The Week That Was in Baseball: September 23-October 6, 2013
A-Rod Plays Dumb and Sues Everybody • Why Dusty Baker Got Fired
Reggie Jackson Really Didn't Say What he Said • The 2013 Attendance Story
Oh, You Mean Those Were PEDs?!
With Alex Rodriguez off the playing field and back in the legal boxing ring, you didn’t think the week would go by without some sort of wacky development, did you?
Shortly after Rodriguez’s appeal hearing of his 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball began, the New York Daily News received leaked information of the star slugger’s strategy, and that was to evoke the Barry Bonds/Roger Clemens strategy and feign ignorance—claiming he didn’t realize that the steroids he was taking were, in fact, steroids. (Rodriguez’s story was that he believed they were legal supplements.) It worked to an extent with Bonds and Clemens—although neither got off scot-free and paid millions in lawyer bills—but unlike Rodriguez, the evidence against them was much weaker. Numerous sources have indicated that MLB has a treasure trove of dope (no pun intended) on Rodriguez that adds up to one big smoking gun. Oh, to be a fly on the wall to hear MLB’s response to Rodriguez’s claim in the appeal hearing.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s brash legal team, a collection of suits from three different law firms, came out firing this past week, suing MLB, the Yankees’ team physician and the hospital in New York City that kept tabs on his troubled hip him last season; don’t be surprised if the players’ union is next on A-Rod’s hit list, after a New York Times report revealed an August correspondence between Rodriguez’s lawyers and MLBPA in which the union was accused of not acting in his best interests.
Using classic Manhattan legal chic, the 31-page suit against MLB pulled no punches, citing alleged activities that attempts to put baseball on par with the KGB: The use of investigators secretly trading bags of money at restaurants, driving others off the road, bedding down with witnesses and impersonating police officers.
The suit also contained a hefty, damning sidebar on the “scandal-ridden” tenure of commissioner Bud Selig and claimed that MLB was paying defamed Biogenesis owner Anthony Bosch $5 million to sing like a canary against Rodriguez. Bosch’s lawyers denied that charge, saying that he “hasn’t received $5, let alone $5 million.” They added: “The lawsuit appears to be out of the Lance Armstrong playbook and we all know how that worked out for him.”
Unfinished, Tarnished Business
Here are some other reasons why Rodriguez wants to return to baseball as soon as possible. He’s only seven homers shy of passing Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list—and that would guarantee receipt of a $6 million bonus from the Yankees per the terms of the $275 million contract he signed back in 2007. (He would also receive $6 million each for hitting his 715th, 756th, 762nd and 763rd home runs, should he ever get there.) Rodriguez is also only 61 hits shy of 3,000, 31 RBIs shy of 2,000 and 81 runs shy of 2,000. Finally, there’s this to gnaw at A-Rod’s ego: With just three hits in his last 39 at-bats of the season, Rodriguez’s career batting average slipped below .300 for the first time since the beginning of his career.
Dusty in the Wind
Baseball’s first eye-opening managerial departure took place this past week when the Cincinnati Reds fired Dusty Baker, who piloted the Reds for five years and took them to the postseason three times. The Reds’ curt statement led many to ask what the background behind all of this was, leading to all sorts of theories before Baker himself claimed: The Reds were initially out to fire hitting coach Brook Jacoby, and Baker responded by telling the Reds that if you’re going to fire him, fire me first. So they did.
The Reds may have been more hesitant to let Baker go had his postseason success—or lack thereof—not been a factor. In Cincinnati’s three trips to the playoffs under Baker, they were given three first-round exits—twice in the NLDS, and this year in the NL Wild Card game at Pittsburgh. It’s part of a larger pattern of postseason misfortune that has haunted Baker, one that includes gut-wrenching series losses at the 2002 World Series for San Francisco and the NLCS (the Bartman Series) a year later with the Chicago Cubs.
This week, Reggie Jackson releases an autobiography (no, it’s not called Bushers, which by the way will be available for baseball fans of all ages this fall from McFarland Books) in which the Hall-of-Fame slugger claims he never said the controversial remarks about then-Yankee teammate and team captain Thurman Munson, accused manager and frequent adversary Billy Martin of being a liar and wishing he was playing today because “with ESPN and additional media, the controversy would be bigger…that would be such fun.”
Jackson’s five-year tenure with the Yankees got off to a rocky start when a Sport Magazine interview quoted him as saying: “Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir it bad.” But Jackson claims he never said it that way and accused the article’s author, Robert Ward, of “trying to feed me that quote.” Reached for comment, Ward categorically denied the charge. “He’s been lying about it since it happened. He’s just lied and lied…I made nothing up. Not one thing.”
The Good, the Bad and the Uggla
Nobody is paid more on the Atlanta Braves than Dan Uggla, and nobody is more upset about being left off the Braves’ NLDS roster than the second baseman whose .179 batting average was even worse than B.J. Upton’s. “I’m not blind to my numbers, but at the same time I know what I’ve done my whole career and I still know what I’m capable of doing,” Uggla said. “So I was kind of blindsided by it.”
Speaking of “blindness” and being “blindsided,” Uggla’s regular season troubles were at first considered tied to poor vision that landed him to the disabled list and an appointment with the Lasik doctor. Sharper eyesight apparently has not done the trick; after turning 20/20, Uggla hit just .133 in 24 games with a single extra-base hit (a solo home run) and just two RBIs.
Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw tied a postseason record shared by four other players—most recently just last year by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey—when he struck out six straight Braves in NLDS Game One at Turner Field.
Wil Myers and the Phantom Menace
Trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning of ALDS Game One, the Boston Red Sox stormed out to five runs and never looked back with a 12-2 win over Tampa Bay. David Ortiz’s deep fly ball to right-center field got the rally started—with a strong assist from Rays outfielder Wil Myers. The AL Rookie of the Year candidate ran back toward the wall and raised his arm back on the warning track as if to square himself up for an easy catch—and then, inexplicably, turned around and let the ball hit behind him, bouncing over for a ground-rule double.
What made Myers do it? An “I got it” call from the Red Sox bullpen behind him? The devil? Bud Selig? None of those, according to Myers, who said he saw center fielder Desmond Jennings running over to cover and thought, for one silly moment, that Jennings would keep running and make the catch. Jennings didn’t, Ortiz was given second and the Red Sox began their big rally.
A Total Team Effort
Boston’s 12-2 rout of the Rays in ALDS Game One featured at least one hit and a run from each Red Sox starter. Only twice had that previously happened in postseason annals: By the St. Louis Cardinals in the acrimonious seventh game of the 1934 World Series against Detroit, and by the New York Yankees in the 1936 Fall Classic against the New York Giants.
The Price is Not Alright
Tampa Bay ace David Price was not a happy camper following ALDS Game Two in Boston, and he took it out on just about everyone but himself, even after giving up seven runs in seven innings. First he sounded off on the Red Sox’ David Ortiz, who stood at home plate and watched his second home run on the day fly high over the Pesky Pole down the right-field line (perhaps he was just making sure it was going to land fair); then he tweeted his displeasure at the TBS postgame crew, an interesting mix of gents that included Pedro Martinez, Keith Olbermann, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci and, because there wasn’t enough controversy in that booth already, former pitcher Dirk Hayhurst—who made for some stormy headlines earlier in the year with his commentary from Toronto. Price spewed out: “Dirk Hayhurst…COULDN’T hack it…Tom Verducci wasn’t even a water boy in high school…but they can still bash a player…SAVE IT NERDS.”
Flamethrowers in Postseason Arms
In Detroit’s opening ALDS split at Oakland, the Tigers’ Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander each struck out 11 A’s batters—only the second time in postseason history that starting pitchers have racked up at least ten K’s in back-to-back efforts. Who was the other pair? Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale for Los Angeles in the Dodgers’ victorious 1965 World Series over Minnesota.
A Vote for Vogt
Journeyman catcher Stephen Vogt emerged as the A’s hero in ALDS Game Two, making a terrific throw to nail Jose Iglesias on a stolen base attempt and kill a Detroit rally in the fifth, and his seeing-eye single in the bottom of the ninth brought home the game’s only run and concluded the first walk-off, 1-0 postseason victory since the memorable seventh game of the 1991 World Series between Minnesota and Atlanta. Not bad for a 29-year-old catcher who labored long in the minors before finally getting his first cup of coffee with Tampa Bay in 2012—and going 0-for-25.
The Young Bucs of October
With Gerrit Cole’s excellent (and potentially series-saving) performance at St. Louis in NLDS Game Two, rookie Pittsburgh pitchers are now 6-0 in postseason play going back to the beginning of time. Half of those wins came courtesy of (arguably) the best pitcher ever to put on a Pirate uniform, Babe Adams—who tamed Ty Cobb and the Tigers in the 1909 World Series.
How Do You Like Me Now?
The Pirates prevailed in their first postseason appearance since 1992 thanks to catcher Russell Martin, who emerged as a hero by belting two homers among three hits against Cincinnati in the NL Wild Card game. Martin really must be grinning over his pleasure of being a former player for the New York Yankees, the team that refused to extend his contract at the end of last season—and a team watching the postseason this year for only the second time since 1993.
Martin is also the first catcher ever to go deep in the playoffs for three different teams: The Pirates, Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hey B---h, Hold on While I Tweet This
During the NL Wild Card game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, Dallas Latos—the wife of Cincinnati pitcher Mat Latos—claimed she was “ambushed in the Budweiser bar, grabbed by the hair, (dragged) down and punched in the head multiple times” by a “huge man” and “his chick” according to some of the 15 tweets or so she typed out over the course of 90 minutes. She also said she spent most of the game “talking to police”; seems she to have actually spent most of it tweeting. There were conflicting reports as to whether Dallas wanted to file charges; police ended up not pressing any themselves. The silver lining for the blonde-haired, attractive Dallas: Her Twitter account mushroomed to 25,000 as a result of the incident.
Saving the Blasts for the Last
Evan Longoria has a thing for the closing day of the regular season—even if it’s an extended, tie-breaking day. The Tampa Bay star went deep at Texas to help the Rays move onto the postseason this past Monday, but it also secured himself into the more obscure section of the record book; his home run gave him seven in regular season finales, tying Stan Musial for the most in a career. Overall, Longoria is 11-for-19 in five such games.
That’s so Skoal
Late in the AL Wild Card game, a Cleveland fan threw a glass of chewing tobacco juice at Tampa Bay outfielder David DeJesus as he came near the left-field corner to make a catch. Fortunately, it didn’t hit him—but it’s funny to watch him look down at the mess in front of him and all but respond with: “Really!?”
The Wild Exit
The Miami Marlins’ forgettable year had an unforgettable coda on the regular season’s final day with one of the strangest endings to a no-hitter. Henderson Alvarez, one of the players who came the opposite direction of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and friends during the Marlins’ massive cost-cutting trade last winter, was able to no-hit the Detroit Tigers through nine innings on 99 pitches—but the Marlins, playing true to form as the majors’ worst run-scoring offense in 42 years, was unable to support him with a single run entering the bottom of the ninth at Marlins Park. (But then again, the Marlins had failed Alvarez over and over again in 2013; in 17 starts, the Fish never once scored more than four runs for him, giving him an average of 2.5 runs per outing.)
Then, the Marlins got somewhat ambitious—and lucky. With one out, Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison both singled. Detroit pitcher Luke Putkonen then moved both into scoring position with a wild pitch and, after walking Chris Coghlan to load the bases, threw another—scoring Stanton, winning the game for Miami and ensuring the 23-year-old Alvarez with a no-hitter he thought he had after the top of the ninth, before being reminded that the game was still scoreless.
It’s almost a shame that the game didn’t move into the tenth inning. With some gas left in the tank and a six-month rest before his next start, Alvarez would have been allowed to pitch the tenth. As it was, it was the first-ever no-no to end on a wild pitch, the first since 1952 to end in walk-off fashion, and the first since 1984 on the season’s final day.
The Last Out is Always the Toughest
Michael Wacha wasn’t as lucky as Alvarez. In his last start of the year on September 24, the 22-year-old right-hander—one of many, good young pitchers on the St. Louis roster—took a no-hitter of his own into the ninth at Busch Stadium against Washington and retired the first two batters; when the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman next topped a bouncing grounder towards the right of the mound, the 6’6” Wacha raced to grab it—but the ball was too far out of his reach, and shortstop Pete Kozma’s desperate bare-handed grab and throw to first was too late to gun down Zimmerman, who reached on an infield single and put and end to Wacha’s bid.
Wacha joined Texas’ Yu Darvish and San Francisco’s Yusmeiro Petit as pitchers who fell an out short of a no-hitter or perfect game this season, the most such close calls since 1990.
Just Say It
Memo to Cardinals TV play-by-play man Dan McLaughlin, who called the Wacha near-no-no: The next time somebody’s throwing a no-hitter, don’t let superstitions get in the way and refuse to use the term “no-hitter.” Inform your audience; that’s your job.
The Graceful Exit
Andy Pettitte’s final appearance in a major league uniform—assuming he doesn’t un-retire again—was one he’ll remember. Facing the Astros—the team he briefly split from the Yankees to play for, back when they were worth watching—Pettitte went the distance for his first complete game win since 2006. Javier Vazquez was the last pitcher to throw nine frames and win in his last career start back in 2011; before that, it was Houston’s Jose Cano—yes, the father of the Yankees’ Robinson Cano—who turned the trick in 1989.
The gem by Pettitte was also quite good for his ego in another way; it allowed him to finish the season at 11-11, upholding the impressive claim that he never suffered a losing record in 18 seasons.
The losing pitcher in Pettitte’s last win, by the way, was the Astros’ Paul Clemens—who is not related to Pettitte’s ex-teammate and (perhaps) ex-friend Roger Clemens.
Alas, You Stupid-Ass “Fan”
When San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was beat up and left horribly handicapped at Dodger Stadium a few years back, the majority of sane Dodger fans yelled afar and aloud at the perpetrators: “Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot for making the rest of us look bad.”
Now it’s the Giants fans’ turn to give angry thanks. After the Dodgers defeated the Giants in the first of a three-game series at AT&T Park on September 25, a group of Dodger fans who attended the game got into a scuffle with another group several blocks from the ballpark. One of the Dodger fans, Jonathan Denver, swung an aluminum chair at the other group, prompting Michael Montgomery to use a knife that killed Denver. Both claim self-defense. We weren’t there—and neither were the police, who detained Montgomery but later released him for lack of evidence—but we’re thinking this to ourselves: That must have been one heck of a beach chair to force a guy to use a knife and kill a man in response.
Yes, Brian, the Cameras Were Rolling
Thankfully, there were no more casualties during the remainder of the Giant-Dodger series in San Francisco, but for a few moments at the end of the third game, it didn’t look like it would be that way. Former Giants closer and current Dodger reliever Brian Wilson broke from his new clan, walked over near the Giants dugout, got the attention of team president Larry Baer sitting nearby and proceeded to vent his anger about something. That something was the 2012 World Series ring he had yet to receive, a ring for being part of a championship team he had very little to do with as he spent much of the year undergoing and recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Baer, who unlike Wilson will hardly be the first guy to scare you walking the other way in a dark alley, held out his hand to calm Wilson and explain his side of the story, which basically was this: We’ve tried to get you the ring, invited you to this ceremony and that one while you sat idle rehabbing, and you never showed. Wilson left fuming, but he got his ring before the night was over.
Are You Thanking Heaven for Little Girls?
Chad Curtis once made immediate fans of those who defended Pete Rose and hated controversial reporter Jim Gray by publicly snubbing a postgame interview with Gray after hitting a game-winning homer for the Yankees in the 1999 World Series. Curtis’ latest bit of news will probably lose any of those fans he had left: He was sentenced to seven-to-15 years in prison for sexually assaulting three high school-aged girls while serving as a substitute teacher in Lakewood, Michigan. Throughout the trial, Curtis reiterated his innocence and his devotion to God. Neither apparently swayed judge or jury.
No, You do Not Get Paid by the Inning
The Arizona Diamondbacks finished the year having played in 25 extra-inning games totaling 80 innings—two frames shy of the all-time record set by the 1918 Washington Senators, who curiously set the mark during a war-shortened, 130-game schedule. Fifteen of Arizona’s overtime performances were played on the road, and the Diamondbacks won 11 of them—tying a record previously set by the 1999 Atlanta Braves and last year’s Baltimore Orioles. It all added up to 1,538 innings overall played by the Diamondbacks—establishing a record previously held by the 1964 Yankees.
In Appreciation of his Fans
Todd Helton’s final fling at Coors Field had the look and feel of a Turn Back the Clock event. The 40-year-old Colorado slugger, who a few weeks earlier announced his retirement, had a vintage kick going in his final homestand against St. Louis, Arizona and Boston. In nine games, Helton hit safely in all but one, batting .342 with six doubles, two homers and nine RBIs; in his final game at Coors, he hit a deep fly over the fence for his 369th career homer during his first at-bat, almost hit no. 370 in his second as he settled for a sacrifice fly, then in his third split the outfielders with a double to the wall. Helton’s 1,394 career hits at home for the Rockies are the fifth most by one player for one team, surpassed only by Carl Yastrzemski (for Boston), George Brett (for Kansas City), Robin Yount (for Milwaukee) and Tony Gwynn (for San Diego).
Revenge of the Pitchers, Continued
Once again, a major league season was concluded with the bar reset on strikeouts. This year’s per-game average of 15.1 bested last year’s 14.99, which easily topped the 2011 record of 14.2. But here’s the harrowing part for hitters; the per-game average of walks dropped to an even 6.0, the lowest since the so-called “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968, and the overall batting average in baseball sank to .253, the lowest since 1972—the last year before the designated hitter was established in the American League. If these last two totals drop further in years to come, bet the house that MLB will force the National League to adopt the DH rule.
2013 Attendance: Who Showed Up, and Who Didn't
It was not a good year at the gate for baseball in general, dipping 1.2% from 2012. Even with a shaky economic recovery in effect, fans overall decided it was better to spend the money elsewhere—or not spend it all. (We must say, MLB games look great on hi-def TV—almost as if you were really there, if you know what we mean.)
There were attendance gains among half of the 30 MLB teams, though many of those increases were scant; the most notable rise came in Toronto, where the Blue Jays brought in over 500,000 fans—an increase of nearly 18%—even as an expected contender in the Jays failed miserably on the field. The Dodgers, rejuvenated with new ownership and better results, also rose by over 400,000 to a major league-leading total of 3.743 million.
The drop among those who saw decreased gate figures was more notable. Attendance in Philadelphia sank 16%; Milwaukee, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota were each down by 10%; and, all too expectedly, the Miami Marlins saw a sharp increase of nearly 29% as a watered-down payroll and repeatedly bad P.R. dropped team attendance to 1.586 million—the worst figure in the NL. Number of sellouts this season at Marlins Park: Zero.
More puzzling were these numbers: Attendance in Cleveland (28th at 1.573 million) actually dropped from 2012, despite a 22-game improvement in the standings and a spot (albeit briefly) in the postseason. The Indians were actually outdrawn by the sadsack (51-111) Houston Astros, whose gate somehow rose a tad to 1.652 million. And the head-scratcher of all head-scratchers was reserved, once again, for the Tampa Bay Rays—who played winning baseball for the sixth straight year, made the playoffs as a wild card and yet were snubbed by a fan base that made them the lowest home draw (1.510 million) in all of baseball.
A Hellweg of a Way to Pitch
He’s not our Worst Pitcher of the Year (see who is at right), but Milwaukee’s Johnny Hellweg certainly merits some dishonorable mention. The 24-year-old Michigan native pitched in eight games, starting seven, and finished with a 1-4 record and 6.75 ERA. But that’s nothing; in 30.2 innings of work, he struck out nine—and walked 26, hitting eight other batters and throwing four wild pitches. These aren’t just bad numbers, they’re obscene, Steve Blass-at-his-most-lost-type numbers.
The St. Petersburg Bombers
The Tampa Bay Rays outhomered the Yankees, 26-9, in head-to-head competition this season; never have the Yankees suffered a larger margin of deep flies to another team in one year.
Deadspin Picture of the Week
A man proposed to his sweetheart during a Colorado Rockies game, but apparently an old lady sitting in front of them didn’t approve.
Opening Day 2014’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Paul Goldschmidt will not only open the 2014 season as (possibly) the NL’s reigning MVP, but he’ll also be a third of his way towards breaking Joe DiMaggio’s legendary accomplishment of hitting safely in 56 straight games. The Arizona slugger finished the 2013 campaign by connecting in his last 19 straight contests, batting .387 with five homers and 18 RBIs along the way. Strangely, baseball does not officially count hitting streaks split over consecutive seasons, so if Goldschmidt can somehow extend his run through the first 37 games of 2014 and tie (in our eyes) DiMaggio’s mark, you would think there would have to be some sort of tactical retreat from the MLB recordkeeping office.
2027’s Challenger to Cal Ripken Jr.
Detroit’s Prince Fielder finishes the 2013 season with baseball’s longest active consecutive games streak at 505; if he hangs in there and plays everyday for a long, long time, he’ll break Cal Ripken Jr.’s record of 2,632 straight games played at the age of 43.
The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.
Have a comment, question or request? Contact us at This Great Game.
© 2016 This Great Game.