Two Years Later, Contrition
The schedule makers must have foreseen Manny Ramirez’s exile to the Chicago White Sox; in his first week with the Pale Hose, the team made road stops in Cleveland and Boston, his first two homes as an American Leaguer. Since much of Manny’s “Manny Being Manny” antics took place while with the Red Sox, Ramirez braced for more media scrutiny when he returned to Fenway Park this past weekendhis second trip back to Boston this season, having already visited with the Los Angeles Dodgers for an interleague series.
But Ramirez, rediscovering his English after insisting on speaking Spanish (through translator-coach Joey Cora) for his introductory press conference in Chicago, told Boston reporters that he’s come to the conclusion that he pretty much was at fault for everything he did to run himself out of Boston a few years back. “You’ve got to be a real man to realize when you do wrong,” Ramirez said, “I already passed that stage and I’m happy now. It’s in the past and I want to leave it there.” Ramirez even said that he would have been happy to return to Boston had the Red Sox placed the waiver claim on him.
Fan Depreciation Days
Either Tampa Bay baseball fans really hate Tropicana Field, or it’s simply time for the Rays to start looking to play in another market where they’ll be more appreciated at the turnstiles. As the Rays continue to impressively stay neck-and-neck with the New York Yankees at the top of the AL East, many of their fans continue to stay home. This past week, the Rays drew 39,799 against the Toronto Blue Jaysnot for one game, but for a three-game series. This, after the Rays attracted 23,000 for a nationally televised Sunday night game against Boston, 14,000 shy of a sellout (and we assume that a healthy minority had come to root for the Red Sox).
Local officials are strenuously seeking land and funding for a new ballpark, and for good reason; the Rays have not drawn two million fans since their inaugural 1998 campaign, and are not expected to eclipse that mark this yeareven as the Rays have cemented a winning atmosphere in the area that began two years earlier with their shocking ascension from what looked to be an eternal life in the AL East basement. This team deserves better support.
This Week's Speeding Citation
A week after a speed gun registered Aroldis Chapman throwing 105 MPH in the minors, the young Cuban émigré was promoted to the Cincinnati Redsand continued to fire speeding-bullet fastballs. In his debut against Milwaukee on Tuesday, Chapman reached 102.7 MPH; a day later, he upped the velocity to 103.9. He’s been as efficient as he has been fast, throwing three hitless innings over three relief appearances through his first week in the majors. TGG Facebook friend Bill Friday suggested that the 22-year old should have his name changed to Aroldis Fynch, in honor of the fictional pitcher who Sports Illustrated playfully once boasted could throw a baseball 168 MPH.
Derek Jeter finished his third straight month hitting below .250 when he produced a .239 figure in August, and that consistency is alarming given that Jeter had previously not finished a full month below .250 since April 2004. This is not good timing for the Yankee fan favorite and future Hall-of-Famer; his contract is up at the end of the year, and although he’s certain to be retained by the Yankeesthe two seem to love each other enoughhis chances of maintaining the marquee money he’s currently making (especially as he enters his late 30s) are dwindling as his season-long slump continues.
The Late Show With Jim Thome
Minnesota slugger Jim Thome got two home runs on Saturday to push him past Mark McGwire for ninth on the all-time list with 584. For the 39-year old Thome, who at this time last season appeared to be at the end of the line as he wasted away on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bench, renewed life as a productive part-timer in Minnesota (where he’s hit 20 homers in 234 at-bats) has renewed the possibility that he might reach 600 career home runs. He’ll likely be glad to take a pay cut to stay in the Twin Cities, where he’s had no finer time over his career; in 468 career at-bats between Target Field and the Metrodome, Thome has hit .310 with 39 homers and 98 RBIs.
A Touch Too Much
Sunday’s Texas-Minnesota game ended in the strangest of ways; an infield hit with the bases loaded turned into the third out when third base umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled that Texas’ Michael Young, who had to scramble back to third and appeared to beat a throw from the middle infield, made contact with Ranger third base coach Dave Anderson. Looking at this replay, two things jump out to us: What was Young doing reaching his hand out to Anderson in the first place, and…doesn’t it appear that Marquez is looking elsewhere when Young and Anderson make their contact?
While Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez fight it out in a bid to become the first National Leaguer in 74 years to win the hitter’s triple crown, Gonzalez appears to be in great shape to become the first in the NL since Chicago’s Billy Williams in 1972 to take the triple crown using just home statistics. (Which leads us to ponder: No other Colorado Rockie had ever achieved this with Coors Field’s blatant mile-high advantage?) Gonzalez, in his breakout year with the Rockies, is hitting .391 with 24 homers and 61 RBIs at Coors; no one else is close on the average, and only Arizona’s Mark Reynolds (with 21 homers and 53 RBIs at home) has a shot of catching up to Gonzalez in the other two categories. Since Carl Yazstremski was the last overall triple crown winner in 1967, three AL playersall Red Sox membershave accomplish it when counting in only home numbers: Jim Rice (1978), Fred Lynn (1979) and Mo Vaughn (1996).
0-for-2010: An Update
Last week we noted the hitting plight of Los Angeles pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who had gone hitless in his first 43 at-bats of the season. In what was close to being the ultimate bit of satisfaction, Kuroda finally squeezed out a safety this past Monday against Philadelphiaall while keeping the Phillies batting .000 into the eighth inning. That’s when the Phillies finally connected for a hit, foiling Kuroda in what was the 18th no-hitter attempt taken into the eighth this season.
No Thanks For Your Lack of Support
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have scored a grand total of one run over the last four games in which pitcher Jered Weaver has started. This dearth of production is a down spiraling of a longer, bitter trend in which Weaver has been given 1.7 runs of support per start since June 25. Before that day, the Angels had been scoring 5.2 runs every time Weaver took the mound.
Different Uniforms, Same Result
Brad Hawpe, last year’s All-Star whose diminished returns this season with Colorado led to his release from the Rockies, didn’t leave a very good impression in his debut for his new team, the Tampa Bay Rays. In the Rays’ 2-1 win over Toronto, Hawpe struck out in all four plate appearancesmaking him only the fourth player in the modern era to do that in his first game for a new team.
The Beasts From the East
All five AL East teams had winning records in the month of August. The last time that happened with a five-team division was in June 1996 when each NL Central team finished that month above the .500 mark.
Yeah, But We Got the Red Sox' Number
Baltimore is 8-7 against Boston this seasonbut 7-32 when playing the other three AL East teams, Toronto, New York and Tampa Bay.
Yeah, But We Got the Cubs' Number
The Pittsburgh Pirates are 5-4 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field this season; against the rest of baseball, the Bucs are 9-49 away from home, their 14-7 win at Chicago this past Tuesday ended a 14-game losing streak on the road.
A Chipper Off the Ol' Block
Perhaps the soon-to-be-retired Bobby Cox, the Atlanta manager who’s been ejected from more major league games than anyone else in history, is grooming a replacement in Chipper Jones. The outspoken veteran third baseman, suited up but unable to play due to season-ending knee injury, let home plate umpire Doug Eddings know from the dugout during Saturday’s game at Florida that his balls-and-strikes calls weren’t all that hot. Eddings, in return, let Jones know that he disagreed by ejecting him.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez finishes this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 13 games. “CarGo” has been white hot during his run, batting a sizzling .529 with seven doubles, two triples and six home runs.
Wounded of the Week
Remarkably, there’s very little injury news to report for the second straight week as we enter a period of the year where players beat up from six straight months of baseball usually begin dropping like flies. Catchers got the majority of the pain doled out this week; two Florida catchers were lost for the year and beyond when John Baker underwent Tommy John surgery (it’s not just for pitchers only) and Brett Hayes suffered a separated shoulder courtesy of Nyjer Morgan (see above, right column). Also, Kansas City’s Jason Kendall underwent rotator cuff surgery amid speculation that the one-time All-Star, now 36, might call it a career.
The Dodgers' $tory
As the divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt started this past week, it was revealed that the Dodgers are $430 million in debt. Surely, there’s an ironic urge for MLB to brag about the team’s plight in the wake of last week’s unauthorized release of profit-hoarding taking place in Pittsburgh and Florida, but for those who think the Dodgers are in dire financial straits, it’s not as bad as it soundseven as bank after bank refuses the team’s request for more loans to pay off the debt. In the long run, the Dodgers (and whichever McCourt ends up winning control of the team) will do okay as a major local TV deal looms that is likely to eliminate much of the red inkbut that’s for four years. In the meantime, look for the Dodgers to quell payroll unless a fiduciary knight in shining armor emerges.
At Least the McCourt Trial Was SRO
The Dodgers surpassed the 3 million mark in attendance for the tenth straight year during a Wednesday afternoon game against Philadelphia that drew an announced crowd of 37,080but it was plainly obvious that the actual group in the house was far smaller, owing to the rare late-season, midweek afternoon starting time. That the Dodgers are essentially out of the playoff chase didn’t help reduce the no-show count, either.
Out With the Mouth
Collateral damage to Stephen Strasburg’s Tommy John surgery was revealed this week when Washington Nationals broadcast analyst and former fiery reliever Rob Dibble was fired. It was Dibble who criticized Strasburg a week earlier for not sucking up and pitching through pain; Dibble’s comments were as ill-timed as they were ill-conceived, made before it was known that Strasburg’s injury would require surgery that would keep him out of action until 2012.
Dibble’s fate appeared to be sealed last week when Washington general manager Stan Kasten sarcastically reacted to Dibble’s leave of absence by questioning whether he was really hurt.
More Nyjinks from Nyjer
Dibble’s notoriety factor in the Nation’s Capitol was topped by the Nationals’ Nyjer Morgan, who’s lately been making lots of news in the worst of ways. The 30-year old outfielder, already appealing one seven-game suspension for reportedly throwing a ball out of anger into the bleachers at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, now has to appeal a second forced furlough, this one for eight days, stemming from a series of recent incidents capped by his central involvement in an on-field brawl at Florida on Wednesday.
It all started the previous weekend when Morgan unnecessarily shoved St. Louis catcher Bryan Anderson (who was off the plate without the ball) while crossing home plate; Morgan was ruled out anyway when he was physically “assisted” by teammate Ivan Rodriguez to go back and touch home. Washington manager Jim Riggleman was upset with Morgan’s actions and benched him the next day, all while Morgan begged to differ with Riggleman’s opinion.
Three days later in Florida, Morgan bowled over Florida catcher Brett Hayes, who this time was standing over the plate with the ball, but also separated his shoulder in the process; even though Morgan was out on the playhe would have been safe had he slidthe Marlins were furious with his over-the-top brutality.
That brings us to Wednesday. With the Nats trailing Florida 14-3 in the fourth, Morganafter being hit by a Chris Volstad pitchstole two bases to further rile the Marlins, angered that Morgan was violating baseball’s code by swiping bases in a lopsided game (never mind that the Nationals were the ones trailing, and it was early). In his next at-bat two innings later, Morgan had a Volstad pitch whizz behind him, leading to the melee.
Morgan may not be ready to unseat Milton Bradley among active players as baseball’s most infamous malcontent, but there’s two suggestions we have for him: Grow up, and take a crash course in baseball’s unwritten rules.
Prior to Strasburg...
As Strasburg started the long, slow recovery from Tommy John this week, the man who can best relate to his plightformer Chicago Cub pitcher Mark Priorsigned a minor league contract with Texas. Prior, like Strasburg, was a high-profile number one draft pick in 2001 with a blistering fastball who signed the largest deal afforded to a drafted player before Strasburg inked in 2009; but after a few solid years in 2002-03, Prior’s shoulder gave out, leading to numerous disabled list stints and Tommy John surgery.
Still only 29, Prior hasn’t thrown a major league pitch since 2006; the Rangers plucked him away from the Orange County Flyers of the Independent Golden League, the kind of league where former major league stars often go to die while desperately trying to resurrect their careers. The move to Texas shows that, at least for Prior, there’s hope.
17 Going on...17
Not long ago, we thought Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright would be virtual locks to each win 20 games given that they had already accrued 17 victories with almost two full months still to play. Now, we’re not so sure. Jimenez has been frustrated just getting to win no. 18; he’s winless in his last five starts (with four losses) despite an earned run average during this time of 3.00. Meanwhile, Wainwright hasn’t been as sharp (a 4.88 ERA) but he’s also dropped his last four chances at winning his 18th ballgame. Only one near-certainty has emerged on the seasonal win counter: The New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia has 19 wins going into the new week, with at least three more starts to finally secure a 20th victory for the first time in his career (twice in the last three years, he’s finished with 19).
Owning the O's
By beating Baltimore on Wednesday, Boston pitcher Jon Lester now owns a lifetime 13-0 record (and 2.33 ERA) against the Orioles; he is the only active major league pitcher to have an undefeated record of 10-0 or better against another opponent.
Jonathan Maurer, the agent for Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb (remember him?), publicly declared that the former Cy Young Award winner wants to return to the Diamondbacks when his contract expires at the end of the seasonbut he won’t come cheap. For a guy who’s been paid $15 million to throw four innings since the start of the 2009 season, we’re sure that Maurer’s demand will be met with much cynical head-shaking in the Arizona front office. Maurer evoked the recent contracts given to oft-injured hurlers such as Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, Tim Hudson and Brad Penny as precedent for Webb to earn good wagesbut of those four, only Hudson has remade the grade after an extensive layoff. Webb may actually return to action before the end of this season, a short stint that would amount to a crucial tryout for 2011 and dictate just how much major league general managers really think he’s worth.
When the Warm-Up Act is Better
Coming into this past weekend, the Texas Rangers had won each of C.J. Wilson’s last five starts. The guy who pitched the next daystar pitcher Cliff Leefollowed up those wins with losses in each of his last five starts.
It Just Wasn't to Be
Veteran slugger Carlos Delgado, who last played in the majors in early 2009 and has been attempting a comeback through the Boston Red Sox’ minor league system this summer, has a tear in his long-bothered hip, practically putting an end to his chances of linking up with the Red Sox this yearand possibly ending any chance that he’ll play in the majors again.
Avoiding Double Figures
Pittsburgh pitcher Charlie Morton is struggling to avoid the embarrassment of finishing the 2010 season with an ERA over 10.00. The 26-year old right-hander got a break of sorts on Sunday against Washington when he was punished yet again for six runs in three-plus inningsbut four of those runs were unearned thanks to two errors (one by Morton himself) that helped lower his season ERA to 9.66. Only two other pitchers beside Morton, who is 1-11, have finished a year with ten or more decisions and a 10.00+ ERA: the Pirates’ Steve Blass (1973) and, believe it or not, Roy Halladay (2000).
He Said What?
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times, after hearing Frank and Jamie McCourt sworn in for the first day of their divorce trial with the words, “I do”; “They said the same thing 30 years ago and how did that go?”
It Said What?
The Yahoo MLB page had the following headline on Sunday afternoon: "Down 6-0, Braves rally to win in 10." Wrong. The Braves did rally, but lost in ten innings to Florida.
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