The Week That Was in Baseball: November 25-December 1, 2013
Baseball's Biggest Tweeters • Team A-Rod Gets Personal With Bud Selig
Deadspin Crashes Cooperstown • Brave the Rains, D.C. Tells the Nationals
My Twitter Account’s Bigger Than Yours
Given that a day doesn’t go by without some sort of newsworthy tweet from a major leaguer, we thought we’d do the research and determine the ten active major leaguers with the largest followings on Twitter. That research pretty much began and ended with tweeting-athletes.com, which lists a team-by-team account of who’s active on Twitter and how many people are following them. So here they are, starting from number ten on down to one as of this past Saturday (November 30):
10. Bryce Harper (355,591 followers). The ultimate prodigy to come forth from the Twitter generation.
9. CC Sabathia (364,533 followers). With Derek Jeter and the retired Mariano Rivera absent from Twitter and Alex Rodriguez leaving all of his juicy statements to his voluminous legal/PR team, Yankee fans have to rely on the portly pitching ace to get their daily dose of Pinstriped Babylon.
8. Jose Bautista (433,685 followers). The Toronto slugger may have once ranked higher when he wasn’t getting hurt all the time—but hey, he currently still has 360,000 more followers than the most interesting man in town: Embattled mayor Rob Ford.
7. Justin Verlander (424,821 followers). We’re guessing the Detroit ace’s number of followers experienced its biggest spike when he was dating Kate Upton.
6. Robinson Cano (436,965 followers). Because, enquiring minds really want to know how you can value yourself at $300 million when no one out there is willing to fork out half of that.
5. David Ortiz (556,106 followers). For people who want to hear more F-bombs from baseball players.
4. Brian Wilson (641,978 followers). Given that his wit may be the best mix of quirkiness and intelligence since pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, you’d think Wilson would be a must for any baseball fan following major leaguers.
3. Brandon Phillips (745,358 followers). The second baseman usually has a lot to say, some of it the Cincinnati Reds would rather not hear. If anything else, fodder for good online reading.
2. Yu Darvish (1,005,698 followers). The Texas fastballer has the advantage of attracting from both sides of the Pacific—and we’re guessing that the majority of his followers are from the other side, given that he tweets in Japanese.
1. Nick Swisher (1,683,084 followers). Yes, Nick Swisher—and by a wide margin. The Cleveland outfielder is the trailblazer of social media ballplayers, having established and perfected his online foothold long before anyone else; just two years ago, he had as many followers on Twitter as all other major leaguers combined. That obviously is no longer the case, but he still is the clear king of baseball’s Twitterverse.
Jackass Presents: Bad A-Rod
The nutty legal world of Alex Rodriguez got a bit more insane this past week, to no one’s surprise. When we last left off in this saga, Rodriguez’s lawyers claimed they were ready to publicly unload, Friday before last, all the evidence proving that the accused Biogenesis star was completely innocent and didn’t purchase steroids from Tony Bosch. Friday came along, and nothing happened—except for a terse announcement that, oh, it would be next week instead. So what do we get this week?
A filing of bonus materials in the Rodriguez lawsuit against Major League Baseball that basically ridiculed commissioner Bud Selig, saying he “chose to hide in his office in Milwaukee” and “lacked the courage” to testify at Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension; the lawyers’ idea of smoking gun evidence was a picture taken of Selig posing with a young fan wearing an “A-Roid” T-shirt back in 2009.
We also got an image provided by Team A-Rod of Biogenesis founder Bosch hanging with a convicted drug dealer at a bar, with two pouches of what appear to be cocaine in the foreground.
What does all of this prove? That Selig is a scaredy cat and Bosch a scumbag? And what exactly do these character assassinations have to do with Rodriguez not taking steroids? It’s just more smoke and mirrors, designed to complicate and clog up the legal process in order to stiff-arm MLB and allow Rodriguez to get in as much playing time as possible before the inevitable suspension, as we discussed last week.
The Road to Exoneration
While Rodriguez continues hell-bent on an all-or-nothing strategy to get his way, Ryan Braun is starting to look like Mother Teresa by comparison. (Well, not visually, but you get the point.) The Milwaukee slugger, who beat the system with a successful appeal of a positive steroid test early in 2012 before copping to taking PEDs through Biogenesis late this past year (serving a 65-game suspension as a result), played nice at a Thanksgiving charity function held at Miller Park this past week and made his first public comments since receiving his penalty.
Braun’s most heartwarming revelation was that he and his fiancée was invited to dinner by Dino Laurenzi Jr., the blood collector he (successfully) attacked for not properly storing his positive test samples—and, reportedly, later attempted to shame as having some sort of anti-Semitic vendetta against him. Braun called the dinner an “incredible experience” with “really good conversation.”
He’s Deadpsin to Us
Controversy seems to wrap itself around every aspect of the Hall of Fame, so this week’s announcement of players on the 2014 ballot led to a juicy nugget from Deadspin, whose hip, sarcastic wit qualifies as an online sports version of the late Spy Magazine. To underscore its criticism of the voters and the process, Deadspin lobbied to buy a HOF vote from a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Sure enough, they got one; it in turn gave the power of its vote to its readers to come up with its selections.
The BBWAA was, to say the least, not amused by the stunt. Some of its more familiar members were especially rankled; the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy called it a disgrace and suggested that the BBWAA strip the member that gave (or sold) the vote to Deadspin of his membership, while the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden was more direct, saying: “I am dumbfounded that somebody would do this…this person is dead as a baseball writer.” Finally, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle offered up this Deadspin-like jab at Deadspin: “I’m hoping the Deadspin editors actually complete their “bought” Hall ballot themselves. The age 10-12 demographic should be represented.”
As for who was the BBWAA member who sold the vote? Deadspin promises that the writer will be revealed once the vote has been sent in.
The Best of the Outsiders
People will undoubtedly write about those who get inducted into Cooperstown in January, and others will make a list of those who came closest. And then there’s NBC Sports.com blogger Matthew Pouliot, who decided to come up with a list of the best dozen eligible players left off the ballot. The list includes Jose Vidro, Trot Nixon and Jon Lieber. The topic seems like such a non-starter, because the question among these players is not whether they get into the Hall, but whether they can even attract a single vote.
The Anti-Hall Campaign
Todd Jones would prefer to have made Pouliot’s list. A 16-year veteran who racked up 319 saves to place 16th on the all-time list, Jones told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that he doesn’t deserve a vote. “The Hall of Fame is for greatness,” he said, “No one with the nickname ‘Roller Coaster’ should ever be considered.” Maybe that’s a cue for Deadspin to cast a vote for him.
What a Lack of Leverage Will do
Robinson Cano channeled Yogi Berra this past week when he said that he never said most of what he said in regards to a $300 million contract demand. If you want to get into semantics, then perhaps he never really said it, but it certainly came from someone in his agents’ camp earlier this summer, setting the tone for a whopping figure no team seems to want to touch. The latest discussions involve Cano and the incumbents, the New York Yankees—who are said to be offering far less than what Cano is hoping, which is now reported to be somewhere in the range of nine years and $250-260 million.
Lou Brissie, 1924-2013
In a short seven-year career split between (mostly) the Philadelphia Athletics and the Cleveland Indians, Lou Brissie compiled a so-so 44-48 record and 4.07 ERA. But what was amazing was that the southpaw pitcher from South Carolina was able to play baseball at all after his experiences in World War II.
In December 1944, Brissie was serving for the U.S. Army when his unit was attacked in the Italian mountains by German forces; he was hit by a nearby shell which broke both his feet and badly mangled his left leg—and he had to drag himself across a creek to avoid being captured. He was told his leg would have to be amputated, but he resisted saying his life back home was in baseball. “I’ll take my chances,” he told the doctor. Twenty-three operations later, he was back home and on a major league mound, where he starred for Connie Mack’s A’s in 1949 with a 16-11 record and a spot on the American League All-Star team.
Brissie passed away on Monday at the age of 89.
Screw Us Once, Shame on You; Screw Us Twice…
When the Atlanta Braves announced a few weeks back their intention to move northward to neighboring Cobb County (a move approved this week when the county sped through a $300 million budget to fund the new mixed-use ballpark complex), we warned that this would give other teams the idea to use the burbs as leverage for improvements of their existing ballparks—no matter their age. So leave it to the Washington Nationals to strike the next blow. This past week, it was reported that the Nationals went to District of Columbia mayor Vince Gray and asked that the city pony up $300 million to add a retractable roof to five-year-old Nationals Park. Keep this in mind: More than any other team, the Nationals shook down D.C. to get the public to all but entirely pay for the existing building, and even then refused to pay rent in their first year there until last-minute work had been completed.
Gray reportedly laughed “no” when he was presented with the proposal. Part of Gray’s reaction may have been in quickly asking himself: Why spend all that money to keep fans dry when the team gets rained out only a handful of times all season?
No word on whether the Nationals were ready to borrow from agent Scott Boras’ playbook and whip up a “mystery” town in neighboring Maryland or Northern Virginia who might offer up an alternative ballpark and scare D.C. into agreeing to the idea.
Drug of the Year
The final official tally on synthetic drug use in the majors—legal or otherwise—was released this past week in a joint statement from MLB and the players’ union. Beyond the 13 players suspended for their Biogenesis connections, eight additional players were penalized—mainly for using the substance Adderall without permission. Another 122 players were using Adderall legally with a doctor’s note, because they claimed to suffer from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). This continues a curious trend that began in 2007 when the number of such exemptions shot up 400% as amphetamines were banned among major leaguers; the number has since held steady, but still represents a 10% rate of those claiming to have ADD double that of the general population.
Vin Scully Never Sounded So Expensive
Cable viewers may have the Los Angeles Dodgers to blame for the next increase in their monthly bills. Earlier this year, the Dodgers negotiated a titanic $8.5 billion, 25-year deal with Time Warner Cable to broadcast their games; the estimated $340 million the Dodgers gross from the deal is staggering compared to other recent agreements between MLB teams and cable operations, deals themselves considered handsomely profitable. But it may hurt Time Warner, who needs to charge cable organizations operating in the Southland mucho dollars to carry the Dodgers network and recoup its hefty costs.
This may be too much for some of those cable outlets, who would be asking subscribers to pony up five bucks a month just to add the new Dodgers channel (reports say that figure may raise to $8 in the near future). So the question now becomes not whether Dodgers fans will want to watch their favorite team’s games next year but, rather, whether they can.
TGG Chats With Steve Sax
Check out the latest installment of our They Were There sction as Ed Attanasio sits down with former Dodger and Yankee Steve Sax on a number of topics, including Sax's mental block at second base, life on two championship teams in Los Angeles and his appearance on The Simpsons.
Updated on TGG
The Teams section has been fully updated to reflect the advancement of many active players on the Top Ten lists based on their 2013 performances, as well as changes to the lists after sensible adjustments were made to our two TGG metrics, the Productivity Index and the Efficiency Index. Check it out!
The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.
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