The Week That Was in Baseball: October 5-11, 2009
The Game of the Year: Another Tiebreaker If TGG Chose the Postseason Awards
Will Foul Umpiring Lead to Fair Instant Replay?
Late Night With Miguel Cabrera

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Hardly Helping Their Own Cause
We’re not full-fledged advocates for an expansion of instant replay in baseball, but umpires who worked the first week of the postseason fueled the many out there clamoring for more video reviews of close calls. The Boston Red Sox twice felt the sting of obvious blown calls by first base umpire C.B. Bucknor in Game One of their ALDS with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ruling in each case that Kevin Youkilis did not tag either the player or base on wild throws when replays conclusively proved otherwise.

Whereas neither of those two calls created a major impact on the outcome (the Angels won, 5-0), a more crippling case of arbiter malpractice occurred Friday during Game Two of the ALDS between the Yankees and Twins at New York, when Joe Mauer’s 11th-inning fly ball near the corner was ruled foul by left field line umpire Phil Cuzzi, who had the best view of it in the house; he was no more than 15 feet away from the ball deflecting off Yankee left fielder Melky Cabrera’s glove and onto the ground—a good six inches into fair territory before it bounced into the stands for an apparent ground rule double. Mauer ended up with a single later in the at-bat, but the loss of 90 feet was costly; the next two Twin batters singled as well, the second of which could have scored Mauer from third for the go-ahead run; instead he ended up at third, where he was stranded at inning’s end.

Baseball games run long enough these days, and thus our major beef with increased video review is that it will only lengthen games even more. We’d like to keep the umpiring in the umpires’ hands, but with the blatant miscalls of this past week, it makes the argument tough to defend.

Well Above Sea Level and Below Freezing
Officially, the first-pitch temperature at Coors Field for Sunday's Game Three of the NLDS between Colorado and Philadelphia was 35 degrees, which tied a record for the coldest gametime reading in postseason history. A few other sources, however, had it even chillier: TBS said it was 31 degrees, and KOA, the Rockies' flagship radio station, listed the mercury at 28—which would have tied an all-time Rockie home record, set on April 12, 1997.

Sooner or Later
Jonathan Papelbon’s costly blown save in Game Three of the ALDS against Los Angeles of Anaheim—it ended the Boston Red Sox’ season—included the first three earned runs he has allowed in 18 postseason appearances. He had come into the game having not allowed a run in 26 innings, giving up just 10 hits and four walks during that span.

Maybe It's Safer to Talk About the Past Than the Future
In a space of 24 hours this past weekend, Eric Gouldsberry of TGG saw his two choices to win it all—one made in April (Boston), the other made just a week ago (St. Louis)—get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. TGG's significant other prognosticator, Ed Attanasio, still has his more recent pick, the New York Yankees, alive as of upload time—but his favorite from the spring is long, long gone: The New York Mets.

Escape From Oakland
Before the 2009 regular season, the Oakland A’s hoped to provide veteran spark to an otherwise youthful roster by bringing in Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi and Orlando Cabrera and help the team make the playoffs. Holliday, Giambi and Cabrera all got to the postseason; the rest of the team didn’t. Holliday, after a lackluster tour of duty with the A’s, was shipped to St. Louis and exploded in the Cardinal lineup behind Albert Pujols, helping to shoot the Cardinals to the top of the NL Central (though he did no favor in botching what should have been the third out of a Game Two Cardinal win at Los Angeles). Giambi, DOA in his second stint in Oakland, was released and picked up by Colorado, where he came back to life with several clutch pinch hits. And Cabrera, after his trade to Minnesota, played a crucial role in the Twins’ late-season rally that won them the AL Central title.

Time to Go Back-Back-Back-Back to the Studio
We love Chris Berman, but he needs to be reminded that when he’s doing play-by-play of a baseball game for ESPN Radio, he needs to do radio play-by-play. Berman’s attention to detail was frequently at a minimum during Game One of the NLDS between Colorado and Philadelphia. During one apparently nice defensive play by Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Berman did nothing but exclaim, “Look at Tulowitzki!” We can’t, Chris.

Unfinished Business
The 30 runners left on base between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of their NLDS series set an all-time postseason record. The Dodgers, who left 16 of those runners on base, won 5-3.

Maybe They Know the Outcome in Advance
We know it’s a long-held tradition at Chavez Ravine, but would it kill Dodger fans to, during a playoff game at least, resist the urge to go home in the seventh inning? The number of empty mustard-colored seats that grew in number late in a close Game One of the NLDS had to offend the most loyal of Dodger fans.

Mauer and the Glory
The .365 batting average produced by Minnesota’s Joe Mauer was the highest ever recorded by a catcher. The previous high was .362, put up by the Yankees’ Bill Dickey in 1936 and the New York Mets’ Mike Piazza in 1997.

Next Time, Offer Up an iCarly DVD Set
Jennifer Valdivia, a 12-year old girl who snared the ball hit by Ryan Howard for his 200th career home run at Miami in July, snared it back after suing the Phillies. How did she lose it to begin with? Well really, she didn’t; after collecting the ball, she was whisked to the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse where team officials encouraged her to exchange it for another ball that was autographed by Howard (who was to hand Valdivia the ball in person, but didn’t). Then a memorabilia “enthusiast,” Norm Kent, came across Valdivia and told her she was jobbed; it was not just a mere milestone shot by Howard, but a record-setter—it was the fastest any player had reached 200 career blasts, and the ball was going to be worth a little money. Oh, and by the way, when Kent is not a memorabilia nut, he’s a lawyer. So he represented Valdivia, took the Phillies to court and won.

My Fifth Grader's Smarter Than Your Thief
According to Philadelphia police, a 22-year old stole three World Series rings from Phillie team headquarters at Citizens Bank Park. How did police catch up to the burglar? They found his contact information on a job application form he left behind.

Is This 1930?
Braden Looper of the Milwaukee Brewers led the majors during the regular season in earned runs (113) and home runs (39) allowed. Bad year, right? Wrong. Looper finished 14-7. (Despite a 5.22 ERA, Looper was given an average of 5.8 runs per game from his Milwaukee offense.)

Reviving His Career With the Fishes
Former pitcher Shawn Chacon, last seen being kicked off the Houston Astros in 2008 after getting in the face of general manager Ed Wade, was arrested this week on charges that he wrote three bad checks totaling $50,000 to Las Vegas casinos. The Associated Press reported that Chacon played during this past season for the A’s triple-A team, the “Sacramento River,” which we know is actually the Sacramento River Cats—although we’re sure there are some tough guys on the Strip who would prefer he’d be at the bottom of the Sacramento River right about now.

He Said What?
“What the hell is he doing?”—Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, upon seeing Cliff Lee, his pitcher, attempting to steal second. Lee got the stolen base and later said he was encouraged to do so from first base coach Davey Lopes; he is just the fourth pitcher to successfully steal a base in a postseason game.

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.

Now Playing at TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio's interview with former Baltimore slugger Jim Gentile in the latest TGG installment of They Were There.

Also Now Playing at TGG
TGG's year-end review of the regular season is now live, breaking down the best, worst, most surprising and most disappointing performances from each major league team.

If TGG Picked the Postseason Awards
Baseball will not be announcing the winners of the regular season awards until after the end of the World Series, but there’s no use for us to wait. Below are the choices from TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio for each of the four major awards in both leagues. (To avoid any confusion, the honors above for best hitter and pitcher are based on the TGG Production Index, not on Eric or Ed’s opinions.)

NL Most Valuable Player
Eric’s pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Ed’s pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
A no-brainer selection for the player who’s also likely the best for the decade about to close, with all due respect to Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.

AL Most Valuable Player
Eric’s pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Ed’s pick: Justin Morneau, Minnesota
Eric and Ed agree on the team, but not on who made the most important contribution. Mauer is the odds-on favorite among the actual voters—especially now that the Twins have made the playoffs—but Ed’s choice of former MVP Morneau will likely not be mirrored in the polls after hitting an acceptable but hardly earth-shattering .274. Still, Ed thinks that Morneau’s 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 72 walks—remember, he, like Mauer, missed some 25 games due to injury—were critical to the Twins’ effort.

NL Cy Young Award
Eric’s pick: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis
Ed’s pick: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
Once again, same team, different players. Eric opted for Carpenter on the basis of a stellar record (17-4) and ERA (NL-best 2.24). Ed sides with Wainwright, who won two more games and displayed a more overpowering presence.

AL Cy Young Award
Eric’s pick: Zack Greinke, Kansas City
Ed’s pick: Zack Greinke, Kansas City
Both Eric and Ed disagree with the Production Index’s choice of Felix Hernandez, and why not; Greinke’s 2.16 ERA was tops in the majors, and had he been given decent run support found on most other major league teams—the Royals barely averaged two runs a game when Greinke didn’t win—he might have racked up 20 victories.

NL Rookie of the Year
Eric’s pick: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
Ed’s pick: Tommy Hanson, Atlanta
Eric acknowledges the second-half breakout of Florida’s Chris Coghlan and the stellar pitching of Hanson, but loves the multiple threats that McCutchen brought to the table: a .286 average, 74 runs, 26 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers and 22 steals in roughly two-thirds of a season. Ed goes with Hanson (11-4, 2.89 ERA), who lived up to the hype and, had he been given a full season’s worth of starts, might have made a run for 20 wins.

AL Rookie of the Year
Eric’s pick: Andrew Bailey, Oakland
Ed’s pick: Elvis Andrus, Texas
Bailey (1.84 ERA, 26 saves in 30 opps) made A’s fans forget quickly about Huston Street, while Andrus overcame Atlas-like expectations dumped upon him by the Ranger brass.

NL Manager of the Year
Eric’s pick: Jim Tracy, Colorado
Ed’s pick: Jim Tracy, Colorado
It was pretty well decided before the end of the season that whichever team snatched the NL wild card would earn this honor for its manager. But even had the Rockies folded late, you’d still have to give it to Tracy, who brought Colorado from below-.500 irrelevance to a franchise-record 92 wins.

AL Manager of the Year
Eric’s pick: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Ed’s pick: Jim Leyland, Detroit
Eric embraces Scioscia, who beautifully steered the Angels back to first place after the early-season adversities of a poor start, a failing bullpen and, of course, the death of Nick Adenhart. Ed opted for Leyland for taking a club that lacked the look of a postseason contender but overachieved until taking a TKO in Round 163 at Minnesota.

Game of the Year
There’s something about a tiebreaker game that brings out the best in the teams playing it. There is no tomorrow, no Game Two; every pitch, hit, out and run is critical and every player on both teams understands it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have the palpable drama as witnessed this past Tuesday when the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers fought it out to the death for the AL Central title. Every inning brought nail-biting intensity that brought even fans with no rooting interest closer to the edge of their seats as the game progressed into extra innings. After Orlando Cabrera’s two-run, seventh-inning home run for the Twins erased a long-held Detroit lead—only to be followed by Magglio Ordonez’s game-tying shot a half-inning later—rallies from both teams were created and killed on a remarkably constant basis, exposing the desperation on both sides to avoid packing it in for the year.

The Tigers missed big opportunities to score in the ninth (first and third, nobody out), the 12th (bases loaded, one out) but notched one in the tenth on a two-out double by Brandon Inge. But the Twins evened it up in the bottom of the tenth when Michael Cuddyer, reaching third on a poorly played single-turned-triple by outfielder Ryan Raburn, scored on a one-out single by Matt Tolbert; the Twins’ chance to win it that same inning fell short when Raburn, atoning for his earlier gaffe, threw out pinch-runner Alexi Casilla at home after catching Nick Punto’s fly ball. After an uncharacteristically quiet 11th, the Tigers’ bases-loaded scenario in the 12th appeared to produce a run when Inge had a pitch from Bobby Keppel all but graze his shirt—Inge swore afterward that there was contact—but the umpire said no. Inge went on to hit into a force out at home.

There was no doubt about what the Twins did in the bottom of the 12th; the speedy Carlos Gomez singled to lead off, advanced to second on a Cuddyer ground out, and then scored on a base hit to right by Casilla, ending a wild game that evoked memories of our Game of the Year pick of two years earlier: The NL West tiebreaker between Colorado and San Diego.

The Louse That Got Soused
Much was made of the Tigers’ collapse, but people would be in denial if they waived off the theory that Miguel Cabrera’s lost weekend theatrics cost his team an outright clinching of the division, all without the need to go to Minnesota for Game 163.

It all began on the final Friday of the regular season when Cabrera, after a tough night at the plate during the Tigers’ 8-0 whitewashing by the Chicago White Sox, went out drinking with members of the opposing team. Apparently Cabrera drank, and drank, and drank…until his alcohol level reached over three times the legal limit and close to a level that would require hospitalization. (Interestingly, no White Sox players were reported staggering about at six in the morning at their hotel, and we wonder if some of their friends on the Twins are writing thank-you checks as we type.)

Cabrera’s troubles were just beginning. He arrived home to an angry wife, for whom he argued and physically tussled with; she made a 911 call, police arrived and took Cabrera to the station where he was said to be incoherent and uncooperative—but was not booked, at the urging of his wife. Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski was shuffled out of his sleep to pick Cabrera up and keep things quiet. The press had no clue as to what happened when they saw Cabrera in the clubhouse ten hours later, but grew suspicious when they asked him to explain the scratches and bruises on his face—and were instead shooed off by teammates who, to reporters, seemed to be overreacting, given Cabrera’s lone explanation that his dog did it.

Cabrera, who at the very least must have been badly hung over from the night before—how chipper would you feel ten hours after binging towards a 0.26—went out and was hitless in four at-bats, crucially leaving six men on base in the Tigers’ 5-1 loss to the White Sox. Detroit finally won the next day, in spite of another hitless day for Cabrera.

Before Tuesday’s tiebreaker affair at Minnesota, Cabrera said nothing to the press but apologized to his teammates, then went out and doubled and homered in his first two at-bats against the Twins to help give the Tigers an early lead. But it might have been too little, too late; though his MVP-level hitting helped put the Tigers in first place and kept them there for virtually the entire season, his late-night drinking binge in the season’s clutch weekend was perhaps a fatal wound to his team.

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