The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: August 23-29, 2010
Mannywood Shuts Down Strasmus Shuts Down The Truth About MLB's Profiteers
What's Wrong With Timmy? Hank Aaron Catches Up With "Those Guys"

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Baseball's Ten Most Memroable Home Runs
Our list of ten long balls that are the most deserving for their fame, importance and pure spectacle. Check it out now!

After Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay
As baseball struggles to grasp video replay, here's a suggestion on how to expand upon it and make it efficient—if not flawless. Check it out now!

The End of Mannywood
Manny Ramirez’s brief and bittersweet tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers came to the kind of end that can only be characterized as predictable. As a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded at Colorado on Sunday, the virtually anarchic 38-year old argued the first-pitch called strike and was summarily ejected. It was as if Ramirez wanted to make a statement of sorts to the powers-that-be that held his near future in their hands, much the way he pouted his way out of Boston two years ago.

The Dodgers, bracing for possible economic hard times as the divorce trial between Dodger owner Frank McCourt and wife Jamie gets started this week, placed Ramirez on waivers earlier this past week—and he was claimed by the Chicago White Sox, who were given exclusivity to negotiate a trade. The Dodgers, very likely in an attempt to keep the fragile Ramirez (and their bargaining power) healthy, used him sparingly after the announcement of the Sox’ waiver claim. Dodger manager Joe Torre said that the imminent deal with Chicago had nothing to do with keeping him benched, calling that strategy “just my dumb move.” Hard to believe, yes—but remember, Torre once also batted Alex Rodriguez eighth in a playoff game.

Ramirez’s Southland tales consisted of a series of chapters worthy of a rollercoaster ride. There were those incredible first two months as a Dodger at the end of the 2008 season, when he immediately won Dodger fans by hitting near .400 with power after his trade from Boston; there was the bizarre use of female fertility drugs—likely to reduce the effects of steroid use—in early 2009 that resulted in a 50-game suspension; and there was the Ramirez afterward, not as effective and prone to injury, especially this year with multiple trips to the disabled list.

Who knows if Dodger fans will miss Ramirez. They undoubtedly will miss the bravado of his high times. But they won’t miss the baggage that came with him, the baggage that Boston Red Sox fans warned would be part of the deal. Let that also be a warning to fans on the South Side of Chicago.

We'll D.C. You in 2012
Yes, Virginia…and Maryland, and D.C.: There will be no Strasmas in Washington for the rest of the year—and 2011, for that matter. The Nationals this past week received shattering news that rookie pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, the future (if not the present) face of the franchise, will very likely require Tommy John surgery on his right forearm that will keep him from returning to regular season action until 2012. Strasburg keeled over in pain after throwing his 56th pitch of the night on August 21 at Philadelphia; a MRI later revealed a torn right UCL (ulnar collateral ligament).

With that, Strasburg’s 2010 campaign ends with major disappointment, but the results beforehand confirmed that the tall 22-year old belonged; in 12 starts, he was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA, striking out 92 batters in 68 innings while walking just 17. Strasburg will get Rookie of the Year votes, but this injury will likely keep him from winning the award in a year unusually crowded with top-notch first-year players who’ve put in more service.

What I Meant to Say Was...
Nobody probably feels worse about Strasburg’s injury than Washington color analyst and former closer Rob Dibble, who ridiculed Strasburg for being too undaring about playing with pain…all before it was revealed that Strasburg was likely headed for Tommy John surgery. In the aftermath, Dibble apparently asked the Nationals to take a two-game leave of absence, leading team president Stan Kasten to make a statement that came off as if he was turning the tables on Dibble: “Rob asked for some time off…Perhaps he’s not feeling well. But I’m not a doctor, nor have I seen his records. So I shouldn’t say anything more about it.”

A Walk-off Homer—With a Two-Minute Wait at Second
For the first time since video review of home run calls began exactly two years ago, an initial ruling was overturned on the final at-bat to directly determine the outcome of a game. It happened on Sunday at Atlanta, where the Braves came into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing Florida, 6-4. After Matt Diaz hit a two-run shot to tie the game, Brian McCann came up with two outs and launched a deep line drive that ricocheted back onto the field of play—except that the umpires initially ruled that ball hit off the outfield wall, not off the top of the wall and then a retaining wall behind that. McCann was convinced the ball was gone, and the umpires heeded his pleas to check out the replay—which they did, overruling the initial call to give the Braves a 7-6 win.

From Cy to Sigh
It’s official: The alarm bells are sounding in San Francisco over two-time defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. With the velocity of his fastball diminished and his pitch placement going more and more awry, Lincecum’s effectiveness has greatly shrunk—and it’s clearly evident in his numbers. In the month of August, Lincecum lost all five of his starting assignments with an eye-opening 7.82 ERA, topping his previous worst monthly mark of 7.71 in June 2007—just a month after he arrived in the majors. If Lincecum is pitching with pain, only he appears to know about it, but this sudden stretch of futility is troubling for a guy who’s been so constantly good and is still only 26. If Lincecum is smart, he’s long since turned off the radio and avoided the hundreds and hundreds of opinions offered by local sports talk hosts and callers over what he needs to do.

Early Arrival at 400
Albert Pujols, possibly on a career path to the all-time home run record, became the third youngest player in major league history to reach 400 homers when he accomplished the milestone on Thursday at Washington. Only Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. eclipsed the 400 mark at an earlier age than the St. Louis slugger, who was 30 years and 222 days old at the time of the blast.

Early Arrival at 1,000
On the pitching side, Seattle ace Felix Hernandez became the fourth youngest pitcher, at 24 years and 139 days old, to reach the 1,000-strikeout plateau this past Wednesday at Boston. Only Bob Feller (who reached the mark at age 22), Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden got there at an earlier age.

A Boost for A-Rod's Ego
The New York Yankees’ 3-2 loss at Toronto this past Monday ended an unbeaten run of 12 games this year in which Alex Rodriguez (currently on the disabled list) did not play.

Los Angeles starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has yet to get a hit in 43 at-bats this season, which at this stage is the most by anyone since 1975 when Randy Tate of the New York Mets went 0-for-41 in his one and only major league season. Bob Buhl holds the all-time mark for most at-bats without a hit in one season went he was 0-for-70 for the 1962 Milwaukee Braves.

Relax, It's Just Philly Fans...
Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan was suspended for seven games by MLB this past week after he intentionally threw a ball into the Citizens Bank Park bleachers at Philadelphia and struck a fan in the head on August 21. Morgan’s toss likely wasn’t the casual, charitable toss a major leaguer often makes to give the fans a souvenir, but instead an angry throw with more velocity in response to numerous Phillie fans in the section who’d been giving him a hard time; unfortunately for Morgan, he hit someone who wasn’t involved in the heckling and didn’t see the ball coming. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 37-year old fan—who wished to remain anonymous because he’s already received a lot of grief from friends and family for being “the guy responsible”—held no animosity then or now towards Morgan and will press no charges. Morgan, meanwhile, is appealing the suspension.

Extra Bases, But Not Extra Credit
For the first time in National League history, a team with all nine members of its starting lineup collected at least one extra base hit—and lost. The Atlanta Braves were that team, and after jumping out to a 10-1 lead at Colorado on Wednesday thanks to all those long hits, they blew the lead and the game, losing 12-10. Only three other NL teams have had each member of its starting lineup nab an extra-base hit—but in each of those instances, the team won by 16 or more runs.

The Gopher Ball Catches Up
Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson went into Friday’s game against Florida having not allowed a home run in nearly 200 straight plate appearances against him—and gave up back-to-back blasts to Cameron Maybin and Logan Morrison to start the game. Hanson eventually allowed four homers in five-plus innings and the Braves lost to the Marlins, 7-1.

Raising the Rays' Bar
Tampa Bay pitching records have been dropping like flies this past year, which really is an indication of just how low the bar had been set through a brief and mostly horrendous history of the (Devil) Rays. Earlier in August, David Price set the franchise season record for wins with 15, and on Sunday, James Shields set the career mark—with 56. No other major league team has an all-time leader with fewer victories.

Forget Prison—Send Him to "The View"
Nine months in prison for assaulting a girlfriend apparently didn’t make former major league pitcher Ambiorix Burgos a reformed citizen. A free man back in his native Dominican Republic, Burgos was arrested and charged with kidnapping his ex-wife and forcing her to eat rat poison. What makes the kidnapping all the more brazen is that Burgos took her from the home of a prosecutor who had been trying to keep her safe after she had been recently threatened by the one-time closer for the Kansas City Royals. No word on how the ex-wife is doing, but Burgos will spend the next three months back in the pen (a Dominican one) while prosecutors prep their case against him.

He Said What?
“I didn’t use it. No comment. I was surprised.” New York Yankee rookie pitcher Ivan Nora, both commenting and not commenting on a report that MLB is investigating whether he was injected by a minor league teammate with B-12, a method of taking the vitamin that is illegal unless performed by a doctor.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at just 12 games, leaving the ghost of Joe DiMaggio quite content that Joltin’ Joe’s 56-game record will remain intact into 2011 (and very likely beyond that, given how few streaks this year have even reached 20 games). During his run, Cabrera is hitting .386 with five homers.

Wounded of the Week
Outside of the seismic news of Stephen Strasburg’s likely absence from Tommy John surgery until 2012, there was very little other shaking going on the major league injury front this past week. San Diego received a jolt of bad news by losing infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. for 15 days with a sprained elbow; the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds lost two supporting players (reliever Mike Leake and back-up veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds); the Chicago White Sox lost a valuable bullpen presence when set-up man J.J. Putz again made the disabled list, while another set-up man from another contender—Texas’ Frank Francisco—also is out for at least two weeks with a lat strain.

Baseball's Bottom Line Exposed
For many years now, Major League Baseball has grumbled at Forbes’ annual listing of baseball’s most profitable teams, claiming that such findings are based on erroneous data and presents no truth that teams are operating plainly in the black as Forbes would have us believe. Well, this past week, crippling evidence showing detailed financials of five MLB teams was posted on and showed us that everything Forbes had told us was true all along.

Two of the teams exposed—the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates—are a particular sore point for MLB. It’s no secret that the Marlins have been reaping massive profits and hoarding them without bothering to spend on more talent; we took Marlin owner Jeffrey Loria to task three years ago on that very subject. But the controversy that has erupted in Miami over the released documents is more related to the ballpark that is now being built for the Marlins—a ballpark being erected not at the expense of the Marlins’ wealthy bankroll, but almost totally from taxpayers who will ultimately pay nearly $2.5 billion once all the debt is collected in 2049. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan minced no words whatsoever when he began his blistering column this past week in response to the financial leaks: “The swindlers who run the Florida Marlins got exposed…They are as bad as anyone on Wall Street, scheming, misleading and ultimately sticking taxpayers with a multibillion-dollar tab. Corporate fraud is alive and well in Major League Baseball.”

Florida politicians involved in forging the Marlin ballpark deal said they were not given access to the team’s financial records; had they been given a look, chances are the deal would have been less likely to be approved—unless the Marlins ponied up more bucks for the project.

Meanwhile, the anger in Pittsburgh is focused more on the fact that the Pirates have been clearly profitbale while the team continues to lose, as it has for 18 straight seasons now—with no end in sight, regardless of the promising young talent beginning to blossom. The reaction of long-suffering Pirate fans is beyond obvious: The team is unwilling to spend while the team continues to drag at the bottom of the standings. Even some former Pirate players agree; Jose Bautista, now slugging away in Toronto, said publicly that he felt the Bucs could have easily spent more money on players while he was present in Pittsburgh from 2005-08.

MLB says it has launched an investigation to find out who ratted them out. That almost sounds like the thief who gets caught with the money and angrily promises to find out who called the cops on him.

Alas, Poor Sammy
Sammy Sosa gave to the Cubs…and now the Cubs aren’t giving back to him. That’s what the former slugger claims in an interview published in Chicago Magazine. Once beloved and embraced at Wrigley Field with a happy-go-lucky disposition compared to Ernie “Let’s Play Two” Banks, Sosa wore out his welcome in his waning Chicago days, alienating management and teammates before moving to Baltimore. (His likely steroid use hasn’t helped present perceptions of him, either.)

Still, Sosa feels the earlier, fun times warrant him a chance to be honored by the Cubs, to throw out a first pitch, to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch. But the Cubs haven’t picked up the phone. Maybe if Sosa came clean as his 1998 home run-breaking partner Mark McGwire did earlier this year and fessed up to the performance enhancement—the Cubs might reconsider. But Sosa, who, if the leaks are correct, is the only player known to have taken steroids and use a corked bat in the same year (2003), blew off any chance he would go that route. When the magazine asked for Sosa to comment on his appearance on the secretive 2003 performance enhancement list, he replied: “I don’t want to talk about that. Let’s talk about something else.”

Who Were Those Guys?
As Hank Aaron rounded the bases for the 715th time on April 8, 1974—breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time career home run record—two young, long-haired white guys ran out of the stands and approached Aaron as he reached second base, shooting up the heart rates of on-field security detail who had been briefed on the racist threats directed at Aaron during his quest to surpass Ruth. But the two guys—Cliff Courtenay and Britt Gaston—had no evil agenda and went over the top to congratulate Aaron on his achievement, even if it meant a night of jailtime for both. This past week, Aaron, Courtenay and Gaston were reunited at the request of Aaron, as they all sat down before the media to answer questions for 45 minutes at Atlanta’s Turner Field and recall the happy memories that at the time were filled with tension. Courtenay and Gaston, now in their mid-50s, flanked Aaron at a podium and could have been mistaken for front office bigwigs for the Braves. Aaron laughed off the moment back in 1974, remarking, “It was just two kids having fun.”

No-No, Not
For the second time in August, a starting pitcher was removed from a game with a no-hitter intact. Earlier in the month, Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey was taken out after seven innings because the Twins worried that a tender elbow might get the better of him; this past Monday, against those same Twins, Texas starter Rich Harden was removed with two outs in the seventh despite not allowing a hits he had walked five and thrown 111 pitches. As with the Slowey game, the bullpen could not maintain the no-hitter, though the Rangers got close; Neftali Feliz gave up a one-out, ninth-inning single to Joe Mauer to end the quest. The Rangers still won, 4-0.

The Speed of Lies?
Last week we mentioned the likely inaccuracies of ballpark speed gun readings after the New York Mets’ Bobby Parnell allegedly reached 103 MPH during a game at Houston. That got beat this past Friday at a Triple-A contest in Louisville when Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban émigré who attracted as much spring training buzz as Stephen Strasburg, hit 105 on the radar during a game against Columbus. Chapman was making a rare relief appearance, pitching one inning—and apparently putting everything he had into his fastballs, hence the high readings—but again, your results may vary.

No baseball player has ever been recorded, officially or otherwise, throwing a pitch faster than 105 MPH; Bob Feller once claimed he was clocked at 107, but analysts have since recalibrated the equipment used (understanding its faulty nature in later years) and readjusted that number to 99. It has been said that no human has the ability to throw harder than 105, but the radar readings at the ballpark may have something to say about that, convincingly or not.

Aerial Error
It’s funny only because nobody got hurt; before Monday’s game at Arlington between the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins, one of a group of skydivers flying into Rangers Ballpark got his chute stuck on a flagpole atop the scoreboard but was able to set his feet down and walk away without incident.

Balking on the Edge
If you’re going to blow a save, better to go down fighting then to have it done like this: On Friday at San Diego, Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge had the Padres down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth when the ball slipped briefly forward from his mitt, causing him to step forward and stop—resulting in a balk. With the bases loaded, the tying run walked home on Lidge’s costly flub. The Phillies rebounded and won the game in 12 innings, 3-2.

Don't You Know Who I Am?
Thursday was not a good day for Milwaukee ace pitcher Yovani Gallardo. He got knocked about at Miller Park by the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving up six runs in six-plus innings and was pegged with a 7-1 loss. After the game, Gallardo and Brewer team attendant Alex Sanchez, walking together after a very late bite on Milwaukee’s south side, were robbed at gunpoint by a man who took money, jewelry and left a head injury on Sanchez’s head after striking him with the gun. Both men were okay but shaken from the ordeal; there have been no arrests in the case.

A Swing And a Milestone Miss
Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard, in the midst of a terrible slump, struck out for the 1,000th time in his career this past Friday at San Diego. It took Howard just 843 major league games to get to quadruple-figures; only Rob Deer did it faster, reaching 1,000 in 828 appearances. At his present rate, Arizona’s Mark Reynolds will likely blow away Deer’s mark sometime in early 2012.

I Signed Up For This?!
Philadelphia pitcher Roy Oswalt faced off against his former Houston teammates this past Tuesday—but not in the way he had expected. With the game going deep into extra innings and the Phillies out of position players, Oswalt was called on to play left field, where he did make one catch (to a standing ovation from Phillie fans) and was forced to bat representing the tying run with two out in the bottom of the 16th inning. He grounded out, and the Phillies lost, 4-2.

Out of Africa

Good TGG friend Steve Friedman (above, far left) took a summer break in Africa and climbed to the top of 20,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, the continent’s tallest mountain. We think he’s the first to ever reach the top wearing a San Francisco Giant cap, but if anyone else wants to claim that honor, let us know.

Now Playing at TGG
From the Opinion section, our choices for the ten most memorable home runs ever hit. Check it out now.

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