The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: September 10-16, 2012
Highlights from the 2013 Schedule This Week in Dysfunctional Red Sox Nation
MLB's 500,000th Error Is That Tony Romo Pitching for the Rangers?

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The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look
at the best, worst and most unexpected through the first 81 games of the 2012 major league season.

In Case We Survive the Mayan's Warning...
Usually the release of the schedule for the regular season to come provokes little more than yawns nationwide, with only marginal excitement over who’s playing who in interleague action (and even that’s dwindled in recent years now that everyone has pretty much played everyone in the league vs. league wars). But this past week’s announcement of the 2013 schedule is of particular interest because of the perfect realignment of the 30 teams (each league will consist of three five-team divisions for the first time), and the reality of interleague play every day of the season. Add to that some potentially uncomfortable reunions, and we have some interesting games on tap for next season.

For starters, there will be the first-ever Opening Day interleague game, with the traditional “first game” at Cincinnati taking on an untraditional track with the AL’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim visiting the Reds on April 1. Houston, which will be placed in the AL West for the first time, starts its season with a home series against intra-state rival Texas. Later in the year, the Los Angeles Dodgers—who absorbed a good chunk of the Boston Red Sox this summer—will take on what’s left of the Red Sox when Boston comes to Chavez Ravine, and Ozzie Guillen returns to U.S. Cellular Field as Miami visits Chicago to take on the White Sox (that’s assuming that the Marlins haven’t fired Guillen before then).

Every team will have the same breakdown of games: 76 within its own division, 66 against the other ten teams from its league, and 20 interleague matchups. Finally, the 2013 season brings us this head-scratcher: The year will end on a Sunday after two seasons wrapping up at midweek—and given how beautifully the 2011 season played to an end on a Wednesday without having to elbow through all the midseason football madness on the sports pages, you gotta wonder what MLB was thinking.

A Historic Blunder (Give or Take a Few)
It may or may not have actually been the case, but Baseball Reference cited a Jose Reyes’ bobble of a grounder from Cincinnati’s Drew Stubbs this past Saturday as the 500,000th error committed recorded in major league baseball history. The Miami shortstop thus absorbs a weird bit of baseball notoriety, sort of the flip side of Bob Watson scoring baseball’s one millionth run in 1976. Because of the relative shoddy methods of scorekeeping in the game’s early days, we may never truly know whether Reyes’ gaffe was indeed exactly halfway to a million.

An Expertise in Sleaze?
Seth and Sam Levinson, the agents for the suspended Melky Cabrera, are under investigation by both Major League Baseball and the players’ union to determine if they were involved in the faux web site scheme that attempted to mislead baseball into proving Cabrera was innocent—and also to determine if they knowingly distributed steroids to other clients.

Kirk Radomski, the former clubhouse attendant for the New York Mets who was a key figure in the Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball, recently told the New York Daily News that he as reimbursed by the Levinsons between 2005-07 for performance enhancing drugs he provided to major leaguers, including Paul Lo Duca and Mike Stanton (no, not the slugger who’s now known as Giancarlo Stanton). The Levinsons are publicly denying any involvement, but stay tuned.

Boston Saga Sidebar #45
When everything started falling apart for the Boston Red Sox a few months ago, we discussed how best to deal with the problem—beginning with the idea of simply blowing up the roster, which in fact is what the Red Sox did a week later. One appealing option for Boston fans that we considered dead on arrival was for the current ownership group led by John Henry to sell. But there was chatter this past week that perhaps the notion wasn’t so dead. Fox Business Network spread information they received that Henry and Company was “mulling a potential sale” due to the financial weight of owning two major sports clubs; Fenway Sports Group also owns Liverpool of the English Premier League.

The Red Sox blasted the report as “nonsense” and Henry emailed to Sports Illustrated: “This report is completely without foundation.”

Boston Saga Sidebar #46
What’s left on the Red Sox—on the field—didn’t rate much value this past Friday, as perhaps overstated by manager Bobby Valentine: “This is the weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball.” With trades, injuries and (in Dustin Pedroia’s case) maternity leave decimating a once-feared lineup, the Red Sox went into action at Toronto with only outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, himself shelved for much of the year, featured as a name star player. Otherwise, the lineup was peppered with not-so-common common player names like Ciriaco, Gomez, Lavarnway, Nava and Iglesias. And how did Boston do for the doom-saying Valentine? It beat the Blue Jays, 8-5.

Boston Saga Sidebar #47
One more lovely bit of controversy regarding the Red Sox from this past week, because there’s simply too much of it these days. MLB is looking into whether the Red Sox violated policy by leaking out information on the numerous players they placed on waivers (and were ultimately picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a massive mid-August trade). The rules state that no information regarding activity after players are placed on waivers should be made public because, as Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross bluntly put it, to do so would “put stress in guys’ heads.” If the Red Sox are found guilty of any leaks, they could face “significant” fines.

Closed Out
Francisco Cordero, the highest-paid player on the Houston roster—at $4.5 million—was released this past week after bombing badly in six stints with the Astros since being traded from Toronto. Cordero blew all three save attempts and was shaken down with a 19.80 ERA in six appearances at Houston before a toe injury in August sidelined him. Just a year ago, Cordero was sterling for Cincinnati, saving 37 of 43 opportunities with a 2.45 ERA.

A Statue for Jerry
A few years back we did a breakdown of some of the more unexpected bronze statues to be found at ballparks across the country. Add this one to the list: The San Diego Padres erected their second sculpture outside of Petco Park, so who follows Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn? Try Jerry Coleman, the former Yankee infielder, long-time Padre announcer and (for one year) Padre manager. Hard to believe that Coleman would be the second choice, but maybe the team thought it was too early to have someone start carving the likeness of Trevor Hoffman. As for Coleman, give him credit for all he’s been to the Padres; even today at 88, he gets behind the mike (albeit far less than he used to) to help out in the booth. Also, his distinguished military career (he served in both World War II and Korea) will be smiled upon in a town where the armed forces are well represented.

Auction Item of the Week
The last page of the 1989 agreement banning Pete Rose from baseball—complete with signatures of Rose, commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti and his then-assistant, future commish Fay Vincent—is going on the auction block. The auction’s promoter, Ken Goldin, believes the piece of paper has a good chance of fetching more dough than the $996,000 paid for the written deal sending Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1919. When told of the auction, Vincent told ESPN: “Nothing surprises me anymore. But there is a certain sense of the absurd in turning an agreement about the abuse of our great game into cash for the miscreant.” (It’s unknown whether Rose himself will get a cut of the auction sale.)

Yes, the Astros are a Disease
A sign held by a young Philadelphia Phillie fan at Houston on Thursday: “If I can beat cancer, you can beat the Astros.” The Phillies lost, 6-4.

Romo for a Day
It’s a dangerous thing to be anything other than a Dallas Cowboy fan in Arlington, as Texas closer Joe Nathan discovered this past week. A fan of the New York football Giants, Nathan bet teammate Mike Adams that the Giants would beat the Cowboys in the NFL regular season opener on September 5. He lost; the Cowboys won, 24-17. Money did not exchange hands as a result; the penalty for Nathan was that he had to go out on the field before Tuesday’s game against Cleveland in full Cowboy gear, including a jersey of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. Nathan appeared to the confusion of many Ranger fans who were trying to figure out, “Is that…Nahhhh…”

He Tweeted What?
“Buster olney u so full a s**t.” Miami manager Ozzie Guillen, in prime social media form after ESPN’s Buster Olney accused Guillen and his Marlins of quitting on the 2012 season. (Yes,we replaced the “h” and “i” with asterisks.)

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

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
Monday, September 10
The highly reliable Atlanta bullpen blows a gasket and can’t hold a slim 1-0 lead at Milwaukee. Relievers Jonny Venters and Chad Durbin combine to walk four Brewers in a four-run seventh inning that lead to a 4-1 Milwaukee win, dropping the Braves 6.5 games behind the Washington Nationals (who win at New York) in the NL East race, while propelling the Brewers toward the wild card chase.

A four-game series between the top two AL Central foes begins in Chicago with the White Sox—trailing Detroit, 1-0, in the bottom of the sixth—exploding for four runs with back-to-back home runs from Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski. The Tigers cannot counter and lose, 6-1, to fall three games back of the White Sox.

Tuesday, September 11
San Diego pitcher Edinson Volquez gets the win in the Padres’ 6-4 toppling of the St. Louis Cardinals at Petco Park, but in doing so he walks six to become the majors’ first pitcher to reach 100 on the year. This represents a career high for Volquez, who’s thrown 165.1 innings this season. Despite the loss, the Cardinals remain a game ahead of Los Angeles for the second NL wild card spot.

Only with a matchup between the National League’s two worst teams will you see this: The Astros defeat the Chicago Cubs in Houston, 1-0, despite committing four errors. The Cubs were also the last victim of such a loss, failing to take advantage of four miscues in a 1-0 defeat against Florida in 1997.

Another 1-0 game takes place in Phoenix with the Arizona Diamondbacks taking care of the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to an unearned run. It’s only the second time in Arizona franchise history that the Diamondbacks have won a 1-0 game thanks to an error; the first took place earlier this year, on May 14—also against the Dodgers.

Here come…the Philadelphia Phillies? The late bloomers win their sixth straight game with a 9-7 decision at home against Miami and reach the .500 mark for the first time since June 4; they’re also still alive in the hunt for a wild card spot, four games behind St. Louis.

Wednesday, September 12
And here come…the Milwaukee Brewers? Behind seven solid innings from Yovani Gallardo (who improves to 15-8) and an eight-run fifth inning that accounts for all of their runs, the Brewers finish off a three-game sweep of the previously hot Atlanta Braves for their 18th win over their last 23 games. Milwaukee is now over the .500 mark for the first time since the beginning of the season (April 12, to be precise) and is just three games out of the final NL wild card spot.

The Oakland A’s, swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim a week earlier, are three-fourths of their way toward returning the favor by winning their straight game over the Angels in Anaheim with a 4-1 win for their 12th straight win on the road, their longest run since moving to Oakland in 1968. (The Angels win will the next day to snap the streak and avoid the sweep.) Rookie pitcher A.J. Griffin tosses eight shutout innings to improve to 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 11 starts, becoming the first Athletic to win his first six decisions since 1966. The Angels’ only run comes on a ninth-inning homer from Albert Pujols, who reaches 30 for a record-breaking 12th time to begin a career. Oakland is now five games ahead in the wild card chase—and just three back of first-place Texas in the AL West.

Thursday, September 13
At Baltimore, the Orioles win their 81st game of the year and officially break their streak of 14 losing seasons—one shy of the AL record—in typically raucous 2012 Oriole fashion. Rookie Manny Machado singles home the winning run in the 14th inning to successfully end a taut 3-2 victory and a three-game sweep of divisional foe Tampa Bay. Masters of the close ones, the Orioles are now 27-7 in one-run games—and have won 13 straight extra-inning contests, tied for the second longest in major league history.

Despite an aching ankle, Derek Jeter wraps an RBI single in the seventh inning to tie Willie Mays for tenth on the all-time hit list (at 3,283) and provided breathing room for the New York Yankees in a 2-0 win at Boston to remain tied for first in the AL East with the Orioles. He’ll pass Mays the next day.

Texas closer Joe Nathan enters the ninth inning against Cleveland with 31 straight successful save attempts and a 4-2 lead—but then suffers a meltdown, allowing hits to all four batters he faces including two home runs that give the Indians a 5-4 lead they will not relinquish. Nathan had not blown a save since April 11.

Friday, September 14
In a possible preview of the AL wild card play-in game, the A’s get a two-run home run from Yoenis Cespedes (playing with a sore wrist) to help defeat the Orioles, 3-2, at the Oakland Coliseum before, finally, a huge crowd of 35,067—never mind that it’s Fireworks Night. Rookie A’s pitcher Tom Milone improves to 13-10 with the win.

Yu Darvish appears to be refreshed. The first-year Japanese import pitches seven strong innings against Seattle to outlast fellow rookie expatriate Hisashi Iwakuma, who departs before the Texas Rangers dump seven runs on the Mariner bullpen in a 9-3 win at Arlington. After a midsummer slump, Darvish is 3-0 over his last four starts with a 1.55 ERA; his nine strikeouts give him 205 for the year, making him the 16th rookie since 1900 with over 200.

Saturday, September 15
The fast-sinking Pittsburgh Pirates end a seven-game losing slide at Chicago with a 7-6 win over the Cubs, but it doesn’t come easy. Ahead 7-3 after seven innings, the Bucs allow one run in the eighth and then two more in the ninth; Dave Sappelt strikes out for the final out with the bases loaded. The Bucs are now at 73-71, and need to go 8-10 the rest of the way to avoid a 20th straight losing campaign.

In his second start against the Royals since being traded from Kansas City after the 2010 season, Angel pitcher Zack Greinke throws exceptionally well and is replaced by closer Ernesto Frieri with one out and one on in the ninth inning; Frieri then allows two homers, including an inside-the-park job by catcher Salvador Perez, to give the Royals a 3-2 win at Kauffman Stadium.

Sunday, September 16
The Pirates below a 9-5 lead at Chicago as the Cubs score eight answered runs for a 13-9 win; Anthony Rizzo smacks two homers, including a sixth-inning grand slam that puts the Cubs ahead for good. Pittsburgh is back to a mere game above the .500 mark.

In an unusally wild game at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, the San Diego Padres overcome a six-run rally by the visiting Colorado Rockies and win 12-11 on a walk-off RBI single from Yonder Alonso. The two teams finish head-to-head competition against one another having scored 91 total runs at Petco—almost matching the 94 tallied between the two in nine games at mile-high Coors Field in Denver.

Coda for the Puma?
For the second time in three years, there’s talk that Lance Berkman is done. The first time, it was all premature; the veteran slugger returned in 2011 and had a renaissance campaign (.301 average, 31 homers, 94 RBIs, 92 walks) for the St. Louis Cardinals. But this time, it may be for real. Berkman underwent his third knee surgery on his right knee and is resigned to the fact that his career may be over at age 36, though he says he’s keeping his options “open.” Berkman’s bum knee has confined his play to a mere 31 games and 80 at-bats, with a pair of homers and seven RBIs.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Joltin’ Joe yawns for another week as the end of Sunday gave us two players—one on the disabled list, the other trying to keep from going on it—sharing the honors of the longest active hitting streak at a relatively measly 12 games apiece. The Yankees’ Derek Jeter, DH-ing to give his sore ankle a rest, is hitting an even .400 since his run began on September 4; meanwhile, the Red Sox’ David Ortiz, who’s played only one game since mid-July, is literally sitting on his own 12-game streak while nursing a Achilles injury that’s not expected to fully heal before the end of the year.

TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!

Now Playing at TGG
In Ed Attanasio's newest addition to TGG's They Were There section, Chuck Stevens talks about being the first major leaguer to get a hit off of Satchel Paige, his life and times living in Hollywood as a Pacific Coast League player, and his role in establishing the Professional Baseball Players' Association, which helps former ballplayers in need.