This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: August 12-18, 2013
Has MLB Blown Their Call on Video Replay? Alex Rodriguez, Rat?
Professional Players Over 4,000 Hits Shane Spencer's Alter-Ego Speaks Out

Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
31 9 15 1 0 5 18 1 0 1 2

Soriano has always had a reputation for being a streaky hitter, but this is ridiculous. The once-and-current Yankee’s unrelenting tear at the plate went down as one of the most prodigious in baseball history, peaking in an early-week series against the Angels when he hit four homers and drove in 14 runs over a two-game stretch. Considering all the attention aimed at the man batting behind him—Alex Rodriguez—Soriano must be benefitting as the quiet man with the loud bat.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Will Venable, San Diego Padres

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
32 7 13 2 1 2 5 0 0 0 1

Slowly but surely, the 30-year-old outfielder has developed into a pretty steady soldier for the Padres, and this past week he continued one of his more potent stretches of hitting that includes a 15-game hitting streak. His eight hits and two homers against the Mets to end the week showed not only that he’s hitting, he’s powering to boot as he leads the team with 17 homers. Maybe the leadoff position shouldn’t be his thing anymore.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
20 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

At the beginning of this past week, the rookie outfielder was all but the talk of Anaheim…the hot new guy, the one who’s going to make Peter Bourjos expendable, etc. It may have all become an exercise in prematurity. The book on Calhoun looks to have made the rounds and opposing pitchers figured out his weaknesses, as he managed just a single hit and grounded into two double plays before getting the bench on Sunday.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
19 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

The Chicago Hit Machine hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for much of the year, and this past week suffered a near total breakdown. Castro reached base only a handful of times (both on Sunday), hit into two double plays, struck out seven times and dredged up his bad habit of losing focus on the field, ignoring a runner on third who scored on a pop fly he caught that led to his being yanked from the game. Castro prides himself on playing virtually every day, but perhaps he’s in need of a mental break.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Sonny Gray, Oakland A's

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 8 4 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 9

In his second career start and fourth appearance, the former first-round pick executed eight outstanding scoreless innings against the Astros with a mid-90s fastball and a terrific curve. Perhaps the book will be out on him soon and hitters will figure how to make his sweat, but given the recent success of young pitchers in the A’s organization, that may be a tough assignment. His next start takes place on Tuesday at home against Seattle.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 8 3 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 8

Max Scherzer may have more wins and Yu Darvish more strikeouts, but if you were to find a group of rational baseball experts and ask them who they’d use in a game to save the world, they’d likely go with the Dodger ace at this juncture. Kershaw had another near-flawless effort this past Saturday at Philadelphia and lowered his season ERA to 1.80, easily the majors’ best; he’s also number one with 190.1 innings, a 0.85 WHIP and a .182 batting average against. All this, and he’s only 12-7?


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 4.1 12 10 10 2 0 0 2 0 4

After schlepping through a 2-13 start and 5.66 ERA in the Angels’ rotation, the 32-year-old veteran was demoted to the bullpen where he actually fared pretty well…until this past week. Blanton was given the task of keeping both the Yankees (on Tuesday) and Astros (on Friday) at bay and give the Angels a chance to come back from sizable deficits, but he only made things worse as he regressed back to his awful early-season form. Opponents are hitting .318 against Blanton for the year; only Wade Davis (at .319) is worse among ERA qualifiers.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Nate Eovaldi, Miami Marlins

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 3.2 12 11 9 1 0 0 0 0 3

When he last faced the Giants, the young right-hander stymied the defending champs and got an easy win at San Francisco. The Giants apparently learned; in Eovaldi’s first start against them since, this past Friday at Miami, he was pummeled for the most runs he’s allowed in a game since early last year, when he ceded eight runs to…the Giants. It’s all part of a larger yo-yo trend for Eovaldi, who in his previous start allowed just a hit in seven shutout innings against Atlanta.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
New York Yankees (5-2)

Say this about the Bronx Bombers: There’s never a dull moment these days. Alex Rodriguez has much to do with that, of course, but it can’t be denied that his presence in the lineup is giving an offensive lift to his team—or in the case of white-hot Alfonso Soriano, a catapult. Pitching remains a sticky problem—how CC Sabathia (4.83 ERA) is 11-10, we’ll never know—but with this latest shot of performance enhancement, the Yankees can’t be counted out of the postseason picture yet.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (5-1)

Manager Don Mattingly said earlier this week: “The plan is intact; win every night.” Two months ago, that may have sounded like a desperate plea from a man whose job was on a slippery slope to extinction, but now it’s the gospel—and the red-hot Dodgers continue to follow it. This past week, they scored just enough runs and gave up precious few to run up their latest winning streak and bolt further ahead of everyone else in the NL West—for which, not too long ago, they had been entombed in last place. Hard to believe.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Minnesota Twins (2-5)

If the Twins had any delusions of grandeur to make an out-of-nowhere run at the postseason, this past week would have been a good time to do it, with home series against divisional opponents Cleveland and Chicago. But they couldn’t shake the reality of who they are, even with some outstanding efforts from their rotation sprinkled in. Now 18 games back of the Tigers and 15 behind the A’s for the second wild card, Minnesota players can start reserving tee times for the First of October.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Chicago Cubs (1-5)

Welcome to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, where even the Cubs joined the rest of their fans in being passive spectators this past week. The start of a miserable (so far) home series included three shutout losses, a home scoreless string of 33 innings and the latest mental lapse from talented shortstop Starlin Castro. All of this, by the way, coinciding with ex-Cub Alfonso Soriano’s week of destruction with the Yankees. Where’s Lee Elia to provide a scathing rant of this team?


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, August 12
Texas ace Yu Darvish, who at the start of the year came within one out of a perfect game at Houston, is back at Minute Maid Park throwing another perfecto in the sixth when he walks Jonathan Villar—leading to an all-out argument between catcher A.J. Pierzynski and umpire Ron Kulpa over what Pierzynski thought was a missed strike call on the previous pitch, leading to his ejection. Darvish’s no-hit bid is denied two innings later when Chris Corporan hits a solo homer—the only hit allowed in eight innings of work that includes 15 strikeouts, pushing Darvish over 200 for the year. The Rangers win, 2-1.

After tossing 8.1 shutout innings in his major league debut, Minnesota’s Andrew Albers goes a step better in his second outing—tossing a two-hit shutout for a 3-0 win over Cleveland. He is the first pitcher since Tom Phoebus in 1966 to throw at least eight shutout innings in each of first two games.

Hiroki Kuroda throws eight shutout innings, and Boone Logan and David Robertson combine to survive a bases-loaded, ninth-inning jam with a struggling Mariano Rivera sitting out as the New York Yankees edge the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 2-1. In six of his 11 home starts, Kuroda has not allowed a run


Tuesday, August 13
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, St. Louis picks up two runs, adds one more in the ninth to tie on an Allen Craig single that brings home Daniel Descalso (who reached on a lazy fly ball muffed by Pittsburgh outfielder Starling Marte) and the game-winner in the 14th on Aaron Chambers’ run-scoring single to give the Cardinals an important 4-3 win over the NL Central-leading Pirates.

Seattle hands Tampa Bay its straight loss with a 5-4 decision at St. Petersburg; the game features a pair of home runs from each team’s leadoff hitters, the Mariners’ Brad Miller and the Rays’ Ben Zobrist, only the third time that’s ever happened in a big league game.

Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt leads off the ninth inning against Baltimore and ties the game with a solo home run; in the 11th, he does it again, ending the game in a 4-3 victory for the Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt’s two blasts give him a NL-best 29 on the year.

The Chicago Cubs lose at home to the Cincinnati Reds, 6-4, but at least they score—breaking a drought of 32 straight frames without a run that had been the longest by any team at home since the Angels went 33 scoreless innings at Anaheim in 2004. The Cubs’ slide is snapped in the very first inning when Nate Schierholtz belts a two-run home run.


Wednesday, August 14
A day after smacking two homers and knocking in six runs, once-and-current Yankee Alfonso Soriano scorches the Angels again. In New York’s 11-3 drubbing, the 37-year-old veteran belts two more homers and knocks in seven. Only Rusty Greer (1997) and Geoff Jenkins (2001) have ever knocked in at least six runs in consecutive games.

The Rays end their six-game losing streak on a two-run, ninth-inning rally capped by a single from nomadic major leaguer Jason Bourgeois, who collects his first hit for Tampa Bay—his fifth team in six years of play.

Last night it was Goldschmidt, today it’s Aaron Hill; his ninth-inning single ties the game and his 14th-inning single wins it for the Diamondbacks, 5-4 over the Orioles; it’s the first time since 2004 that a team has swept a series of three or more games despite trailing in the seventh inning or later in each game.


Thursday, August 15
In his first action since being drilled in the head by an Eric Hosmer liner two months earlier, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb throws five sharp innings and earns the win—the first by a Rays starter this month—as the Rays have it easy over the Mariners at St. Petersb urg, 7-1. Wil Myers supports Cobb with three hits (including two doubles) and four RBIs.

Chris Nelson, released by the Yankees early in the year, comes back to Yankee Stadium and haunts his old teammates in an 8-4 win for the Angels. Nelson belts two homers—after going homerless in 235 previous at-bats—and knocks in five runs.

Matt Holliday’s single in the bottom of the 12th inning brings home Matt Carpenter (who knocks out four hits) and wins a 6-5 game for the Cardinals, who took two of three from the Pirates to reduce the Bucs’ lead in the NL Central to two games.


Friday, August 16
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ roll continues, tonight at the expense of the host Philadelphia Phillies—who are rebounding from news earlier in the day that long-time manager Charlie Manuel has been fired, replaced by Ryne Sandberg. The Hall-of-Fame second baseman’s debut as skipper is deadened by Zack Greinke, who throws 7.1 innings of shutout ball and easily outduels Cliff Lee to beat the Phillies, 4-0.

The Kansas City Royals, hoping to shake things up in the AL Central, make a strong step in that direction with a day-night road doubleheader sweep of division-leading Detroit—limiting the Tigers to just a run on six hits over both games in winning 2-1 and 3-0. Game One starter Danny Duffy allows just one hit through six shutout innings, while James Shields goes seven scoreless in the nightcap. Eric Hosmer homers in both games for Kansas City.

Alex Rodriguez gets heavily booed, Alfonso Soriano stays hot and the Yankees win big at Boston, 10-3. Soriano has three hits and four RBIs to give him 18 over his last four games—tying a major league record shared by five other players and last reached by Sammy Sosa in 2002. Mark Reynolds, picked off waivers from Cleveland, homers in his Yankee debut.

The San Francisco Giants outlast the Marlins at Miami, 14-10 in a game in which both starting pitchers—Miami’s Nate Eovaldi and the Giants’ Chad Gaudin—each allow at least eight runs on ten hits in less than four innings. No other pair of starters has done as bad or worse in a single modern big league game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Marlins' Justin Ruggiano, who came into the game with 12 homers—all on the road—hits his first two at home.


Saturday, August 17
The Dodgers’ winning ways have reached historic proportions. With their second straight shutout win at Philadelphia—and Clayton Kershaw’s first ever victory against the Phillies in nine tries—Los Angeles has now won 42 of its last 50 games, an impressive stretch matched only twice (by the 1941 Yankees and 1942 Cardinals) since the Cubs won 45 of 50 in 1906. Ryne Sandberg becomes only the second manager in modern major league history to lose his first two games by shutout; the Marlins' Mike Redmond, earlier this season, was the other.

Playing almost entirely now for pride, the Washington Nationals set out to end a slide of six straight losses to NL East leader Atlanta at Turner Field and win a 15-inning, 8-7 game that’s the equivalent to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Washington starter Stephen Strasburg is beyond wild, hitting Justin Upton in the first inning and, a frame later, coming nowhere near the strike zone—walking one and throwing three wild pitches (matching his entire season total) before being ejected by umpire Marvin Hudson; Rafael Soriano blows his second straight save by giving up a two-run shot to Jason Heyward (his second blast of the game); and Adam LaRoche, historically bad against the Braves, puts the Nationals on top to stay in the 15th off emergency reliever Kris Medlen with a deep blast to right. The game lasts five hours and 29 minutes and employs 18 pitchers.

The Texas Rangers continue to be a thorn in the side of Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, knocking him for five runs in the second inning and pushing him out after five innings; the Mariner bullpen fares even worse and collapses late, leading to a 15-3 Texas laugher. Hernandez is now 12-19 with a lifetime 3.94 ERA against the Rangers; only one other team (the Angels, with 12) has notched more than six losses against him.


Sunday, August 18
The Yankees are spurred to life at Boston after Alex Rodriguez is hit by a Ryan Dempster pitch—resulting in warnings to both benches and an angry tirade from Yankee manager Joe Girardi, who gets tossed. Rodriguez later belts payback with his second homer of the year, and New York goes on to outslug the Red Sox, 9-6.

The AL's prime contenders for both the MVP and the Cy Young Award come through again for the Detroit Tigers. Miguel Cabrera reaches both 40 home runs and 120 RBIs on the year, and starting pitcher Max Scherzer improves to 18-1 as the Tigers topple the Royals at Comerica Park, 6-3, to take three of five in a long weekend series.

The Phillies end the Dodgers' ten-game winning streak with a ninth-inning rally aided by two throwing errors from the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez—the second of which brings home Casper Wells with the game-winner in a 3-2 victory at Philadelphia.

Arizona and Pittsburgh, two teams that are no strangers of late to extra innings, duel for 16 innings at PNC Park until the Diamondbacks finally break the deadlock on a two-run Adam Eaton double to beat the Pirates, 4-2.


Upon Further Review, This Stinks
For years, we’ve been clamoring for comprehensive, efficient and effective video replay in baseball. This week, Major League Baseball finally championed its version of it.

Bottom line: This Great Game and MLB live in two different worlds.

Our idea is to have replay officials (including a fifth umpire) in a booth above the field watch the game closely, review any close calls and decide—within a minute—whether the right call was made on the field. It’s all very simple, quick and effective in theory.

MLB’s idea is a disaster. It does the one thing we instantly said no to in our analysis: Don’t let the managers call the shots, and certainly not under a quota. And yet, this is what baseball is suggesting: One managerial challenge in the first six innings, two in the final three. If you lose a challenge in the first inning and a blown call goes against you an inning later, tough beans.

The proposal raises more questions than acclaim, at least outside of MLB. What will be the challenge quota if a game goes into extra innings? Will the reviews remain the same as now, with all four umpires dragging themselves into the bowels of the ballpark to look at a 13-inch monitor? (Just the transit on and off the field alone takes a minute.) And by putting the responsibility of the challenges into the managers’ hands, will they abuse the system—for instance, call for a review just to stall time and get a relief pitcher ready?

Perhaps it’s telling that MLB’s proposal was presented by two former managers: Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. We sense that, in their minds, the “video review crew in the booth” idea we’ve been floating somehow diminishes the power and pride of the manager, who would no longer have a say on arguing or debating a call. Their idea is to maintain that pride by allowing managers to call the challenges.

If so, it’s a twisted and flawed solution that is doomed to fail. Most managers asked to comment on the proposal aren’t wild about it either, saying they have enough to focus on during a game. Even La Russa knows that the managers don’t like the idea of challenging; according to a tweet from former general manager and current ESPN analyst Jim Bowden, La Russa overrode that majority opinion because managers’ challenges would still be the “best way.”

Let’s put it this way: If you love watching the zebras in NFL games stumble and bumble their way in and out of the darkroom peep show box on the sidelines and making a decision five minutes after a coach threw a red flag, congratulations: You’ve just become a baseball fan.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Baseball’s expanded review system still needs to be approved by 75% of the owners as well as both the players’ and umpires’ union, if so, this will all become reality in 2014. Our hope is that, with any amount of common sense, the people with the final say will outright reject this.

If they don’t, trust us: A year from now, they’ll be wishing they had.

Is There a Bus We Can Throw A-Rod Under?
For Alex Rodriguez’s sake, the media had better be wrong on this one. 60 Minutes reported that two people from Rodriguez’s “camp” leaked the names of fellow Biogenesis users Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli to Yahoo! Sports shortly after the Miami New Times blew the cover off the Florida PED supermarket this past winter.

The long-running CBS news program didn’t air a segment on the story this past Sunday, which means some questions remain publicly unanswered, such as: Who were these guys in Rodriguez’s camp? Are they still there? Did Rodriguez know what they were doing? What did he do when he found out? And exactly what was the purpose of throwing Braun and Cervelli under the bus?

Rodriguez’s growing, top-flight legal team immediately and furiously denied the allegations, and Rodriguez himself pled his innocence before Friday’s game against the Red Sox in Boston, letting reporters know that he had a discussion with teammate Cervelli about his apparent side of the story. But if this report is proven true and Rodriguez knew about it—even initiated it—any last shred of trust and friendship with any ballplayer will have vanished. Plus, he would once again run afoul of the CBA between baseball and its players, thus hurting his chances of winning appeal on his 211-game suspension.

Jose Canseco once named names because he had nothing to lose, was retired and needed the money. Rodriguez is still playing, is apparently well off financially—and he’s got a whole lot to lose.

Maybe the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Will Call
Because of his tainted past, Rodriguez has been redacted from the upcoming animated film Henry & Me, in which several Yankee players including Rodriguez portray themselves in cartoon form. The story has Rodriguez pulling a Babe Ruth by making a hospital visit to a kid (the film’s main character) afflicted with cancer

Give Me My Blood Money
As Ryan Braun readies a public mea culpa campaign in the aftermath of his 65-game Biogenesis suspension, a former college buddy of his is suing him for defamation. Ralph Sasson apparently was the man hired by Braun and his lawyers to dig up dirt on Dino Laurenzi Jr., who collected and “wrongly” preserved the blood sample that led to Braun’s suspension—and the overturning of that suspension—after the 2011 season. Sasson was to be paid $5,000 and was not to speak about his task per a confidentiality agreement he signed with Braun, but not only does Sasson claim he didn’t get the money, he says that Braun violated the hush pact by bad-mouthing him.

Besides the lawsuit, Sasson twisted the knife by adding that Braun has been a steroid user going back to his days at the University of Miami, committed “academic fraud” and illegally accepted money while in college.

Not surprisingly, Braun’s lawyers dismissed the suit as a chance to capitalize on current events.

Et tu, Miguel (Again)
Like Rodriguez and Braun, some people never learn the lesson the first time around, Or perhaps they just don’t care. Which brings us to Miguel Tejada, who has been trying to hang on to a baseball life badly faded from his MVP-caliber past. Tejada was banned 105 games by MLB this past weekend for not one but two violations of amphetamine use, ending his season with the Kansas City Royals—and, at age 39, perhaps his career as well. This is his third cop for such PEDs, on top of his previous steroid penalties and his co-star billing in the Mitchell Report.

It’s likely that Tejada was trying to extend his career for the love of the game. It probably wasn’t for the money; he’s earned $100 million-plus over his career. So there was no financial urgency for him to take the PEDs, and thus the risk was hardly as harrowing as it might be for the borderline player yet to earn that big payday. For Tejada, it’s a curt acknowledgement, a shrug of the shoulders and a move at some point to the next gig, whenever and wherever that may be.

Oh No—Not the Invisibles Again!
Commissioner Bud Selig vented his frustration once more this past week on the lack of a new ballpark in St. Petersburg, where the Tampa Bay Rays continue to underwhelm at the box office even though they remain one of baseball’s more impressive organizations on the field. With Rays owner Stuart Sternberg standing alongside him, Selig pounded his chest and warned: “(The Rays’ ballpark situation is) serious enough that in the last 48 hours, I’ve given very strong consideration to assigning someone from MLB to get involved in the process and find out what’s going on.”

Oh c’mon Bud, really? You’re going to scare St. Pete straight by bringing on someone like those Three Amigos who’ve supposedly been moving mountains to find the Oakland A’s their new ballpark?

Wake us up when you’ve got a progress report.

This Club is Bigger Than You Think
Sometime this week, Ichiro Suzuki should reach the hallowed stratosphere that is 4,000 career hits in professional baseball. Granted, not all of them have come in the majors; 1,278 came courtesy of his time in Japan before becoming a sensation on this side of the Pacific for the Seattle Mariners. But say what you want about the level of play in Japan—we certainly don’t think much of it, given the American rejects who’ve thrived there—4,000 hits, whichever way you get to them, is still an awfully impressive achievement.

We piggybacked on some recent research and discovered that, beyond Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, there are a handful of other professional ballplayers who’ve gotten to 4,000 hits, regardless of what circuit or level they’ve been at. Rose himself has an unbelievable total of 4,683, if you include the 427 knocks he had over three years of minor league play before settling in with the Cincinnati Reds. Cobb’s minor league numbers have never been fully preserved in the history books (baseballreference.com, where we got much of this information, serves up blanks in the stat boxes on his row of work for Anniston in the independent Tennessee-Alabama League in 1904), but he has at least 4,356 hits.

Hank Aaron’s 3,771 career hits are augmented by an additional 324 from the minors to give him 4,095—and that doesn’t count his brief time in the Negro Leagues, where statistical data is iffy at best. Stan Musial barely tipped the scale at 4,001—but he might have had more had he not spent his first few years in the minors as a pitcher.

Out of left field to also make the cut is Jigger Statz, who lived up to his last name in the minor league circuit with 3,356 hits over 18 seasons in the Pacific Coast League on top of the 737 he would amass in the majors for a total of 4,093. The argument against Statz isn’t so much that he spent the bulk of his career in the PCL—there’s the counter-argument that the PCL of the 1920s-40s was a worthy West Coast alternative to the majors—but that he benefitted from the mass number of games for which PCL teams played (in 1926, for example, Statz logged 199 games for the Los Angeles Angels.)

Suzuki could have company down the line in the Yankee clubhouse. With 551 minor league hits added to his voluminous major league total, Derek Jeter currently checks in at 3,859; assuming he gets healthy, stays healthy and doesn’t depreciate, the Captain will likely get to 4,000 by the end of next year.

Other legends, with their minor league numbers included, have come oh-so-close to the 4,000 barrier. Tris Speaker ended up with 3,965; Carl Yazstremski with 3,782; Nap Lajoie with 3,709; and, last but far from least, the great Spencer Harris with 3,711 (94 of them collected in the majors).

Death of a Spectator
A lifelong Atlanta Braves fan returning to his seat at the end of a rain delay at Turner Field fell over a railing overseeing the players’ parking lot and fell 65 feet to his death on Monday. Ronald Homer, 30, had just gotten off a cell phone call with his mom—telling her he loved her—when the accident occurred. Authorities have ruled out foul play. Homer is the second fatality at Turner Field over the last five years; in 2008, an intoxicated fan fell over a stairwell at the ballpark.

Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck!
This past week, there were more than the usual moments of ballplayers getting struck where the cup usually protects them (ask LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Iglesias, neither of whom were wearing one), but Cincinnati catcher Ryan Hanigan got abused in Three Stooges-like fashion on this foul ball from the Cubs’ Wellington Castillo. It’s all painful and funny at once.

Tough Kall
Chris Davis leads the majors with 44 home runs, but look out, here comes…Khris Davis. The rookie Milwaukee outfielder has shown a bit of pop himself, going deep six times—all since the All-Star Break, and in just 42 at-bats. So if Khris becomes the second coming of Chris, how to distinguish the two? If Khris were to strike out more (and he has 17 over 59 total at-bats), will people get his name because it starts with a “K”? Or if Chris keeps outhomering Khris, should he be written up as “cHRis”?

Manny Just Can’t be Manny
The Texas Rangers’ acquisition of Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox ended any hope of Manny Ramirez returning to the majors anytime soon—if ever. After a promising start to 2013 in Taiwan, Ramirez returned to America in hopes of being given a chance by a major league organization; the Rangers gave him that chance, but after hitting .259 with three homers in 30 games with “considerably” reduced bat speed for Triple-A Round Rock, he was released as Texas grabbed Rios to fill the outfielder void created by the suspended Nelson Cruz. Ramirez has not given up on his comeback dreams, saying he will continue to stay in shape before playing another round of winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.

Shame on Faux Shane
A caller identifying himself as former Yankee Shane Spencer punked ESPN Radio this past week by engaging in an on-air interview with host Mike Lindsley and claiming that he not only “dabbled” in steroid use but that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera juiced up as well. The man was an impostor; the real Spencer actually heard part of the live interview and later said he nearly “threw up.”

Spencer had a remarkable debut for New York in 1998—the year everything went right for the Yankees—hitting .373 with ten homers and 27 RBIs in a mere 67 at-bats. Greatness never followed; in the next six seasons, Spencer was a part-timer who hit .262 with 59 homers before being released by the New York Mets, his fourth team, in 2004.

Hey Guys, You’re Not Being Paid by the Inning
If you think there’s been more than the usual number of extra-inning games in the majors this season, you’re right. At its current pace, there will be roughly 260 overtime games—easily tipping the existing record of 237 set just two years ago. This past Tuesday, there were six games alone that went beyond the ninth, followed by five on Wednesday; only twice in baseball history has there been as many as seven on a single day.

Missed by That Much
If the Oakland A’s miss the postseason by a game or two, they’ll remember what could have been this past week.
Chris Young will certainly remember it for a long time. In consecutive games at the Coliseum against the woeful Houston Astros, Young belted deep drives that appeared headed for walk-off nirvana—but each time, he was robbed.

On Tuesday, Young came up with two outs in the ninth, a runner on base and the A’s trailing, 5-4; he proceeded to launch a high drive down the left-field line that just missed hitting the foul pole—though replays showed that it might have nicked the edge of the pole to technically qualify it as a home run. Umpires didn’t see it that way and upheld the original foul call. A night later, the A’s and Astros were locked in a 1-1 tie in the tenth when, with two outs and no one on, Young went deep again, to straight-away left—but rookie outfielder Robbie Grossman leapt up against the wall and stole the homer away. The Astros won both games, 5-4 and (in 11 innings) 2-1.

Home Run or Bust
Josh Willingham’s first-inning shot against Cleveland this past Tuesday set a major league record as the Minnesota Twins extended a streak of 23 runs scored exclusively from home runs. A ninth-inning single by Justin Morneau ended the run.

Bases Loaded? No Problem
It’s safe to say that Yankee reliever David Robertson is handling the pressure on the mound. Going back to 2011, the right-hander has faced 25 straight batters with the bases loaded—and gotten every one of them out, striking out 18 and inducing two double play grounders. No one has been that stingy with the bags loaded since Jeff Brantley retired 30 straight from 1989-91 for San Francisco.

CC at X
Yankee ace CC Sabathia, struggling with a 4.66 ERA that would be the worst of his stellar-to-date career, nevertheless picked up his tenth win of the year this past week to become only the fifth player to with at least ten victories in each of his first 13 seasons. The other four are all Hall of Famers: Don Sutton (17 years), Eddie Plank (16), Tom Seaver (15) and Carl Hubbell (15).

He Said What?
“I feel like I got kicked by a mule, and it hurts.”—New York Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins after getting hit square in the sensitive portion of his midsection while trying to field a comebacker on Wednesday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. He wasn’t wearing a protective cup.

League vs. League
Just when it appeared the American League was ready to apply the knockout blow to its older sibling (called the National League) and take the interleague trophy for the tenth straight year, the NL has begun to mount a comeback—winning 17 of its last 26 games against AL competition to close the gap on the season at 134-123. Much of how the AL bounces back from this latest wave of NL success this coming week will depend on the Boston Red Sox, who will play marquee series on the West Coast at San Francisco and Los Angeles.

This Week’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
San Diego’s
Will Venable, a career .255 hitter batting .219 just before the All-Star Break, is hitting .373 since and has a hit in each of 15 games he’s played so far in August—and that’s the length of his current hitting streak, which is the majors’ longest active run as of Sunday.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekAtlanta second baseman Dan Uggla, hitting a paltry .186 for the year and hitless in his last five games, decided enough was enough and took out his frustration by laying blame on his failing eyes. So he went and got LASIK surgery—say, isn’t that performance enhancement?—and now his eyesight is 20/15. We’ll see if it improves his numbers when he returns from the disabled list.

Also entering the MLB Medical Ward on a quiet week was Toronto pitcher Josh Johnson, whose disastrous year (2-8, 6.20 ERA) may have come to an end with a strained forearm; Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, out with a groin strain (can PEDs help that?); and Tampa Bay designated hitter Luke Scott, out with back spasms.


The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.


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