The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: June 27-July 3, 2011
If TGG Picked the All-Stars The American League Remains Tops in Interleague Play
Ed Attanasio's Layover with Bob Costas Revisiting Major League

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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!

If We Picked the All-Stars
Why listen to an electorate filled with 1.2 million people who actually listed Atlanta’s Dan Uggla (.175) as their pick for the National League’s starting second baseman, when you can get your expert choices from two guys who look at an Uggla and quickly scoff, “Next!” As they do this time every year, TGG’s Ed Attanasio and Eric Gouldsberry chime in on their selections for the starting spots in this year’s MLB All-Star Game to be held in Phoenix. Check it out below and see if you agree.

Catcher
American League
Ed’s pick: Alex Avila, Detroit
Eric’s pick: Alex Avila, Detroit
The fans’ pick: Alex Avila, Detroit
Avila is such an unknown to the masses that we wouldn’t have blamed them for bypassing him on the ballot. But they learned just quick enough to have him overcome Russell Martin (Russell Martin?) in the final week to get the well-deserved vote.

National League
Ed’s pick: Brian McCann, Atlanta
Eric’s pick: Brian McCann, Atlanta
The fans’ pick: Brian McCann, Atlanta
McCann is one of the easier catchers to steal on, but no one in the NL is nailing runners at a sustained rate to overturn his total value—not even St. Louis’ Yadier Molina, who’s had a monopoly on this spot.

First Base
American League
Ed’s pick: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
Eric’s pick: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
The fans’ pick: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
There’s a glut of highly worthy guys vying for this prime spot of All-Star turf, but Gonzalez is just too good.

National League
Ed’s pick: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
Eric’s pick: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
The fans’ pick: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
Albert Pujols was on his way to getting the nod, but that was before his wrist got broken. That, combined with his relative subpar performance this year, opened the door for Fielder to get the last-minute vote—although Eric and Ed had him slotted in at first a long time ago.

Second Base
American League
Ed’s pick: Robinson Cano, New York
Eric’s pick: Robinson Cano, New York
The fans’ pick: Robinson Cano, New York
Slam-dunk selection. Nuf’ said.

National League
Ed’s pick: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee
Eric’s pick: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
The fans’ pick: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee
The fans agree with Ed and opted for Weeks, the electric sparkplug for the Brewers. Eric felt that although Weeks was slightly better offensively, Phillips was showing a much better glove at second to make him a more complete option.

Shortstop
American League
Ed’s pick: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
Eric’s pick: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
The fans’ pick: Derek Jeter, New York
This is kind of like the analogy from Jaws: “Someone yells ‘barracuda’ and the people, go ‘huh, what?’ You yell ‘shark’…” Well, Cabrera is the barracuda and Jeter is the shark—but this time, with little bite. The voters should have done their homework before blindly punching out Jeter’s chad.

National League
Ed’s pick: Jose Reyes, New York
Eric’s pick:Jose Reyes, New York
The fans’ pick: Jose Reyes, New York
As we say, it sometimes takes the fans awhile, but they catch on. Troy Tulowitzki had the lead at short going into the final week, but Reyes has been so incredibly on fire, there’s no way he was going to be denied.

Third Base
American League
Ed’s pick: Adrian Beltre, Texas
Eric’s pick: Alex Rodriguez, New York
The fans’ pick: Alex Rodriguez, New York
Rodriguez isn’t having a banner year, but no one else is having a better one. Ed thinks that Beltre is—if not statistically, than certainly from a viewpoint of value, as the first-year Ranger has been a rock in an otherwise injury-prone lineup.

National League
Ed’s pick: Chase Headley, San Diego
Eric’s pick: Placido Polanco, Philadelphia
The fans’ pick: Placido Polanco, Philadelphia
This one was a throw-your-hands-up, toss-up kind of choice that had us headed for the dart board with a blindfold; Eric defaulted to the popular vote and the Phillies’ Polanco, while Ed whipped up an upset with Headley, who at the very least should get some sort of citation just for hitting near .300 with the Petco Park Padres.

Outfield
American League
Ed’s picks: Curtis Granderson, New York; Carlos Quentin, Chicago; Jose Bautista, Toronto
Eric’s picks: Jose Bautista, Toronto; Curtis Granderson, New York; Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston
The fans’ picks: Jose Bautista, Toronto; Curtis Granderson, New York; Josh Hamilton, Texas
Bautista and Granderson are the obvious picks, but we all deviate on the third choice. Ed likes the punch of Quentin, Eric goes for the overall effort of the speedy Ellsbury—and the public at large goes for the guy they know most in Hamilton.

National League
Ed’s pick: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Matt Holliday, St. Louis
Eric’s pick: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
The fans’ pick: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Lance Berkman, St. Louis
Again, Eric , Ed and the fans all agree on the first two picks of Kemp and Braun, but have different opinions on the third guy. Eric likes the complete game he’s brought to the surprising Pirates; Ed sides with Holliday, who’s put up terrific numbers when healthy; and the fans go for Berkman, because he’s played every game whereas Holliday hasn’t.

Starting Pitcher
American League
Ed’s pick: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Eric’s pick: Justin Verlander, Detroit
The manager’s pick: TBD
Few people want to be facing the Tiger ace right now, and if AL skipper Ron Washington is smart, he’ll agree with that assessment.

National League
Ed’s pick: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
Eric’s pick: Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta
The manager’s pick: TBD
It may seem that Eric has a bias against Halladay—he went against him in the Cy Young vote last year (not that Eric had an official ballot to cast) and is passing him up for Jurrjens, who’s simply put up better numbers thus far.

Hits and Misses From the All-Star Vote
The fans did speak this year—boy did they ever, with 32.5 million votes, a whopping nine million more than the previous record set in 2009—and when the starters were cast in stone, the managers took care of the rest of the All-Star rosters. Here’s some quick thoughts on all of the above:

* St. Louis’ Albert Pujols was not named to the All-Star roster for only the second time in his career—while Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki will be absent for the very first time after ten straight appearances.

* Where’s Paul Konerko (.317 average, 21 homers, 62 RBIs)?

* Why did Atlanta’s Chipper Jones get selected as a third base reserve instead of San Diego’s Chase Headley, who’s batting 50 points higher while playing half his games at Petco Park?

* NL Manager Bruce Bochy stocked on pitchers from his San Francisco Giants, naming four to the staff—including Ryan Vogelsong, having an inspiring late-career blossom at age 33.

* It’s one thing when you have only one player named from your team, but when it’s a relief pitcher, that adds insult to injury (hey, no disrespect to bullpen performers). So you have Tyler Clippard from Washington and Aaron Crow from Kansas City.

Texas Scold'Em
Alex Rodriguez appears to have been caught being naughty again. This time, not for dipping into steroids, or hanging out with his cousin who’s not supposed to be hanging out with him, or being force-fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz on national TV. Rather, MLB wants to investigate a tabloid report that A-Rod was involved in secretive (and perhaps illegal) high-stakes poker activity. This comes six years after Rodriguez claimed he would stay away from the cards following reports that he had been doing serious poker in New York, raising the ire of commissioner Bud Selig. A spokesman for Rodriguez denies the new allegations.

Texas Mold'Em
The bar was raised on the signing of Dominican propsects when the Texas Rangers inked 16-year old Nomar Mazara, a 6'3", 185-pound slugger, for $5 million. We're waiting for the oddsmakers to set the line on what his age really is.

He Did it Her Way
Former pitcher Esteban Loaiza has something in common with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.: His name has been placed on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars, located outside the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. While you scratch your head, here’s something of an explanation: He’s married to singer Jenni Rivera, who (we assume) performs often in Vegas and also received a star. Still, here’s your chance to go to the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue and do what many hitters were able to do during Loaiza’s 14-year career in the majors: Walk all over him.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun continues to hold the longest active hitting streak in the majors, increasing his run to a career-high 22 games. (He missed Sunday’s affair with Minnesota with a bad calf and was expected to miss perhaps a few more games in the new week.) Unlike last week, Braun did more than settle for the obligatory one hit to keep the streak alive, twice notching three hits to stay hot.

Wounded of the Week
Interleague play didn’t end soon enough for Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona. On Saturday at Cincinnati, Carmona took a hard fall after tripping over himself trying to beat out a ground ball, and was placed on the 15-dy disabled list with a strained right quad.

Also making the ouch couch this week was Philadelphia's temporary closer Ryan Madson (hand), Arizona closer J.J. Putz (right elbow), Seattle starting pitcher Erik Bedard (knee), Chicago starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano (back), Pittsburgh outfielder Jose Tabata (quad) and Oakland reliever Grant Balfour (oblique).

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 27
After filing for bankruptcy in the morning, the Los Angeles Dodgers trounce the Twins at Minneapolis, 15-0, on 24 hits. It’s the team’s most lopsided shutout win since 1969, with every player in the starting lineup collecting at least two hits—the first time the Dodgers have accomplished that since 1949, when they were in Brooklyn.

Davey Johnson’s managerial debut with Washington is spoiled when the Angels notch a tenth-inning, run-scoring single from Macier Izturis to give Los Angeles of Anaheim the win, 4-3. The Angels need 16 hits to get their four runs.

Tuesday, June 28
In what some believe is a preview of the World Series at Philadelphia, the Phillies beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-0, behind Cliff Lee’s third straight shutout and his fourth of the year. Lee finished the month of June with five wins in five starts and allowed just one run in 42 innings of work—translated, that’s a 0.21 ERA. Only five pitchers over the last 100 years have had better marks in one month, the last of those being Orel Hershiser’s perfect 0.00 ERA in September 1988.

Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin ties a major league record by pitching at least five innings in his 28th straight start to begin a career, throwing seven solid frames before the Indians’ bullpen blows it and gives away a 6-4 win to Arizona. In his 28 starts, Tomlin has only pitched into the ninth inning once and has won 15, lost eight and produced a 4.15 ERA.

San Diego starting pitcher Clayton Richard snaps a 12-game winless skid at Petco Park as the San Diego Padres defeat Kansas City, 4-2. Richard was 0-8 during his dirty dozen—with a 2.78 ERA, as the Padres could only average one run per game during each of his home outings (they were shut out five times).

The New York Mets, who had not hit a grand slam in nearly two years, get two in consecutive innings at Detroit. Jason Bay connects with the bases loaded in the fourth inning; Carlos Beltran does the same an inning later. The Mets slaughter the Tigers, 14-3, in a game that also features Jose Reyes’ 15th triple of the year; no player has gotten to 15 faster since the end of the deadball era.

The Pittsburgh Pirates win at Toronto and snap a 12-game losing skid on the road against AL opponents.

Wednesday, June 29
The Mets rack up 16 more runs in clobbering the Tigers, 16-9, and set a franchise record for the most runs over a four-game period with 52. The 16 tallies were also the most scored in a game by the Mets without the benefit of a home run.

The Twins silence the Dodgers for their fifth 1-0 win of the year. The franchise high is 11, back in Walter Johnson’s time in 1914.

St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter becomes the fourth pitcher to throw 130 or more pitches in a game this season, matching last year’s total for the entire year. Carpenter and the Cardinals win at Baltimore, 5-1.

Thursday, June 30
In the past month, three 27-year olds—Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke—all surpassed 1,000 career strikeouts. (Scott Kazmir might have made it four had he not been released by Los Angeles of Anaheim with 993.) At Chicago’s Wrigley Field, San Francisco starting pitcher Matt Cain also reaches the milestone and becomes the youngest active player, at 26, with at least 1,000.

In that same game at Chicago, the Giants are no-hit for 10.1 innings by the Cub bullpen after the early departure of starter Carlos Zambrano to back issues. The Cubs tie the game off Giant closer Brian Wilson in the ninth inning and win it with four run sin the 13th, 5-2.

Todd Helton becomes the first player to appear in 2,000 games for Colorado during the Rockies’ 6-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Helton has played nearly twice as many games as the second guy on the list, Larry Walker (1,170).

Friday, July 1
Four members of the Tampa Bay Rays are ejected in their 5-3 loss to St. Louis at St. Petersburg. Manager Joe Maddon is the first to go after arguing a close non-strike call by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza; that gives Lance Berkman a walk with two outs, and when Cody Rasmus homers, pitcher J.P. Howell slams his mitt and spikes the new ball he gets from Carapazza—who then ejects Howell for believing he was trying to throw the ball back at him. Pitcher David Price and infielder Elliot Johnson are also ejected for arguing from the dugout.

Atlanta pitcher Jair Jurrjens takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning and ultimately goes on to throw his first career shutout with a 4-0, one-hit blanking of Baltimore at Turner Field. Jurrjens is the NL’s first 11-game winner and owns the majors’ best ERA at 1.89.

Mark Ellis, welcome to Coors Field. The veteran second baseman, traded a day earlier from the Oakland A’s, makes his debut in a Colorado uniform and has three hits—including a double, his second home run of the year and three RBIs—as the Rockies pummel Kansas City, 9-0. (He'll double three times on Saturday and homer again on Sunday.) Ellis hit .217 with a single homer and 16 RBIs in 62 games with Oakland.

Saturday, July 2
Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay returns to Toronto for the first time since signing a free-agent deal with the Phillies, is given a hero’s welcome by the majority of the 44,000 at Rogers Centre—and proceeds to throw a complete-game victory over the Blue Jays, 5-3. It’s his 11th win of the year.

The San Diego Padres beat the Mariners at Seattle, 1-0, as the only run scores on a walk that never should have been; Cameron Maybin is given first base after a 2-2 pitch from Doug Fister goes wild to draw the count full—but nobody on the field, the stands or the scoreboard operator booth knows that, and no one questions it. Maybin later scores on a two-out single by Alberto Gonzalez.

Sunday, July 3
A day after the Tigers give up 15 runs to the Giants—15th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored—Detroit pitching coach Rick Knapp is fired.  Only four teams have a worse team ERA than Detroit’s 4.41.

League vs. League (Final Edition)
The American League has done it again, retaining the interleague crown for an eighth consecutive year as it once more got the better of the National League in head-to-head competition that concluded on Sunday. Overall, the AL won 131 games compared to the NL’s 121; the last time the NL fared better than .500 was in 2003, when it took 137 games to the AL’s 115.

Bob's Our Uncle
TGG’s Ed Attanasio has this magnet thing with fame—he always seems to stumble upon folks we know. While at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport this week, Ed bumped into Bob Costas and ended up chatting with him for about ten minutes, pulling even with my own brush with Costas back in the late 1990s when we discussed the ancestral book version of TGG.

Costas was in Phoenix doing advance work for the All-Star Game (for the MLB Network, we assume), and although he didn’t show Ed his 1952 Mickey Mantle card he once claimed to have in his wallet, he did tell a funny (and true) story of an intoxicated Mantle once signing a ball to a kid and writing on it, “I f**ked Marliyn Monroe, best wishes, Mickey Mantle.” (No, Mickey didn’t use asterisks.) Costas said the ball sold at an auction earlier this year for $7,000.

Major League Babylon
Sports Illustrated did a bit this week interviewing the stars and director of the 1989 baseball comedy Major League, which some are now calling a classic. (Really, it’s nothing more than three stars’ worth of mainstream R-rated humor.) The big news to come out of the article is that Charlie Sheen, who played Cleveland closer Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, claims he took steroids to pump up his fastball into the mid-80s. Perhaps that explains his unpredictable habit for rages.

Other revelations about the film mentioned in SI: director David Ward hired Bob Uecker to portray the Indians’ play-by-play man not knowing he was actually a broadcaster in Milwaukee; Dennis Haysbert (who played the voodoo-worshipping Caribbean slugger) was the only actor to actually hit a ball over the outfield fence; Cleveland pitching legend Bob Feller detested the film’s foul language; and Wesley Snipes, who played the speedy Willie Mays Hayes, was actually very slow.

Donovan's Brain on Pot
The San Diego Padres haven’t had much luck with first-round draft picks over the last few years. Matt Bush, the Padres’ top 2004 pick and first overall selection in the majors, descended into the abyss of bad play and brushes with the law (he’s struggling to make it as a pitcher in the Tampa Bay minor league system). Now comes word this week that Donovan Tate, their first pick from 2009, has been suspended 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy. The drug in question wasn’t of the performance enhancing variety but recreational, with sources pinpointing it further as marijuana. Tate is playing for Class-A Eugene of the Pioneer League.

The Harder They Fall...
A year ago, Carlos Silva was off to a hot start and highly thought of as a possible roster holder for the NL All-Star team. But he collapsed in the second half, was so horrible in spring training that the Chicago Cubs released him—and this past week, he was released yet again, this time by the New York Yankees, despite some decent minor league numbers as he tried working his way back to the majors. With their rotation regaining health, the Yankees apparently didn’t see the need to bring Silva up—and thus, no need to keep him.

Also hitting the bottom of the downward spiral this past week was infielder Jose Lopez, who just two years ago hit .272 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs for Seattle. His production slipped dramatically last year, and he was shipped off to Colorado—where he hit just .208 with two homers in 38 games before being given his release. Florida took a crack at him, but he fared even worse with the Marlins—batting .103 in 29 at-bats—before he was given his walking papers yet again.

And the News That's Fit to Sell
The New York Times, minority partners in the Boston Red Sox ownership group, cashed out this week and sold their share of the team for $117 million. They bought their portion of the Red Sox in 2002 for $75 million.

He's Not Super-Nova, But...
Despite an 8-4 record at the season’s midway point, New York Yankee starting pitcher Ivan Nova was dished out to the minors to make room on the roster for Phil Hughes, returning after early-season arm fatigue. For Hughes—18-8 last year thanks in large part to having the best run support in baseball—he had better make the Yankees look good on this move, or Nova will be back up before you can say “fat fussy toad.” (That's a Hideki Irabu reference, for those who have may have forgotten.)

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!