Nine by Design?
Hall of Fame announcer Jon Miller has never been known to make controversy, but he couldn’t help but publicly suggest this past week that the Colorado Rockies may be taking advantage of the humidor at Coors Field in a way that the Minnesota Twins took advantage of the Metrodome in 1987 when, with the home team at bat, they turned on the indoor vents and manufactured an airflow in an effort to make the ball travel farther.
In light of the Rockies’ run of late-inning victories this past week, Miller recalled during the San Francisco Giants’ pregame radio show a discussion he had with Giant pitching coach Dave Righetti, who said that during a late-season, high-scoring series between the Giants and Rockies a number of years earlier, a Rockie official admitted that the humidorwhich had muted the mile-high hitting insanity of Coors Field’s early yearswas turned off. Why? Because it would help Rockie MVP contenders Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins pad their stats in hopes of accruing more votes.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when the Rockies, trailing 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth to the St. Louis Cardinals, scored nine times to win the game, 12-9. St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin, who gave up six of those ninth-inning runsincluding Seth Smith’s game-winning, three-run home runcomplained that the ball was so hard, he couldn’t get a good grip on it to give it movement. Hmmm, that’s what we had heard about the ball…before they plugged in the humidor in the early 2000s.
Back to Miller. Here’s what he’s loudly thinking: That the Rockies, when trailing late, might be providing the home plate umpire with balls not placed in the humidorin essence, jump-starting the jack-rabbit glory of Coors Field’s go-go years and giving the Rockies an unfair advantage to come from behind.
There’s more: A night after the Rockies’ historic victory (see below), they scored three in the eighth and one in the ninth to overcome the Cardinals again, 8-7and on Friday, scored five times in the seventh to wipe out a 8-5 deficit and ultimately beat San Diego, 10-8.
Miller believes there should be transparency, even if it means placing a full cart of baseballs near the backstop in full view of everyone so that the umpire can grab a new ball without the risk of the Rockies possibly sneaking in something the humidor never met.
A Record(-Tying) Rampage
It was said, during the Rockies’ nine-run ninth-inning comeback on Tuesday against St. Louis, that no team in the modern era had scored nine or more times to win a game in the bottom of the ninth. But it actually happened twice in the AL’s inaugural 1901 campaignconsidered the beginning of “modern” timesincluding the very first game played by the Detroit Tigers, when they nabbed nine in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, the team now known as the Baltimore Orioles.
The Fan Who Fell to Earth
The horrifying moment this past Tuesday in Arlington when a fan, reaching over the club level railing for a foul ball, lost his balance and fell 30 feet below to the lower bowl, quickly had us wondering; how has this not happened more often? Railings at most major league ballparks are so low, one can’t help but sense danger just walking alongside them to get to a seat. Of course, the railings are made short so as not to obstruct the view of the patrons seated in the first row, but if more incidents like this take place, the choice has to be made: Better safety, or better sightlines?
The man who fell, a local firefighter named Tyler Morris, suffered a skull fracture and sprained ankle; four fans who were hit from above were okay after treatment at the ballpark. Morris was listed in fair condition shortly after his arrival at the hospital and, from we heard, said to have been in remarkably good spirits. The incident left those who witnessed it shaken, including players on the field who knelt to their knees, heads bowed, during the 16 minutes the game was stopped to take care of matters in the stands.
In the end, Morris got the ball he was after; it was given to him in the hospital by Nolan Ryan, the Ranger team president who paid him a visit.
This is not the first time a fan has fallen at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Just prior to the ballpark’s very first regular season game in 1994, a woman posing for a photo against the railing fell and suffered multiple fractures, leading to a $200,000 lawsuit against the Rangers, the City of Arlington and the two architectural firms who designed the ballpark. As they did then, the Rangers have reportedly raised the railings a little higher.
Lights, Camera, Play Ball!
Moneyball is back on. The movie version of Michael Lewis’ book on Oakland general manager Billy Beane, which appeared to be scuttled last summer, has begun filming with Brad Pitt still taking on the role of Beane. The bulk of the film will take place during the A’s AL-record 20-game win streak in 2002, with scenes to be shot at the Coliseum from July 26-August 5, mostly while the current-day A’s are on the road. Former Oakland manager Art Howe will be played by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the man who directed him in Capote, Bennett Miller, is now at the helm, replacing Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich)who left the project last summer, dissatisfied over the script. That script apparently has been redone, co-written by Aaron Sorkinwho gave us TV’s “The West Wing” and wrote the legendary courtroom exchange between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Moneyball is scheduled to be released sometime in 2011.
Easy There, Boy
Werth said he felt bad about what happened but didn’t apologize. It seems curious, however, that a day after the incident, reports intensified that Werth was on the trading block.
This past Thursday, Philadelphia outfielder Jayson Werth had a fit with a fan along the right field line at Citizens Bank Park who got in the way of his making a pivotal catch in the 12th inning of a game the Phillies would win moments later over Cincinnati, 4-3. Boos rained down after Werth’s run-in, not because the fan was pulling a Steve Bartman-like stuntin fact, he claimed to be reaching for the ball, within the stands, to protect his ten-year old son seated next to himbut because of the way Werth responded, turning to the fan and giving him some angry words (“get out of my f#@%ing way,” according to witnesses).
Time for Musical Chairs
The move is just the beginning of what could be a very active trading period before the trade deadline on July 31. Many major names have been thrown out as possible trade bait, including Prince Fielder, Roy Oswalt, Adam Dunn, Dan Haren, Jayson Werth, Paul Konerko, Corey Hart, Jose Bautista, Kerry Wood and Ted Lilly. Stay tuned.
Just when it appeared that the rich would get richer, the spoils went to the bankrupt instead. Pitcher Cliff Lee was dealt for the third time in less than a year on Friday, but not to the New York Yankees as it had been widely reported that morning; instead, he was sent packing to the Texas Rangers, who are officially in Chapter 11. Texas sent a trio of prospects and rookie first baseman Justin Smoak (our pick for last week’s worst AL hitter) to Seattle in exchange for Lee; the Mariners will pay roughly half of Lee’s salary for the allegedly cash-strapped Rangers.
Alex v. Dallas, Act II
The Yankees returned to Oakland this past week, which meant that the media were bound to dredge up the ol’ Alex Rodriguez-Dallas Braden feud once more. The two players, previously involved in an on-field spat when Rodriguez broke a baseball code by stepping on Braden’s mound, congenially lightened the mood when Braden sent over a package of gifts to Rodriguezincluding a game ball and poster related to Braden’s perfect game against Tampa Bay on May 9. It also included T-shirts created by the A’s that shouted, “Get Off My Mound!” Braden sent the shirts even though he wasn’t happy that the A’s came up with the idea, calling it a “suicide request.” Braden did not get a chance to face Rodriguez on the field; he’s currently on the disabled list.
How Hard They Fall
Braden has not won since throwing his perfect game, but at least he's still in the majors; Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga, he of the should-have-been perfect game on June 2, was sent to Triple-A Toledo for what the Tigers are calling a brief demotion based more on logistics than performance. Still, it must be a strange set of circumstances for Galarraga, who was shining in the national spotlight a month ago when he came within one out (and a horrible call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce) from a perfect gamebut has since won just one of six starts with a 5.61 ERA.
Could the Third Time be the Charm for 30 Wins?
Colorado All-Star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez became the first pitcher since David Wells in 2000and the first National Leaguer since Greg Maddux in 1988to have 15 wins at the All-Star break. Wells won five more in his season to finish at 20-8; Maddux won just three more, with five losses, after he reached 15 to end his campaign at 18-8.
The Pittsburgh Pirates went 26 straight games and 872 at-bats without hitting a home run with a man on base in a streak that ended this past week. The Bad News Buccos hit ten solo shots during this time; it was the longest such streak since 1991, when the Houston Astros went 28 games without a multiple-run blast.
Blowin' All the Way to Southern California
Who needs trash bins outside of major league ballparks when you have the Baseball Reliquary? The off-the-wall collection of baseball artifacts you won’t see at Cooperstown (including a recent exhibit on former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda called “Lasordapalooza”), based in the Los Angeles area, asked and received a vuvuzela that was given away at a Florida-Tampa Bay game on June 19 in Miami that was part of a promotion in which 15,000 vuvuzelas were given to fans. The loud, droning noises made by the instruments, a staple at the World Cup in South Africa (by the way, congratulations, Spain), possibly cost the Marlins a victory when a miscommunication between then-manager Fredi Gonzalez and home plate umpire Lance Barksdale let to a player batting out of order that killed a ninth-inning Marlin uprising.
When It's Stanton, Run for Cover
This was a week to move to the back of the bullpen, away from the fence, when big Florida rookie Mike Stanton was in play. Wednesday at Los Angeles, Stanton hit a home run that barely cleared the left field fence and landed in the bullpenor, more accurately, into an unoccupied catcher’s mitt placed on a folding chair. A day later in Phoenix, Arizona’s Kelly Johnson launched a drive towards the right field corner, and Stanton, playing the outfield, ran after it and barreled into a part of the fencing that doubled as the gate to the Florida bullpen; the impact jarred the door open and knocked teamate reliever Leo Nunez, seated right behind, ten feet to the ground with temporary ankle pain.
Wounded of the Week
Perhaps the strangest injury-related moment on a major league ballfield this past week came when San Francisco reliever Dan Runzler, making his very first batting appearance in his two-year career, dislocated his kneecap after falling down on a swing. He’s expected to miss up to eight weeks.
This was a particularly bad week for starting pitchers to stay healthy, as many top-line hurlers went on the shelf, including Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo, Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang, Baltimore frontman Kevin Millwood, and the Chicago White Sox’ Jake Peavywho’s out for the year with shoulder problems.
If We Picked the All-Stars
The public and the managers have spoken, now it’s our turn. Below are our annual selections for who we believe should be starting at the All-Star game this Tuesday at Anaheim. Check out what Ed Attanasio and myself have made virtual chads from. Eric
Eric’s pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Ed’s pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
The fans’ pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
It’s a clean sweep to start, although arguments could easily be made for power backstoppers such as Toronto’s John Buck and Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Mike Napoli. In the end, however, it’s pretty obvious that Mauer, the reigning AL MVP, is the complete package.
Eric’s pick: Brian McCann, Atlanta
Ed’s pick: Miguel Olivo, Colorado
The fans’ pick: Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Ed and I agree that this spot shouldn’t be reserved for Molina, who continues to be terrific defensively but has been poor (.220s) at the platebut we split on who should start ahead of him. Ed likes Olivo, with offensive numbers (.317, 11 homers) to warrant a nodbut to me, Olivo’s .389 average at stat-happy Coors Field (compared to .215 on the road) is a problem. So I lean to McCann, who’s produced just as well without playing half his games a mile high.
Eric’s pick: Justin Morneau, Minnesota
Ed’s pick: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
The fans’ pick: Justin Morneau, Minnesota
I echo the fans’ choice with Morneau, who’s putting up MVP-like numbers. Opting for Cabrera, as Ed has, makes sense if you only count his offense; the Tiger slugger’s bane continues to be his defense, as he’s already committed nine errors (at first base!) this year.
Eric’s pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Ed’s pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
The fans’ pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Even in the face of superlative competition (Joey Votto, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez), Pujols still gets the edge with his overall game.
Eric’s pick: Robinson Cano, New York
Ed’s pick: Robinson Cano, New York
The fans’ pick: Robinson Cano, New York
The easiest choice. Only Dustin Pedroia be seen in Cano’s rear view mirror as far as the competition is involved, and only distantly.
Eric’s pick: Martin Prado, Atlanta
Ed’s pick: Martin Prado, Atlanta
The fans’ pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia
A close call, with many fans expectedly going with Utley as the default. But Ed and I both admire Prado’s tenacity (batting .329 and leading the majors in hits) that has made life difficult for opposing pitchers.
Eric’s pick: Derek Jeter, New York
Ed’s pick: Alex Gonzalez, Toronto
The fans’ pick: Derek Jeter, New York
Usually Jeter gets in on pure name recognition, but this is one year where he deserves the honor, clicking at the plate and displaying stellar defense. Ed sides with Gonzalez, who easily (and surprisingly) possesses the best power (17 homers) of any AL player at this position.
Eric’s pick: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
Ed’s pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
The fans’ pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
The dynamic Ramirez has shown little to suggest he doesn’t deserve the starter spot, but I like what Tulowitzki (who can’t play the All-Star Game anyway because of a broken wrist) has done at the plate and in the field with his incredible range and terrific glovework.
Eric’s pick: Adrian Beltre, Boston
Ed’s pick: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
The fans’ pick: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
Tough call here, with Ed agreeing with the fans in the choice of Longoria. (And hey, isn’t it a kick that he got more votes than Alex Rodriguez?) Beltre tips the scale for me due to his outstanding .332 average with good muscle.
Eric’s pick: David Wright, New York
Ed’s pick: David Wright, New York
The fans’ pick: David Wright, New York
Wright has overcome a rough start and a preponderance of strikeouts (he’s already close to 100) and caught fire over the last few months to earn his vote over praiseworthy contenders in Ryan Zimmerman and a rejuvenated Scott Rolen.
Eric’s pick: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay; Torii Hunter, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Ed’s pick: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay; Alex Rios, Chicago
The fans’ pick: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle
Everyone agrees on this: Hamilton and Crawford. The third slot brings a difference of opinion. I like the continued brilliance of Hunter; Ed’s embracing Rios’ comeback efforts, and the fans just can’t help but bring back Ichiro.
Eric’s pick: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles; Corey Hart, Milwaukee; Josh Willingham, Washington
Ed’s pick: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles; Corey Hart, Milwaukee; Matt Holliday, St. Louis
The fans’ pick: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Jason Heyward, Atlanta
Perhaps this year’s most wide-open competition in the vote can be found here. Ethier gets a universal acceptance from both of us as well as the public at large, and we find further agreement in the power-driven (20 homers) success of Hart. From there, you might as well as pull any name out of the hat. The fans went with Heyward, the early-season rookie darling; Ed opted for Holliday, who’s come alive of late in St. Louis; and I threw out the big surprise in Willingham, who’s hitting sharp (.282) with power (15 homers) and patience (55 walks) while defending the outfield well.
Eric’s pick: Vladimir Guerrero, Texas
Ed’s pick: Vladimir Guerrero, Texas
The fans’ pick: Vladimir Guerrero, Texas
A no-brainer choice. (And speaking of lack of brains, you got to wonder where the brains of the one million voters who selected Ken Griffey Jr. went missing.)
Eric’s pick: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Ed’s pick: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
The manager’s pick: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia
Votto, so blatantly snubbed by NL manager Charlie Manuel, has the numbers to earn a starting spot somewhere in the lineup (Did Manuel pick the less-deserving Ryan Howard as a reserveand ultimately the starting DHbecause he sees him everyday in the Phillie dugout?) Hey Chuck: With the game played at an AL ballpark, pencil Votto in at DH.
Eric’s pick: Cliff Lee, Seattle-Texas
Ed’s pick: David Price, Tampa Bay
The manager’s pick: David Price, Tampa Bay
The arguments for this pick mirrors those for our choices for the best pitcher of the first half in our Mid-Season Report Card: I go with the most efficient pitcher in Lee while Ed embraces Price for having the most wins. I had a feeling AL manager Joe Girardi would side with Ed on this one, and he did.
Eric’s pick: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado
Ed’s pick: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado
The manager’s pick: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado
After a super-electrifying start, Jimenez's mortality has emerged and legitimate arguments have been made for someone like Josh Johnson (whose ERA is better) to get the starting nod. But you simply can't bench a guy who's 15-1 at the All-Star break.
The Last Men In
The vote, created by MLB to generate interest, web site visits and therefore revenue via a virtual system of ballot stuffing once scorned upon by the Lords, was at least sane as opposed to last season, when we saw overzealous (if not outrageous) PR efforts by teams to have their players win the vote.
Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto and New York Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher were voted in by the fans as the final selections to this year’s All-Star team. Votto was a shoo-in given that he was clearly the biggest snub in the general vote as well as the manager’s picks; on the AL side, Swisher landed the final spot in an upset over (we feel) more deserving candidates as Chicago’s Paul Konerko and Boston’s Kevin Youkilis.
Blowin' All the Way to Southern California
Who needs trash bins outside of major league ballparks when you have the Baseball Reliquary? The off-the-wall collection of baseball artifacts you won’t see at Cooperstown (including a recent exhibit on former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda called
Set Your TiVo
“The Club”, the MLB Network’s first reality TV show featuring the everyday doings of Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, premieres this Sunday. Watch a sneak preview here.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera has been hot and consistently so; he finishes this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 19 games. Cabrera is hitting .394 during his run, which is a personal best during his prolific eight-year career.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.