The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: July 16-22, 2012
How Protected Are Our Ballparks? Anatomy of the Cabrera-Sanchez Trade
Pete Rose Gets Real What is it About GMs That's Attracting Stalkers?

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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.

Are We Safe?
On September 11, 2001, the traumatic terrorist attacks that reshaped our nation’s mindset—for better of worse—killed 3,000 people. The average crowd attending a major league baseball game is ten times that figure. Believe us, we occasionally shudder at the thought of a wacko or wackos who, either for the sake of the insanely contorted view of their religion or just for the hell of it, want to watch the world—or perhaps a loaded ballpark—burn, much as the Joker wished in The Dark Knight, a film which apparently inspired a lone nut in Aurora, Colorado in the worst, most tragic way this past week.

The Aurora tragedy came on the heels of revelations in Detroit that a bomb threat was phoned in during a game between the Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; it was the latest in a series of similar threats targeting Detroit-area landmarks. Comerica Park was quietly searched during the game and, fortunately, nothing was found. Yet the people in charge obviously must have dreaded reconciling over the decision to not notify those in attendance and the consequences of that decision had a bomb actually had been planted and detonated.

This is not about finding solutions that will prevent such a horrific event from taking place, outside of increasing care of the mentally ill and reducing the caustic rhetoric from the religious nuts, warped bloggers and the Fox News/MSNBC world of bias that has made our planet a far angrier place to survive peacefully in. Major League Baseball, its teams and the local authorities of the cities they play in have certainly huddled together and devised plans and procedures to reduce any or all threats. But the sad fact is, if someone wants to target a ballpark, they will. Being vigilant can only go so far.

The upside to all of this is that the world is mostly full of good, imperfect but wonderful people. This is apparent in the fact that ten years has passed since 9-11 with nary a substantial threat to any sporting event. Let’s hope it stays that way, and that the one lunatic out a million peaceful souls doesn’t acquire the ideas, the tools and the twisted luck to realize his darkest dreams.

There's More Than Meets the Eyesore
There’s more common sense under the surface of what appears to be baseball’s most lopsided trade in recent memory: The one that sent San Francisco pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City for outfielder Melky Cabrera. Even at the time the deal was sealed, it seemed to be anything but a balanced transaction; Sanchez had devolved into a mess with the Giants, and Cabrera was coming off a career year for the Royals. But the Royals knew that Cabrera was a goner one way or the other—his contract expires at the end of this year—their outfield was flush with talent that made Cabrera’s presence a luxury, and maybe a fresh start would right the career for Sanchez, once good enough to throw a no-hitter.

The gamble never paid off for the Royals. Sanchez became an even bigger disaster in Kansas City, producing a 1-6 record and 7.76 ERA while his wild preponderance for walks (44 in 53.1 innings) continued—while in San Francisco, Cabrera earned a deserving start in the All-Star Game and is among the league leaders in batting average, triples and hits. The pain for the Giants may come later when faced with the burden of re-signing Cabrera (whose performance will command much demand from many major league suitors), but at least his efforts this season are critical to what’s looking to be a second October trip in three years for the Giants.

This past week, Sanchez was traded again, this time to—oh boy, Jonathan, are you sitting?—the Colorado Rockies, who in exchange gave the Royals another highly disappointing offseason acquisition in pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (3-9, 6.35 ERA).

Snore of the Roses
Perhaps star billing in a reality TV show packs more honor than shilling memorabilia every other day at the Caesars Shops in Vegas. Pete Rose will follow the lead of Kim Kardashian, Kate Gosselin and all those housewives east of the Rockies and get his own reality TV show, to be aired soon on TLC (that’s The Learning Channel to you). Rose, now 71, will share top billing with his fiancée, 29-year-old model and former Playboy subject Kiana Kim, as the show will reveal what happens within the mashed-together family-to-be. (Our guess: Nothing.)

TLC talking points suggest the cameras will follow Rose to Cooperstown, where he’ll knock on the door and see if anyone answers; and they’ll follow Kim on her pursuit of undergoing breast reduction. (Trust us, she’s in no need of enlargement.)

Is There a Sabermetric for Stupidity?
Bill James must have some Penn State blue blood in him. The master of baseball statistics, currently employed by the Boston Red Sox, all but suggested on ESPN radio recently that the media created a “smokescreen” to get convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky behind bars and shame the name of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. He also said that it was quite common 40 years ago for men to shower with boys in locker rooms. That may be true, but the evidence on Sandusky went far beyond that and that’s why he’s behind bars for the rest of his life. And if you listen to what the Freeh Report had to say about the corruption by Penn State officials, led by Paterno, to cover up Sandusky’s crimes, you have to wonder just how many of those higher-up’s were on James’ speed dial. The Red Sox slapped their palms against their foreheads and have told James to shut up on the subject.

Stalk Yourself Out of It!
You’d think stalkers would save their energy for major league ballplayers and not members of the front office. (Maybe the players are reserved for the likes of Morganna.) New York Yankee general manager Brian Cashman has been trying to shake off one stalker—well, that was his fault, he actually started an affair with her—and this past week, it was reported that a 44-year-old Massachusetts woman named Kathleen Kearney was arrested in Chicago for having Cub general manager Theo Epstein a little too much on her mind. She flew from Boston to Epstein’s Chicago home and rang the doorbell; Epstein’s wife answered, at first believing that Kearney was a neighbor, but the chat devolved into something a little wacky that led Mrs. Epstein to close the door, call her husband and then the cops. Kearney’s lawyer says the arrest was “completely overblown” and that all she wants to do is invite Epstein to church. And then what?

Socialism's Okay When it Suits Baseball
Baseball’s new rules on amateur draft signings appear to have paid off on the bottom line. The total amount of money spent on all draftees was down 11% from last year, after the introduction of a slot system that dictated how much a team was allowed to spend on draft picks based on their ranking in the selection. (A team could spend more beyond the slot, but would risk financial penalty and loss of future draft picks.) The slot system was devised after baseball became concerned over exorbitant signings of first-round draft picks that threatened to raise the bar on bonus payments far beyond what it was comfortable with.

Eliminate the Tariffs!
Japan has won the first two World Baseball Classics (oh yeah, that), but its odds of a third may be in jeopardy after that nation’s players association threatened to boycott next year’s tourney unless it receives a bigger cut of the revenue pie. Union head Takahiro Arai claims he’s been trying to get someone at Major League Baseball, which runs the event, to answer his demands—but so far, no luck. Japan is scheduled to host the first round of the WBC next spring, with the finals again slated for the United States.

The A-Rod Legacy Begins to Cement Itself
Alex Rodriguez is on the verge of cracking the top of several all-time lists—not all of which he wants to brag about. The Yankee star is nipping at the heels of Lou Gehrig (1,888) for tenth on the all-time runs list and Rafael Palmeiro (5,388) for the same spot in career total bases. But before the month of July is done, he’s also likely to become the fifth player in history to strike out 2,000 times. The other four players? They’re Andres Galarraga (2,003), Sammy Sosa (2,306), still-active Jim Thome (2,527) and the all-time leader himself, Reggie Jackson (2,597).

Don't Brown-Bag it to Coors
Fan disgust in Denver over the performance of the last-place Colorado Rockies has reached the point where spectators want to wear paper bags over their heads in the stands. But Coors Field personnel won’t let them. Why? Because it’s a security threat. See, by keeping their heads hidden, there is no way to get an above-the-neck description of any paper bag-toting fan lest he or she was up to no good. This does not bode well for any woman of Islamic faith who wishes to attend a Rockie game cloaked in a burqa.

It must be said: The Rockies’ edict on paper bag wear came down before the tragedy this past week in the Denver suburb of Aurora, where a man opened fire on a crowded theater watching The Dark Knight Rises, causing scores of casualties.

Wounded of the Week
You could have almost built a reputable all-star team out of the list of new entrees on the DL this past week. Among the notably wounded is Cincinnati MVP candidate Joey Votto, out nearly a month after undergoing minor knee surgery; Toronto slugger Jose Bautista, out 15 days with inflammation in his left wrist; Boston slugger David Ortiz, also out the minimum 15 days with a Achilles strain; and New York Mets ace pitcher Johan Santana, out 15 days with a sprained right ankle.

Among the others crashing on the shelf were Houston shortstop Jed Lawrie (ankle, out one month), Los Angeles pitcher Chad Billingsley (elbow, 15 days) Minnesota closer Matt Capps (shoulder, out indefinitely) and Tampa Bay’s Luke Scott (oblique, 15 days).

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

TGG Programming Note
The Comebacker will be taking its summer vacation on the week of July 30, so look for our next edition on August 6. In the meantime check out the rest of the site, including our latest Opinion piece on the hits and misses of the season's first half and Ed Attanasio's recently posted interviews with former major leaguers Chuck Stevens and Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr.

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
Monday, July 16
Carl Crawford makes his long-awaited season debut for Boston, reaching base twice on a single and walk and scoring both times to help the Red Sox defeat the visiting Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park, 5-1. It’s the first game back for ex-Boston star Kevin Youkilis, who knocks out three hits including two doubles and scores the game’s only run for the Pale Hose.

The Houston Astros end a 13-game losing slide on the road—one short of the franchise record—and win for only the tenth time away from Houston this season with a 2-0 victory at San Diego.

On the same day Milwaukee set-up reliever Francisco Rodriguez tells the press how wonderful it would be to return to the closer’s role, he sees that the chance may come sooner than later. The Brewers’ current closer, John Axford, blows his sixth save of the season by allowing three runs—all with two outs—to put the St. Louis Cardinals up and over the top of the Brewers at Milwaukee, 3-2. Axford is booed off the field; since June 10, he’s 1-4 with six saves in 11 opportunities and has an 8.59 ERA.

In his sixth game back with Philadelphia, Ryan Howard hits his first home run of the year, giving the Phillies a 3-0 fourth-inning lead that will prove critical as they edge the Dodgers at Los Angeles, 3-2.

Tuesday, July 17
Perhaps it was a Detroit fan disgruntled with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s early 7-0 lead over the Tigers, or it was a sick wacko—or both. But someone phones in a bomb threat to Comerica Park, prompting a search of the ballpark—all without stopping the game or evacuating the facility. Nothing is found, and the Angels continue with their whitewashing of the Tigers, winning 13-0.

Two ace pitchers get their first action after prolonged time on the disabled list. Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay makes his first start in seven weeks and pitches five agreeable innings, allowing two runs and striking out six Dodgers, but gets a no-decision in the Phillies’ 3-2 win at Los Angeles. Meanwhile in New York, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia is sharper—tossing six shutout innings in an easy 6-1 win over Toronto at the Stadium.

In his fourth major league start, 21-year-old Arizona rookie Trevor Bauer allows one hit in three innings—but also walks five, throws two wild pitches and another past first base in an attempted pickoff throw, leading to all four Cincinnati runs on the evening. The Diamondbacks cannot rebut against Johnny Cueto and four relievers in their 4-0 loss.

Wednesday, July 18
The Dodgers, losers of four straight games, rebound with a 5-3, 12-inning win over the Phillies thanks to Matt Kemp—who singles in the game-tying run in the tenth inning to keep the game alive, before belting his 13th home run of the year a few frames later to seal the victory. Neither starting pitcher—the Phillies’ Cliff Lee nor the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw—figure in the decision despite both throwing eight sterling innings each.

Oakland shortstop Brandon Hicks, whose brief major league career has consisted of just six hits in 60 at-bats for a .100 lifetime average, launches a game-winning homer—the first longball of his career—in the bottom of the ninth to give the A’s a 4-3 home win over the front-running Texas Rangers.

Thursday, July 19
The Padres’ Edinson Volquez throws a one-hit, 1-0 shutout over the Astros at San Diego; despite Petco Park’s reputation as a pitcher’s park, this is the first shutout thrown by a Padre at the facility in seven years. A fourth-inning infield hit from the Astros’ Matt Downs is all that separates Volquez from earning the Padres’ first-ever no-hitter.

White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana locks down the Red Sox at Boston for eight innings—allowing no runs on five hits and no walks—but the Chicago bullpen can’t lock them down for even one. The Red Sox place two runners on base off closer Matt Thornton, and then Cody Ross—who hit two three-run homers a few nights earlier—hits another off losing pitcher Addison Reed as Boston prevails, 3-1.

Friday, July 20
Washington gives starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg nine runs of early support at Nationals Park against Atlanta, but Strasburg gives back four of the runs before being removed—and the Braves pummel five relievers for seven more, outlasting the Nationals in 11 innings, 11-10. The Nats’ 9-0 lead is the largest they’ve ever blown in franchise history, dating back to their 1969 birth as the Montreal Expos.

The Cardinals rally for three first-inning runs to set the tone for a 4-1 win over the visiting Chicago Cubs, and end Ryan Dempster’s streak of consecutive scoreless innings at 33 that had tied a franchise record set back in 1969 by Ken Holtzman. It’s also Dempster’s first loss after winning five straight starts.

Jim Thome belts his first home run since joining Baltimore 12 games ago in the Orioles’ 10-2 demolition at Cleveland; it’s also his 610th career shot, passing Sammy Sosa and giving him sole possession of seventh on the all-time list. Ken Griffey Jr. (at 630) is next for the 41-year-old slugger.

One streak ends and another continues for the New York Yankees. They lose 3-2 at Oakland on a ninth-inning, game-winning single by Brandon Moss—it’s the A’s tenth walk-off win of the year—snapping a 43-game streak in which the Yankees had scored at least three runs. (The major league record remains with the 1994 Cleveland Indians, who scored at least three runs in 48 straight games.) The Yankees had tied the game in the top of the ninth with a solo homer by Robinson Cano, whose earlier single ran his personal hitting streak to 23 games, the majors’ longest this season. (That will also come to an end the next day.)

Saturday, July 21
A scoreless game after the seventh-inning stretch turns quickly into a rout when the Cardinals pile 12 runs on the Cubs in the bottom of the seventh; the dozen tallies consist of the total scoring on the day. The 12 runs in one inning ties an all-time St. Louis record; of the Cardinals’ ten hits in the frame, eight are for extra bases and seven are doubles—figures that tie major league records.

Jason Kubel belts three home runs to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 12-3 thrashing of the sinking Astros at Phoenix. Kuble is the seventh Diamondback to go deep three times; his six RBIs give him 70 on the year to lead the NL.

In Philadelphia, San Francisco starting pitcher Matt Cain hits a third-inning homer off his opposite number, the Phillies’ Cole Hamels. In the bottom half of the innings, Hamels responds in kind, launching his own longball into the stands off Cain. It’s the first time both starting pitchers have homered off one another in the same inning since 1990. Neither Cain nor Hamels gets a decision in the Giants’ 6-5, 10-inning win.

Sunday, July 22
Miguel Cabrera hits two solo homers, the second of which travels 457 feet to give him 300 career blasts—and to give the Tigers a 6-4 win over the White Sox to finish a three-game sweep of Chicago and take first place in the AL Central by a game and a half. Only Andres Galarraga, with 399 lifetime homers, has more among Venezuela-born major leaguers.

The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Brewers, 2-1, in a game that features no home runs; it's the first time in 74 games that one has not been hit at Great American Ballpark. The streak is snapped six games shy of the major league record held by Colorado's Coors Field from 2002-03.

The Incredible Shrinking Astros
Dropping like a rock after a decent start to the season, the Houston Astros aren’t waiting for the trading deadline to tear what’s left of their roster. Already, the Last-ros have traded away star hitter Carlos Lee, starting pitcher J.A. Happ and relievers Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon; in exchange, Houston received closer Francisco Cordero and a truckload of prospects and minor leaguers, all while shedding some $35 million off its payroll. Should the team trade staff ace Wandy Rodriguez—as is widely rumored—that will leave Cordero ($4.5 million) as the only Astro making more than $1.5 million.

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
In Ed Attanasio's newest addition to TGG's They Were There section, Chuck Stevens talks about being the first major leaguer to get a hit off of Satchel Paige, his life and times living in Hollywood as a Pacific Coast League player, and his role in establishing the Professional Baseball Players' Association, which helps former ballplayers in need.