The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: June 25-July 1, 2012
TGG's Choices for the All-Star Game The Bullet That Fell to the Tropicana Dome
Why Don Larsen is Selling His Perfect Game Jersey Shove Off, Nyjer Morgan

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The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look
at the best, worst and most unexpected through the first 81 games of the 2012 major league season.

If We Picked the All-Stars
Selections for the All-Star Game on July 10 at Kansas City were finalized this past Sunday, but while fans nationwide were encouraged to stuff the online ballot boxes (people can vote up to 25 times—but in the age of Anonymous, you know that’s going to be an abused process), TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio made our choices below and punched the proverbial chads just once. It’s getting a little scary that these two guys are starting to think a little too much alike as the choices below show, with only some dissension. See if you agree:

Catcher
American League
Eric’s pick: Matt Wieters, Baltimore
Ed’s pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
The fans’ pick: Mike Napoli, Texas
One-time darling Mauer has lost the spotlight as the Twins have descended into darkness and Wieters, having his best year offensively while exceptionally sound behind the dish, is for the moment a relative unknown. But everyone remembers the fantastic year at the plate last season for Napoli (and not caring that he’s hitting just .237 this year) and have put him in instead.

National League
Eric’s pick: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
Ed’s pick: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
The fans’ pick: Buster Posey, San Francisco
Posey has had a heartwarming and successful return to the plate after his 2011 season got flattened in a home-plate collision, so perhaps the sympathy angle attracted more voters to him. But Ed and Eric both agree that Ruiz is better both at the plate and behind it, throwing out more runners than even defensive stalwart Yadier Molina in St. Louis.

First Base
American League
Eric’s pick: Paul Konerko, Chicago
Ed’s pick: Paul Konerko, Chicago
The fans’ pick: Prince Fielder, Detroit
Fielder is having a nice debut for the Tigers, but Konerko’s having a better year. The White Sox slugger has never been selected to start; he’s overdue and this should be his time.

National League
Eric’s pick: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Ed’s pick: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
The fans’ pick: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Easy call. No other National Leaguer at this spot has come close to putting up the devastating numbers of Votto, and it rightfully shows in the vote count.

Second Base
American League
Eric’s pick: Robinson Cano, New York
Ed’s pick: Robinson Cano, New York
The fans’ pick: Robinson Cano, New York
Consensus here as well, even though Texas’ Ian Kinsler apparently had all of us giving more than a quick few seconds before deciding on Cano, who continues to be the class of this league at this position.

National League
Eric’s pick: Aaron Hill, Arizona
Ed’s pick: Jose Altuve, Houston
The fans’ pick: Dan Uggla, Atlanta
Eric almost agreed with Ed to give his love for the young, unknown Altuve (who will surely make it as a reserve), but Hill, cycles and all, is having a heck of a year in Arizona. And c’mon fans—Uggla (.235), who when last seen at an All-Star Game made three errors?

Shortstop
American League
Eric’s pick: Derek Jeter, New York
Ed’s pick: Derek Jeter, New York
The fans’ pick: Derek Jeter, New York
We’ve typically reserved this spot for the player with far less votes and better numbers over fan favorite Jeter. This year’s selection: Jeter himself, finally having a year deserving of a start.

National League
Eric’s pick: Starlin Castro, Chicago
Ed’s pick: Starlin Castro, Chicago
The fans’ pick: Rafael Furcal, St. Louis
One of the bigger toss-ups, with almost every candidate making a legitimate case to be included on the roster. The fans might have gone with Castro if the Cubs weren’t so awful (to say nothing of his occasional lapses of focus on the field), but he’s got better overall offense and, although he’s made a lot of errors, also is well ahead of everyone else in total chances at his position. Furcal, on the other hand, is playing for a defending world champion, so that hardly hurts.

Third Base
American League
Eric’s pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Ed’s pick: Adrian Beltre, Texas
The fans’ pick: Adrian Beltre, Texas
The statistical comparison between Cabrera and Beltre is pretty even; Eric sided with Cabrera because he doesn’t get to play in a hitters’ ballpark, Ed sided with Beltre because he does have slightly better numbers—and as for the fans, they sided with Ed.

National League
Eric’s pick: David Wright, New York
Ed’s pick: David Wright, New York
The fans’ pick: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco
Wow, those Giant fans must have had a lot of time on their hands this past week. Sandoval surged to the top despite being well behind in the last count, outgunning the more deserving choice in Wright (.359), having a whale of a renaissance; what’s amazing here is that David Freese’s celebrated postseason—and his solid 2012 campaign to date—didn’t translate into a starting spot from the voters.

Outfield
American League
Eric’s picks: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Adam Jones, Baltimore
Ed’s picks: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Adam Jones, Baltimore
The fans’ picks: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Curtis Granderson, New York; Jose Bautista, Toronto
Eric and Ed are in complete sync here; Hamilton’s the gimme, Trout has been Mr. Everything for the Angels and Jones has emerged as a borderline superstar. But beyond Hamilton, the fans chose two familiar power-hitters (Granderson and Bautista) both batting below .250.

National League
Eric’s picks: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh; Carlos Beltran, St. Louis; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
Ed’s picks: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh; Carlos Beltran, St. Louis; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
The fans’ picks: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles; Carlos Beltran, St. Louis; Melky Cabrera, San Francisco
The TGG guys almost were of the same mind here, opting for McCutchen and Beltran while dividing away from there; Ed likes the home cookin’ of Gonzalez (who’s hitting nearly .400 at home) and Eric sides with Kemp, plagued with hamstring issues but highly deserving given his intimidating play when healthy. The fans added to the mix another Giant in Cabrera, for whom both Eric and Ed gave strong consideration to.

Starting Pitcher
American League
Eric’s pick: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Ed’s pick: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles of Anaheim
The manager’s pick: To be announced
There’s great competition for this spot, with great lobbying efforts surely to be made for Justin Verlander, Chris Sale and David Price. But Weaver (8-1, 2.31 ERA) gets TGG’s nod by a few whiskers.

National League
Eric’s pick: R.A. Dickey, New York
Ed’s pick: R.A. Dickey, New York
The manager’s pick: To be announced
Dickey simply has been the game’s best pitcher so far, almost unhittable over the last month or so—and the idea of sending up the best the AL has to offer against a guy who’s mastered the knuckler is awfully appealing.

The Jeter Watch
Derek Jeter continued to climb the latter of baseball’s all-time hit kings, surpassing Cal Ripken for 14th place this past week with his 3,185th career hit. Barring injury, Jeter should pass up Nap Lajoie (3,242) and Eddie Murray (3,255) before the end of the year; if he gets hot, Willie Mays, in 11th plate with 3,283 knocks, also could be within reach. A placement in the top ten is likely by early 2013.

The question remains: How high can Jeter get? (Alright potheads, that’s not what we meant.) The Captain turned 38 this past week with more hits than Pete Rose had on his 38th birthday. It’s a tall order for Jeter to keep playing as long as Rose, who added over 1,000 hits after turning 38—but nothing ever seems to faze Jeter. But will it faze the Yankees to keep him playing everyday through 2019, the year of the Blade Runner?

Where Conte Goes, Trouble Follows
A few years back, outfielder Marlon Byrd defiantly confessed that he was seeking nutritional advice from Victor Conte, the convicted steroid dealer who ran the infamous BALCO in the early 2000s. Well, look what happened this past week: Byrd was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive on a PED test. Most people jumped to conclusions that Conte was responsible, but Byrd said otherwise, admitting that the drug that got him nailed was Tamoxifen, used by patients with breast cancer.

Here’s the funny part of all this—unless you’re the Chicago Cubs or the Boston Red Sox, who are collectively paying Byrd this year after an early-season trade: Because Byrd was recently released and currently is unemployed within baseball, he can continue to receive a check because the $6.5 million he’s earning this season has become termination pay—and per the rules of baseball’s basic agreement with the players, that is exempt from penalty related to drug testing. (Can the Cubs, who owe most of that money, re-sign him, make him active and keep him from receiving his payments?)

Byrd fessed up to the crime—saying he was given the drug for a condition “unrelated to baseball” and was “mortified” by his own “carelessness.”

Gumpy's Perfecto Is Gonna Get Me to Harvard
College tuition has gotten so completely out of bounds, it’s forced Don Larsen to sell the shirt off his back to put his grandkids through school. That shirt, by the way, is the uniform he wore for the New York Yankees when he threw the historic perfect game during the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen is auctioning the jersey (along with the pants he wore) to the highest bidder in a process that will begin on October 8, the 56th anniversary of his gem. The auction online/phone auction will continue for, you guessed it, 56 days when the high bid will be announced; experts see the final sale as high as $2 million.

Wounded of the Week
Remember the movie Knocked Up? Well here comes Nicked Up, starring Nick Johnson, one of baseball’s most frequently abused ballplayers—who got placed on the disabled list this past week for the 14th time in 12 years, this time for a sprained right wrist. Johnson, who’s been a part-time component of the Baltimore Orioles this year (batting .207 with four homers), was once a highly regarded prospect for the Yankees but has only strung together only one year in which he’s played more than 131 games—and his missed all of three different seasons (2000, 2007 and 2011.)

Speaking of the Yankees, they received a double whammy this past Wednesday by placing both CC Sabathia (groin) and Andy Pettitte (broken ankle) on the shelf. Sabathia the ace is expected to sit the minimum 15 days, but Pettitte—whose comeback after a year off has been solid—will miss up to eight weeks.

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
Monday, June 25
The struggling Miami Marlins head into the ninth inning with a 6-2 lead over St. Louis—and proceed to blow it as the Cardinals rack up four quick runs on embattled closer Heath Bell, who wasn’t even pitching in a save situation to start. An inning later, the Cardinals pick up two runs to go ahead—the latter tally on an infield single by pinch-hitter Joe Kelly, a rookie pitcher. The Marlins’ rebuttal a half-inning later falls a run short and they lose, 8-7.

Luke Hochevar, the disappointing first selection of the 2006 amateur draft, throws his second career shutout as he seven-hits Tampa Bay at Kansas City—and runs his streak of consecutive innings without giving up a run to 16.2. The 8-0 Royal win drops Hochevar’s season ERA to 5.07.

Tuesday, June 26
Anthony Rizzo makes his much-anticipated season debut for the Chicago Cubs—a year after making a much-anticipated major league debut for San Diego—and knocks out two hits including a double in four at-bats in the Cubs’ 5-3 win over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. The 22-year-old first baseman had a successful first few games last year for the Padres but ended up hitting just .141 with one home run in 49 games before being traded to the Cubs.

Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Milwaukee but loses both that and the lead as the Brewers rally for three runs to tie the game; Drew Stubbs’ homer in the bottom of the eighth gives the lead back to the Reds, who hang on to win, 4-3.

It’s Hudson vs. Hudson in Atlanta, but that’s where the similarities between the two end. The Braves’ Tim Hudson rolls for eight strong innings while Daniel Hudson leaves the game in the second for Arizona with what will later be diagnosed as a season-ending tear in his shoulder; allowing five runs on seven hits doesn’t help. Atlanta cleans up on the Diamondbacks, 8-1.

Wednesday, June 27
In his first action of the season after extensive knee rehab, Chase Utley homers in his first at-bat and later adds two singles, but it’s not enough as the Philadelphia Phillies lose at home to Pittsburgh, 11-7. James McDonald gets the win for the Pirates despite allowing more than three runs for the first time in 15 starts this season.

Tim Lincecum gets back on track with seven shutout innings, and the San Francisco Giants finish a three-game sweep of Los Angeles with a 3-0 win to tie the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. The Giants don’t allow a single run in the series, the first time they’ve done that in a series of at least three games since 1954—and the first time ever against the archrival Dodgers.

The New York Mets salvage a win in their three-game series at Chicago against the Cubs; boy, do they ever. In a 17-1 rout, the Mets get RBIs from just four players: David Wright (five) and Ike Davis, Scott Hairston and Daniel Murphy (each with four); it ties a major league record for the most players with four or more RBIs in a game. Murphy hits two of the Mets’ four home runs; it’s his first two in over 11 months.

Thursday, June 28
New opponent, same result for red-hot Giant pitching. Madison Bumgarner fires his first career shutout, a one-hitter, blanking the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 for San Francisco’s fourth shutout win in a row to establish a franchise first. The 22-year-old lefty’s only blemishes on the night are a pair of walks to Drew Stubbs and a fifth-inning single by catcher Ryan Hanigan.

Friday, June 29
Just two weeks after hitting for the cycle, Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill does it again—becoming only the second player in modern baseball (after Babe Herman in 1931) to do it twice in the same season. Also included on the night for Hill is his 1,000th career hit as the Diamondbacks throttle the Brewers at Milwaukee, 9-3.

Saturday, June 30
In San Diego’s 8-4 win over the Rockies at Colorado, switch-hitter Yasmani Grandal becomes the first major leaguer ever to hit home runs from each side of the plate for his first two career hits. Grandal is given the silent treatment by his teammates upon his return to the dugout from his first homer, and proceeds to give pantomime high-fives to no one.

In their 79th game of the season, The Rangers are the first team to reach 50 wins with a 7-2 conquest of the Oakland A’s at Arlington. Josh Hamilton belts his 25th home run of the year.

Sunday, July 1
The Diamondbacks make two errors on the day at Milwaukee—both on the very last play of the game that gives the Brewers a 2-1 victory. Pinch-runner Carlos Gomez, steals second base in the bottom of the ninth and advances to third on catcher Miguel Montero's throw; when center fielder Gerardo Parra attempts to nail him at third, it too goes wild and allows Gomez to score the deciding tally.

The Phantom Catch
Dewayne Wise once made a brilliant catch to save a perfect game for Mark Buehrle. This past Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, the outfielder got credit for a catch he didn’t make. Chasing a foul ball towards the stands along the left-field line, Wise leapt up and over the railing, burying himself into the first row of fans as the ball hit off the palm of his glove and onto the floor as replays clearly showed…but umpire Mike DiMuro, closing in, not only missed the muff but failed to seek confirmation by checking Wise’s glove for the ball.

Wise was, well, wise to saunter away with glove closed, acting confident and as if he had the ball with him as the inning ended. Just as astonishing: Nobody on the opposing Cleveland side cased Wise as he returned to the dugout, waiting for him to throw a ball he never had back onto the field.

Finding Trouble in All the Wrong Places
Perhaps Milwaukee outfielder/punk Nyjer Morgan was, like Wise, expecting help from a first-row fan (even if the guy was rooting for the enemy Reds) while chasing another foul ball down the right-field line on Wednesday at Cincinnati. When neither was able to catch the ball, a ticked-off Morgan shoved the fan—all despite the fact that the fan, who wasn’t reaching over the railing, had as much right to the ball. As numerous Cincinnati fans rightfully began chewing out Morgan—who began chewing back—umpire Marty Foster calmly escorted Morgan away.

Morgan later claimed that the fan was “all on my arm and everything,” as if the fan was entangling on purpose. Replays don’t seem to show that much intent on part of the fan. Morgan, a known troublemaker, should have done anything but provoke the fan, regardless of the situation. MLB would be wise—not Dewayne Wise—to give him more than a slap on the wrist for this one.

It's Never Too Late to Catch a Souvenir
Here’s a cool story from our neck of the woods: During a recent Class-A California League game in San Jose, a 92-year-old woman caught a foul ball. It’s a good thing Nyjer Morgan wasn’t around to shove her.

Domed, But Not Bullet-Proof
It wasn’t like that terrifying moment in the early 1950s when a fan seated in the upper deck of New York’s Polo Grounds was killed by a single gunshot from a teenager from the rooftop of a nearby building, but it was unnerving enough. During a Tampa Bay-Miami game a few weeks back at Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg, a fan was bruised when hit by a falling stray bullet.

The immediate question became: Who fired the bullet? Authorities believe that if came from outside of the domed facility, fired up in the air from perhaps as far as a few miles away, pierced the roof and glanced off the fan’s leg. Given the poor attendance at the Rays’ games, it was remarkable that the bullet found a fan to hit.

Don't be Like Ozzie
After closing out Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the Brewers with a strikeout, Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman celebrated by performing two somersaults on the infield grass. He won’t get style points for his effort—it almost looked as if he was contractually obligated to do it—and Red manager Dusty Baker had a message for him afterward: Stop it.

Like Father, Like Son
Arizona play-by-play man Daron Sutton appears to have been handed down the disobedience gene from his father, outspoken Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton. The veteran announcer has been indefinitely suspended by the Diamondbacks, but it’s not because he wasn’t being a homer or that he was criticizing the players (after all, that’s owner Ken Kendrick’s job); he was slapped for, get this, violating dress code. You see, Sutton prefers wearing suits; the Diamondbacks apparently demand their broadcasters wear polo shirts. Daron: They’re paying you and asking you to wear polo shirts. Just wear the damn things. (Or, are the Diamondbacks using the dress code as a front to mask bigger issues between the two parties?)

What's Down With Josh?
Josh Hamilton’s June swoon (he hit .223 with four homers in the month) was bared for all to see this past Wednesday at Arlington. While the rest of the Rangers were beating up on Detroit, 13-9, Hamilton was going hitless in four at-bats—striking out all four times. It’s the second time in a week he’s earned the “golden sombrero.”

Overcast and Overwhelmed
There’s nothing like the summer fog of the San Francisco Bay Area to cool off the Los Angeles Dodgers. In two three-game series a week apart against the A’s and Giants, the Dodgers lost all six games—scoring just two runs on 24 hits while hitting .133.

Biking for Baseball
A group of cyclists are taking the summer to bike to every major league ballpark as part of a charity effort to raise funds and awareness for local mentoring programs across the country. Starting from Seattle, the group is currently on their way to St. Louis after a swing through the Southeast; their last stop is scheduled for Fenway Park toward season’s end. The group’s web site touts their mission as the world’s longest charity bike ride. One thing is for sure: These guys are going to need one heck of a body massage after biking 11,000 miles in five months to complete their journey.

New Pond, Same Fish
A nice new ballpark, a spiked payroll and go-go dancers behind the left-field wall didn't cure the Miami Marlins' June swoon blues. They finished the month at 8-18, the worst in the majors. But it's better than last year, when the Marlins were an attrocious 5-23.

This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
Almost quietly, Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 12 games. Gonzo does have one of his (only) six home runs on the season amidst this run, and his hitting .353 with two doubles and eight RBIs.

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!

Opinion: The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look at the best, worst and most surprising players from each team at the midseason point is now lie in our Opinions section, check it out!.

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.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.