This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: September 2-8, 2013
What Was Life Like When the Bucs Last Finished .500? Eric Byrnes’ Secret
Is Adam Dunn Ready to Quit? The Marlins’ $75k Bounty on Jonathan Vilma

Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
28 8 13 1 0 4 9 2 0 0 1

We could have picked any one of three or four Boston players for this honor given the offensive crush the Red Sox put on the Tigers and Yankees throughout the week, but we’ll give it to Middlebrooks, who was in the middle of every game to help apply the damage. The young third baseman had multiple hits in five straight games to finish out the week, a sharp turnaround for a guy who just a month ago was recalled from the minors after hitting .192 to start the year in Boston. Give credit to the elimination of an open stance at the plate.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
29 10 11 4 2 0 3 3 0 1 1

In the ongoing, thus-far fruitless crusade to find legitimate NL MVP candidates, don’t gloss over this guy. Carpenter doesn’t have the sexy stats like Miguel Cabrera on the other side, but he’s been the catalyst for countless Cardinal rallies as St. Louis surges toward a very possible NL Central title—and, oh, he’s the NL leader in runs, hits and doubles. The 27-year-old second baseman showed off his multi-faceted best this past week, leading to six runs in the Cardinals’ sweep of the Pirates


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jordan Danks, Chicago White Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
15 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

The 27-year-old Austin native, getting more playing time toward the end of what has become a lost season for the White Sox, wasn’t totally clueless at the plate—but he offset his few safe passages with two double play grounders and an unsuccessful stolen base attempt. Between he and his older brother, pitching teammate John (4-12, 4.45 ERA), the upcoming Thanksgiving family chat will likely avoid the topic of the disappointing 2013 season that was.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Nate Schierholtz, Chicago Cubs

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

Overall it’s been a redeeming, breakout season for the 29-year-old Nevada native, but this past week—part of a larger swath of time in which he’s managed only four hits over his last 49 at-bats—exposed a maddening inconsistency that led the Giants to finally give up on him last season. Arbitration-eligible for 2014, Schierholtz will be considered a valuable asset in the Cubs’ near-future plans, but he needs to reacquire a positive, more permanent rhythm.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Esmil Rogers, Toronto Blue Jays

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 14 4 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 9

After languishing between the rotation and (mostly) the bullpen, the 28-year-old righty with a near-6.00 career ERA was given two starts this past week and sparkled, winning on the road at Arizona and Minnesota; one fantasy league pundit all but ridiculed Rogers’ 7.2 shutout innings on Sunday as being thrown against a Twins lineup with “less power than North Korea after sunset.” Hey comrade: This is the majors, and Rogers definitely earned his stripes with these two quality efforts.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Yusmeiro Petit, San Francisco Giants

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7

As the Giants start thinking about rebuilding a 2014 rotation that may not include Tim Lincecum and (most certainly) Barry Zito, what a find to have this guy drop into their lap. Petit arrived with the Giants in late July with a career 10-20 record and 5.54 ERA, but he’s been sharp since—and nearly became one of baseball’s unlikeliest perfect game artists when he came within a mere strike (and a few feet of a diving Hunter Pence catch in right field) from retiring all 27 batters from his former team, the Diamondbacks. Petit is now 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA in four San Francisco starts.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
James Shields, Kansas City Royals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 3.2 14 10 10 2 0 0 1 0 6

Last week we gave the Kansas City ace love for two terrific starts on the road, where he strangely seems to be at his best. This past week, he came home and—BAM!—he took a career-nadir beating from the Detroit Tigers, dropping his record at Kaufmann Stadium to 2-6 with a deplorable 4.94 ERA. The Yankees once kept Ed Whitson from pitching at Yankee Stadium because the fans were so unmerciless on him; what could be Shields’ problem?


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 3 7 7 7 2 0 0 2 0 4

For the second time in the last month, we dishonor a guy who overall may be the Pirates’ best pitcher this season. Liriano’s Jekyll-and-Hyde act has been curious to say the least; he’s either really on his game or badly off, as he was at Milwaukee in the Pirates’ first of many attempts to clinch that winning season this past week. It almost makes sense that he’s figured in the decision of all 22 starts he’s made (and thankfully for the Bucs, he’s won most of them). October could be less forgiving if Liriano is not careful.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Toronto Blue Jays (5-1)

All together now: Too little, too late. Reduced to spoilers, the Blue Jays didn’t even get to do much of that this past week as they hit the road and took care of going-nowhere opponents in Arizona and Minnesota with the offense powering up for nine homers and Esmil Rogers (see above) leading the way on the mound. This coming week starts with the ALCS that was supposed to be (Jays vs. Angels) before Toronto finally gets a crack at ruining the postseason hopes of the Orioles and (next week) Yankees.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Cincinnati Reds (6-1)

A star was born this past week as call-up pinch-runner extraordinaire Billy Hamilton turned a single into a double and then the winning run in three close victories for the Reds, giving Cincinnati a critical boost in the wild card chase; with three of four against the front-running Cardinals and a three-game weekend sweep against the Dodgers (who last did that to L.A.?), the Reds start the new week tied with the Pirates for the wild card spot.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chicago White Sox (1-6)

Unlike the Jays above, another last-place critter in the White Sox did get the opportunity to play spoilers this past week at Baltimore and New York—and failed the test miserably, as an anemic offense couldn’t muster enough power to aid some decent pitching; it took a 4-2 win on Sunday against the Orioles to avoid the experience of a winless, ten-game road trip. The only suspense left for the Ashen Hose to finish out the season: Does Hawk Harrelson still care?


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Colorado Rockies (1-5)

The Rockies continue to fall under the weight of reality as they slipped further away from the .500 mark this past week; it didn’t matter if they were at home (where they lost two of three to the Dodgers) or away (suffering a sweep at the hands of even-lowlier San Diego). Much like last year, the Rockies will quietly fade away to finish 2013 as Broncomania reclaims Denver, but considering that some of us thought they’d be the majors’ worst team back in the spring, they’ve at least won some respect headed into 2014.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, September 2
For the second time in less than a week, St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright has his hat handed to him by the Cincinnati Reds. At Great American Park, Wainwright surrenders six runs in the first four innings and the Cardinals lose to the Reds, 7-2, to drop to second place in the NL Central. Wainwright has allowed 15 runs in eight innings over his last two starts against the Reds.

In the start of a three-game showdown between the top two AL West teams in Oakland, the A’s get a 4-2 decision over Texas to tie the Rangers for first place as Coco Crisp breaks a 2-2 tie in the fifth with a two-run shot—his seventh homer over his last 12 games, after hitting ten through his first 96.

The Miami Marlins get a full effort from starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez during their 4-3 win over the Cubs at Chicago. Alvarez throws sufficiently enough to earn the win, but also aids the team at the bat with a three-run home run that’s the first of his career, a single and a sacrifice bunt.


Tuesday, September 3
It’s official: The Pittsburgh Pirates will not have a losing season for the first time since 1992. Travis Snider’s leadoff homer in the top of the ninth breaks a 3-3 tie and 20 years of frustration for the Bucs, topping the Brewers at Milwaukee by a 4-3 count and upping their lead over the Cardinals (1-0 losers at Cincinnati) to two games in the NL Central.

Miguel Cabrera’s return to the Detroit lineup after three days of rest isn’t enough to push Max Scherzer to 20 wins. Despite a strong start by the right-handed fastballer, the Tigers are upended at Boston by the Red Sox and Jon Lester, who continues a strong second half with one run allowed in seven innings to give Boston a 2-1 win. Cabrera goes hitless in four trips at the plate.

It’s an ugly night in Philadelphia before the smallest crowd in over five years at Citizens Bank Park; during the Phillies’ 9-6 loss to the Washington Nationals, there are 13 walks (nine by the Phillies), four wild pitches, four errors, six unearned runs, a balk and a hit batsmen. Of the 180 pitches thrown by six Phillies pitchers, less than half (88) are strikes.


Wednesday, September 4
Nothing will come easy for any of the three teams vying for the NL Central crown. Two of those teams—the Cardinals and Reds—battle it out in Cincinnati for 16 innings before St. Louis comes out a 5-4 winner. Primary thanks goes to left-handed slugger Matt Adams, who enters midway through for an injured Allen Craig and becomes the first Cardinal ever to homer twice in extra innings; he’s also the first major leaguer to hit both as go-ahead shots in overtime since Vern Stephens did it for the St. Louis Browns in 1943.

The Red Sox go nuts on the Tigers, walloping a franchise record-tying eight home runs—including two from David Ortiz, who reaches the 2,000-hit milestone—to register a 20-4 romp at Fenway Park. Seven Red Sox players hit at least one homer, tying an American League mark.

The Giants, among the worst teams when it comes to collecting home runs, power up for six at San Diego’s Petco Park—the most by one team at the nine-year-old ballpark—with Pablo Sandoval responsible for half of them; its’ the second time Sandoval has gone deep thrice in less than a year, first accomplishing the feat last October at the World Series. Credit for the Giants’ 13-5 win goes to Tim Lincecum, decidedly more shaky than his last appearance at Petco two months earlier—when he threw a no-hitter against the Padres.

The A’s jump on Texas ace Yu Darvish—who doesn’t help his own cause with six walks in five innings of work—and defeat the Rangers, 11-4, taking two of three for the series and drawing even with Texas for the AL West lead.


Thursday, September 5
After mounting a six-run comeback in the seventh to take an 8-7 lead over the Red Sox, the Yankees lose it back on a two-out Boston rally in the ninth off closer Mariano Rivera that brings back memories of 2004; in the tenth, Shane Victorino’s single gives the Red Sox the lead for keeps, 9-8.

The Reds score one run in six consecutive innings—four of them on solo homers, two from Todd Frazier—to win 6-2 and wrap up a four-game series with three wins against the Cardinals.

The Orioles stay alive in the AL wild card chase with a 3-1 win over the visiting Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards, as Adam Jones collects both his 30th home run and 100th RBI. A crowd of 17,383 shows up for the game that had been a source of controversy; the Orioles earlier refused a request from the NFL to move the game so the Baltimore Ravens could open the football season next door. (Instead, the Ravens are on the road at Denver, getting lit up by seven Peyton Manning touchdown passes.)


Friday, September 6
The Giants’ Yusmeiro Petit is one out away from a perfect game against his former team in the Diamondbacks when Eric Chavez hits a sinking liner that right fielder Hunter Pence can’t make a diving catch on. Petit settles for the one-hut shutout, throwing just 95 pitches, and the Giants win at home, 3-0.

The Yankee bullpen collapses anew. Leading 8-3 after six innings, starter Andy Pettitte departs and the next four Yankee pitchers combine to allow nine runs over the next two innings as Boston mounts a furious comeback highlighted by a Mike Napoli grand slam—his second at Yankee Stadium this season. The Red Sox win, 12-8, to up their lead in the AL East to 7.5 games.

With the Tigers coming to Kansas City, the wild card-seeking Royals are hoping to make a statement against the AL Central leaders—but it’s the Detroit bats that do all the talking. The Tigers load up for 26 hits—their highest total since 1937—and destroy the Royals, 16-2; Andy Dirks and Omar Infante, batting seventh and ninth, respectively, become only the fourth pair of teammates to go 5-for-5 in the same game since 1900.

The Cardinals storm out to a 12-1 lead and then hold on to defeat the Pirates at Busch Stadium, 12-8, to draw within a half-game of the front-running Bucs in the first of a critical three-game series. St. Louis starter Joe Kelly improves to 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA over his last ten outings with the win.

Miami rookie phenom Jose Fernandez, on the verge of being shut down by the Marlins, throws seven shutout innings against the visiting Nationals and allows just one hit—a swinging bunt single down the third-base line by pinch-hitter Zach Walters in the sixth inning. Logan Morrison provides offensive assistance with the longest homer yet hit at Marlins Park, a 467-foot blast in the eighth, as Miami rolls to a 7-0 win.

Chris Davis breaks out of a recent power slump with his 48th homer on the year, and Scott Feldman delivers Baltimore’s first complete-game performance on the year with a four-hit shutout as the Orioles hand the White Sox their eighth straight loss with a 4-0 win.


Saturday, September 7
The Red Sox continue to rumble as Yankee pitching fails again—though this time the bullpen is hardly to blame. Boston racks up 12 runs over the first five innings, with nine tallies alone off Yankee starter David Huff, and hold on for a 12-8 triumph at New York. Derek Jeter’s sixth-inning single is the 3,316th of his career, placing him alone in ninth place on the all-time hit list to surpass Eddie Collins. (MLB officially has Collins at 3,314, but we defer to retrosheet.org, which has him at 3,315.)

Adam Wainwright finally gets his act together, pitching seven shutout innings (allowing just two hits) against the Pirates after getting knocked around in his last two starts by the Reds; David Freese homers and the Cardinals reclaim the NL Central lead over the Bucs with a 5-0 win.

Don Straily outduels Brett Oberholtzer and gives the A’s a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros at Oakland—and combined with the Rangers’ 8-3 loss at Anaheim, increase their AL West lead to 1.5 games.

The future is looking bright for the Mariners on the mound. A week after the sparkling debut of highly touted prospect Taijuan Walker, 24-year-old James Paxton gets his first major league start and quells the sinking Rays (11 losses in 14 games) at Seattle, 6-2, allowing just two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk in six innings.


Sunday, September 8
The Cardinals finish off a three-game sweep of the Pirates—who are 0-4 in their pursuit of their 82nd win to clinch their first winning season since 1992—with an easy 9-2 win at Busch Stadium. Rookie St. Louis pitcher Michael Wacha allows just two hits through seven shutout innings as the Cardinals move 1.5 games into the NL Central lead over both the Bucs and Reds.

Joining Pittsburgh for a tie in second place are the Reds, who sweep the visiting Dodgers with another close, 3-2 win decided in the ninth on a Ryan Hanigan double that scores Zack Cozart. (Billy Hamilton was not needed for this one.) Jay Bruce had earlier supplied the Reds with their only two runs on a pair of solo homers—the first two hit by a left-handed hitter off Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw since June 2012.

Cleveland misses out on an opportunity to move within a game of the final AL wild card spot with a 2-1 loss to the New York Mets, snapping a four-game winning streak. An historical silver lining of sorts is established for the Indians when 42-year-old Jason Giambi, getting a rare start, singles for his 2,000th career hit. The win goes to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who spent much of the 2013 season on the Tribe’s Triple-A team before being released and picked up by the Mets; it’s his first win of the year after three disastrous starts for New York.

The Yankees avoid a sweep at home by the archrival Red Sox when Ichiro Suzuki scores on a Brandon Workman wild pitch in the ninth for a 4-3 win. Suzuki had worked his way to third in part thanks to his 20th steal of the season, his 13th straight year with at least 20 to start a career; only Ozzie Smith (16) and Rickey Henderson (23) have accrued more years to begin with 20-plus. Will Middlebrooks’ homer had tied it in the ninth off beleaguered Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, who blows his seventh save—six of those coming in just the last two months.


Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho! (It’s Finally a Pirate’s Life for Me)
After 21 long years, the Pittsburgh Pirates are all but ensured to clinch their first winning season with. Not since Barry Bonds, Doug Drabek and Andy Van Slyke ruled the roost in Pittsburgh had the Bucs enjoyed the thrill of a .500-plus campaign. In the seemingly endless years to follow, All-Star-worthy players tried to push the Pirates over the top: Jason Kendall, Brian Giles, Danny Neagle, Aramis Ramirez, Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez and Nate McLouth all did what they could, but every year the Pirates went through the same routine of looking up, sometimes, very high up, at the top of the standings.

To put this timing in perspective, here’s 13 things about 1992, the last time the unlucky Pirates finished above .500 before embarking on their long, lost voyage:

The number of computers connected to the Internet was under a million.

Major League Baseball had a real commissioner (Fay Vincent).

Your cell phone—if you had one—was bigger than your shoe.

Active major leaguers included Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, Rick Dempsey, Charlie Hough and Bert Blyleven.

Ask who Al Qaeda was, and people might have guessed a taxi driver in New York City.

Johnny Carson worked his final year on the Tonight show; Jon Stewart was a year away from launching his talk show career on MTV.

The list of major leaguers with 500 or more home runs was at 14. Today, it’s at 25.

A gallon of gas cost $1.05 on average.

TV’s top ten shows included Roseanne, Murphy Brown, Murder She Wrote, Cheers and Northern Exposure.

Four major league teams—the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Florida Marlins—had yet to play their first game.

Euro Disney opened in Paris—and as David Letterman hilariously deadpanned, every time the park shot off the fireworks, the French surrendered.

Alabama was the NCAA football champion. (Okay, so some things haven’t changed.)

The Mall of America opened on the site of the torn-down Metropolitan Stadium, once the home of the Minnesota Twins.

C’mon, Mo—Just One More Time Around the Block
New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi decided to give it the ol’ college try. He made a public plea to 43-year-old closer Mariano Rivera to reconsider his impending retirement—even as David Robertson waits in the wings as a worthy replacement. Rivera’s response? “I don’t know why we’re talking about this.” Even if Rivera felt the itch to return, the first thing that would probably come to his mind is this: How do I return all those parting gifts?

On Second Thought…
Rivera has blown six saves since July 7. That would match the most he had in any one season going back to 2001.

Name That Former Steroid User
A couple of weeks ago, former major leaguer Jack Clark made the claim that Albert Pujols used steroids and backed it up by saying he got the information form Pujols’ trainer. (Pujols vehemently denied it and threatened to sue.) Eric Byrnes, another, more recent big league retiree, also brought second-hand rumor to the forefront this past week but played it somewhat smart by not naming names, claiming he heard that a Hall-of-Famer who played during the 1970s and 1980s was juiced—and he got the info from a “former long-time major league player” he was having dinner with. The no-so-smart part was this: By not naming the player, he puts public suspicion on a group of Hall of Famers who played during this time, and now they’ll be suspected simply for falling within Byrnes’ timeline. The blogosphere, in response, went wild by throwing out various names—and it showed how Cooperstown-illiterate a lot of them are, since many of the names blurted out are not in the Hall.

It comes down to this: If Byrnes was looking for his story to have legs, what exactly did he have in mind?

Pot Roast
Cleveland closer Chris Perez was formally slapped in court for pot possession, receiving a $250 fine, one year’s probation and public duty teaching schoolchildren about the evils of illicit drugs. (He’s also undergoing drug counseling from MLB.) His wife has still yet to receive punishment for her part, as has not the couple’s dog (who the drugs were addressed to). Perez did not comment on the sentence, as he continues his self-imposed gag order on local beat reporters.

Los Angeles of (Formerly) Anaheim?
Back in 2005, incensed politicians in Anaheim sued Angel owner Arte Moreno for devaluing the city name by renaming his franchise the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (Moreno also left a lot of sports linguists responding with: What!?) Now it appears that Anaheim will be okay with a complete removal of its name from the team moniker—but only for long term security.

This past Tuesday, the Anaheim city council voted to keep the Angels from having the option to leave town until 2019—allowing time to negotiate with Moreno to keep the team in Anaheim through 2057, when most of us will be dead. The thought is that, in return, Anaheim will allow the team to be called the Los Angeles Angels—which would bring the franchise full circle to what they initially went by in 1961, when they began play at that other Wrigley Field, just south of downtown Los Angeles.

Dunn Done?
He’s only 33 years of age and has a decent shot at 600 career homers, but Adam Dunn may turn his back on it all if he’s not having fun. The Chicago White Sox slugger told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal this past week that he would walk away from the game (and $15 million owed to him next year) if he’s not enjoying his time at the ballpark.

Dunn’s first three years in Chicago have been an exercise in various forms of disappointment. His 2011 debut for the Sox was a disaster, hitting just .159 with 11 homers and 177 strikeouts in 122 games; it was, arguably, the worst year ever produced by a major leaguer. He rebounded to 41 homers last year, but still hit a paltry .204 and came within one K of tying Mark Reynolds’ all-time mark of 223 in a season. This season has seen slightly more stability (.225, 30 homers), but it’s still not on par with the numbers he produced in his earlier National League years with Cincinnati, Arizona and Washington. Complicating matters is that the White Sox haven’t won since his arrival; only lowly Houston and Miami have worse records this season.

“I’m not coming back just to come back for money or because I have one year left (on my contract),” Dunn told Rosenthal. “I’m not coming back to chase home run numbers or whatever. If I end up with 499 and I'm not having fun, see ya—499 it is.”

Who Last Stole a Base For Your Team?
In the curious trivia department, SB Nation listed the last stolen base by a pitcher for each team this past week; not surprisingly, eight teams that haven’t seen a pitcher swipe a bag since 1980 have come from the AL, which hasn’t given pitchers much of a chance since the 1973 introduction of the designated hitter. The Cleveland Indians have gone the longest, last stealing a base on July 5, 1967 when John O’Donoghue pilfered one. Toronto has officially listed one pitcher with a steal—and it was an outfielder, Bob Bailor, who did it in a game in which he also pitched. So he makes the cut, albeit with an asterisk.

Three teams have never had a pitcher steal a base: Tampa Bay, Seattle and Miami. The Rays and Mariners get a break because they’re AL teams, but the Marlins have had the pitcher bat every game since they began play 20 years ago, and yet…

Will Barbecued Marlin be Next on the Menu?
Speaking of the Marlins: NFL linebacker/aspiring food concessionaire Jonathan Vilma and his brother have been sued by the team for $75,000 after they allegedly backed out of a business deal to sell barbecue food at Marlins Park under their franchise name of Brother Jimmy’s; the Marlins claim that the Vilmas failed to pay the $75k for a sponsorship fee and didn’t give notice before shutting down the concession. The Vilmas are countersuing, saying that no agreement was made and that the food being served there was not up “to our standards,” as Jonathan personally found out when he attended a game and tasted the food for himself. If Marlin owner Jeffrey Loria is ready to play hardball with Vilma, he should keep this in mind: Vilma was once suspended by the NFL for being part of the notorious bounty scandal in New Orleans a few years back.

Eighty-Sixing the Eight
When Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season last month for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, good buddy and NFL star quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who plays nearby in Green Bay) expressed disappointment, shock and embarrassment given that he was willing to bet his salary on Braun’s innocence back when the Milwaukee slugger defiantly denied any steroid use. Perhaps Rodgers has forgiven Braun, but the owners of a restaurant group that opened 8-Twelve MVP Bar & Grill—named after the numbers worn by Braun and Rodgers—have not. They terminated their relationship with Braun and will change the name of the restaurant, located in the western suburbs of Milwaukee.

“Hi, Ryan Braun Here…”
Well, this isn’t quite the same as making the rounds at Harlem bars to apologize for a racist mark (as the Yankees’ Jake Powell did in 1938), but it will do. Reportedly by his own choice, Braun picked up the phone this past week and dialed up several Brewer season ticket holders and apologized for his steroid sins. Some of the people on the other end of the line thought it was a joke at first, but once they heard the voice they realized it was the real Ryan. No word on whether Braun also offered of a special deal on 2014 ticket renewals.

Eat Your Heart Out, Herb Washington
Billy Hamilton, recently called up by Cincinnati, stole four bases and scored three times this past week—all without the benefit of a plate appearance. The just-turned-23-year-old speedster, who set an organized ball record last year with 155 in the minors, was called upon late in clutch situations by the Reds as a pinch-runner—and each time he delivered, being successful on each of four stolen base attempts (against highly respected defensive catchers in Yadier Molina and A.J. Ellis, no less) and directly contributed to two wins and the prolonging of another game (Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Cardinals). It’s the first time in the post-1900 modern era that a major leaguer has stolen a base in each of his first four appearances.

Though Hamilton was called up after September 1—which assumedly would make him ineligible for the postseason—he can serve in October should a teammate be placed on the disabled list. So, Nick Masset, where do you want it? The arm, the ankle or the oblique?

Three Stooges Memorial Clip of the Week
Boston’s Shane Victorino makes a pretty nice catch and plops into the first row of Fenway Park, but watch the guy with the blue Red Sox jersey after Victorino gets up. He’s got a lot of explaining to do. (Victorino escaped any harm from the guy, but he still got his at the plate—getting hit by pitches five times this past week.)

This is Why the A’s Need to Move to San Jose
The Oakland A’s—battling for first place in the AL West and likely on their way to a second straight postseason—and the last-place San Francisco Giants both held home series this past weekend in the Bay Area. The Giants sold out all four of their games against Arizona, hardly a drawing magnet; the A’s, meanwhile, drew 11,569 on Thursday (with local reporters pegging the actual in-house figure as much lower), 15,502 on Friday, 20,340 on Saturday and 18,824 on Sunday. Yes, the opponent was the downtrodden Houston Astros, but when the A’s are playing as well as they have, it shouldn’t matter who the opponent is at the gate.

No Longer the Worst Person in the World
It’s so nice to see
Keith Olbermann off his divisive political soapbox and back where he belongs, doing an hour-long, late-night show for ESPN that is essentially a personalized version of SportsCenter, complete with Times Square in the background. Having been booted off both MSNBC and Current TV for going nose-to-nose with management, here’s hoping that Olbermann will relax, have fun and make sports commentary entertaining again; ESPN can sure use the lift, and so can he. Just tell the stagehands not to yell “Rush Limbaugh” on the set.

Does the Translator Get Suspended, Too?
Manny Ramirez may be gone from the Chinese Professional Baseball League (in Taiwan), but that doesn’t mean things have grown blasé. This past week, an American umpire (name unknown) working behind home plate called a balk on a pitcher, bringing out the manager—and his translator. What follows are a series of hysterical exchanges where umpire tells translator to tell manager to leave, followed by blank stare at translator by manager, followed by nervous translation by translator, followed eventually by ejection by umpire (though it’s not sure if he was ejecting both the translator and manager). It’s then that things get ugly as the manager, who had come off as mild-mannered and almost clueless to this point, decides to bumps the umpire—who retaliates by putting his hand around the manager’s throat, causing the whole team to enter the field and circle around the umpire. Check it out.

The Southpaw Siders
The Chicago White Sox have become the first major league team since the 1954 Washington Senators to have four left-handed pitchers start at least 20 games. It didn’t work to the Senators’ advantage then (they finished 66-88) and it’s apparently not working to the advantage of the White Sox (56-84) now.

Just How Far is Your Lead off First Base?
Houston’s
Brandon Barnes attempted five steals this past week; he was caught four times. Barnes leads the majors in times caught stealing with 11; he’s been successful another 11 times.

Tommy John on Tommy John Surgery
A few weeks ago, our
Ed Attanasio was on the phone with a friend who just happened to have a relative in the house—and his name was Tommy John. Within minutes, Ed was in They Were There mode and got this wonderful interview with the former 288-game winner who, in 1974, was the first to undergo the ligament-replacement surgery that now bares his name.

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
The Nationals’
Denard Span made it to two straight weeks under this heading as he ran his hitting streak to 19, the majors’ longest active run as of this past Sunday. Span doesn’t seem to feel the pressure of Joltin’ Joe’s record—hey, he’s barely a third of the way there, so he’d better not—as he knocked out seven hits in 19 at-bats this past week in four more games.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekBoston's Jacoby Ellsbury was basically the lone player of postseason-level magnitude to make an appearance in the MLB Medical Ward this past week, suffering a fractured foot; the Red Sox hope he can be ready for the playoffs. And by the way, for all those teams salivating over the prospect of signing Ellsbury next year as a free agent, let this be a reminder that the talented outfielder gets hurt. A lot.


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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