Bowing to Fantasy
Last week, Major League Baseball was after the little leaguers for its money. This week, they tried the fantasy leagues, but the Supreme Court wouldn’t hear of it. The American Nine of the Judicial Roundtable refused comment and turned away an appeal by MLB to force fantasy league businesses to pay for the use of major league statistics. In moving on, the justices concurred with an earlier federal appeals court ruling that stated that free speech provided by the First Amendment trumped the “right of publicity” embraced by MLB and the players’ union in their attempt to try and license their statistics for commercial purposes. Next week: MLB will try and license the air we breathe within 30 feet of a major league ballpark.
Wait 'Til Next Year, Barry
Spring Training 2009 is going to get some competition in the media: That’s when Barry Bonds’ perjury trial is set to take place. Back in San Francisco this past Friday, the unemployed home run king made his first public appearance during the major league season in a courtroom and, through his lawyers, pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the BALCO case. His court date was set for March 2, leaving Bonds available to play this season without legal disruptionthat is, if anyone still wants him.
It's All About 400 for Chipper
Chipper Jones celebrated one milestone this past week and may be on his way to another, both involving the number 400. On Thursday, the 36-year old Atlanta third baseman clouted his 400th career home run against Florida, becoming just the third switch-hitter (after Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray) to reach that plateau. Meanwhile, Jones continues to rack up hits and maintain a .400-plus average he has held since April 13. Like fine wine, Jones seems to only be getting better; he hit a career-high .337 just last year, and at this stage looks to be a cinch to topple that in 2008.
You Wanna Give Up #600, You Pitch to Him!
Ever since Ken Griffey Jr. came within one big swing of becoming the fifth player in history to reach 600 home runs, pitchers have gotten gun-shy at giving him the chance. Through Sunday, Griffey has recorded 14 official at-bats since hitting his 599th career homer, and at the same time has walked nine times. Comparitively, Griffey walked 26 times amid the 201 at-bats prior to 599.
Falling Off Cliff?
Cleveland pitcher Cliff Lee, who shot off to a phenomenal start with a 6-0 record, 0.67 ERA, 44 strikeouts and just four walks through May 12, has cooled off quite a bit. In his last four starts since his mid-May peak, Lee has a 6.55 ERA with 36 hits and seven walks allowed in 23.1 inningsalbeit with a 3-1 record.
Wounded of the Week
There was such a flurry of major league pitchers being given season shutdowns, you began to wonder if this was September. Atlanta’s John Smoltz, Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook, Detroit’s Jon Bonderman and (likely) San Francisco’s Noah Lowry were told this past week to basically wait ‘til next year. In the 41-year old Smoltz’s case, we’ll see if next year ever comes. The other big news on baseball’s medical front came out of Boston where star slugger David Ortiz, after hearing a loud pop in his ailing wrist, was placed on the disabled list for at least a month. Others feeling the pain were Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena, last year’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Week
The San Diego Padres became the first team in major league history to play and win four straight games by the score of 2-1.
Always in the Game
The Chicago Cubs, before losing the first of those four Padre 2-1 victories, had led at some point in each of their previous 25 games.
Why Stop at First When There's Always Second?
Oakland rookie Carlos Gonzalez's first seven career hits were doubles, becoming the first major leaguer since Johnny Mize in 1936 to have each of his first seven hits go for extra bases.
Belated Applause for Glaus
St. Louis boomer Troy Glaus has hit five home runs in his last nine games after hitting just two over his first 56.
Boston’s Kevin Youkilis was charged with an error when he dropped a ninth-inning throw in the Red Sox’ 11-3 win over Seattle on Saturday, ending his major league record errorless streaks of 238 games and 2,002 chances at first base.
Now Playing on TGG: Gus Zernial
Check out Ed Attanasio's chat with Gus Zernial, one of baseball's premier power hitters during the early 1950s, in our new installment of "They Were There."
Why We Fight Them
None of the Rays were in a particularly conciliatory mood in the days that followed. Manager Joe Maddon remarked, “I loved the way our guys reacted...I’m very pleased with every one of them.” Shields was even more defiant: “We’ve been getting stomped around the last ten years, and that’s not going to happen any more.” But as important as unity is for the Rays, the fact that they were swept by the Red Sox and knocked out of first place can’t be buried too deep as a footnote to all of the violence.
First, it was the New York Yankees, in Spring Training. Now it’s the Boston Red Sox that the Tampa Bay Rays are standing up to, in both victories and testosterone levels. The young, inexpensive (and awfully good, so far) Rays didn’t back down in March when Akinori Iwamura was the recipient of a late, spikes-high slide by the Yankees’ Shelley Duncanigniting a brawl that led to numerous player suspensionsand they didn’t back down against the other titan of the AL East on Thursday night at Fenway Park, a day after the Red Sox’ Coco Crisp did exactly the same thing to Iwamura. When Crisp came up for his first at-bat, Tampa Bay pitcher James Shieldswho had already plunked Dustin Pedroiahit him on the thigh as payback. Naturally, Crisp responded, and naturally, the rest of the playersboth on the field and in the dugoutdid, too. Once Major League Baseball reviewed the ensuing melee on video, eight players were disciplined, including Tampa Bay players Shields (six games), Iwamura (three games) and Jonny Gomes (five games), who had the special privilege of being the only Ray reprimanded for both this fight and the Yankee brawl in March. Three Red Sox players were among those docked, including Crisp.
Why We Fight Ourselves
Almost lost in the Red Sox-Rays fracas was the bizarre sideshow that took place later in the same game, when Red Sox All-Stars Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis came to blows in the Boston dugout. The two were quickly separated, and that was apparently that as far as the public eye could see; although Red Sox players and officials kept mum on the subject afterwardRamirez and Youkilis, speaking separately the next day, both told reporters, “It’s a new day”some insiders popped up to say that the incident began when Ramirez berated Youkilis for his habitually intense, angry reactions when he fails to reach base.
Witnesses from the opposing dugout, the Rays were apparently inspired by the event and, on Sunday, had their own internal row when pitcher Matt Garza and catcher Dioner Navarro got entangled with one another in the dugout for what manager Joe Maddon described as an "exchange of ideas." What ideas could they have possibly have been exchanging, Joe?
The Big Unit Steps Up a Big Notch
Randy Johnson, who’s rediscovered some extra fuel in the tank since back problems nearly sidelined him permanently last year, surpassed Roger Clemens for second place on the all-time career strikeout list on Tuesday when he mowed down the Brewers’ Mike Cameron in the first inning at Milwaukee. It was the first of eight strikeouts on the night for Johnson, who now has 4,680 over a 21-year career that began with the 1988 Montreal Expos. While Clemens is relegated to third on the list, he does retain his status as Number Two in other ways through the eyes of folks like Brian McNamee; between Johnson, the steroids rap, and with Greg Maddux five wins away from surpassing him for eighth on the all-time victory list, it’s shaping up to be a very bad year for Clemens, on the field and off it. As for the 44-year old Johnson, it's unlikely he'll catch the all-time leader in KsNolan Ryan, who's still over 1,000 ahead.
It Says on the Clubhouse Door: No Malcontents
Attitude adjustment has been a big reason for the stunning ascensions of Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley, two Texas Rangers with extremely troubled pasts. Sidney Ponson, another Ranger whose spotty reputation has been mischievously mild by comparison, didn’t get the message. Despite a 4-1 record and 3.88 ERA that jumps out as savior-type numbers on a Texas staff saddled with the majors’ worst ERA, the 31-year old Ponson was released after what the team claimed was a series of “disrespectful and adverse reactions” in the clubhouse, according to general manager Jon Daniels. This is nothing new to Ponson; throw on a couple of DUIs and an assault on a judge in his homeland of Aruba, and it’s easy to see why he’s played for six different teams in six seasons.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Two perennial All-Star shortstops, Texas’ Michael Young and the New York Mets’ Jose Reyesboth off to slow starts this seasonshare the longest current active hitting streak in the majors at 17 games.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.