The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: October 25-31, 2010
Long-Overdue Praise For Matt Cain Will Baseball Expand the Postseason?
Jose Guillen's Second Strike? Will Mrs. Lee Take New York?

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Maybe the View is Just Too Distracting
If the Texas Rangers are to come back and win the World Series over the San Francisco Giants, they’ll have to do something they’ve never been able to do: Win at AT&T Park. Since the ballpark’s opening in 2000, the Rangers have played a trio of three-game interleague series in San Francisco and have been swept each time; with the two losses to start the World Series added, the Rangers dropped to 0-11 at AT&T Park.

A Pain in the Neck
When Jose Guillen was picked up by the Giants late this season, it became the tenth major league team the sometimes effective, often combative outfielder has played for in 12 years. It’s likely to be 11 in 13 by 2011—that is, if Guillen can find a sucker to hire him after revelations published in the New York Times this past week that Human Growth Hormone (HGH) was shipped to his home late in the year. The article claims that Major League Baseball told the Giants about Guillen and his HGH, and successfully persuaded the team not to include him in the postseason roster—a claim the Giants deny, with manager Bruce Bochy publicly stating that the decision to omit Guillen had more to do with an ailing neck injury than any steroid suspicions.

Guillen has previously been caught testing positive for illegal performance enhancement, in early 2008—but MLB agreed to void his 15-day suspension as part of an agreement with the players’ union to toughen the game’s drug rules overall.

Citizen Cain
Since breaking into the majors at age 20, Matt Cain has quietly and patiently played in the shadows of bigger figures in San Francisco while his quality pitching game has continually been offset by poor offensive support; despite a career 3.45 ERA, his record remains below .500 at 57-62. But the 2010 postseason is allowing Cain to make a bid to finally usurp as much of the national spotlight as possible. After throwing shutout baseball for nearly eight innings in Game Two of the World Series, Cain has now tallied 21.2 consecutive scoreless innings, a feat only four other pitchers in history have bettered; the scheduled Game Six (if necessary) starter, Cain can tie a postseason record of four straight starts without allowing an earned run, held by Whitey Ford.

Floodwaters Over the Cliff
The six runs scored by San Francisco off the Rangers’ Cliff Lee in the fifth inning of Game One were as many tallied by the Giants as in any one of ten previous postseason games.

The magnificent postseason exploits of Lee (at least until Game One) and Cain brought up comparisons to the two guys who have baseball’s best postseason ERAs: Sandy Koufax (0.95) and Christy Mathewson (0.97). Here’s an amazing sidebar fact: Despite those terrific numbers, Koufax and Mathewson managed a combined record of just 10-8 in World Series play (there were no divisional or LCS rounds in their time).

Tanned, Rested and Ready
It’s hard to believe that it took Texas eight postseason wins for closer Neftali Feliz to earn his first playoff save, recording the final three outs in the Rangers’ 4-2 Game Three victory over the Giants at Arlington. It was Feliz’s first save in four weeks.

Texas Walk 'Em
Reliever Derek Holland was the main attraction in a pre-Halloween horror show during Game Two in which the Ranger bullpen walked four straight Giants in the eighth inning to significantly aid a seven-run rally for San Francisco. Holland walked three of those batters and threw just one strike among 13 pitches before being removed for Mark Rowe—who walked his first batter. Ranger relievers overall gave up 11 runs in just 5.1 innings over the first two games of the World Series at AT&T Park.

DQ the DH?
On the day after Game One, which saw Texas designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero commit two errors in a rare start in the outfield, Ranger president Nolan Ryan said he was in favor of permanently eliminating the DH in the American League. Ryan did admit that he likely held the minority opinion among fellow AL decision-makers and certainly the players’ union, which would probably block any such move to end the DH out of fear it would eliminate the full-time playing status of 14 AL players.

Something in Common
Much has been made of the fact that the Giants’ Buster Posey is the first rookie catcher to play (and bat cleanup) in a World Series since the New York Yankees’ Yogi Berra in 1947. Less known is that the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland is the first rookie to start the first four games at first base since (also) 1947, when Jackie Robinson started there for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yes, that fact will create some pause for those who knew Robinson primarily as a second baseman, but he played entirely at first throughout his legendary and difficult first year in the majors.

Pat the Splat
Giant slugger Pat Burrell in the first three games of the World Series: No hits in nine at-bats with eight strikeouts. The record for strikeouts is 12, held by Kansas City’s Willie Wilson in 1980 and Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard just last year.

Swingin' Away
A Bay Area man reportedly went on Craigslist and offered up a night with his wife in exchange for World Series tickets at AT&T Park. No picture of the wife was said to be provided, and there was no word on whether a deal was ever consummated.

Justice Takes a Back Seat
A defense lawyer in the Dallas suburb of Irving asked a judge to delay a pretrial hearing involving an apartment complex accused of violating an ordinance concerning crime reduction. The reason: So he could go home and watch Game One of the World Series. The prosecutor gave no objections, the judge granted the postponement and everyone went home to watch the Rangers get pounded, 11-7.

Performing Al Fresco
Did it seem as weird to you as it did to us when Fox showed the AT&T Park organist set up playing in the open behind the bleacher seats for the start of the World Series?

He Said What?
“The Giants are once again winning with pitching. But not theirs.” —Fox analyst Tim McCarver, during San Francisco’s seven-run eighth inning against Texas in Game Two during which Ranger relievers walked four straight Giant batters.

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

The Hot Stove of Hindsight
While the World Series played on, media members across the land wondered aloud about so-called missed opportunities for teams other than the Giants and Rangers to snag some of the series’ key names. The San Francisco Chronicle noted how the Oakland A’s might be a better team if general manager Billy Beane had promoted third base coach (and current Texas manager) Ron Washington to the manager spot; The Chicago Sun-Times mentioned how close the Cubs came to hiring Giant skipper Bruce Bochy four years ago over Lou Piniella; the Houston Chronicle recalled a 2007 trade rejected by the Astros that would have sent then-Cleveland ace Cliff Lee to the Astros for closer Brad Lidge; the Cincinnati Enquirer talked about how the trade of Josh Hamilton to Texas still haunts the Reds; and reporters all over the Miami area are wondering how the Marlins could have waived Cody Ross, who’s become a big postseason star for the Giants.

The irony could not have been lost on Chicago Cub bullpen catcher Corey Miller, who was caught carrying marijuana while driving with his fiancée and an infant child in Nebraska, all while (ooh-ooh) that smell was drifting about San Francisco’s AT&T Park for Game One of the World Series as proponents of a ballot measure to legalize pot reportedly and freely distributed sample substances without fear of getting hassled. (Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, a recovered drug addict, said he easily detected the smell of pot from his spot in center field.)

Back to Miller: Police ended up arresting his fiancée, who claimed responsibility for the stash, while Miller was cited for possession and given a warning for speeding; he was likely given leniency since he had to care for the infant. The Cubs may be less lenient in bringing back Miller, whose contract with the team expires this week; maybe the Giants can hire him.

How to Further Cheapen a Regular Season
Michael Weiner, the new head of the players’ union, says that his constituents might be open to expanding the playoffs with more wild card teams and will bring up the subject when he and player reps meet after the season; such an expansion would likely cut the regular season back down to 154 games, the standard before 1961. Collective bargaining for a new agreement with owners begins next year, and if player consensus says yes to more postseason teams, it will be formally proposed in negotiations.

Players may embrace Weiner’s thoughts since it gives them more of an opportunity to experience the playoffs while playing potentially less meaningless games late in the year (and less games in general); many baseball historians and/or addicts will rightfully frown on the concept, as it will further reduce the value of the regular season—a major complaint brought up when baseball doubled the number of postseason entrants to eight in 1994.

Owners may not roll with the whole idea for a different reason; reducing the regular season by eight games will cut down on revenue. But Commissioner Bud Selig likes the thought and will discuss it with the owners.

Which Lee Wears the Pants?
When Mark Teixeira signed his eight-year, $180 million contract with the New York Yankees two years ago, he admitted that his wife’s preference to live in New York over Boston became a significant factor in his decision. If Cliff Lee is to listen to his wife as he seeks free agent riches, the Yankees may be in trouble. During the ALCS at Yankee Stadium, Kristen Lee claimed that nearby fans hurled spit, beer and obscenities in her direction. Her husband, likely trying to keep negotiating leverage at a premium in his favor, waived off the rough treatment as “fans being fans.” We’ll see what kind of body language Kristen gives Cliff when the winter call comes in with the likely high bid from the Yankees.

Sister of Blind Luck
A nun at a Baltimore convent recently went through a boxful of collectibles bequeathed to her by her late brother and discovered the so-called ‘Holy Grail’ of baseball cards: A rare
Honus Wagner card from 100 years ago. Only 50 such cards are said to exist because Wagner asked the Sweet Caporal tobacco to stop printing the card as he didn’t want to come off as an endorsement for smoking. This particular Wagner card is said to be in bad shape, and yet it still could fetch as much as $250,000 in an online auction taking place into this week.

A mint-condition version of the card was bought by Arizona Diamondback owner Ken Kendrick in 2007 for a whopping $2.8 million, the highest ever paid for a baseball card.

Eiland of the Damned
The New York Yankees fired pitching coach Dave Eiland this past week even though the team’s earned run average improved to 4.35, from 4.48 in 2009. However, in the Year of the Return of the Pitcher, the Yankees’ ERA ranking dropped precipitously, from 13th to 22nd. Not helping Eiland’s case was that the Yankee postseason ERA was a dismal 5.01.

Playtime's Over at Citi Field
The no-nonsense Sandy Alderson appears to be just the right tonic the New York Mets need to clean house, one way or another. The former Oakland general manager, MLB executive vice president and San Diego Padre CEO was named GM this week by the Mets, who experienced an especially caustic and typically underachieving campaign in 2010 and are in need of some tough love from within. We’ll see if the 63-year old Alderson has the smarts and energy to make it work again in a demanding position, but if he still does have it and can’t get the Mets to respond, no one will until a complete top-to-bottom overhaul takes place.

A Bronzed Silver Lining
Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga, whose bid for a perfect game earlier this season was infamously ruined on a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce with two out in the ninth inning, won one of four “Sanity Awards” given out by “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart during the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington on Saturday. Galarraga was given the honor for remaining graciously sane as Joyce denied him a shot at history.

Your Father Was There, But He Wasn't Tom Seaver
On August 22, 2009, while former player Eddie Yost was being honored with the rest of the 1969 champion New York Mets before a game at Citi Field, his daughter Alexis Fougere was plunked on the shoulder from a security radio that was accidentally dropped from the deck above—briefly knocking her out and leading to a muscle tear that required extended medical care. Fougere initially was told by the Mets that they would take care of her—she was told that she was “family”—but never heard back from them. So she’s suing, asking the Mets to pay all of her medical expenses. The Mets are not talking about the claim at this point, but eventually they’ll have to in court.

Yost, a very patient hitter who collected almost as many walks as hits over an 18-year career from 1944-62, was a third base coach for the 1969 Mets.

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