The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: May 28-June 3, 2012
How Replay Would Have Denied Johan Santana Roy Oswalt Returns
Star Players Who Just Can't Seem to Get Healthy Hey, It's Will Smith!

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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!

With a Little Help From His Friends
Johan Santana’s no-hitter this past Friday at New York was a win for the law of percentages—and a loss for those who still insist that baseball needs no expansion of video replay.

The Mets played 50-plus years and 8,019 games, won two world titles and boasted a tradition of great pitchers from Tom Seaver to Dwight Gooden to David Cone…but never enjoyed a no-hitter. Until Santana. Having a renaissance year on the mound after being shelved for the entire 2011 season with shoulder woes, Santana became the first Met ever to throw a no-no when he dismantled the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-0. The 33-year-old lefty threw 134 pitches, walked five and struck out eight in what is, already, the third no-hitter of 2012, following similar gems thrown by Phil Humber and Jered Weaver.

Like most no-hitters, Santana’s came with a good dose of luck. In the seventh inning, Yadier Molina drove a deep shot to left field that Mike Baxter caught up to and grabbed on the warning track—just before crashing shoulder-first into the outfield wall. Baxter held onto the ball and cringed in pain for a few moments before being helped off the field; he was later placed on the disabled list and isn’t due back in action until July.

Another great break for Santana came with some rain on his parade. Former Met Carlos Beltran, leading off the sixth, bent a drive around third base that hit the chalk down the left-field line (the proof is shown below)—but third base umpire Adrian Johnson ruled it foul. It was Armando Galarraga in reverse; whereas a blown call cost Galarraga a perfect game in 2010, Johnson’s error in judgment helped Santana preserve his no-no.

All of this, once more, leads to our call to start comprehensive video replay, preferably using the TGG Method, ASAP.

Your Turn, San Diego
With Santana’s no-hitter, the San Diego Padres are the last team waiting to see a no-no thrown by one of their own. They certainly have the ballpark—pitcher-friendly Petco Park—to help do it in. What’s more: The Padres, who’ve been around 43 years, have never had any of their players hit for the cycle. Only one other team—the Florida Marlins, established in 1993—have failed to list any player for that achievement.

Where's the Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Baseball is charging through the 2012 season without the presence of numerous star players, most of whom have been out of action since before the end of last year and are continuing to struggle just to exit the starting gate this season. Here’s a list of those who are dying to see their first action of the year:

Chris Carpenter. The Cardinal ace pitcher, so strong at the end of 2011, suffered nerve irritation around his neck and shoulder at the end of spring training. He had hoped to return by the end of April—but here we are in June, and still no sign of the 37-year-old on the field of play. He’s just begun soft-tossing to build back his arm strength; there’s no ETA for his return.

Carl Crawford. The multi-faceted outfielder who cashed in on a huge contract with Boston last year struggled in his first year with the Red Sox in part due to a bad wrist. He had surgery on it in January, but his recovery has been like a spinning wheel in mud; what had been perceived as an April return has become all but indefinite. Don’t expect him back until after the all-star break, at least.

Ryan Howard. The big Philadelphia bopper tore his Achilles tendon in what was the last out of the Phillies’ season last year, and recovery has been slower than expected. He’s just now facing simulated live pitching.

Brian Roberts. The once-reliable Baltimore second baseman missed 100 games in 2010, 120 last year and hasn’t played in a single game for the Orioles this season as he battles back from concussion issues. Roberts began a rehab stint at the Orioles’ Class-AA affiliate this past week, but we’ll see if his recent lack of activity coupled with encroaching age (he’s 34) will create additional challenges in his effort to return to the Orioles.

Freddy Sanchez. Staying healthy has been a difficult task for the 34-year-old second baseman, who’s missed some 240 games since being traded to the Giants late in 2009. He hasn’t appeared since wrenching his shoulder about a year ago, and his recovery has been so slow and fragile that team officials are starting to think he may not be back at all this season.

Chase Utley. Another Phillie star (along with Howard), who’s been frustratingly MIA this year when it really wasn’t anticipated. Utley’s right knee has stubbornly healed at a slower rate than expected; he’s taken infield practice, but even a rehab stint hasn’t yet been set.

Back in the Saddle Again
After holding out for two months waiting for a deal he couldn’t refuse, pitcher Roy Oswalt finally said yes and signed on with the Texas Rangers for the remainder of the 2012 season. Other teams were said to be in on the chase for the 34-year-old righty, including the incumbent Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox—but each of those teams shied away when confronted with Oswalt’s asking price of a prorated $7.5 million base salary. The Phillies might have said fine to any price after news of Roy Halladay’s two-month absence broke, but by then it was too late; the Rangers had already nabbed him.

Oswalt was likely swayed by proximity—the Rangers are based close to his Mississippi home—and a lobbying effort fronted by owner Nolan Ryan and team consultant Greg Maddux, two former pitching greats that would be tough to ignore encouragement from. The Rangers’ interest in Oswalt intensified when former closer Neftali Feliz, trying to make a conversion to the starting rotation, went on the shelf with elbow issues; he isn’t expected to return until late July.

Middle-Aged Malaise
The Jamie Moyer Experiment is over in Denver, as the 49-year-old veteran pitcher—who looked sharp in spring training, started the regular season well but gradually deteriorated to the player we thought he was—got booted from the Colorado roster this past week. In ten starts, Moyer was 2-5 with a 5.70 ERA; batters hit .328 against him, and the 11 home runs he gave up added to his all-time record total of 522 allowed. Moyer’s departure is especially bruising to our egos at TGG; there’s no longer anyone in the majors older than us.

All in a Thug's Night
A preliminary hearing in Los Angeles determining if Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez—the two men accused of beating San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow on Opening Day 2011 at Dodger Stadium—should be put on trial revealed some damning information about the two men, who were on a bit of a warpath all evening leading up to their near-fatal beating of Stow. Numerous witnesses recalled the two alleged assailants bullying Giant fans in the stands and after the game in the parking lot before their final assault on Stow—which left the Santa Cruz paramedic unconscious, bleeding profusely from both ears and feared to be dead. Stow will very likely never make a full recovery; he’s lost part of his skull and has suffered irreversible damage to his brain, and his ability to function in everyday aspects of life is severely challenging.

Although the witnesses couldn’t positively identify Norwood and/or Sanchez as the assailants, Norwood gave prosecutors a virtual confession when, while in the LAPD interrogation room, he used a detective’s cellphone, called his mother and said, “Hey I got arrested for that Dodger Stadium thing…I was involved…to a certain extent I was…I’m sorry.”

Man in Royal Blue
He may not be the Prince of Bel Air or even the Prince of Belton, but Will Smith—not that Will Smith—is now a Royal subject of a different kind, pitching for the Kansas City Royals. He was beat up in his major league debut on May 23 at New York, but perhaps he was distracted from his other job of saving the planet from wayward aliens under the watch of a super-secret government agency trying to keep a lid on their presence. Right?

Put a Lid On It!
Perhaps Marlins Park should have gone without the retractable roof and just been permanently enclosed. In the afternoon before Wednesday’s game between Miami and Washington, a furious burst of rain hit the ballpark with the roof open, causing a lot of wetness—including a foot of water in the camera wells next to the dugouts. Fortunately, the infield was tarped, so at least the game went on as scheduled—but ballpark workers were still hard at work drying off the seats when fans began arriving.

Snoozing on the Zeroes
Nyjer Morgan set a major league record by making 138 plate appearances to start a season without a RBI, breaking the old mark of 125 previously held by the Chicago White Sox’ Herb Adams in 1950. The Milwaukee outfielder snapped the drought by hitting a solo home run in Friday’s 8-2 loss to Pittsburgh at Miller Park.

Feast and Famine
The Toronto Blue Jays lead all teams with 46 home runs hit at home this year; by stark comparison, the Giants—who have a better record than the Jays—have hit only six at AT&T Park.

Wounded of the Week
Like good soldiers, two members of the Mets sacrificed themselves to the disabled list to get Johan Santana his no-hitter. Outfielder Mike Baxter will be out for up to six weeks after jamming his shoulder hard into the wall making a terrific running catch; far more embarrassingly, Ramon Ramirez will be lost for 15 days after straining his hamstring—during Santana’s postgame celebration.

Speaking of embarrassing, Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy, the Brewers’ hottest hitter over the last month, broke his hand when his wife dropped a suitcase on it in a hotel room. Or so that’s the story we hear. If Lucroy did indeed make his wife the fall gal, she’s paying for it in the blogosphere, as he had to come to her defense against angry tweets and Facebook posts who chided her for the injury.

Otherwise, this week’s list of new patients at the MLB Medical Ward has a definitive all-star flavor to it. Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay will miss up to two months with a strained shoulder, while top Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher Jered Weaver is out for 15 days with a bothersome back; Matt Kemp, who returned to action after DL time with a bad hamstring, aggravated it worse after just a few games and is back on the shelf, this time for as long as four weeks; and Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is also out of action after injuring his groin.

Finally, Travis Hafner contributed to his frequent injury mileage by yet again being placed on the DL, this time with a bum knee.

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 28
The Chicago Cubs snap a 12-game losing streak—their longest in 15 years—in a wind-aided 11-7 slugfest over the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field. With a gusty wind blowing straight out, eight home runs are hit—including four by the Padres, who entered the game with a major league-low 18 over their first 49 games.

Second-year pitcher—and first-year starter—Lance Lynn becomes the majors’ first eight-game winner of the year with seven solid innings as the St. Louis Cardinals hand the Braves their eighth straight loss, 8-2, in Atlanta.

The Chicago White Sox’ Chris Sale strikes out 15 Rays and allows just a run on three hits over 7.1 innings in a 2-1 victory at Tampa Bay. The strikeout total is just one shy of a franchise record.

Oakland pitcher Ryan Cook picks a fine time to give up his first runs of the year. The second-year reliever, unscored upon and virtually unhittable in 23 innings entering Monday’s game at Minnesota, enters the eighth inning with the A’s ahead, 4-3—and gives up two runs on two hits and a pair of walks to give the Twins a 5-4 lead they will not relinquish. It’s the sixth straight loss for Oakland.

Tuesday, May 29
Unofficially disgraced MVP Ryan Braun hears his loudest boos of the year in Los Angeles as the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp—who finished a close second in the vote last year—comes off the disabled list. But Braun gets the last laugh, powering a two-run homer early at Dodger Stadium while rookie Michael Fiers, making his first big league start, fires seven strong innings to help give Milwaukee a 2-1 win. Kemp hits a double in four at-bats in his return.

It takes them 49 games, but the Boston Red Sox finally go north of .500 for the first time this year, overcoming a 38-minute rain delay and Detroit ace Justin Verlander for a 6-3 win over the Tigers at Fenway Park. Daniel Nova’s fourth-inning, bases-clearing double is the crucial hit for the Red Sox.

The A’s losing slide reaches seven games, and this one hurts even worse; leading 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, closer Brian Fuentes serves up a three-run, game-winning shot to Minnesota’s Josh Willingham—who left Oakland for the Twins via offseason free agency.

In his first game of the year after signing a belated contract with Tampa Bay, 37-year-old Hideki Matsui accounts for both of the Rays’ runs with a two-run homer in the fourth inning off the White Sox’ Phil Humber, but Chicago bounces back and wins at St. Petersburg, 7-2.

Wednesday, May 30
Hitting .229 as a team and with Ichiro Suzuki out of the lineup, the Seattle Mariners plate eight runs in the second inning—and eight more in the third— to build up a 16-0 lead at Texas, coasting from there to a 21-8 romp, one run short of the team’s all-time single-game record. Former Ranger Justin Smoak does most of the damage, homering twice and knocking in six runs. The back-to-back eight-run frames is the first such occurrence in the AL since 1928.

At Denver, Carlos Gonzalez puts the Colorado Rockies ahead of Houston to stay in the fifth inning with a solo homer—then adds home runs in his final two at-bats to augment a late 13-5 rout over the Astros. It’s the first three-homer game for Goznalez, who now owns a .351 career average with 58 homers in 796 at-bats at Coors Field.

Thursday, May 31
A day after his three-homer performance, Gonzalez parks another longball over the fence in his first at-bat for his fourth consecutive homer, tying a major league record previously accomplished by 21 other players. Gonzalez’s three-run, first-inning shot ignites a nine-run assault on Houston starter Bud Norris, who leaves before the second inning is done; the Rockies roll again over the Astros, 11-5.

Friday, June 1
Johan Santana pitches the first no-hitter in the 51-year history of the New York Mets when he silences the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field, 8-0. The veteran southpaw, who missed all of the 2011 season as he recovered from shoulder surgery, walks five and strikes out eight.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who’ve suffered through a record 19 straight losing seasons, defeat the Brewers at Milwaukee, 8-2, to move above the .500 mark for the first time since the first week of the season.

Saturday, June 2
The Detroit Tigers, with just one player available off the bench, defeat the New York Yankees at Comerica Park in a tense 4-3 game decided in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by catcher Omir Santos—playing in place of Alex Avila, one of the Tigers’ many injured ruled out for the game. Miguel Cabrera crushes two solo home runs to lend a crucial hand in the victory.

The Cincinnati Reds jump out to an 8-2 lead in the second inning at Houston, lose it just two innings later when the Astros score seven unanswered runs, then scratch back to take a 12-9 victory. The loss is the eighth straight for the Astros.

Ichiro Suzuki homers twice for the sixth time in his career and the Mariners outlast the White Sox, 10-8, in 12 innings to end Chicago’s nine-game winning streak.

At Kansas City, Oakland piles up nine runs on the Royals in a 9-3 win to end a nine-game losing streak from which they had tallied only a total of 12 runs. Yoenis Cespedes, just back off the disabled list, leads the charge with three hits.

Sunday, June 3
The Washington Nationals lose to Atlanta, 3-2, with their only two runs on back-to-back solo homers by Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper; it's the first time such a feat has been achieved by two rookies in modern major league history.

The Astros overcome another early (albeit much less burdensome) deficit against the Reds and this time hold on, defeating Cincinnati 5-3 and ending an eight-game losing streak.

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
On the field, Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman continues to be all but incredible; he’s 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 27 innings with just seven hits and eight walks allowed while striking out 47. But most of the news regarding Chapman continues to take place off the field. Last week, he was arrested for speeding with a suspended license, and he was also sued by a prisoner in Cuba who claims he was innocently jailed after Chapman ratted him out for human smuggling.

This past week, more controversy hounded Chapman; while the Reds were in Pittsburgh, his hotel room was ransacked with $6,000 in items taken—and more curiously, a 26-year-old Maryland woman was found partially clothed and tied up in the room. She herself got into legal hot water when she apparently gave different accounts of what led to the robbery, before being released to a man said to be her husband. Turns out, Chapman and the woman have been a road trip item.

That's So Richard Petty
New York Yankee catcher Russell Martin claimed he was “punished” by home plate umpire Laz Diaz during Wednesday’s 6-5 win over the Angels at Anaheim, saying that Diaz was throwing all new balls back to pitcher rather than have Martin do it as is the custom; the source of the acrimony was Martin’s criticism of Diaz’s balls-and-strikes calls earlier in the game. Martin didn’t mince words with reporters after the game, saying, “Laz Diaz is a (male naughty bit). Write it hard.” Yankee general manager Brian Cashman backed Martin by saying he “exercised his First Amendment rights,” but in baseball’s world of antitrust exemption, the Bill of Rights doesn’t exist; Martin could be fined for what he said. Don’t expect Diaz to get a pass, either, if MLB trusts what Martin said happened.

Thanks, Maggie
Unable to find a new taker, 38-year-old Magglio Ordonez called it quits this past week, officially ending a fruitful 15-year career in which he hit .309 with 294 home runs and 1,236 RBIs. Ordonez was at his most potent with the Chicago White Sox between 1999-2003, averaging 32 homers and 118 RBIs a year while hitting .312. Injuries sapped Ordonez of his momentum over the next few years and he found himself in Detroit, resurrecting his career with three more top-flight campaigns—highlighted by an AL-leading .363 batting average in 2007. But Tiger fans will remember him most for smacking the walk-off homer in the 2006 ALCS against Oakland that sent Detroit to the World Series.

Ordonez remained a pure hitter to the very end; he hit safely in his final 18 games last year with Detroit, setting the record for the longest hitting streak to end a career—breaking the old mark of 16 set in 1903 by Ed Delahanty, whose Hall-of-Fame career came to a tragic (and mysterious) end when he was booted off a train near Niagara Falls and was found the next day, dead, at the bottom of the falls.

YouTube (Actually, Deadspin) Clip of the Week
Longtime Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson has never been known for his objectivity, but he went overboard even by his standards while reacting to the ejection of White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana during Wednesday’s game at Tampa Bay. Harrelson’s outburst was so rough that he was called to the carpet a few days later by both his boss, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorff and his boss, commissioner Bud Selig. Harrelson publicly apologized but said he couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t go nuts like that again; if he does, Selig’s reaction is likely to be something along the lines of, “He gone.”

Totally Useless Stat of the Week
Believe it or not, someone actually keeps official tabs on how fast players circle the bases after hitting a home run. The leader in the clubhouse this year is Washington rookie Bryce Harper, who sped around the bases in 16.35 seconds on May 26 after homering at Atlanta. It was said to be the fastest trip on a non-inside-the-park homer since July 4, 2010. Next week: The fastest time taken by a reliever to enter a game from the bullpen mound.

This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
Jose Reyes of the Miami Marlins ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games. The speedy 28-year-old shortstop has hit safely in every game stretching back to May 20 and has raised his season average nearly 40 points to .280.

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!