The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: August 20-26, 2012
Blow Up the Dodgers! If You Suspect Someone of Cheating...Maybe They Are
Clemens Plays Sugarland: Is Houston Next? Jim Joyce's Life-Saving Call

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The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look
at the best, worst and most unexpected through the first 81 games of the 2012 major league season.

Give Us Your Rich, Your Fired, Your Sore
Last week, we said: Blow up the Red Sox! Apparently, Boston management took our advice to heart. In one of the most unusual and mammoth transactions in recent baseball history, the Red Sox unloaded three of their stars—oft-injured outfielder Carl Crawford, disgruntled first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and struggling pitcher Josh Beckett—along with reserve Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for underachieving first baseman James Loney, pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and three minor leaguers.

The monster deal goes a long way in quickly defusing the tension stifling the Red Sox’ clubhouse after it was revealed that a cadre of players led by Gonzalez engaged in a testy exchange with management over embattled manager Bobby Valentine; it essentially also raises the white flag on a disappointing campaign in which the Red Sox kept slipping gears just to reach the .500 mark.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they found a buyer in the Dodgers who apparently knows no limits to their spending after purchasing the club from bankrupt owner Frank McCourt at the start of the year. It’s quite possible the urgency factor to complete such a trade spiked after the Dodgers were swept at home by the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants early this past week; having already added star players in infielder Hanley Ramirez from Miami, outfielder Shane Victorino and pitcher Joe Blanton (both from Philadelphia), the Boston deal shows that the Dodgers are engaging in an all-out, seemingly reckless binge that would have made George Steinbrenner blush, and will spare no expense to stomp the Giants to reach the postseason.

But will the trade pay instant dividends? Gonzalez will certainly be an improvement at first base for the departed Loney—and immediately proved it with a three-run homer in his first Dodger at-bat on Saturday against Miami—and his proximity to his hometown of San Diego is said to likely make him feel more relaxed than within the toxic Boston environment. But Crawford has just undergone Tommy John surgery and won’t play until next season, and Beckett has been a mess this year, going 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA through decreased velocity on the mound.

Furthermore, the inheritance of contracts from this trade and the Ramirez/Victorino/Blanton deals is staggering, with the Dodgers assuming over $300 million in future checks to their new players. For an ownership group that overpaid to acquire the Dodgers, it will be interesting to see just how much further this team presses their financial limits—if it has any, that is.

Sorry, Alfredo, the One-Way to L.A. is Full
The drama continued in Boston even after the Red Sox’ blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Reliever Alfredo Aceves was suspended three games for “conduct detrimental to the team” when he angrily confronted Valentine for not being used with a save on the line during Friday’s 4-3 win over Kansas City. (Closing duties went instead to Andrew Bailey, who Aceves was filling in for while sitting out the first four months with injury.) Aceves is lucky to not already have been demoted from the closer spot, with numbers detrimental to the team: A 2-8 record, seven blown saves and a 4.60 ERA.

Always Assume?
This week’s ousting of 39-year-old Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon for illegal performance enhancement—a week after breakout star Melky Cabrera was nailed across the bay in San Francisco—not only has added yet more pressure upon baseball to consider harsher penalties for such users, but is also bound to cast instant suspicion upon anyone already known to be legally pushing the limits to better themselves.

Consider this: Of the five players testing positive for PED use this year, two of them had fought off accusations of tempting fate. Outfielder Marlon Byrd, released by the Chicago Cubs earlier this year, was given a 50-game suspension shortly after it had been revealed he was working with ex-BALCO crook Victor Conte. Yes, everyone quickly notes that Conte had nothing to do with Byrd’s actions and the guilt-by-association theory is therefore unfair, but you have to think that if Byrd was enlisting this guy, he wasn’t afraid to take chances.

As for Colon, baseball had investigated a cutting-edge procedure he underwent in 2010 from a Dominican doctor previously linked to Human Growth Hormone (HGH) distribution. That treatment is not considered to be at the root of Colon’s suspension that, as in Cabrera’s case, involved excessive levels of testosterone.

Colon’s suspension will provide an unwelcome challenge to the A’s surprising run at a postseason spot, as the young squad now loses a veteran presence and a solid contributor to its starting rotation.

Pardon the Insinuation
ESPN’s Skip Bayless committed what should be a cardinal sin in the media by suggesting, without evidence, that Derek Jeter, leading the majors in hits at age 38, is taking HGH to fuel his late-career surge. A polite but perturbed Jeter brushed off the charge and added, “Maybe Skip should be tested.”

Sugarland Daddy
Roger Clemens, now 50 years of age, took the mound this past Saturday for the Sugarland Skeeters of the independent minor Atlantic League and pitched 3.1 sharp innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two and walking none before a sellout crowd of 7,700 in Sugarland, a suburb of Houston.

Clemens’ fastball topped out at 88 MPH, well shy of the 90+ heat he threw into his 40s, but the cameo was successful enough that the Houston Astros—who could use a little PR, not to mention a little pitching—could leave the door open for a possible appearance by Clemens late in the year, as they have already intimated. If that happens, Clemens’ eligibility for the Hall of Fame could be set back another five years—and that may just be fine with Clemens, recently acquitted for lying to Congress when so many Cooperstown voters believe he got away with it. Time heals not just wounds, but bad vibes.

Billy the Very Fast Kid
Baseball history was made this past week in Pensacola, Florida when Billy Hamilton stole his 146th base of the minor league season, establishing an all-time high for organized baseball. The 21-year-old Hamilton has hit .320 split between Class-A Bakersfield and Class-AA Pensacola in the Cincinnati organization with 149 total steals and 107 runs in 124 games; the Reds may call him up for the September stretch run, likely as a pinch-runner.

M's Heart NY
If there’s something wrong in your neighborhood, who ya’ gonna call? The New York Yankees! That’s been the mantra for the Seattle Mariners, who have now twice benefitted from trades with the Bronx Bombers. Since dealing off matinee idol Ichiro Suzuki in mid-July, the Mariners are 19-11—and although Suzuki has revived himself with a .300 average and three homers in pinstripes, the team has been a middling 16-15.

At least the Yankees are getting something of a result out of the swap, compared to the previous deal between the two teams—the one that sent Jesus Montero (.260, 14 home runs) to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda, who arrived to Yankee camp overweight, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery before the season began, and this past week was tagged with a DUI arrest in Tampa.

If You Can't Beat Lisa Whelchel, Forget Cooperstown
After going nose-to-nose with Barry Bonds for six years, slogging through the jungles of the Philippines may be a breeze by comparison. Former second baseman and 2000 NL MVP Jeff Kent has been selected to this year’s roll call of competitors in the granddaddy of modern reality TV shows, Survivor. Kent will attempt to cut it with an assortment of other characters including former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel, the former Miss Delaware, a cosmetologist, a bartender, a tire repairman and a sex therapist. (Somewhere, Jose Canseco must be yelling out, “How come they didn’t call me?!”) All we know is this: Kent’s chances of winning will be handicapped if the agenda calls for washing a truck (or, unofficially, popping a wheelie on a motorcycle).

Keep Your Fingers Crossed for the Boss
Baseball union head Michael Weiner has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and began undergoing treatment expected to last more than a month. The condition apparently hasn’t crippled the 50-year-old Weiner’s day-to-day abilities; just a day after treatment began, he had a conference call with player reps from all 30 MLB teams.

Happy Birthday, Now Scram!
Randy Wolf received an unexpected gift from the Milwaukee Brewers on his 36th birthday this past Wednesday: His outright release. After two solid years with the Brewers, the veteran southpaw had only won one of his last 19 starts and was 3-10 on the year with a terrible 5.69 ERA. He will still be paid the remainder of his $9.5 million contract for the season.

Wounded of the Week
It was a frustrating week for many star players trying to rev back up to everyday speed. Jose Bautista returned to the Toronto Blue Jays after a five-week absence from a wrist injury, only to reinjure it two games in; he’s back on the disabled list. In Boston—oops, in Los Angeles—outfielder Carl Crawford has called it a season after opting for Tommy John surgery (a rarity for a non-pitcher) on his left elbow; his recovery is expected to be anywhere from six-to-nine months. One of Crawford’s new Dodger teammates, pitcher Chad Billingsley, is back on the shelf with a recurring elbow issue. And Atlanta pitcher Ben Sheets, effective in his return to the mound after a year-plus absence, has shoulder inflammation that will cost him at least 15 days.

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

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
Monday, August 20
In a terrific pitching duel featuring two dominant southpaws, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner throws eight shutout innings and outlasts the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw at Los Angeles, 2-1. Angel Pagan scores both Giant runs on a single and sacrifice fly, both off the bat of Pablo Sandoval. It’s only the third time since 1900 that both starting pitchers have each struck out at least ten and walked none in the same game. The Giants retake the NL West lead over the Dodgers by a half-game.

Pittsburgh starting pitcher Kevin Correia allows three runs (two earned) in 4.1 innings in a 3-1 loss at San Diego one day after throwing two innings and 24 pitches in a 19-inning marathon at St. Louis.

Tuesday, August 21
In his first start since throwing a perfect game, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez allows a single to the first Cleveland batter (Jason Kipnis) he faces but settles in to toss 7.2 strong innings, allowing a run on seven hits and a walk as the Mariners defeat the Indians, 5-1. The presence of King Felix on a Tuesday evening attracts nearly 40,000 fans to Safeco Field—almost double the crowd count for his perfecto, and far more than the 14,687 who showed up for the series opener with the Indians the night before.

Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson, making his first start in 14 months after undergoing elbow surgery, survives a shaky first inning and allows just two more hits over the next six innings—both of them erased on the A’s first triple play since 2000, when Randy Velarde turned it all by himself—as the A’s take care of the Minnesota Twins at the Coliseum, 4-1.

The Baltimore Orioles defeat the Rangers at Arlington, 5-3, thanks to a four-run fifth inning capped by Nate McLouth’s first home run of the year. The one-time Pittsburgh all-star, who has crashed upon hard times since a midseason trade to Atlanta three years ago, is batting .255 in 16 games for the Orioles after bombing with a powerless .140 average in a comeback effort with the Pirates to start the season.

Wednesday, August 22
Adrian Beltre hits three home runs in the first four innings—including two in a nine-run fourth—and knocks in five runs to help the Rangers roll over the Orioles at Arlington, 12-3. He’s now one of four players to have hit three homers in both a regular season game and a postseason game; the other three are Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and George Brett—all members of the Hall of Fame.

The New York Yankees are the latest team to believe in the young, tough Chris Sale. The 23-year-old lefty strikes out 13 Yankees and allows just a run on three hits in 7.2 innings to help the Chicago White Sox finish a sweep of AL-East leading New York with a 2-1 decision. Sale is now 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 153 innings.

The Giants finish off a sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles with an 8-4 win and extend their lead in the NL West to 2.5 games. Matt Cain picks up his 13th win and part-time infielder Joaquin Arias knocks in five runs with two doubles and a homer.

Thursday, August 23
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim defeat the Red Sox in a wild, ten-inning 14-13 game at Boston that includes 38 hits, five homers (one of which, Vernon Wells' game-tying shot in the ninth, should have been overruled as a double), five lead changes, 15 pitchers, four blown saves and only one inning where a run wasn’t scored. ESPN notes that it’s the first time in Red Sox franchise history that it has collected at least 13 runs and 18 hits and lost. Angel starter C.J. Wilson stretches his winless streak to 11, the longest on the club since Jim Abbott’s 13-game drought in 1996.

Friday, August 24
Two days after bashing three home runs, Adrian Beltre hits for the cycle—and Texas starting pitcher Mitch Harrison takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the Rangers’ 8-0 romp of the Twins at Arlington. It’s the second time in Beltre’s career that he’s hit for the cycle, and he’s the second player ever (Joe DiMaggio, 1948) to earn a cycle and a three-homer performance within a week.

The Orioles, playing their first game since Beltre’s three homers against them, benefit from a three-homer performance of their own as Chris Davis goes deep thrice in Baltimore’s 6-4 victory over Toronto at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It’s the first time in major league history that a team has been involved in back-to-back games featuring a three-homer effort from any player. Toronto slugger Jose Bautista, playing his first game in over five weeks after injuring his wrist, goes hitless in four trips to the plate with two strikeouts; he’ll reinjure the wrist a day later and return to the disabled list.

Break out the champagne! The Houston Astros, who were playing as if they would never win again this year, get six snappy innings out of starting pitcher Jordan Lyles and a home run from recently acquired Tyler Greene to defeat the slumping Mets at New York, 3-1, to break a seven-game losing streak. The win also assures that the Astros (40-86) won’t win fewer games than the 1962 Mets, with 36 games to go.

Saturday, August 25
It’s a good start for the Dodgers with their new influx of Red Sox blood. Adrian Gonzalez smacks a three-run homer in his first at-bat in a Los Angeles uniform as the Dodgers jump out to a 4-1 first-inning lead and glide from there to an 8-2 win over Miami behind Clayton Kershaw’s eight solid innings.

In the semi-final of the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania, Petaluma, California trails Goodlettsville, Tennessee by ten runs heading into the final inning—and ties the game. The elation of the moment lasts exactly that long; Goodlettsville responds with nine runs in the first extra inning (the seventh) and holds on to win, 24-15. Lorenzo Butler leads the way for Goodlettsville with an all-time tournament record-tying three home runs—and a record-breaking nine RBIs.

Sunday, August 26
The Chicago Cubs defeat the Colorado Rockies in a rain-shortened 5-0 result thanks to 6.2 shutout innings from pitcher Chris Volstad, who snaps a 24-start winless streak. Volstad’s last win came on July 10, 2011 as a member of the Florida Marlins. The major league record for most starts without a win remains at 28, shared by three pitchers.

Philadelphia pitcher Cliff Lee ends a drought of his own by tossing seven sharp innings to defeat Washington, 4-1, and win his first game at home in nearly a year. It’s only Lee’s third overall W in 23 starts this season, all despite a decent 3.67 ERA.

You're Safe!
Umpire Jim Joyce is forever etched in baseball annals for making a blown call at the absolute worst moment—on what should have been the final out of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game that wasn’t in 2010. But Jayne Powers will forever have Joyce etched in her life for, basically, saving it. This past Monday before a game in Phoenix, Powers—a game-day employee for the Arizona Diamondbacks—suffered cardiac arrest in the ballpark tunnel and stopped breathing. To the rescue came Joyce, walking nearby; he began administering CPR while singing the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive to help give pace through the compressions. With the help of paramedics arriving moments later, Joyce was able to bring Powers back to life.

At last report, Powers was taken to a hospital where she had a pacemaker implanted, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Trouble in the Booth
When running a team in which prima donna instincts are bound to be present in your clubhousem you’d think the last thing you need to worry about is the state of being of your broadcasters. But the Arizona Diamondbacks are likely to feel more inclined to step up the vetting process for replacements of two members of their broadcast team. Earlier this year, they indefinitely suspended play-by-play man Daron Sutton (son of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton) without a public explanation—though reports say that Sutton and the Diamondbacks were at odds over booth apparel. And this past week, TV analyst and former major leaguer Mark Grace took a leave of absence in the aftermath of his second DUI arrest in 15 months. Local police said that Grace was driving on a suspended license, an expired license plate and without an interlock device—which he was supposed to have as a condition to continue driving after his first DUI.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Howie Kendrick of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 13 games. The 29-year-old second baseman hasn’t been spectacular during his run, but he’s been consistent, knocking out anywhere from one-to-two hits a game. In fact, he’s only gone hitless in two of his last 25 games.

TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!

Opinion: The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look at the best, worst and most surprising players from each team at the midseason point is now lie in our Opinions section, check it out!.

Now Playing at TGG
In Ed Attanasio's newest addition to TGG's They Were There section, Chuck Stevens talks about being the first major leaguer to get a hit off of Satchel Paige, his life and times living in Hollywood as a Pacific Coast League player, and his role in establishing the Professional Baseball Players' Association, which helps former ballplayers in need.