The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: May 21-27, 2012
Bud Selig Takes the Slow Road to Expanded Replay Are the Yankees For Sale?
What's Happened to Tim Lincecum? Ice Hockey at Dodger Stadium?

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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!

Slo-Mo Bud
Commissioner Bud Selig stated this past week that there is no rush to expand video reviews of close calls in baseball games, even as the human element continues to occasionally fail in crucial situations on the field. While the clamor for expanded replay remains in an age where every play in every game can be reviewed from at least five different angles (as opposed to as late as 15 years ago, when some games weren’t televised), there has been more public pushback from a few players and front office types who believe that comprehensive replay could potentially get intrusive, prolonged and neuter authoritative powers from the umpires.

This view is baffling. People are making a big deal of expanded replay’s potential warts when it’s all very simple. We spelled it out with a very streamlined process a few years back, but in short, this is all you need to do:

*     Close play at first, player looks out but is called safe.

*      Review crew in press box alerts umpire via headset that review is under way.

*      Review crew has one minute to look at replays and determine if call on field was correct. If the reviewers can’t figure it out within a minute, the play is deemed too close to call and the original ruling stands.

There you have it, folks. Why continue the charade? Without replay, Armando Galarraga never got the perfect game that he should’ve. Without replay, the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals were stripped of winning a World Series. C’mon, MLB. Do the right thing, and do it right. Do it our way.

Are the Steinbrenners Really Up For This?
This week’s rumor brought to you by the New York Daily News that the Steinbrenners were considering selling the New York Yankees evolved not so much into the story angle of whether they actually would (everybody in the Yankee front office strongly denies it) but a revealing analysis of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, the two sons of George Steinbrenner—the man who ruled, barked and pouted his way through 35 years of rule in Yankeeland.

Hank, first of all, is said to be all but absent from everyday Yankee doings, leaving most of the work up to Hal. As for Hal, he doesn’t share the same passion for baseball that George did—and while that could be a good thing, given that Hal has shown more constraint and shrewd business acumen than George ever did, his level-headed financial mindset also demotes the longstanding Yankee bravado from its own stratosphere, down to the shared echelon of would-be Georges such as Jeffrey Loria, Artie Moreno and Magic Johnson. With aging players and increased divisional competition, word on the street is that Hal is pulling back, trying to avoid brutal luxury taxes and looking to the farm system to reload. That’s a world away from the days of George, who would have damned the torpedoes and bore full steam ahead with all the money he had to remake a winner in a minute.

If the Yankees were to be put on the market, financial analysts agree that now would be an ideal time. In light of the Dodgers’ recent sale for $2.15 billion, it is guessed that the Yankees could go for $3 billion.

They're Back...Well, Maybe
For the second time, Manny Ramirez began his road back to the majors following steroid-linked suspension in Albuquerque, beginning a minor-league stint to prep himself back to big league speed. Now the property of the Oakland A’s, the enigmatic, 39-year-old former superstar was enjoying the humble life with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, fetching his own bags at airport terminals and checking into Holiday Inns without a hired driver. (At least he gets his own room; his teammates have to share.)

Though Ramirez had a decent exhibition performance for the A’s in Arizona, he’s struggled to get back to speed as his suspension comes to an end; his power has yet to return and his batting average hasn’t been sizzling, but at least he’s in a good mood following a year in exile, relaxing with teammates and mostly acceding to young autograph seekers. Ramirez is free to return to MLB this week, but even the offensively inept A’s are keeping him in Sacramento until he shows better progress—or their batting average sinks even lower than their current .209 mark, whichever comes first.

While one possible future Hall of Famer pushes on towards a return to the bigs, another is trying to do the same in Florida. Vladimir Guerrero, released by the Baltimore Orioles after last season, finally found a taker in recent weeks in the Toronto Blue Jays; he’s been sent to their Single-A affiliate in Dunedin to prep himself back into shape—that is, if he can. Rumor earlier had it that the 37-year-old Guerrero was looking into playing in Japan, and after a recent brush with the law in his native Dominican Republic, probably decided it was good idea to get his head back in the game.

Thin Tim is Not In
Where have you gone, Timmy Lincecum? The two-time Cy Young Award winner is off to an absolutely dreadful start for the San Francisco Giants, going 2-5 in ten starts with a horrid 6.41 ERA. The culprit on the field has been the big inning, which has savaged Lincecum just when he appears to be sailing along; part of the problem may also be a self-imposed offseason weight loss, which on the surface makes little sense as Lincecum was already one of the majors’ lightest players. After his latest blow-up this past Friday—in which his final pitch resulted in a three-run homer by Miami’s Chris Coughlan, homerless with a .104 average on the year—Lincecum reportedly met in a closed-off space with Giant manager Bruce Bochy, general manager Brian Sabean and trainer Dave Groeschner to get to the root of the problem. Assumption: That Lincecum needs to bulk back up and start recalling his confidence.

The Giants tried to lock up Lincecum for a five-year extension in the winter and failed, settling for a two-year deal instead. If Lincecum continues like this, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t last even the two years in a Giant uniform.

The Fast and the Infurious
Nobody throws a baseball faster than Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman—and nobody apparently drives a car any faster, either. Chapman, who’s been electric coming out of the bullpen this season, was reportedly arrested on Interstate 71 doing 93 MPH while also driving on a suspended license.

That wasn’t the only off-field issue Chapman had to deal with this week. In Florida, a man by the name of Danilo Curbelo Garcia—who’s currently doing a ten-year prison sentence in Cuba for attempting to smuggle Cubans to Florida—is suing Chapman for $18 million, claiming that Chapman erroneously ratted him out to win favor with Cuban officials to play internationally, allowing him to defect.

Shed of His Facade
Hey everybody, Juan Carlos Oviedo is back for the Marlins. You remember him, don’t you? Of course you don’t, because the last time you saw him, he went by the name of Leo Nunez. Turns out, that was his alter ego; Oviedo admitted playing under a false name to help him get into American baseball, and was stripped of his U.S. visa. He re-applied to get it back this past week and got permission—but MLB, less than amused by the charade, will likely suspend Oviedo eight weeks before he can dress up in a Marlin uniform again. Until then, the Marlins will work him back into game shape in the minors.

The Buc Stops Here
In the end, Nate McLouth could not go home again. The once-and-current Pirate became a twice-and-out Pirate this past week when the Bucs designated the 31-year-old outfielder for assignment. McLouth emerged as an impressive talent in Pittsburgh, peaking in 2008 when he hit .276 with 26 homers, 94 RBIs, 113 runs, 46 doubles and 23 steals. He was off to a slightly less potent (but still solid) start with the Pirates in 2009 when he was traded to Atlanta; he played well to finish out the year, but the next few years were all but disastrous, as McLouth struggled to stay healthy and above the .200 mark. McLouth eagerly welcomed a return to Pittsburgh for 2012, but the old magic failed to rematerialize—released with a .140 average, no homers and two RBIs in 34 games; he was hitless in last 19 at-bats.

The Chief Cook
The Oakland A’s may be having a rotten time hitting the ball, but opponents are faring far worse against one of their own. Reliever Ryan Cook, in his first full year after a brief appearance last season with Arizona, has appeared in 21 games for Oakland through Sunday, pitched 23 innings—and allowed no runs on just four hits. Yes, he’s walked quite a few (12), but his opposing batting average of .048, this far into the season, is something to wow over. Only Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman, with 26 innings in the books, has thrown more innings this year without allowing an earned run.

My, the Rust Builds Up Fast
The Kansas City Royals remain a struggling ballclub, but here’s an especially puzzling part: They’re winless in six games after a day off this year.

Wounded of the Week
It was a quiet week at the MLB Medical Ward with only a handful of injuries to everyday players to report. Atlanta’s Chipper Jones, who’s trudging his way towards retirement through a series of various injuries this season, is back on the disabled list after suffering a left calf contusion; Vernon Wells, still trying to turn it around for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is out for roughly two months after tearing a thumb ligament; Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks is shelved with a sore left shoulder; and Texas pitcher Neftali Feliz, trying to make the transition to the starting rotation, became the first Ranger to go on the DL—thus prompting their first roster move of the season, nearly two months in—with elbow inflammation.

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 21
In his eighth start of the year, Cincinnati’s Mike Leake wins for the first time with eight innings of two-hit baseball—and belts his first career home run in the fourth inning to give the Reds a 2-1 lead that would stick in an eventual 4-1 win over Atlanta at Great American Ballpark.

Ichiro Suzuki continues to show his mastery of first-year Texas pitcher and fellow ex-Japan star Yu Darvish by knocking out two early hits—including a first-inning triple—that sets the tone for a 6-1 Mariner win over the Rangers at Seattle. Suzuki is 5-for-7 on the year against Darvish—and 1-for-13 against the rest of the Texas staff. Despite the great pitching matchup between Darvish and Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (who throws eight solid for the win), a crowd of only 18,672 shows up to Safeco Field.

Tuesday, May 22
For the first time in 14 games going back to 2002 when they were the Montreal Expos, Washington defeats Roy Halladay, besting the Philadelphia ace 5-2 with the help of a four-run third inning initiated by Bryce Harper’s triple. Halladay was 11-0 with a 2.09 ERA over his previous 13 starts against the Expos/Nationals.

Miami’s Ricky Nolasco surpasses Dontrelle Willis as the Marlins’ all-time leader in wins by picking up his 69th career victory for the franchise in an 8-7 win over Colorado.

Arizona starting pitcher Trevor Cahill leaves after six innings with a 6-1 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers—and the bullpen blows it, allowing five runs in the seventh and, after the Diamondbacks retake the lead in the eighth, again in the ninth when closer J.J. Putz lets in two runs and gives the Dodgers a 8-7 victory. Los Angeles becomes the first team to win 30 games on the year; the team is 7-2 since star hitter Matt Kemp went on the disabled list.

Wednesday, May 23
Philadelphia pitcher Cole Hamels, facing the Nationals for the first time since he hit Bryce Harper in the back—later admitting he did so intentionally—fires eight shutout innings and becomes the majors’ second seven-game winner on the season as the Phillies breeze, 4-1. Against Hamels, Harper knocks out of four hits and draws one of three walks against Hamels in four plate appearances.

Thursday, May 24
After winning 13 straight decisions on the road, Detroit ace Justin Verlander is outdueled 2-1 by the Indians’ Justin Masterson and two relievers at Cleveland, giving the Tribe a three-game sweep of the Tigers and improving its AL Central-best record to 26-18—six games ahead of the flailing (20-24) third-place Tigers.

Friday, May 25
The Rangers mash the Toronto Blue Jays at Arlington, 14-1, in a game that features Josh Hamilton’s first home run since his longball splurge of a few weeks earlier; eight RBIs from Nelson Cruz (half of them on a seventh-inning grand slam) to match his career high—set last year, also against the Blue Jays; and an eighth-inning pitching appearance by Toronto catcher Jeff Mathis, who retires the side allowing a hit and a walk but no runs. Blue Jay starter Brandon Morrow can’t make it out of the first inning, allowing six of the Ranger runs.

Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee won 17 games in 2011—and still has none so far this season, despite a 2.82 ERA in seven starts. The dearth of victories is apparently starting to get to him; after a frustrating fourth inning in which Phillie outfielder Shane Victorino misplays two fly balls (leading to a go-ahead St. Louis run), Lee verbally takes it out on Victorino in the dugout. The Phillies recover and defeat the Cardinals in ten innings, 5-3, but Lee does not get the win.

It’s worse for the Chicago Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, who goes winless in his 17th straight start and drops to 0-3 on the year in eight outings despite a stellar 2.14 ERA. The Cubs knock out ten hits but fail to score in a 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh, the Cubs’ tenth straight to drop them to 15-30—tied for the majors’ worst record along with Minnesota.

Saturday, May 26
Johan Santana throws his first shutout since 2010, before reconstructive shoulder surgery deprived him of activity in the entire 2011 campaign. In the Mets’ 9-0 win over San Diego at New York, Santana throws just 96 pitches—74 of them for strikes—gives up four hits, no walks and strikes out seven. It’s just his second win in ten starts this season—despite a 2.75 ERA.

Phillie pitcher Ken Kendrick gets his first win in six starts—and his first shutout in 104 career starting assignments—with an impressive seven-hitter at St. Louis. The Phillies’ 4-0 win is only the second time they’ve finished on top in 11 games in which Kendrick has appeared.

A day after winning a laugher, the Rangers have to sweat out 13 innings and top the Blue Jays, 8-7, thanks to a two-run homer by Josh Hamilton—who goes the distance despite being weakened by a virus.

Sunday, May 27
Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, well known as a home run haven, is as alive as ever. A record nine fly balls clear the outfield wall in the Reds’ 7-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies, knocking in all but one of the game’s runs. The Rockies have five hits in the game—all of them solo home runs, including two from Carlos Gonzalez.

Derek Jeter notches a leadoff single to surpass George Brett for 14th on the all-time hit list with 3,155, as the Yankees go on take a weekend sweep at Oakland with a 2-0 win over the A’s. Next on the list for Jeter is Cal Ripken Jr., with 3.184 hits.

A Postgame Tradition Unlike Any Other
Frank McCourt may be long gone from Chavez Ravine, but the unruly fan element remains, sadly. It happened again in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after a Sunday game with the St. Louis Cardinals: After being fender-bended from behind, a driver got out of his car, confronted the man who hit him and, with the help of three other men, repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head—all while the victim’s pregnant wife screamed for help from her passenger seat. Astonishingly, none of the four suspects were charged with a crime.

An Offseason Tradition Unlike Any Other
While the fighting continues in the parking lot, the new Dodger ownership has ideas of bringing in some brawling—the legal kind—to the field. Stan Kasten, one of the more public faces in the new Dodger regime, publicly stated a desire to have Dodger Stadium host a future edition of the National Hockey League’s popular outdoor “Winter Classic” which usually takes place on New Year’s Day. Most of these games have set in the Northeast, where wintry conditions make it easy to maintain an ice rink for professional hockey; that might be a challenge in Los Angeles, where temperatures even in January have been known to top over 80 degrees on occasion.

The Dodgers aren’t the first warm wintertime weather spot to publicly mull an outdoor NHL game; a few years back, the Giants also looked into hosting the Winter Classic at AT&T Park.

Before You Know It, It's There
Miami slugger Mike Stanton, having a booming May after slumping through April, blasted a 438-foot grand slam this past Monday at Marlins Park against Colorado. Here’s the historic part of it: The homer traveled 122 MPH off the bat, the fastest since MLB began officially keeping track in 2006. The old record, by Toronto’s Jose Bautista, was a full five MPH slower.

Since, Perfectly Awful
The Chicago White Sox’ Phil Humber pitched the majors’ 19th perfect game on April 21. Now only has he not won in any of his next six starts, but his ERA during this time has been an abysmal 8.22.

Since, Perfectly Perfect
Last week, Cleveland closer Chris Perez ripped into the few Indian fans that were showing up to Progressive Field for their foul attitude, most of he believed was directed at him. Maybe it had something to do with that blown save by Perez on Opening Day against Toronto—but if that’s the case, the fans seem to have a long memory along with a lack of short-term recall, because Perez has converted all 16 save opportunities since his first-game fiasco with a 1.45 ERA.

They're All Good
Going into Sunday’s action, all ten teams from both Eastern Divisions had .500 or better records.

This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
Baltimore’s Adam Jones makes a second straight appearance under this subheading—in order to catch Joltin’ Joe, you need to do it some eight-to-nine times in a row—as he ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 18 games. For the 26-year-old Jones, who just signed a meaty $85 million contract extension with the Orioles, this current run represents a career high.

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!