When a Hundred Hurts
For the first time in their 50 years of operation, the Houston Astros lost 100 games when they went down to defeat at Chicago against the Cubs on Saturday, 2-1. The Astros had previously lost 97 games three times, in 1965, 1975 and 1991. The team hadn’t even lost 90 games since 2000, when it made a rough transition from the Astrodome to hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park (originallyand infamouslytitled Enron Field). It’s no surprise that the Astros have fallen so far so quick; they’ve dumped almost all of their star players with the exception of Carlos Lee, who they can’t get rid of because of his voluminous salary (which he has underperformed to). What’s left is basically the nucleus of the team’s Triple-A farm club from Oklahoma Cityas it was at the beginning of this year.
With the Astros now having lost 100 games, only two other major league teams have yet to reach the dubious century mark. Name them. (Answer at the bottom of this column.)
In what the San Jose Mercury News reported as the result of an internal power struggle, the San Francisco Giants have demoted general managing partner Bill Neukom and replaced him with team president Larry Baer, the most visible of the Giants’ ownership group. The group was said to be unhappy with the way Neukom, who took over the reins in 2008, was spending the team’s money without their consent.
In the wake of this and the recent revelation of the team’s payroll manager being arrested for embezzlement, maybe it’s time the Giants began strengthening their checks-and-balance approach to team finances.
...And How Much Does the Law Office Get?
A lawyer for savagely beaten San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow has sued the Los Angeles Dodgers and ordered the team to pay Stow’s medical bills, which he claims will reach $50 million. We knew health care costs were out of control, but c’mon$50 million?
The Seattle Mariners paid tribute to the team’s late play-by-play broadcaster Dave Niehaus by unveiling a bronze sculpture in his likeness at Safeco Field this past week. The beloved Niehaus called the very first pitch in Mariner history in 1977 and continued as the team’s main guy at the mike until his death from a heart attack last November. It is the first sculpture ever erected by the Mariners.
It seems that the City of Detroit just doesn’t care that Tiger Stadium once existed. After the Tigers left the ballpark in 1999, it ignored preservationists who wanted to maintain the field and part of the structure; we offered our own ideas of how to make the former ballpark baseball-fun and profitable to boot. Then it tore down the remainder of the structure, leaving the field. Now, the city has said no to none other than Chevrolet, which made a generous offer of preserving, for free, the lot and bringing it back to life for kids and weekend warriors through their own volunteers. The city’s redevelopment agency said thanks but no thanks, preferring its own vision of a profitable mixed-use development that will pay homage to the ballpark with likely nothing more than a name or plaque.
Oops, I Did it Again!
Colorado back-up catcher Eliezer Alfonzo was nailed for the second time with a positive performance enhancement test, leading to a 100-game suspension; he’s the second major leaguer (after Manny Ramirez) to get nabbed twice. Alfonzo, who tested positive while with the San Francisco Giants in 2008, said he “learned his lesson” from that incident and was surprised at the latest resultsvowing to fight the suspension with the help of the players’ union. For now, the Rockies do not plan on releasing Alfonzo, who hit .267 with a home run in 25 games this season.
And speaking of Manny Ramirez, who quit baseball at the start of the season rather than face his second suspension for steroid use, he was arrested for battery after slapping his wife around in their Florida home on Monday.
Fortysomethings in the Outfield
The Kansas City Royals may be headed for another year well below the .500 mark, but they’re rightfully proud of their outfield. All three of their starting outfieldersAlex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrerahave at least 40 doubles on the year, and that’s a major league first. Billy Butler, the team’s designated hitter with 39 doubles, could make it four players on the roster to reach 40, which was last achieved by the 2006 Texas Rangers.
The Ghost of Mets Present
Remember Johan Santana? Tough to hit, easy to strike out against, Cy Young Award kind-of guy? If your memory’s hazy, we understand. Santana hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since hurting his shoulder over a year ago while playing for the New York Mets, who were hoping to see him return midway through 2011. That didn’t happen, as Santana’s shoulder was slow to heal and he was limited to a few rehab starts for Class-A teams in Florida. The Mets made it official that they would not give him an assignment with the parent team this year, now preferring to wait until next spring.
OMGThe Whole Team is Mark Reynolds!
The Seattle Mariners struck out 75 times in 198 at-bats in six games this past week. Translation: Using those numbers, if the Mariners were a player, they’d be on pace to strike out 225 times in a 162-game seasonwhich would break an all-time record.
Gloom Over Miami
That new ballpark in Miami couldn’t open any sooner for the Florida Marlins, because they’re going to need something to exorcise the bad vibes permeating through the franchise. It all starts at the top, of course, with management that pleads poverty yet pockets more moolah than any other team (had the city of Miami known this, it would be paying a lot less to build that new park right now). But the clubhouse atmosphere seems to have become a bit toxic of late as well. All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez has always cornered the Marlin market on prima donnaism, but this past week we also learned that veteran outfielder Mike Cameron was summarily booted off the team after engaging in a verbal altercation with a flight attendant, and second-year outfielder Logan Morrison has filed a grievance through the players’ union saying he was unfairly demoted to Triple-A in mid-Augustnot for a lacking performance on the field but, because, he failed to appear at a pre-game function with season ticket holders.
You Can Sit Now
In the second inning of Tuesday’s game between Milwaukee and Colorado, Rockie rookie Wilin Rosario swung at a third strikeand stayed in the batter’s box, apparently believing it was only strike two. It took Milwaukee pitcher Zack Greinke to remind everyone of the actual count by holding up three fingers; Rosario quietly walked back to the dugout after the third strike was re-confirmed by umpire Tim McClellan.
Now Playing at TGG
In our latest installment of the They Were There section, TGG's Ed Attanasio chats with the oldest living ex-major leaguer, 100-year old Connie Marrerocurrently living in his native Cuba.
Now Replaying at TGG
In light of Jeter’s historic moment, TGG has revised and updated its Fun Facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders, featuring a 22-question quiz to test your baseball knowledge on members of the 3,000-hit club as well as posers on all-time team leaders. Good luck!
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Colorado Rockies are the only two major league teams who have yet to lose 100 games in a season. The Angels bottomed out at 95 in 1968 and 1980, while the Rockies lost 95 in 1993 and 2005.
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Monday, September 12
In Cincinnati’s 12-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs, Red third baseman Juan Francisco hits the majors’ longest home run on the season, clearing the right field bleachers at Great American Ballpark and landing 502 feet away from home plate. It’s the venue’s second longest shot since Adam Dunn hit a blast 535 feet into the Ohio River in 2008. The loss goes to Dontrelle Willis, who has now gone winless (with six losses) in 12 startsalthough the eight runs he allows in 3.1 innings is the first time he’s allowed more than four in any one start this season.
In Houston, the Astros defeat Philadelphia 5-1 as former Phillie Brett Myers gets the win over former Astro Roy Oswalt, making his return to Minute Maid Park after being traded to the Phillies in 2010. It’s also the first game back for another former Astro, Hunter Pencewho singles, doubles and has a stolen base in four trips to the plate for Philadelphia.
Eight days after squashing the Chicago White Sox 18-2, the Detroit Tigers pick right up where they left off with a 14-4 trouncing of the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. The Tigers have totaled 45 hits including ten doubles and four homers in those two games.
Tuesday, September 13
After seven tries, Boston pitcher Tim Wakefield finally gets his 200th career win, as the Red Sox see to it this time that the lead he leaves isn’t blownby scoring 12 runs after his departure, en route to an 18-6 win at Fenway Park over the Toronto Blue Jays. Wakefield, the oldest active major leaguer at 45, becomes the 108th pitcher to reach the 200-win barrier.
Mariano Rivera earns his 600th career save, leaving him just one behind all-time leader Trevor Hoffman, in the New York Yankees’ 3-2 win at Seattle. The 41-year old Panamanian has saved 41 games in 46 opportunities this season with a 2.05 ERA.
Wednesday, September 14
Clayton Kershaw wins his 19th game for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but not before being ejected for hitting Arizona’s Gerardo Parra in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks. Home plate umpire Tim Tschida throws Kershaw out under the assumption that he’s deliberately providing payback for the day before when Parra hit a home run and stood at the plate admiring the shot, infuriating the Dodgers and their fans.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lose at home to St. Louis 3-2, dropping to 67-82 on the year and ensuring their 19th straight losing season, extending their record for North American pro sports. The Bucs were 51-44 on July 20 but have since gone 16-38.
Thursday, September 15
In the first game of a critical four-game series that could decide the AL wild card spot, the Tampa Bay Rays defeat the Red Sox at Boston, 9-2, scoring the first run on a bizarre play in which B.J. Upton breaks his bat, with both bat and ball headed at Boston shortstop Marco Scutarowho gets distracted by the bat and as a result can’t field the ball, which hops through for a single. Tampa Bay ends the night three games back of Boston.
San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval hits for the cycle in the Giants’ 8-5 win at Colorado. He’s the first Giant to collect a single, double, triple and homer in one game since Fred Lewis in a 2007 game that also took place at Coors Field.
The Tigers’ 12-game winning streak comes to an end at Oakland with a 6-1 loss to the A’s, but they clinch at least a tie for the AL Central title as Cleveland loses. The Detroit streak was the longest since 1934.
Friday, September 16
The Tigers clinch, outright, their first divisional title since 1987 with a 3-1 win over the A’s at Oakland behind Doug Fister’s eight strong innings. Detroit’s last postseason appearance came in 2006 when it registered as a wild card and went to the World Series, losing to St. Louis. Fister is 5-0 over his last six starts with a dynamite 0.81 ERA.
Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun hits two home runs to become the first Brewer since Tommy Harper in 1970 to amass 30 homers and 30 steals in the same year. Braun’s shots help the Brewers to a 6-3 win at Cincinnati; starting Red pitcher Bronson Arroyo gives up four home runs, increasing his season total to 44two shy of the NL record set in 2000 by Houston’s Jose Lima, and six shy of Bert Blyleven’s all-time standard of 50 in 1986.
Jim Thome returns to Minnesota for the first time since being traded by the Twins in mid-summerand hits a solo home run off Joe Nathan in the ninth inning of the Indians’ 7-6 win at Target Field. It’s Thome’s second blast in 15 games since rejoining the Tribe, his original team, and the 603rd of his career.
Saturday, September 17
With 12 games left to play in the season, the Philadelphia Phillies clinch their fifth straight NL East title with a 9-2 win over St. Louis at Citizens Bank Park. Roy Oswalt pitches seven shutout innings, and Raul Ibanez turns a close game into a rout with an eighth-inning grand slam.
Mariano Rivera ties Trevor Hoffman’s all-time career save mark with his 601st in the Yankees’ 7-6 win at Toronto. The Yankees made the 41-year old’s milestone possible by coming back from an early 6-1 deficit to the Blue Jays, thanks to a 3-for-3 performance from Curtis Granderson that includes his career-best 40th homerand Alex Rodriguez, homering in his first game after taking eight days off.
Sunday, September 18
The Rays survive a scare when ace pitcher David Price gets nailed by a line-drive comebacker in the chest and overcome the Red Sox, 8-5, taking three games out of four at Fenway and moving to within two games of Boston in the AL wild card race.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Detroit veteran Magglio Ordonez, playing in a part-time role at the age of 37, ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games. Ordonez’s run began well over a month ago on August 15, as he’s participated in less than half of the Tigers’ games since with an even .400 batting average.
Wounded of the Week
The MLB Medical Ward is all but shutting down for the season, pretty much telling all new patients to relax, recover and return for next spring. But we can’t end the week without mentioning the plight of St. Louis slugger Matt Holliday, who isn’t on the disabled list but missed much of this past week after he sprained his handwhile taking a swing of his bat while on the on-deck circle.
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!
TGG Programming Note
We’ll be back with a slightly early Comebacker this coming Sunday as we give ourselves a few days off afterward. As a result, our next installment of the Best and Worst of the Week will cover the final week and a half of the regular season and be reported on in the Comebacker after nextand, a week after that, we’ll present our season-ending Best and Worst of the Year.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.