A Big MilestoneAnd a Small CrowdFor the Big Unit
Back to Johnson. He became the 24th player to reach 300 winsthe 17th within the post-1900 modern eraand was the second oldest, at age 45, to reach the milestone. (Phil Niekro, at 46, won his 300th in 1985.) Johnson was the second pitcher to wear a Giant uniform while winning his 300th game (Christy Mathewson was the other) and, somewhat ironically, he notched it against the Nationalsthe team formerly known as the Montreal Expos, his first major league ballclub.
Which number was larger this past week: The number of career wins owned by Randy Johnson after Thursday, or the number of fans at Washington’s Nationals Park that was present to observe his milestone 300th victory? That the thrill of Johnson reaching hallowed heights was nearly overshadowed by the glaringly small crowd was repugnant and yet another side effect of a Washington Nationals organization gone haywire and grown spoiled. Yes, in all fairness, the game was rescheduled from the night before when rains postponed Johnson’s stab at 300 before an actual in-the-house crowd of, at most, 15,000. Still, it was the first game of a doubleheader, and even by the end of the first game, won by Johnson and the Giants, 5-1, the crowd had not grown to much more than 3,000.
Randy's Next Milestone
Johnson needs 155 strikeouts to become the second major leaguer (after Nolan Ryan) to collect 5,000 in a career. Unless he turns it on late in the year, Johnson won’t reach the barrier until early-to-mid 2010if he decides to pitch on.
Trivia Question of the Week
Johnson was the second oldest player to reach 300 wins. Who was the oldest to win his first game on the way to 300? (See the answer at the bottom of the page.)
100-Plus and Done?
While Johnson won game no. 300, Carlos Zambrano, 28, rang up his 100th victory this past Friday at Cincinnati, 2-1but if he spoke the truth afterward, forget about his chances of reaching 200, let alone 300. Speaking to reporters after the game, Zambrano said that when his current contract expires in 2011, at the age of 32, he’ll retire from baseball. When his claim was met with laughter, the feisty Chicago Cub pitcher retorted with a straight face, “I’m serious, because I don’t want to play anymore.” Zambrano is just one of three active major leaguersCC Sabathia and Jon Garland being the other twounder the age of 30 who own 100 or more career wins.
So Long, Jake
Baseball fans in Cleveland will be eternally grateful for Dick Jacobs, who passed away this week at the age of 83. Though the Indians didn’t win a championship during Jacobs' 14-year reign as Lord of the Tribe, they certainly provided far more good vibes than anything seen in Cleveland in the three decades previous to his buying the team in 1986winning two AL pennants and five divisional titles in a modern ballpark he helped forged and put his name on (leading to the likeable nickname of “The Jake.”), and which was filled to capacity a then-record 455 consecutive games. Jacobs brought the Indians for $40 million and sold them for eight times that amount to current owner Larry Dolan, who just a few weeks ago suffered a mild heart attack.
Free Tiger Stadium!
Early in the week, the city said no to a non-profit group’s request to take over the 98-year old ballpark after the group confessed it was short of the $33.4 million in funds needed to revitalize it, and ordered demolition crews to start tearing down the remainder of the facilityimmediately. Not so fast, said a county judge, who issued a temporary restraining order and demanded the deconstructionists to cease. But not before some demolition on the third base end of the structure had been brought down. What happens now? Who knows what political volleys will be fired next, but if you ask us, it appears that Tiger Stadium’s slow, inevitable death is likely assured. It’s just a matter of how slow it will be.
The ping-pong match between the City of Detroit and preservationists dedicated to saving what remains of Tiger Stadium went into high gear this past week. Dormant, decaying and partially demolished since the Tigers fled for Comerica Park in 1999, Tiger Stadium has been loyally sought to be saved by a conservancy group hoping to turn what’s left of the structurethe double-deck stands between first and third base, seats, light stands and allinto a redeveloped park. (We had our own ideas of saving “The Corner” from our opinion section, but the powers-that-be in depressed Detroit apparently lack the means or brains to think so ambitiously.)
OMG, SOS in Section 126, TTFN
Got someone in your section making others feel uncomfortable? At Milwaukee’s Miller Park, you no longer have to get up and fetch a sweet 65-year old usherette to act as bouncer. Fans are now allowed to quietly send a text message via their cell phones or Blackberry direct to ballpark security, and the rest will be taken care ofin theory.
A Bitter-Tweet Saga
Instead of text messaging the goons who began a spiteful Twitter page, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa handled things the old-fashioned wayby contacting his lawyers. LaRussa discovered that some folks had set up a page on Twitter using his name and made it appear he was making statements, much of them vulgarincluding some “fun” poked at the deaths of Cardinal pitchers Darryl Kile and Kyle Hancock. At first, LaRussa asked nicely to have the page removed, but Twitter didn’t reply. Then he filed suitand within an hour, the page was gone.
The New York Yankees finally erred on the field for the first time since May 13 when catcher Jorge Posada threw wild on a stolen base attempt by Texas’ Elvis Andrus on Tuesday. One day before, the Yankees set a major league record with their 18th straight game without an error, breaking by one game the old mark set by the Boston Red Sox in 2006.
Cheer Up VicenteOr Else
Interesting move by the Texas Rangers this past week to place starting pitcher Vicente Padilla on waivers. Padilla had just come off the disabled list and pitched poorly on Tuesday against the Yankees, but he’d been terrific in three previous startsallowing four runs on just five hits in 23 innings. So why the move? Because it wasn’t going to kill the Rangers, who beyond Padilla finally have some good pitching going in 2009, to let him goor, more pointedly, the $8 million they owe him for the rest of the season. But Randy Galloway of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram also noted that the Rangers used waivers as a message to Padilla to become more of a team player, saying that his “popularity in the clubhouse is at an all-time low.” Here’s a blast from the past for Padilla: Last year, the Rangers, fed up with Sidney Ponson’s clubhouse misdemeanor, let him go despite a 4-1 record and 3.88 ERAand that’s when Texas really needed good pitching.
The Longest Sundays
The San Diego Padres seem to have a thing about getting themselves involved in marathon games at Petco Park on Sundays. This past weekend they engaged the Arizona Diamondbacks in the majors' longest game of the season thus far, a 9-6 loss that took 18 innings (and nearly six hours) to complete. That game included, the Padres have played host to the majors' four longest games (by innings) since 2007with three of them taking place on Sunday.
We'll Take C-SPAN
As if the Washington Nationals have enough problems to worry about, they did receive some good news this past week: Ratings for their local TV broadcasts are double what they were in 2008. The bad news is that the current rating of 0.53 is easily the worst among major league teams. How can Montreal look so bad these days?
The Revived Tales of Hoffman
So much for the notion that Trevor Hoffman had nothing left. Tossed away during the winter by the San Diego Padres, Hoffman’s long-time employer, the all-time save king has been utterly remarkable in Milwaukee, converting all 15 of his save opportunities while not allowing a single run in 17 innings; Hoffman’s also only walked one and opponents are hitting just .121 against him.
Hang in There, Stefan
In the last year we posted Ed Attanasio’s They Were There interview with one-game blunder Stefan Wever, a highly promising pitcher whose one and only major league effort for the 1982 New York Yankees was a disaster topped by a career-ending rotator cuff injury. In the last week we came across this rather sad update of Wever, whose otherwise successful post-baseball career has been riddled with a bout with alcoholism and, just recently, the discovery that he has cancer.
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.
Phil Niekro was 26 when he won his first game on May 13, 1965 for the Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh. Niekro was also the oldest (with Randy Johnson second) to win his 300th game, doing it in 1985; in fact, as the late bloomer among those in the 300 Club, Niekro won only 31 career games before turning 30; he won 99 after turning 40.
Crown Me First, Then I'll Talk
The strongest evidence to suggest that Sammy Sosa was on steroids is guilt by association. Oh, there’s other circumstantial facts to consider: His sudden bulking up as noted by Jose Canseco, who’s been pretty on-target with his observant allegations; an incident in the clubhouse when he profanely barked at a Sports Illustrated reporter when, after he said he’d be the first in line for drug testing, was handed a cup to go pee in a dare to prove his point; and his sudden inability to speak English at the Congressional steroid hearings in 2005, which allowed him to conveniently hide behind his lawyer in the face of tough questions. Beyond that, however, there’s no positive tests, very little mention in the Mitchell Report, and no one has come out of the shadows to say they injected him in the butt.
But when ESPN Deportes interviewed Sosa this past week, Sosa suggested he would discuss his past only after being voted into the Hall of Fame, which sounds like someone wanting his cake and eating it, too. The problem for Sosa is that he may not get to Cooperstown using that strategy; if you know you’re clean, just lay it out on the line, tell us and rid yourself of any suspicions. What’s the point of waiting?
Blame it on Rios
Let’s just say that Thursday was a bad day for Alex Rios. Against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre, the Toronto outfielder struck out five times in five plate appearances in a 6-5 loss, making him the only player since 1954 (and likely the only one ever) to do it twice in one career. (Ironically, Adam Lind, the guy batting behind Rios in the order, was 5-for-5. Hits, not strikeouts.)
It gets worse. That evening, as Rios was leaving a charity dinner, he ignored a young fan asking for his autograph, prompting a man nearby to yell, “The way you played today, you should be lucky someone’s asking for your autograph!” Rios profanely ensnared himself into a shouting contest with the heckler before driving off. Unfortunately for Rios, the incident was caught on tape and distributed the next day on YouTube. Rios later apologized for his behavior, but that may not be enough. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: “Whether management will see it this way or not, Rios essentially is done as Blue Jay. Failing on the field can be accepted. Failing off the field reflects a certain lack of character. All the apologies in the world may not be able to correct that.”
No Way to Treat a Future Hall-of-Famer
Many Atlanta players were upset when the Braves didn’t re-sign John Smoltz during the winter, and now Smoltz is ticked at the way the Braves have unceremoniously dumped Tom Glavine, who won the majority of his 305 career victories in Atlanta. “I’m using a very soft word in ‘disappointed’ because that ain’t right,” said Smoltz, who’s rehabbing for his new team, the Boston Red Sox. He disputed the Braves’ angle on Glavine’s release, saying that it was all about money, not performance as the Braves claim.
Glavine himself was in general agreement with Smoltz, bent out of shape that he threw 11 scoreless innings over his last two rehab starts in the minors (following shoulder and elbow surgeries) but couldn’t connect up with the big club. As the press had a field day over all of this, Atlanta management held some deep thoughts and, afterward, team president John Schuerholz emerged to publicly apologize for the way the team handled Glavine’s departure.
Where There's a Willis, There's a Walk
Former 20-game winner Dontrelle Willis, trying to piece his career back together after suffering from Steve Blass syndrome last season when he couldn’t find the strike zone, suffered a relapse this past week in his start against Boston. In 2.1 innings, Willis allowed no hitsbut gave up five runs as a result of five walks and a hit batsman, thanks in part to umpire Tim Nelson’s miniature strike zone that rankled Tiger manager Jim Leyland to the point that he was ejected. It’s a shame for Willis, as his previous four starts showed signs of a pitcher who had recovered from what was said to be a social anxiety disorder not unlike what ailed Zack Greinke and is currently plaguing St. Louis shortstop Khalil Greene.
A Bad Year Leads to Goodyear
The Cleveland Indians are claiming, for now, that Fausto Carmona is not suffering a la Willis, Greinke or Greene. But he sure seems to pitching with all the symptoms. Less than two years removed from a breakout 19-8 record and 3.06 ERA, Carmona has slid into a tattered state from which he has so far produced a 2-6 mark and 7.42 ERA; in his last three starts, he gave up 19 runs (16 earned) on 16 hits and 11 walks in just 7.1 innings. As the Tigers did with Willis last year, the Indians are bypassing the upper minors and sending Carmona to rookie ball at the team’s spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona, where they hope the 25-year old can work on not just his mechanics but his confidence as well. If it makes Carmona feel any better, we could tell him that at least it’s a dry heat in Goodyear.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
It’s back to the drawing board after Ichiro Suzuki’s hitting streak of 27 gamesthe second longest this year, and the longest in Seattle Mariner historycame to an end on Friday. So as of the end of this week, the longest active hitting run belongs to San Francisco's Aaron Rowand, who has caught fire since being placed in the Giants' leadoff spot. Rowand has collected hits in 17 staright games.
This Year's Challenger to Coors Field
New Yankee Stadium has already set one mark; the most consecutive games from the opening of a ballpark in which at least one home run was hit, breaking the old record of 22 games at San Juan’s Hi Bithorn Stadium, filling in for Montreal while MLB decided what to do with the Expos.
Home runs continue to hop into the new Yankee Stadium bleachers at an amazing rate; as of the end of this weekend, 100 homers have been hit in the ballpark’s first 28 games, putting the $1.5 billion palace close on pace to break the all-time record of 303 homers hit at one ballpark during a season, set in 1999 at Denver’s Coors Field.
First at Second
No second baseman in the history of baseball has reached 100 home runs faster than Florida’s Dan Uggla, who cracked the triple-digit barrier this past Tuesday in the Marlins’ 10-3 win against Milwaukee. The 29-year old Uggla’s 100th blast came in his 502nd career game; Alfonso Soriano held the old mark at 536 games.
Rackin' on Zack
The Royals’ fabulous Zack Greinke, not so fabulous on Friday after giving up seven runs (five earned) in five innings at Toronto, served up his first home run in 111 innings going back to last September 2 when Lyle Overbay connected for the Blue Jays in their 9-3 win.
It Was Fun For a (Brief) While
After hitting two home runs in his first three games, pitchers figured out Atlanta’s prized outfielding prospect Jordan Schafer. Schafer apparently hasn’t figured them back. The 22-year old was sent to Triple-A this past week after an abysmal May in which he hit .158 with 40 strikeouts in 101 at-bats; he hasn’t homered since those first two blasts in the team’s first series of the year at Philadelphia.
Playing it Tight
Of the 57 games the Seattle Mariners have played so far in 2008 (as of Sunday), 27 have been decided by one run, with the Mariners winning 15 of them. Only four other teams have as many as 19.
Wounded of the Week
And just in case you thought baseball players sit on their cans and do nothing while recuperating, we give you Arizona’s Conor Jackson, who’s taking advantage of his time off from a bout of pneumonia to appear on an episode of the long-running ABC daytime soap opera “General Hospital.” Playing a physical therapist, Jackson was proud to note that he got his scene done on the first take.
There was serious concerns this past week in New York that the H1N1 virus (a.k.a., Swine Flu) would spread throughout the Mets' organization after the producer of the team's radio broadcasts came down with it; the semi-panic peaked when Carlos Beltran showed signs of the virus, which later turned out to be a false alarm. The Mets have enough problems otherwise staying healthy; joining an expanding disabled list this week is set-up reliever J.J. Putz, outfielder Angel Pagan and utility man Ramon Martinez. Elsewhere around the majors, those placed out of action include Texas front man Josh Hamilton, who may not be back until September with a sports hernia; Cincinnati starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (elbow); and David Ortiz, who, while not on the shelf, is considering optometry help to deal with his year-long hitting drought that has left him with only a pair of homers and a sub-.200 average in the first third of the season.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.