Better Late Than Never
It took Trevor Hoffman time and struggle this year to earn his 600th career save, but he finally got there on Tuesday at Milwaukee to become the first player to reach that milestone. The 42-year old closer came into the season just nine saves shy of 600, and many were thinking he’d get there by May given his efficient and ageless pitching in recent years. But all great players eventually wind down, and Hoffman’s time seemed to expire quickly after a start so badin mid-May he had blown five of ten save opportunities with a 13.15 ERAthat he was demoted from the closer role in Milwaukee. Since then, Hoffman has slowly worked his way back into the jobalbeit a shared occupation with John Axfordby bringing his pitching game back under control, producing a 3.16 ERA over his last 33 appearances with four saves (none blown).
Sean Ottow missed out on experiencing Hoffman’s milestone because he was ejected earlier in the game by home plate umpire Bob Davidson. Ottow is not a player or a bench coach, but a 44-year old spectator who was sitting behind home plate who was “a little tipsy” from alcohol and riding players from the opposing St. Louis Cardinals all night long. Finally, by the seventh inning, Davidson had enough when he claimed Ottow yelled out a homophobic slur at Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina. It’s not the first time we’ve heard of a fan getting the thumb during a game, but it is rare. Ottow said he planned to fight the $185 citation for disorderly conduct given to him by Milwaukee police, adding, “I feel like I’m being ticketed for political correctness.” But what about that slur, Mr. Ottow?
Fourteen and Counting
Alex Rodriguez reached the 100-RBI barrier for the 14th straight year this past week, breaking a major league record previously shared by three slugging legends of the early 20th Century: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. As for how this all adds up for the current-day New York Yankee slugger, he remains 20th on the all-time RBI list with 1,808, with leader Hank Aaron ahead of him by 489.
Ten and Counting
St. Louis' Albert Pujols kept his career-long RBI streak active as well when he knocked in his 100th run of the season, giving him at least 100 though each of his first ten seasons to extend a major league record he's held for several years.
Eigthteen and Counting
Here’s more proof that the humidor is working at Coors Field: Colorado pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez won his 18th game of the year to establish a season record for the Rockies. The 26-year old Dominican has racked up the wins this season with an honorable 2.79 ERA, in stark contrast to the three guys who previously shared the Rockie win mark of 17: Kevin Ritz in 1996 (5.28 ERA), Pedro Astacio in 1999 (5.04) and Jeff Francis in 2007 (4.22). Better throw a few cigars in the humidor in case Jimenez becomes the first 20-game winner in Colorado history, which he has a decent shot at.
Going to the Mat
Sophomore San Diego pitcher Mat Latos set a record this week when he allowed two or fewer runs for the 15th straight time, upending the old mark held by Houston’s Mike Scott in 1986 and Atlanta’s Greg Maddux from 1993-94. Latos' run came to an abrupt end on Sunday against San Francisco as the Giants knocked him around for five runs in just four innings of work.
Hall-of-Famer Billy Williams, 72, joined Ernie Banks as the only Chicago Cub players immortalized in bronze when a statue of his playing likeness was unveiled this past week at the corner of Addison and Sheffield outside of Wrigley Field. Williams quietly went about his business during his formidable years as a Cub, playing in 1,117 consecutive games (a NL record later broken by Steve Garvey) while putting the hurt to opponents, peaking in the early 1970s when he produced a number of MVP-worthy years (he never won that honor, however). Williams hit 426 career homers, 392 during his 16-year run with the Cubs.
It Just Doesn't Add Up!
Opponents are hitting just .229 against the Los Angeles Dodgers since the All-Star break, which if it holds would be the lowest such figure allowed after the break since the 1986 Houston Astros, who charged their way to the NL West title; the Dodgers, despite the terrific pitching, are only 22-34 since the break.
Far From Mannywood...
Manny Ramirez through his first 11 games as a member of the Chicago White Sox: No home runs, no RBIs.
Washington call-up Danny Espinosa knocked in ten runs through his first five major league games (in just 16 at-bats), tying the mark for most RBIs in one’s first five games set in 1951 by Pittsburgh’s Jack Mersonwho lasted three years in the majors without making much of a mark except for the one just noted.
There are rumors of a work stoppage in the National Hockey League when its labor agreement expires in 2012; should that happen and the Pittsburgh Pirates are still losing (odds, anyone?), they should consider signing up hockey star Sidney Crosby from down the street. Here’s why.
Reno may be the biggest little city in the world, but Ryan Roberts apparently didn’t want any part of it. (We’ve been there; we can sympathize.) The Arizona Diamondback utility player admitted this past week that while making a stint with the team’s triple-A affiliate in Reno, Roberts managed to make a home for himself in the clubhouselaying low until everyone left but the janitors, who were the only ones to know and accommodated Roberts. The main reason for Roberts’ choice for room and board is that he didn’t want to spend the time and money looking for a temporary place while in Renoassuming, of course, that his stay in Reno would be temporary. For his sake, let’s hope so.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Pittsburgh rookie second baseman Neil Walker ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 18 games. His run is the longest by a Pirate rookie since Rennie Stennett also put together a stretch of 18 games in 1971. Walker has seven doubles, two triples and five home runs during his streak.
Now Playing at TGG
From the Opinion section, our choices for the ten most memorable home runs ever hit. Check it out now.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Fallen Leaves of Absence
If it’s controversy, it must be the New York Mets. The team that has absorbed much-publicized sore points this season with Francisco Rodriguez punching out his girlfriend’s father, Johan Santana getting accused of rape and Oliver Perez defiantly saying no to a minor league rehab assignment made the news again when three MetsPerez, Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillofailed to show for a team visit at Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet with and give encouragement to America’s war wounded. The visit was not mandatory, but it wasn’t the ideal assignment to skip out on, based on angry comments vented toward the three AWOL players from those who showed up. “To be able to look a guy in the eye who doesn’t have arms or legs and say, ‘Thank you,’ that’s a big deal,” pitcher R.A. Dickey told the New York Daily News, adding about the three non-attendees, “I take it personally.”
Perez, Beltran and Castillo have already fought with Met management this year; Perez with his refusal to rehab in the minors, Beltran with his offseason knee surgery and Castillo complaining that he’s had it with the Mets and their fans. The three had different excuses about their absencethat is, if you consider Perez’s comment that he “doesn’t answer anything” off the field as an excuse; Beltran says he was busy dealing with a charitable foundation based in his native Puerto Rico, and Castillo says he didn’t go because he’d be freaked out by the sight of seriously disabled people, which must have made the war veterans at Walter Reed feel just swell.
Members of the media sitting down in the Miller Park press box at Milwaukee for Friday’s game between the Brewers and Chicago Cubs found a press release among the game day notes promoting a new book by Cub general manager Jim Hendry entitled How to Finish Near Last Place With the Highest Payroll in the League. Among the chapters that were said to be included: “Why I signed Milton Bradley!”, “Why I released Casey McGehee only to see him hit 20 home runs and drive in nearly 100 runs for a divisional rival” and “Why I signed players to long-term contracts with limited trade options.” If you’re anxious to pre-order on Amazon, forget it; the whole press release was a joke, one the Brewerswho furnish the press box notesdidn’t find very funny. The team said it was investigating as to who slipped the phony note in.
He Just Can't Winn
If the St. Louis Cardinals don’t catch up to the Cincinnati Reds and fail to make the postseason (foiling our preseason prediction that called for the Redbirds to win the NL pennant), Randy Winn might simply look to the sky and yell with anguish: “Why me!?” The 13-year major league veteran has played in more games than any other active player without postseason experience, and it appears it’s going to stay that way after this season.
Winn fittingly began his career as a charter member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, evolving into a fine player but chained through 2002 with an eternal loser (or so it seemed, until 2008). He was then dealt to Seattle, just a few years removed from its historic 116-win campaign. Great news, right? Wrong. The Mariners quickly disintegrated during Winn’s two-plus years in the Northwest, and midway through 2005 he was traded to San Francisco. The Giants! Barry Bonds! Three postseason appearances in the early 2000s…Oh, that was then, this was 2005: Bonds’ knees and age caught up to him, and the Giants had no Plan B. So as Winn continued to provide sound (if unspectacular) play, the Giants languished in slow rebuild mode during his five-year San Francisco tenure.
Let go by the Giants after a steep drop-off in performance in 2009, Winn signed on cheap with…the New York Yankees. Now Winn couldn’t lose, right? Of course he couldn’t, so long as he could contribute…which he couldn’t, hitting .213 before being given his release in May. But then he was picked up by the Cardinals, a formidable team which at that time held first place in the NL Central. Another sigh of relief released through Winn’s lungs? Not exactly. Since Winn’s arrival in St. Louis, the Cardinals have played below-.500 ball, allowing the Cincinnati Reds to surpass them and build a six-game lead heading into the home stretch. Winn could get dealt to another contender, but because such a deal would be taking place after September 1, he wouldn’t be eligible for postseason play.
So if you’re a Randy Winn fan, here’s hoping for a late St. Louis charge on a collapsing Cincinnati team. Otherwise, the chances of any October baseball for Winn, currently a bench player at age 36, are fading fast.
Portland, Oregon has never had a major league teamthe city has been linked to several big-league moves over the yearsbut now it looks like it won’t have any baseball at all. A Pacific Coast League stronghold for over a century, Portland may be losing its only teamthe San Diego Padre-affiliated Portland Beaversbecause PG&E Park, the city’s historic downtown facility, will be retrofitted to make way for the Portland Timbers, a Major League Soccer expansion team. (Whoever thought that baseball would be bumped in favor of soccer?) With nowhere else to play locally in 2011, it appears that a move for the Beavers is imminent. The most publicized scenario has the team moving to Escondido, California, a mere 25 miles north of the Beavers’ parent club in San Diego.
Beware of Flying Objects
Monday’s Labor Day matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix was a dangerous game for the fans to sit through. In the fourth inning, a 13-year old fan sitting near the third base dugout was struck on the head by a bat that slipped out of Giant catcher Buster Posey’s hands; one at-bat later, a two-year old seated in the upper deck was struck in the forehead by a Pablo Sandoval foul ball. Both kids were taken to the hospital but are expected to be okay. Earlier in the game, a foul ball shot down the left field line by Arizona’s Adam LaRoche struck an older woman, who also was shaken upbut remained in the stands.
Wounded of the Week
This past weekend was not a good time to be the owner of an appendix. On Saturday, umpire Angel Campos was taken to a Cleveland hospital for an emergency appendectomy, and just hours later the same procedure had to be ordered up for San Francisco center fielder Andres Torres, who’ll miss up to two weeks as the Giants try and clinch a postseason birth without his belatedly strong presence.
Another NL West contender absorbed some bad news when Colorado starting pitcher Aaron Cook broke his leg when hit by a Joey Votto line drive on Thursday; he is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Finally, New York Met ace Johan Santana will undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder. This won’t cripple the Mets for the remainder of 2010 as the team sinks in the NL East standings, but given the Mets’ recent problems with star players recovering from major injury (Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes), they’ll really be crossing their fingers that Santana will be ready for spring training 2011.