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Well, better late than never. Had two job interviews with a two television stations here in town and then had to take the computer to the shop. Things are back to normal, so here’s this week’s edition of The Week In Baseball
Let Manny be Manny - If there was any doubt about Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez’s talent, those doubts were put to rest at Camden Yards last week against the Orioles.
Known for his antics, Ramirez showed his value to Red Sox Nation with a catch and throw against their AL East foes in the fourth inning.
With two on and one down, Ramirez's former teammate, Kevin Millar, slammed a ball to left-center that appeared destined to carry over Ramirez's head. On a full sprint and fully extended, Ramirez chased it down just before he hit the warning track for the second out.
"I thought I was not going to have any chance to throw the guy out at first, but I did it anyway," Ramirez said to reporters after the game. "I just got a bad jump, but I never give up. I go there and I caught it."
What happened next made it even more special. It also made ESPN’s SportsCenter’s Top Ten plays the next day.
Ramirez ran as hard as he could, would up at the seven foot wall in left field. He then proceeded to pull himself up the wall, made the catch off former Red Sox Kevin Millar, high-fived a fan -- one wearing a Red Sox T-shirt, no less -- before turning around, making a throw that would have made Willie Mays proud, hitting his cut-off man, Dustin Pedroia, who doubled off Aubrey Huff at first.
Pretty as a Red Penny - Ken Griffey Jr. owed Cincinnati Reds teammate Josh Fogg $1,500, and paying by check just wouldn't do. The All Star outfielder and future Hall of Famer went one better. Rather than paper money, he decided to pay the debt back in pennies. 150,000, to be exact.
Fogg, who has been replaced in the Reds rotation recently, arrived in the Reds clubhouse Wednesday and found his locker filled with 150,000 pennies — 60 boxes, each weighing 16 pounds and containing $25 worth of pennies.
Neither player would say why Griffey owed Fogg the money and Griffey had threatened to pay it off in pennies, but Fogg didn't believe him.
"I'm going to take them out to the bullpen and count them," Fogg said. "I've got a lot of time on my hands out there."
Owners approve drug policy - In a move that may very well save baseball from itself, Major League Baseball's 30 owners unanimously voted on Thursday to approve revisions to the current drug policy. The executive council had already ratified the changes during its meeting on Wednesday.
Commissioner Bud Selig said that he expected the owners to all be in agreement when the revisions were collectively bargained with the Players Association last month.
"No question," Selig said. "I don't think I've had a call on this from any club. Even if there isn't any controversy, people will call me with questions, but there haven't been any. Everybody was very pleased. Senator Mitchell's recommendations have all been accepted. This was a good day. We finished up what we started."
The union is in the process of polling the players by ballot as part of its ratification process.
The vote comes at a time when two of the sport's biggest stars during the so-called steroid era -- Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- are under pressure from the federal government about their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Last Tuesday, the federal attorney's office in San Francisco unsealed its latest indictment of Bonds, which includes 14 counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice against MLB's all-time leader with 762 homers. Clemens, who ended last year with 354 wins and is second on the all-time list with 4,672 strikeouts, is being investigated by the FBI and IRS for possibly lying under oath to a Congressional committee at a hearing on February 13.
"I think we've done what we set out to do," Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, the chairman and chief executive of the Astros, who employed Clemens from 2004 to 2006 and has a personal services contract with the right-hander, said it was high time that baseball move forward beyond the steroids controversy.
Maple bats breaking like twigs? - It seems that they aren’t making bats like they used to. In fact, they’re shattering like fine China.
Commissioner Bud Selig and the 30 Major League Baseball owners have turned their sights to the recurring problem of shattering maple bats, which have replaced many of the ash models at the Major League level.
Personally, I think the maple bats are a joke. Even a five-year old girl could break one of those bats. They’re nice to look at but they break faster than a teenage girl’s heart.
Selig says that the possibility of injury by splintered maple is a major concern and was brought to his attention by Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball‘s executive vice president of labor relations and human resources.
Buy me some peanuts and chardonnay? - If you are a baseball fan and like wine, then Longball Cellars has a wine for you. Beginning last Monday, you'll be able to buy the latest in vino-tchotchke from Kroger, Wal-Mart and numerous other wine outlets. For $13 a bottle, you can wash down your peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks with Cabernet Glavingnon, Chipper Chardonnay and McCann Merlot.
Braves lefty Tom Glavine, third baseman Chipper Jones and catcher Brian McCann and other Major League Baseball players have lent their names and images to a line of wines made by California's Clos LaChance Winery & Estate Vineyard.
The project is a part of a larger charity effort that involves more than 30 professional athletes, including Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez (Manny Being Merlot), Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks (Ernie Banks 512 Chardonnay - let's drink two!) and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino (Marino Estates, Vintage 13).
Proceeds from the wine sales go to local charities and the Major League Baseball Players Trust.
For more information go to www.charitywines.com to see more players.
Magowan steps down at end of season - Citing stress and constant pressure, Giants managing general partner and president Peter Magowan announced his retirement at the end of the season at a news conference at AT&T Park last Friday.
Magowan's imminent departure bears significance, because he's just the ninth principal owner since the franchise's inception in 1883 -- reflecting remarkable stability. He is credited for bringing Barry Bonds to the Giants from Pittsburgh and getting AT&T Park built on San Francisco’s China Basin, ending threats to move the club. He also ruled over an eight-year run of success (1997-2004) that was unmatched since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants reached the postseason four times in that stretch and reached a Wild Card playoff game once while averaging 92 victories per year.
More recently, however, Magowan has weathered considerable criticism, creating stress that is believed to be a primary reason for his stepping down.
He came under the glare of unwanted attention when the Mitchell Report, which examined the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, declared that he and Sabean did not sufficiently follow through on suspicions of Bonds' alleged steroid use. He does have an ally in commissioner Bud Selig, who said that management officials implicated in the Mitchell Report may escape fines and suspensions if they were to do community service.
In the public eye, Magowan also seemingly could do nothing right, regarding Bonds. Giants management came under fire for its perceived coddling of the superstar left fielder, yet many fans were outraged when the club announced last September that it would not re-sign Bonds, ending his 15-year tenure with the team.
Steinbrenner: Play like Tampa Bay - New York Yankees head man Hank Steinbrenner is taking a play from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays playbook. He wanted the pinstripers to play like their opponents. Steinbrenner made the comments last week as the first-place Devil Rays took three of four against their Eastern Division rivals in St. Petersburg.
That school of thought clearly wasn't lost on Yankees co-chairman Steinbrenner, who said the Bombers might benefit from catching some of the Rays' enthusiasm.
"[The Yankees have] got to start playing the way the Rays are playing," Steinbrenner said following the Yankees' loss Tuesday. "[The Yankees] need to start treating it like when they were younger players and going after that big contract, like they're in [Triple-A] and trying to make the Majors. That's the kind of attitude and fire the players have to have."
When told of the comments, rookie Evan Longoria -- clearly one of the young "fiery" players Steinbrenner was referring to -- said the Rays are simply putting the pieces together.
Is the old boy being nice… or is there another motive in Yankees Nation? Only the shadow knows.
Figueroa’s no cheerleader - The turmoil in the New York Mets clubhouse is getting bigger by the moment and may be more exciting than a soap opera. Nelson Figueroa was not a happy camper with his performance against the last place Washington Nationals at Shea Stadium last week. Add to that the fact that he got bent out of shape because the last place Nationals were cheering and clapping in their dugout.
Wait, let me understand this. This is a guy on a team that hoops and hops around like rabbits on Viagra calling the kettle black? Remember all those obnoxious high fives you gave each other last season? Take the plank out of your own eye!
He was miffed by his own inability to cope with the Nationals' low-octane offense and by the behavior of their dugout. The Nationals were chanting during the top of third inning as they rallied to tie the score at 2.
The Nationals were trying to get their offense going and later said the game of chants was not directed at Figueroa but intended to help their stagnant offense. Figueroa neither heard it nor saw it that way.
"They were cheering in the dugout like a bunch of softball girls," he said. "I am a professional, I take great offense to that. ... They won tonight but in the long run, look who they are, a last-place team. ... They should show a little more class and act a little more professional." And then the kicker: "That's why they are who they are." Oh really… did they have a meltdown in the 2007 season, Nelson? No. Methinks it was your team.
"We were doing it because we've been hitting lousy," Nationals batting coach Lenny Harris said. "It wasn't about him."
Other Mets were aware of the chanting, but none was so insulted as Figueroa.
You’re upset because you’re losing. You still haven’t gotten over the meltdown you had the last few weeks of the 2007 season. Fine. Just get your OWN house in order before a bunch of guys from down South pass you. And I’m not talking about the ones with gills.
And if I were a softball girl… I would be offended!
Professor Selig - You can call him Dr. Selig. Commissioner Bud Selig spoke to the graduating class of Bethany College in West Virginia. Selig addressed a class of 163 students at the school about 50 miles away from Pittsburgh at the invitation of Pittsburgh Pirates chairman of the board Bob Nutting.
The commissioners speech lasted about 25 minutes and told the graduates, “May you live in interesting times,“ quoting an old Chinese proverb.
Selig was also bestowed with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Scott Miller, the president of the liberal arts college, which is home to 780 students on this sprawling, tree-lined hillside campus of 1,300 acres about a 20-minute drive south from Wheeling, W.V.
Big Unit Reaches 288th win - No longer armed with an intimidating fastball and crackling slider, Randy Johnson found a new way to win.
Mixing a sinker and split-finger fastball into his repertoire, Randy Johnson (The Big Unit) pitched seven scoreless innings for his 288th career victory, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 last Sunday at Chase Field.
The 44-year-old Johnson (4-1) climbed into a tie with Tommy John for 24th on the all-time victory list.
Johnson went a season-long seven innings to win his fourth straight decision, allowing six hits and a walk and striking out five. Melvin lifted his lefty after 98 pitches.
“It’s just getting into a flow and getting the rhythm and throwing the ball where he wants to,” Melvin said. “If he does that, then a lot of times he’s going to have results like he did today.”
Johnson would later retire 12 of the last 13 men he faced for the win.
Heads roll at US Cellular - The Chicago White Sox restructured their Latin American operations last weekend, firing director of player personnel David Wilder on Friday along with two other scouts in the club's Latin American operation. After a two month investigation by MLB’s Department of Investigations, Victor Mateo and Domingo Toribio were also terminated, according to the team and USA Today. Wilder was the supervisor or Chicago’s Latin American operations since Fall 2004. Toribio was a part time scout for the ball club.
"It's very disappointing. This is a tough day," general manager Kenny Williams said Friday in San Francisco, where the White Sox swept a three-game inter-league series against the Giants. "It's (the actions) not consistent with (owner) Jerry Reinsdorf, myself or what the White Sox organization stands for."
Findings from baseball's investigation have been turned over to federal authorities. The club stated said the three were dismissed "for actions in Latin America that were violations of club policy and standards" but did not elaborate.
Williams said he could not comment further on what wrongdoing led to the firings.
"This is an investigation we brought to Major League Baseball as part of our reorganization in the Dominican Republic," Williams said. "We now have a new facility, complete with state-of-the art equipment and facilities. We're trying to achieve greater results down there. We wanted to be sure our operations were consistent with what we stand for. Obviously, they were not in this investigation and we've made some changes accordingly.
"As to the what and the why, I'm not at liberty to expound on that." More heads may roll on the South Side of Chicago.
Is this heaven? No, it’s Grand Prairie (Apologies to Kevin Costner) - Are you looking for a free funeral? Then the Grand Prairie AirHogs baseball team would like to talk to you. The American Association of Independent Professional Baseball team is trying to find ways to gain fans -- both now and for eternity.
If you go to the June 3 game, the AirHogs, whose franchise is located in Texas, will host "All Hogs Go To Heaven" night, where one fan will win a funeral, complete with a casket, headstone, services and a plot.
The team is encouraging fans to wear black to the game.
The team will also hold funeral-related contests during the game, including pallbearer races and MadLibs eulogy deliveries.
Included on the team's list of other game promotions is "Jessica Simpson Night," when the Texas team will try to show that not all Dallas Cowboys fans are upset at her after the singer's presence at a game last season distracted quarterback Tony Romo. No word if Romo will throw out the first pitch.