The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: November 15-21, 2010
The Cy Young Award: It's Not Always About Wins Dan Uggla's Escape From Florida
The Too-Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field TGG Crashes in on KNBR (Sort of)

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Dissecting the Cys
Results were announced this past week for the year’s major postseason awards except for the MVPs, which will be announced early this week (TGG formally endorses St. Louis’ Albert Pujols and Texas’ Josh Hamilton in the NL and AL, respectively), and our choices made here last week didn’t quite sync up with the final tallies from the Baseball Writers Association of America that counted.

In the Cy Young Award vote for the year’s best pitcher, we were partially in line with the writers on the AL honor, with Eric Gouldsberry agreeing with the choice for Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (Ed Attanasio liked CC Sabathia). The nod for Hernandez was a validation of the fact that wins and wins alone are not a guarantee of winning the Cy; in fact, 17 AL pitchers won more games than Hernandez, who notched the fewest victories (13) among starting pitchers in a full season to earn a Cy.

The blame for King Felix’ low-win count is easily and rightfully shouldered upon the bats of the 61-101 Mariners, who finished dead last in every major offensive category among the 30 MLB teams; the M’s were especially bad when Hernandez took the mound, scoring six or more runs in only three of his 34 starts this season. But voters wisely overlooked the basic record and understood that Hernandez was worthy of the AL Cy based on league bests in earned run average (2.27) and batting average against (.212); he finished just one strikeout shy of the AL lead.

Our choices for the NL Cy (Ed chose San Francisco closer Brian Wilson, Eric opted for St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright) clashed with the voters’ choice for Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay—but it's hard to argue with the BWAA tally when all 32 voters (including those from St. Louis and San Francisco) checked off Halladay for number one on the ballot. Halladay and Wainwright’s numbers are almost indistinguishable from one another, but Halladay pitched exceptionally well at home in a hitter-friendly ballpark, helped lead the Phillies to a divisional title and, most sensationally, threw a perfect game.

Halladay is the fifth pitcher to win Cys in both leagues, joining Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

Hindsight is Not an Option
We’ll bet our mortgages that had the BWAA waited until after the postseason to make their picks for the Manager of the Year awards, we might have saw some different results as opposed to what they penned in at the end of the regular season. Still, it puzzled us that San Diego skipper Bud Black was named the NL’s best ahead of the Giants’ Bruce Bochy, whose team beat the Padres on the last day of the regular season to win the NL West; we had opined that whoever won the West would likely see its manager crowned with the NL honor. Bochy actually ended up a distant third in the NL vote; placing second behind Black—and by a single vote—was Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker, who could have won his fourth Manager of the Year honor and tied Tony LaRussa for the most ever.

In the AL, Ron Gardenhire earned a long-overdue honor as the AL’s best pilot; the fact that he had to wait this long to cop the award given his enormous regular season success to date with the ‘small-market’ Twins is eyebrow-raising. But Gardenhire’s bane continued to be his postseason pain, again enduring a three-and-out bow in the first round to lower his career playoff record to 6-24. Texas’ Ron Washington, who finished second in the AL vote and rode his Rangers to their first World Series appearance, might have taken the honor had the writers been asked to wait until after the playoffs to cast their ballot.

Of Spoils and Security
Here’s one strong incentive to win the Manager of the Year award: Contract extensions. Last year, Jim Tracy was rewarded by the Colorado Rockies for his good work by being given a three-year pact the day he won the NL honor for best manager; and this past Thursday, Gardenhire was given a three-year extension a day after winning the AL award.

If Only He'd Made This Much Noise During the Season
Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez publicly stated that he was unhappy with finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year vote, cleverly filtering his selfishness by bleeding more for St. Louis pitcher Jaime Garcia, who finished third. “Look at Jaime Garcia’s numbers,” Sanchez said, “He had an unbelievable year, and it didn’t matter what he did—he wasn’t going to get better than third.” Sanchez hit .273 and led all NL rookies with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs, but the award was given to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, followed by Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward—both of whom generated much publicity and made it to the postseason.

Win or Fight
If war breaks out soon in Korea, Shin-Soo Choo will have to do nothing more than cheerlead from afar. The South Korean native and Cleveland Indian outfielder participated for his homeland in the Asian Games this past week and helped his team defeat Taiwan for the gold medal; as a result, Choo earned an exemption from mandatory military duty required of all South Korean men.

Let's Bet He Won't Drink to This
Former major leaguer Jim Leyritz, best remembered for hitting the series-changing home run for the New York Yankees against Atlanta in Game Four of the 1996 World Series, was acquitted this past week in a Florida courtroom of manslaughter stemming from a drunk driving accident that killed a 30-year old woman in December 2007. Almost every critical detail of the accident was in dispute during the trial, from which driver was at fault, which one was more drunk and which one ran the red light; even Leyritz’s blood alcohol level was argued. The jury could only find Leyritz guilty of driving under the influence, for which he’ll receive a maximum sentence of six months; he could have served up to 15 years had he been found guilty of the manslaughter charge. Leyritz has already settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought about by the victim’s family for $350,000.

Now Playing at TGG
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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.

Ed's Excellent Adventure With Gary and Tony

TGG’s Ed Attanasio (above, right) got an unexpected guest shot on the popular daily radio morning segment on San Francisco’s KNBR featuring host Gary Radnich (above, left) and syndicated sports talker Tony Bruno this past Tuesday—not as an agent of TGG but for his other calling as sports editor for the North Side Times newspaper. On assignment to write up a cover story on Radnich, Ed was offered a seat in studio, on air, and got caught up in the friendly crossfire between Radnich and Bruno (appearing remotely from his Venice Beach home in Southern California) over who should win baseball’s postseason honors, offering up his choices listed here last week. Gregarious as always, Ed noted the video feed of Bruno (the segment is simulcast on Bay Area cable TV) and poked fun at the way Bruno’s bald head was positioned directly between the bottom black frame of a plaque that made it appear as if he was wearing horns.

Not-So-Big Ten Football at Wrigley Field
Ready for some directional madness? Here you go: Illinois and Northwestern could only go east-to-west playing on the North Side at 1060 West Addison Avenue. The scene is Chicago, the address is Wrigley Field and the two schools were playing the first football game there since 1970 with a rule amendment more akin to a weekend pick-up game played at the local park. Because the ballpark’s dimensions made it difficult to comfortably fit a regulation football field within in, it was decided that the offense would always be moving east-to-west—or, from the right field bleachers towards the third base dugout—where the end zone has a more spacious buffer zone. Illinois won the game, 48-27, before a full house.

A Return to Tradition
Wrigley Field wasn’t the only baseball-specific venue to host a college football game this past weekend. Not to be outdone, Yankee Stadium hosted its first football battle when Notre Dame beat Army, 27-3, before a crowd of 54,251—the largest for any event at the new ballpark (Yankee games included) thanks to additional bleacher seats that filled up dead outfield space. Yankee Stadium’s spacious left-to-center field dimensions comfortably allowed for a football field to fit in, unlike the problems encountered at Wrigley. The football teams were reigniting a tradition from which they played 22 times at the old Yankee Stadium (the last matchup occurring in 1969), including a 1928 affair in which Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne delivered his legendary halftime speech that included the phrase, “win one for the Gipper.”

Paging Mark Cuban
Houston owner Drayton McLane put out a trial balloon a year ago regarding a possible sale of the Astros, so it was no surprise this past week that he officially announced that he would sell. McLane bought the Astros in 1992 and presided over the team’s most successful stretch in its 50-year history, making the postseason six times including its one and only trip to the World Series (in 2005) and building the wonderful Minute Maid Park in 2000—but the team has fallen on harder times of late with underachieving veterans and, it seems, McLane’s recent lack of desire to continue running things. McLane stands to make a nice profit with a sale that is expected to be upwards of $700 million—roughly six times what he paid.

You Get the Horsepower, We Get the Clutch
Dan Uggla was a rock of power from his first days at Florida, hitting anywhere between 27 and 32 homers over each of his first five seasons. That’s all fine and dandy, but his average (a career .263 mark) has been soft and he’s been more of a liability than an asset at second base, best exemplified by his three errors at the 2008 All-Star Game. Yet Uggla wanted Chase Utley money from the Marlins as he negotiated an extension that ended in failure this past week and led to a trade to the Atlanta Braves; apparently the Marlins quickly got it that in order to earn Utley money, you have to hit for a higher average, show quicker speed and play better defense.

As suicidal as some think the Marlins may have been by trading Uggla to a divisional contender—especially to Atlanta’s Turner Field, where he has a career .354 batting average—it could be argued that they got the better end of the deal. In exchange for Uggla, the Marlins received two players from the Braves: Left-handed reliever Mike Dunn and All-Star infielder Omar Infante, who blossomed by hitting .309 over three years—including a .341 clip with runners in scoring position—for Atlanta.

Losing the Glue
Much noise has been made in St. Petersburg over the imminent departures of Tampa Bay Ray stars Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and closer Rafael Soriano, but away from that spotlight came an equally crippling blow to the team when the Detroit Tigers lured away free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit for three years and $16.5 million. The 33-year old was utterly superb for the Rays this past year, producing a 1.34 ERA in 63 appearances before pitching an additional 3.2 hitless innings for in the otherwise unsuccessful ALDS against Texas. Benoit’s 0.68 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) was the third lowest in history among relievers pitching 60 or more innings.

Nuking the Duke
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally gave up on starting pitcher Zach Duke this past week, five years after an electrifying debut seemed to signal that he’d be the next big thing. Duke was astonishing as a late-season rookie in 2005, going 8-2 in 14 starts with a 1.81 ERA. Since then, it’s been a much different story; Duke has lost more games over the last five seasons (68, against 37 wins) than any other major leaguer, with a 4.80 ERA and opposing batting average near .310. The 27-year old lefty finished 2010 with an 8-15 mark and a career-worst 5.72 ERA; with that, the Pirates said enough and designated him for assignment along with fellow vets Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young.

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