The Week That Was in Baseball: December 14-20, 2009
Sizing Up the Lee-Halladay Deal Milton Bradley Brings His Game of Trouble to Seattle
The Ryan Ranger Express
Can 14 Guys Change Baseball's Future?

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Now or Later: Looking Over the Lee-Halladay Trade
The blockbuster trade of this offseason—so far—took place this past week with the first-ever deal involving two pitchers with Cy Young awards in their pockets. Roy Halladay, who no longer wanted to be a part of a Toronto Blue Jay franchise headed nowhere for the short term, got his wish and was dealt away to the Philadelphia Phillies, two-time defending NL champions. The Phillies, in return, shipped late-season acquisition Cliff Lee to Seattle for three minor leaguers, replenishing the three prospects the Phillies sent to Toronto for Halladay. The Oakland A’s became a fourth team in the mix by receiving outfielder Michael Taylor, one of the Phillie prospects, from Toronto for minor league third baseman Brett Wallace. So who got the better of the deal? It depends on whether your goal is to win now or later, as broken down below.

Philadelphia: The Phillies are banking their future on Halladay, who they immediately signed to a three-year, $60 million extension. None of the three minor leaguers received from Seattle will make a dent for a number of years if ever, but that’s okay for the Phillies, who are set with the core of their roster until 2012 when Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino are due to become free agents.

Seattle: The addition of Cliff Lee confirms that the Mariners are one of the few “mid-market” teams going for broke in 2010, having also added Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley. But Lee, who’ll be paired with Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez and is due to make a relatively cheap $9 million this coming year, hits the free agent market for 2011, so the M’s better give him more than just the key to the Emerald City if they hope to keep him for the long term.

Toronto: With Halladay’s departure, the Jays have made it official that they’re in rebuilding mode with some good sticks but an unconvincing, no-name rotation. They received good young prospects out of the deal, but that will do the Jays no good in 2010—or 2011, or 2012.

Oakland: One look at Michael Taylor’s minor league numbers and you can understand why the A’s were happy to land him, even for Brett Wallace, another blue chipper who they could’ve started at third base as early as this coming season now that Eric Chavez is all but done and the current incumbent is the recently acquired Jake Fox, who’s all hit but no glove.

Keep Your Hands Off Our Other City!
If and when the Oakland A’s move southward to San Jose, not only are they going run into opposition from the San Francisco Giants but, apparently, from the City of San Francisco itself. An attorney for the city all but threatened a lawsuit if the A’s moved into a city claimed by the Giants as part of their territorial rights. This is a bit odd, given that those rights are decided by MLB and have no legally binding value outside of the realm of baseball. If MLB, which will soon have a committee recommending an optimal site for a new A’s ballpark, can broker a deal with the Giants to grant the A’s access to San Jose, there won’t be much San Francisco can do except to stomp up and down. In other words, chalk it all up as a scare tactic.

Marlinpalooza
The Mets have the Big Apple, the Giants have the loud foghorns and shooting water displays, and the Brewers have Bernie Brewer going down a yellow slide.  So how will the Florida Marlins celebrate a home run when they move into their new ballpark in 2012? This week, the team released an interactive rendition of a $2.5 million display to be designed by multimedia pop artist Red Grooms. It looks like something that might have been conceived by Monty Python cartoonist Terry Gilliam (without the crudity) that would go bonkers when you win a free game at pinball. Check it out.

If It's Nolan, It's Okay With Us
Fans of the Texas Rangers were likely thrilled to hear that
Nolan Ryan will be part of the team’s new ownership after the group he’s part of was selected this past week to enter into a 30-day exclusive negotiation period to buy the club. Those same fans may be less thrilled to know that Tom Hicks, the current owner, will also be part of the new organizational structure—albeit in a smaller capacity for which he will not have final say on any trade or signing, like the ten-year, $252 million megabust deal for Alex Rodriguez a decade ago.

Back to Ryan: The Hall of Fame pitcher has become an icon of the franchise even though he played only the tail end of his career for Texas, but his recent doings as Ranger president—and his decree to work the team’s pitchers into shape, which appeared to be well heeded in 2009—have also endeared him to Ranger fans who see hope in the team’s future so long as he’s part of it. As for Houston businessman Jim Crane, who looked to be the favorite to become the new Texas owner but can only watch for now, all is not lost: The Astros may also soon be for sale.

Bud's Star Chamber
When New York Yankee catcher
Jorge Posada decided to have a conference on the mound with pitcher Andy Pettitte after the first pitch of Game Six of the World Series, Bud Selig must have thought, “Enough!” With that and many other nagging thoughts about the game on his mind, the commissioner has developed a special committee to tackle ways to improve the game on the field and to speed it up. The committee of 14 includes four A-list managers (Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre), four past or current general managers (John Schuerholz, Andy MacPhail, Terry Ryan and Mark Shapiro), four team executive reps (Chuck Armstrong, Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt and Dave Montgomery), Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and noted Washington columnist and baseball die-hard George Will. Among the subjects likely to be discussed will be instant replay, the designated hitter, postseason scheduling and, of course, ways to quicken the pace of the game so people like Jorge Posada can be reminded to get his signals straight with his pitcher before the first pitch.

This Week's Episode of Divorce McCourt
For almost a month, the saga over which McCourt—Frank or Jamie—owns the Dodgers has taken a hiatus as the lawyers apparently had better things to do with their professions. But new dirt was sprinkled down this week when Mr. Dodger accused Mrs. Dodger—recently fired from the team—for misrepresenting the Dodgers through her alleged lover in Taiwan, of all places. Apparently that lover, Jeff Fuller, hand-delivered a Dodger business card to a Taiwanese senator earlier this month with a note to call Mrs. Dodger and arrange for a visit from her “on behalf of the Dodgers” with the goal of having the senator, a friend of current Dodger pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo, establish stronger relations with the team.  

Meanwhile, a court date of May 24 has been set to determine, once and for all, which McCourt actually owns the Dodgers. Mr. Dodger had hoped for a winter trial that would end in time for Spring Training; Mrs. Dodger was hoping for a Fall 2010 slot.

Brooks Goes Bronze
A year ago, we took a good look at which baseball players were immortalized in bronze throughout America, and this week we have an update:
Brooks Robinson will get a nine-foot sculpture of his baseball likeness erected in Baltimore. The addition of what many agree is the game’s greatest defensive third baseman leaves one to wonder: “How did it take this long?!” Interestingly, the sculpture was not commissioned by the Orioles, Robinson’s one and only team of 23 years, nor will it be placed at the gates of Oriole Park at Camden Yards (one of the few new modern ballparks without any statues); instead, it will be placed at a public park a few blocks away. The sculpture, due to be erected in the spring of 2011, will show Robinson in the act of throwing across the diamond and will be all bronze—except for his glove, which will be gold to reflect the 16 Gold Gloves he received over his career.

Milton and the Malcontents
This past week, the Chicago Cubs took care of their primary offseason task by unloading the temperamental Milton Bradley to the Seattle Mariners for beleaguered pitcher Carlos Silva. The Mariners got a player with loads of emotional issues but loads of talent; the Cubs, in turn, get a pitcher with no emotional problems but not much talent (and overpaid talent at that; we were scratching our heads when the Mariners signed Silva for four years and $48 million in 2008, and that scratching hasn’t stopped). To quote the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Casey Greer: “We all lose.”

Why the Mariners, who dealt with an exceptionally rocky clubhouse atmosphere while losing 100 games in 2008, would want to risk soiling the atmosphere once again with Bradley—who quickly wore out his welcome everywhere he’s been—is beyond us.

Sure, the Mariners need boppers and Bradley can drive them in, but he can also drive them nuts, too. Ask former Indian manager Eric Wedge, who couldn’t rein in the young kid’s emotions. Ask the fan sitting in the front row of Dodger Stadium who watched in horror as an angry Bradley came over and slammed a water bottle down right at his feet. Ask Oakland general manager Billy Beane, who reportedly was at the receiving end of a Bradley tirade just prior to trading him. Ask San Diego skipper Bud Black, who had to tear Bradley away from an admittedly out-of-bounds umpire (Mike Winters) during a testy argument at first base—and ended up tearing Bradley’s knee in the process. Ask Kansas City announcer Ryan Lefebvre, who was confronted by Bradley after hearing what he felt was a rough (but honest) assessment of his personality during a broadcast. Ask anyone at Wrigley Field who witnessed Bradley’s Cub debut this past year: A strikeout followed by an ejection.

They’ll all tell you the same thing about Bradley: Good flippin’ luck. Time will quickly tell whether the Mariners become believers.

Bradley is most certainly among an elite group of brooders and insubordinates who have constantly rubbed teammates, management and the media the wrong way. Here are nine other such misfits to round out our top ten:

Albert Belle. If a picture exists of Belle smiling, we have yet to see it. Of course, if you took such a picture, the smile would disappear and a baseball thrown at your head might follow. It was hard for Belle to contain his anger at most anyone: Taunting fans, Hannah Storm, Fernando Vina and trick-or-treaters. Belle had Hall of Fame numbers but, because of his gruff attitude, failed to retain eligibility for Cooperstown after two years of low votes. His lousy disposition continued beyond retirement, spending time in jail for stalking a call girl.

Barry Bonds. The disputed home run king might actually still be playing if his personality was 180 degrees from the surly F.U. treatment he gave almost everyone during the 22 years he did play. The funny thing was, Bonds did try hard to be a nice guy from time to time, but his deep-rooted, moody narcissism usually got the best of him, reverting him back to form.

Ty Cobb. Arguably the game’s most talented ballplayer—and, arguably, its most temperamental. His early, stormy years set in concrete an über-angry reputation that would frequently be confirmed, from his vicious play to racist attacks to, at its most sensational, the beating up of a handicapped fan who was heckling him.

Rogers Hornsby. Another no-doubt-about-it Hall-of-Famer, another no-doubt-about-it louse of a person. He was never the angry type—just ice cold, a perfectionist at the plate who never heeded the achievements of or praise from others. Teammates loved Hornsby’s ability to hit near or above .400 with power, but couldn’t stand him when he dropped the bat and became their manager.

Alex Johnson. A terrific talent who was indifferent and uncommunicative throughout his turbulent career, Johnson made a persistent habit of not running out ground balls, keeping to himself and, when he did open up, thought it best to call everyone “d--khead,” according to former teammate (and runner-up on this list) Dick Allen. He once drove one of the few friends he actually had, Chico Ruiz, to threaten him with a gun in the clubhouse.

Dave Kingman. Another self-appointed lonely soul who could blast home runs and alienate teammates with equal ease; when with the New York Mets, John Stearns likened Kingman’s personality to that of a tree trunk. Kingman saved much of whatever venom he had for the press; he once dumped a bucket of ice on a reporter, and at the end of his career (with Oakland) sent a live rat to a female sportswriter.

Billy Martin. It seemed a year didn’t go by without the pugnacious infielder and (later) manager getting into some kind of physical scrap; the low point came when he was beat up by three guys at a strip club restroom in Arlington, Texas, shortly before being fired for the fifth and final time by the Yankees. Martin was the Milton Bradley of managers: A brilliant skipper who (not so) slowly and surely wore out his welcome wherever he went.

Carl Mays. The submarine-style pitcher maintained a corrosive attitude throughout his career that won over few friends among teammates: The persona transcended itself in tragic fashion in 1920 when his beanball killed the Indians’ Ray Chapman, the only known death of a major leaguer on the field. If that wasn’t enough, Mays nearly caused the breakup of the American League in 1919 when, after wanting out of Boston, was granted a trade to the Yankees—sending half of the league’s owners into a row that brought them close to splitting to the National League.

John Rocker. A fireballin’ embarrassment who gave rednecks everywhere a bad name. His racist rants weren’t restricted to his infamous Sports Illustrated interview that created a firestorm in 2000; he made headlines a few years later when he berated gay patrons at a Dallas restaurant. Rocker was such a bad influence in the Atlanta clubhouse, his teammates were willing to break a fraternal cardinal sin by complaining to the media about him. Adding self-inflicted insult to self-inflicted injury, he was named in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user.

Sorry Kid, It Must Have Slipped
Bradley may not be the only one causing turbulence in the Seattle clubhouse this year. The addition of pitcher Cliff Lee means that Ken Griffey Jr. will now have a teammate that once threw behind his head one at-bat after launching his 499th career home run, and watching it clear the fence from home plate rather going immediately into a trot. Lee, by public design, laughed off the incident this past week after being traded to the Mariners.

Now Playing at TGG
Uploaded this week is Ed Attnasio’s They Were There chat featuring with former major league reliever Bob Locker, who reveals his experiences with the one-year Seattle Pilots and the great Oakland A’s teams of the early 1970s.

We Ought to Tell You: Our All-Decade Nominations
Take a good look at the nominees for the best and worst in baseball over the last ten years, and cast your own vote by December 21 to have a say. We'll announce the winners on December 28.

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

We Ought to Tell You: Our All-Decade Nominations

With the end of the Oughts (read: 2000s) in sight, This Great Game has revealed its nominees for the best and worst of the decade that was. Categories include best and worst team, hitter and pitcher; the most memorable moments, on and off the field; the best one-year wonder, and more. Take a good look at the nominees and then get your chance to vote on the winners! TGG will tally the final vote and announce the winners at the end of the year. (Voting ends on December 21, so get your PDFs in now!)