The Week That Was in Baseball: August 31-September 6, 2009
Eight-plus Years, 2,000 Hits for Ichiro Alex Rodriguez "Cops" a Feel
David Wright's Big-Headed Fashion Statement
Go West, Reclamation Projects

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Gonzo's Wish
Add former Arizona slugging star Luis Gonzalez to the list of players who want the list—the one with the 104 players who tested positive in 2003—to be made public. Gonzalez is hoping that his absence from the list will muffle speculation that his career year of 2001—one in which he hit 57 home runs and helped the Diamondbacks to a world championship—was tainted by steroid use. Earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a government request to keep the list, which has already yielded seven leaked names including Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa, safe from possible destruction while prosecutors decide whether to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Fastest Track?
Ichiro Suzuki collected his 2,000th career hit on Sunday, and because he’s knocked out at least 200 hits in each of his first eight major league seasons—a streak that likely will be stretched to an all-time record ninth year—he therefore would set the mark for the fewest games with 2,000 hits. Not quite. Al Simmons took just 1,930 games, or 72 less than Suzuki, to collect his first 2,000 hits when he surpassed the milestone early in 1934 for the Chicago White Sox.

They're Playing With Your Head

It was no laughing matter back in mid-August when the New York Mets’ David Wright was nailed in the head by a fastball from San Francisco’s Matt Cain. But players and fans couldn’t keep a straight face when Wright re-emerged from the 15-day disabled list this past week wearing an oversized, protective helmet developed by Rawlings (above left). Wright wore the helmet for a few days, then went back to the old hard hat—not only because he said it didn’t feel right, but because he was getting razzed by fans at Denver’s Coors Field and players not only from the Colorado Rockies’ dugout but from those of his own team. A few teammates even tagged a picture of The Great Gazoo (above right), a character from “The Flinstones,” on his locker. Incidentally, Wright is not the first major leaguer to have worn the alien-brained Rawlings model; Chicago Cub pitcher Ryan Dempster trotted to the plate with one less than a week earlier.

Shrinkage is Not an Option
The New York Mets made it clear this past week that they do not intend to move the fences in at Citi Field, whose spacious field dimensions (especially in right-center field) have resulted in few home runs and, not surprisingly, more triples. Proponents of moving the fences in evoke the stats of David Wright, who hit 33 home runs last year while the Mets played at Shea Stadium—but has belted only eight this year with the season almost done. It should be noted: Wright has hit five of those eight homers at Citi Field—and only three on the road.

The Mets claim the team’s longball deficiencies this year have less to do with the ballpark and more to do with the number of sluggers (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado) who’ve spent most of the year on the disabled list. Mets fans and beat reporters are noting that the lack of home runs, regardless of whether it’s based on perception or reality, will scare off potential free agent hitters whose egos might be bruised by reduced power numbers. (Remember how Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez publicly frowned on Seattle’s voluminous Safeco Field before bolting from the Mariners?)

League vs. League, Addendum
The dominance of the American League over the National in interleague play this season had long since been determined when scheduled play between the two leagues came to an end in late June; but to add insult to injury, there was one last bit of business to finish this week when the Chicago White Sox defeated the crosstown rival Cubs, 5-0, in a make-up game originally slated for June 16. The Sox’ victory gave the AL a final 138-114 record against the NL, giving the AL seven straight years of superiority. Breaking down the record, only five of 16 NL teams secured winning records against AL rivals in 2009, but it was two AL teams—Oakland and Cleveland—that shared the worst interleague record of either league, at 5-13; Los Angeles of Anaheim had the best, at 14-4.

A Nutty Joke That Was Below the Beltre
When Adrian Beltre made his first appearance at the plate on Tuesday after coming off the DL for a testicular injury, the Safeco Field public address system played the theme to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. Beltre suffered the injury when he was hit by a pitch in his own “strike zone” while not wearing a protective cup, as he had always played without; he’s wearing one now.

It's the Final Score That Counts.
The Kansas City Royals outhit the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 11-3 on Friday but still lost the game, 2-1. The Angels were greatly aided with eight walks; the Royals had just one—an intentional one given by Angel starter Jered Weaver.

One Reason They Use Him So Much
Peter Moylan of the Atlanta Braves leads the majors with 77 appearances—and has yet to give up a home run.

A Tough Nine Pitches For the Hitter—and the Catcher
There was one shining moment for the Pittsburgh Pirates this past week, though it won’t provide enough spin to offset the avalanche of bad PR over the team’s clinching of its 17th straight losing season. On Saturday against St. Louis, pitcher Russ Ohlendorf became only the second Pirate in history to strike out the side on nine pitches. The odd part of this is that first baseman Steve Pearce was credited with the putout on all three strikeouts; each time, catcher Ryan Doumit couldn’t handle the third strike cleanly and had to throw to Pearce to retire the batter. Naturally, despite all of this, the Pirates lost 2-1 to the Cardinals.

No More Misching Out
It took 55 appearances and 13 starts, but Pat Misch finally won his first major league game when he pitched seven strong innings in the Mets’ 8-3 win at Colorado on Thursday. The 28-year old southpaw previously had lost eight games with blown one save…but does have credit for two holds, for all that’s worth.

Hang Tough, Ernie
Ernie Harwell, the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster of 55 years—42 of them with the Detroit Tigers—publicly acknowledged that he’s suffering from bile duct cancer. Alas, this form of cancer is not curable. The 91-year old Harwell told the Detroit Free Press, “I’m ready for a new adventure.”

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
We don’t find too many catchers making the grade in this category; we even shy away from naming one for the worst hitter of the week, since their main reason for being at the major league level is their vital ability to defend from behind the plate. So we are doubly honored to announce that Yorvit Torrealba of the Colorado Rockies ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak. Torrealba, a part-time starter, is hitting .358 during a run that actually began on August 9.

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

Just His Presnce Deserves a Vote
Alex Rodriguez (.276, 24 home runs, 78 RBIs) easily may not be having a great year by his standards, but this much is true: The New York Yankees started the season at 13-15 while he recovered from a hip injury suffered in spring training. Since his return, they’re 74-35. Maybe Rodriguez is your AL MVP.

A-Rod's Breaststroke Lesson
Speaking of A-Rod, he found himself in an embarrassing situation on Thursday at Toronto when, while chasing a pop-up over near the third-base side of Rogers Centre’s seats, he bumped into a uniformed Toronto policewoman who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. In trying to keep the female cop from falling down, Rodriguez grabbed a hold of her—with his right arm wrapped around the woman’s breasts. Blue Jay fans, among the most unkind in baseball toward Rodriguez, had great fun in their response, with a mix of laughter and boos. Let’s go to the videotape.

The West Muscles Up
In baseball’s second trading deadline (August 31), which allows players to be dealt through the waiver process and be eligible for postseason play, the NL West’s postseason contenders—Los Angeles, Colorado and San Francisco—jockeyed for position and made major acquisitions. And, a week after the deadline, all three teams appeared to have clearly profited from the deals. Brad Penny threw eight shutout innings in his Giant debut, easily his best outing of the year after experiencing a difficult time in Boston; Jon Garland, picked up by the Dodgers from Arizona, quickly made solid work (seven innings, two runs allowed) out of his former Diamondback teammates on Thursday; and Jose Contreras, badly struggling with the White Sox, was sharp in his first stint for Colorado on Saturday at Coors Field—while another new Rockie, veteran slugger Jason Giambi, knocked out crucial tie-breaking RBI singles in successive pinch-hit appearances over the week.

Even Superman Needs a Breather
If some of the players on the Florida Marlins believe that all-World shortstop Hanley Ramirez (.359 average, 21 homers, 92 RBIs, 24 steals) is dogging it, one wonders how much better he’d really be if he were giving 100%. Ramirez got into it this past Wednesday with teammate Dan Uggla after the two began arguing over his desire to play, with Uggla upset that Ramirez took himself out of Tuesday’s game against Atlanta with what he said was a bad hamstring. Uggla made the clubhouse discussion, in full view of reporters, a bit ugly when he chirped at Ramirez, “You got your $70 million”—a reference to Ramirez’s massive contract that is, far and away, the largest among Marlin players. Arguing became shouting and before it became fisticuffs, Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez came in to break things up. Uggla later waived off the incident, saying he loves Ramirez “like a brother” and that “we got past it, we moved on.”

Parity? Schmarity!
The Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t the only major league team suffering through a major winning drought. The Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of completing their 12th straight year without a .500 or better record, leaving the O’s three years shy of the AL mark owned by the Philadelphia-Kansas City A’s of 1953-67. And in Cincinnati, the Reds need an exceptionally strong September to avoid their ninth losing campaign. In 180-dgeree contrast to the Pirates, the New York Yankees have guaranteed themselves 17 straight years of winning with their outstanding effort this year—though they’re well short of their own record of 39 straight years above the .500 mark, achieved from 1926-64.

Airport 2009
In place of the obligatory beach ball, players at Dodger Stadium this past Tuesday were instead distracted by a remote controlled model airplane that circled the field before landing in front of the first base dugout—where Arizona’s Augie Ojeda proceeded to stomp on it and tear it to pieces to a chorus of boos. No one knows who was operating the plane, though it can’t be ruled out that it was an unmanned drone piloted by either the Giants or Rockies.

Same Show, New Cast
When the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds played a make-up game on Monday afternoon, only three players slated to be in the lineup for the rained-out game on April 10 were back as starters. And, judging from the attendance, only three fans with tickets for that April matchup showed up—far, far below the gate of 13,051 that was announced.

Major League Sybil
The Philadelphia Phillies are learning what fans and management in Seattle already knew: Raul Ibanez can be extremely streaky, in both good ways and bad. The veteran outfielder was red hot to start the year; in his first 50 games as a Phillie, he batted .340 with 19 homers and 51 RBIs. Now the dark side has emerged; in 30 games since July 29, Ibanez is hitting a paltry .182 with just one homer and five RBIs while striking out 34 times. 

He Still Looks Promising...
Remember when we mentioned the major league debut of 21-year old Neftali Feliz and his 100-MPH fastball a few weeks back? If scouts have published the book on how to hit him, it needs to go back to press; in his first 12 appearances, the Texas reliever has allowed just one earned run on five hits and a walk—in 22 innings. He’s struck out 28 batters. The Rangers may have something here.

...And So Does This Guy
The All-Star break certainly seemed to do wonders for Florida rookie outfielder Chris Coghlan. Through the first three months of the year, Coghlan looked like just another young, common player, hitting .245 with a pair of home runs. Since then, he’s arguably the Marlins’ hottest hitter—and yes, we haven’t forgotten that NL batting leader Hanley Ramirez is on the roster. The 24-year old local kid from Palm Harbor is batting .376 in 47 games since the break, and his 47 hits in August not only set a Florida team record but were also the most by a NL rookie since Wally Moon grabbed 52 in July 1954. The Marlins may have something here.

The Review in Review
Two more home runs were overturned by video replay this past week, increasing the season total to ten in the majors’ first full year of reviewing disputed home run and non-home run calls. Six other home runs have been rewarded after they had initially been called foul or in play. Thirty-one other challenges to umpire calls have been upheld to date in 2009.

New Uniform, Same Ol' Danny
The beleaguered Daniel Cabrera, once upon a time projected to be the next big thing on the mound in Baltimore—before his wildness forced an exile down the beltway to Washington, where his performance suffered even more in advance of an early dismissal—re-emerged with Arizona on Sunday after an unimpressive stay with the Diamondbacks' Triple-A team in Reno. His relief role on Sunday against the Rockies at Denver showed that nothing's changed for Cabrera, and that's not good. Cabrera faced five batters; he allowed hits to two of them, walked two others and hit one. All five runners eventually scored.

Wounded of the Week
Good news for the New York Mets: Nobody made the disabled list this week. (Perhaps that’s because everyone on the team is already there.) Overall, the news was surprisingly good as DL activity was unusually light for this time of year, when season shutdowns become more of the norm. Being asked to take the rest of the season off were Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore (elbow), Jose Guillen (knee), whose comeback from an earlier injury lasted just two days, and Texas catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (arm).