This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: August 18-24, 2014
Who Wants to Win the NL MVP? Failing the Tarp Test at Wrigley
Tom Werner's Time-Reduction Visions Are MLB Blackouts' Days Numbered?


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
37 7 14 2 2 1 6 2 0 0 1

We could have picked any one of seven different Twins for this honor given how crazy their offense was this past week (including 40 runs over three games against the Tigers), but the nod for Best of the Best belongs to the 23-year-old Dominican native who’s been doing just about everything for Minnesota from the leadoff spot since his debut back in early May. The Twins have some awfully good players queued up in the minors (that is, when they’re healthy), and Santana could be the first sign of great things to come for this franchise.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
23 8 11 2 0 3 8 1 0 0 0

Opposing pitchers think Miami Marlins and they think Giancarlo Stanton, but after the week the 23-year-old Dominican had, they’re going to have to broaden their fears. Ozuna homered in three straight games to start the week, and found out how fun Coors Field can be by knocking in five runs in the series opener on Friday. In his first full year at the big league level, Ozuna is on pace to finish the year with 24 homers and 88 RBIs.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
14 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

The big veteran lug has been making noises (again) about retiring—and after a week like this, that din may get a bit louder. Dunn came into the week with a five-game hitting streak (and for someone with a .201 average over the last four years, that’s pretty impressive), but it was all zeroes this past week—except for the seven strikeouts and two ground balls turned into double plays. It will be curious to see how much vigor Dunn has for the job in these final weeks.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds

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

The Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania native relived his own Groundhog Day over and over this past week as he kept finishing the day hitless; his only knock came when he clubbed a pinch-hit double late in a one-sided Reds loss. Mesoraco has quietly shined as one of the team’s few bright spots with a .300 average and 20 homers through early August, but this was the continuation of an August Bust in which he has now recorded just one hit in his last 31 at-bats.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Drew Smyly, Tampa Bay Rays

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4

The Rays may be sad to let David Price go, but they’ve been all smiles over Smyly, one of the key players they got in return. The third-year lefty was brilliant this past Friday against a good Blue Jays offense in Toronto, posting his first career shutout with a two-hit effort that his manager, Joe Maddon, called “artistic.” Smyly didn’t walk anyone and retired the last 19 batters he faced; since joining the Rays, he’s 2-1 with a nice 1.55 ERA.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Yusmeiro Petit, San Francisco Giants

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 6.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10

No one could touch the Venezuelan native in two extended relief appearances this past week, which included two innings of work in the infamous tarp game at Chicago that started Tuesday and finished Thursday. Since a middling start against Philadelphia on July 22, Petit—who came within an out of a perfect game last season—has retired 38 straight batters, seven shy of the major league record. There’s talk that he’ll get a chance to extend that run as a starter with Tim Lincecum struggling horribly of late.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-2 1.2 7 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 2

You know things have really gotten rotten at Fenway Park when even this guy starts to mess up. Last year’s bullpen savior and the one guy on the staff who, this season, seemed to be getting it right, Uehara had a miserable week where he couldn’t hold a 3-3 tie on Tuesday against the Angels, but then really caved in three days later when he had the Mariners down to their last out with a three-run lead—and proceeded to give up five runs. Oh Koji, Big Papi won’t be Hapi over this.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 2.2 8 7 7 2 0 0 1 0 2

Cubs fans would have been happy trading for beleaguered Atlanta outfielder B.J. Upton—as long as the team sent the veteran right-hander packing. (It nearly happened last month.) That’s how bad it’s been for Jackson, who after his latest fiasco on the mound this past Wednesday against the Giants strengthened his hold on the majors’ worst ERA (6.09) among qualifying starters. It appears that part of it is pain; after the start, he went on the disabled list with a strained lat—and strained stats. The Cubs still have two years and $26 million on their hands with Jackson.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (5-2)

The Halos lost two of three on the weekend at Oakland, but overall it was an upside week that began with a four-game sweep at Boston—and ended with the Angels in first place over the A’s by a game. There are challenges ahead, such as how the team will hold up without emerging ace Garrett Richards after he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Tuesday; they get another crack at the A’s this coming week, this time with a four-game series—and this time, at Anaheim.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Washington Nationals (6-1)

A word to the wise within baseball: Don’t turn your back on the Nationals, or they’ll come and get you—one way or another. They were it at again this past week, sweeping the Diamondbacks in four—three of them in the last at-bat—and then thundering past the Giants with two wins out of three, the most impressive victory coming on Sunday when they came from behind to notch 12 unanswered runs in the final three innings. The Nats hit the road this coming week having won 15 of 18 games while owning the majors’ largest divisional lead (eight games over Atlanta in the NL East).


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (0-7)

The Dead Sox were asking for trouble when they traded the core of their starting rotation at the deadline, but pitching wasn’t the problem this past week; they didn’t score more than three runs in any game until getting a spark on Sunday, a day when the pitching did manage to flub up. It was a winless week at home, with Koji Uehara imploding, David Ortiz getting bruised up at the plate and the team extending its latest losing streak to eight. Rusney Castillo, the hotshot Cuban export who signed with Boston this past week, must be looking at all of this and thinking, “This is one boat I missed.”


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Cincinnati Reds (2-5)

It’s a shameful encore at this spot for the Dreads, who managed to bail out a few wins on the weekend in spite of no offense on Saturday (except when pitcher Mike Leake scored) and a sweat-it-out Sunday victory in which the Braves left the bases loaded in the ninth. All but out of the playoff picture at this point, the Reds will have to don the spoiler hats and try to ruin everybody else’s shot at the postseason, starting later this week at Pittsburgh.


Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, August 18
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim defeat the Red Sox at Boston, 4-2, and take a half-game lead over the idle Oakland A’s. Earning the win is C.J. Wilson, who led the majors last year in road victories but had gone 0-5 over his last seven starts away from home.

After blowing a one-run lead to Arizona in the ninth, the Washington Nationals bounce back in the 11th with their third straight walk-off victory, 5-4, when Adam LaRoche hits the first game-winning home run of his career. Only Mark Teixeira (361) has hit more home runs without any of them being a walk-off blast.

The Chicago Cubs manage a four-game split with the Mets in New York with a 4-1 victory behind another impressive outing by rookie pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who’s now pitched seven-plus innings with two or fewer runs allowed in four straight starts—something not accomplished by a Cubs rookie since Dennis Lamp in 1978. For the Mets, it’s their fifth straight game with no more than four hits, something done only six previous times since 1900—twice by the Mets.

Jerome Williams, recently released by Texas, jumps on board in Philadelphia and has his best outing of the year, allowing a run on three hits over seven innings as the Phillies cool off the visiting Seattle Mariners, 4-1. According to Elias, Williams becomes the fifth pitcher over the last 60 years to record wins for three different teams in one year, having previously notched a single win each for the Rangers and Angels.


Tuesday, August 19
The St. Louis Cardinals overcome an early deficit and three errors (leading to two unearned runs) to defeat the visiting Cincinnati Reds, 5-4, as Jon Jay gets plunked by reliever J.J. Hoover (now 1-10) with the bases loaded in the ninth. It’s the sixth time in the last seven games that Jay has been hit by a pitch; he has 15 for the year. The win solidifies the Cardinals’ hold on the top wild card spot, while sending the Reds (61-65) closer to postseason irrelevancy.

In Chicago, rain interrupts a 2-0 Cubs lead over San Francisco just as the game becomes official in the middle of the fifth—and, curiously, the Wrigley Field grounds crew errs badly in its attempt to cover the field, leaving large parts of the infield exposed to the downpour. After four hours and change, the game is declared final—and the Giants, trying to stay alive in the postseason hunt, file a protest; MLB will grant them their wish and allow the game to be continued on Thursday.

Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton atones for a seventh-inning throwing error that allowed Texas to tie the Marlins by stroking a game-winning single in the tenth. The 4-3 victory gives Miami 63 wins on the year—one more than its entire total for 2013.

The Detroit Tigers defeat Tampa Bay in 11 innings, 8-6, thanks primarily to sloppy Rays pitching as four walks and a wild pitch contribute to a three-run 11th-inning rally at St. Petersburg. The Rays have now lost three straight since bringing their record back up to .500.


Wednesday, August 20
After trailing 3-0, the Angels roll up eight unanswered runs to record an 8-3 defeat of the Red Sox at Fenway Park and take a 1.5-game lead in the AL West…but all of that is overshadowed by a second-inning injury in which Angels starter Garrett Richards, having a terrific breakout season, suffers a torn knee attempting to cover first base. The injury ends his season.

The ninth-inning magic continues for Washington. After blowing a 2-0 lead in the eighth, the Nationals bounce back in the final frame as Anthony Rendon knocks in Bryce Harper with a game-winning single to defeat Arizona, 3-2. It’s the fourth walk-off victory for the Nationals in their last five games. Washington’s lead in the NL East increases to seven games thanks to Atlanta’s 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh.

The Braves themselves have a 2-0 lead in the eighth, but a Pirates rally aided by a Jordan Walden wild pitch ties the game—and in the ninth, a two-base error on a dropped fly ball by Braves outfielder Justin Upton sets up a walk-off sac fly by Gaby Sanchez one batter later. Two streaks are snapped: The Braves’ run of five straight wins, and a seven-game skid by the Bucs.


Thursday, August 21
David Price returns to Tampa Bay—in the uniform of the Tigers—and after seeing the second batter he faces (Ben Zobrist) reach on an error and allowing a triple to the third (Brandon Guyer), he retires the remaining 24 batters—but it’s not enough as Detroit fails to notch a run on Alex Cobb (seven shutout innings) and two relievers in a 1-0 loss. Never before had a pitcher faced his old team for the first time, went the distance, gave up just one hit—and lost.

The Nationals do it again, breaking a scoreless deadlock in the bottom of the ninth with Anthony Rendon once more at the plate. This time he gets help from the Arizona defense, as third baseman Jordan Pacheco throws wildly past first base and allows Denard Span to score from second to give Washington its tenth straight win. The five walk-off victories in six games are the most since Houston and San Diego both did it in 1986.

It’s a throwback game of sorts at Yankee Stadium as Brandon McCarthy fires a four-hit shutout while easily outdueling the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel (who also goes the distance) in a game that wraps up in two hours and seven minutes—the fastest game played in the six years of the new Stadium’s existence. The 3-0 New York win includes no walks—the first time that’s occurred with both starters going the distance since 2010.


Friday, August 22
All eyes are on a near-capacity Oakland Coliseum where the majors’ two best teams—the A’s and Angels—begin a three-game weekend battle for AL West supremacy. Round One goes to Oakland, which gets 8.1 innings from starter Sonny Gray for a 5-3 victory to cut the Angels’ divisional lead down to a game.

There will be no comeback or victory tonight for the Nationals, who get bruised up by the visiting Giants in a 10-3 loss to end their ten-game winning streak. Starring for the Giants is rookie Joe Panik, who collects four hits including his first career homer, a three-run shot that gives his team the lead to stay.

The Seattle Mariners are trailing 3-0 in the ninth and are down to their last out to a Boston team that has yet to lose when leading after eight (44-0)—and proceed to score five times to upend the Red Sox at Fenway Park, 5-3. Felix Hernandez doesn’t get credit for the victory, but the Seattle ace does become the ninth pitcher to record six straight 200-strikeout seasons.

Atlanta’s Mike Minor is four outs away from a no-hitter when he surrenders a single to the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, scoring Zack Cozart (who had walked) to tie the game; the Braves bounce back in extra innings as Justin Upton hits a two-run bomb to produce a 3-1 win at Cincinnati.

Minnesota douses visiting Detroit with the majors’ highest run count this season, scoring 14 times in the final three innings to romp, 20-6. The Twins’ Eduardo Escobar has the biggest night of all the Twins, collecting a home run, triple and three singles while hitting eighth. Tigers second baseman Andrew Romine relieves an exhausted (and badly ineffective) Detroit bullpen by pitching the eighth inning—and conceding three runs on back-to-back home runs from Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe.

With the Tigers’ loss, Kansas City extends its AL Central lead to 2.5 games with a 6-3 victory at Texas. Racking up the save for the Royals is Greg Holland, the major league leader who reaches 40 for the second straight year; only Dan Quisenberry (from 1983-84) had done that in a K.C. uniform.


Saturday, August 23
Four days after the Giants successfully protested a game at Chicago, Tampa Bay lodges its own protest at Toronto when Rays manager Joe Maddon believes that a replay challenge has been called by the Blue Jays too late. Tampa Bay loses the game, 5-4, on Jose Reyes’ run-scoring single in the tenth inning; the loss snaps an AL-record streak of 19 straight road games in which the Rays had allowed three or fewer runs. (The all-time record belongs to the Chicago Cubs, who had a 21-game streak in their last championship season of 1908.)

The Mariners, meanwhile, keep alive a streak of their own in defeating the Red Sox at Boston, 7-3. Seattle has not allowed more than four runs in any of its previous 20 games—the longest such streak in the AL since the Oakland A’s in 1981. For the Red Sox, the number seven is a very unlucky one; the Mariners score all seven of their runs in one inning off Boston starter Brandon Workman—who’s now lost in seven straight starts—and the defeat is the Red Sox’ seventh in general.

The Reds snap their own seven-game skid thanks primarily to pitcher Mike Leake, who throws 6.2 scoreless innings and scores the game’s only run after doubling in the sixth. Aroldis Chapman closes out the 1-0 win over the Braves by striking out the side in the ninth.

The A’s tie the Angels in the AL West with a 2-1 victory over the Halos, courtesy of an eighth-inning wild pitch from Joe Smith that scores Coco Crisp from third with two outs.


Sunday, August 24
The Angels salvage a win out of the three-game weekend series at Oakland—and more importantly, retake first place in the AL West—with a 9-4 thrashing of the A’s. Josh Hamilton knocks in three runs and belts his tenth home run of the year; his previous nine have also been hit on the road.

The Mariners outlast the Red Sox, 8-6, to finish off their first-ever sweep of three or more games at Fenway in the franchise’s 38th year of play. Dustin Ackley singles, doubles and triples for the Mariners, scoring all three times he reaches base.

The Cubs’ Tsuyoshi Wada, a major disappointment after being signed by Baltimore in 2012, takes on the Orioles at Wrigley Field—and takes a no-hitter into the seventh before Steve Pearce ends it with a home run. It’s the lone blemish as Wada and the Cubs edge the O’s, 2-1.

Who’s Your National League MVP?
It’s not unusual for experts, at this point of the year, to be scratching their heads over who’s going to win the World Series. (For us, the stock answer is usually who’s hottest of the ten remaining in October.)

But at this juncture, the MVP race should be a bit clearer. In the American League, three prime candidates have stepped forward—Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Mike Trout, Chicago rookie Jose Abreu and Detroit’s Victor Martinez—with one of them likely to win the honor. But in the National League, the race is wide open with no clear favorite.

A few months ago, Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki looked to be the one guy head and shoulders above the rest after an insane statistical start. But the injury-prone All-Star shortstop went down for the count in mid-July with a bad hip and won’t be coming back. The .340 average, .432 on-base and 1.035 OPS reads great, but you can’t a MVP to a guy who played 91 games for a last-place team.

Tulowitzki’s departure left Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, numbers-wise, as the next best guy in the MVP conversation. On August 1, he was hitting .300 and was on pace for 28 home runs, 101 RBIs, 110 runs, 57 doubles and 94 walks. Then he got hit by a pitch, breaking his hand—and ending his season. Again, partial results playing for another woeful team in the Diamondbacks doesn’t favor you with MVP voters.

So where does this leave us? Here are the remaining candidates, in alpha order:

The dynamic Carlos Gomez arguably has the best overall collection of offensive numbers, as he’s on pace to score well over 100 runs, clout close to 30 homers and steal some 35 bases to go with a solid batting average. That he’s a key component of a Milwaukee team that’s been in first place from the start doesn’t hurt his chances.

Among pitchers, Clayton Kershaw has impressed with one gem after another for Los Angeles. Chances are he’ll get the Cy Young instead, but if he can pull off an Orel Hershiser 1988-like finish, he’ll strengthen his bid for the MVP.

While Gomez may be the sexy choice among Brewers players, some would consider catcher Jonathan Lucroy as the prime Milwaukee candidate. Yes, he may not be Yadier Molina behind the plate, but his clutch offensive contributions, though numerically not off the charts, are crucial reasons the Brewers top the NL Central.

Between a recent injury and an ill-timed losing skid by his Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen’s chances to cop a second straight MVP may have taken a hit. But McCutchen compares well with Gomez statistically and, if he can take the lead and spark the Bucs back to life in September, has a good shot to secure major votes.

The name most evoked in the NL MVP chatter is Yasiel Puig—but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best choice out there. Few if any players hold more attraction value than the second-year Cuban émigré, and his play has been exciting enough to warrant inclusion into the MVP conversation. Again, it may be a matter of whether he’s hot or not in September.

Giancarlo Stanton is, statistically speaking, the closest thing to a favorite. He’s your league leader in home runs, RBIs, walks and OPS, and perhaps no one in all of baseball is feared more when walking up to the plate. Politically speaking, it all comes down to how his Miami Marlins figure down the stretch.

If Atlanta slaps itself back into the playoff picture (and lately they have), one must consider either Justin Upton or Freddie Freeman, both of who have picked it up along with the team. Should the trend continue, their names should be prominently featured in the award talk.

Tarpgate!
For the first time since 1986, a major league team succeeded in getting a protest upheld by Major League Baseball when the San Francisco Giants convinced officials that a game stopped by rain after 4.5 innings at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Tuesday should not have been declared final, even though technically it would have counted as a rain-shortened 2-0 win for the Cubs.

The Giants contended that the grounds crew’ inability to cover the infield quickly and efficiently during a brief but torrential downpour led to unplayable conditions that made it impossible for the game to continue later in the evening. (Interesting to note: Just eight miles away at U.S. Cellular Field, the Chicago White Sox were also playing—and received not a drop of rain.)

In the play-by-play booth, Giants broadcaster (and one-time Cubs pitcher) Mike Krukow—entertaining and terrific at game analysis but not exactly the most objective guy on the air—barked conspiracy as he watched a well-trained grounds crew act as it if it was making its first-ever go at it. He assured the audience that had the Cubs been losing instead of winning, the crew would have got the job done quickly and would have been sitting back under the stands having a cup of coffee.

MLB agreed with the Giants (if not necessarily with Krukow), stating that because the tarp had been wrapped up wrongly from its previous use, handicapping the grounds crew as they labored to unfurl it again for Tuesday’s game. Hence, it followed the ‘technical snafu’ provision of the rulebook as it relates to rainouts.

The Chicago Tribune hinted at something even more controversial when it accused the Cubs of reducing the number of available grounds crew members for the evening, making life difficult for those who remained. And why were ten others sent home early? Because, the Tribune believes, the Cubs trying to limit their hours to under 130 per month so they do not qualify for health care under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). The Cubs denied it, but when grounds crew members were asked to comment, they were too afraid to do so—perhaps out of fear that they’d lose their jobs. In the end, the tarp controversy became much ado about nothing.

The game continued Thursday before the regularly scheduled contest—and after, ironically enough, a rain delay—but the Giants’ hope to mount a comeback was cut short as the Cubs hung on to win, 2-1.

Is the End of ‘In-Market’ Near?
Common sense may finally be rearing its head in regards to MLB’s silly regional blackout policy for mlb.tv subscribers. Baseball has been widely (and rightly) harangued for its bizarre scheme of prohibiting certain teams’ games from being shown in markets that are as far way as 700 miles from those teams’ bases. It’s a scheme that, for instance, certainly puzzles people in Las Vegas, where six MLB teams—all five California teams and the Arizona Diamondbacks—are considered “in-market” and are thus blacked out. Never mind that Los Angeles and Phoenix, the two closest such “local” teams, are both five-hour drives from Vegas.

The issue has been one of RSNs (regional sports networks) that are paying huge sums of money for the rights to broadcast MLB teams. The San Francisco Giants, for example, insist that their games can’t be seen on mlb.tv for people who live in Eugene, Oregon or Ely, Nevada or Lihue, Hawaii—places not exactly down the street from AT&T Park. It’s not that Comcast Sports Net Bay Area—which holds exclusive broadcast rights to the Giants—isn’t available in these faraway towns. But they could be one day, as the Giants hold or share territorial broadcast rights to these markets.

This week came a shred a hope. Maybe. In an interview with the Associated Press, Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media, said he’s working on easing blackout restrictions and that there’s been progress, stating: “If out hands were four feet apart three or four years ago, they are now six inches apart.”

What’s being rumored most is that fans who stream can be allowed to watch ‘in-market’ games so long as they can prove they are subscribed to a RSN via cable or satellite—something ESPN currently demands to allow online viewers to watch their MLB telecasts. That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the fans who’ve cut the cord and don’t have cable? Or the folks out in Eugene, Ely and Lihue who have cable but not Comcast Sports Net Bay Area and, thus, may still be shut out from watching the Giants?

Here’s what really should be done: If the RSN is available in your area, you should be able to watch online regardless of whether you have cable. To ease the RSN’s concern that local advertisers would be less inclined to place ads on telecasts because mlb.tv shows their own commercials during breaks, allow those local ads to play in-market. And if you don’t have the RSN available in your area and you’re in a team’s ‘in-market’ territory…well, that needs to be blown up. Not only is it unfair for fans in Eugene, Ely, Lihue and a million other towns where baseball fans are blacked out from teams based hundreds of miles away, it’s totally unwise for MLB to turn its back on a genuinely interested and—here's the key word, MLB—young streaming audience that will turn its attention elsewhere and add to the game’s shrinking (and aging) fan base if things don’t straightened out soon.

What Commissioner Werner Would Have Done
Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred’s biggest competition a week ago when selected to become Bud Selig’s successor was Tom Werner, a co-owner of the Boston Red Sox who received initial support from a third of major league owners as, it was theorized, a protest vote to Manfred from those who wanted a tougher stance against the players’ union. There may have been more dimension to Werner’s candidacy bid, and he spelled it out in a chat with the Boston Globe this past week.

Much of what was on Werner’s mind—besides doing Jerry Reinsdorf’s bidding and start war with the union after 20 years of labor peace—was something that’s been on everyone’s minds at MLB Central of late: Speeding up the game. Werner suggested a “pitch clock” of 12 seconds to help remind hitters, pitchers and umpires to abide by current rules not being enforced; eliminating warm-up tosses from relievers when they enter the game, believing that they’ve warmed up enough in the bullpen; and placing a quota on visits to the mound by both coaches and catchers during an inning.

None of these suggestions are groundbreaking; MLB is already experimenting with some of them in the minors. But Werner sounds like the kind of guy willing to forsake tradition and needle purists when he says, “I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”

Curt and Honest
Another issue commissioner-elect Manfred hopes to tackle once he assumes office is to work with the union to discourage or ban, outright, chewing tobacco on ballpark grounds. (It’s already banned in the minors.) The death of Tony Gwynn earlier this year from cancer of the mouth—presumably from his constant use of chew—brought the issue to the forefront, but this past week came another reminder of how rough the aftereffects of chew can be from former pitcher Curt Schilling.

In a radio interview this past Wednesday, Schilling revealed that the cancer he recently beat was that of squamous cell carcinoma, which occurs in the mouth, neck and jaw area and usually strikes people who use chewing tobacco. Schilling, who confessed to using chew for 30 years, is luckier than Gwynn in that he beat the cancer—of course, there’s no guarantee it will never return, as Gwynn eventually and fatally discovered—but he’s also suffering in other ways. Treatment has left him without the ability to smell or taste, and he’s working to regain the 70 pounds or so he lost.

Given Schilling’s flair for straight, sometimes controversial talk, he’d make a pretty good spokesperson to visit major league clubhouses and lecture players on the evils of chew.

Which Logo is Toronto's?
Blue Jay logosThe Toronto Blue Jays filed a complaint with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, claiming that Creighton University designed a logo (top, left) for its athletics programs that looks too close to their own emblem and would, in their words, create the impression that they “approved, endorsed or sponsored” Creighton’s logo and any merchandise that the school would sell with it.

There are similarities: Creighton’s nickname is the same, even if the university goes by one word (Bluejays) instead of two, and the logomark of the bird’s head—which, like Toronto’s, is a side view—uses blue as its primary color. Which of course makes sense; blue jays are known to be blue (top, right).

So while the Blue Jays may have an argument, it’s a modestly weak one. Among the non-similarities between the two is that Toronto’s blue jay looks placid while Creighton’s has a look of intimidation. That said, you realize how many angry bird logos there are in sports? Look at the Arizona Cardinals, the Philadelphia Eagles, and so on. Yes, they’re not blue jays, but would those teams argue that Creighton’s logo is too close in spirit to their own?

Scouting the Umpires
The next time you lay down a bet on a baseball game at the local sportsbook, ESPN’s Jayson Stark suggests it be wise to not only do your research on the starting pitchers, available lineups and weather conditions, but also the umpire calling balls and strikes. He lists a number of sites that have broken down season statistics based on who’s behind the plate, with some pretty eye-opening numbers that confirms the arbiters’ pride in calling their interpretation of the strike zone as opposed to that written in the rulebook. Trust us, we’d be fools not to think that pitchers don’t check out these sites as well to find out what’s in store for them once they take the mound.

Guilt by Association?
Michael Clemens, pitching rookie league ball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was suspended for 68 games after being caught possessing and using HGH. We know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong; he’s not related to steroid vet Roger Clemens.

It’s Double Digits From Here on Out
On Saturday, the New York Yankees retired uniform number 6 worn by
Joe Torre, the manager who guided the Bronx Bombers to four World Series titles in a five-year period. Once the Yankees retire Derek Jeter’s number 2 jersey (and they will), it will mean that all single-digit uniform numbers within the storied franchise will have been retired. No other team can claim that.

I’ve Got You, Babe
When
John Lackey was traded to St. Louis from the Boston Red Sox, he found new teammate Pat Neshek wearing his jersey number. So he gave Neshek a tempting offer: Give me your number, and I’ll give you an autographed Babe Ruth baseball. Neshek gladly accepted.

Walking on the Edge…Of an Easy Victory
On Friday night, Pittsburgh pitchers combined to walk eight Milwaukee batters and strike out one. Yet they won, and handily—defeating the Brewers, 8-3.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
In all the years we’ve been doing this segment, someone’s always had a hitting streak of at least ten games. Even some player on the disabled list always seems to have a run frozen above ten. But we have to report something of a first with the majors’ longest active hitting streak to finish the past week belonging to two players—the Angels’
Erick Aybar and the Twins’ Danny Santana—each with mere nine-game skeins. Somewhere in the big, blue baseball sky, the Yankee Clipper must be rolling over in laughter over this one.

League vs. League
It was a good week for the National League as it beat its American League counterparts in head-to-head action nine times in 14 tries, but it all may be too little, too late for the Senior Circuit in its attempt to end the AL’s ten-year run as interleague kings. With 30 league vs. league games left, the NL has to win 26 of them to pull off the last-minute upset. It won’t be easy this coming week; two strong AL teams (the Angels and Mariners) host the only two interleague series, against (respectively) the Marlins and Nationals.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekIt was a quiet week for gains in major league pains this past week, but don’t tell that to Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher Garrett Richards, the superlative breakout pitcher who tore up his knee after taking a totally awkward step while on his way to covering first base this past Tuesday at Boston. The 26-year-old had been rolling with a 9-2 record and 1.93 ERA since the beginning of June; he won’t be seen again until next spring, if even then.

Richards’ injury has broadened what appears to be something of a curse among the game’s emerging young aces, who seem to get cruelly cut down just as they hit top gear. Besides Richards, baseball fans have been deprived in the last year of stellar stars in Miami’s Jose Fernandez (22 years old), the Mets’ Matt Harvey (24), the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (25) and Atlanta’s Kris Medlen (28). With the possible exception of Tanaka (or Harvey, if it was up to him), none of these players won’t throw a pitch again until 2015.


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