It’s been a busy week, with the player draft taking place on Thursday and Friday, and inter-league play starting up again this weekend. It all means there’s lots to discuss this week in â€œWeeklyâ€ Hit Ground Ball.
Always saving – Let’s start with a couple of great achievements. Trevor Hoffman frequently makes it into WHGB, with good reason. This week his entry is to celebrate his historic 500th save. Whether or not he has put his underpants in the archive alongside the rest of his uniform and equipment is currently unknown.
Torre 2000 – Trevor wasn’t the only person celebrating a personal milestone this week. Joe Torre had a welcome bright spot on a tough start to the 2007 season by getting his 2000th career win on Thursday. George Steinbrenner momentarily put his knife down as a result.
So near, yet so far â€“ While the Yanks could celebrate a milestone, their fierce rivals had to settle for just falling short. Curt Schilling has never pitched a no-hitter in his career and he won’t get any closer than he did this week against the A’s. It was already looking like being a hard luck win (if there’s such a thing) for Schilling, as he was perfect except for a Julio Lugo error going into the final frame. Sadly for Curt, with two outs in the ninth, Shannon Stewart laced a single into right field to ruin the celebrations. It was one of those strange occasions when even the home supporters applaud the opposing pitcher in the hope of seeing history being made. Having said that, rather than greet Stewart’s single with a groan, I was delighted. Once an A’s fan, always an A’s fan I’m afraid, Curt!
Bad ass Berkman! â€“ I’ve always been a big fan of Lance Berkman. He’s a great hitter and by and large no one has a bad word to say about him as a person. Well, apart from the umpires this week. Berkman initially got chucked out of the Astros’ game against the Rockies on Tuesday for arguing a check-swing call. Then he got into another argument with the umpires about being ejected. Then he went back to the dugout and started launching his equipment on to the field. If that wasn’t enough, he came back on to the field later in the game during a bench-clearing incident, explaining to MLB.com: “I’m not going to sit in the clubhouse with ice on me while my teammates are fighting. If there’s a fight to be done, you have to be ready to back your guys up, that’s for sure.” There’s a bloke you want on your side.
Berkman was handed a two-game suspension (he quipped: “It was going to be a three-game suspension, but they knocked one day off because of the distance I got on the bag toss!”) which he subsequently appealed so he could play in the next series against the White Sox. Friday night: Berkman gets ejected again. He’s not exactly your typical trouble-maker, but he’s certainly gaining himself a reputation!
Never give up â€“ A heart-warming story from the Giants this weekend, as Guillermo Rodriguez was called up to the Majors for the first time in his career. Thatâ€™s a special moment for anyone, but in this case it meant even more than normal. Rodriguez has been in the Minors for twelve years, plugging away to earn a living while supporting his family back home in Venezuela. Having seen player after player moving up the ladder, he finally got the opportunity to put the Giantsâ€™ uniform on for Saturdayâ€™s game against the Aâ€™s due to a spate of injuries. Hopefully he will get the chance to take the field at some point, but just being involved (and picking up a Major League minimum wage) will be a dream come true and he has certainly earned it.
It’s all in the name – Aâ€™s reliever Santiago Casilla had a good week, picking up his first Major League win on Monday and his first save two days later. Itâ€™s been an interesting journey so far in Casillaâ€™s fledging career. He made his Major League debut in September 2004, but he is almost unrecognisable from then in more ways than one. Firstly, while he was listed as 21 years old back in 2004, it was later found that he had taken three years off his actual age. Thatâ€™s not unusual for an import to the States (does anyone really know how old El Duque is?), but whatâ€™s more unusual is that if you looked up â€œSantiago Casillaâ€ from September 2004 you would draw a blank. Back then, thanks to some â€œloanedâ€ personal documents by a friend of his, Casilla was going by the name of Jairo Garcia. When it was revealed that these documents were not his own, most people were less upset about the deceit than the fact that Jairo Garcia is a cooler name than Santiago Casilla.
Rocket racket – You may have missed it, but Roger Clemens made a victorious return yesterday. He pitched six innings, giving up five hits, three earned runs and struck out seven. With all due respect to Pittsburgh, the Buccos’ batting line-up is not the most imposing group to face in your first start. Let’s see how he gets on against the Mets next Friday (no throwing bats please, Roger).
Walk it like you talk it – As we’re on the subject of the Mets, their favourite opposing player, Jimmy Rollins, was able to walk out of New York with a slight sense of smugness this week. While facing a barrage of jibes for his â€œwe’re the team to beatâ€ pre-season statement, Jimmy hit a go-ahead, three run homer against the Mets on Wednesday as the Phillies swept their NL East rivals at Shea. No doubt the New York crowd will go easy on him next time.
Victor-ino – Finally, it was Shane Victorino night in Philadelphia last Sunday. Citizens Bank Park became a Hawaiian paradise with hula dancers, Hawaiian shirts and the obligatory Victorino bobble-head. Normally, such events end up leading to some misfortune for the man involved, but not in this case. With the game tied at 8-8, Victorino smacked a walk-off home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Thatâ€™s the way to do it.