On to More Important Things
Roger Clemens was declared not guilty this past week for lying in front of Congress, hopefully ending the Federal Government’s tiresome obsession with major leaguers using steroids.
Of all the accused who’ve been targeted by the Feds over the last decade, Clemens seemed to be the one most likely headed for doom, defiantly unable to contain himself while shouting out his innocence while Barry Bonds, by contrast, wisely poker-faced his way to nothing more than a hand-slap conviction. Clemens’ bold bravado was likely going to lead to a full-out victory in court or a major crash-and-burn; luckily for him, he got the former result, thanks to hazy remembrances from former teammate Andy Pettitte, skpetical physical evidence and shaky testimony from his main accuser, former trainer Roger McNamee.
The acquittal doesn’t mean that Clemens never took steroids during his baseball days; it just states that he didn’t lie to Congress. Beyond McNameeremember, an unwilling whistleblower after he was forced to fess up to the Fedsthere’s little evidence of any kind that Clemens took steroids. Pettitte admitted in court that it’s 50-50 that he may have, in Clemens’ words, “misremembered” the Rocket’s statement regarding steroids; no other player has linked him to steroid use; and as Clemens’ firebrand lawyer Rusty Hardin is quick to remind us, Clemens was not on the infamous 2003 list of players testing positive for performance enhancement that kicked in mandatory testing within MLB.
Nevertheless, the court of public opinion is already forming their collective opinion on Clemens, and it’s one that’s not as lenient. When he showed up at Fenway Park for Friday’s game between Boston and Atlanta and was shown on the ballpark’s big TV board, he was definitively booed (though truth be told, his past life as a New York Yankee was likely the bigger reason behind the catcalls); Hall-of-Fame closer Goose Gossage went on sports radio to air out his anger on Clemens, unconvinced he’s innocent and convinced he doesn’t belong in Cooperstown; and HOF voters will probably please Gossage and, as a bloc, refuse Clemens entry into the Hall when he first becomes eligible next year.
Post-Prefecto Letdown Disorder
With five no-hitters (including two perfect games) already thrown this season before the halfway point, we’ve noticed how the four individual authors of these gems (Phil Humber, Jered Weaver, Johan Santana and Matt Cain) have been anything but perfect in their next start. Humber and Santana struggled badly, Weaver had a minimal quality effort and Cain, this past week, barely managed through five innings before being removed.
Pitch counts often have much to do with the post-no-no letdowns. Managers usually allow the pitchers to go beyond the point where they might normally be taken out in the chance to attain the dream; there’s no way Edwin Jackson would have thrown 140 pitches a few years back had a no-hitter not been on the line. Obviously, this raises the likelihood of a very fatigued pitcher his next time out. Also, there’s a certain sapping of euphoria that comes with the next start; having experienced an extended adrenaline rush of attention from teammates, family, the media and then some (like Matt Cain’s on-air recital of a David Letterman top ten list this past week), you’re back on the mound within five days. It’s like being asked to climb Mount Everest a week after you did it the first time.
So we decided to sample the last 34 individual no-hitters/perfect games (going back to 1996) and check the follow-up outings of the pitchers who threw themand basically mold together a collective set of numbers equal to what a pitcher goes through in an average season (hence, the 34 starts). Here’s what we found: A very respectable 19-9 record with a not-so-respectable 4.31 earned run average. In 209 innings, these pitchers allowed 182 hits (including 29 home runs) and 70 walks; there were 178 strikeouts. The worst post-no-hit performance during this stretch came from Carlos Zambrano (then with the Chicago Cubs), who allowed eight runs in 1.2 innings after his 2008 no-no at Milwaukee against Houston (the game was played at Miller Park because the Astros needed a home while Houston was getting battered by Hurricane Ike). The best was thrown in 1996 by Hideo Nomo, who, after his impressive no-hitter at Denver’s mile-high Coors Field, went the distance back at Los Angeles for the Dodgers against Florida, allowing a run on three hitsand striking out a career-high 17 Marlins.
Galvis was reportedly caught with Clostebol in his system. We don’t know what Clostebol is but, trust us, any uncommon word that ends in “bol” will be on MLB’s banned list. As for how it got in Galvis, the Venezuelan native is drawing a blankbut at least he’s not coming up with a wacky excuse, a la Manny Ramirez and his fertility subscription.
An abysmal season for the Philadelphia Phillieswracked by injuries and near last in the suddenly competitive NL Eastgot more embarrassing this past week when it was announced that rookie Freddy Galvis, filling in at second for the indefinitely injured Chase Utley, was nailed with a 50-game suspension for illegal performance enhancement. This latest development caused Phillie general manager Ruben Amaro to throw his hands up in the air and declare to the press, “Can we start Opening Day now and move forward?”
We're Just Happy George Brett Wasn't the Pitcher
Also hitting your suspension parade this past week was Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta, banned eight games for having pine tar on his glove before even throwing a pitch in Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Nationals at Washingtonleading to a war of words between the two clubs. Upon Peralta’s ejection, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon glared into the Nationals’ dugout and after the game called Washington counterpart Davey Johnson “cowardly”; Johnson responded by calling Maddon a “weird wuss.”
Adding to the discussion, Cleveland closer Chris Perez didn’t find Peralta’s use of pine tar surprising; in fact, he claimed that “if before every game if they stopped and checked everybody's gloves or something there would be one or two guys on every team that would just get popped.”
Josh Hamilton, the Movie
Texas slugger Josh Hamilton says that he has agreed to work with writer-director Casey Affleck (brother of Ben) on making a film on his life story. Given the success of Moneyball, one would think that if a movie about a nondescript general manager can make for riveting entertainment, imagine what a movie recreating the harrowing fall and rise of Hamilton from a near-death life of drugs and alcohol might do. Already, local reporters and teammates are imagining who would play who; there’s many suggestions for Will Farrell to play Hamilton, but he should be locked up for The Adam Dunn Story. And if Brent Jennings was wise, he’d sick his agent on Affleck to reprise the role of Ron Washington he first portrayed in Moneyball.
I'm Tellin' Ya, They're Comin' to Take Me Away
TGG friend (and loyal baseball fan) Rusty Shaffer sent in this bizarre on-air brain fart by Texas Ranger TV play-by-play man Dave Barnett, who during Monday’s game at San Diego mentioned a runner being at “fifth” and rambling senselessly about a “botched robbery” and “henchmen” before his mike was cut off. (As he mumbled on, someone in the boothperhaps partner Tom Grievewas heard to be nervously chuckling.) Barnett later came to and explained that his irrelevant description of whatever was the result of a migraine; the Rangers nevertheless gave him a couple of games off.
When the Rays Were Really Bad...Right?
For a “Turn Back the Clock” game at St. Petersburg this Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays will “bring out” their uniforms from 1979which will strike many as odd, since the Rays weren’t even in existence until 1998. But in a clever twist to sell yet more merchandise (and give a graphic designer a fun fantasy assignment), the Rays will take on the Detroit Tigers playing as they might have appeared 30 years ago, wearing garish softball-like jerseys typical for the time. Now if we can only see the same thing done by, say, the Houston Astros, donning uniforms from 100 years ago…when fans might not have even understood what an “Astro” was.
An Interleague of His Own
Los Angeles of Anaheim shortstop Erick Aybar might want to consider full-time employment playing against National League competition. In interleague play this year, Aybar is hitting .414 against NL opponents as compared to a .193 mark against more familiar AL teams. For his career, Aybar is a .297 hitter in interleague action versus a .270 average against AL teams.
Wounded of the Week
Probably the most painful on-field injury to take place this past week occurred Friday night at Cincinnati when veteran umpire Jerry Layne took the heavy end of a broken bat right in the side of the head, knocking him down and out during the Reds-Twins game. He took off the rest of the series but is expected to be fine for the long haul.
If you were a major league pitcher this past week and still on the active roster, consider yourself lucky. Hurlers were falling like flies with numerous injuries to top throwers. Among them was the major league ERA leader in Atlanta’s Brandon Beachy, who’s done for the year after it was announced he’d be undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kansas City’s Felipe Paulino will also be going under the knife, making him the fourth Royal pitcher to face Tommy John this year. Also going down from the mound were Oakland pitchers Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy, the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson, the White Sox’ Phil Humber, Milwaukee’s Shaun Marcum and Arizona’s Joe Saunders.
Now Playing at TGG
Bobby Doerr , the Hall-of-Fame slugger of the Boston Red Sox from 1937-51, discusses his time at Fenway Park with the likes of Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and catcher/American spy Moe Berg in our latest installment of They Were There.
Coming Soon to TGG
Next week's Comebacker will offer up our choices for the All-Star Game in Kansas City; and, in the Opinions section, look soon for our annual look at the best, worst and most surprising players from each team at the midseason point.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
Monday, June 18
The New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey becomes the first player to throw consecutive one-hitters since Dave Stieb in 1988 by shutting down the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1, for his major league-leading 11th win. Resetting his career high for strikeouts with 13, Dickey allows only a fifth-inning single to Wilson Betemit and two other walks. Over his last six starts, Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.37 ERA, five walks and 63 strikeouts in 48.2 innings.
Aaron Hill becomes the fifth Diamondback to hit for the cycle as he helps Arizona to an easy 7-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Phoenix. Hill collects a single in the first, a triple in the third, a double in the fifth and his eighth home run of the year in the seventh.
In his first start since throwing a perfect game, Matt Cain gives up a single to the first batter he faces in Anaheim when the Angels’ Mike Trout singles up the middlestarting a shaky performance in which Cain will trudge through five innings. But the Giant ace will leave with the lead and his teammates will preserve it, as San Francisco outlasts the Angels, 5-3, in their first appearance at Angels Stadium since the 2002 World Series. Opposing pitcher Jerome Williams leaves in the fourth inning and is rushed to the hospital after complaining of shortness of breath, but he is said to be okay after a night of observation.
Tuesday, June 19
The Toronto Blue Jays bang away with six home runs at Milwaukee, the final two back-to-back shots by Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista in the ninth inning (for each, their second of the game) off struggling Brewer closer John Axford to finish a 10-9 comeback win. It’s the third blown save and second loss for Axford in a week; his ERA since June 10 is 16.20.
Tim Hudson survives five iffy innings and the Atlanta bullpen throws four nearly-flawless frames to end the Yankees ten-game win streak with a 4-3 victory at New York. Closer Craig Kimbrel, quietly continuing his excellence from his NL Rookie of the Year performance of 2011, earns his NL-leading 20th save.
Wednesday, June 20
No, the 14-10 final is not a rugged NFC West defensive battle between the Cardinals and Seahawks but, instead, a high-scoring track meet between the Diamondbacks and Mariners at Phoenix. Arizona wins on the strength of six home runs, including an inside-the-park round-tripper from Ryan Roberts. Mariner starter Jason Vargas gives up a career-high ten runs and five home runs in 4.1 innings.
The Washington Nationals strike for three runs on three hits in the first inning against Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, in his major league debutthen are no-hit the rest of the way by Archer and two Ray relievers but hold on to win, 3-2, behind seven strong innings from Stephen Strasburg (9-1), who strikes out ten.
Thursday, June 21
Pittsburgh pitcher James McDonald, who hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his 14 starts this season, throws the first complete game of his career in the Pirates’ 9-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at PNC Park. McDonald allows a run on six hits and no walks in going the distance for the Bucs, who at 36-32 are just two games behind front-running Cincinnati in the NL Central.
Friday, June 22
Roy Oswalt is sharp in his season debut for the Texas Rangers, allowing a run on nine hits in 6.2 innings with 110 pitches81 of them for strikes. Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli smack home runs to provide offensive backbone as the Rangers defeat the Colorado Rockies at Arlington, 4-1.
Former two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, struggling all season for the Giants, allows the first six Oakland batters to reachwith three of them scoringthen strikes out the next three to finish the first inning; he then doesn’t allow a hit over the next five frames. Though Lincecum doesn’t get the win, his later work is crucial as it allows the Giants to come from behind and mount a four-run, ninth-inning rally to defeat the A’s at the Coliseum, 5-4.
In his first start in two months, Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens is masterful against the Red Sox at Boston, allowing just a run on three hits and a walk in nearly eight innings during the Braves’ 4-1 win. It’s Jurrjens’ first win since last August 22.
In one of the season’s best pitching duels, Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke and the White Sox’ Chris Sale match zeroes into the ninth inning at Chicago; Sale gives up four hits and a walk in eight innings, Greinke goes nine while allowing three hits and a walk. The Brewers finally strike on a tenth-inning Rickie Weeks single, and although Greinke has only thrown 100 pitches, struggling closer John Axford is asked to wrap it up in the bottom of the tenthand preserves a 1-0 win despite walking the leadoff batter.
Saturday, June 23
After becoming the last full-time closer this year to blow his first save by allowing two Tampa Bay runs in the ninth, Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon returns to the dugout and offers $5,000 to anyone who can win the game for him. Jim Thome collects, and makes history in the process; his two-run, game-winning shot gives the Phillies a 7-6 win over the Rays and sets an all-time record for the most walk-off home runs in a career with 13, breaking a six-way tie with five legends: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial and Frank Robinson.
Sunday, June 24
In the 3,352nd and last at-bat in the uniform of the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis slams a triple and is then lifted for a pinch-runner, leaving to a standing ovation. Both Youkilis and the fans know he'll be traded, and he is, after the gameto the Chicago White Sox. The Red Sox defeat Atlanta at Fenway, 9-4.
For the second time in three games, the Brewers and White Sox finish nine innings scorelessbut this time around, it's the White Sox who strike for a 1-0 victory in the tenth on a single by pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar.
For the first time in over a month, R.A. Dickey is mortal. The knuckleballing Met gives up five runs in six innings to the New York Yankees, who ultimately edge the Mets at Citi Field, 6-5. Dickey entered the game having allowed no earned runs in 43 straight innings.
League vs. League (Epilogue)
It was pretty much academic at the start of the final week of interleague play, but the American League did not let up as it once again dominated head-to-head play over the National League for the eighth straight year, winning 142 games while losing 110. Only three of the 14 AL teams (Cleveland, Kansas City and Seattle) had losing records against the NL this yearat 8-10 each. Arizona’s 9-6 mark against the AL was the best the NL had to offer; Colorado was the worst in the majors, winning only two of 15 games against the Junior Circuit.
With Houston jumping over to the AL next year to give baseball two 15-team leagues, the schedule will be adjusted so that interleague play will be ongoing all season long.
The Colorado Rockies, lacking depth and quality among their starting pitchers, brought back the four-man rotation this past weekand before you think that the team is trying to emulate the quartet look that dominated baseball through the 1970s, there is something of a catch here. Wary that he doesn’t want to overtax his starters, manager Jim Tracy has his rotation on a 75-pitch limit. But this could overtax his bullpen, which is likely to average at least four innings every game as this experiment carries on through its planned life span to the all-star break. This could be especially dangerous for the Rockies, who play half of their games at an offensive-minded, mile-high ballpark where more pitches are forced to be thrown than anywhere else in the majors. Whether this iteration of the four-man rotation is a bust or a watershed moment in the continued devolution of the starting pitcher will be determined in the next month.
Earth to Aroldis: Vet Your Next Girlfriend
A few weeks ago, we reported a bizarre story of a woman found tied and half-clothed in the Pittsburgh hotel room of Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman while the Reds were in town taking on the Pirates, claiming that she had been bound while nearly $6,000 in jewelry belonging to Chapman had been stolen. Now it appears that the story make be nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by the woman, an exotic dancer by the name of Claudia Manrique, who was charged this past week with lying to police. Manrique had been a road acquaintance of Chapman’s throughout the season, but now he believes she was actually part of the heistwhether the man who Manrique claimed tied her up actually exists or not.
The RBI Watch
Alex Rodriguez recently crashed the top ten list for career RBIs and, if he has a solid second half, could finish the season placed as high as fourth on the all-time roster. The Yankee bopper ends this past week with 1,926 RBIs, having passed Jimmie Foxx on Tuesday to move into the eighth-place spot; barring injury or horrendous slump, he should certainly pass Ty Cobb (1,938) and Stan Musial (1,951) within the next few months. Barry Bonds currently is ranked fourth with 1,996, just one ahead of fifth-place Lou Gehrig.
We're Too Tired to Go to Third
Nine players have more triples on the season than the New York Yankees (who have four).
This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers maintained his grip on the lead role as the man with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, stretching his run to 18 games through this past Sunday. Incidentally, the reigning NL MVP also has a streak of 28 straight interleague contests in which he’s had at least one hit.
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!
Now Playing at TGG
Here it is! Our annual, fearless preview of the upcoming major league season is live, with TGG’s Ed Attanasio and Eric Gouldsberry releasing their picks for who will arrive, thrive, dive and cry in 2012. Check it out and see if you agree!