’s home run will win it, 4-3. John Danks’ eight shutout innings for the White Sox are wasted; Derek Jeter, meanwhile, surpasses White Sox legend Luis Aparicio for second on the all-time list of games played at shortstop, with 2,584. (Omar Vizquel is tops with 2,709—a figure Jeter will finish shy of even if he plays every game for the rest of this, his final year.)

Jacob Turner throws 6.1 shutout innings and notches his first win in 17 starts dating back to last July 10 as the Marlins squeeze past the visiting Mets, 2-1. During his drought, Turner was 0-9 with a 5.42 ERA.

The injury-depleted Rangers get a booster shot from their youth at Detroit. Nick Martinez earns his first career win by allowing just a run over six innings, and rookie second baseman Rougned Odor—the majors’ youngest player at age 20—leads a 12-2 onslaught over the Tigers with four hits (including his first two triples) and five RBIs.


Sunday, May 25
Josh Beckett throws the Dodgers’ first no-hitter since Hideo Nomo’s memorable gem at Denver’s Coors Field in 1996, earning the accomplishment in another hitter’s paradise: Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. Beckett throws a career-high 128 pitches and strikes out the Phillies’ Chase Utley looking on a 3-2 pitch for the final out. For the Dodgers, it’s their 20th no-hitter, tops among all major league teams; for the Phillies, it’s their major league-high 19th no-hit loss—but their first since 1978.

Derek Jeter collects four hits, including his first triple since 2011, and Masahiro Tanaka improves to 7-1 on the year with 6.2 sharp innings as the Yankees defeat the White Sox at Chicago, 7-1.


Turbulence Under Tranquility Base?
We’ve been impressed with the relative calm that has resided over baseball’s ownership circles during Bud Selig’s 20-year reign as commissioner. We also figured that the transition to life after Bud likely won’t be as smooth. The first signs of that are starting to emerge.

The New York Times revealed a rift between Selig and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, his longtime ally, over who takes over for Selig when he finally steps down from the job after the current season. The story also exposed anger from a bloc of owners infuriated over being totally left in the dark in regards to a secret committee Selig created to help search for his replacement.

In other words, the chummy level of camaraderie within baseball’s ownership ranks isn’t what we’ve been led to believe.

Although Reinsdorf and Selig were brothers in arms in leading the coup d’etat that ousted Fay Vincent from the commissionership in 1992, there is current dissent between the two over who should become baseball’s next leader. Selig wants his current Number Two, Rob Manfred, to be promoted as his replacement. Reinsdorf, according to the Times, has been lobbying for a three-person committee—yes, one that includes Reinsdorf himself—to run the game, something not unlike the National Commission that preceded the commissioner concept from 1903-1920. Reinsdorf’s love for Manfred seems pretty non-existent, given—well, let’s take it word for word from Michael S. Schmidt’s Times article:

“What I have said about Rob is none of your business,” Mr. Reinsdorf said in a telephone interview, interjecting an expletive.

As for the “outsiders” who eventually caught on to Selig’s secretive committee (to which Reinsdorf was a part of), Selig in the last few weeks responded by formally and publicly announcing a “succession committee” to pick the new commish. This suggests that everyone has been informed and, just maybe, placation has returned in the wake of the more clandestine process Selig sought with insiders he trusted and engendered loyalty from.

Who’s on the Ballot?
The Times’ article also reveals the list of candidates to be considered by the succession committee. They include Manfred, San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer, Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and an outsider: Disney head Bob Iger.

Candlestick Park: One More Time?
This week, San Francisco’s Candlestick Park will hold one of its last scheduled sporting events when the U.S. men’s soccer team takes on Azerbaijan in a World Cup warm-up; the last event of any kind at the fabled, cursed-upon Candlestick will take place on August 14 when Paul McCartney performs, perhaps a fitting coda given that the Beatles’ last public concert was held at Candlestick in 1966.

But a better idea to close out Candlestick before it’s dynamited into extinction is to host the team that it was built for in the first place: The Giants. Why not, for old times sake, can they play a good ol’ regular season match-up between the Giants and Dodgers in front of 60,000 fans who would, one last time, happily take on the cold, bitter, gusty conditions that made Candlestick so famous—er, infamous—for so many years? Get Stu Miller, all 86 years of him, to throw the ceremonial first pitch and see if the wind blows him off the mound as it did during the 1961 All-Star Game.

Giants fans would eat up the opportunity, and the team has been so in sync with the community and its heritage that you’d think the idea would be a no-brainer and generate tons of publicity.

But alas, there are logistic hurdles that would be too high to leap over. The main problem is that since the Giants left in 1999, Candlestick rolled out the retractable football seats from behind right field and have kept them out for the 49ers ever since; the mechanisms needed to move them back into baseball mode haven’t been maintained, meaning the section has taken on something of a petrified existence. They could be greased up with new parts, but the City of San Francisco—which owns the facility—likely won’t pay the expense to have it done for one night of nostalgia. The Giants probably wouldn’t be too keen on reaching for their wallet, either.

Additionally, the field would have to be revived into baseball shape (including the grass that’s likely long gone under the football seats) with the infield, bullpen mounds and dugouts to be inserted and/or spruced up. That, too, would cost money.

So it appears that 40 years of lasting Giants memories at Candlestick will have to do. Enjoy soccer, McCartney and, well, flag football if you wish in the meantime. Outside of that, it’s adios, amigos.

Quotas and Challenges and Errors, Oh My…
This Week in MLB Video Replay Gone Wrong
wounded of the weekOne of the unintended side effects of MLB’s video replay process is the manager delay. That’s when the a manager sees a call he doesn’t like, slowly walks out to the umpire and then states in the longest sentence possible about, maybe, possibly, there should be a replay to determine if the call was wrong—all while someone upstairs acting on behalf of the team looks at the replay and determines if the manager should challenge it in the first place. The umpires are reluctant to rush the manager back to the dugout; they get what’s going on, too.

When MLB brags about how the average replay is two minutes, that doesn’t include the time managers take to basically stall and await a decision from the team replay booth, via a coach in the dugout, as to whether to actually challenge. The Wall Street Journal looked into it this past week, taking 100 reviews and shaking them down for average time, and came up with this: The average review took two minutes, but with time included for the manager to stall, that figure was upped to 2:45.

The Journal also noted that the longest total review they came across was a whopping five minutes and 45 seconds; the shortest was a minute and 12 seconds—and that’s still 12 seconds longer than what the TGG Method of video replay requires.

Rooftop This
The Chicago Cubs are basically telling owners of the rooftop seats beyond the ballpark’s outfield bleachers: Go ahead, sue us. Of course, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts would rather not have to show up in court to deal with the rooftop owners, but he is determined to move forward with a $500 million renovation of 100-year-old Wrigley Field, which received another ringing endorsement this past week when San Diego (and former Cubs) pitcher Andrew Cashner called it a “dump”—a similar one-word response given a few years back by noted baseball pundit Peter Gammons.

Ricketts’ pressed his lobbying effort forward with a six-minute video complete with woe-is-us commentary and spa resort-style music. He visually points out the problems at the current Wrigley, including the presence of an ad-lib batting cage in the Cubs’ clubhouse where they throw down a net and use a batting tee—“just like the ones they use in the little leagues,” Ricketts says (maybe that’s why Cubs pinch-hitters are batting .100); Ricketts also points out, with irony, how the Wrigley clubhouse pales badly in comparison to that of their newly-built spring training facility in Arizona. Like the blue tear coming down the giant Russian bear’s eye to close the Winter Olympics, we were waiting for Ricketts to shed a Cubs blue teardrop himself as he moped on about the conditions of current Wrigley.

To be sure, Ricketts is right: Wrigley needs a makeover. And it does seem weird that the rooftop owners who get a free peak into Wrigley are suing, at least to those who don’t realize that the Cubs do have a deal in place that allow the owners to view the games through 2023. (And as anyone who has seen the bleachers perched atop the buildings can attest, it’s become quite the cottage industry.) And even though Ricketts wasn’t in charge of the Cubs when the rooftop deal was struck, he knowingly inherited it when he bought the team. So it will be interesting to see how the rooftoppers’ lawsuit—and there will be one—will play in court.

He’s Back, Fort All it’s Worth
To paraphrase Chevy Chase, Julio Franco is still not dead. The former, long-time major leaguer who played in the bigs through the age of 49 showed that he still isn’t done with the bat as he suited up for the independent Fort Worth Cats in their first week of play this past week, just a handful of miles from where Franco enjoyed some of his best years as a Texas Ranger from 1989-93. For a 55-year-old guy playing at any level of professional baseball, Franco didn’t too bad; he’s had a hit in at least each of the Cats’ first five games. Could a promotion be on tap?.

A Threat to be Ignored, or an Offer to be Accepted?
If presidential ambitions fall short for New Jersey governor Chris Christie, he’s let everyone know of his ideal fallback: Becoming the general manager of the New York Mets. “If Sandy (Alderson) would put his crap in boxes and get out of there now, I’d be happy to go there now,” Christie said this past week on WFAN radio. “I texted my son after they lost one of the games this week: It is impossible to watch…Just when you care about them as much as I do, it’s hard to watch sometimes.” Should the Mets actually give him the gig, would Christie still have the political power to alter the traffic patterns and make it faster for motorists to reach Citi Field?

Where’s That Mystery Team When You Need It?
Stephen Drew returned to Boston this past week, almost with his tail between his legs. The veteran shortstop took to the free-agent market during the offseason, spurning the Red Sox’ one-year qualifying offer of $14 million and seeking financially greener pastures in the form of a long-term contract—but offers were slim to nil, as teams balked at the loss of a first-round draft pick, per the rules of the current Basic Agreement between players and owners.

Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, claimed right up to the end that there were multi-year deals on the table—and if so, it’s a mystery as to why he and Drew never bit. Instead, Drew re-upped with the Red Sox, accepting a prorated portion of the qualifying offer he initially turned down to become a free agent. In explaining why Drew declined the “mystery” long-term deal(s) and came back to Boston, Boras said that Drew wanted to opportunity to play for a championship-caliber team (all this, while the Red Sox have tanked in the standings). That led numerous people in Boston to ask: If that’s the case, why didn’t Drew accept the qualifying offer to begin with?

Bottom line is this: Drew never got the long-term deal—Boras always likes to throw out that “mystery” team as leverage, though MLB owners have outgrown their naivety on the tactic—and had no choice but to return to Boston, where the Red Sox were happy to bring him on with young Xander Bogaerts struggling as his replacement. So Drew took the risk and lost. He’ll get another shot this fall when he becomes a free agent once more.

Coincidence?
On the week that Tony La Russa takes over as the spiritual advisor for the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks, general manager Kevin Towers decides to put his house on the market. Hmmm. If you have $2 million and you’re house huntin’ in the Phoenix area, here’s 38 images of what Towers’ home looks like.

Soft Shoulder
When a foul ball comes your way, don’t just beware the foul ball; beware the big oaf coming you way to catch it, as this poor woman found out in Anaheim this past Monday.

Auction of the Week
It was proven once again that anything Babe Ruth touched ultimately turns to gold—or certainly big cash. Someone thought it was worth $650,000 of his or her hard-earned money to buy a watch Ruth wore towards the end of his life. The same auction managed to sell a Sandy Koufax jersey for $268,000, and Satchel Paige’s Hall of Fame ring for $259,000.

A Quadrupling of Power
It looks like Jon Griffin is due for a promotion. The Arizona farmhand, currently toiling for the Double-A Mobile BayBears, went deep in five consecutive at-bats this past week—including a four-homer performance on Wednesday, the second time that’s happened in Southern League history. For the year, Griffin is hitting .284 with ten homers and 29 RBIs in 42 games, a year after hitting ten in 103 games combined between Mobile and Single-A Visalia.

Where the New York Post Won't Find Me
With the New York spotlight turned off of him, Minnesota pitcher Phil Hughes has apparently found solace—and focus. In improving his season record to 5-1 with the Twins, Hughes has gone five straight starts with at least six innings pitched and no walks allowed; the last pitcher to pull that off was the great Greg Maddux in 2007 for the San Diego Padres. Hughes, who mostly struggled in seven years with the Yankees with a walk rate of 2.8 per nine innings thrown (his high ERA was a bigger problem), has not allowed a pass in his last 35 innings. (And guess where Hughes will get a possible second start of this week? You guessed it. Yankee Stadium.)

Ceremonial First Pitch of the Week
Last week, it was a dinosaur; this week, it was a house cat—and a rather tough one at that. Shortly after making news worldwide for being caught on camera coming to the rescue of a four-year-old boy being attacked by a neighborhood dog in Bakersfield, California, Tara the Cat was asked to throw the first pitch before a local Class-A game. The throw was weak—Tara has nothing on former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Harry “The Cat” Brecheen—but in the grandest of minor league traditions, any publicity is good publicity, and judging from this clip, there was widespread interest in Tara’s reward.

A Gut-Busting Moment
So
Abraham Lincoln now knows how John Hurt felt in Alien.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Joltin’ Joe has been looking distantly behind his shoulder and seeing some worthy attempts on his storied 56-game hit streak of late, but this week it was time for him to relax and start laughing once more. That’s because this past week ended with the longest active run at only 11 games, shared by Detroit’s
Ian Kinsler and Cleveland’s Michael Brantley. Keep trying, guys, you have a long way to go.

League vs. League
Thanks to a three-game weekend sweep by the Giants at home against the Minnesota Twins, the National League won the week’s collection of interleague battles by a 5-4 count and has pared down the American League’s advantage in overall head-to-head action this season at 47-43.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekThe Texas Rangers continue to be the odd team out as the unluckiest in the majors, based on the injuries that have piled up in Arlington. With three of their starting pitchers already out for the long run and numerous other players struggling to return to health, the Rangers received two more giant blows this past week when slugger Prince Fielder—who had made a habit of playing every day—underwent neck surgery and will likely miss the rest of the year, while the bum shoulder of promising young second baseman Jurickson Profar took a turn for the worse; he, too, may be out until 2015.

The hardened base continued to take a toll on head-first baserunners. Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado broke a thumb while sliding into a bag; expect him back anywhere between four and six weeks.

Elsewhere, the disabled list added to its ranks Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto (strained quad), Boston’s Mike Napoli (sprained finger) and Shane Victorino (strained hamstring), Cleveland pitcher Zach McAllister (lower back), Los Angeles third baseman Juan Uribe (strained hamstring), St. Louis reliever Kevin Siegrist (strained forearm), Baltimore closer Tommy Hunter (groin strain), Seattle first baseman Corey Hart (strained hamstring), and San Francisco reliever Santiago Casilla—who in a rare hitting appearance went against the wishes of Giants manager Bruce Bochy in Colorado and hit away—and ran all out, badly straining his hamstring while trying to make that final step on the bag. He’s out for a month.

Finally, we report that the Tommy John epidemic has spread to India. Rinku Singh, the subject of the current movie Million Dollar Arm, underwent the procedure last summer.


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