The Week That Was in Baseball: November 9-15, 2009
Endangered Wetteland? The Cubans are Coming! The Cubans are Coming! (Again)
The Lighter Side of Sammy Sosa
Who Should Win Baseball's Postseason Honors

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The Curious Case of John Wetteland
Former closer John Wetteland, who saved all four World Series wins for the 1996 New York Yankees—and is currently a bullpen coach for the Seattle Mariners—was admitted to the hospital this past week in Denton, Texas after a bizarre incident that began with a woman (presumably his wife) calling 911 from his residence saying that a man in the house was having suicidal thoughts. When police and medics arrived, they found Wetteland emerging from the house with his hands raised high, asking to be taken to the hospital with high blood pressure. Wetteland is back home and said to be okay—and the Mariners are publicly disputing the police’s version of events, saying that the report of Wetteland being suicidal was “erroneous”; Mariner manager Don Wakamatsu later claimed that the wife’s suggestion of suicide may have been an overreaction stemming from a domestic dispute.

Sosa Light
Al Jolson famously belted out “Mammy!” all those years ago when he infamously wore blackface in The Jazz Singer. Fast forward to this past week, and Internet gawkers were yelling out “Sammy!” upon seeing the truly bizarre images of a modern-day Sammy Sosa appearing to wear whiteface at an awards event in Las Vegas. The suddenly lighter tone of his skin was not a Michael Jackson-like life-changing event—or a side effect of his alleged steroid use—but, instead, simple usage of “bleaching cream” to soften his skin after years of standing in the outfield in direct sunlight. Just to be sure he wasn’t offending anyone, Sosa did tell ESPN, “I’m not a racist.”

Trivia Question of the Week
Ken Griffey Jr. re-upped with the Seattle Mariners for one more year in a major league uniform, and as a result will become a rarity in baseball: One who has played in parts of four different decades. Six other players, if they continue to play in 2010, will join Griffey as those who began their major league careers in the 1980s. Name them. (Answer below.)

Oriole Detente, Part II
Baltimore strongman Peter Angelos isn’t doing much right now for his Orioles, but he’s trying to do something for U.S.-Cuba relations—again. Ten years ago, Angelos forged a two-game exhibition series between the Orioles and Cuba’s national team—with one game played at Camden Yards, the other in Havana—and he wants to try it again for 2010. With President Barack Obama making friendly overtures towards Cuba, Angelos is wagering that improved relations between the two nations will improve his chances of staging a new series of exhibitions. As before, the concern of Americans—and hard-line anti-Castro Cuban exiles in particular—is that the games won’t be seen as cozying up to the Castro dictatorship. The concern for Cuba will keeping their talented ballplayers from defecting. (There was one defection in 1999: That of Cuba’s pitching coach.)

A Wild and Crazy Guy
Speaking of Cuban defectors, 21-year old fireballer Aroldis Chapman sat down with the Associated Press this week and discussed his past, present and future. Chapman escaped the Cuban national team in July while on tour in the Netherlands, leaving behind family and a pregnant girlfriend who had no clue of his intentions to defect. Chapman has plenty of upside via a 100-MPH fastball, and the usual big-budget major league suspects (Yankees, Red Sox, et al) are after him. But he floundered at this past spring’s WBC tourney for Cuba, and he appears to have been seduced by the capitalistic good life so far, much like the hedonistic Eastern European émigrés played by Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd way back when on “Saturday Night Live”. On the plus side, the Spanish-speaking Chapman says of American fans: “They’re loud. They yell things at you. I just don’t know what they’re saying.”

How Rich
Angel Villalona, the blue-chip hitting prospect for the San Francisco Giants charged with murder in his native Dominican Republic this summer, has been freed on bail—but don’t expect him to be coming back to America anytime soon: The U.S. has revoked Villalona’s visa as he awaits trial. Meanwhile, in a move that reeks of macabre chutzpah, Villalona’s camp has offered the family of the victim $140,000 to drop the charges.

A Rockie Response
This week’s naming of the 2009 Gold Gloves elicited passing headlines and yawns—except in Denver, where folks who follow the Rockies are convinced that Troy Tulowitzki got shafted in failing to win the honor for the NL’s best defesnive shortstop, which was handed out instead to Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins. Rockie fans have a good argument; although Rollins committed fewer errors and employed a higher fielding percentage, he also racked up fewer chances and assists than Tulowitzki—a suggestion that Tulowitzki has far better range that allowed him to make many more plays that Rollins possibly could have.

This Week's Episode of Divorce McCourt
Jamie McCourt, fighting for control of the Los Angeles Dodgers from her ex-husband-to-be Frank McCourt, says she wants to take the high road in dealing with the case in public so that her kids don’t have to read all about the domestic mudslinging that has taken place to date. So why did she take that message to firebrand Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers—who began his exclusive with Jamie by referring to her as “Screaming Meanie?”

Good Riddance
Jason Schmidt officially became a free agent this past week. That’s great news for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who no longer have to pay the oft-injured pitcher for nothing.

Trivia Answer
Besides Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, Omar Vizquel, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz and Tom Gordon all began their careers in the 1980s and could become four-decade players if they log even one appearance in 2010.

If TGG Picked the Postseason Awards
Baseball begins its long rollout of postseason honors this week to the best rookies, pitchers, managers and MVPs for the 2009 season. As a primer, below is a replay of choices from TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio for each of the four major awards in both leagues.

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 with the Twins making 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.

Now Playing at TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio's interview with former slugger Wally Westlake 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.

Coming Soon to TGG
Look for TGG's latest opinion piece on how best to provide comprehensive instant replay for umpires during major league contests.

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