Perhaps the most anticipated series of the interleague season took place this past weekend when Manny Ramirez returned to Boston to take on the Red Sox in the uniform of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It really became much ado about nothing, with more steam coming from Boston sportswriters who couldn't wait to remind people how big a creep Ramirez was during his time with the Red Soxespecially during the final, turbulent days of his tenure in 2008. The fans largely booed Ramirez during the three-game seriesswept by the Red Soxbut there were also some cheers mixed in; perhaps just as surprising, many of Ramirez's former Boston teammates were cordial toward him, beyond the expected embrace from David Ortiz. Ramirez did not disappoint with his bat; he knocked out five hits, including a home run, in 12 at-bats against the Red Sox.
Rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg continued to amaze this past week, on and off the field. The Washington fireballer clamped down on the Chicago White Sox on Thursday at Nationals Park before another sellout crowd that included President Barack Obama, allowing a run on four hits and no walkswith ten strikeoutsin seven innings of work in a game ultimately won by the White Sox in 11 innings, 2-1. The 21-year old Strasburg has now struck out 32 batters in his first three major league starts, an all-time record for the start of a career. Meanwhile, a Bowman “SuperFactor” baseball card of Strasburgreportedly the only one printedwas put up on eBay and sold for $16,000 to a 37-year old accountant in Michigan. Take that, Mickey Mantle!
Don't Blame Me, I'm Just the Owner...
Bob Nutting, the current Lord of the Pirates, spoke publicly that he was “flat-out angry” at the performance of his team as they struggled through a 12-game losing streak, the longest in the majors this year. This is like having a chef make a disastrous dish of lasagna and blaming it on the food (or the people portraying the food; see the next item below). Bottom line: The Bucs stop at Nutting’s desk. What the heck is this guy expecting, with an everyday lineup that includes some four-to-five guys with less than a year of big league experience, a weak rotation that appears to have maxed out on its potential, and a shaky bullpen? And how to do you get so fired up about all of this after you’ve chased away all your veteran players, turn a profit and give contract extensions to your GM and manager? Something indeed is very wrong in Pittsburgh, Mr. Nutting. To find the cause, start by looking in the mirror.
...Blame the Pierogi Guy Instead
The fans aren’t the only ones angry with Nutting in Pittsburgh. The Pirates fired one of their pierogi racers (the Bucs’ answer to Milwaukee’s sausage racers) when he criticized Pirate management on his Facebook page.
League vs. League
The National League did its best early on to stay neck-and-neck with the American League in the battle for interleague supremacy, but AL teams staged a 50-34 record against the NL this past week and shot ahead of the senior circuit for the season with a 93-75 mark in head-to-head competition. The AL is looking to hold a winning interleague record against the NL for the seventh consecutive season.
The Singles Guys
It took him 114 at-bats, but Baltimore shortstop Julio Lugo finally delivered his first extra-base hit of the year on Saturday when he doubled in the third inning at San Diego. Lugo’s two-bagger leaves Mark Grudzielanek (110) with the most at-bats this season without an extra basebut he’s also a man without a team right now, having been released by Cleveland. The record for the most at-bats by a player without a double, triple or home run for an entire season is 124 in 1973 by Dwain Anderson, who split his time between St. Louis and San Diego.
Just Go Away, "Lady"
Pop star Lady Gaga, milking her 15 minutes of fame for all they’re worth, was at it again in the New York baseball world this past weekend. After Friday’s Met-Yankee game at Yankee Stadium, Gagareportedly drunk and scantly clad (she wore an largely unbuttoned Yankee jersey over a black bra and bikini bottom)crashed the Yankee clubhouse and chatted up a number of players for 30 minutes; when the players didn’t get her full attention, she went to Plan B: Groping herself in front of them. The visit left general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner incensed, leading to a permanent ban of Gaga from the locker room.
You Can't Make Everyone Happy
We reported last week on the news that the Florida Marlins would install two long aquariums along the backstop between the dugouts at their new ballpark, scheduled to open in 2012. But PETAthe People for the Ethical Treatment of Animalsis protesting the idea, stating that the aquariums’ occupants will be stressed out by the loud noise of the crowds, bright lights and other reverberations associated with a big league game. After all BP has done to foul up the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps a big tank near home plate would be a safe alternative for the fishes.
A Stormy Introduction
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim became the last current major league team to make their first visit to Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a weekend series against the Cubs. The team probably wasn’t sure if they ever wanted to come back after a vicious thunderstorm rolled through the area during the ninth inning of Friday’s game.
Living Ghosts of Baseball Past
Whatever happened to the Houston Astrodome? It’s still there, but its fate may be decided soon. Check out this interesting piece by the Houston Chronicle’s David Barron.
Wounded of the Week
It was a very quiet week on the disabled list front, with only a handful of major players thrown into inactive status. The biggest name with the most pain belonged to Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who suffered a broken wrist after being hit by a pitch; he’s out for at least six weeks.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
There was universal agreement from the participants on the field that the vuvuzela promotion was one big loud mistake. Many of the players ended up wearing earplugs during the contest, the first time we’ve heard that since Rafael Palmeiro used them to drown out the boos on the road after he was caught using illegal performance enhancement drugs in 2005.
There was a lot of noise made before, during and after Saturday’s Tampa Bay-Florida game in Miami in which 15,000 vuvuzelasthe agonizingly annoying horned instruments that’s been causing so much grief at the World Cup in South Africawere given away to fans attending the game. The promotion may have cost the Marlins a victory; with the game tied 5-5 the ninth inning, Brian Barden, batting ninth, led off and walkedbut then was declared out for batting out of order when the umpires looked down at their scorecard and had Barden listed in the three spot, not nine. Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez desperately pleaded his case, insisting he had told home plate umpire Lance Barksdale that Barden was batting ninth, and that Barksdale somehow relayed the info incorrectly to crew chief Tom Hallion, holder of the scorecard. The Marlins went on to be retired quietly (despite the loud horns) in the ninth and lost a wild 11-inning contest, 9-8; after the game, Gonzalez implied that the vuvuzelas might have led to the communications breakdown.
In case you thought major leaguers were robotic enough to avoid looking at all the single ladies in the crowd, we give you the story of Jason Phillips, a former catcher from 2001-07 and currently the bullpen catcher for the Seattle Mariners. Phillips spotted an attractive woman seated near the bullpen during a May 3, 2009 game at Safeco Field against Oakland and insisted to the pitchers hanging out with him that he’d get her attention if the game went into extra innings. Sure enough, the contest went 15 frames, and Phillips tossed a ball with his phone number to the woman, Molly Ray. This past Sunday, 13 months later after his introduction, Phillips married Ray in a wedding ceremony at Safeco Field following the Mariners’ game against Cincinnati.
Paging George Kennedy
The earth moved this past Monday at San Diego’s Petco Park, putting a temporary halt to the San Diego-Toronto game that had reached the eighth inning. The moderate trembler, which registered 5.7 on the Richter Scale and was centered in the desert east of San Diego, did no damage to the ballpark or the surrounding area, and the crowd of 16,000 sounded more thrilled than scared even as the public address announcer urged the fans to “stay calm.”
Have the Recordbook and an Eraser Handy
It seems like every time that 47-year old Jamie Moyer wins a game for the Phillies, he sets some kind of record. In throwing eight strong innings this past week at New York, he became the oldest player ever to defeat the Yankees. He may set yet another mark when he takes the mound Tuesday against Cleveland; with 504 lifetime home runs allowed, Moyer is just one shy of tying Robin Roberts for the most allowed in a career.
Not on Target at Target Field
Minnesota catcher and reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer, who slammed 28 home runs last yearincluding 16 at the Metrodomehas hit none so far in 2010 at the Twins’ new ballpark, Target Field. Mauer has only hit three on the road.
The Boyfriend, Part II
If you get the New York Mets’ TV package, you might want to tune in this Wednesday for a game against the Detroit Tigers as comedian Jerry Seinfeld will become part of the broadcast team for three innings. Yes, this means a reunion between Seinfeld and color commentator Keith Hernandez, who appeared in what is arguably embraced as the most popular Seinfeld episode in 1992 when he became embroiled in the “Magic Loogie” controversy with the Seinfeld clan.
Turf TKO at Yankee Stadium
The New York Yankees returned home for their current homestand to find the Yankee Stadium outfield grass in terrible shape after the ballpark held a boxing fight on June 5. Outfielders complained of dead spots and flattened turf left over from the bout; one player for the visiting Philadelphia Phillies said to the New York Post: “Do (the Yankees) really need to have things like fights and concerts during the season? Don’t they have enough money?”
The Price is Right
David Price became the fastest ten-game winner in Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays history, reaching double figures this past Tuesday, June 15. Given the franchise’s mostly depressing historyin 1999 and 2002, the team had no ten-game winners for the entire yearwe figured that Price had easily outpaced the previous recordholder. But the guy whose record Price beat was Rolando Arrojo, a Cuban native and rookie for the Devil Rays in their inaugural 1998 campaign who won his tenth game on June 17, just two days after Price. Arrojo was 10-4 to that point for a Tampa team that otherwise was 20-35, and ended the year with 14 wins (against 12 losses)still, the high-water mark in franchise history.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
With five hits on Sunday, the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton extended his hitting streak to 16 games, the longest active run in the majors as of the end of this past week. Hamilton is hitting an eye-opening .492 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs during his streak.
Coming Soon to TGG
The latest installment of They Were There, with Ed Attanasio’s interview with former speed burner Maury Wills; a lighthearted piece from the Opinion section discussing major league “impostors”; and improvements to the Comebacker Index pages, which will now include captioned details of what has appeared in our weekly news and notes dating back to 2007.
Now Playing at TGG
TGG's Eric Gouldsberry lets us in on the best way for MLB to use comprehensive video replay in the latest Opinion installment.