The Week That Was in Baseball: November 14-20, 2011
Houston Goes American • Is a Second Wild Card Team Wise?
What's With This Union-Management Love Fest? • G'day, Xavier Paul...Xavier?...
The American Astros
The symmetry of the leagues certainly makes sense, but the odd number of teams in each league now means there always will be interleague play throughout the yearand more of it, as MLB has increased the number of league vs. league to 30 per year from the current 18.
The range of reaction to the Astros’ switch was loud and varied. Former NL Central opponents like the idea of one less team to compete with in their division, even if it was a team that was only 28-50 against them this past year; among the Astros’ new AL West rivals, the Texas Rangers were clearly the most happy about the move, in part because their intra-state rivalry now has more meaning but, more importantly, also means that they don’t have to play all of their divisional road games two time zones apart. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, on the other hand, are less wild about having two divisional teams in the Central time zone (not that the Angels would be playing fewer games outside of their own). As for the notion that AL West teams could salivate over playing 18 games against a currently inferior team that finished a franchise-worst 56-106 in 2011? Oakland GM Billy Beane isn’t buying it, saying that times changeafter all, just six years ago, Houston was a National League champion. And besides, Beane also admitted that “everyone is bigger than us.”And what about the Astros and their fans? A Houston Chronicle poll revealed that over 70% of respondents aren’t happy about the switch, with one fan even comparing it to the departure of the NFL’s Houston Oilers to Nashville. A local lawyer says he may have found legal muscle to keep the move from taking placediscovering the lease agreement for Minute Maid Park contains a clause stating that the host team must be from the National League. Good luck bringing that suit to fruition.
Getting Wilder in October
The New Wave
The Cardinals went internal, sort of, by naming former catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager. Though he’s never managed at any level, most in St. Louis are pleased with the decision; Matheny was a highly likeable and tough player’s player, and he also appears to have the respect of the coaches from Tony LaRussa’s regimeincluding long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan and hitting coach Mark McGwire, both of whom will continue to serve under the 41-year old Matheny.Meanwhile in Chicago, the Cubs opted for Dale Sveum, whose career both playing and managing have had fleeting and bittersweet moments of promise. As a player, Sveum looked to be on his way to a solid career after hitting 25 homers with 95 RBIs for Milwaukee during his second season in the majors in 1987. But a devastating knee injury the following year forced Sveum to miss all of 1989, and he was never the same afterwardplaying through 1999, but strictly on a part-time basis at best. He became a coach in the 2000s and, after the Brewers strangely fired manager Ned Yost with the Brewers in the thick of the stretch run towards the 2008 playoffs, took over as interim managerwinning seven of 12 games to earn the wild card spot and one vote for NL Manager of the Year. Sveum has been the hitting coach for the Brewers since then.
Now All You Need is Joe Carter and Brooks Robinson
The Plunder Down Under
Turns out, an ex-minor leaguer named Breland Brown acted as an agent and signed on with the ABL with the promise that he’d bring Paul along. Brown, who is now being investigated by Major League Baseball, was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization this past summer. And what does Paul, who doesn’t know Brown, think about all of this? “To see someone go that far, I guess, kind of made me laugh.”
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
So Far, So Predictable
The Cy Young and Manager of the Year selections also lacked drama. Detroit ace Justin Verlander was the overwhelming favorite for the AL Cy and the vote reflected that, with the Angels’ Jered Weaver and Tampa Bay’s James Shields a distance second and third, respectively. Clayton Kershaw took the NL Cy with ease, but not unanimously; Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay received four first-place votes, and Arizona’s Ian Kennedy got one. In the managers’ tally, the Rays’ Joe Maddon deservedly picked up his second AL award for forging low-budget Tampa Bay past Boston and into the postseason, while Arizona’s Kirk Gibson received the NL honor for catapulting the Diamondbacks from worst-to-first in the NL West.
The MVP awards will be announced this week.
For Your Resume
That Was Easy
So, who was passing out the happy pills during negotiations?
Apparently, the self-inflicted wounds of the disastrous 1994-95 strike have left a sobering impression on those involved. Commissioner Bud Selig was at the forefront then as now, but he’s got a legacy to worry aboutso the last thing on his mind was to throw mud at the other side of the table. Union leader Michael Weiner was there in 1994, albeit it in a much smaller role, but he surely recalls the seething from boss Fehr as trust with the owners hit an all-time low.
But life is good now in baseballand more critically, one side isn’t jealous of what the other side has, or wants, or insists on doing. Many of the issues hammered out in the new deal are technical modifications to existing luxury tax and arbitration rules. The minimum salary will increase to $500,000 within a few yearsor, roughly what the average MLB salary was 25 years earlier.But perhaps the most staggering development to come out of the negotiations is that the union has agreed to testing of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), something they have previously and publicly resistedand a topic we gave opinion to as a possible way for MLB to fracture or even break the union (not that we’d condone that). But here’s the deal: Blood tests will be administered to players as they arrive at spring training camps, yet it’s not reported as to whether the tests will continue randomly through the season. If it doesn’t, then here’s our next question: How long does HGH last before its ability to be detected melts away? So someone can take the test clean in February, then shoot up the next day without worry of being looked at again for another year? We need more info on this.
Isn't It Ironic?
Spending Other People's Money
Diss Week in Baseball
TGG Goes to CafePress
Now Playing at TGG
Become a fan of This Great Game on Facebook. We’re embracing this opportunity to invite TGG followers and those of baseball in general to share their insights, queries and good knowledge with TGG’s powers-that-be, Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio.
Our goal with this page is to bring value to all who wish to become our fans, even correspondents to our continued mission of providing an enriched and unique perspective to our comprehensive catalog of baseball history, past, present and future.
Want to sound off on current events? Have good trivia you want to share? Roaming about the country on a ballpark tour? Need advice on that baseball book you’re trying to sell? Got something of interest we could share within the main site, such as our Weekly Comebacker? Have any praise or criticisms of TGG? We want to hear from you. It’s your soapbox, too.
|Fun facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders
Updated! Take the TGG quiz to determine your good baseball knowledge when it comes to the game's all-time hit leaders and the 3,000-hit club. Check it out now!