The Week That Was in Baseball: August 4-10, 2008
Manny Ramirez, New York Yankee? The Return of Barry Bonds
Move Aside, Philly Cheesesteak—Give Me a Crab-Free Crab Cake Ziegler at 0.00 (Still!)


Pinstriped Manny?
Although Manny Ramirez is happy and tearing the ball apart wearing Dodger blue in Los Angeles, the New York Post is reporting that the soon-to-be free agent wants to become a New York Yankee—just to spite the Boston Red Sox. Do note that the source of the information is a “close friend” of Ramirez and that this is the brash tabloid, the Post, reporting. Still, it’s enough to make a few general managers on the Eastern Seaboard sit up and take notice.

Bay Watch
And while everyone’s keeping an eye on Ramirez’s progress on the West Coast, how’s Jason Bay—Ramirez’s virtual replacement in Boston—faring? So far, not so bad. Through Sunday, Bay is hitting .333 (13-for-39) in nine games—six of them won by the Red Sox—with a home run and eight RBIs.

Juicing Out of Desperation?
Ronald Blum of the Associated Press noted that of the 17 50-game suspensions handed to minor leaguers for using performance-enhancing drugs, 16 are native Latin Americans. This isn’t difficult to grasp; while Americans salivate at the prospect of becoming major league millionaires, they can at least fall back into becoming multi-thousandaires if things don’t work out. The same can’t be said for Latin Americans, many of whom are desperate to escape the relatively impoverished conditions of their home countries. Sadly, some of them are willing to accept the risk that comes with the potential reward. Their thinking probably comes to this: Is the alternative of returning home with a failed baseball career in their back pocket any worse?

No Thanks, Big Prince
When an angry Prince Fielder decided to take his frustration out on Milwaukee teammate and pitcher Manny Parra during Monday’s 6-3 loss at Cincinnati—extending a week-long malaise for the struggling Brewers—Parra did not appear interested in fighting back. Parra defenselessly absorbed a few brutal shoves into the dugout bench from Fielder and looked more shellshocked than enraged, looking like the schoolboy not wanting to get involved with the playyard bully. Then again, many of us would probably be inclined to turn and walk away from such a bully who weighed 270 pounds and hit more homers than anyone else in the National League last year. 

As usual in these teammate-on-teammate scenarios, mum was the word from the inside. Rumor from sources near the scene stated that Fielder was upset that Parra, just removed from the game, wanted to head to the clubhouse and shower up rather than stick around the dugout.

The Tornadic Confines of Wrigley Field
It was an absolutely wild scene on Monday night at Wrigley Field, where baseball bowed to torrential rains and a spectacular display of thunder and lightning—all under the threat of a tornado warning posted for the city of Chicago, which meant that a twister was imminent. None was ever spotted or recorded, but fans at the Cubs-Astros game were advised to take cover in the concourse, just in case. (Amid all of Mother Nature’s fury, the teams managed to get eight innings in with Houston prevailing, 2-0.) We know of no recorded instance in baseball history where a major or minor league game was rudely interrupted by a tornado, though a minor league ballpark in Waco was demolished by one on May 22, 1953—when the facility was empty.

Death to the Philly Cheesesteak
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has named its top ten vegan-friendly menu options at major league ballparks. Second and third place went, respectively, to San Francisco’s AT&T Park and Seattle’s Safeco Field—no surprise there, given the health-conscious mentalities of the folks living in those cities. But the number one spot is a stunner: Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. Since when did Phillie fans salivate over mock chicken sandwiches, faux Philly steaks and crab-free crab cakes? (And how is a crab cake really a crab cake when there’s no crab in the cake?) The choice of Citizens Bank Park as tops on the list is the second in as many years by PETA.

The End of Moneyball?
The Oakland A’s, who’ve been dropping like a rock in the AL West standings since giving up two top starting pitchers (Rich Harden and Joe Blanton), are among the majors’ worst performers in on-base percentage, a category embraced by esteemed general manager Billy Beane. Worse, the A’s are all but dead last in batting average (.243) and slugging percentage (.367). What a waste, considering the team is still third in the majors in earned run average (3.74).

More Bay Area Blues
Since the All-Star Break, the A’s and San Francisco Giants are, easily, the two worst scoring teams in the majors. The A’s have 60 runs, the Giants, 64; everyone else has at least 90.

Wounded of the Week
In a move that surprised very few people, the oft-injured Eric Chavez was shut down for the season by the Oakland A’s, but that’s not much of a big deal as the rest of the A’s have pretty much already shut it down with their miserable post All-Star break performance. Chavez, who appeared in 23 games after logging just 90 last year, will have his fourth operation in less than a year—and his second on his right shoulder, which has been “shredded” to the point that he’s not sure he’ll be able to play third base again. 

Joining Chavez on the ouch couch this week was teammate Sean Gallagher, who ironically was traded to the A’s for the oft-injured Rich Harden; New York Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who had finally found a rhythm and was pitching brilliantly before rotator cuff pains developed; Arizona second baseman Orlando Hudson, who will likely experience the frustration of missing out on the end of the season for the second straight year after damaging his wrist; and probable season-ending injuries to Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Contreras and, as mentioned above, Houston slugger Carlos Lee.

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


Brushing Up on Bacsik...
On the one-year anniversary of Barry Bonds’ 756th home run, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle caught up with Mike Bacsik, the left-handed pitcher who served up the historic moment. We find Bacsik toiling in Triple-A, not even good enough to crack the roster of the dormant, injury-riddled Washington Nationals—for whom he won five games in 29 appearances (20 as a starter) last year. While the 30-year old who has bounced around seven major league organizations over a 13-year career—most of which has been spent in the minors—hopes to get another shot at the bigs soon, he wonders aloud if the reason he hasn’t been summoned back to Washington is because of the notoriety connected to Bonds’ 756th.

...And Barry
Meanwhile, the man himself, Barry Bonds, made his first public appearance at the ballpark this season when he cut short a Hawaiian vacation and made a surprise visit to AT&T Park to be part of a reunion of San Francisco Giant outfielders prior to Saturday’s game against Los Angeles. Bonds’ laid-back, happy disposition throughout cut any tension that may have lingered from his last appearance at AT&T Park last September, when he was informed by the Giants that his services as a player were no longer wanted. He spoke briefly to the crowd and said “I’m not retired,” spent the first few innings of the game in the Giants’ TV booth with announcers (and former Giants) Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow—he was even cheerful enough to say good things about combative ex-teammate (and current Dodger) Jeff Kent—then spent a few innings seated in the front row next to Giant kingpin Peter Magowan, before departing the ballpark without any interaction with the media. 

My House Costs More Than Yours
Forbes Magazine put out a list of the world’s most expensive sports facilities, two of which are currently used by major league baseball teams: The Seattle Mariners (playing at $620 million Safeco Field, eighth on the list), and the Toronto Blue Jays (playing at Rogers Centre—formerly Skydome—which is fourth on the list at $950 million). Coming in at number two is a former baseball venue: Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the one-time home of the Montreal Expos before their departure to Washington. The “Big Owe” lived up to its sarcastic nickname with $900 million of its $1.4 billion price tag tied to interest, which was finally paid off in 2006. Likely to crash next year’s list will be the new Yankee Stadium, with an anticipated price tag of over a billion bucks.

Ziegler's Zeroes (Continued)
The A’s are starting to take Brad Ziegler seriously, albeit 37 innings late. The rookie pitcher, who’s been doing little more than remedial middle relief work, was finally thrust into the role of closer on Friday, pitched two more scoreless innings and saved a 4-3 win at Detroit—breaking a ten-game Oakland losing streak. Ziegler continued his remarkable record run of consecutive scoreless innings to start a major league career at 37, and has tied the A’s franchise mark held by Mike Torrez in 1976.

No Go, Sojo
Venezuelan natives (and Detroit Tiger teammates) Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen stated that they will not play for their country in next year’s second running of the World Baseball Classic—not because they don’t care about the event, but because they’re upset at the way the Venezuelan manager (Luis Sojo) and organization treated the players last time. So as the players will likely skip, their decision is, in a skewed way, music to the ears of Major League Baseball execs; at least they care about playing in an event that failed to attract a number of star players when the inaugural WBC was held in 2006.

Not Your Father's Rays
By unraveling the Mariners at Seattle, 11-3, on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Rays established a franchise record with their 71st win. They know have 45 games left in 2008 to add to it.

Baseball's Most Useless Statistic
The Cardinals’ Jason Isringhausen entered the ninth inning of the St. Louis-Los Angeles game on Tuesday with a 4-1 lead, left it with the lead reduced to 4-3, and was charged with the tying run when Ryan Franklin couldn’t keep the inherited runner from scoring. Nevertheless, Isringhausen was given credit for a hold. You thought the game-winning RBI was ridiculous? So is the hold. Get rid of it.

Fake Grass, Real Advantage
The remaining three major league teams that play on artificial turf—the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins—are a combined 124-69 at home on the fake turf. On grass—no, not the kind you smoke—the three teams are 71-88.

One-Run Blues
When the Atlanta Braves lost at San Francisco on Wednesday, 3-2, they suffered their 26th straight one-run loss on the road, extending a major league record. It’s been a little over a year since the Braves last won a one-run game away from home; overall in 2008, they are 6-24 when the difference is just a run. The next worst team in the majors is Seattle, at 13-23.

Chasing Thigpen
It was a strange week to say the least for Francisco Rodriguez, the Los Angeles of Anaheim closer who is in great shape to topple the all-time season saves record. Rodriguez didn’t add to his season total of 45 saves, but did pick up his first two wins of the year—an “accidental victory” against Baltimore on Monday in which he blew the save but “earned” the win when his teammates rescued him in the bottom of the ninth, and a more deserving win on Sunday against the New York Yankees, pitching the ninth to maintain a tie score which the Angels untied in the bottom half of the inning to win, 4-3. Rodriguez has blown four save opportunities on the season.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Baltimore’s Aubrey Huff, having what is probably his best season since his 2003 breakout campaign with Tampa Bay, ends this past week with an 18-game hitting streak—currently the longest active run in the majors. Huff is batting .403 during the streak, which has only been good enough to give the Orioles eight wins and ten losses.