The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: May 30-June 5, 2011
Brian Sabean Just Can't Keep it Within Him Debut of the TGG Diary
Are the Yankees Overrated? MLB Teams Surprisingly Fighting the Debt Bubble

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All Things Being Equal: Our Picks For 2011
TGG's Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio give their predictions for the 2011 MLB regular season. Check it out now!

After Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay
As baseball struggles to grasp video replay, here's a suggestion on how to expand upon it and make it efficient—if not flawless. Check it out now!

Hissin' Cousins
Like many other baseball pundits, we frowned on the idea of baseball whipping up quick legislation to ban home plate collisions in the wake of Buster Posey’s season-ending injury after getting bowled over by Florida’s Scott Cousins. (Excessive, eye-rolling rules should remain the exclusive property of the NFL.) We had two suggestions to deal with future collisions: Fine and/or suspend the offending baserunner, or leave it to the victimized team to seek on-field revenge. Giant general manager Brian Sabean looks to prefer the latter option, if his words in a San Francisco radio interview this past week carry any honesty. He called Cousins’ hit on Posey “malicious,” adding: “Well have a long memory…I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost, and there shouldn’t be.” Sabean also stated that Posey is still mentally “shaken” by the injury.

Cousins’ agent, Matt Sosnick, wasn’t thrilled with Sabean’s comments, responding: “I’m really hoping that he was speaking in the heat of the moment and out of emotion,” Sosnick said. “Because if he wasn’t, he took a bad situation and certainly made it a lot worse.” He added that Cousins has received death threats since knocking Posey out.

Sosnick’s response was on par with those of numerous other players and executives around baseball, who rightly felt that Sabean should have kept his opinions internal. The Giants themselves released a statement on Friday, apologizing without really apologizing.

Baseball's Debt Sentence?
The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets aren’t the only major league teams in the danger zone when it comes to carrying the burden of financial debt. An unauthorized leak surfaced this past week from a recent meeting of baseball’s owners in which it was revealed that nine teams—nearly one out of every three—is currently exceeding the decreed financial limit of a 10:1 debt-to-revenue ratio.

Of the other seven teams on the list, some come as no surprise. They include the Texas Rangers, who were officially bankrupt last summer; the Detroit Tigers, who’ve had carried excessive payrolls over the last five years; and the Chicago Cubs, who invested a ton of money in long-term contracts over the last three years, without much return. But two teams on the list are worthy of double takes: The Philadelphia Phillies, who constantly sell out Citizens Bank Park and, you would think, have their financial house in order; and the Florida Marlins, widely skewered in public for their profit-taking and skimpy payrolls.

MLB wasn’t thrilled about the leak but waived off the story as no big deal. Isn’t that the way former Treasury head Alan Greenspan felt about the housing bubble just before the Wall Street collapse of 2008?

Jealousy in Disguise?
Sports Illustrated’s annual list of baseball’s most overrated players—as voted on by the game’s peers—revealed what has to be a not-so-thinly veiled hatred for the New York Yankees. No less than five Yankees made the top ten, with three taking the top three spots: Alex Rodriguez at number one, pitcher Joba Chamberlain in the two spot, and Derek Jeter third. (Hasn’t it been long since determined that Chamberlain hasn't match the hype?) Not far behind is outfielder Nick Swisher at number six, and pitcher A.J. Burnett in the number nine spot.

The overall list provided some other curious results. Right on the heels of the top ten are three players who don’t seem to be underachieving at all: Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria at 13, the Mets’ David Wright at 15 and, believe it or not—Albert Pujols, at 16.

No Joyce in Armando's Mudville
Umpire
Jim Joyce, whose blown call with two outs in the ninth inning a year ago this week ruined pitcher Armando Galarraga’s attempt at a perfect game—and then profited from it by co-authoring a book on the event with Galarraga—has been told by MLB that he cannot umpire any future games that has Galarraga as a part of it. Obviously, the move is to curtail the possibility that Joyce might give Galarraga a comfy strike zone to work with. Joyce won’t have to worry about any conflict for now; Galarraga, after a rough start for the Arizona Diamondbacks, is currently toiling for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno.

Reynolds Rap
Mark Reynolds has cut down on the strikeouts, at least from his perspective—he’s not on pace to whiff 200 times—but unless he wakes up soon at the plate, he’s in line for another dubious dishonor. The Baltimore slugger, formerly of Arizona, is hitting .190; after finishing at .198 last season, another sub-.200 average this year would make him the first everyday major leaguer since John Gochnauer—way back in 1902-03—to do it in consecutive seasons.

One Bad Seed
It turns out that Giovanni Ramirez, the primary suspect in the savage beating of San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow outside of Dodger Stadium, has been up to some other no good of late. Authorities in Henderson, Nevada say Ramirez is a suspect in a gang-related shooting outside of a casino, and would like to chat with him about it.

Maybe Dave Bush Will Join Him at Gwinnett
This past week, the Atlanta Braves sent left-handed pitcher Mike Minor…to the minors. Maybe he can increase his chances of making it back to the parent club if he changes his last name to Major.

A Grain of Salt is Required
This is why it’s a good idea to check multiple sources before writing down what you think to be the truth: Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg was asked at a local panel discussion what he’s learned about the Tampa-St. Petersburg area that he may not have fully understand before, and he responded by saying, “Water is a big divide”—a reference to a perceived unwillingness that folks in Tampa find it too much work to drive across the bay to St. Petersburg to watch the Rays play. The St. Petersburg Times reported that the audience responded with “laughter and applause” while the Tampa Tribune offered a different reaction full of “silence, then some nervous mumbling.” Makes it easier to understand all those varied interpretations of Babe Ruth’s called shot in 1932, doesn’t it?

A Household Name Before He Throws His First Pitch
With the major league draft upcoming, the Kansas City Royals are said to be looking closely at local high school phenom Bubba Starling. With a name like that, you would be, too.

Mass Transit is an Option
For the third time this year, former Tampa Bay and Washington slugger Elijah Dukes was arrested for driving on a suspended or revoked license.

It Just Don't Add Up
Arizona reliever Aaron Heilman: A 4-0 record in 18 appearances—with an 8.84 ERA.

WTF Moment of the Week
The Yankees’ Robinson Cano hits a deep fly to right field at Anaheim on Saturday and the Angels’ Torii Hunter gives chase when this happens

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Ryan Theriot of the St. Louis Cardinals ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak with a career-high 19-game run. The 31-year old hasn’t exactly been tearing it up; he’s actually batting below .300 in the latter 15 games of the streak. Still, it’s one of the longer streaks we’ve seen this year.

Wounded of the Week
The biggest noise made this week from baseball’s medical front came from Boston, where the Red Sox and struggling star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka knocked heads over his throwing elbow; Matsuzaka wanted Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox said to pitch through the pain. Matsuzaka got his wish, and he’ll likely not be back on the mound until late in 2012—right at the tail end of his contract with the Red Sox, who shelled out a lot of money to get him from Japan.

Also being placed on the disabled list this past week are three more Minnesota Twins (pitcher Francisco Liriano, slugger Jim Thome and outfielder Jason Kubel), two St. Louis Cardinals (star outfielder Matt Holliday and surprising starting pitcher Kyle McClellan), and two Los Angeles Dodgers (infielder Rafael Furcal and pitcher Jon Garland). Additionally, there’s Chicago Cub outfielder Alfonso Soriano (leg), Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit (sprained ankle after another collision, though this one wasn’t head-on), San Diego outfielder Cameron Maybin (knee) and top San Francisco prospect Brandon Belt (fractured wrist).

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 30
Toronto pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes finally earns a victory after three years and a record-tying 28-start winless streak, going the distance to quash the Cleveland Indians, 11-1. Had he not won, he would have held sole possession of the majors’ longest run of starts without a victory, previously held by Matt Keough of the Oakland A’s from 1978-79.

Kansas City closer Joakim Soria blows his fifth save opportunity—and his third in a week—as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim top him and the Royals in the ninth, 10-8. Soria came into the season having converted 132 of 145 save opps; this year, he’s just 7-for-12. After the game, Soria goes to manager Ned Yost and asks to be removed from the closer’s spot.

The New York Yankees’ Bartolo Colon throws his first shutout in five years, blanking the A’s on four hits and no walks in Oakland, 5-0. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball continues its investigation into Colon’s off-season shoulder surgery, performed by a Dominican doctor who admitted that he had done similar procedures using Human Growth Hormone (HGH).

The same storage unit that caused a fire underneath Dodger Stadium two days earlier sparked anew in the early morning hours. Firefighters took five minutes to put this one out. It is later determined that ballpark employees inexplicably used a fan in an attempt to “cool off” the area; it only fueled some of the hot spots in the room back to life.

Arizona second baseman Kelly Johnson collects a double, triple and two home runs in the Diamondbacks’ 15-4 rout of the Florida Marlins. He failed to add a single that would have given him the cycle.

Tuesday, May 31
In the wake of the home plate collision that sent San Francisco catcher Buster Posey to the disabled list for the balance of the season, Oakland general manager Billy Beane has told his everyday catcher, Kurt Suzuki, not to block home plate in a similar situation. Beane is worried that Suzuki will lose every potential collision due to his less-than-bulky frame.

On that subject, Posey leads all NL catchers in All-Star Game voting.

The Diamondbacks lose to Florida, 5-2, but finish the month of May with a 19-10 record—their best showing for any month since going 19-8 in April 2008.

Although the Seattle Mariners are right in the mix of a very tight AL West race, they draw a record-low Safeco Field crowd of 11,692 for their 3-2 win over Baltimore. In fact, it’s the smallest crowd in Seattle going back to 1995, just before the Mariners’ began to shake their longstanding losing ways.

Wednesday, June 1
Kevin Correia becomes the majors’ first eight-game winner on the year. That’s right. A Pittsburgh Pirate gets the honor. The Pirates’ 9-3 win at New York over the Mets is their 17th on the road this year—matching their entire total for 2010.

The San Francisco Giants are an out away from an 11-inning, 7-5 win at St. Louis when several banks of lights behind home plate partially go out, prompting a 16-minute delay. When the lighting come back to full strength, Giant closer Brian Wilson needs just one pitch to finish the game when he forges a ground out from the Cardinals’ Alan Craig.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, flying home from Kansas City, have to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport (instead of their intended destination, John Wayne Airport in Orange County) due to a hydraulic problem. The plane lands safely and no one is hurt.

Cincinnati closer Francisco Cordero earns his 300th career save, placing him in a 21st-place tie on the all-time list with Bruce Sutter. He’s second among active players, trailing Mariano Rivera—who has nearly double the saves at nearly 600.

Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez throws a four-hit shutout at Los Angeles to snap his winless skid at 12 starts—which had been the longest in the majors’ after Jo-Jo Reyes’ 28-game run ended a few days earlier.

Thursday, June 2
Aubrey Huff becomes the sixth player in three weeks to hit three homers in a game when he goes deep thrice at St. Louis in the Giants’ 12-7 win over the Cardinals. It’s the first three-homer game for the 34-year old first baseman, who had been struggling for a good part of the year to date.

Friday, June 3
The Mets lose to Atlanta, 6-3, and suffer their sixth straight loss at Citi Field in which they had a lead in the seventh inning or later. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s a major league record.

Texas starting pitcher Alexi Ogando throws eight solid innings to improve to 6-0 on the year with an 11-2 win at Cleveland. Ogando has the most wins without a loss in the majors; his .187 opposing batting average and 0.88 WHIP (walks and hit allowed per inning) are the best in the majors.

Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox finally gets his first hit of the season against a left-handed pitcher when he barely beats out an infield hit against Detroit reliever Charlie Furbush. He was hitless in his first 40 at-bats of the year against southpaws.

The Houston Astros release veteran infielder Bill Hall, hitting just .224 with two homers in 46 games. He’s leading the team in one stat: Strikeouts, with 55 in 147 at-bats. Hall, who was earning $3 million this year, has seen his play badly depreciate since being rewarded by the Milwaukee Brewers with a handsome contract after a terrific (.270 average, 35 homers) 2006 campaign.

Saturday, June 4
A wild and wooly top of the ninth inning at Boston’s Fenway Park includes a four-run Oakland rally to tie the Red Sox and, more memorably, the ejections of Boston catcher Jason Varitek and, a few moments later, closer Jonathan Papelbon—both for vehemently arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Tony Randazzo. The Red Sox overcome the strife and beat the A’s in 14 innings, 9-8; the game lasts five hours and 17 minutes.

Rookie Dillon Gee joins Ogando at 6-0 with seven shutout innings to give the Mets a 5-0 win over Atlanta.

Sunday, June 5
For the second time this week, Chicago Cub closer Carlos Marmol blows a lead handed to him by starter Carlos Zambrano—and the fiery Zambrano let’s the clubhouse media know about it afterwards. The Cubs lose the game in ten innings at St. Louis, 3-2, as Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols becomes the first player since Albert Belle in 1995 to hit walk-off homers on consecutive days.

Pittsburgh starting pitcher James McDonald, not known for his wildness, loses his mental compass and walks three Philadelphia Phillies on 12 pitches to start the fifth inning; he’s removed, and the Phillies go on to win, 8-3. McDonald overall walks five, hits two batters and throws two wild pitches in four official innings of work.

Both the Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals deny it, but it sure looks like a tit-for-tat is taking place in the series finale between the two teams in Arizona. The D-Backs’ Justin Upton is hit for the fourth time in the four-game series, while the Nationals’ Jayson Werth is hit for the third time; Washington infielder Danny Espinosa is hit twice today alone. Both managers and two players are ejected as a result, and the Nationals win in 11 innings, 9-4.

Is reality returning for the surprising Cleveland Indians? Their 2-0 loss to Texas is their sixth straight at home after starting the year 19-4 at Progressive Field.

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 rings—and 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!