The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: June 20-26, 2011
Is Frank McCourt Out of Options? Who's on Pace for Some Incredible Numbers
Jim Riggleman's Temporary Sanity Can Albert Pujols Catch up to .300-30-100?

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The 2011 Mid-Season Report Card
Our picks for the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2011 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!

What Now, Frank?
Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a proposal agreed to by Frank and Jamie McCourt that would have okayed a $3 billion television deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Fox, allowed Frank to make payroll at the end of this month—and, oh yes, end the McCourt divorce saga.

Selig claimed that the deal stunk because McCourt would have been able to use much of the money to pay off debts and to funnel into his numerous Dodger-related (but not baseball-related) spinoff entities within the team ownership umbrella. He also believed that the Fox deal was undervalued (Selig is likely concerned that, with other MLB teams ready to sign similar local TV deals, he didn’t want the bar set so low), and was fearful that potential investors might be less inclined to buy the Dodgers because they would be bound to that TV deal.

Bottom line: It’s clear from Selig’s veto that he does not want McCourt to run the Dodgers anymore—as if that wasn’t clear enough before.

The current status gives McCourt little wiggle room. He can sue baseball, but that may not be in the best interests of anyone, including himself. (Al Davis took on the NFL and won because he had the maverick mentality; we don’t see McCourt in the same light.) He could stand at the corner of Figueroa and Third with a cardboard sign asking for million-dollar donations from the suits driving into downtown. Or he could simply sell—an option that McCourt seems to publicly emphasize is his last resort. Or, finally, he could file for bankruptcy—which he did on Monday.

This may get messier before it gets better.

Paging Walter O'Malley's Spirit
How bad has it gotten in Los Angeles? Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke was able to find (and buy) reserve level tickets to a recent Dodger game for $2.55 each on StubHub.

Pace Race 2011
As we near baseball’s midseason point, we thought we’d check out the latest numbers and give eye-opening projections of where some players are headed…if they stay on pace:

Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees will score 144 runs.

Ichiro Suzuki will not reach 200 hits for the first time in his major league career. Four other players will, including Boston star slugger Adrian Gonzalez (on pace for 240 hits) and second-year Chicago Cub shortstop Starlin Castro (220).

Gonzalez is also on pace for 54 doubles, 32 homers and 149 runs batted in.

Jose Reyes of the New York Mets will hit 28 triples—a figure that would be the second highest recorded in modern times, behind Chief Wilson’s 36 in 1912. Twelve other teams are on pace to hit fewer triples than Reyes.

Toronto slugger Jose Bautista will hit 49 home runs, one shy of hitting 50 in back-to-back years. Five other players are on pace for 40.

Bautista is also on pace for 136 walks, far exceeding the 100 he received last year.

The Yankees are the only team on pace to hit over 200 homers. The Oakland A’s will hit 84 homers—or, just 11 more than Barry Bonds in 2001.

Three teams—the A’s, Cubs and Minnesota Twins—are on pace to draw 16 intentional walks, far, far shy of Bonds’ 120 in 2004.

Mark Reynolds will not top 200 strikeouts for the first time in four years; Cincinnati’s Drew Stubbs will and Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn will. Reynolds is also on pace for committing 36 errors at third base and becoming the first everyday fielder since Boston’s Butch Hobson in 1978 to finish the year with a sub-.900 fielding percentage.

Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will ground into 38 double plays, which would be a major league record.

Carlos Quentin of the White Sox will be hit 36 times.

Oakland reliever Brian Fuentes will lose 17 games.

Colorado closer Huston Street will save 50 games.

The Washington Nationals will blow 36 saves.

Tampa Bay’s James Shields will throw 13 complete games, six for shutouts.

Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona will allow 158 runs.

Houston’s Brett Myers will allow 42 home runs.

San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez will walk 136 batters—if he remains healthy (he just got placed on the disabled list) and stays in the rotation.

The Yankees’ A.J. Burnett will throw 26 wild pitches.

No Riggle Room in D.C.
In the space of a week, there were two more managerial changes in the majors. The interesting thing is, none of those two—Florida’s Edwin Rodriguez and Washington’s Jim Riggleman—were fired. They both quit.

Rodriguez stepped down because he had grown despondent over the play of his Marlins, who had won one game in three weeks. More controversial, however, was the departure of Riggleman; in stark contrast to the situation in Florida, Riggleman’s Nationals were on fire, winners of ten of 11 games and, suddenly, over the .500 mark in the NL East. Worried that the Nationals were seeing him as nothing more than a placeholder, Riggleman went to Washington general manager Mike Rizzo on Thursday and gave him an ultimatum: Either pick up the 2012 option on my contract, or I quit. Rizzo said no. Riggleman walked.

The Nationals, who as a whole were assumed to be a placeholder in advance of a 2012 season when young pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg returns from Tommy John surgery and teenage prodigy Bryce Harper likely emerges on the major league scene, were stunned by the news. Rizzo was a bit blindsided by the actions of Riggleman, but in general did little more than shrug at the short-term pain it would cause—pretty much verifying Riggleman’s claim that he was, indeed, a temp for the big name replacement to come. That big name was revealed by week’s end as Davey Johnson, the 68-year old who’s won five divisional titles in 14 years of managing—although he hasn’t piloted since 2000.

The End of .300-30-100?
St. Louis superstar Albert Pujols has ten years of major league experience under his belt—and in each of those years, he’s hit at least 30 home runs, knocked in 100 runs and hit over .300. No other player has done that in ten consecutive seasons.

That run is now in jeopardy. Pujols got off to a slow start, with some wondering if he was feeling the pressure in advance of a new contract next season. But just when it seemed he was getting back into sync earlier this month, he fractured his wrist playing at first base—and he likely won’t be back in action until late July.

Pujols was placed on the disabled list with a .279 average—not bad for most players, but far below his all-time season-ending low of .312, established just last year. And his chances of breaking 30 homers and 100 RBIs—which looked to be a good possibility through his first 73 games, up to his injurious moment—have taken a major hit. By the time he gets back, Pujols will have roughly 55 games to clout 13 homers to reach 30—but will need to average roughly one RBI per game to finish with 100.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Milwaukee star slugger Ryan Braun ends this past week as the man with the majors’ longest active hitting streak. Braun’s 17-game run hasn’t necessarily been done with a bludgeon; he’s had exactly one hit in each of his last nine games, and he’s hitting .314 during the streak—almost on par with his season average.

Wounded of the Week
It was a relatively quiet week in baseball’s hurt locker room, but not without some big names making the grade of pain. Philadelphia ace (one of them, anyway) Roy Oswalt is projected to be out until August with problems in his back; Cleveland star hitter Shin-Soo Choo suffered a broken finger on a pitch from San Francisco star pitcher Jonathan Sanchez—who himself was given a 15-day stay on the disabled list for biceps pain that has probably contributed to his wildness of late; and Minnesota outfielder Delmon Young sprained his ankle after crashing into the wall at Milwaukee’s Miller Park on Saturday, though the force of the crash was such that the Twins are relieved the injury wasn’t worse.

Also added to the DL this past week was Oakland outfielder Josh Willingham (Achilles’ heal), Chicago White Sox starting pitcher John Danks (oblique) and San Diego first baseman Brad Hawpe, who strained his right middle finger. We won’t ask how.

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Monday, June 20
Boston slugger Adrian Gonzalez faces the San Diego Padres, his employer of the previous five years, for the first time since being traded to the Red Sox during the winter and delivers three hits, including a double that ignites a ten-run rally in the seventh inning to help blast the Padres, 14-5. At night’s end, Gonzalez’s .353 average and 67 RBIs lead the majors. For the Red Sox, they’ve scored 14 runs in six games this year; the next team with the most games at 14 and over is Tampa Bay, with two.

What’s a Cub-White Sox game without controversy? In the first game of the Windy City rivalry, Ozzie Guillen is ejected for arguing a ball that appeared to briefly bounce fall behind home plate before Cub catcher Geovany Soto picked it up and tagged Alexi Ramirez for the out. Guillen argues for no more than three seconds before getting the thumb, then kicks Soto’s headgear (lying on the ground) out of anger, as Soto turns away and laughs.

Jack McKeon, the once-and-current manager of the Florida Marlins who, at 80, is the second oldest man ever to manage a major league game (Connie Mack was 87 in 1950), lays down the law by benching star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who he believed displayed a lack of hustle the day before and showed up late for the clubhouse. The Marlins lose, 2-1, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and have now lost a franchise record-tying 11 straight games.

Atlanta’s Tim Hudson becomes the fifth pitcher in the last 40 years to throw a shutout and knock in all of his team’s runs in the process as the Braves blank Toronto, 2-0.

Tuesday, June 21
The Minnesota Twins tie a major league record by getting hits in their first eight at-bats, scoring eight times against the Giants and pitcher Madison Bumgarner at San Francisco. The attempt to break the record fails when pitcher Carl Pavano strikes out. The Twins win their eighth straight game, 9-2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bumgarner is the first pitcher in the modern era to start and leave a game allowing nine hits while recording less than two outs.

Rookie pitcher Dillon Gee uncharacteristically walks six batters in just four innings, contributing to his first lost of the year after recording seven wins in the Mets’ 7-3 loss to the Oakland A’s at New York.

In his first major league game since 2008, Wily Mo Pena homers for the Arizona Diamondbacks during their 7-2 win at Kansas City. An often effective part-time player for Cincinnati, Boston and Washington from 2003-08, Pena spent the first two months of the season tearing up the Pacific Coast League for Reno, smashing 21 homers with a .363 average.

Wednesday, June 22
In the first game of the Reds’ doubleheader against the Yankees, Cincinnati center fielder Drew Stubbs becomes the majors’ first player to strike out 100 times on the season. He’s on pace to finish the year with 213. In the second game, fellow outfielder Chris Heisey gets the leadoff spot for the nightcap and drills three homers, knocking in five runs during the Reds’ 10-2 rout. The second-year part-time player is the 27th in Cincinnati history to hit three out of the park in one game.

Thursday, June 23
San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum takes the mound against Minnesota with the NL’s worst June ERA (7.59)—and gets back on track, tossing seven shutout innings while striking out 12 in the Giants’ 2-1 win over the Twins.

Friday, June 24
The Mariners defeats Florida 5-1 at Seattle in a game that’s officially a home game…for the Marlins. Because U2 had already booked Miami’s Sun Life Stadium for the weekend long ago, the Marlins were caught up in a scheduling conflict and were forced to move their three-game interleague series against the Mariners to Safeco Field. (A home game 3,000 miles away from home? Why not Orlando?) So Seattle bats first in front of their own fans, and because National League rules are in effect, the pitchers must hit; it’s the first time that a designated hitter has not been allowed at an American League park since the activation of the rule in 1973.

James Shields becomes the first pitcher in Tampa Bay history to throw three straight complete games when he goes the distance in the Rays’ 5-1 win against the Astros at Houston. Shields now has six complete games on the year, the most by any pitcher at this stage of the season since Pat Hentgen for Toronto in 1997.

For the second time this month, there is a partial blackout of the lights at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in the late stages of a game. The 13-minute delay is roughly the same as the one on June 1, when the Giants were one pitch away from beating the Cardinals. This time, the lights dim just before the first pitch of the ninth inning in a 4-4 game; when full light is restored, the Toronto Blue Jays notch a go-ahead run and hang on to beat the Cardinals.

The Cardinals’ loss came in Tony LaRussa’s 5,012th career game as manager—exactly half of which have been logged for St. Louis.

John McLaren, in his first game as Washington manager after Jim Riggleman quits, is ejected in the eighth inning along with outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. for arguing a reversed call at Chicago against the White Sox; the Nationals had completed the third out when Paul Konerko was tagged out before reaching first base on a grounder, but Konerko protested, the umpires thought it over, and ruled that Washington first baseman Mike Morse never did apply the tag. The Nationals win the game in 14 innings, 9-5.

Saturday, June 25
Three pitchers finally break through to become the majors' first ten-game winners on the year: The Yankees’ CC Sabathia, Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens.

Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman, placed on the disabled list in mid-May after enduring massive control problems (he walked 12 batters in 1.1 innings over his last four appearances before being shelved), returns to the mound and strikes out the side in the ninth inning of the Reds’ 10-5 win at Baltimore.

Sunday, June 26
Interleague play is very-very-good for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bank account, as a PNC Park record crowd of 39,511 attends the series finale against the Boston Red Sox—a rematch of the very first World Series in 1903. The Pirates lose, 4-2, after winning the first two games.

As if the few Marlin fans who actually would have shown up to Sun Life Stadium have been insulted to see three Florida “home” games moved to Seattle this weekend, they now have to wait until 10:15 p.m. EDT to see the start of Sunday’s game against the Mariners. Why couldn’t the Mariners at least cater to those in Miami and start the game on Atlantic coast time? They can’t. A few blocks to the north, the Seattle Sounders of MLS are playing an afternoon game, and rules require that four hours must separate the end of one event in the area from the beginning of the other.

League vs. League
The National League had a bounceback week in its bid to recover from a bad start to interleague play and finish with a winning record against the American League for the first time since 2003. The NL won 46 of 83 games this week but trails the AL in the total count of head-to-head compeititon, 88-79.

Mendoza Line Fatigue?
At the beginning of June, we mentioned that Baltimore’s Mark Reynolds was in danger of becoming the first everyday player in over 100 years to finish back-to-back seasons with a sub-.200 batting average. Apparently the word got to him in the form of chalkboard fodder. Since then note, Reynolds is hitting .318 with seven homers, raising his batting average to .227.

A Star is Airborne
This Great Game’s Ed Attanasio entered his beloved Ratdog in the 2011 World’s Ugliest Dog Contest and, although his 14-year old deaf and toothless Chihuahua did not win, got significant exposure (in more than one way) on the Internet via this Associated Press photograph by Noah Burger.

Now Playing at TGG
Our annual midseason report card, detailing the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2011 regular season.

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.