The Week That Was in Baseball: August 15-21, 2011
Who Else Can Hit 600 Home Runs? • The Real Dodger Stadium Attendance
Carlos Zambrano's Thin Line Between Love and Hate • Mike Jacobs, HGH User
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The 2011 Mid-Season Report Card
After Jimbo, Who's Next for 600 Home Runs?
After looking back, we look forward: With steroids enforcement gradually locked in and pitching on the rise in the majors, do any other current major leaguers have a chance of joining the 600 Club? Atlanta’s Chipper Jones is next after Thome among active players with 448 homersbut at age 39, he likely doesn’t have another 152 jacks in him. Same for Vladimir Guerrero, right behind at 446 and fading at age 36. Next on the list is Albert Pujols, who does have a good shota very good shot. The Cardinal boomer is still going strong at the age of 31; even if he averages just 20 home runs over the next eight years, he’ll reach 600.Looking further down the active list, Adam Dunn (365 homers at age 31) is a possible candidate for 600 but desperately needs to reawake from the horrid slump he’s suffered with the Chicago White Sox this season; Mark Teixeira, who’s the same age with 308 career blasts, has an outside shot; Miguel Cabrera, still only 28 with a career total of 270, can get there if he becomes all about the home run in his 30s; and Prince Fielder, who is all about the home run, has nailed 217 over his career at age 27.
Some may wonder how he got nabbed when Major League Baseball doesn’t have a HGH test for its players. But Jacobs hasn’t played for the Rockies this season; he’d been toiling with their Triple-A affiliate down in Colorado Springs, where minor league players are subject to mandatory HGH testing because they’re not covered by the players’ union. In a statement, a highly contrite Jacobs claimed he took HGH to help overcome “knee and back problems” and said, in retrospect, that taking the drug was “one of the worst decisions” he could have made. We’ll say.
A veteran of six major league campaigns totaling 100 home runs, Jacobs has been on a downward spiral since clubbing 32 homers for Florida in 2008. He fizzled as a free agent for Kansas City in 2009, barely saw any action last year in the uniform of the New York Mets, and has labored exclusively in the Rockies’ farm system this season.Jacobs’ bust may put extra pressure on major league players as a new collective bargaining agreement looms around the corner. Commissioner Bud Selig is determined to press the union to expand HGH testing to major leaguers, something the union has previously gone on record stating they are against.
Is it Time to Zamboni Over Zambrano?
Zambrano’s latest episode occurred on August 12 when he gave up eight runs on eight hitsfive of them home runsin less than five innings at Atlanta. When he gave up back-to-back homers to Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla and then threw two perilously close pitches to the next batter, Chipper Jones, he was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Tim Timmons, who quickly turned to the Atlanta benchempting out with angry Brave players on a warpath towards Zambranoand told them to stay put.
Banished to the clubhouse, Zambrano instantly cleared out his locker, left notice that he was retiring and scrammed, leaving behind disappointed teammates and manager Mike Quade, who later told the press, “I can’t have a guy walking out on 24 guys.”
Almost on cue, Zambrano reappeared after cooling off for the weekend, saying he wanted to return and had nothing but love for the Cubs. The Cubs did not return the love; they placed the controversial pitcher on a 30-day disqualified list, leading to the typical kneejerk response of the players’ union to file a grievance. (Curiously, Zambrano was zinged by general manager Jim Hendry, lame-ducking it after being told of his own dismissal four weeks earlier.)As mentioned, this is hardly the first time Zambrano has worked himself into a rollercoaster of emotions. He took out a Gatorade dispenser in the Wrigley Field dugout after an ejection from a 2009 game, and later said he would retire when his contract expired, before backtracking on the statement. Last year, he was indefinitely suspended by the Cubs for engaging then-teammate Derrek Lee in another loud argument in the dugout; he was told to undergo anger management therapy. And as for that contract? It expires after next season.
Maybe They're Coming Dressed as Empty Seats
In bankruptcy court this past week, the president of the company that handles merchandising sales for the Dodgers testified that based on sales of Dodger paraphernalia at Chavez Ravine, the actual number of fans in the house is closer to 27,000, translating to a season total of roughly 2.25 million fans. That’s a far cry from better times at Dodger Stadium, like in 1982 when 3.6 million entered the ballpark in an era when official attendance was actually based on those using their tickets.So where are the 10,000 ticket holders who aren’t going to the game? We’re guessing that showing up in the third inning, leaving in the seventh and taking fan abuse while watching a bad team in between isn’t their idea of a relaxing evening on the town.
Wounded of the Week
No team was hit harder than the defending champion San Francisco Giants, who virtually escaped injury last yearbut no, not this season, and especially not the last few weeks, with injuries to closer Brian Wilson (elbow inflammation), recent star addition Carlos Beltran (strained wrist), outfielder Andres Torres (leg), set-up reliever Sergio Romo (elbow) and catcher Eli Whiteside (concussion), himself filling in for out-for-the-season Buster Posey.
The week was so harsh, it didn’t spare two players who’ve cheated injury for much of their major league careers: Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski (wrist) and Pittsburgh pitcher Paul Maholm (shoulder strain), both on the DL for the very first time.
Other unfortunates for the week include Minnesota outfielder Denard Span, out of action due to vertigo (if you see Kim Novak, run); Chicago starting pitcher Phil Humber, recovering after taking a comebacker to the face; Arizona starting pitcher Jason Marquis, out for the year with a broken fibula; and Boston star hitter Kevin Youkilis, with a bad back.
In the minors, young phenom Bryce Harper has been forced to call it a season after suffering a severe hamstring injury, quashing what little suspense remained that he might be call-up material for the Washington Nationals in September.
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Now Replaying at TGG
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Jason Isringhausen, back with the New York Mets and back in the closer’s role at age 38, records his 300th career save by pitching a scoreless tenth inning to secure the Mets’ 5-4 win at San Diego. Isringhausen is tied with Bruce Sutter for 22nd place in career saves, and is third on the active list behind Mariano Rivera and Francisco Cordero.The Milwaukee Brewers defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0 at Miller Park thanks to defense that records four double plays and the sixth triple play in franchise history. The latter moment occurs in the second inning when James Loney hits a double-play grounder that turns into a triple nailing as Matt Kemp attempts to score from second on the playand is tagged out at home.
Tuesday, August 16
Albert Pujols smashes his 30th home run of the year, extending his major league record by reaching 30 for the 11th time to start a career; despite a bad start to the year and two weeks lost to a wrist injury in early summer, Pujols leads the NL in homers. The St. Louis Cardinals lose despite Pujols’ achievement, one of five walk-off victims across the majors on the night when the Pittsburgh Pirates win in the 11th on a Garrett Jones home run.
Detroit ace Justin Verlander becomes the majors’ first 18-game winner on the year and the first to surpass both 200 innings and 200 strikeouts after allowing a run on seven hits in 7.2 innings during the Tigers’ 7-1 win against Minnesota. Verlander also leads the majors in both batting average against (.187) and walks/hits allowed per inning (0.88).
Wednesday, August 17
The New York Yankees, trying to keep distance over the Red Sox in the AL East, lose at Kansas City 5-4 thanks in part to a Billy Butler deep fly that bounces off the top of the wall and back on the fieldand yet is ruled a home run, even after umpires take a look at video replay. Major League Baseball will later issue a statement admitting the umpires made the wrong call.
For the first time since April 22, the Chicago White Sox’ Mark Buehrle allows more than three runs when he gives up all four Cleveland tallies in a 4-1 loss to the Indians at U.S. Cellular Park. Buehrle had gone 18 straight gamestying a franchise record set in 1909 by Frank Smithallowing three runs or fewer; during the streak, he was 9-3 with a 2.46 ERA.
The Brewers become the first team since the California Angels in 1972 to win six straight games scoring three or fewer runs in each. Milwaukee defeats Los Angeles at Miller Park, 3-1.
Thursday, August 18
Friday, August 19
By losing to the Brewers, 6-1, the New York Mets lose the opening game of a homestand for the tenth straight time to start the season, setting a major league record.
Dodger starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda earns his first career win against Colorado with an 8-2 victory at Coors Field. Kuroda had previously gone 0-5 in nine starts against the Rockies.Toronto slugger Jose Bautista walks three times in the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss at Oakland to become the first major leaguer this year to receive 100 passes. Bautista had exactly 100 walks last year in 161 games; he only needed 113 games this year to get there.
Saturday, August 20
Sunday, August 21
The Colorado Rockies need just three hits to defeat the Dodgers at Coors Field, 5-3, and end a record streak of 17 straight losses on a Sunday. The previous record had been held by the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 16 straight Sunday games not once, not twice, but three timesin 1927, 1928 and 1960.
The Tigers score seven third-inning runs off Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez and hang on to defeat the Indians 8-7, finishing a crucial three-game sweep of the second-place Tribe and opening up a 4.5-game lead in the AL Central.The Angels defeat the Orioles 7-1 behind seven strong innings from starter Jerome Williams, making his second appearance and first start in the majors since 2007; it’s his first win since 2005, when he pitched for the Chicago Cubs.
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