Posts Tagged ‘Oakland Athletics’

Brandon McCarthy, Scored By a Liner

Especially for a pitcher, keeping your head in the game is not supposed to mean to the point where your head nearly gets taken off.

Oakland Athletics righthander Brandon McCarthy throws Los Angeles Angels hitter Erick Aybar a 91 mph cutter practically down the chute in the top of the fourth Wednesday night. Aybar hits it on the proverbial screws. The ball slams into the right side of McCarthy’s head like a bullet, knocking the righthander down on the mound.

Herb Score and Gil McDougald, call your offices?

Aybar’s liner was hit so hard and fast McCarthy had no chance to get his glove up to knock the ball down. The ball hit McCarthy above his right ear, seemingly, as he was in his follow-through. He was knocked around and bent over at the waist on immediate impact before crumpling to the mound, his back to the plate, falling over onto his haunches and finally into a sprawling heap.

Down and holding where the liner drilled him . . .

The entire population of the Oakland Coliseum, including those milling in the Angels’ dugout, cried in horror as McCarthy hit the deck and Aybar ran over first base following the putout. Believe it or not, there was a putout on the otherwise sickening play. The ball caromed off McCarthy’s head toward third base, where Josh Donaldson fielded it on the run and threw Aybar out.

Then, Donaldson ambled over to join the rest of his infield plus both the Oakland and Los Angeles trainers around McCarthy, who managed to sit up and run his hands through his hair, obviously trying to salve pain. Aybar lingered near and then forward of first base. He looked for all the world to see like a man who’d had a gun blast off in his hands completely by accident and seen a respected neighbour take the bullet.

“I didn’t see the ball until it was right on me. All I know is the ball got really big really fast.”—Herb Score.

Alberto Callaspo, the Angels’ on-deck hitter, squatted in the on-deck circle, leaning forward on his bat, shaking his head helplessly. Aybar returned to his dugout in due course and let his head fall into his hands in utter disbelief, promising himself to check on McCarthy as soon as possible.

He was fortunate that A’s fans these days are a civil bunch when it comes to accidents in honest play. When McDougald rifled his liner off Score’s eye in May 1957, the Yankee jack-of-all-trades was hammered with fan abuse enough. Never mind that McDougald had a gentlemanly reputation parallel to Score’s. (“It was,” New York Journal-American writer Til Ferdenzi wrote, “like Sir Lancelot felling Sir Lancelot.”)

The abuse didn’t stop the heartsick McDougald from calling the hospital constantly, even wresting from staffers the direct line to Score’s doctor, in order to keep track of the fallen righthander. More than that, Score’s mother got McDougald on the phone to reassure him about her son, and about himself.

“You feel really bad,” Aybar said to reporters, as translated from his native Spanish. ”[McCarthy]’s a good guy. You never want to hit anybody over the head, and he’s a good guy. Hopefully everything turns out all right and, God-willing, that he gets better soon.”

This wasn’t even close to the way the Angels wanted to finish what they’d started earlier in the week and sweep the high-enough-flying A’s. It certainly wasn’t the way the A’s wanted to go down, if they had to go down to the Angels. “You try not to let it linger,” Oakland catcher Derek Norris said after the game, “but it’s human nature for it to. Your heart goes out to your teammate. You battle with them throughout the course of the season, but we try our best to motivate us to win it for Mac.”

Applause as McCarthy leaves under his own power . . .

When McCarthy managed to get up at last and walk off the field under his own power—he’ll be held in hospital overnight and miss the A’s trip to Seattle—the standing ovation also included everyone in the Coliseum and everyone in the Angels’ dugout.

McCarthy went down for the count with the A’s still very much in the game, trailing a mere 3-1. In fact, the two sides played shutout baseball from the fourth through the eighth innings. The Angels stranded a pair of one-out baserunners in the sixth and stranded super rookie Mike Trout (a two-out walk, a stolen base) an inning later, while going on to wreck a one-out walk (to Kendrys Morales) with a double play. The A’s best threat the rest of the way was first and third with one out in the seventh, before Angels reliever Nick Maronde celebrated birthday number 23 by punching out Coco Crisp and Sean Smith for the side.

It wasn’t until the ninth that someone got really frisky. Eight someones, to be precise, all wearing Angels silks. Peter Bourjos opened with a walk and took second on Aybar’s followup base hit, before Norris’s miscue in front of the plate let Callaspo load the pads on a bunt. Pinch-hitter Macier Izturis wrung a bases-loaded walk and, after Trout (uncharacteristically) struck out, Torii Hunter turned the merry-go-round back on with a base hit. Albert Pujols’s strikeout wasn’t exactly in vain, with Izturis stealing home on the front end of a double steal (Hunter taking second), before Morales grounded out for the side and a 7-1 lead that would hold with only a two-out single and a strand from the A’s in the bottom.

Mussina had to convince himself everything wasn’t coming back at him . . .

But you can’t exactly fault the A’s if their hearts might have fallen out of it just a little bit.

Bang, bang! Or, as one fan tweeted, presumably from the ballpark itself, “like the ball hitting the bat twice.”

Just a year earlier, Colorado’s Juan Nicasio took one on a liner by Ian Desmond. Nicasio was caught in the neck, suffering a fracture that kept him down for the rest of 2011. In 1998, Mike Mussina, then with the Baltimore Orioles, took a comebacker the hard way and subsequently admitted it he struggled “getting over the fear that every ball I threw, every ball that someone made contact with, was not coming back at me.”

One of McCarthy’s own relievers Wednesday night knows the feeling only too well. Pat Neshek took one in a college game. Steve Shields, a journeyman reliever in the late 1980s and early 1990s, got it twice—once when he was in the Red Sox system, and once as a Seattle Mariner: in his second appearance of 1987, Hall of Famer Kirby Pucket lined one off his cheek, breaking it and causing him to miss a month. He didn’t exactly pitch well on his return.

Lou Brissie.

You don’t have to get it in the face to be taken down for any length of time—and even out. Now a popular Angels broadcaster, Mark Gubicza in 1996 was a veteran Kansas City righthander who took one off his left leg, suffering a fracture that caused him to miss the final half of his final Kansas City. Career essentially over, if you don’t count an aborted comeback bid with the Angels. Matt Clement’s career ended similarly: enjoying a career year with the 2005 Red Sox, he took a liner in the face from then-Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford in July. He managed to make his next start, but the Crawford shot did to Clement what Mussina feared would happen to himself, and Clement was gone a year later.

Several generations earlier, Lou Brissie, the courageous Philadelphia Athletics lefthander, took a line shot off a leg from Ted Williams—on Opening Day, 1948. (Brissie had made his major league debut the previous September, in Yankee Stadium, on the day the Yankees honoured Babe Ruth.) What amplified the horror: the leg was the one Brissie begged military doctors to save, when they wanted to amputate, after it had been all but blown to bits in World War II battle. (Brissie needed 23 surgeries and a metal brace in order to even think about baseball, never mind impress A’s emperor Connie Mack with his courage.)

Brissie went down fast and Williams hustled over from first base to see if Brissie would be ok. “Dammit, Ted,” Brissie is said to have cracked, “why didn’t just pull the ball?”

It’s every pitcher’s worst nightmare. And not all of them handle it the way Lou Brissie and Herb Score did. “I talked to Gil and told him it was something that could happen to anyone,” Score would say in due course. “It’s just like a pitcher beaning a hitter. He didn’t mean it.” After missing the rest of the season recuperating, Score would lose his formidable arm—to faulty mechanics, by his own admission, after he tried coming back too soon from an elbow tear.

The medication that kept him pitching finally left him fearful of a line drive to the face . . .

Retiring at thirty, when he was still somewhere about ten dimensions beyond the top of his game, Sandy Koufax admitted he was prompted in considerable part by the medical regimen he underwent to keep pitching with his arthritic elbow. “[T]o walk around with a constant upset stomach because of the pills and to be high half the time during a ballgame because you’re taking painkillers, I don’t want to have to do that.”

He didn’t have to say it. Phil Collier, a San Diego Tribune reporter, who sat on the story of Koufax’s final season for a year until Koufax himself announced his retirement, said it for him. “He took codeine before he pitched,” Collier once said. “Because of the codeine, it affected his reaction time. He was afraid sooner or later someone was going to hit him in the head with a line drive.”

It was hard not to be grateful that Brandon McCarthy wasn’t on anything but his own power when he went down. That may be the only thing about which we can be grateful on McCarthy’s behalf right now. But it was hard not to remember Koufax’s halting admission to suffering every pitcher’s worst nightmare when looking at the number on McCarthy’s back.

Thirty-two.

A Slip of the Hip Sinking the Yankee Ship?

Make that a slippage to the point where the Baltimore Orioles—yes, those Baltimore Orioles—are one game behind the Empire Emeritus. In the American League East standings. The Orioles helped themselves there Monday by shutting out Toronto, but the Yankees held the door for them falling to Tampa Bay, 4-3, when Robinson Cano faltered in the bottom of the eighth on maybe the key play of the game.

And it’s no ordinary faltering if Cano wasn’t kidding about a barking hip as he went for the play and he, too, goes down on sick leave.

Roberts—Scoring on the turn of Cano’s hip?

Chris Gimenez, the batter in question with a man on second and the game tied at three, didn’t exactly shoot the grounder like a torpedo along the top of the Tropicana Field rug. The journeyman Gimenez came back up from the minors Saturday and carried a .203 major league average this year into Monday’s game. Not exactly a stick to strike fear into a Yankee heart even if he did swat home a run with a single off CC Sabathia in the Tampa Bay second.

Now, Cano shaded toward the pad with Gimenez batting righthanded, and the Rays’ rook cued it toward the hole. It’s a ball to which Cano normally gets, by trot or dive. Not this time. The ball danced under Cano’s downstretched glove and into the outfield. It rolled slow enough for Ryan Roberts, the man on second, to cross the plate like a commuter barreling his way to catch the downtown express the minute the doors begin closing. Except that now the doors may be closing on the Yankees’ postseason possibilities.

“I had it there,” Cano told reporters after it was over. “It was just my left foot just came up, and I just felt my left hip a little bit. Right when I tried to bend, my left foot just came straight up and I felt my hip. It will be hopefully just nothing bad. It’s just tight right now. Hopefully nothing bad or anything. Let’s see how it feels tomorrow.”

If Cano’s split more than his infinitives, the Yankees are the next best thing to dead ducks.

He looked suspect enough in the top of the same inning, when he couldn’t break out of the box in customary fashion when he hit a liner Tampa Bay third baseman Kelly Johnson couldn’t handle. He dropped and fumbled the ball like a tight end surrounded tighter by barreling defencive backs, then threw way off line toward first base. And he still beat Cano thanks to the Yankee second baseman’s rickety start out of the box.

On 18 July, the Empire Emeritus had a ten-game AL East lead. Eleven days later, the lead remained 7.5. Coming into Tampa Bay after dropping two of three to the Orioles in New York, the Yankee lead was down to a pair. Now it’s a game. And their coming schedule has about a 50-50 chance of allowing them breathing room. Following this week-opening set with the Rays, they get to play the Orioles again in Baltimore. And this year’s Orioles don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”

Saunders—Shutting out the Jays while the Yanks fed the Rays . . .

By the time they leave Baltimore for a three-set with what’s left of the Red Sox in Fenway Park, the Yankees might discover that even slapping the Red Sox silly in three straight won’t help them much. On paper the Orioles have the tougher immediate schedule—two more with the Blue Jays, that four-set hosting the Yankees, then a showdown with the Rays, and a weekend in Oakland against an equally surprising collection of Athletics, who just might be the hottest team in baseball at this moment and could keep that status by that weekend. (Their upcoming schedule is no siesta, but they don’t exactly seem worried, either.)

But these Orioles are made of hardier stuff. The Yankees have been done in by injuries and too many lineups filled with scrubs and utilities, not to mention a pitching staff that’s beginning to show age and vulnerabilities up and down. The Orioles took two of three from the Yankees as July turned to August. Since then, they’re 20-9, and the Yankees are 15-15. They rode a castoff named Joe Saunders (cast off by the Arizona Diamondbacks a couple of weeks ago; once cast off by the Los Angeles Angels in a deal for Dan Haren) and three bullpen bulls to a three-hit shutout Monday, and they’re closer to the Yankees in the East than anyone’s been since June.

What if if the beginning of the end for these Yankees truly might come off a journeyman .203 hitter, toward the turn of a hip on a ground ball slip?

The Yankees aren’t used to losing pennants or being denied chances for them thanks to surrealities beyond their control. It’ll take just as long for Yankee-watchers and Yankee-haters alike to think of anything like that striking them down. Imagine that. The Yankees and their minions experiencing life according to the pre-2004 Red Sox.

Yes, children—minus Strasburg, this Nats rotation DOES have good postseason chances

Let’s try this again.

Assume the Washington Nationals will stick to the script and implement, some time in September, the exclamation point of the Strasburg Plan. Period dot period. Assume, too, that there’ll be enough blue murder screaming over the Nats torpedoing their own postseason chances. Maybe even some conspiracy theorists demanding a formal investigation, perhaps into whether someone isn’t buying the Nats off bigtime to tank. (Would the conspiracy theorists surprise you, really?)

Now, shove all that to one side and look at the Nats’ rotation without Stephen Strasburg.

Zimmermann—Without the Stras, he won’t be leading a rotation of pushovers . . .

Jordan Zimmermann—At this writing, Jordan Zimmermann leads the team with a 2.63 earned run average. If wins and losses are still your thing exclusively, dismiss him if you must as barely above a .500 pitcher, since he’s 9-8 through right now. Want to know how many no-decisions Zimmermann has on his jacket through today? Nine. If you define pitching well enough to win as surrendering three runs or fewer, he pitched seven of those nine games well enough to win, and in five of those seven the Nats did go on to win. So if you still look at wins and losses first and last, Zimmermann should have a 15-8 won-lost record through today.

What do you know. That would give him as many wins as Strasburg has and a mere two losses more. But Zimmermann’s quality stats include a 1.13 walks/hits per inning pitched rate (team lead), a 3.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio (second only to Strasburg’s 4.23), a 1.8 walks per nine rate, and a 0.8 home run rate. He also has 2.9 wins above a replacement level pitcher. I’m not exactly convinced the Nats would be in terrible postseason shape with Zimmermann at the top of the rotation.

Gio Gonzalez—He’d probably win the Cy Young Award if it were going to the most congenially quotable pitcher in the league. He has the second best winning percentage (.696) to Strasburg (.714) as of today. He’s also third among the rotation in ERA—with a nifty 3.28. He only has three no-decisions, and in only one did he pitch well enough to win, according to the above definition. So, instead of his current 16-7 won-lost record, he’d be 17-7, since the Nats went on to win that one game. If you want to cut him a break and say four earned runs or less is good enough to win, Gonzalez could—since the Nats went on to win all three of his no-decisions thus far—have a 19-7 record.

He’s got a 1.16 WHIP through today; he has a 2.80 K/BB rate, he has a 9.5 K/9 rate, and he has a 0.5 home run rate, if that matters to you. He also has 1.6 WAR. In a Strasburg-less postseason rotation, I don’t think you’d be in grave danger with Gonzalez as your number two man.

Edwin Jackson—Start and end with wins and losses and you’d start worrying here. After all, Jackson only has an 8-9 record despite his 3.53 ERA. He also has eight no-decisions, one fewer than Zimmermann. And, by the aforesaid measurement of pitching well enough to win, in six of those games Jackson did pitch well enough to win. The Nats only went on to win one of those games, alas, which would make Jackson a 9-9, but since four of them ended up as one-run games, and you’d like to think a pitcher working well enough to win or better than well enough should have come away with a pitching win. By that, Jackson should be 12-9.

His quality stats are solid for a number three man. He has a 1.17 WHIP and a 2.85 K/BB rate; he has a 1.1 home run per nine rate and a 2.8 BB/9 rate. Look at a Strasburg-less Nats rotation and, so far, you can’t really think of one good reason why this rotation can’t succeed come postseason time. Among Zimmermann, Gonzalez, and Jackson, they average to a 1.15 WHIP rate. Folks, that’s 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers, 1969 New York Mets, or 1971 Baltimore Orioles territory.

Ross Detwiler—The sleeper of the bunch. He’s 8-6 with a better than respectable 3.52 ERA. He has a pile of no-decisions in his own right as a starter (he’s also seen some very effective bullpen duty)—seven, to be exact. Of those seven, he pitched well enough to win six of them, and the Nats went on to win four of those. By that, Detwiler should have a 12-6 won-lost record.

Detwiler’s quality stats are just about even with Jackson’s. He has a 1.17 WHIP and a 2.31 K/BB rate; he has a 2.4 BB/9 rate and a 0.6 HR/9 rate. As a number four man in a Strasburg-less postseason rotation, it doesn’t exactly look as though Detwiler’s the weak link. It doesn’t even look as though the Nat rotation without Strasburg is a weak link.

The entire Nats pitching staff through this writing is worth 17.4 WAR. With Strasburg, the rotation is good for 13.5; without him, they lose a mere 2.6. Believe it or not, Zimmerman leads the rotation with his 4.0. Are you trying to tell me a rotation configured to equal 10.9 WAR would go into a postseason with a gaping handicap?

Of course there’s no way the Nats are where they are without Strasburg. Assuming they hold those levels the rest of the stretch, nobody else going to the postseason in the National League should assume the Nats rotation minus Strasburg would be pushovers. Whoops! you say—whaddabout postseason experience? Gotcha! There’s Edwin Jackson, and there’s all the rest, and shouldn’t the Nats bring every damn last weapon to bear they can bring including Strasburg?

Well, now. Let’s take a look at a few rotations that went into a postseason with little to no such experience to carry into it and see what they did:

A tale of two Hall of Famers—little did Kid Palmer know . . .

1966 Baltimore Orioles—The only pitcher on the entire staff with postseason experience was reliever Stu Miller (1962 San Francisco Giants). Who also led the team in ERA. Except for oft-injured lefthander Steve Barber, the Oriole starters were kids: Jim Palmer was all of 20, Wally Bunker 21, Dave McNally 23, and John Miller 25. You’d have given a staff like that three chances in a World Series against the last of the great Dodger teams of the middle 1960s. Those Dodgers still brandished Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, plus Claude Osteen as the number three rotation man and Phil (The Vulture) Regan having his career year out of the bullpen. The Orioles swept the Dodgers in four straight, though they did get a little help from Willie Davis’s fatal inning in a Game Two in which Koufax otherwise looked like his usual self until then. Maybe they had some incentive not to get another turn against Koufax, but whatever works, works.

Koosman, doing what even a Hall of Famer couldn’t, beating the Orioles twice in the ’69 Miracle . . .

1969 New York Mets—Not a damn one of them, not even veteran Don Cardwell, had postseason experience to speak of entering that postseason. The Mets had one bona-fide Hall of Famer in the rotation (Tom Seaver) and one bona-fide Hall of Famer (Nolan Ryan) as a spot starter and relief option, and about the only postseason experience either had was watching on the tube or in the stands. The Mets steamrolled the Atlanta Braves to win the first National League Championship Series, then won four straight—with Jerry Koosman, not Seaver, winning twice—after losing Game One of the World Series to a Baltimore Orioles team that, on paper, was supposed to make three squares a day out of those Mets.

1970 Cincinnati Reds—The first of the teams to be known as the Big Red Machine had one pitcher (Jim Merritt, a 20-game winner) who’d been to a World Series in 1965 (with the Minnesota Twins) but pitched only 3.1 innings in two relief appearances. Not exactly a well-seasoned veteran of the wars. After burying the Pittsburgh Pirates in three straight in the NLCS, they went down in five to the Orioles in the Serious.

1971 Oakland Athletics—These A’s featured a rotation topped by Vida Blue (having his career year) and Catfish Hunter (future Hall of Famer) and nobody with postseason experience. They got overwhelmed by the Orioles and their four 20-game winners in the League Championship Series, alas. Call it a dress rehearsal for what was to come—namely, three straight World Series rings.

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates—The Fam-I-Lee had one starter, Bert Blyleven, with any postseason experience, and that was a mere two-inning relief gig with the 1970 Twins whom the Orioles blew away in three straight. It may have been one of the classic full-team efforts—no Pirate pitcher was all that dominant in the World Series, other than Blyleven and closer Kent Tekulve—but the Pirates did win it in a seven-game thriller.

“One Tough Dominican . . .”

1982 St. Louis Cardinals—None of this rotation had postseason experience going in, and they didn’t exactly go in looking like a particularly threatening rotation. (Their best starter: Joaquin Andujar, whose 1.09 WHIP was the only one on the staff below 1.25.) The only pitcher on the whole staff with postseason experience was Jim Kaat, by then working as a relief pitcher who only started two on the season. The Cardinals ground out a seven-game Series win over the Brewers, but you couldn’t really say that either team threw a deadly rotation up there. (The Brewers, in fairness, had a rotation slightly worse than the Cardinals’ and two pitchers—Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Don Sutton—on staff, but Sutton was a mid-to-late season pickup and Fingers, of course, was the closer.)

1986 New York Mets—They had no 20-game winners, three starters with ERAs under 3, and nobody with postseason experience. After they steamrolled the National League in the regular season, they had to win the pennant the hard way against a feisty collection of Houston Astros, then win the World Series the hard way against a star-crossed collection of Boston Red Sox. If you looked at the rotation’s WHIP overall, it compares pretty favourably to that of this year’s Nats thus far.

1990 Cincinnati Reds—The stars of this show, arguably, were the Nasty Boys bullpen, among whom only Randy Myers (1988 Mets) had any postseason experience. In the rotation, only Danny Jackson (1985 Kansas City Royals) had been there, done that; in the non-Nasty bullpen contingent, only veteran Rick Mahler (who had sixteen spot starts during the season) had gone to any postseason, and there he’d pitched less than two innings for the 1982 Atlanta Braves. These Reds ended up stunning the A’s with a Series sweep after needing six to beat the Pirates for the pennant.

Young, loud, and snotty . . .

2003 Florida Marlins—No postseason experience ever among the rotation, including young, loud, and snotty (You lost! Go home!) Josh Beckett. Beat the Yankees in six in the World Series, after shoving the Giants out of the way in the division series but winning an arduous League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

2007 Colorado Rockies—Had six starters on the year, none of whom took postseason experience into these rounds. These Rockies swept the Philadelphia Phillies out of the division series and the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the League Championship Series—only to be swept out of the World Series, in turn, by the Red Sox.

2008 Tampa Bay Rays—No rotation postseason experience. Not quite as good as this year’s Nats with or without Strasburg. And they got rolled in five by the Phillies in the World Series, after taking the Chicago White Sox in four in the division series and wrestling to a seven-game LCS win over the Red Sox.

Lincecum—no experience necessary . . .

2010 San Francisco Giants—They made themselves into a no-experience-whatsoever postseason rotation. The only member of the 2010 Giants with any postseason experience of which to speak was Barry Zito (when he was with the early-2000s A’s)—and he’d pitched so horrifically in 2010 the Giants didn’t dare include him on the postseason roster. This took the Giants to a World Series against a Texas Rangers staff that had two postseason-experienced starters. (Cliff Lee and Rich Harden.) The “inexperienced” Giants rode that pitching and some very timely and half unexpected hitting to a five-game Series conquest.

Covering twelve teams since 1966 who took little-to-no postseason-tested pitching into any postseason, it shakes out like this: eight of those rotations proved World Series winners. One of those rotations, moreover, beat a rotation loaded with two much-experienced Hall of Famers including maybe the greatest peak-value lefthanded pitcher of the post-World War II era at least and possibly all-time at most.

An 8-4 World Series-winning record among the inexperienced over a 46-year span isn’t exactly a great reason to be alarmed that the “inexperienced” Washington Nationals rotation—with or without Stephen Strasburg—is going to be guaranteed dead meat going into this year’s postseason. If the Nats stick to the Strasburg Plan on behalf of keeping their man’s arm from breaking off long-range, it is not going to kill them going in if they go without him.

That doesn’t guarantee the Nats’ survival, of course. But it does suggest that the alarmists bleating about whether they’re shooting themselves in the feet or “cheating” their fans out of the best possible chances to win are bleating through their derrieres.

Deja Vu, All Over Again—Colon Drydocked For Synthetic Testosterone

Fifty games out for Tortilla Fats . . .

That’ll be a fifty game siddown-and-shaddap against Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon.

Tortilla Fats got bagged for synthetic testosterone, the same actual or alleged performance-enhancing substance for which Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants got nailed last week. Except that nobody yet suspects Colon’s buds tried hoisting a phony Website hawking a phony product their man could say he bought without knowing what was really inside.

With a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts, Colon was having his best season since his Cy Young Award-winning 2005 with the Anaheim Angels, if you don’t count that he was 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA over one seven-start span. He spent 2006 on the disabled list following rotator cuff surgery; he’d been dogged since then by other shoulder and bone chip issues; he underwent a notable if controversial surgery to inject his own stem cells into his shoulder and made a comeback with the New York Yankees (while fighting a hamstring issue) and, then, the A’s.

There have been many who suspected Colon’s health issues earlier in his career stemmed from his conditioning, or apparent lack thereof. There will now be many suspecting Colon is just the second revelation in an apparent or feared new trend toward synthetic testosterone as the actual or alleged performance-enhancing substance du jour.

Victor Conte—you may remember him being the BALCO mastermind once upon a time; you may not know he’s become of late a powerful advocate of closing real or imagined loopholes in baseball’s drug testing programs—is on record saying that one such loophole lets players using synthetic testosterone via creams, gels, and patches to beat test detection fast. Whatever else has ever been said of Colon, no one has ever accused anything other than his fastball of being particularly fast.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

Cabrera.

SPEAKING OF MELKY. . . it’s beginning to look like Cabrera himself is cooked so far as the Giants are concerned. They yanked an order for about 2,500 Melky Cabrera T-shirts right fast after he got nailed; and, there’s a real chance the Giants may not want him back, for the postseason or any other time. “I’m getting a strong sense that the Giants’ higher-ups are so angry with Cabrera for taking a performance enhancing drug and sticking a knife into their playoff hopes, that the chances they would let him appear in any postseason games this year, if he’s eligible, or re-sign him for 2013 are close to nil,” writes the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Henry Schulman. “Besides their anger with Cabrera, the Giants, from what I’m hearing, understand that they need to be proactive about distancing themselves from the steroids story even if they are being branded unfairly now because two of the four big-leaguers suspended this season wore their uniform.

Santana.

AS I WAS SAYING ABOUT JOHAN SANTANA . . . pitching hurt has only hurt him. From coming back well enough from shoulder surgery—including that stupefying no-hitter—Santana has since battled ankle and back issues and, now, it looks like the Mets, whose season is probably lost already despite a gallant first half, are shutting him down for the rest of 2012. The specific shutdown cause is lower back inflammation, which was probably aggravated by Santana perhaps returning too soon from an ankle sprain, combined with that 134-pitch no-hitter following which he didn’t look anything much like the same pitcher.  The best news: Doctors have told Santana and the Mets he won’t need surgery and can rehabilitate with medication and rest, in plenty of time to be ready for spring training 2013.

Wolf.

THE BOYS WHO CRIED “WOLF!”—Actually, they’re the Milwaukee Brewers, releasing veteran lefty Randy Wolf . . . on his 36th birthday. Not that Wolf is going to make a big stink over it. The one-time Phillie standout himself says he’s not certain what went south on him this season. (Opposing batters hit .312 against him this season.) Releasing Wolf gives the Brewers room to bring back Shaun Marcum from a rehab assignment, and possibly makes Wolf—well-liked and well-respected in the Brewer clubhouse—a target for a contender needing veteran help down the stretch. General manager Doug Melvin said he would be surprised if Wolf doesn’t pitch the rest of 2012.

The A’s Pick a Shortstop Vet, and Other Picks and Pecks . . .

Looks like both sides of this deal got what they wanted: the Oakland Athletics, making a somewhat surprising pennant race stand, got their veteran shortstop, and the Arizona Diamondbacks finally made room for their preferred shortstop.

Drew—his rep took a hit when some questioned his rehab diligence . . .

The Snakes traded Stephen Drew to the A’s Monday night, after Drew passed through the waiver wire with only cursory nods, seemingly, from two contenders, the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels, both of whom decided it wasn’t worth picking up the $2 million Drew’s owed through the season when, as Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal notes, he isn’t all that likely to make a big difference for Oakland down the stretch.

Drew missed almost a full year thanks to a broken ankle; he’d had 155 plate appearances and a .601 OPS to show for those at the time of the trade. The Diamondbacks—who were willing to unload him despite being only five out in the National League West—prefer Willie Bloomquist playing short. But the Snakes couldn’t make a non-waiver trade deadline deal involving Drew when they still had worries about Bloomquist’s back, Rosenthal notes. Now, however, Bloomquist is due to return Friday following a short stint on the disabled list.

The A’s must be hoping Drew regains the form in which he hit .291 with 76 extra-base hits four years ago. They must also be salivating that they could get him for a low-A infielder (Sean Jamieson), even if Drew proves a rental, knowing the Diamondbacks weren’t likely to be able to re-sign a guy with a $10 million mutual option for 2013 and/or a $1.35 million buyout.

Drew may have worn out his welcome in Arizona despite being a fan favourite. Principal owner Ken Kendrick, talking in June, wasn’t exactly overjoyed about his shortstop’s injury . . . or, apparently, his attitude:

You know, I’m going to be real direct about Stephen. I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now. And, frankly, I for one am disappointed. I’m going to be real candid and say I think Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary. All you can do is hope that the player is treating the situation with integrity, and, frankly, we have our concerns.

Drew was a trade rumour subject for much of the non-waiver period, and Kendrick apparently wasn’t the only one questioning Drew’s rehab efforts. It helped to compromise Drew’s previous reputation for hard-nosed (not bullheaded) play with brains as much as brawn applied.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

Thanks for the memories . . . ?

IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE?—The Philadelphia Phillies aren’t going to let a little thing like having traded the man stop them from going ahead with Hunter Pence Bobblehead Night. They’ll pass out the statues—which were made before the season, never mind before the Phillies fell far enough out of the race to think about trading Pence (to the San Francisco Giants) in a payroll-cutting bid—tonight for the Phillies’ game against the Cincinnati Reds.

DUI DUMMY—That would be Michael Pineda, alleged to be a New York Yankee pitcher (he’s been out all season thus far, following his trade from Seattle, rehabbing an injured shoulder), getting bagged in the wee small hours of Monday in Tampa. It took $500 to spring him on bail.

Skeetish about a comeback . . .

ROCKET FOOL?—Roger Clemens is back in uniform—the Rocket signed with the independent Sugarland Skeeters (Atlantic League) Monday. It might be mad fun to speculate on whether it means (yet another) major league comeback (he’d beat Jamie Moyer for being the oldest man to pitch in a major league uniform, for one thing), but my favourite observation comes from ESPN Insider’s Dan Symborski:

My first reaction was happiness at the possibility that we’d get to delay an unpleasant Hall of Fame argument surrounding the Rocket for an additional five years. My second reaction was amusement that given the state of Houston’s rotation, which looks a bit like supermarket shelves the day before a blizzard, he would actually be an upgrade on a few of the pitchers being trotted out at the moment.

That’s bound to leave the proverbial mark . . .

SPEEDY RECOVERY—To Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, who’s undergoing treatment for a brain tumour in New York. The MLBPA said Weiner began treatment Monday and will undergo the treatment for a month.

BOSTON CLEANUP?—Some think the Red Sox’s beheading of pitching coach Bob McClure may actually portend the beginning of a serious cleanup. McClure, who wasn’t exactly Bobby Valentine’s man as pitching coach, will be succeeded in the interim by Randy Niemann, whom Valentine has known since their days with the Mets, when Niemann was bullpen coach and rehab pitching coordinator under Valentine. Unloading McClure could be taken as a show of support for the embattled Valentine . . . or (since bench coach Tim Bogar and catching coach Gary Tuck—both of whom aren’t exactly Valentine allies—remain intact), it could be taken as the beginning of a wholesale cleanup that may well wait until season’s end, especially if the Red Sox a) aren’t willing to take the interim tag off Niemann; and, b) are yet considering Valentine’s walking papers considering the seasonal turmoil to which he’s contributed a little too much.

The A's Pick a Shortstop Vet, and Other Picks and Pecks . . .

Looks like both sides of this deal got what they wanted: the Oakland Athletics, making a somewhat surprising pennant race stand, got their veteran shortstop, and the Arizona Diamondbacks finally made room for their preferred shortstop.

Drew—his rep took a hit when some questioned his rehab diligence . . .

The Snakes traded Stephen Drew to the A’s Monday night, after Drew passed through the waiver wire with only cursory nods, seemingly, from two contenders, the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels, both of whom decided it wasn’t worth picking up the $2 million Drew’s owed through the season when, as Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal notes, he isn’t all that likely to make a big difference for Oakland down the stretch.

Drew missed almost a full year thanks to a broken ankle; he’d had 155 plate appearances and a .601 OPS to show for those at the time of the trade. The Diamondbacks—who were willing to unload him despite being only five out in the National League West—prefer Willie Bloomquist playing short. But the Snakes couldn’t make a non-waiver trade deadline deal involving Drew when they still had worries about Bloomquist’s back, Rosenthal notes. Now, however, Bloomquist is due to return Friday following a short stint on the disabled list.

The A’s must be hoping Drew regains the form in which he hit .291 with 76 extra-base hits four years ago. They must also be salivating that they could get him for a low-A infielder (Sean Jamieson), even if Drew proves a rental, knowing the Diamondbacks weren’t likely to be able to re-sign a guy with a $10 million mutual option for 2013 and/or a $1.35 million buyout.

Drew may have worn out his welcome in Arizona despite being a fan favourite. Principal owner Ken Kendrick, talking in June, wasn’t exactly overjoyed about his shortstop’s injury . . . or, apparently, his attitude:

You know, I’m going to be real direct about Stephen. I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now. And, frankly, I for one am disappointed. I’m going to be real candid and say I think Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary. All you can do is hope that the player is treating the situation with integrity, and, frankly, we have our concerns.

Drew was a trade rumour subject for much of the non-waiver period, and Kendrick apparently wasn’t the only one questioning Drew’s rehab efforts. It helped to compromise Drew’s previous reputation for hard-nosed (not bullheaded) play with brains as much as brawn applied.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

Thanks for the memories . . . ?

IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE?—The Philadelphia Phillies aren’t going to let a little thing like having traded the man stop them from going ahead with Hunter Pence Bobblehead Night. They’ll pass out the statues—which were made before the season, never mind before the Phillies fell far enough out of the race to think about trading Pence (to the San Francisco Giants) in a payroll-cutting bid—tonight for the Phillies’ game against the Cincinnati Reds.

DUI DUMMY—That would be Michael Pineda, alleged to be a New York Yankee pitcher (he’s been out all season thus far, following his trade from Seattle, rehabbing an injured shoulder), getting bagged in the wee small hours of Monday in Tampa. It took $500 to spring him on bail.

Skeetish about a comeback . . .

ROCKET FOOL?—Roger Clemens is back in uniform—the Rocket signed with the independent Sugarland Skeeters (Atlantic League) Monday. It might be mad fun to speculate on whether it means (yet another) major league comeback (he’d beat Jamie Moyer for being the oldest man to pitch in a major league uniform, for one thing), but my favourite observation comes from ESPN Insider’s Dan Symborski:

My first reaction was happiness at the possibility that we’d get to delay an unpleasant Hall of Fame argument surrounding the Rocket for an additional five years. My second reaction was amusement that given the state of Houston’s rotation, which looks a bit like supermarket shelves the day before a blizzard, he would actually be an upgrade on a few of the pitchers being trotted out at the moment.

That’s bound to leave the proverbial mark . . .

SPEEDY RECOVERY—To Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, who’s undergoing treatment for a brain tumour in New York. The MLBPA said Weiner began treatment Monday and will undergo the treatment for a month.

BOSTON CLEANUP?—Some think the Red Sox’s beheading of pitching coach Bob McClure may actually portend the beginning of a serious cleanup. McClure, who wasn’t exactly Bobby Valentine’s man as pitching coach, will be succeeded in the interim by Randy Niemann, whom Valentine has known since their days with the Mets, when Niemann was bullpen coach and rehab pitching coordinator under Valentine. Unloading McClure could be taken as a show of support for the embattled Valentine . . . or (since bench coach Tim Bogar and catching coach Gary Tuck—both of whom aren’t exactly Valentine allies—remain intact), it could be taken as the beginning of a wholesale cleanup that may well wait until season’s end, especially if the Red Sox a) aren’t willing to take the interim tag off Niemann; and, b) are yet considering Valentine’s walking papers considering the seasonal turmoil to which he’s contributed a little too much.

The Trade Winds, Approaching the Eleventh Hour, and other sorties . . .

The Ryan Dempster situation may be hovering in mid-air, but that didn’t stop the Chicago Cubs from dealing elsewhere Monday. They sent Geovanny Soto (C) to the Texas Rangers for a minor league pitcher; and, they sent Paul Maholm (LHP) and Reed Johnson (OF) to the Atlanta Braves for another pair of pitching prospects.

The early skinny has it that the Cubs moved two players they really no longer needed and landed a prime prospect, righthander Arodys Vizcaino, for their trading. Vizcaino was considered the Braves’ number two prospect, and with a 95+mph fastball until he went down for the season with Tommy John surgery. The Braves didn’t come out terribly in the deal; Maholm has been one of baseball’s most quietly successful pitchers this season, and Johnson brings a boatload of platoon outfield experience while having a solid season. These two should help the Braves’ postseason push.

The Rangers didn’t make out too badly, either. Soto may have been slipping since his 2008 Rookie of the Year campaign but he brings defensive depth to the Rangers’ catching corps. This allows them to think of Mike Napoli playing first base and even DHing and of the end of the line for Yorvit Torrealba, who’s expected to be designated for assignment. The pitcher the Cubs received in the Soto deal, Jacob Brigham, was a sixth-round 2006 draft who never appeared in the Rangers’ major league spring camp until 2012. Brigham is considered a) a hard thrower, and b) gravy for the Cubs if he ends up with the team productively.

Meanwhile, Matt Garza hasn’t gone anywhere yet but that doesn’t mean the Cubs aren’t still trying to move him, too. At last note, the Cincinnati Reds and the Toronto Blue Jays looked like potential matches for a Garza deal.

FURTHER TRADE WINDS . . .

* The Los Angeles Dodgers bumped up their bullpen for a postseason push, landing former All-Star Brandon League—who was one of six Seattle pitchers to collaborate on no-hitting the Dodgers in June—for minor league prospect Logan Bawcom (RHP) and Leon Landry (OF), both of whom could spell good things for the Mariners in the near future.

* The Mariners also sent righthanded relief pitcher Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames.

* The Blue Jays landed another starboard-side reliever Monday, getting Brad Lincoln from the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Travis Smith—the Pirates, for their part, had been looking for help at the plate and in the outfield as they continue pushing for their first postseason appearance since the first Clinton Administration.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

BOMBS AWAY—Bad enough the Los Angeles Angels flattening the Rangers 15-8 Monday. Worse: All hell breaking loose in the top of the sixth at the Rangers’ expense. Especially what Kendrys Morales did to the Rangers in the sixth inning to bust out of a slump and frame a nine-run inning. First, with the teams tied up at three, he hit one lefthanded with Albert Pujols aboard, nobody out, and Roy Oswalt on the mound. Then, after five straight singles, with Torii Hunter a punchout but Pujols given first on the house to re-load the bases at two out, Morales batted righthanded against Robbie Ross and hit a grand slam. It made Morales only the third player in Show history to go yard from both sides of the plate. (The others: Carlos Baerga, Cleveland, 1993; Mark Bellhorn, Chicago Cubs, 2002.)

He made it easy to forget that Mike Trout homered, drove in four, and scored thrice. Or, that Pujols doubled twice. Or, that Macier Izturis homered.

GOING LONG—Striking out 21 Oakland Athletics in fifteen innings wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Rays, when Jemile Weeks—all 0-for-7 of him on the night thus far—took advantage of a five-man infield alignment to sneak a sacrifice fly on which Brandon Inge beat a throw home for the 4-3 squeaker. The win extended the A’s major league walkoff win lead to twelve.