The Week That Was in Baseball: July 20-26, 2009
Wise Move in Center Field for Mark Buehrle Does Coors Field Spoil Its Hitters?
Peek-a-Boo, Erin Andrews!
An Early Look at Miami's New Ballpark

Become a fan of This Great Game on Facebook. We’re embracing this opportunity to invite TGG followers and those of baseball in general to share their insights, queries and good knowledge with TGG’s powers-that-be, Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio.

Our goal with this page is to bring value to all who wish to become our fans, even correspondents to our continued mission of providing an enriched and unique perspective to our comprehensive catalog of baseball history, past, present and future.

Want to sound off on current events? Have good trivia you want to share? Roaming about the country on a ballpark tour? Need advice on that baseball book you’re trying to sell? Got something of interest we could share within the main site, such as our Weekly Comebacker? Have any praise or criticisms of TGG? We want to hear from you. It’s your soapbox, too.

The Perfect Mark
Imagine you’ve been watching your pitcher throw a perfect game from the bench for eight innings and you’re asked to go get your glove and go out to center field for the ninth to help secure it—and the first batter hits a challenging fly ball deep to left center, on the fringe of your fielding range. This was the “oh, s#%t” moment for the Chicago White Sox’ DeWayne Wise and his pitcher, Mark Buehrle, on Thursday at Chicago against Tampa Bay. Wise ran hard to the fence on Gabe Kapler’s drive, reached over the wall, caught it, juggled it, then fell to the ground on his back with the ball falling into his bare hand for the first out of the ninth. Outs don’t get any more dramatic than that during the course of a perfect game, which Buehrle was able to nail down two batters later when he got Jason Bartlett to hit a routine grounder for the final out.

For Buehrle, it was his second career no-hitter; his first came on April 18, 2007 against Texas, when he faced the minimum 27 batters as well when he picked off Sammy Sosa after walking him. His perfecto was also the 18th in major league history, and the first since Randy Johnson threw one for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Atlanta in 2004. Buehrle, who was congratulated over the phone afterward by the First White Sox Fan (President Barack Obama), is only the fourth pitcher to own a perfect game, no-hitter and World Series ring; the other three are Johnson, Cy Young and Sandy Koufax. That, folks, is good company.

An Accountability Gap
An apologist for the steroid abusers of the last 20 years has emerged in prose. In a new book entitled Cooperstown Confidential, author Zav Chafets claims that the Hall of Fame and its voters are taking a hypocritical moral high ground against the cheaters of modern times when it has previously embraced spitballers (Gaylord Perry) racists (Ty Cobb), womanizers (Babe Ruth) and hard drinkers (perhaps half of everyone who played before 1950). Chafets told Reuters that Cooperstown “can’t possibly exclude all or most of the great players that played in what they call the ‘steroids age’ without making a joke of itself.”

First of all, whatever tarnish players like Cobb and Ruth amassed took place off the field and didn’t affect play on the field. Second, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa might not have collected anywhere near the total number of career home runs had it not been for steroids, Jose Canseco’s faux boxing career would have begun much sooner had he not taken to the juice, and Barry Bonds, a legitimate Hall of Famer before he allegedly started shooting up circa 1999, likely never would have passed Hank Aaron as the all-time home run champ as a result. (We will accept any argument against Perry, who likely got over the 300-win hump thanks to his spitter.)

Chafets also makes the misjudgment of stating that comparisons between now and then are difficult because the conditions have changed—that the game is now nationwide when it once was just the East Coast, that there are more night games, better access to medical personnel, etc. That doesn’t enhance any argument for the cheaters; for instance, it’s true that more games are played at night, but everyone is exposed to that schedule. Steroids are more plentiful, too—and only the foolish are the ones not staying away from those.

Private, For All to See
It’s been a rough month for ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews. First she gets hit on the chin by a bouncing foul ball at New York’s Citi Field. But imagine her reaction when she was told that somebody managed to videotape her through her hotel room peephole—while she was naked—and went about posting it on the Internet. (It may not be the first time Andrews has been caught on tape, if the claim that she and New York Met third baseman David Wright starred in a sex tape that made the Internet last winter is true.) Whether Andrews has talent is debatable, but there’s little argument that she’s gorgeous, which has been both a blessing and a curse for her ESPN tour of duty. And she’s obviously not thrilled by the peephole video, intending to seek criminal charges and civil damages against the person responsible. Meanwhile, karma reigned on those attempting to download the video; many sites are providing a link to what they claim is the video—but in actuality is a link to a nasty computer virus.

Steroids Confession of the Week
Former major league pitcher Jim Parque revealed this past week to the Chicago Sun-Times that he took HGH six times after suffering shoulder injuries in 2001 for the Chicago White Sox. As a member of the 2000 Al Central-winning White Sox, Parque was part of a starting rotation (including Mike Sirotka, James Baldwin and Cal Eldred) that combined to win 52 games but only 31 in the years after, due to career-crippling injuries. (Sirotka never pitched again after 2000.). Parque’s article to the Sun-Times, which he wrote, is an eye-opening account of why some players become desperate enough to consider steroids.

Miami Nice
The early renditions are out on the new Florida Marlins ballpark set to open in 2012, and they show a modern, brickless facility that will be white with a interacting curvature treatment not unlike something seen on a luxury cruise liner. Much like Phoenix’s Chase Field, the new ballpark will have giant sliding glass panels behind left field that will allow a view of downtown Miami, and a pool that slopes at an angle so people can stroll into it as if on a beach. If hitters are looking here for a new Coors Field or Citizens Bank Park for the easy homer, forget it; the distance to the power gaps will be near 390 feet, and straightaway center will be 420. (There will be no short porches down the line to make up for it.) Finally, and most critically, the new ballpark—located on the site of the old Orange Bowl—will have a retractable roof to fight off the constant afternoon and evening showers that have plagued the Marlins at Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphins/Land Shark Stadium.

Without a Little Halp From His Friends
Pittsburgh outfielder Garrett Jones has homered nine times in just 71 at-bats so far this year; all nine shots have come with no one on base.

Minute Maid Park, or Mission Control?
On the 40th anniversary the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the Houston Astros wore caps with the mission’s emblem on it—relegating the ‘star’ logo to the left side. Carlos Lee hit one giant homer for mankind—er, the Astros—to provide Houston with all of its offense in a 3-2 victory over St. Louis on Monday.

Wounded of the Week
Among those making the trip to MLB’s medical ward this week is Texas closer Frank Francisco (for the third time this season), Boston knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield (lower back), Jason Giambi (strained quad, strained batting average at .193), Houston slugger Lance Berkman (strained calf) and yet another member of the New York Mets: Pitcher Francisco Nieve, out six weeks with a torn quad.

TGG Programming Notes
The Comebacker will take the week of August 3 off but will return with an all new edition on August 10. In the interim, the This Great Game Facebook page will continue to be active, so become a fan now to look for our updates there.

Does Coors Field Spoil Good Hitters?
There’s a good chance that Matt Holliday will no longer be a member of the Oakland A’s at upload time of this Comebacker. (In fact, just as we’re wrapping, he’s been traded to St. Louis.) The former All-Star and 2007 NL MVP runner-up for the Colorado Rockies was traded to Oakland before the start of the year with the universal assumption that the budget-crimped A’s, always looking for hot young prospects, would trade Holliday—a free agent at season’s end—before the July 31 trading deadline.

What has disappointed the A’s is that Holliday’s output has been relatively lacking—after the first 93 games, he’s hitting .287 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs—and that will hurt the team’s chances to get better talent in return for Holliday in any trade. Holliday’s quiet year has also reduced his chances to score a massive long-term contract this coming winter. And for that, Holliday has to be cursing over the fact that he got traded from Colorado in the first place, for it’s obvious that the reason he’s not producing the kind of numbers he put up while playing at mile-high Coors Field is because he’s no longer playing at Coors Field.

Holliday has publicly bristled at such a fact, but the numbers don’t lie. His career batting average is .316, but it’s .357 at offensive-minded Coors Field, all taking place after the humidor was plugged in. Elsewhere, Holliday’s hitting a rather standard .281. In addition, he averaged one homer every 16 at-bats at Coors; away from Coors, it’s one in every 31.

The worst thing a major league pitcher could ever be told is that he’s been traded to Colorado. For hitters, the worst thing they hear is that they’ve been traded from the Rockies. Holliday is hardly the only example of an ex-Rockie whose offensive game has been sapped by a return to major league life at sea level. Here’s some other Rockie players who endured a sudden decline after putting on another uniform:

Dante Bichette. Before becoming a charter member of the Rockies in 1993, Bichette struggled to find a rhythm in the AL; with the Rockies, he instantly became an All-Star presence. In seven years at Colorado, he led the NL twice in hits, led the league with 40 homers and 128 RBIs in 1995, and knocked in at least 100 RBIs over five straight years. Bichette was then traded to Cincinnati, and the juice from his numbers vanished for the duration of his career. At Denver, Bichette was a career .358 hitter; at sea level, he hit .279—figures identical to those produced by Holliday.

Vinny Castilla. The powerful third baseman put up prodigious numbers for the Rockies, topping 40 homers from 1996-98 with an average typically topping over .300. Then, Castilla was dealt to Tampa Bay in 2000—where he hit just six homers with a .221 mark in 85 games. After bouncing around a number of other teams with moderate numbers over the next few years, Castilla was welcomed back in Colorado in 2004, and responded with a rousing encore, belting 35 home runs with a NL-high 131 RBIs—then foolishly left, accepting a free agent contract afterward with Washington, where he hit just 12 homers in 142 games for the Nationals in 2005. At the age of 39, Castilla was given one more tour with the Rockies in late 2006, but he spent most of it on the bench. Castilla hit .333 and averaged a home run every 13 at-bats playing in Denver; elsewhere, he batted just .254 and could only poke one over the fence every 26 at-bats.

Ellis Burks. The veteran slugger had already established himself as a solid (if not injury-prone) hitter when he signed as a free agent for the Rockies in 1994. After fighting ailments through his first two years in Denver, he exploded in 1996—hitting .344 (.390 at Coors) with 40 homers, 128 RBIs, 32 steals and a league-high 142 runs. The following year, Burks added 32 knocks and 82 RBIs—in just 119 games. In 1998 he was traded to San Francisco and continued to produce, but nowhere near the heights of his healthy apex with the Rockies.

Jeffrey Hammonds. The speedster from Stanford struggled to find everyday time (due in part to injuries) through the first seven years of his career, split between Baltimore and Cincinnati. Traded to the Rockies for Bichette in 2000, Hammonds’ numbers came alive; he hit .335 with 20 homers and 106 RBIs in just 122 games, gaining his first (and only) All-Star recognition. On the coattails of his 2000 success, Hammonds signed with Milwaukee—and immediately flopped, hitting .248 with 16 homers over three years—and his career quickly faded out from there. For his career, Hammonds hit .396 with 20 homers in 250 at-bats at Coors Field; his average otherwise was .261.

Jay Payton. After a modest first few years playing for the New York Mets, Payton was traded late in 2002 to Colorado and immediately made an impact for the Rockies, batting .335 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in 47 games. The next season, Payton had a career year effort, establishing personal highs in home runs (28), RBIs (89), doubles (32) and runs (93). A year later, Payton made the mistake of signing with San Diego as the Padres moved into voluminous Petco Park, where his average (.260) and home run output (eight) took a dive. From there, Payton bounced about and never regained his Colorado greatness. He was a career .353 hitter at Coors Field, .269 everywhere else.

Winging It In the Ring
In another sign of just how desperately Jose Canseco needs money, the former AL MVP and confessed steroids user will enter the boxing ring again, this time to take on Bill Simmons, better known in the Philadelphia area as the five-time champion of the Wing Bowl. Simmons has a bigger reputation for devouring chicken wings than boxing opponents, but what’s publicity and $2,000 going to hurt? (Canseco will get $10,000.) Who knows, maybe Jose actually has a chance with this one.

Panic in the Citi
It’s all falling apart for the New York Mets. They can't win, they can't score (they've made Washington pitching look like Walter Johnson three times over), they can't stay healthy—and now one of the guys in charge of their minor league system (former infielder Tony Bernazard) allegedly challenged some of his Double-A players to a fight. We can’t believe we picked this team to win the NL pennant.

Finally Firing Blanks
John Lannan’s seven-hit shutout of the New York Mets—yes, those poor Mets—on Tuesday was the first thrown by a Washington National pitcher since August 15, 2006, when Pedro Astacio clamped the Atlanta Braves down on two hits at RFK Stadium.

Now Playing at TGG
Our traditional look at the best and worst of the season's first half are now on display in our Opinions section.

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