The Week That Was in Baseball: July 28-August 3, 2008
Solving Boston's Manny Problems The Righting of Francisco Liriano
Ichiro at 3,000 Hits—Well, Sort of How it Feels to Catch a Foul Ball


Odd Manny Out
Now that Manny Ramirez got his wish to be traded out of Boston following a week in which he all but furiously lobbied to be moved, the Beantown media couldn’t help but exchange the kid gloves for bare knuckles in wishing him adieu. Try Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald:  “Well, you can say goodbye to the bad guy now. Good riddance to bad rubbish...Manny is where he belongs. He’s a Dodger. The team formerly known as “Dem Bums” just got the biggest bum of them all.” Or Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe: “At the end, Manny didn't care about winning. He didn't care about anything except Manny and the ego-driven wallet measuring that motivates so many of today's superstars.” Even Red Sox players anonymously chimed in to the press, as one told the Boston Herald when asked what level of frustration they’ve reached with Ramirez: “We’re way past that.” Of course, there was the ever un-anonymous Curt Schilling, who claimed on a local radio broadcast that super-agent Scott Boras—who represents Ramirez—prodded Ramirez to behave badly in order to force a trade and cash in on a new free agent contract, now that the Red Sox’ option to exercise two years’ worth of $20 million contract extensions has been annulled.

On the First Day...
Ramirez’s marquee replacement in Boston, Jason Bay, made two difficult, run-saving catches in left field in his first game with the Red Sox—and scored the winning run in the 12th inning, after tripling, to help beat Oakland on Friday night, 2-1. Ramirez, in his first game in Los Angeles, grounded into a double play in the ninth as the Dodgers lost to Arizona, 2-1.

On the Second Day...
Bay and Ramirez both hit their first homers for their new teams.

On the Third Day...
Ramirez homered and double among three hits, while Bay collected two singles and scored twice.

A Cross-Pacific Milestone
Ichiro Suzuki garnered his 3,000th career hit on Tuesday at Texas—that is, if you count the 1,278 hits he knocked out in nine years playing for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan before hooking up with the Seattle Mariners in 2001. Suzuki, who turns 35 in October, has an outside shot of eventually collecting 3,000 in America alone, if he can somehow maintain his incredible run of consecutive 200-hit seasons through the age of 40—which would give him a collective 4,000-plus between the two countries.

Mad Dog Smiles—Finally
When the San Diego Padres finished their 8-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night, Greg Maddux must have let out a sigh of relief powerful enough to push the Pacific fog twenty miles offshore from Petco Park. Maddux started the game, left it with a lead—and the Padres held it, giving the future Hall of Famer his first victory in 14 attempts, ending the worst such drought of his illustrious 23-year career. Sweetening the experience was that Maddux surpassed Phil Niekro to move to number ten on the all-time career strikeout list.

That's as Much as You'll Get, "Joe"
“Joe,” the rabid Florida Marlin bleacher fan who caught Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run ball, had it go up for auction on Friday—and it fetched $42,000. Joe will likely get less than that, given the cut both the auctioneer and, down the line, the IRS, will receive. Meanwhile, the same auction sold a 1938 New York Yankee road uniform worn by Lou Gehrig for $240,000 and a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card—considered the Holy Grail of cards—for $1.62 million. (A near-mint issue of the Wagner card sold for an all-time record $2.8 million last year.)

Much Ado About Boos
Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes this very entertaining scribe about Jose Guillen’s torturous relationship with Royal fans—and more generally about how and why fans boo.

Tuesday Wonderland
It was a very good day for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Tuesday. Prior to their game at Boston against the Red Sox, the Angels announced that they acquired Atlanta slugger Mark Teixeira, serving notice to the rest of baseball that the Angels are dead serious about winning in October—a rather elusive goal since they won it all over the Giants in 2002. Then in the evening contest at Fenway Park, Los Angeles of Anaheim starter John Lackey came within two outs of a no-hitter—which would have been the first by a visiting pitcher in Boston since Jim Bunning threw a no-no in 1958—and settled for a two-hit, complete game 7-2 win over the Red Sox. The Angels, who TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry selected as the team to beat this year, are now officially the team to beat this year.

Ziegler's Zeroes
Brad Ziegler of the Oakland A’s pitched five more innings of scoreless relief this past week to extend the major league record he established a week earlier for the most consecutive scoreless innings thrown to start a career. The 28-year old right-hander has now pitched 32 career innings without allowing a run in 25 appearances since making his major league debut on May 31.

Wounded of the Week
This past week was a tough one for the Atlanta Braves, who not only raised the white flag on the season but very likely a Red Cross flag as well. The team’s two biggest stars—third baseman Chipper Jones, who flirted for half a season with the .400 mark, and ace pitcher Tim Hudson—were sent to the disabled list, compounding a star-starved scenario that included the trade of first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the trading deadline. Jones is expected back quickly, but Hudson—who at first said he felt no pain on his right elbow—was ultimately convinced by doctors that he’ll need Tommy John-style surgery that will keep him out of action until late 2009. 

Also this week, we had another one of those moments in which an angry major leaguer decided to take out his frustration on an inanimate physical object—and lost. In this case, the player was San Diego’s Khalil Greene, the object a storage cabinet behind the Padre dugout, and the result a broken hand for Greene that might sideline him for the remainder of the year. (Memo to MLB: Order teams to put punching bags in their clubhouses.)

That's Alex Gordon, Not Alex Rodriguez...
Alex Gordon played a full 10-inning game for the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday at Oakland and officially went 0-for-0 at the plate. He walked five times, two intentionally.

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


My First Foul Ball
The kid in me has always told myself before heading out to any professional baseball game: Bring your glove, just in case. Over 35 years of going to the ballpark, I’ve had my chances to snag a foul ball. There was 1974 in Oakland, where Dick Allen fouled one straight back that I might have grabbed out of the air had I not been wearing a cast for a broken arm. Then there was the scorching liner at a 2005 spring training game in Phoenix that I had to scatter away from, because there was no way I was going to drop my notebook and super-sized soda to barehand a rocket of a baseball. And, most shamefully, there was the moment just a month ago at San Francisco’s AT&T Park where I muffed an easy catch of a Jim Edmonds foul ball off of Tim Lincecum. 

This past Tuesday, I finally got caught up with the law of averages. In the bottom of the tenth inning of a Class-A California League game between the San Jose Giants and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Giants’ Mike McBryde lofted a soft fly ball over the foul netting and to my left. With room to roam down my row, I remembered the Edmonds muff and told myself as the ball closed in, “I’m concentrating on this sucker.” I bumped gloves with another fan and the ball settled nice and neat into mine—and, instinctively, I walked straight to my 9-year old daughter and handed her the ball as if it was one of those priceless moments that only MasterCard can advertise. Until then, my kids were pouting about having to leave at the end of the tenth regardless of whether the game was still tied or not; but that went out the window as their euphoria over my souvenir trumped any result on the field.  The kids went home happy, and I went home feeling exonerated for nearly a lifetime’s worth of blown opportunities in the stands. —Eric

The Pace Game
As the 2008 big league season reaches the two-thirds point, it serves to note that if the year continues as is...

...Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki will collect over 200 hits for the eighth time in eight major league seasons. 

...Baltimore’s Brian Roberts will have 60 doubles, the first to reach that figure since Charlie Gehringer and Joe Medwick in 1936. 

...No one will reach 50 homers, the first time that would happen since 2004. 

...Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers will knock in close to 160 runs. 

...Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard will strike out an all-time record 214 times—while Oakland’s Jack Cust (207) and Arizona’s Mark Reynolds (201) will join him as the first three players in history to rack up 200 Ks in a year. 

...Four pitchers—Arizona’s Brandon Webb, the Angels’ Joe Saunders, Cleveland’s Cliff Lee and Colorado’s Aaron Cook—will win 20 games. Cook stands to be the first hurler in Rockie history to reach 20. 

...Cook will also lead the majors in sacrifice bunts—with 20. 

...The Giants’ Barry Zito—all $126 million of him—will be very close to losing 20 games. 

...Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels will obliterate the all-time season save record with 67—outpacing the number of total wins earned by the Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres. 

...Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays will have 10 complete games, the first to reach double figures since Randy Johnson started and finished 12 in 1999. 

...Daniel Cabrera of the Orioles will not walk 100 batters, for once. He’ll have 99. 

...The Giants will be last in the majors with 91 homers—or 18 more than Barry Bonds hit for them in 2001. 

...The Cardinals will have 45 saves—and 38 blown saves. 

Now That's the Francisco We Remembered
It appears that the Francisco Liriano the Minnesota Twins grew to love in 2006 is back. Saddled with the expected after-effects of Tommy John surgery in 2007, Liriano was completely wretched to start the 2008 season—losing not just his first three starts, but his ability to throw a strike and, thus, his confidence—before being sent down to Triple-A Rochester to work things out. That he did, going 10-0 in his last 11 starts and publicly wondering what more it was going to take to convince the Twins to return him to the major league level. What it took the Twins to do was release veteran Livan Hernandez, who somehow led the Twins in wins (ten) despite a 5.48 ERA and a .341 batting average allowed. Liriano took over Hernandez’s spot and pitched six shutout innings against Cleveland at the Metrodome on Sunday for his first big league win since a 3-1 win over those same Indians on July 23, 2006.

It's the Elmo Piñata You're Supposed to Beat Up...
The Chicago Tribune reported this past week that three Cub fans beat up a White Sox fan so badly that he lost his right eye. This incident didn’t happen outside the ballpark, inside a bar or a back alley; it actually took place at a 2-year old’s birthday party, where the theme was Sesame Street. It was also reported that the three assailants—who are charged with “mob action” and aggravated battery—were drinking. Not juice boxes. Alcohol.

A Different Frame of Mind
When New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera is pitching for the save, he’s allowed just one run in 26 innings—which translates to a 0.35 ERA. In the 22.1 other innings he’s thrown this year where a save isn’t on the table, he’s allowed seven runs and lost four games (he’s also won four, too).

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
The omnipresent Curtis Granderson of the Detroit Tigers ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 13 games. Granderson is hitting .367 during his run, which includes a five-hit performance in the Tigers’ extra-inning 14-12 win at Cleveland on Wednesday.

This Week's Challenger to Themselves
Maybe if the Florida Marlins weren’t in the playoff chase, they would have let Ricky Nolasco go the distance on Saturday night and end one of baseball’s longer, more dubious streaks. But with the Marlins leading Colorado after eight innings, 5-3, Marlin manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled Nolasco—who had struck out 13, walked none and thrown just 93 pitches—in favor of closer Kevin Gregg, who successfully wrapped up the victory. The 5-3 win extended the Marlins’ record streak of consecutive games without a pitcher going the distance to 287.