Homecoming memories: boos, batteries, and bombs

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Obviously a brutal couple of days for Kerry Wood in his return to
Wrigley. Hopefully Eric Wedge gives him today off. Thing is, Kerry Wood
isn’t alone in experiencing a rough homecoming. While you enjoy your
Father’s Day, here’s a look back at some of the good, bad, vengeful,
and memorable games for some other high-profile players in their return
to familiar settings.

STEVE CARLTON – AUGUST 5, 1972 IN ST. LOUIS: I’d imagine this
was kind of like an “F You” performance, but probably more so because
the Cardinals stuck him on a gawd-awful team (Carlton won 27 of the 59
Phillies wins that year). Carlton threw a 5-hit shutout with 7 Ks,
which was part of this crazy 7-start stretch from July 19 through
August 13: 7-0, 7 CG (one of them 11 innings), 4 shutouts, 53 Ks, 0.42
ERA, and a 0.677 WHIP. Wow.

TOM SEAVER – AUGUST 21, 1977 IN NEW YORK: Seaver was devastated
that he was traded to Cincy. Mets fans were devastated that he was
traded to Cincy. And when he returned to Shea in late August, he
embarrassed a crummy Mets team, giving up one run and fanning 11 in a
complete game.

KEITH HERNANDEZ – JUNE 28, 1983 IN ST. LOUIS: Hernandez was
actually pissed that he got traded to the Mets because he hated New
York. He took it out on the Cardinals in the first game of a
doubleheader, going 3-for-5 with a triple and an RBI in a Mets win.

ANDRE DAWSON – APRIL 24, 1987 IN MONTREAL: The Hawk wanted out
of Montreal because the turf was taking it’s toll on his knees, and he
actually took a pay cut to play in Chicago, signing an incentive-laden
deal. Dawson surpassed those incentives as he won the MVP, and his
return to Montreal was quite memorable: 3-for-4 with 3 doubles and 2
RBI. Later in the series, he added 2 homers.

BOBBY BONILLA – JUNE 4, 1992 IN PITTSBURGH: Bobby Bo had quite a
debut with the Mets, hitting two homers (including the game-winner) in
an extra-inning win in St. Louis. But two months later, as he made his
first trip back to Pittsburgh, Bonilla was hitting .258 with only 6
bombs and Mets fans had started to hate him. Not as much as the people
at Three Rivers that night, who hurled, among other things, batteries
at the New York right fielder. He didn’t really do anything to shut
them up, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout in a 7-2 loss. He homered a
couple days later, but in hindsight, everyone probably wishes he had
just stayed in Pittsburgh.

GREG MADDUX – APRIL 5, 1993 IN CHICAGO: Cubs fans no doubt felt
betrayed that the reigning Cy Young winner fled to Atlanta, and Maddux
let them know exactly what they’d be missing on Opening Day, going 8
1/3 of shutout ball, allowing only 5 hits and striking out 4.

BARRY BONDS – APRIL 9, 1993 IN PITTSBURGH: A year after Bonilla
bolted, Bonds signed with the Giants for a then-record 6-year, $43.75
million deal, which killed baseball for good in Pittsburgh and was also
the inspiration for Wesley Snipes’ character in The Fan. The
still-skinny Bonds was obviously booed, although as we saw in later
years, he seemed to feed off the negative energy, ripping a double and
a triple in a loss. The Giants would win the next two games in the
series despite Bonds going hitless.

WADE BOGGS – MAY 21, 1993 IN BOSTON: Boggs went 4-for-4 with a
walk in his return to Fenway, and I’m not gonna bother to look up where
the hits went because I’d like to think they were all opposite line
drive singles over the shortstop’s head.

ROGER CLEMENS – JULY 12, 1997 IN BOSTON: Red Sox GM Dan Duquette
famously said that Clemens was in the twilight of his career after
Clemens signed with Toronto after the ’96 season (come on, how was he
gonna know Clemens would start taking horse steroids and forge a
friendship with Brian McNamee), and that just added to Clemens’ rage.
In one of the greatest “F You” performances ever, Clemens went 8
innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 run, and struck out 16 batters. To cap
things, he stared straight at the Duquette and the rest of brass up in
their suite as he walked off the mound at the end of his day.

MIKE PIAZZA – AUGUST 28, 1998 IN LOS ANGELES: A contract dispute
helped force a trade from the Dodgers to the Marlins, and when Piazza
returned to L.A. a couple months later as a Met, he seemed eager to
stick it to management. Big Mike homered to get the Mets on the board
and then scored the winning run in extra innings. He would hit 7 homers
in Dodger Stadium as a member of the Mets.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ – APRIL 16, 2001 IN SEATTLE: You’re not gonna
believe this, but the Seattle fans didn’t greet A-Rod with open arms in
his first game back as a Ranger. But instead of batteries, they
showered him with fake money, and you know A-Rod heard every single one
of the 45,657 who booed him that night. He singled in the middle of a
Texas rally to get them back in the game, but finished 1-for-5 in a 9-7
loss.

MANNY RAMIREZ – JULY 3, 2001 IN CLEVELAND: Can’t really blame
Manny for leaving the great city of Cleveland for the 8 years and $160
million that Boston threw at him. Don’t tell that to Indians fans
through, who predictably booed him during BP, introductions, the video
montage on the big screen, and when he singled in his first at-bat.
Still unclear if Manny actually knew what was going on or where he was,
but he got 2 hits that night and went 5-for-13 for the series, so his
game wasn’t affected much.

JASON GIAMBI – APRIL 23, 2002 IN OAKLAND: Oakland fans lustily booed Giambi when he showed up as a Yankee, but it’s tough to blame them since this was before the Moneyball
secret was out and they knew there was a plan in place to keep the team
competitive despite losing all the big free agents. Giambi got 2 hits
including a double as the Yankees won, and no question that he
celebrated afterwards by demolishing a porterhouse, probably at
Kincaid’s.

FRANK THOMAS – MAY 22, 2006 IN CHICAGO: White Sox GM Ken
Williams had some not-so-nice things to say about The Big Hurt at the
end of his stay in Chicago, so Thomas probably didn’t feel too bad
about his return with the A’s, ripping 2 solo homers in a loss.

PEDRO MARTINEZ – JUNE 26, 2006 IN BOSTON: Pedro didn’t leave
Boston on the best of terms with management, but the fans still loved
him, and even though his return to Fenway was two years later, he got a
crazy ovation. Didn’t really work out for him though, as he left
trailing 8-0 after 3 innings. Lastings Milledge didn’t help him out,
missing a pop-up in left which led to 2 runs, but he also gave up 8
hits and a homer to Alex Gonzalez, and people thought that the emotions
were too much for him. Turns out he was injured, and didn’t make a
start for another month.

OTHER NOTABLES

DARRYL STRAWBERRY – MAY 7, 1991 IN NEW YORK: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI

ROD CAREW – APRIL 17, 1979 IN MINNESOTA: 1-for-4, K … SERIES TOTAL: 6-for-12, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 2B, 2 BB

JOSE CANSECO – SEPTEMBER 30, 1992 IN OAKLAND: 1-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB

JOE MORGAN – APRIL 29, 1980 IN CINCINNATI: 1-for-4, R, SB … SERIES TOTAL: 5-FOR-12, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R

PAUL MOLITOR – JUNE 25, 1993 IN MILWAUKEE: 1-for-4, RBI

SCOTT ROLEN – AUGUST 16, 2002 IN PHILADELPHIA: 2-for-4

JACK MORRIS – MAY 19, 1991 IN DETROIT: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 8 R (4 ER), 3 K, 6 BB, 3 HRA, LOSS (8-3)

TOM GLAVINE – MAY 24, 2003 IN ATLANTA: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 HR, LOSS (10-4)

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.