This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: August 26-September 1, 2013
Ten Questions For the Home Stretch Is Wladimir Balentien for Real?
Brandon Phillips' OBP Meltdown What Broadcast Rights Cost in 1961

Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Brandon Moss, Oakland A's

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
22 8 8 1 0 4 11 5 1 0 1

If the A’s meet up with Detroit again in the postseason, the Tigers will have nightmarish flashbacks to this past week and be very wary of the left-handed slugger from Georgia. Moss went deep four times during a three-game spree in the Motor City—including a big day on Wednesday when he went deep twice and drove in six runs. With Yoenis Cespedes sputtering and Josh Reddick on the shelf, the A’s are certain to welcome continued contributions of this magnitude from Moss for the stretch run.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
29 7 13 5 0 0 7 0 0 0 2

The studious second baseman saw his homework pay off this past week with a stack of hits, 11 alone over the week’s final four games to raise his season average to .283. Murphy has become the Mets’ most reliable soldier and is being counted on to put some life and visibility into a team that’s lost David Wright, Matt Harvey (both to injuries) and Marlon Byrd (traded).


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
27 0 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0

As Evan goes, so go the Rays. Case in point: This past week. Longoria struggled and the Rays followed suit. Two singles, two double play grounders and nine strikeouts for the Tampa Bay star is not the mix the team wants to absorb as they fight the tough fight to make it to the postseason. For all it’s worth, Longoria historically has been close to his best in September, so the Rays are rubbing their lucky rabbit’s feet and hoping he snaps out of this quickly.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
18 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

The third-year shortstop is on the Giants principally for his magical (if sometimes error-prone) defense, so anything he does at the plate is usually considered a bonus—and he hasn’t disappointed for much of the year with an average that’s strayed too far south of the .300 mark. But this week was a different story; his only hit, ironically, broke up Jhoulys Chacin’s bid for no-hitter on Wednesday at Colorado. So long as his Gold Glove-level play at short keeps up, the Giants will tolerate this.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
James Shields, Kansas City Royals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 14.1 7 1 1 5 0 0 0 0 16

The veteran right-hander continued his trend as the Royals’ king of the road this past week, looking very sharp in starting assignments at Minnesota and Toronto to improve his road figures to 7-3 with a terrific 2.26 ERA. (Comparatively, he’s 2-5 in 13 home starts with a 4.13 ERA.) As the Royals continue their longshot pursuit of the postseason, they’ll continue to lean on Shields to get them to that rare promised land—home, away, wherever.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3

The game’s best closer had a simply stellar week in which he allowed nobody to reach base while racking up a win and two saves; as long as the injury-throttled Braves can limp their way to the ninth inning with a slim lead, they’ll be able to count on the 25-year-old flamethrower from Alabama to finish the job. Kimbrel has appeared in 25 games since the Fourth of July and hasn’t allowed a run, with opponents hitting just over the .100 mark against him.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 3 11 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 2

Does King Felix have the regal clout to successfully push Texas out of the AL West? He’s probably wishing that after his latest meltdown against the division-leading Rangers, as he got bombed once more—this time in Seattle, where he couldn’t be saved by the cool Northwest weather and the yellow shirt-clad fans sitting in Kings Court passionately cheering him on. Here’s the stark scoop: Hernandez is 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against Texas this year—and 12-4 with a 2.19 mark against everyone else.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 2 8 9 9 2 0 0 1 0 2

This past Wednesday, in the heat of the pennant race, was not a good time for the NL co-leader in victories to fall apart. Facing off against the Reds and looking to help the Cardinals finish off a three-game sweep, Wainwright was instead swept away with tidal-wave force from a relentless Cincinnati assault that KO’d him before he could register an out in the third inning. It was the worst of both worlds for Wainwright: His shortest start of his career, and the most runs he’s ever given up.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Oakland A's (6-1)

Baseball’s ultimate overachievers (with all due apologies to the Rays, but the A’s swept them this past weekend) continued to astound and buzz around the rival Rangers like a pesky fly. If not for a Torii Hunter walk-off on Thursday, the A’s would have finished undefeated in an impressive week where they made minced meat of the playoff-worthy Tigers and Rays. The Rangers come in for three to start this week; if there’s even one unsold seat at the Coliseum, the Bay Area should be ashamed of itself.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Atlanta Braves (5-1)

Their star players may be dropping like flies, but just when you think the Braves are ready to hit the wall, they smash right through it. Atlanta averaged only 2.5 runs per game this past week, but only lost once thanks to outstanding pitching that limited the visiting Indians to just three total runs in a three-game sweep and handled Miami well on the weekend before finally collapsing with a 7-0 Sunday loss. With a massive NL East lead, the Braves might be wise to give their regulars more than just a little rest every now and then.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Tampa Bay Rays (1-6)

A lousy week for Joe Maddon’s squad began when the Rays were forced to interrupt a short homestand and take a day trip to Kansas City, where they got beat up 11-1 in a makeup affair; that loss seemed to mess up a pretty decent Mojo the Rays had built up a week earlier when it prevailed against AL East competition. The big problem was an offense that never got out of second gear (or even first—see Evan Longoria above). The Rays still have a decent hold on the second wild card spot, but there’s a whole lot of contenders growing bigger in the rear view mirror.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami Marlins (1-5)

The Fish didn’t get squished—losing four one-run games this past week—but it still was bad business as usual for a team that’s pitching halfway decent baseball but unable to put up any kind of threat at the plate, even with one of the game’s most fearsome players in Giancarlo Stanton. To wit: Until their 7-0 win on Sunday at Atlanta, the Marlins had only scored 18 runs in their previous ten games. It won’t be long, precious few Marlins fans, before the season and the misery with it ends.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, August 26
Derek Jeter makes his third return this season from injury and Alex Rodriguez hits his 650th career home run, but neither are enough as the New York Yankees fall at Toronto, 5-2. It’s the Blue Jays’ first win against the Yankees after ten straight losses.

The St. Louis Cardinals begin an intense two-week stretch of play against fellow NL Central contenders Cincinnati and Pittsburgh by defeating the Reds at Busch Stadium, 8-6. A five-run, seventh-inning rally, capped by Allen Craig’s first career grand slam, is the difference.

Chris Carter connects on two homers—the second capping a ninth-inning rally to break an 8-8 tie—and drives in four as the Houston Astros defeat the White Sox at Chicago, 10-8. Six of the 18 runs are brought in without the benefit of a RBI, the most in any game since 2005.


Tuesday, August 27
The Cardinals roll over the Reds, 6-1 and, combined with Pittsburgh’s 7-6 home loss to lowly Milwaukee, push them a game and a half into NL Central lead over the Bucs; the Reds are now 4.5 back. Matt Carpenter scores the first run for the Cardinals and becomes the first major leaguer to reach 100 on the year; St. Louis starter Joe Kelly improves to 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA since the All-Star Break.

Alfonso Soriano belts two homers to reach 400 on his career, and Andy Pettitte sets a Yankee record by reaching ten wins for the 14th time in pinstripes, helping the Yankees knock off the Blue Jays at Toronto, 7-1.

Shane Victorino has a monster night for Boston, reaching base five times on two homers, a ground rule double, a walk and a hit-by-pitch to lead the Red Sox to a crunching 13-2 rout of the Orioles at Fenway Park to extend their AL East lead over Tampa Bay (who lose at home to Los Angeles of Anaheim) to 2.5 games.

Jonathon Niese throws his first career shutout and caps the night’s scoring with a bases-clearing double in the sixth inning to give the New York Mets a 5-0 win over Philadelphia at Citi Field. The game is held on Marlon Byrd T-Shirt Night, honoring a Mets player traded earlier in the day to the Pirates.

San Francisco’s Hunter Pence hits the majors’ longest home run on the season to date when he clears Coors Field’s left-field bleachers and wide concourse behind it for a 476-foot first inning blast; Pablo Sandoval follows with a deep fly of his own, making it the first time the Giants have hit back-to-back homers in nearly a year. The Giants hold off the Colorado Rockies in Denver, 5-3.


Wednesday, August 28
The Texas Rangers get the best of Seattle ace Felix Hernandez…again. This time, King Felix can’t blame the hot and humid hitting conditions of Arlington as the Rangers come to Safeco Field and knock him out with nine runs before the end of the fourth inning, on their way to a 12-4 rout. It’s Hernandez’s 20th career loss against Texas (by far his most against any team) and is 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against the Rangers this year.

The Reds and Pirates shrink back the NL Central lead built up by the Cardinals early in the week. In St. Louis, the Reds hound ace starter Adam Wainwright for nine runs in just two innings and coast to a 10-0 drubbing of the Cardinals; back in Pittsburgh, the Pirates ease to a 7-1 win over the Brewers with the help of a three-run shot from Marlon Byrd, playing his first game in Pittsburgh after being traded from the Mets.

The Oakland A’s make it three straight over the Tigers at Detroit with a blunt show of force. Brandon Moss crunches two homers among four hits and knocks in six to lead a 21-hit attack for the A’s, who clobber the Tigers, 14-4 to remain 2.5 games behind Texas—but four games ahead of Cleveland for the final AL Wild Card spot.

After carrying a fever of 100.6 degrees the night before, Colorado pitcher Jhoulys Chacin takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Giants—the farthest any Rockies pitcher has gone at Coors Field without allowing a hit—before Brandon Crawford breaks it up with a two-out single. The bullpen takes over and nearly blows it, eking out a 5-4 victory. It’s a more formality but nonetheless official:

The Houston Astros are mathematically eliminated from the 2013 postseason with a 6-1 loss at Chicago against Chris Sale and the White Sox.


Thursday, August 29
The Atlanta Braves become the majors’ first team this year guaranteed not to have a losing season. Kris Medlen throws seven shutout innings and Brian McCann provides all the offense with a three-run, third-inning homer to give the Braves their 81st win of the year, 3-1 over the Cleveland Indians at Turner Field.

Down by three runs in the ninth, facing a four-game home sweep by the A’s and without Miguel Cabrera (who leaves earlier after aggravating his sore abdomen), the Tigers storm back off Oakland closer Grant Balfour with a four-run rally capped by a walk-off, three-run homer from Torii Hunter to defeat the A’s, 7-6.


Friday, August 30
The Pirates begin a weekend home series against St. Louis and tie the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central with a 5-0 win behind eight strong shutout innings from Francisco Liriano, who improves to 15-6. Garrett Jones lifts the Bucs offensively with three hits (including a home run) and four RBIs.

The Reds, meanwhile, fall 3.5 games behind both teams as they get taken care of by the Rockies in Colorado, 9-6. Jorge De La Rosa wins his fifth straight start and improves to 15-6 on the year; Todd Helton, who turned 40 ten days earlier, smokes two homers with six RBIs for his first multi-homer game since 2011.

Playing in his first game in Oakland since rejoining the A’s from Washington earlier in the week, catcher Kurt Suzuki launches a three-run blast against Tampa Bay’s David Price that proves crucial in the A’s 4-3 win over the Rays in a battle of front-running wild card contenders. The victory pulls the A’s within two games of the AL West-leading Rangers, who lose at home to Minnesota, 3-2.

Taijuan Walker adds his name to the voluminous list of impressive debuts among major league starters this year. The 21-year-old right-hander gives up just one unearned run on two hits and a walk through five innings to earn the victory for the Mariners at Houston, 7-1. Only one other Seattle starting pitcher did not allow an earned run in his first appearance: Pat Rice, who won his first (and only) game against the Yankees in 1991.


Saturday, August 31
The Pirates take over first place in the NL Central as they pound St. Louis starter Lance Lynn with seven runs in the first three innings and breeze to a 7-1 win. Russell Martin’s three-run homer in the third represents the knockout punch for the Bucs, who are now just two wins away from ensuring their first non-losing season since 1992.

The Dodgers break a 1-1, eighth-inning tie on a Mark Ellis single and tip the Padres at Los Angeles, 2-1 for their 50th win in 63 games; that’s the most wins within such a stretch since the Mariners also won 50 of 63 while on their way to a 116-46 record in 2001. Ex-Giant Brian Wilson, in his fifth appearance for the Dodgers, earns his first decision.

Jake Peavy says hello to his old mates from Chicago and then pitches seven solid innings against the White Sox to give Boston a 7-2 victory at Fenway Park. It’s the 11th straight game in which Red Sox pitching has allowed three or fewer runs, the longest such streak for the team since 1988.


Sunday, September 1
On the eve of a crucial AL West series with Texas, the A’s finish off a sweep of the Rays with a 5-1 win and close to within a game of the Rangers, who lose in Arlington to the Twins, 4-2. A.J. Griffin throws seven strong innings and Coco Crisp extends to 14 games a streak of consecutive games in which Oakland has hit at least one homer.

The Cardinals salvage a game in their three-game series at Pittsburgh and defeat the Pirates with ease, 7-2, behind another stellar effort from rookie pitcher Joe Kelly, who’s now 7-1 with a 1.87 ERA since the start of June.

In the Rockies’ 7-4 home win over the Reds, Todd Helton reaches 2,500 career hits, all accumulated with Colorado. Larry Walker is second on the all-time Rockies list with 1,361.

Cleveland’s Mike Aviles becomes only the fifth player in major league history to account for all the game’s runs via a ninth-inning grand slam, as the Indians get past the Tigers at Detroit, 4-0. Reliever Joaquin Benoit is tagged with all four runs in the loss for the Tigers, who are without an injured Miguel Cabrera for the second straight day.


What Does September Hold?
As we enter the final month of the 2013 regular season, we came up with a list of ten intriguing storylines in search of a third act. Without any further pomp and circumstance, here they are:

Who’s going to win this NL Central merry-go-round? The St. Louis Cardinals are in the midst of a tough, critical two-week stretch in which they play nobody but the two teams chasing them: The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. If the Redbirds can survive that, they have it easy the rest of the way with only one opponent (Washington) above the .500 mark on their schedule the rest of the way. The Reds and Pirates play six of their final nine games against each other, with the final three scheduled in Cincinnati; who prevails during this run could determine who wins the wild card, unless the Cardinals fold up. Keep in mind, all three teams are likely headed for the postseason (unless Arizona and/or Washington goes on a tear), so this is more about jockeying for the best seed.

Can the National League produce a 20-game winner? Detroit’s Max Scherzer is all but certain to win 20 in the American League, but the prospects for a hurler from the senior circuit look dim. At the beginning of this week, four NL pitchers have 15: The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann, Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa and Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano. The question is: Will any of these guys even have enough starts to make it to 20?

Can the San Francisco Giants avoid the cellar? Only one team has followed up a world championship with a last-place finish: The 1998 Florida Marlins, who had the excuse of gutting their All-Star roster with no-namers. The Giants, on the other hand, essentially have the same cast who helped win it all a year ago. They’ll have to avoid the cellar without starting pitchers Matt Cain and Chad Gaudin, both currently on the disabled list—but they’ll gotten back sparkplug outfielder Angel Pagan, who last played on May 25 when the Giants were 27-22; they were 32-52 in his absence. San Francisco finishes the year with three games at home against the San Diego Padres, the Giants’ biggest rival for last.

Can the Rockies set a team ERA record? A 4.21 figure isn’t exactly stop-the-press material, unless you play half of your games at Coors Field; it’s not far behind the 4.14 ERA registered by the Rockies back in 2010, which currently remains the lowest they’ve ever recorded. More remarkably, the Rockies’ home ERA of 4.08 is actually better than it is on the road—and will likely break the franchise record of 4.25, also from 2010.

Can Chris Davis hit 62 home runs? The Baltimore boomer enters September with 47 home runs and is within striking distance of Roger Maris, who despite all the steroid-induced gains of the last 15 years still holds the American League season record with his legendary 61 from 1961. Davis will have to pump it up a bit to match and surpass Maris, but keep this in mind: In each of his last two years, Davis’ best month has come in September.

Who’s going to win the AL East? The Boston Red Sox start the week with the lead, but also with the toughest schedule of the four teams still hoping to win the division—starting with a home series against Detroit and continuing on the road at New York and Tampa Bay before getting somewhat easier. Tampa Bay’s toughest stretch comes with an 11-game run with Texas and Baltimore (at home) and three at Yankee Stadium. As for the Yankees—who have a bit of leapfrogging to do—they might have a shot if they can survive a mid-September road trip at Baltimore, Boston and Toronto. Baltimore’s season may be doomed if they fall apart this coming week in separate series against the Indians and White Sox—the easiest stretch of what the final month beholds for them.

Can the A’s catch the Rangers again? Texas has the current edge in the standings, but Oakland has a definitive edge in terms of strength of schedule; outside of six remaining games against Texas, they get the Astros, Twins, Angels, Twins, Angels and Mariners, while the Rangers’ remaining games includes a home series against the Pirates and four on the road at Tampa Bay. So it’s basically going to come down to those six games between the two contenders—much as it did last year; it all starts this week with the Rangers coming to Oakland for three of those games.

Will Chris Carter out-whiff Mark Reynolds? Houston’s main power (and strikeout) source leads the majors with 181 and is on pace to finish slightly behind Reynolds’ all-time season mark of 223 from 2009. Don’t be surprised if Astros manager Bo Porter gives Carter some “rest” in the season’s final weeks as he nears the record.

Can A-Rod catch Willie Mays? Having won the right to play while he awaits his Biogenesis sentence, Alex Rodriguez hasn’t shown much decline and is now just nine home runs away from tying Mays’ 660 career shots for fourth on the all-time list. This is important for Rodriguez, not just for his ego but his bank account; his contract entitles him to a $6 million bonus if he surpasses Mays. If he doesn’t get to 661 before the end of the month, he may not get another shot until 2015 as his suspension looms; if he struggles, don’t be surprised to catch him looking into Yuri Sucrat’s latest bag of tricks.

Can Miguel Cabrera win his second straight triple crown? The Detroit superstar won baseball’s first triple crown since 1967 last season; no one has ever done it in successive years. Cabrera has a safe lead for the AL batting title and a comfortable RBI lead over Davis—but trails the Baltimore slugger by a 47-43 count (as of Friday). Abdomen issues that are leaving his status as day to day are not going to help him accrue his way to another triple crown, and the Tigers are likely to give him increased rest so he can get back to 100% health for October.

Astronomical Profit
Could Jim Crane by on his way to becoming the next Jeffrey Loria? The owner of the Houston Astros was in the news this week when Forbes reported that the Astros, the team with (far and away) the majors’ worst record and (far and away) the lowest payroll, is also the most profitable, estimated to be raking in just under $100 million this year alone. That payroll, which began the year at a relatively cheap $26 million, is now half of that—with only one player (pitcher Erik Bedard) barely making over a million. (Comparatively, the average major league salary is over $3 million.)

Because Forbes doesn’t have full access to the Astros’ balance sheet and has to make an educated guess, Crane waived off the report as inaccurate. In fact, he would probably raise a few points by reading aloud part of the article, which adds that he’s paying off a $275 million debt he inherited when he bought the team two years ago, and has lost roughly $23 million this year as part owner of CSN Houston, which airs the Astros’ games (and is paying the team $80 million a year for the right to do so).

The Great Balentien?
When Ichiro Suzuki stroked his 4,000th professional hit a few weeks ago, we opined that it wasn’t a true 4,000, like Ty Cobb or Pete Rose—because 1,278 of them were hit in Japan, which hardly measures up to Major League Baseball in terms of talent and relative numbers. For those who don’t agree with us on that point, we give you Wladimir Balentien.

For eight years, the Curacao native could not get it going in the majors. He logged two seasons only at the big-league level, a part-timer who exhibited fair power and a subpar .221 average. After spending the entire 2010 season in Triple-A (where he hit 25 home runs for Louisville), Balentien was granted free agency and took off for Japan—and his career soon took off with it. At Yakult in the Pacific League, Balentien hit 31 homers in 2011, followed by another 31 (in just 106 games) a year later; this year’s he walloped 52 over the wall in just 101 games, and is within striking distance of the all-time Japanese record of 55.

Japan certainly prides its baseball and seems to be a good deal more disciplined about the game, and element that certainly benefits the nation when it comes to international play such as the World Baseball Classic. But Balentien simply does not hit 50 homers in America, and will not if he returned. To bolster the argument, here’s the three players who hold the Japanese record of 55: Sadaharu Oh, a legend in Japan and a familiar name here—although he never played one game in America; Tuffy Rhodes, who like Balentien hit a wall in the majors before exiling himself to Japan where he blossomed; and Alex Cabrera, who had 31 games of major league experience (hitting .263 with five homers) before settling into a rich existence in the Orient, never returning to America.

Maybe a Jose Bautista/Chris Davis-like breakout can happen in Japan, and sometimes players do return and prove that their emergence on the other side of the Pacific is no fluke (see Cecil Fielder), but if Balentien wants to prove himself—and Japanese baseball in general—he needs to show off that power back here where the action counts, in the majors.

Say What About My OBP, You SOB?
A month or so ago, Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips complained that he got an unfair shake when he received a six-year, $72 million in advance of a much larger deal (ten years, $225 million) given to teammate Joey Votto. Well, perhaps this is the reason the Reds think more highly of Votto: Only Miguel Cabrera has a higher on-base percentage, while Phillips’ .319 mark doesn’t even rank among the top 50 in his own league. (Yes, Phillips is among the NL RBI leaders with nearly 100, but perhaps that’s because Votto keeps getting on base for Phillips to drive in.)

When Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans asked Phillips about the low OBP, the All-Star second baseman blew a fuse, shouting and cursing Rosecrans out of the clubhouse. Phillips wasn’t done, later interrupting Dusty Baker’s postgame interview with reporters, pointing over to Rosecrans and calling him out multiple times as a “motherf**ker” while sarcastically urging a clearly flustered Baker to “…tell him you’d have me bat eighth…Make him happy, Dusty.” Here’s that part of the bleep-filled exchange.

By contrast, Votto was more congenial when approached by reporters to comment on criticism that his OBP is too high, that he takes too many walks and isn’t as aggressive as he should be at the plate.

This Week on Planet Yasiel
Last week we spelled out baseball’s emerging Bad Boy that is Los Angeles Dodger rookie Yasiel Puig, whose ego seems to have gotten bigger and more antagonistic as he’s impressed on the field. The Dodgers love the latter but not the former, and it landed him in hot water with manager Don Mattingly for the second time in as many weeks when he was pulled midway from Wednesday’s game at Chavez Ravine against the Chicago Cubs.

A clear explanation as to why was never explained, though it’s suggested that he was not hustling on defense. Worse for Puig, not only did it tick off Mattingly (who held a series of closed-door meetings after the game with Puig and Dodger management) but also his teammates. Dodger pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who threw eight scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 4-0 win over the Cubs: “What he did today wasn’t acceptable.” Maybe we’ll have to wait for the book.

My Blue Dodger Heaven
Here’s a pretty good clue as to why the Dodgers were so good in August: Nolasco, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke combined to go 13-2 with a sensational 1.30 ERA during the month. (Here’s the ironic bit: Kershaw, who had the best ERA of the three at 1.01, lost both games.) According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no three pitchers on the same team have sported more wins and a lower ERA in one month since 1969.

Back in the Days of Old-Timey Telly-Vision
SB Nation dug out a 1961 issue of Sponsor magazine that detailed local TV and radio rights figures for the 18 teams then playing in the majors. One look at it and you can feel the Cro-Magnon atmosphere compared to today’s no-expense-spared, 24/7 broadcast environment. The expansion Washington Senators, for instance, garnered the fewest broadcast rights dollars of any team at $300,000; in today’s cash, that’s a little over $2 million, a far, far cry from the $150 million the Texas Rangers—the evolutionary ascendants of those first-year Senators—now gather annually from TV alone.

Additionally, while all games were on radio, trying to find local TV broadcasts of major league games was a more difficult task. According to Sponsor’s chart, only the Cincinnati Reds (still called the Redlegs by the magazine) televised all of their games—and in color! The Milwaukee Braves, on the other hand, didn’t have a single game telecast locally.

And just who had the richest broadcast rights of the day? The Los Angeles Dodgers, which was due to pull in a cool $1 million. Yes, the same Dodgers who, next year, are due to receive $200 million—with the same guy, Vin Scully, doing the play-by-play.

Double Trouble
Usually a strikeout is a good thing if you’re on the field, but don’t tell that to Yankee catcher Chris Stewart, who endured a nightmarish moment during the first inning of the Yankees’ 7-2 loss at Toronto on Wednesday. The Blue Jays’ J.P. Arencibia struck out on an easily catchable pitch from Hiroki Kuroda—but the ball glanced off of Stewart’s mitt and headed toward the third base on-deck circle; when he chased down the ball and attempted to throw out Arencibia (now a live runner) at first, the toss went wild and down the right field line. Two runners scored…on a strikeout.

Minimum Compassion
Not only did clubhouse employees at San Francisco’s AT&T Park not get World Series rings last year, they didn’t even get overtime pay. The U.S. Department of Labor claimed that 74 such workers “providing services to high-paid sports stars weren’t making enough to meet the basic requirements of minimum-wage law,” said a representative of the department that sued the Giants to pay back nearly half a million dollars to those employees. The Giants worked “cooperatively” to resolve the matter, we assume only after they were confronted with the accusations.

Costanza!
Just who was the traveling secretary genius who booked the Tampa Bay Rays in San Francisco for their weekend series across the bay in Oakland—while the San Francisco Bay Bridge connecting the two cities was shut down in advance of the opening of the bridge’s new span on the Oakland side?

David Price, who started Friday’s game for the Rays, ended up paying a cabbie $202 to take the congested, two-hour detour halfway down the peninsula, across the San Mateo Bridge and back up to the Coliseum.

The Rays’ problems didn’t end when they got to Oakland. Closer Fernando Rodney decided to relieve himself in the team’s dugout bathroom—and found himself locked in. It took 15 minutes for him to escape as teammates rescued him by taking a bat to the lock.

“Synopsis for a Guilty Plea”
Fans in Toronto got a hold of a police report from May 5 that doubled as a biting sports column on the state of the Blue Jays. The report was centered around the arrest of a drunk Jays fan during a game against the “underrated” Seattle Mariners. “Our hapless Jays limped along to the bottom of the 8th inning,” it read, “At one point, the Jays were considered World Series contenders. One can almost forgive the accused for his…described actions.” It went on: “…the accused before the court, Joseph (redacted), in what can only be described as an attempt to inject some kind of spark in our listless Jays, ran onto the field ‘interrupting’ the game, giving Jays fans a brief respite from their season long agony.” O, Canada.

The Trend Continues
ESPN notes that there were 14.945 strikeouts per game in August, the sixth highest rate in history. More interestingly, the 12 highest-ever months for strikeouts per game…have been the last 12 (not counting offseason or partial months, of course).

Hey Dudes, You Can't Smoke This Stuff
Two 25-year-old men broke into Wrigley Field in the middle of the night this past weekend and attempted to stash away with a load of ivy taken from the brick wall. Security cameras caught on to their presence and they were arrested.

Unqualified Success
The Elias Sports Bureau points out that Seattle pitcher Erasmo Ramirez has won five games since the All-Star Break—the most of any Mariner—but earned each victory without meeting the conditions of a quality start (six or more innings pitched with three or fewer runs allowed).

Early Bird Gets the First-Inning Worm
In Milwaukee’s 7-6 win over the Pirates on Tuesday, the Brewers scored in the first inning for the first time in 27 games, the longest such drought since Kansas City went 28 games without a first-frame tally in 1972.

Coming This Week on TGG
Look for a cool new installment of our They Were There section in which
Ed Attanasio interviews Tommy John—not the medical procedure, but the 288-game winner named after it. Should be a good, fun read.

League vs. League
It was a week of give and take in the interleague wars, as the National League won three matchups to start with the Braves’ sweep of Cleveland—but the American League got ‘em back when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim came to Milwaukee and took three from the Brewers. The overall draw allowed the AL to maintain its lead on the NL in head-on play this season, having won 145 interleague games to the NL’s 131.

This Week’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Denard Span finishes this past week as the man with the majors’ longest active hitting streak; the Washington outfielder was able to extend the run to 15 games on Sunday with a pinch-hit single in his lone at-bat against the Mets. Span is hitting a cool .407 during his streak.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekAlas, Mets fans, your great blue-and-orange hope has gone down for the count. Second-year pitching star and NL All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey was lost for the season—and perhaps all of 2014—when it was revealed that he suffered a complete tear of an elbow muscle and will likely require Tommy John surgery.

In an otherwise quiet week on the injury front, the pennant race was possibly affected by the absence of Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick, who listed on the 15-day DL with a sprained wrist.

Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies sent utility guy/emergency pitcher Casper Wells to the shelf because of “vision complications.” Alright, so he didn’t do so well a week earlier when he gave up five runs in the wee morning hours of a marathon after the Phillies had exhausted their bullpen—but don’t blame it on his eyes…


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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