The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: June 6-12, 2011
After Derek Jeter, Who's the Next Mr. 3,000? Will MLB Do Away With Divisions?
Farewell to Jim Northrup and Jose Pagan Odds and Sods From This Year's Draft

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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!

The Jeter Watch: Who's Next for 3,000?
Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees is closing on becoming the 28th major leaguer with 3,000 career hits; with a little luck, he might be able to do in front of the Yankee Stadium home fans early this week against Texas. If not, he may have to settle for catching the milestone in a National League city, as the Yankees begin a six-game interleague road swing through Chicago and Cincinnati.

While Jeter’s addition to the 3,000 Club has been viewed as a formality for the past few years, the next nine guys on the active list of most career hits see their chances range from iffy to almost certain. Here they are, with our guess as to what their odds are of reaching 3,000:

2. Ivan Rodriguez (2,835). The (likely) future Hall-of-Fame catcher’s career is winding down too quick for him to make 3,000. Washington is grooming Wilson Ramos as the next everyday catcher sooner than later, and I-Rod’s chances of catching on with a full-time gig elsewhere for the next year or two are unlikely. Odds: 20%.

3. Omar Vizquel (2,823). At 44, the defensive wizard still hits well but has settled into part-time status at best. Though good in a pinch, he’s simply running out of time and opportunity. Odds: 10%.

4. Alex Rodriguez (2,733). He’s not the beast he once was, but A-Rod is still quite active and should certainly reach the hallowed mark; barring injury or sudden decline, he should get there by early 2013, at age 37. Odds: 98%.

5. Johnny Damon (2,640). As long as he stays spry and is given the chance to play everyday, Damon has a shot; at his current pace, he can get to 3,000 before the end of the 2013 season, just before he reaches another milestone: His 40th birthday. Odds: 50%.

6. Chipper Jones (2,548). The Atlanta star third baseman has tailed off over the last three years into a Jeter-like malaise, and he turns 40 next April. A career uptick is possible, but could he sustain it long enough to reach the milestone? Odds: 15%.

7. Vladimir Guerrero (2,496). The .319 career hitter isn’t fading as quick as some believed, but how long can his shaky knees keep him running in pursuit of 3,000? Maybe he can alter his birth certificate again to add a few years to his chances. Odds: 10%.

8. Miguel Tejada (2,336). From everything we’ve been reading, he’ll be lucky just to have his job with San Francisco by next month (unless his Giant teammates keep dropping like flies). Tejada’s just not what he used to be, and he certainly won’t hang around long enough to get to the milestone. Odds: 2%.

9. Bobby Abreu (2,326). Had he not accrued all those darned walks over his career (nearly 1,400 to date), he might be at 3,000 already. Abreu is still a threat, but he’ll need the equivalent of four more full seasons at his current efficiency to reach 3,000. At age 37, that’s a dubious thought. Odds: 10%.

10. Ichiro Suzuki (2,314). Some believe he’s already achieved 3,000 hits if you work in his numbers from Japan. (Quick reality check: Japan is not MLB.) Yes, the 37-year old Seattle hitting machine is showing signs of rust, but it’s too early to tell whether this is really the beginning of the end. Don’t count him out quite yet. Odds: 40%.

Bunching Up?
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Sunday that Major League Baseball has had “serious” discussions about eliminating the six divisions and returning each league to one big group, with 15 teams each. But before the purists start jumping for joy, they need to be aware that baseball is not going back to a time before the expansion era when the first-place team alone survived to reach the World Series; under the proposed plan, the top five teams from each league would qualify for the postseason, bringing into play commissioner Bud Selig’s recent public wish to expand the playoffs to ten teams from the current eight.

The players’ union has formally heard the proposal and is “open to the idea,” but it’s believed that the odds of the idea becoming reality are “less than 50-50.” Possible sticking points include the concept of continuous interleague play that will have to occur with two odd-numbered leagues, as well as which National League team would be willing to move over to the American League (Olney’s report says Houston would be the most likely transplant, strengthening its in-state rivalry with current AL member Texas).

What's in a Draft Name?
As always, the MLB draft—held this past week—served up a lot of intriguing selections, mostly in the late rounds when the process is relegated to nepotistic choices and publicity stunts. That will happen when you’re given 50 rounds to draft.

Among the more familiar names taken were Shawon Dunston Jr. (by the Chicago Cubs), Dante Bichette Jr. (by the New York Yankees), Ryan Garvey (son of former Los Angeles all-star Steve Garvey, by Philadelphia) and Ivan Rodriguez, the son of…Ivan Rodriguez, selected by Minnesota. Additionally, Trevor Gretzky—the son of hockey great Wayne Gretzky—was picked by Milwaukee, as was Trent Boras, son of superagent Scott Boras (so who’s representing him?); Bryan Harper, the brother of last year’s number one pick Bryce Harper, was also taken by Washington; Detroit chose Colin Kaline, the grandson of former Tiger Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline; and Kyle Gaedele, picked by San Diego, is the great-nephew of miniature legend Eddie Gaedel, the 3’7” one-walk wonder who appeared in a 1951 game for maverick owner Bill Veeck’s St. Louis Browns.

The most bittersweet selection of the draft came in the last round when the Rangers selected Jonathan Taylor, an outfielder from Georgia who was paralyzed earlier this spring in an outfield collision with Zach Cone—who the Rangers picked in the second round.

Twit of the Week
Some people publicly express their joy of being drafted by thanking their parents, their coaches and their agents.
Zach Houchins, selected in the 15th round by the Nationals, decided to express his feelings on Twitter with a string of profane, racist-tainted postings. Apparently that sort of language has been the 18-year old’s M.O. since beginning his Twitter account, which he has now deactivated. The Nationals are “investigating” him in the wake of this discovery.

A Higher Call for Resurrection
The hell with Bud Selig, Frank McCourt must be thinking; he’s got God on his side. This past week, a group of 20 Baptist and Methodist ministers came out in support of the embattled Los Angeles Dodger owner, stating he deserves to keep the franchise. The pastors, most of whom were African-American, also evoked the Dodgers’ tie to civil rights via their 1947 integration of the game with Jackie Robinson—although McCourt had nothing to do with that.

Two Who Had Backbone
Two player favorites from the 1960s passed away this week. Jim Northrup was a terrific supporting cast member for Detroit during the Tigers’ heyday of the late 1960s and early 1970s, hitting at least 21 home runs each season between 1968-70; the Michigan native twice knocked in eight runs in a game and, most famously, hit the two-run triple over the head of a disoriented Curt Flood in Game Seven of the 1968 World Series that broke not only a scoreless tie but the backs of the Cardinals, as Detroit went on take the series with a 4-1 win. Northrup played 11 years for the Tigers; he died on Wednesday at age 71, a victim of Alzheimer’s.

Jose Pagan is a classic example of a player whose true value to his team is not reflected in the career stat sheet. He played all 164 games for the San Francisco Giants (the extra games came courtesy of a three-game tie-breaking playoff against Los Angeles) in their 1962 NL pennant-winning campaign, and even though his numbers didn’t have MVP written all over them, he finished 11th in the NL vote because of his gamer-like intensity and clutch play. Pagan’s tenure as a full-time player lasted only a handful of years with the Giants; in 1965 he was traded to Pittsburgh, where he continued to show his versatility (he played every position but pitcher during his career), albeit in a part-time role; he came up big in the 1971 World Series for the Pirates, doubling in the ultimate game-winning run in the eighth inning against Baltimore in Game Seven. Pagan was 76 and died of complications from dementia.

Right, Said Fred
Edgar Renteria, Last year’s World Series MVP for the Giants, came back to San Francisco for the first time this year since signing a free agent contract with Cincinnati and was given his World Series ring in a pregame ceremony in front of a packed AT&T Park on Thursday. Less publicized was the giving of another ring to another former Giant and current Red, outfielder Fred Lewis—even though Lewis didn’t play a single moment for the Giants in 2010. Lewis was on the Opening Day roster but also the disabled list—and was traded to Toronto before he recovered. Nonetheless, the Giants somehow felt he deserved some championship bling.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak—and also ends up with a bad back that hopefully won’t worsen and land him on the disabled list. Pence’s 22-game run is the majors’ second longest this season, and the longest in his short career; he’s hitting .391 since the streak began on May 19.

Wounded of the Week
This past week showed that not every home plate collision favors the runner. Denard Span of the Minnesota Twins was placed on MLB’s newly-created seven-day variation of the disabled list after suffering concussion-like effects from a smash-up at home plate that he got the worse of.

Not on the DL but making injury-related news nonetheless was Cleveland outfielder Travis Buck, who along with his wife was taken to the hospital after being passengers in a New York City taxicab that endured a “minor fender bender.” Dude, no one goes to the hospital after a ‘minor’ fender bender—unless Buck’s got an insurance scam going on the side.

Others hitting the shelf this week include New York Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlain, who’s out for the year with Tommy John surgery (leading the ever-creative Gotham headline gods to refer to him as “Joba the Hurt”); A return to the DL for Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy (groin); yet another San Francisco Giant (second baseman Freddy Sanchez, with a dislocated shoulder); yet another Oakland A’s starting pitcher (Brett Anderson, elbow); Florida all-star shortstop Hanley Ramirez (back); and Atlanta’s Martin Prado, sidelined with a staph infection.

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Monday, June 6
San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum becomes the youngest active pitcher (at age 27) with 1,000 strikeouts, reaching the milestone during the second inning of the Giants’ 13-inning, 5-4 win over Washington. Two other 27-year old pitchers, Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, are very close to 1,000 as well; Lincecum’s teammate Matt Cain, at 26, has 969 career K’s. Lincecum is said to have reached 1,000 Ks with fewer batters as a starter.

In losing, the Nationals blew a 4-0 lead late in the game for the second straight day, though they had recovered and won the day before at Arizona.

Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies becomes the first pitcher on the year to record 100 strikeouts.

Tuesday, June 7
New York Met pitcher Craig Capuano, who missed two of his previous three years due to injury while employed by Milwaukee, faces the Brewers for the first time in his career and enjoys one of best performances on the year, allowing a run on six hits through six innings as the Mets win, 2-1, at Miller Park.

The Cleveland Indians avoid losing their eighth straight game at home for the first time since Jacobs/Progressive Field opened in 1994 by defeating the Minnesota Twins, 1-0. The Tribe is 6-9 at home after winning 14 of their first 16 there.

Wednesday, June 8
It’s a bad day to be a hitting coach. Two of them are fired: Thad Bosley of the Texas Rangers and John Mallee of the Florida Marlins. The axing of Mallee especially irks players on the Marlins, who believe the decision was made solely by owner Jeffrey Loria as a kneejerk reaction to the Marlins’ eight-game losing streak.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are trying. With their 3-2 win over Arizona at PNC Park, they up their record to 30-30—the latest they’ve been at .500 during a season since 2005. The Bucs haven’t had a winning season since 1992.

The Milwaukee Brewers, down 6-2 at home against the Mets, score four in the eighth to tie the game and win it in the ninth when Nyjer Morgan doubles home Craig Counsell. Morgan is stunned to see his Brewer teammates race toward him in jubilation. Why? Because he thinks it’s the bottom of the eighth.

The Boston Red Sox crush the New York Yankees, 11-5, as Yankee starter A.J. Burnett falls to 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA against Boston since donning pinstripes.

Thursday, June 9
Internal strife and a nine-game losing streak is a lethal mix for Oakland manager Bob Geren, who becomes the first major league manager to be fired this season.

The San Diego Padres, in desperate need of a big-time hitter, call up hot prospect Anthony Rizzo—who’s been tearing up the Pacific Coast League in Tucson. Rizzo’s major league debut at Petco Park against Washington is a good one; he triples and walks twice in two plate appearances in the Padres’ 7-3 win. He also needs to get a little more used to the Petco Park layout; chasing a foul ball from his first base spot, he crashes head-first into the first row of the stands, but survives intact.

The Late Show With the Red Sox and Yankees: After a thunderstorm rolls through Yankee Stadium in the evening, the Red Sox and Yankees get around to playing ball. First pitch: 10:32 p.m. Last pitch: 1:43 a.m. Boston wins, 8-3, and is now 8-1 this year against New York, including a 6-0 mark at Yankee Stadium.

Before that Red Sox-Yankee game, the Boston media publicly notes that David Ortiz has never been hit by a Yankee pitcher in his career. The Yankees apparently were reading; later in the game, he gets plunked by a CC Sabathia fastball. Afterward, an angry Ortiz “thanks” the media for bringing up the factoid, adding, “Hope you (bleep)s are happy.”

Joakim Soria gets his first save opportunity since removing himself from the closer role a week-plus earlier—and barely earns it, loading the bases but keeping the Blue Jays from tying it to win, 3-2.

Friday, June 10
Tony La Russa, 66, manages his 5,000th game, and wishes he hadn’t; his St. Louis Cardinals get smoked at Milwaukee by the Brewers, 8-0. Only Connie Mack, who managed 50 years for the Philadelphia A’s, piloted more games. The next active manager with the most games to his resume is Jim Leyland—who’s a good 2,000 behind La Russa.

After giving up a second-inning home run to Curtis Granderson that gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead, Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona plunks Mark Teixeira in the back with the very next pitch—enraging Teixeira and clearing the benches, although no punches are thrown. The intensity of the moment peaks when both managers—Cleveland’s Manny Acta and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi—get into a brief, heated nose-to-nose shouting match.

The A’s, trailing 5-3 at Chicago against the White Sox, are an out away from loising their 11th straight game when the next six batters reach base safely, highlighted by a two-run double by Scott Sizemore to cap a four-run rally and win the game, 7-5.

Saturday, June 11
Toronto benchwarmer Mike McCoy relieves an exhausted Blue Jay bullpen and pitches the ninth inning against Boston—and retires the side in order. Of course, McCoy’s effort may not be as impressive as it seems; the Red Sox were already up, 16-4, and were likely just trying to get the game over with.

Lincecum, in his second start of the week, is clearly out of whack—throwing more balls than strikes and allowing a career-high seven runs in four innings during the Giants’ 10-2 loss to Cincinnati.

Sunday, June 12
Minnesota pitcher Francisco Liriano, who threw a no-hitter at Chicago on May 3, nearly gets his second no-no of the year at Target Field against Texas—but after waiting out a 30-minute, five-run rally by his teammates to take a commanding 6-0 lead, he gives up a leadoff single to Adrian Beltre. Liriano finishes the day throwing eight innings, allowing a run on two hits.

Kansas City pitcher Vin Mazzaro, who just four weeks earlier participated in one of the worst pitching performances in major league history when he allowed 14 runs in barely two innings of relief work, shuts down the Angels for seven innings at Anaheim in his second start since being recalled from the minors.

Is the Chief Vulnerable at Third?
We look at some of the outrageous major league records out there and think, “that’ll never be broken.” One such mark that always hits the top of our list is Owen “Chief” Wilson’s 36 triples in 1912. Who can possibly bust out that many three-baggers in a year these days? Well, don’t count out Jose Reyes. The New York Met shortstop cracked his 11th triple of the year this past week, and is on pace for a season total of 28. It’s still shy of Wilson’s record—but it’s close. That in itself would be an achievement. (Only seven players in the modern era have hit as many as 25—the last being Kiki Cuyler way back in 1925.)

Remember Me?
Lance Berkman, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, is hitting .480 (12-for-25) this year against his former mates in Houston, with five home runs and 12 RBIs.

A Star is Born
It’s been exactly a year since Mike Stanton’s debut for the Florida Marlins, which means he’s played roughly a full season’s worth of games. What does that add up to? A .260 average, 37 homers and 97 RBIs in 159 games. He’s still only 21 years old—and he’s for real, folks.

Why Have Better When You Can Have Best?
Some are saying that Craig Kimbrel’s days as the Atlanta Braves’ closer are numbered, a somewhat puzzling statement considering that he’s collected more saves (18) before the All-Star break than any National League rookie in history. The argument against Kimbrel in the ninth is tied to second-year reliever Jonny Venters, who’s 4-0 with a 0.44 ERA and 14 holds this season. (Venters was given the ninth inning on Sunday and closed out the Houston Astros, so perhaps the Braves are feeling the same way.)

Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers: A .333 average in 32 home games—and a .123 mark in 30 games on the road.

He Said What?
MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons on Chicago’s Wrigley Field: “They have to make that ballpark livable. It’s a dump, Wrigley Field. They’re going to have to spend $200-and-something million on re-renovating Wrigley Field, do what the Boston owners did with Fenway Park.”

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!

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.