The Week That Was in Baseball: July 7-13, 2008
Our Choices for the All-Star Game One Scout Out—Will There Be More?
C.C. (er, CC)'s First Week in Milwaukee The Orioles Don't Like Sundays


If We Picked the All-Stars
With rosters established for the Mid-Summer Classic to be played on Tuesday, This Great Game’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio chimed in with their own selections as shown below. 

In making their picks, Ed and Eric gave their usual careful considerations that seemed lacking by many of the fans, who seemed seduced as always by popular players (i.e., Derek Jeter) and their infatuation with the Red Sox (four starters) and Cubs (three, among eight total on the roster). But give credit to nationwide voters for picking up the average “actual” per-game Florida Marlin attendance of 4,000 to transcend the home vote on selecting Hanley Ramirez at shortstop for the NL. 

Also, fans may want to see more than a baseball game; although Alex Rodriguez was a lock at third base for the AL, perhaps his alleged rendezvousing with Madonna might lead Morganna the Kissing Bandit to come out of retirement.

American League
Ed’s pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Eric’s pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
The fans’ pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota

National League
Ed’s pick: Brian McCann, Atlanta
Eric’s pick: Russell Martin, Los Angeles
The fans’ pick: Geovany Soto, Chicago

First Base
American League
Ed’s pick: Kevin Youkilis, Boston
Eric’s pick: Justin Morneau, Minnesota
The fans’ pick: Kevin Youkilis, Boston

National League
Ed’s pick: Lance Berkman, Houston
Eric’s pick: Lance Berkman, Houston
The fans’ pick: Lance Berkman, Houston

Second Base
American League
Ed’s pick: Ian Kinsler, Texas
Eric’s pick: Brian Roberts, Baltimore
The fans’ pick: Dustin Perdoia, Boston

National League
Ed’s pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia
Eric’s pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia
The fans’ pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia

American League
Ed’s pick: Michael Young, Texas
Eric’s pick: Michael Young, Texas
The fans’ pick: Derek Jeter, New York

National League
Ed’s pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
Eric’s pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
The fans’ pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida

Third Base
American League
Ed’s pick: Mike Lowell, Boston
Eric’s pick: Alex Rodriguez, New York
The fans’ pick: Alex Rodriguez, New York

National League
Ed’s pick: Chipper Jones, Atlanta
Eric’s pick: Chipper Jones, Atlanta
The fans’ pick: Chipper Jones, Atlanta

American League
Ed’s picks: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Grady Sizemore, Cleveland; Carlos Quentin, Chicago.
Eric’s picks: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle; Jermaine Dye, Chicago.
The fans’ picks: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle; Manny Ramirez, Boston

National League
Ed’s pick: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Xavier Nady, Pittsburgh; Matt Holliday, Colorado
Eric’s pick: Matt Holliday, Colorado; Alfonso Soriano, Chicago, Carlos Lee, Houston
The fans’ pick: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, Alfonso Soriano, Chicago, Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago

Designated Hitter
American League
Ed’s pick: Manny Ramirez, Boston
Eric’s pick: Milton Bradley, Texas
The fans’ pick: David Ortiz, Boston

Starting Pitcher
American League
Ed’s pick: Justin Duchscherer, Oakland
Eric’s pick: Justin Duchscherer, Oakland
The manager’s pick: Cliff Lee, Cleveland

National League
Ed’s pick: Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati
Eric’s pick: Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati
The manager’s pick: Ben Sheets, Milwaukee

All-Star Picks We Don't Get
Why would the All-Star Game include:

Jason Varitek? Leadership aside, he’s absolutely awful this year, batting .220 while having a hard time throwing out opposing baserunners. 

David Ortiz? He had a lousy start and then, when he was just barely getting back up to speed, hurt his wrist. Name recognition is a wonderful thing. 

Brian Wilson? Sure, he’s the NL saves leader, but Joe Borowski led the AL last year with a 5.00 ERA. Okay, Wilson’s not that bad, but his 4.58 ERA is easily the highest among the All-Stars. 

Joe Crede? He’s showed power but a weak batting average and leads the majors in errors. His spot could be more deservingly filled by either Mike Lowell or Evan Longoria (who did get the “final” All-Star vote via the Internet).

Interesting to Note
The Detroit Tigers, the team built up in spring training as a roster of All-Stars, will have only one player represented at the All-Star Game: Third baseman Carlos Guillen, selected as a reserve.

The Chipper Watch
The challenge: Get your batting average to .400 and keep it there for the entire season. No one’s done that since Ted Williams 67 years ago, and Chipper Jones is finding the mission very difficult. The 36-year old Atlanta third baseman went hitless in his first three games of this past week, plunging his average from .388 to start the week to .375; he enters the All-Star break with a .376 mark. If he is to get hot to the point of finishing the year at .400, Jones will have to hit somewhere in the area of .430 the rest of the season. Now that's a challenge.

Now Playing on TGG: The Mid-Season Report
Check out This Great Game's look at the best, worst and most surprising of the first three months of the 2008 season in our latest opinion piece.

What Intern is Responsible for This?
On Yahoo's MLB home page, they list Florida's Josh Willingham as one of their three "hot" hitters. The same Josh Willingham who, in the week before the All-Star break, was 5-for-25, with two doubles, three RBIs, three walks and eight strikeouts.

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


Thunderstorm on the Horizon?
The tale of Alan Marr could either evaporate in the sidebars or explode into the biggest story of the year. Marr was a high-ranking scout executive in the Baltimore Oriole organization who was quietly fired on July 4; this past week, it was learned why: Marr was tied to an illegal gambling bookmaking operation, and it’s possible some of his colleagues could be involved. If all of this is proved, it may be nothing more than guys taking and accepting bets illegally without the knowledge of their employers’ staff or players. But if there is a connection and the players in particular are in the know, then we have a story. Stay tuned.

Bobby Murcer, 1946-2008
It was an interesting major league ride for Bobby Murcer, the veteran of 17 seasons who passed away over the weekend. He was all but heralded as a Mickey Mantle clone when he arrived with the New York Yankees in the late 1960s; like Mantle, he was a left-handed slugger from Oklahoma who was pre-hailed as the next in the line of Yankee icons, following Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mantle. And for a while, it seemed Murcer was on his way to justifying the billing. He hit .331 in 1971 with 25 homers—topping TGG’s Total Production Index among AL hitters—then hit 33 with a .292 average in 1972 with the help of the short Yankee Stadium right-field porch.

But when the Yankees had to vacate the due-to-be-renovated ballpark for Shea Stadium, Murcer was stripped of the porch and, thus, his power numbers—hitting just ten homers in 1974. The Yankees traded Murcer one-up to San Francisco for a disgruntled Bobby Bonds, and he could only add 11 blasts in his first year with the Giants. Perhaps burdened to be the slugger he likely wasn’t, Murcer upped his home run total to 23 in 1976—but his average dipped to .259. Given up on and traded to the Cubs, Murcer responded with his last solid year in 1977, hitting .265 with 27 homers and 89 RBIs.

From there, Murcer receded into part-time mode, returning to the Yankees in 1979 where he performed admirably until his retirement in 1983. He went on to becoming a popular broadcaster with the Yankees, working even after he was diagnosed in 2006 with a malignant brain tumor, which led to his death. 

cc: Initials
For those of you keeping score, C.C. Sabathia is now CC Sabathia—without the periods—per the burly pitcher’s request during his introductory press conference in Milwaukee on Monday.

cc: Thinking Big
Amid the bulking of talent within the NL Central this past week, one thing is for sure: Between heavyweights Sabathia (290 pounds), Prince Fielder (270), Seth McClung (252) and Eric Gagne (240), the Brewers are, pound for pound, the best team in the division.

cc: Power Pitching
Sabathia’s home run on Sunday for the Brewers against Cincinnati, combined with his June 21 blast at Los Angeles while playing for the Indians, makes him the third pitcher in major league history to hit homers for teams from both leagues in one season. The other two players to do it were Jim Tobin (Boston Braves, Detroit Tigers) in 1945 and Earl Wilson (San Diego Padres and Detroit) in 1970.

The Higher You Get, the Tougher They Come
Wins have always come easy for future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, but career victory 351 seems to be his hardest goal. After becoming the ninth major leaguer to reach 350 career wins on May 10—do the math and you’ll discover that was two months ago—the 42-year old pitcher has gone winless in 12 straight starts, one short of a personal worst set in 1990. What makes Maddux’ woes all the more frustrating is that he’s allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine of the 12 games, while the Padres have won six of those 12, with individual credit for the victories going to Padre relievers.

If it makes him feel any better, Maddux did notch a positive merit when, in Saturday’s game against Atlanta, he became the oldest pitcher in major league history to steal a base, tipping the mark previously held by Jim Kaat.

Never on Sunday
The Baltimore Orioles may be starting to think it’s a good idea to bring back Blue Laws barring Sunday baseball. After winning their first Sunday game of the season on April 6 at home to Seattle, 3-2, they have lost 14 straight Sunday matchups, the latest being a 2-1 loss at Boston. Perhaps the Saturday night partying needs to be curtailed. (For the record, the modern major league record for the most consecutive losses on a particular day rests with the 1939 St. Louis Browns, who lost 21 straight games played on Tuesday.)

Wounded of the Week
There are few pitchers in baseball who just can’t seem to get their arm screwed on right, despite all the rest, reconstruction and rehab given to them. Mike Hampton is one. Mark Prior is another. And this past week we were reminded of the pain Mark Mulder has gone through since encountering shoulder problems a few years ago. Ever since he nearly threw a shutout against the Mets on May 17, 2006, Mulder has been a disaster on the mound, going 1-9 with a 13.30 ERA in 44.2 innings—and that’s when he’s been deemed healthy enough to throw. When he made his first start of the year this past Wednesday against those same Mets, he lasted just 16 pitches before feeling the same discomfort in the same troubled shoulder, and landed yet again on the disabled list. Mulder, who averaged nearly 18 wins (and just eight losses) a year between 2001-05, is still just 30 years of age—but if the shoulder woes continue to be an unrelenting problem, forced retirement may not be far off.

Others making the ouch couch this week include Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard, Cincinnati pitcher Aaron Harang, Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells and Boston shortstop Julio Lugo.

Avoiding a Final Insult
The Pittsburgh Pirates and pitcher Pete Maholm made the most of a second chance and tipped the New York Yankees. 4-2, on Thursday in a make-up of a rained-out contest back on June 26—a game which the Yankees led, 3-1, in the third inning when the rains came. The Bucs’ victory in the final interleague match of the year kept the AL from registering 150 wins over its NL counterparts, the final tally being 149-103 for the Junior Circuit.

Unemployed and Laughing All the Way to the Bank
The first half of Richie Sexson’s four-year, $64 million contract with the Seattle Mariners was just fine for all involved; he hit 39 homers in 2005 and 34 homers in 2006 with tolerable batting averages in the low .260s and a good dose of walks. But the second half has been short of a nightmare. In 2007, Sexson batted just .205 with 21 homers and 63 RBIs in 121 games, and things haven’t been better this season, with a .218 average and 11 homers in 74 games. The struggling Mariners got to the point that they couldn’t take it anymore, so they placed Sexson on waivers this past Wednesday, almost assured that they’ll be on the hook for $6 million they still owe him if he clears. Perhaps the final straw for the M’s was Sexson’s decision during Wednesday’s 6-4 win at Oakland to sit in the bullpen, which riled interim manager Jim Riggleman as a perceived sign of defiance for not being given more playing time of late.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers is proving to be making the year’s best ascent to date at the Mount Everest of baseball records with a 25-game hitting string that’s currently the longest active in the majors. And even though he’s climbing about in the Nepalese foothills, it’s still been an impressive run that has made him the AL leader in batting average, hits and runs scored. Kinsler is batting .425 since his streak began on June 17.

This Week's Challenger to Themselves
The Florida Marlins recently established a major league mark for the most consecutive games without a complete game from their starting pitcher. This past week, the Marlins came agonizingly close to ending the streak on a few occasions. On Monday, Ricky Nolasco went eight innings in San Diego but bowed to closer Kevin Gregg in the ninth to finish a 3-1 victory over the Padres. Same thing on Wednesday, with Scott Olsen being replaced one frame shy of a complete game in a 5-2 victory against the Padres. But the closest shave came on Friday when rookie Chris Volstad—making his second major league appearance and his first start—came to within an out of taking care of the Dodgers all by himself at Los Angeles. But after Russell Martin broke up the shutout with a run-scoring single in the ninth—putting the tying run on base—Gregg was called on once more to get the final out and keep the streak alive; going into the All-Star break, it stands at 271 games.