I'll Take 600
When he came to Cincinnati in 2000 after being turned off by the vast distances and heavy marine air that separated home plate and the outfield wall at Seattle’s Safeco Field, Ken Griffey Jr. looked to be the odds-on favorite to be the next home run king. At the time, he was a 30-year old with 400 blasts to his credit, and given the superhuman numbers with the Mariners over his previous four years (a seasonal average of 52 homers and 141 RBIs), it seemed simple to think that 35 homers a year for a decade and change more of work would put him above Henry Aaron. But this was all before Barry Bonds walked into BALCO, and before Griffey started to fall apart physically. Eight trips to the disabled list later, and Griffey this past week finally managed to top the 600-home run mark, making him only the sixth player in history to accomplish the feat.
Griffey’s milestone, achieved after a week of timid pitching that kept him from getting anything good to smack, was nailed fair past the right field foul pole in the course of the Reds’ 9-4 win at Miami on Monday night. At that point, the question became: Would anyone in typically deserted Dolphin Stadium collect the ball? Among the paid crowd of 16,000actual, 10,000, according to those on the scenewere numerous fans who did go after the potentially lucrative ball, snapped up by a Marlin fan regular who would only identify himself as “Joe” and rebuffed all offers to hand the ball over to either the Reds or Marlins because of his “circumstances.” (Another fan at the scene claims “Joe” stole the ball from him after he caught it, but both Marlin officials and game video discount the notion.)
How far will Griffey go from here? At 38 and with some battery power left in him, 700 home runs would be a realistic if not lofty goal. Catching Bonds is unlikely given his age, decreased durability and decreased game. However far he goes, Griffey will have the satisfaction of knowing that he got there fair and square, unlike, in all likelihood, the most recent two entrants of the 600 and Beyond Club: Bonds and Sammy Sosa.
Miltdown in KC
There was a certain irony this past week when Milton Bradley, the temperamental Texas Ranger who’s been on his best behavior this yearin part because he’s having such an outstanding season at the platefinally snapped only after he heard Kansas City Royal TV analyst Ryan Lefebvre say on air that, in effect, his temper continued to be a problem. (It didn’t help that Lefebvre made the statement in the context of an analogy praising Josh Hamilton, who’s a recovered drug addictleading to the assumption that Bradley had substance issues.) From the visiting clubhouse, Bradley stormed up to the TV booth at Kaufmann Stadium where he was held off at the pass by Texas general manager Jon Daniels. Bradley later claimed that all he wanted to do was “introduce” himself to Lefebvre and discuss his comments. Even after the incident, and with time to think about what he said, Lefebvre told the Kansas City Star, “What I was trying to convey is that it’s really sad that (Bradley) carries himself on the field in a way that prevents people from appreciating his talent.” And what we’re trying to convey is, why criticize a guy for being someone that he really hasn’t been this year? Give the man a chance.
The Chipper Watch
Ever since Ted Williams made it to the end of the 1941 season as the last player to date to finish with a .400+ batting average, only a handful of players have been able to maintain the magic mark into July. Chipper Jones stands a fair chance to get that far this season, but no one’s making it easy for himeven himself, after a ball he hit during Friday’s batting practice at Anaheim hit him in the left eye after it ricocheted off a metal bar of the cage. The freak accident resulted in a three-hour visit to the hospital, an unexpected night out of the lineup on Fridayand a combined 0-for-7 in two weekend starts against the Angels, dropping his batting average to .402 after it had peaked a week earlier at .421.
Bandboxes Be Damned
When the Arizona Diamondbacks and Kansas City Royals took a 0-0 game into the tenth inning on Friday, it represented the first time in the 11-year history of Bank One Ballpark/Chase Field that a scoreless game had reached extra innings. Ironically, it also nearly happened for the first time just two days earlier in Coors Field, when the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants went nil-all to the last out of the ninthand it appeared for a few seconds that it would go survive that way into the tenth, but umpire Fieldin Culbreth reversed his out call at the plate and ruled Garrett Atkins safe on a sacrifice fly after it was revealed that Giant catcher Bengie Molina dropped the ball on his way to tagging Atkins.
The Moyer He Pitches, the Better He Gets
Jamie Moyer, at 45 years of age the oldest active major leaguer, threw eight shutout innings against the Marlins at Miami on Wednesday to improve his career record against Florida to 9-0. In fact, it’s a perfect 9-0 in that he’s done it in nine starts, without a no-decision thrown in. Only one other active pitcher has won more games without a loss against another team: Randy Johnson, who has a career 12-0 mark against the Chicago Cubs.
On the Other Hand...
San Francisco pitcher Pat Misch has started 11 career gamesand the Giants have lost them all. The 26-year old southpaw has been personally tagged with the loss in seven of those games, and has been demoted to the bullpen with the addition of Kevin Correia off the disabled list.
Wounded of the Week
This was not a good week for major leaguers with one DL trip already in the books for 2008 avoiding a second go-around on the shelf. Among those making an unwanted return to inactivity were Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, who had never been on the DL once in his previous 21 years; teammate-closer Rafael Soriano; Chicago outfielder Alfonso Soriano; Seattle closer J.J. Putz; New York Met outfielder Moises Alou; and Tampa Bay reliever Al Reyes. Beyond that, many major names made the list for the first time, headlined by likely All-Star Albert Pujols (strained calf).
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."
Not-Too-Distant Instant Replay?
In the wake of a rash of blown home run calls by umpires, Major League Baseball said a few weeks back that it would consider instant replay for such callstaking a slow, careful approach to implementation by first using it in the upcoming Arizona Fall League before deciding whether to promote it to the major league level. Now the Associated Press is reporting that MLB wants to quickly ramp up its plans and begin instant replay in the majors as early as this summer. Details were sketchy, but the AP report mentioned insider information revealing the possibility of a “war room”-like facility at MLB in which officials would watch all games and, if a bad call was in need of overturning, would somehow contact the umpires on the scenequickly, we hopeto let them know of a reversal. Of course, anything Bud Selig and Company decides on will have to be blessed by umpires and players.
How to Save the Hall of Fame Game
On June 16, the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs will play the last Hall of Fame game, a special exhibition that began at Cooperstown in 1940 to coincide with the induction of the year’s Hall of Fame entrants. MLB soon ended that tie-in while keeping the game (moving it up to June) and now it’s ending the event, periodin part because the season schedule has become less relaxed with fewer off-days. (Also, as anyone who’s traveled to Cooperstown knows, getting there is not a quick trip; the Hall is 90 rural miles outside of Albany, which for most of us requires two plane rides to get to.)
There have been some grass-roots efforts to save the event, but MLB (and more pointedly, the players) simply wish it to go away. So how about trying this: Instead of having apparently disinterested major leaguers play, stage an All-Star exhibition of the best minor leaguers of the moment, and bill it as a game featuring potential future Hall of Famers. It would make a nice incentive for up-and-coming stars to come to Cooperstown, absorb the Hall and be more inspired to achieve the greatness they’ve been ticketed for by the experts. We’ll pass the thought on to Kristian Connolly, who’s spearheading the drive to save the Hall of Fame game at www.savethefamegame.com.
An Ex-Fish in Lakeland
Dontrelle Willis is pitching in Florida again, but not for the Marlins; he’s toiling with the Lakeland Flying Tigers of the Class A Florida State League. This is as low as Willis hopes to sink, as he’s spiraled a long way down from winning 22 games for the Marlins in 2005. Walks have been the main problem; in 2005 he allowed just two walks per nine innings, but that figure rose to 3.3 in 2006, 3.8 in 2007and this year he’s off the charts, having allowed 21 free passes in 11.1 innings pitched for the Tigers, who are paying him $29 million over three years. Hitters are batting just .189 against Willis so far, but when his ball isn’t hitting the strike zone, why bother to swing? Some in Detroit are opining that beyond the walks, increased weight may be the ultimate culprit for Willis, with the extra poundage presenting a challenge to his high leg-kick delivery.
The Americans Still Have It
The American League continued its dominance of the past few years over the National League as interleague play kicked back into gear; the AL won 25 of 42 matchups, giving the Junior Circuit an overall 47-36 edge for the 2008 season so far.
The Ten-ure of the Moose
A surprising co-leader for wins on the AL leaderboard, 39-year old Mike Mussina continued his renaissance of sorts after an ineffective 2007 (11-10, but with a 5.15 ERA) by winning his tenth game of 2008 this past Saturday at Houstonand in doing so, extended his AL record of most consecutive seasons with at least ten victories.
Saving the Corner (Continued)
Detroit’s Tiger Stadiumhome of the Tigers from 1912-99is still standing, but not for long unless Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell and others get their sayand $15 million. That’s how much is needed to reach a city-approved goal to preserve the structure between the dugouts (the field has already been saved and will be used for special events). But if the money fails to come in by August 1, the whole thing may come downand with that, nearly a century of rich baseball history. We gave our own opinion of how Tiger Stadium could be preserved at a profit in 2005, but politiciansespecially those in derelict Detroitseem to have a hard time grasping ingenuity.
Home @#$% Home
As of Saturday, only two teamsthe San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationalshave a worse record at home than on the road. The other 28 major league teams are making the most of their home field advantage, underscoring a more definitive success rate among home teams than seen in 2007.
The Atlanta Braves are 0-21 in one-run games on the road dating back to last season, tying the 2000-01 KC Royals for the longest such streak in major league history.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
The major leaguer everyone loves to hateChicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynskiends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 11 games.
Somehow, nobody caught us on this one until we gloved it ourselves looking back; in our April 21-27 edition of the Comebacker spotlighting the Cubs’ 2001 season, we evoked Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game as a notable achievement of the season. Even non-Cub fans would be among the first to tell us that Wood’s performance took place in 1998, as we discuss above in our “Century Without a Championship” segment. We obviously knew that, too, but suffered a brain fart in initially writing it up. Our apologies for the historical confusion.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.