Alex Rodriguez, admitted steroid user and friend of Jackson, apparently couldn’t handle the truth. With his media-trained smile, Rodriguez told reporters of Jackson: “With friends like him, who needs enemies?” Jackson, upon hearing that criticism and more from within baseball that perhaps spooked him into thinking he could become the game’s next Jose Canseco-like pariah for speaking his mind too bluntly, went on the apology tourwith phone calls to Rodriguez and then to the family of the late Gary Carter.
Brute honesty is in short supply these days in baseball, so it’s refreshing to hear people like Reggie Jackson, who sounded off this past week in a Sports Illustrated article. Jackson, whose 563 career home runs have since been surpassed by seven playersfive of whom have either admitted to taking and/or have tested positive for steroidsflatly stated that PED users should not be admitted into the Hall of Fame. He didn’t stop there, claiming that many clean HOF players from his generationincluding Bert Blyleven, Gary Carter, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Jim Ricealso shouldn’t be in Cooperstown, echoing his memorable comment made years ago that there should be a Hall of Fame for the “real” Hall of Famers.
Where There's a Willis, There's a Way Out
Dontrelle Willis finally gave it up this week, retiring after a myriad of attempted comebacks to return to the form that won him 22 games and (almost) a Cy Young Award in 2005. A sensation then with the Florida Marlins, Willis’ star began to sink immediately thereafter, walking and hitting batters with more frequency that greatly affected his bottom line. His game completely unraveled following a mammoth trade that sent him and Miguel Cabrera to Detroit; in three years with the Tigers, Willis was paid nearly $30 million and repaid the team with a 2-8 record, 6.86 earned run average and 92 walks in 101 innings. Attempted changes of pace in Arizona, San Francisco and Cincinnati failed to re-energize Willis; after an 0-3 record and 8.53 ERA in the Orioles’ minor league system this season, the 30-year-old southpaw realized that it just wasn’t going to happen for him anymore.
Glued to His Game
Hamilton has good reason to keep more bats from flying into the stands; after watching the death of a bleacher fan last summer after he flipped a foul ball to him, the last thing Hamilton wants to see is another spectator suffer serious injury or worse because of an accidental action on his part.
Hard hats and “Hit it here” signs have become standard issue for fans seated behind the first-base dugout at Rangers Ballpark whenever Josh Hamilton has come to bat; on numerous occasions this season, the Ranger star slugger has had the bat fling out of his hands and into the stands. One might joke that Hamilton should glue his hands to the bat, but that’s exactly what he’s done: Using spray glue purchased from a hardware store, Hamilton hasn’t experienced any more slippage, stating, “No matter how hot it is, it stays sticky.” (Yes, we are still talking about baseball here.)
The Unfriendly, Cutthroat Confines Outside of Wrigley Field
Chicago politics, which are about as audacious as they get, reared its ugly head and has apparently stalled the effort to renovate Wrigley Field for $300 million. Cub owner Tom Ricketts, whose father reportedly attempted to spearhead a “SuperPac” campaign against President Barack Obama by rehashing the racially-charged comments of Obama’s Chicago-based pastor some years back, hasn’t been able to get anywhere with Chicago city government because it’s run by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s good friend and right-hand man early in his administration. Never mind that the younger Ricketts is not involved in his dad’s political dealings, it’s bloodline enough for Emanuel to resist any attempt to bring up the renovation issue.
This Week's Legend Affected by the Insane Cost of Education
Rising education costs have once again led to a reduction of mementos in the homes of some of baseball’s best names. Last week it was Don Larsen, saying he would auction off the uniform he wore during his historic perfect game in the 1956 World Series for the New York Yankees so he could put his grandkids through college. This week, Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim Palmer announced he would place most of his awardsincluding all three of his Cy Young trophies and two of his four Gold Glovesup to the highest bidder. (Obviously, the underwear ad business has dried up for Palmer, who’s 66.)
Palmer needs the funds to help put his grandkids through school as well, but he also needs special care for his 15-year-old stepson, who is autistic. And not all of the money will go into Palmer’s bank account; a portion will go to an autistic center in Florida. It’s estimated that the Cys and Gold Gloves could fetch up a combined total of over $250,000.
Let Go of Your Feelings, Luke!
Scott’s skid broke the Rays’ franchise record and was five at-bats short of the major league mark, set last year by Eugenio Velez. And speaking of Velez, what’s his story? The 30-year-old Dominican, whose 0-for-46 slump began in 2010 as a San Francisco Giant and continued last year as a Los Angeles Dodger, hasn’t officially broken out of it; he’s trying to work his way back to the majors via the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, hitting a respectable .281 for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 83 games.
A two-run home run belted by Tampa Bay’s Luke Scott this past Friday at Cleveland was likely the most thankful hit of his career. That’s because it ended a hitless snap of 41 at-bats that caused him to lose sleep, lose his appetite and bring him to tearsviolating the game’s cardinal rule that there’s no crying in baseball.
Time to Change the Security Code at Yankee Stadium
Watch your back, Brian Cashman: Your ex-mistress/stalker is back on the street. Louise Neathway was released on $300,000 bail this past week after five months in jail, arrested on numerous Fatal Attraction-like charges to numerous peopleincluding Cashman, the New York Yankee general manager. No word on whether the Boston Red Sox paid the bail to unleash Neathway.
Have a Cuban Cigar
A team of American college all-stars played a series of exhibitions against the Cuban national team in Havana this past week in the first game of its kind between the two nations since 1996. No report on whether any American players defected for the free health care or the cigars.
Face it, You're a Born Hitter
Six-year major league veteran Micah Owings has proven to be a better hitter (.283 average, nine homers and 35 RBIs in 205 career at-bats) than a pitcher (lifetime 4.86 ERA), so why continue the charade on the mound? Owings admitted this past week that his current rehab assignment within the San Diego Padres’ farm system will focus not on pitching but on the “new adventure” of becoming a position player to take advantage of his gift for hitting. But he’s not giving up on throwing; Owings hopes to return to the Padres and make himself available as both a pitcher and position player. Hey, George Sisler and Stan Musial both started professional ball as a pitcher before becoming Hall-of-Fame hitters, so it’s not without precedent.
Wounded of the Week
A few faces familiar with the Ouch Couch returned to take a painful seat this past week along with some first-time entrants. Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, just a month after making his season debut following long-term elbow injury, has been put back on the DL with neck pain; down in Baltimore, Brian Roberts once again was sidelined, this time with a groin strain. Both players are expected back in the minimum 15 days, probably in time for their next injury.
The new blood includes Los Angeles of Anaheim starter Dan Haren (or, as Yahoo! incorrectly labeled him, Dan Harden), whose lower back has become too painful and placed him on the DL for the first time in his ten-year career. The injury will likely keep Haren from reaching 200 innings for the first time in eight seasons.
Elsewhere, the season officially ended for St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter before it got started, as he underwent surgery to his shoulder to repair nerve damage; the 37-year-old also missed the entire 2003 season and, essentially, the 2007 and 2008 campaigns as well.
Wrapping up, MLB’s House of Pain welcomed Los Angeles slugger Andre Ethier (oblique), shortstop Dee Gordon (thumb) and reliever Todd Coffey (season-ending elbow surgery); San Diego flamethrower Andrew Cashner (oblique); Atlanta reliever Jonny Venters (elbow); and Miami boomer Giancarlo Stanton, who will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and miss a month.
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, July 2
Jered Weaver solidifies his chances of starting for the AL All-Star team by throwing seven shutout innings and assuming the league’s ERA lead (at 2.13) in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s 3-0 win at Cleveland. Weaver has allowed just one run in 19.2 innings since coming off the disabled list.
Tuesday, July 3
One streak ends and another continues at St. Petersburg. The New York Yankees blow an early lead as the Tampa Bay Rays muscle up on Yankee starting pitcher Ivan Nova, snapping his streak of 12 consecutive wins on the road with a 7-4 win. It’s also the Rays’ ninth straight win at home against the Yankees.
The Miami Marlins rally for nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings to force an 11-11 tie into extra innings at Milwaukee, then take the lead with a Jose Reyes solo shotthe Marlins’ fifth homer of the nightbut the Brewers go one better when Aramis Ramirez hits a two-run, walk-off homer off beleaguered Marlin closer Heath Bell to win the game, 13-12. It’s the Brewers’ tenth straight victory over the Marlins.
The Pittsburgh Pirates also win on a walk-off homer after losing a late lead, overcoming Joel Hanrahan’s third blown save of the year in the top of the ninth with a solo blast from Drew Sutton to defeat the Houston Astros at PNC Park, 8-7. The win puts the Pirates eight games above the .500 mark at 44-36the most since finishing their last winning season in 1992.
After hearing he had just been named to his eighth All-Star Game (replacing injured starter Matt Kemp), Chipper Jones celebrates with the third five-hit performance of his career, knocking in four runs to give the Braves an easy 10-3 win over the Chicago Cubs at Atlanta. Two of Jones’ hits are doubles, the other three singles; he also steals his first base of the year. The Cubs’ Chris Volstad drops to 0-7 with a 7.94 ERA in nine starts.
The Chicago White Sox pummel the Texas Rangers, 19-2, taking a 16-0 lead after just five innings. The run support is far more than enough for all-star White Sox pitcher Chris Sale, who allows a run in seven-plus innings for his tenth win of the year; the loser is Roy Oswalt, who for the second straight game gives up 13 hitsonly the fourth time since 1970 a starter has allowed as many as 13 in consecutive starts. (In three starts this year totaling 17.1 innings, Oswalt is being hit to the tune of a .422 batting average.)
Wednesday, July 4
In his 15th start and the Phillies’ 83rd game of the year, Philadelphia star pitcher Cliff Lee finally gets his first win of the year, dealing eight solid innings while getting nine runs of very late support from his teammates to turn a pitching duel with the Mets’ Chris Young into a 9-2 rout at New York.
Brunch and baseball: The Washington Nationals host the San Francisco Giants in a game starting at 11:00 in the morning so as not to conflict with D.C.’s voluminous Fourth of July events later in the day. Starting less than 12 hours after finishing a rain-delayed Tuesday contest, the Nationals easily win their second in a row over the Giants, 9-4.
In Boston’s 3-2 loss at Oakland, David Ortiz becomes the 49th major leaguer to reach 400 career home runs with a solo shot in the fourth inning.
Thursday, July 5
Familiar names in new places help out their new teams. Carlos Lee knocks out two hits including a double and scores a run in his first game as a Miami Marlin, helping to defeat the Brewers at Milwaukee, 4-0. Out west in Anaheim, Jim Thomenow DH’ing for the Baltimore Oriolesalso grabs two hits and knocks in a run, but the Orioles are out-punched by the Angels, 9-7.
The White Sox get eight exceptional innings from pitcher Jose Quintana (who allows just a run on two hits and a walk) to quell the Rangers, 2-1, and hand Texas its first series sweep of at least three losses on the year. Quintana, a 23-year-old rookie from Colombia, is now 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA in ten starts.
The Mets overcome a sluggish start by R.A. Dickey (five runs on 11 hits allowed in seven innings) by rallying for two runs in the bottom of the ninth off Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon to defeat the Phillies at Citi Field, 6-5. David Wright provides the game-winning hit on a single, one of his three hits (and four RBIs) on the day.
Friday, July 6
After tearing his Achilles’ tendon at the end of the 2011 season, Ryan Howard makes his 2012 debut with a double in his first at-bat and later collects a single, but the struggling Phillies to not benefit and lose to Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park, 5-0.
Saturday, July 7
After allowing a leadoff triple followed by an infield hit ruled safe on a close play at first, Milwaukee starting pitcher Zack Greinkefrustrated with himselfspikes the ball in anger. But first base umpire Sam Holbrook believes the anger is directed at him and immediately ejects Greinke, who pleads his case to no avail. Neither does Brewer manager Ron Roenicke, who vehemently directs his anger at Holbrook and also gets ejected. Adding insult to injury, Greinke is charged with the 6-3 loss at Houston for allowing the one run to score while the Brewers can never break the Astro lead. It’s the end of a nine-game losing streak for Houston.
Sunday, July 8
Making his first start in three weeks after a spell on the disabled list, the Chicago Cubs' Ryan Dempster throws five shutout innings to run his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 27 and defeat the Mets, 7-0. With the win, Dempster brings his season ERA down to 1.99, which for the moment leads the NL.
Miami closer Heath Bell suffers his second blown save of the weekand his sixth this seasonas the St. Louis Cardinals rally for three ninth-inning runs to edge the Marlins at St. Louis, 5-4. Starting NL All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal drives in the tying and winning runs with a bases-loaded single. Bell is now 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA.
So When Does Beane Trade Him?
Oakland rookie pitcher Jarrod Parker has run extremely hot and cold on the mound; fortunately for him and the A’s, the cold spells have been highly infrequent. In fact, take away his three worst outings of the year (in which he gave up six runs in each), and Parker is 5-1 with a devastating 1.23 ERA in 73.1 innings over 11 starts, nine of which he’s allowed one run or less.
When Time Ran Out
And apparently it has for 49-year-old Jamie Moyer. The veteran lefty, who owns records for being the oldest major leaguer to throw both a win and a shutoutand more dubiously holds the mark for the most career home runs allowed at 522was hardly feared and mostly loathed in Las Vegas, failing in his latest attempt to impress a new team. Moyer started two games for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate in Vegas and produced an ugly 8.18 ERA, leading to his departure. Moyer started the year with the Colorado Rockies but was released after his game devolved; Baltimore gave him a shot but after three quality starts in their farm system, Moyer asked for his release when the Orioles weren’t ready to bring him up. Seattle, where Moyer had his most effective tenure some 10-15 years ago, is rumored to be the site of his next audition.
This Week's Challanger to Joe DiMaggio
There’s a logjam on the marquee for the feature I’m Aiming for Ya’, Joltin’ Joe as three major leaguers share the lead this week for the longest active hitting streak. Detroit’s Austin Jackson, the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki all finish this past week having each hit in 15 straight games.
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.