The Grate Oz Has Spoken
Outspoken Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made more news with his mouth before Sunday’s game against Oakland, complaining that baseball gives preferential treatment to Asian players over those from Latin America. “I say, why do we have Japanese interpreters and we don’t have a Spanish one?” said Guillen. “I always say that. Why do they have that privilege and we don’t?...We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kidgo to the minor leagues, good luck. Good luck.”
Guillen also criticized baseball for doing little if anything to curtail steroid use in Latin America, where prospects in poor nations are under tremendous pressure to succeed in America just to put food on the tables of their families back home.
On his argument of the treatment of Asians as opposed to Latinos in America, Guillen scores some points. Although Latinos generally find it easier to get acclimated here since a good many Americans have knowledge of the Spanish language (whereas Asians are more culturally disparate from America), there still is a cultural shock of sorts that might leave them feeling out in the cold if not supported by others. But Guillen is way off on his allegation of baseball ignoring the PED problem in Latin America; MLB is quite serious about the issue and has sent former baseball executive Sandy Alderson to the Dominican Republic on a full-time basis to help clean up the steroid problems there.
And Then There Were Two
In what may be shaping up to be the year of the no-hitter, Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza threw the season’s fifth no-no this past Tuesday when he silenced the Detroit Tigers, 5-0. The 26-year old right-hander allowed just one baserunnera second-inning walk to the Tigers’ Brennan Boeschbut erased him on a double play ball, allowing him to face no more than the minimum 27 batters.
Garza’s gem was the first in Tampa Bay history, leaving just two teamsthe New York Mets and San Diego Padres, both of which have been in business for close to 50 yearsas the only major league teams having never thrown a no-hitter.
The record for the most no-hitters in a season since 1900 is seven, set in back-to-back years (1990 and 1991); but the most thrown by a single individual, without help from the bullpen, is six, established many times.
Feels Good to be on the Winning Side
Garza’s no-hitter was the fourth involving the Rays in the span of barely a yearbut the first in which they were on the winning side. They were the victims of two perfect game losses (to Chicago’s Mark Buehrle in July 2009 and Oakland’s Dallas Braden this May) and no-hit by Arizona’s Edwin Jackson (now with the White Sox) in June.
The Longest Wait
At upload time, Alex Rodriguez was a home run shy of 600 for his career…still. With a pinch-hit strikeout at Tampa Bay on Sunday, Rodriguez has now gone 38 consecutive at-bats since hitting his 599th blast, and that’s a longer stretch than any of the other six players currently in the 600 Club took to reach that milestone. (Willie Mays previously went the longest to get there with 21 at-bats.)
Home runs don’t see to be coming as easy for Rodriguez as they did during the steroid era, nudge-nudge, wink-wink. He’s on pace to hit just 25 for the year, which would be his lowest total since his second full-time season with Seattle in 1997. Last year, Rodriguez hit 30a relatively low figure by his standardsbut he also missed the first month of the year and ended up playing in just 124 games.
On Tuesday, 40,000 fans came to Washington’s Nationals Park to see Stephen Strasburg pitchand got Miguel Batista instead. With Strasburg’s shoulder ailing, the fans booed Batista as he went out to the mound, not because he was Batista but because he wasn’t Strasburgeven as he did his best to emulate the flame-throwing rookie, striking out six and allowing just three hits in five innings as the Nationals ultimately beat the Atlanta Braves, 3-0.
Batista inadvertently made a few more enemies after the game from, of all places, Iowa, when he said this to reporters: “Imagine if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos.” The real Miss Iowa, Katherine Connors, fired back the next day: “I know I can throw a pitch or two! The question is: Can Miguel Batista walk the runway in a swimsuit?” The light-hearted controversy cooled off as Batista sent Connors roses as an apology, and the Nationals’ PR department seized the moment by bringing Connors out to throw the first pitch of Friday’s game against Philadelphia. The catcher: Batista.
Not From My Old School
While fans aimed their frustration over Strasburg’s absence on Batista, one person in attendance vented his fury toward Strasburg, and that one man was Hall-of-Fame pitcher and retiring U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, who mocked Strasburg by evoking Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack (“Ooh-ooh, my arm”) and declaring, “Five-hundred and twenty starts, I never refused the ball. What a joke!”
A Sigh of Things to Come?
As Strasburg landed on the 15-day disabled list, Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said on satellite radio this past week that the 22-year old phenom could be headed for an injury-riddled career on par with Kerry Wood or Mark Prior. “I am not wishing (Strasburg) bad,” Cooper said, “but for him to be having problems right now when they are really, really watching him, what are they going to see when they are trying to get 220 innings from him? He does something with his arm action that is difficult, in my mind, to pitch a whole lot of innings on.”
Ballpark Diners Beware
Maybe we just found out why few fans have been going to see the Tampa Bay Rays at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field in spite of the team’s recent successes. ESPN released a nationwide list of safety violations among food vendors at sports venues nationwide, and health inspectors found “critical” violations at every vendor doing business inside Tropicana Field. The second worst offender on the list was Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, which had 93% of its vendors in serious violationbut few are in danger there, given that almost no one goes to see the Florida Marlins. On the flip side, three major league venuesToronto’s Rogers Centre and Chicago’s Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Fieldhad no major violations of any kind reported.
Things Aren't All Awful in Florida
As we slam the Rays’ fans for lack of support in the item above, it should be noted that the team sold out an entire series in advance for the first time in its history when the New York Yankees come to town for a critical three-game AL East showdown this past weekend.
Now That's Insurance
The Colorado Rockies set a major league record this past Friday when it banged out 11 straight hits during a 12-run, eighth-inning rally at Coors Field against the Chicago Cubs; the Rockies ultimately won the game, 17-2. Strangely, the Rockies did not reset the standard for the most consecutive hits during a game; the 1920 St. Louis Cardinals and 1930 Brooklyn Robins each knocked out 12 straight hits, but in both cases over two innings; runners declared out on the basepaths during those rallies made it possible for the streaks to extend into consecutive innings.
Wounded of the Week
Another week, another boatload of baseball’s casualties docking at the MLB medical wardand once again, there were a few strange mishaps in a season full of them. In the tradition of Kendry Morales, Florida outfielder Chris Coghlan tore up his knee while celebrating a Marlin win when he tried to sneak up from behind with a pie full of shaving cream to smack teammate/walk-off hero Wes Helms; he could be out for the rest of the season.
Colorado closer Huston Street experienced the week’s other bizarre moment when he was hit hard in the abdomen by teammate Ian Stewart’s line drive during batting practice at Coors Field before Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh; he was taken away in an ambulance but, fortunately, avoided serious injury and was back at work just a few days later.
Less fortunate and placed on the disabled list included the New York Mets’ Jason Bay (concussion), Philadelphia outfielder Shane Victorino (abdomen), Texas infielder Ian Kinsler (again, groin), Seattle outfielder Milton Bradley (knee), Oakland closer Andrew Bailey (ribs), Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher Joel Pineiro (obliqueout six-to-eight weeks) and Cleveland pitcher Mitch Talbot (back).
TGG Programming Note
The Comebacker will be taking its summer break this coming week and will return with a new edition on Monday, August 16.
As the Trade Winds Calm
In what turned out to be a mild trading deadline session, it was not all about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer; baseball’s balance of power was distorted further based more on the standings and not team payrolls; those in the hunt for a postseason spot bulked up while those already raising the white flag hacked the fat off their rosters.
Among the have-not’s getting a big piece of the action were the surprising San Diego Padres, first in the NL West but near last in payrollyet hardly standing pat by acquiring Baltimore’s Miguel Tejada and St. Louis’ Ryan Ludwick to bolster an unimpressive offense. And then there were the bankrupt, have-nothing (but first-place in the AL West) Texas Rangers, who nevertheless found a way to improve their chances by acquiring pitcher Cliff Lee, Florida infielder Jorge Cantu and Washington infielder Cristian Guzman.
Fans in Arizona and (especially) Houston likely felt the most depressed by the deadline, watching many of their veteran players shipped away. The Astros severed ties with their recent winning past by dealing away veterans Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman; never mind that Oswalt is leading the majors with 13 losses (in fact, he’s on pace for 20), he’s still quite good and will likely get much better run support from his new team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Berkman, meanwhile, adds to the star-studded cast of the New York Yankees, filling in a gaping hole at the designated hitter spot that has confounded the defending champions since Hideki Matsui left via free agency last winter.
Also of curious note was that the Los Angeles Dodgers, desperately trying to stay afloat in the NL West, emerged as one of the more active teams in the trading frenzy by acquiring Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot from the Chicago Cubs, outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City. This flurry of deals represented far more aggression from the Dodger front office than it showed all of last winter, when the McCourt divorce saga presumably paralyzed their ability to bring in new players.
Finally, there were a few cases of teams trying to give it the old college try. The Rangers, while chatting with the Marlins about Cantu, also asked about the availability of ace pitcher Josh Johnson because, well, why not? (The Marlins, of course, said no thanks.) The Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, reportedly inquired about Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles, to no avail.
Have the Brinks Truck Ready to Pull Up
One of the more fascinating storylines of the 2010 season has been the conflicted state of affairs being experienced by the Texas Rangersa first-place team on the field, and a bankrupt organization off it. A group headed by Hall-of-Fame pitcher and current Ranger president Nolan Ryan appeared to have secured a purchase of the team earlier in the winter, but creditors (including former and current Ranger players owed deferred payments) feared they would not be fully compensated and successfully railed against the deal in court.
After much legal wrangling, the team is being placed on the auction block this Wednesday. Among the bidders: The Ryan group, which has reportedly upped their bid; Houston businessman Jim Crane, who had been in previous discussions to buy the Astros; Mark Cuban, the colorful and often controversial owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks (we’ll safely assume that Cuban is MLB’s least popular option among this group); and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which is said to be involved so it can indefinitely secure its lucrative TV rights with the Rangers. Regardless of who places the winning bid, you can count on this: The legal postscript is bound to be active.
During Wednesday’s game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field between the Indians and New York Yankees, hostilities broke out in the left field bleachers during the sixth inning when a fan wearing a LeBron James basketball jerseyone for the Miami Heat, not the recently spurned Cavaliersbegan to attract the attention of hundreds of angry Cleveland fans sitting nearby. The fan had to be escorted out of the ballpark for his own safety.
Out of Position
A day later at Cleveland, there was plenty of curiosity to behold in the final inning of the Yankees’ 11-4 drubbing of the Indians. Indian manager Manny Acta decided to place infielder Andy Marte on the mound because, after allowing 11 runs on 12 hits, 12 walks and a hit batsman through eight innings, how much worse could it get? Marte actually showed up the previous pitchers who get paid solely to pitch by retiring the Yankees in order with one strikeout.
In the bottom of the inning, it was the Yankees’ turn to play role-reversal. Joe Girardi took Alex Rodriguez out of the game and substituted him with outfielder Marcus Thames, who claimed he had not played third base since he was a little leaguer at the age of nine. Thames told Girardi he would play the position on one condition: That someone would provide him with a protective cup. Someone complied, and out to third went Thames, who made a nice backhanded play on the first ball sent his waybut then threw well over the head of first baseman Juan Miranda, leaving his career third base fielding percentage at .000.
Cracking Open the Pandora's Box
The Hall of Fame announced that they will discontinue the current “Veterans Committee” process for electing players and others who were not voted into Cooperstown the first time around, instituting a more itemized and complicated manner of election. There will now be a rotational vote in which eligible people who played in the “Expansion Era” (1973-89) will be up for enshrinement this year, followed a year later by those eligible from the “Golden Era” (1947-72) and then a year after that by those who made their mark during the “Pre-Integration Era” from 1871-1946.
We have a simple, better idea: Just clump everyone together in one group, select the very few candidates who truly may have been overlooked, and be done with it. Our fear is that this new process will allow in more folks who simply don’t belong in the Hall.
Josh, Darn It!
Florida ace Josh Johnson came to within one game of tying Mike Scott’s modern record (set in 1986) for the longest streak by a pitcher allowing two or fewer runs per start. Johnson gave up three runs in seven innings of Tuesday’s 6-4 Marlin loss at San Francisco, the first time in 13 outings he had allowed more than two runs since May 8. During his run, Johnson allowed just eight earned runs in 91.1 innings for an ERA of 0.79.
The Pain of Third Place
As they watch Yankees and Rays fight it out for first in the AL East with little movement of their own at the trading deadline, it has become an unusually irrelevant season for the Boston Red Sox, battered and lounging well behind in third place. Here’s another example of the ennui the team has absorbed in Beantown: Ratings for its radio broadcasts are down 36% from last year. But at least Fenway Park keeps selling out.
The Cain Mutiny
It took 15 tries, but San Francisco pitcher Matt Cain finally won the first game of his career against Los Angeles, throwing 7.2 shutout innings to defeat the Dodgers, 2-0, on Sunday night. Cain previously was 0-8 against the Giants’ archrivals with a 4.32 ERA.
Bad News Bucs Fact of the Week
Through August 1, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 35-100 on the road since the start of the 2009 season.
To some, new Baltimore manager Buck Showalter may have little to play for now that the Orioles’ dismal season has all but entered dog day mode, but there is one challenge he could try and inspire his team to meet: The Orioles need to go no worse than 31-26 over the season’s final two months to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1988.
Career minor leaguer Prentice Redman, banned for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines on June 25, was caught yet again for the same drug this past week. (We scratch our heads and wonder: He was taking the drug even while sitting idle through the first suspension?) When his current 50-game suspension ends, he’ll begin serving anotherfor 100 games. We’ll guess that when you’ve been trying to break through to the majors for ten years, you’ll do anything to get thereand Redman looked to be close, batting .332 with ten homers and 41 RBIs for the Dodgers’ Triple-A club at Albuquerque.
He Said What?
Matthew Garza, the eight-year old son of Matt Garza, talking to his father after the elder’s no-hitter against Detroit this past week: “You’re still not an All-Star.”
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks ends this past weekend with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 17 games; he is just one short of tying a personal record, which he set last year. Upton is batting .403 during his run.
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