The Week That Was in Baseball: September 21-27, 2009
The Ten Most Memorable Metrodome Moments Bobby Cox Eyes Retirement
Braving the G-20—and the Pirates—in Pittsburgh
Angel Villalona: Angel or Villain?

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A Swan Song For Bobby Cox
Bobby Cox ended all the rumors that have been swirling about over the past few years and announced that he will step down as manager of the Atlanta Braves following the 2010 campaign, his 29th as a big league pilot. Cox will not officially be retiring from the club, saying that he will continue to work for the Braves as an advisor, which means he’ll be calling in often from the golf course.

Cox began his major league managing career in 1978 at age 36, piloting the Braves under the then-meddlesome tenure of owner Ted Turner. He departed the Braves after 1981 just as the Braves were on the brink of a brief rise towards the top, immediately joined a Toronto club that he quickly made respectable (capping it off with 99 wins and an ALCS appearance in 1985) and then rejoined the Braves in 1986—first as general manager, then again as the field pilot in time for Atlanta’s long, almost historic run through which, from 1991-2005, yielded 14 divisional titles and five NL pennants, but, disappointingly, only one World Series trophy (in 1995). Cox is fourth in all-time wins with 2,387 and counting—but, as a guy who’s shown an increasingly cranky disposition over the years, he’ll also be remembered in the record book for something completely different: He’s been kicked out of more games (150) than any other major league manager.

An Angel in Name Only
For the San Francisco Giants, looking desperately to a future of high-powered hitting they currently do not possess, this was horrible news:
Angel Villalona, a blue-chip prospect signed three years ago at the age of 16, has been charged with murder in his native Dominican Republic. Villalona allegedly shot a 25-year old in the neck during a dispute at a bar. His minor league season at Class A San Jose was cut short by injury in July, but the word on the street was that he showed a lack of discipline that was hurting his progress. An extended trip behind bars could very well put a permanent end to it.

Bronx Bombin' Away
They wont contribute to a new record for home runs hit at one ballpark in a season—Coors Field’s 303 blasts in 1999 will remain the record book standard—but the New York Yankees did establish a team mark this past week when they knocked out their 127th homer of the year at the new Yankee Stadium, breaking the record previously set in both 2004 and 2005 at the old stadium.

Steroids Suspect of the Week
It's not a star, not a prospect, not even a player—but this time, one of the Lords: Liberty Media, which owns the Atlanta Braves. The New York Times reported this past week that the corporation also owns BodyBuilding.com, a nutrition company that is alleged to be selling steroids on the web. The Braves publicly denied any connection to BodyBuilding.com.

Major League Furlough
In a story that received a lot of blog attention this past week, a man in the midst of serving a 20-day sentence in Keosauqua, Iowa for violating a protective order and fighting a police officer was allowed to leave for a day so he could join his family 200 miles away in Kansas City to see his beloved Boston Red Sox play the Royals; the Sox won, 9-2. In a related story, officials in the District of Columbia are considering sending inmates to Washington National games—not as R&R, but as punishment.

First in War, First in Peace, Last in the National League
Speaking of the Nationals, they suffered their 100th loss of the 2009 season this past week, giving them two straight seasons with triple-digit losses. The last NL team to do that was the 1973-74 San Diego Padres.

Irony of the Week
The Cleveland Indians, losers of 11 straight games, took on the Baltimore Orioles, losers of seven in a row, on Friday night…at a place called Progressive Field.

What's "You're a Bum" in Japanese?
The Seattle Mariners are absolutely hopeful that it’ll be another 2,000 hits before Ichiro Suzuki gets ejected from a game again. The Seattle Hit Machine was booted for the first time in his major league career during Saturday’s game at Toronto after arguing a strikeout; his ejection came not from what he said—even after nine years in the States, Suzuki speaks no English—but by drawing a line at home plate to show umpire Brian Runge where the strike zone should be. Runge wasted no time in expelling Suzuki.

Thanks, Pal, But I'm Not Mark McGwire
Matt Carson, a 28-year old rookie for the Oakland A’s—then again, they’re all rookies on the A’s this year—hit his first major league home run on Monday against Texas at Oakland. Carson hoped that the fan who caught it would give him the ball as a special keepsake, but the fan wanted something in return, which sounds sensible—until he learned that it was $10,000. Reluctantly, Carson shook him off. What amazes us was that there actually was someone in the Coliseum bleachers to grab the ball.

Behind the Strike Zone, It's a Danger Zone
Wednesday was a tough night for umpire Marty Foster, who was a virtual target behind the plate during a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. Three times, Foster was knocked about by foul balls, and it looked like his night was done when he got welted on the left upper arm just out of the range of his chest protector; but with just an out to go in the game, he hung tough. Giant catcher Bengie Molina apparently felt Foster’s pain; a night later in San Francisco against the Chicago Cubs, Molina was also beaten up by the baseball and, by the fifth inning, said enough, trudged off the field and walked straight into the clubhouse without a trainer’s assistance, not to return. Even Giant play-by-play man Jon Miller, a 35-year veteran of baseball announcing, said he’d never saw anything like it.

Dr. Lee and Mr. Hyde
In his first five starts for the Philadelphia Phillies since his trade from Cleveland, Cliff Lee was 5-0 with a brilliant 0.68 ERA. In his six starts since, he is 2-3 with a 6.35 ERA.

We'll Kinda, Sorta, Miss Ya', Metrodome
Few baseball fans will shed a tear when the Twins play their final regular season games at the Minneapolis Metrodome this week. The venue has been critically savaged from the very start, with its bouncy artificial turf, white fabric roof that made fielding high fly balls an adventure, and the giant, ugly black plastic tarp that covered up the fold-away seats behind the right field fence that gave birth to one of its more charmingly dubious nicknames, the Glad Bag Dome.

Yet the Twins can’t deny that they had a distinct advantage playing in the Metrodome; when the joint was packed, the cheers echoed about to create a thunderous level of noise that was said to rival that of a jumbo jet and, more controversially, was said to have an unfair advantage by turning on the air while at bat, pushing fly balls a little deeper and beyond the outfield fences. Through this past weekend, the Twins have a 1,200-1,028 record at the Metrodome; on the road during this same time, they’re 980-1,242.

While the Metrodome isn’t drenched in history the way old Yankee Stadium was, it does have its share of memories, good and bad. Here’s a countdown of our ten favorite moments:

10. August 31, 1993: The Twins beat the Indians, 5-4, in the longest game ever played at the Metrodome in both innings (22) and time (six hours, 17 minutes). The Twins trailed going to the bottom of the eighth, 4-1, then rallied to tie it up; the teams then stayed scoreless for the next 12-plus innings until Pedro Munoz’s leadoff homer in the 22nd won the game.

9. May 8, 1985: During the Twins’ 8-6 victory over the New York Yankees—a game plagued by a number of artificial turf infield hits and pop flies lost by fielders against the white roof—Yankee manager Billy Martin plays the game under protest because of the ballpark’s conditions, calling the Metrodome a “Little League park” that is “not up to major league standards.” Yankee owner George Steinbrenner naturally chimes in, stating, “What takes place in the Metrodome is not a ballgame, it is a circus.” AL President Bobby Brown rejects the Yankees’ protest.

8. April 14, 1983: Heavy snow tears through the Metrodome roof and forces the only postponement of a baseball game in the facility’s history, sending the Twins and California Angels home for the day.

7. April 30, 2001: Even though it’s been four years since the once-popular, now-vilified Chuck Knoblauch was granted his wish and traded from Minnesota to New York, he gets his harshest treatment yet at the Metrodome—because the one-time second baseman, suddenly inflicted with an inability to make a simple throw to first, is placed in left field, making him an easy target for Twin fans saddled with long memories. Anything and everything is thrown his way from out of the stands, nearly leading to a forfeit of the game; 40 fans are ejected, and the Twins go on to win, 2-1 behind a complete game performance from Brad Radke.

6. October 1, 2006: After losing the first two games of a critical season-ending series against the Chicago White Sox, the Twins—behind Carlos Silva, of all pitchers—tame the Sox, 5-1, while Detroit loses at Kansas City to give Minnesota, after a miserable start to the season, the AL Central title on the only day of the year it has a sole divisional lead. (Could this be a blueprint for 2009?)

5. October 9, 2004: In Game Four of the ALDS against the Yankees, the Twins own a four-run lead and are six outs away from a winner-take-all Game Five back at New York—with Johan Santana slated to start for the Twins. But Ruben Sierra’s three-run homer caps a four-run, eighth-inning outburst and, in the 11th, Alex Rodriguez scores on a wild pitch after earlier doubling to knock the Twins out of the postseason, 6-5.

4. May 4, 1984: Dave Kingman, for whom no ballpark was too big, sends a soaring pop fly that finds reaches the roof of the Metrodome—and is never seen again. Kingman is given a ground rule double, but the Twins defeat Oakland, 3-1.

3. October 25, 1987: In Game Seven of a raucous World Series against St. Louis, the Twins come from an early 2-0 deficit to topple the Twins and win their first championship in 63 years, ending a much-talked about campaign in which the Twins were awful on the road—but unbeatable at the Metrodome.

2. October 26, 1991: Trailing 3-2 in the World Series against Atlanta, the Twins keep force Game Seven thanks to the definitive performance of Kirby Puckett, who triples in one run, sacrifices in another, makes a patented over-the-wall catch (robbing Ron Gant of a home run) and ends the game in the 11th inning with a leadoff, walk-off homer of his own.

1. October 27, 1991: We love Puckett, and many of you may disagree with our number one choice on this list, but Jack Morris’ 10-inning, 1-0 shutout—done on three days’ rest—to cap the Twins’ second world championship in five years ranks as one of the great pitching performances in baseball history.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Miguel Tejada may have lost the power in his bat—gee, we wonder why—but he still knows how to poke out hits on a consistent basis, and as such reigns at the end of this week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 14 games. Tejada has only gone hitless once since September 2, a run of 21 games.

Take the TGG All-Time Hit Quiz
How well do you know your knowledge when it comes to baseball’s all-time hit leaders? Here’s 22 questions that will test your trivia know-how.

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