It Takes Mile-High Balls to Fuel a Conspiracy
There’s been some rumblingbut not a whole lot of investigation on the surfaceover whether the Colorado Rockies have been putting humidor-less balls into play when it suits them, especially in light of the team’s many late-inning comebacks at Coors Field this season, as we noted earlier this summer. The San Francisco Giants and their ace Tim Lincecum apparently think there’s merit to this theory. In the sixth inning of a scoreless game this past Friday at Denver, Lincecum had a 2-2 count on leadoff hitter Miguel Olivo and asked for a new baseball. As you’ll see here, Lincecum rubbed the ball down, then rejected itasking for yet a new baseball while grumbling to himself, “f***ing juiced ball bulls**t.” Lincecum proceeded to strike out Olivo and finished the game throwing eight sparkling innings against the Rockies to help give the Giants a 2-1 win.
It was later learned that the Giants asked MLB and the umpiring crew during the weekend series at Colorado to oversee and monitor the allotment of baseballs at Coors Field, ensuring that all of them have been given the humidor treatment. The umpires complied, and even though crew chief John Hirschbeck has felt no suspicion over the distribution of the mile-high baseballs, he nonetheless told the San Jose Mercury News, “I’ll (watch the balls) so MLB has their mind at ease.”
The Rockies, of course, released a statement denying that any chicanery has been taking place.
Fast, Faster, Fastest
Cincinnati rookie pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who blasted upon the scene several weeks back with a flurry of 100 MPH-plus pitches, topped himself on Friday at San Diego when he zipped a delivery at 105 MPHthe fastest pitch ever recorded in a major league game, barely topping the 104.8 hurled by Detroit’s Joel Zumaya in 2006. Appearing in relief, Chapman threw 25 pitches, all fastballsand all over 100 MPH.
Thank You, Thank You
Fans in Toronto got to see two milestones for the price of one this past Wednesday when the Seattle Mariners came to town. Ichiro Suzuki knocked out his 200th hit for the tenth time, extending his own record of consecutive seasons at or over 200 while tying Pete Rose’s all-time career mark. But the Mariners lost 1-0 on a first-inning home run by the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista, who became the first Toronto playerand the first in the majors since 2007to hit 50 in one season.
Saved by the Wild Card
With the Rays leading 6-5 in the sixth inning and two Yankees on base, Maddon emerged from the dugout to replace a tiring Matt Garza with left-handed reliever Randy Choate to face the left-handed hitting Curtis Granderson; instead, Maddon was startled to see right-hander Grant Balfour show up from the bullpen. Apparently Maddon’s request to get Balfour and Choate to warm up was incorrectly relayed to the bullpen, as Choate remained sitting the whole time. Maddon crossed his fingers and stuck it out with Balfourwho immediately served up a three-run home run to Granderson, giving the Yankees an 8-6 lead that would hold. This could have been the stuff of bonehead legends, but the wild card could serve to hide such infamy.
The presence of the wild card has sapped the AL East race of major importance, with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays jockeying for postseason seeds rather than fighting to the death, which used to be the thrilling way to enjoy a pennant race. And if the Rays end up finishing second to the Yankees by a game, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon will thank the baseball gods for the wild card after a breakdown in communications likely cost him a victory at Yankee Stadium this past Monday.
The Sporting News, apparently with time on its hands, named the 20 “smartest” athletes in the country this past week and named Oakland reliever Craig Breslow as the smartest among baseball players. The left-handed Breslow, 4-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 72 appearances this season for the A’s, graduated from Yale University in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut with a 3.5 GPA and a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Breslow says that if he wasn’t in the majors, he’d be in “med school or preferably graduated from med school.” Other ballplayers who made the top ten of the list include Pittsburgh pitcher Russ Ohlendorf (no. 3), San Diego pitcher Chris Young (no. 8), and Los Angeles catcher Brad Ausmus (no. 9).
...But Indiscipline Sucks
The Arizona Diamondbacks set the all-time record for striking out this past Tuesday against Colorado when they reached 1,400 strikeouts for the year, surpassing the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers. With 12 games to play after setting the mark, the D-Backs have a darn good chance of reaching 1,500. Over the weekend, shortstop Stephen Drew became the sixth member of the team to individually whiff 100 times; Mark Reynolds has already reached 200 for the third straight year, and even though he’s unlikely to break the personal mark of 223 he himself set last year, he could become the first everyday player in history to record a higher strikeout total than batting average (he finished the week at .199 with 206 strikeouts).
Players and pundits alike seem to shrug off the effects of so many strikeouts in today’s game as we recently wrote, but consider this: Whenever the Diamondbacks has struck out ten or more times in a game this season, their record is 16-61. Otherwise, they’re 48-41.
For people living near the Oakland Coliseum, that rush of air you may have felt this past Monday evening was the enormous sigh of relief emitted by the A’s Chris Carter, who finally got his first big-league hit. During his team’s 3-0 win over the Chicago White Sox, Carter singled after going hitless in his first 33 major league at-bats, three shy of the all-time record.
The San Francisco Giants put together a streak of 18 games in which they allowed three or fewer runs, the longest such run since the Chicago White Sox set the record with 20 consecutive contests back during their World Series-winning 1917 campaign. The Giants’ streak came to an end on Saturday atbut of courseDenver’s Coors Field when they lost in ten innings, 10-9.
The Cy Does Not Always Lie in the Record
If you’ve narrowed down your choices for who should win the AL Cy Young Award to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and New York’s CC Sabathia, here’s a fact that might sway your opinion: The Mariners have given Hernandez 2.1 runs of support every time he starts and doesn’t win, while Sabathia has received double that amount (4.2) when he either loses or gets a no-decision.
The Sixth Man
One former steroid user passed another on the all-time home run list this past week when Alex Rodriguez hit his 610th career blast, moving past Sammy Sosa into sixth place. Rodriguez’s homer was of one six hit by the Yankees on Friday against Boston at Yankee Stadiumand yet they still lost, 10-8, the first time the Yankees have hit that many over the fence at home and didn’t win.
It's Just Mea Culpa
Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who looked to be lobbying his way to become baseball’s reigning bad boy after a sudden series of strange maneuvers a few weeks back, attempted to make up for one of those incidents when he invited the fan he hit in Philadelphia with a thrown ball to a Nationals game in Washingtona move many would simply consider to be more torture. The fan received a free seat behind home plate, got a free tour of the Nationals’ clubhouse and met with Morgan, who signed a baseball for him. Morgan was initially suspended for seven games after the incident, but that was dropped after MLB decided that the fan was hit accidentally by a ball not thrown out of anger.
Did They Move the Fences Back?
In the first six years of its existence (from 2004-09), Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park played host to five 1-0 games. In the last two-plus months alone, there have been six such contests.
A Hit on the Field, And at the Gate
The Minnesota Twins, fueled by a new ballpark and a strong showing on the field (they became the first team to clinch a divisional title this past week), set a new home attendance record and will likely finish the regular season with nearly 3.2 million fans, besting the previous mark set in 1988 on the coattails of their 1987 championship season. The Twins’ per-game average of 39,783 ranks sixth in the majors.
The Good and the Bad
The Kansas City Royals may continue to be one of the majors’ least successful in the standings, but get them to the ninth inning with a lead and they’re automatic; the Royals are the only team to be undefeated when leading after eight innings, at 49-0. On the other hand, the Royals are also one of just two teams (Washington being the other) who haven’t won more than four straight games at any point this year.
Your Chance to Ski the Bases
In the never-ending pursuit of revenue, the Cleveland Indianswho could use the money with home attendance ranking among the majors’ worstwill turn Progressive Field into a winter wonderland during the upcoming holiday season. For five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the ballfield will be filled with snow (either natural or man-made) and will feature ice skating, tubing and a walking trail with holiday lights, according to an Associated Press story. If the event succeeds, who knowsthe Indians might even break it all out again in April if the team gets snowed out, as it did back in 2007 when an entire series had to be moved to enclosed Miller Park in Milwaukee to avoid a backlog of makeup games.
Wounded of the Week
Among non-contenders, the most curious incident took place at a Seattle-area pizzeria where a folding chair collapsed under once-and-current Mariner Russell Branyan; the resulting fall injured his tailbone, and he is not expected to return this season.
Numerous aches and pains this past week led to ramifications for the upcoming postseason. In San Diego, Jerry Hairston Jr. fractured his tibia and could be out for as long as six weeks; maybe he’ll be back in time for the World Seriesshould the Padres get that far, let alone make the playoffs. In Texas, MVP candidate Josh Hamilton is taking extended rest after fracturing two ribs while crashing into an outfield wall a few weeks back; the Rangers are hoping he’ll be rested and ready for the start of the postseason. And in Cincinnati, veteran slugger Jim Edmondsrecently acquired from Milwaukeecame up lame during a home run trot after he heard a pop in a bothersome knee. The 40-year old may return for October, but either way, the injury could hasten retirement after the season.
A Memorable Moment That's Aged Like Fine Wine
In our recently released list of the ten memorable home runs of all time, we picked the Game Seven, World Series-winning blast in 1960 by Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski as the most memorable and suggested the reason that Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” is more popular with others has much to do with its equally famous radio call of the moment by Ross Hodgeswhile no one really had even a memory of the play-by-play that graced Mazeroski’s shot.
Now we’ll get the chance to see and hear Maz’s shot as it actually happenedthanks to the late Bing Crosby. A kinescope tape of the entire game that concluded with Mazeroski’s home run against the New York Yankees has been found in the wine cellar of Crosby’s former residence south of San Francisco; the tape is thought to be the only existing full record of the game via either TV or radio.
So how did this end up in Crosby’s wine cellar? A fan and former co-owner of the Pirates, Crosby was so superstitious about watching the game live that he jetted off to Europe and asked a local production company to videotape a monitor showing the gamehence, the old kinescope method used often in television’s early years. Crosby watched it after returning and stored it in the wine cellarwhere it apparently remained untouched until this past summer.
The tape, said to be excellent condition, will be aired in its entirety this December on the MLB Network. Naturally, Bob Costas will host.
With both Los Angeles area teams out of the playoff picture, local baseball fans were paying more attention to separate court trials taking place on both ends of the Southland.
Up north, the McCourt divorce trial resumed and peaked with an admission by Larry Silverstein, who worked up the disputed marital property agreement between Frank and Jamie McCourt in 2004, that he changed the wording on his own that technically gave full control of the Dodgers to Frankafter it had been signed by both Frank and Jamie. This will likely open the door for mediation now that both sides appear neither culpable nor negligent.
Meanwhile, down in Santa Ana, the future of Andrew Gallo lies in the hands of a jury after closing statements in the trial of Gallo’s hit-and-run drunk-driving crash that killed three people, including Los Angeles of Anaheim pitcher Nick Adenhart, in April 2009. Gallo has been charged with murdernot vehicular manslaughterbecause he was forewarned after previous drunk driving convictions that he would be tried as such if he ever got behind the wheel drunk again and killed someone, accidental or otherwise.
Jamie, Did You Read Your Auto Insurance Deal?
The car taking Jamie McCourt struck a female pedestrian while backing up near Los Angeles Superior Court before a Monday court appearance at he divorce trial. The victim was taken away on a stretcher to a local hospital, but there’s been no further report on her condition.
Gardenhire and Higher
With members of the managers’ old guard stepping down (Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and maybe, possibly, Tony LaRussa) and the pilots at the height of their fame (Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon and Terry Francona) soaring high in the public eye, it’s high time we all started giving a bit more love to Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. The 52-year old native of West Germany is about to finish his ninth year at the helm of the Twins; he’s never had a losing season, and six times has won the AL Central title. Not bad for a guy running a ship with historically limited funding in what’s considered a “small” market. (Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Bud Selig wanted to fold the Twins in the name of contraction.)
Gardenhire has yet to prove himself in the postseason, where he’s won only six of 24 games with one series win (an ALDS triumph over Oakland in 2002), but with an utterly impressive second half performance for a team absent of its star hitter (Justin Morneau) and closer (Joe Nathan), this October will hopefully shine a little more appreciation on the difficult job Gardenhire has managed to tackle.
Of course, Gardenhire needs to survive the regular season first; he was nailed in the right ear by an Alexi Casilla infield toss before Saturday’s game at Detroit. He was understandably shaken up but the injury is not considered to be serious.
City of Brotherly Insanity
It could be argued that Philadelphia really doesn’t have the nastiest fans in the majorsone who argues that will need lots of chutzpah to prove his pointbut it’s a slam dunk that the people attending Citizens Bank Park this year have, more than other venue, been doing some real strange stuff to attract attention. First, there was the obnoxious 300-pound loser who thought it would be a good idea to get even with the guy complaining in from of him by throwing up on his daughter. Then, there was the guy who decided to rush the field and refused to get caught until security had no choice but to taze him; and now, this past week, we saw a 17-year old run out in the field fully covered in a red spandex suit, eluding security before being clipped by Atlanta outfielder Matt Diaz. The kid was taken into juvenile detention and picked up by his parents the next day. We wonder what he’ll be wearing for Halloween…
Even the St. Louis Browns are Smirking
In July 2009, Bob Smizik of the Pittburgh Post-Gazette predictedin sarcastic jest, it seemedthat the Pirates would lose 110 games in 2010. His guess was actually pretty close. The Bad News Bucs have reached the 53-win mark to assure that they’ll avoid 110 losses, but this season is as bad as it’s ever been for the Pirates during this long, painful record drought of 18 straight years without a winning season. Only one other time since 1992 have the Bucs lost 100 games, and that came in 2001 when they finished with an even 100. (They ended last season at 62-99, avoiding a possible 100th loss by playing one game short of a full schedule.) Between the continued losing, the fire sales and the reports of profit, this truly is a rotten time for baseball in the Steel City; yes, PNC Park is a gorgeous venue with an awe-inspiring view of downtown Pittsburgh, but the vista can only serve as a diversionary tactic for so long.
Bam-Bam and Welt-Welt
It was a prolific but strange nine-run second inning for the San Francisco Giants during their 13-0 whitewashing of the Cubs at Chicago on Thursday. Juan Uribe hit two homers (one a grand slam) in that inning, while Jose Guillen simply got hittwice, the first time that’s occurred in franchise history.
Alex in Wonderland
Alex Gordon told the Kansas City Star this past week: “I’m going to dominate next year.” For many Royal fans, it would be about time. Gordon, a hot prospect who was all but considered the franchise savior in 2007, has seen his career go in reverse since his rookie campaign produced fair results (.247 average, 15 home runs, 60 RBIs). Amid poor performance and injury, the 26-year old Gordon seems to be approaching irrelevancy, but the one guy who’s got his back is the most important figure in the organization: Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, who echoed Gordon’s wild expectations. “I think Alex is going to have a great year next year,” Moore said. “I really do.” Care to put money where your mouths are?
Baltimore outfielder Nick Markakis hit his 40th double of the season this past week, giving him four straight years with at least 40 two-baggers. Only two other players have accomplished this feat: Joe Medwick (1935-39) and Tris Speaker (1920-23).
Pinstripes Just Ain't Your Thang
Javier Vazquez must be regretting his return to the New York Yankees. It didn’t work out the first time (a substandard 4.91 ERA in 2004) and it’s not working out this season in his second tour of duty in pinstripes. He reached rock bottom on Wednesday against Tampa Bay when, in an unceremonious, mop-up relief appearance, he became just the eighth pitcher in big league history to plunk three straight batters. That’s just one shy of his entire total for last season in Atlanta, where he produced a stellar 2.87 ERA. Despite a 10-9 record, Vazquez has been removed from the rotation and is currently sporting a 5.07 ERA that’s his worst since his rookie 1998 campaign with Montreal.
The Sophomore Rookie
On the day the Texas Rangers clinched their first AL West title since 1999, closer Neftali Feliz broke the major league record for saves by a rookie with his 38th of the year. Yes, Feliz is technically a rookie even though he made 20 appearances for the Rangers in 2009. Rules are rules, but it just seems rather lenient to us. Of course, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America don’t have to abide by those rules when selecting the Rookie of the Year award, so we’re curious as to how many will keep Feliz off the ballot when the votes are tallied this Fall.
The Return of Baseball
Ken Burns’ “Tenth Inning” update to his monumental TV documentary Baseball debuts this Tuesday on PBS. Among the topics said to be front and center are steroids (and specifically, Barry Bonds) and the end of the Boston Red Sox’ curse. The original series first ran during the crippling players’ strike in September 1994.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Close to year’s end and far from Joltin’ Joe, three players end the regular season’s penultimate week with the majors longest active hitting streak, at 11 games: Boston’s Victor Martinez, Milwaukee’s Corey Hart and Cincinnati’s Jonny Gomes. Martinez is the hottest of the three, hitting an even .400 with four home runs.
Now Playing at TGG
From the Opinion section, our choices for the ten most memorable home runs ever hit. Check it out now.
Coming Soon to TGG
This time, we promise: This week, we'll be posting the latest installment of They Were There, with TGG's Ed Attanasio chatting with former speed burner Maury Wills.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.