Steroids Suspect of the Week
A few weeks ago, Sammy Sosa chatted with the Spanish arm of ESPNperhaps because he’s forgotten how to speak English beginning with the 2005 Congressional hearings on steroids in baseballand said he would address claims that he was on the juice only after being elected to the Hall of Fame. Now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be making that commencement speech. This past week, a lawyer who had knowledge of baseball’s supposedly secret 2003 drug test results called out Sosa to the New York Times and said that baseball’s sixth-place leader in home runs was, indeed, one of the 104 names on that list who tested positive. Sosa (or his agent) refused to comment; perhaps he’s still preparing the English-language version of that Cooperstown speech he’ll likely never give.
Our reaction to the news was not one of shock but of resignation, as we watch yet another hero from baseball’s post-strike period being outted from the steroids closet. It’s also becoming more and more apparent that the question is not who took steroids over the last 15 years, but who didn’t.
If the news of Sosa’s positive test is true, then it’s official: Roger Maris and Babe Ruth have once again become the only two clean players to hit 60 or more home runs in a season. And for all of you looking to shine some sympathy on Sosa, here’s some clouds in your forecast: He’s the first major leaguer to have used, at some point in his career, both steroids and a corked bat.
Jose, Can You See?
The other disconnect in all of this is Canseco’s argument about not being in the Hall of Fame. It should be reminded that the Hall is a totally separate entity from MLBas is the Baseball Writers Association of America, whose members do the voting. Unless Canseco is brewing up some mass conspiracy, there is very little legal weight to his lawsuit, outside of the fact he took steroids when they weren’t banned in baseballthough never mind that they were illegal in general.
Jose Canseco made the news again this week, and it had nothing to do with events on the boxing ring. Baseball’s steroid whistleblower stated that he will sue Major League Baseball and the player’s union for what he claims is their attempt to blackball him from the sportand, as a result, has kept him out of the Hall of Fame, costing him “major income.” If some of this isn’t already computing to you, brace yourself: Canseco also wants to enlist some of the very players he’s ratted on (via his books) to join the class-action suit. What chutzpah. That’s like having Perez Hilton ask Carrie Prejean to be a friend on his Facebook page.
That's My Starbucks Allowance You're Playing With
Ubër-agent Scott Boras shot off to the press this past week, accusing the Detroit Tigers of benching client and veteran slugger Magglio Ordonez not because he’s been struggling, but because it cripples his chances of acquiring enough plate appearances in 2009 to kick in $33 million in guaranteed wages for 2010-11. Some $1.5 million of that would go directly to Boras per his agent fee, so perhaps this isn’t all about Ordonez, who has fewer homers (two, in 216 at-bats) on the Detroit roster than eight other Tigers.
This wasn’t the homecoming Kerry Wood had hoped for. The former Cub and current Indian returned to Chicago this past weekend for an interleague series against his former mates and gave the Wrigley Field fans, who struggled and bled with him through 11 fleetingly brilliant yet mostly painful seasons, comfort that they weren’t missing him. On consecutive days, Wood blew save opportunities against the Cubs, allowing his first runs in a month; the two blown saves doubled his season total to four.
By the Time I Get to Phoenix...
It appears that the Cactus League all belongs to Phoenix. This past week, the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks both announced that they will leave their current spring training homes in Tucson after 2010 and relocate north in the Phoenix area, where all other Cactus League teams currently reside. The Chicago White Sox had earlier moved from Tucson, and the Rockies and D-Backs obviously are following suit out of the continued logistical challenges of having to travel 100 miles from their camp to play the majority of their games.
King of the Whiffs, 2009 Edition
A sarcastic round of applause for Texas slugger Chris Davis, who became the first player this season to strike out 100 times on Saturday at San Francisco. Accomplished in the Rangers’ 68th game of the year, Davis is on pace to collect 238 strikeouts, which would shatter the all-time mark set just last year by Arizona’s Mark Reynoldswho ends this past week with 97.
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.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
The week ends with the Chicago Cubs’ Derrek Lee holding the majors’ longest active hitting streak with at least one knock in 18 straight games. At least someone on the Cubs is hitting.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
An Eyeful of I-Rod
Ivan Rodriguez, who began the season without a major league team before signing with Houston, set the all-time mark for most games played at the catcher position when he performed behind the plate for the 2,227th time this past Wednesday at Arlington against the Texas Rangersironically, the team he played the bulk of his career for and for whom he had the most success, highlighted with a AL MVP award in 1999. The record-setting evening was, unfortunately, not one to kindly recall on the field for Pudge; he committed his first two errors of the season, errant throws on stolen base attempts that helped contribute to two Texas runs, one unearned, in a 5-4, 10-inning Astro loss. Adding insult to injury, Houston manager Cecil Cooper didn’t publicly acknowledge or congratulate Rodriguez for his achievement, rubbing numerous Astro players the wrong way and leading to an apology from Cooper the next day. Rodriguez’s record broke the old mark held by another guy nicknamed Pudge, Carlton Fisk.
Still the Hottest Ticket in Baseball
The Boston Red Sox, who last year broke the major league record for most consecutive sellouts at home, surpassed the 500 mark at Fenway Park this past Wednesday in their 6-1 win against the Florida Marlins. The Red Sox are 327-173 during this span of packed houses.
League vs. League
This past week’s slate of interleague games once again rewarded the American League with the edgealbeit a razor-thinned oneas it took 36 of 70 games against National League opponents to slightly improve its interleague record on the year to 82-72. The NL has one week left to overcome its deficit and avoid a seventh straight season with a sub-.500 mark in interleague play.
Weaver vs. Weaver
For the first time in seven yearsand the 21st time overalltwo brothers faced off against one another on the mound in a major league game when, on Saturday, Jeff Weaver of the Los Angeles Dodgers got the start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and his younger sibling, Jered Weaver. The elder Weaver prevailed, albeit barely, pitching the minimum five innings to pick up credit for the Dodgers’ 6-4 win while Jered got shelled for all six Dodger runs in 5.1 innings. Just being on a major league roster is a plus these days for Jeff, who was unemployed by the bigs in 2008 after a horrendous 2007 campaign in Seattle; picked up by a Dodger team hurting for starting pitching, he’s now 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA. Meanwhile, it was the worst start of the season for young Jered, who entered the game with a stellar 7-2 record and 2.08 ERA.
Dusty Rhodes, 1927-2009
There were many pinch-hit specialists in the majors before Dusty Rhodes’ time, but few of them enjoyed the sustained success that Rhodes brought to the New York Giants in the 1950s. In each of his first three years, the Alabama native hit at least ten homers in less than 200 at-bats, mixing pinch hits with spot starting duty, peaking in 1954 with a .341 average and 15 homers (with 50 RBIs) in 164 at-bats. Rhodes topped that season’s achievement with his spectacular yet fleeting effort in the World Series, winning Game One with a three-run, pinch-hit tenth-inning homer off of Cleveland’s Bob Lemonand then launched a solo homer in Game Two off Early Wynn after earlier knocking out a pinch-hit, run-scoring single. Rhodes passed away in Las Vegas this past week at the age of 82.
Trivia Question of the Week
Rhodes had one pinch-hit home run in the 1954 World Series. Has any player hit two in a single Fall Classic? See the answer at the bottom of this column.
Cincinnati outfielder Willy Taveras knocked out three hits in Saturday’s 10-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox. They couldn’t have come soon enough for Taveras, who came into the game mired in a titanic 1-for-46 slump. All three hits were singles.
This Year's Challenger to Coors Field
The new Yankee Stadium has attracted 122 home runs through its first 36 games of its inaugural season, but the pace toward breaking the all-time mark of homers at a ballpark in one yearset in 1999 at Denver’s Coors Field, with 303has slackened off a little. In fact, they finally played a game at the new Stadium where nothing cleared the fence as the Washington Nationals (of all teams) silenced the Yankees, 3-0. The 35 initial games with at least one home run had long since set a major league record.
Wounded of the Week
It was another tough week for some of baseball’s premier starting pitchers to stay healthy. Among those from the hill inducted onto the disabled list were Toronto’s Roy Halladay, Seattle’s Erik Bedard, Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, San Diego’s Chris Young and Houston’s Mike Hampton. And once again, anxieties caught up to former 20-game winner Dontrelle Willis, who’s been placed back on the DL after he started walking every other batter again.
The Chicago White Sox’ Chuck Essegian (1959) and Boston’s Bernie Carbo (1975) each hit two pinch-hit home runs in one World Series.