Wallowing In A Season To Forget…Or…


Day after day, night after night, the season lumbers on. The old adage of ‘The Dog Days Of Summer’ is a misnomer as this season has been going down since the beginning of the season for the Pigsville Nine. This neighborhood team is stocked with today’s names of the game, with guys like Cravy, Boyer, Knebel, Marinez, Scahill, Pina, Carter, Villar, Arcia, Broxton, Nieuwenhuis, the Blue’s Brothers lost brother, Jake Elmore and others. Yes, Ryan Braun is still with the team, the only star who remains, and the only player hitting above .300 for the season. Maldonado, Nelson, Gennet and Peralta also are names of familiarity. Each day they face big names on bigger teams. And if you haven’t been paying attention, the Cream City Nine is just a breathe away from the cellar of the Central Division of the National League. Going into Sunday’s play, they are 56-73 with a .434 winning percentage and 26.5 games behind the leader.

After a brief winning streak, Craig Counsell’s team has dropped three straight to the charging Pittsburghers as the second to last month of the season comes to an end. For many, it is way too long to continue through the remaining games. However being very fair, just because there are non-familiar names dotting the box score for the Crew, this does not automatically mean they are not good. You can actually imagine Counsell’s pre-game speeches, pulling from one Jimmy Dugan of the Peaches: ‘All right, everyone, let’s listen up now, listen up. Hey! Something important has just happened. I was in the toilet reading my contract, and it turns out, I get a bonus when we get to the World Series. So, let’s play hard, let’s play smart, use your heads.’

The positivities are a buzz. So let’s follow the Buckminster Fuller philosophy at this point in time. “When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”

Think about that for a second. Here we have a guy named Pina behind the plate. Did you see that beautiful throw on Thursday evening when he fired down to second and got the runner trying to steal? When putting a puzzle together, to meld the team, the catcher is an important cog. Then over at First, there is Mr. Carter…a behemoth of a man, with the softest, sweetest swing every conceived. He is a giant among men. When he connects, the ball flys beyond belief. At shortstop there is the kid who followed the kid (All-Star Segura) who followed the kid (All-Star Escobar) who followed the local kid (Counsell) who followed the kid (All-Star Hardy) who followed the original Kid (Hall of Famer, Yount). It is called the ‘Litany Position’ in Cream City. A deeply religious town, litany is a perfect name for that position on the Brewers. Five decades of the rosary. Five guys who made a legend at the position located just South of the Stadium Interchange.

At third there is Perez. Taken off the waiver wire last season from the Detroit Tigers, he possesses the ability to play a host of positions and can hit with power. He was a byproduct of Melvin’s last-ditch effort to rebuild a team before departure. While known for his many bad trades, this acquisition may be a touch of genius. But then again, Georg Lichtenberg once said, ‘Everyone is a genius at least once a year; a real genius has his original ideas closer together.’ Sorry Melvin.

In center is a perplexing individual. Broxton can run like the wind (although to my knowledge, nobody has ever seen wind running). Thus the kerfuffle. He came up 0-for-forever, then got sent down, brought up, sent down again and then brought up again where he discovered that with a brand new batting style (congratulations to the Brewer’s hitting coach, Coles) has turned him into a real good hitter. While often not taking the correct line in chasing down a ball hit in his direction, he could be the sleeper of the summer.

In right, there is the true definition of a journeyman. Nieuwenhuis is simply a Nieuwenhuis. No more explanation is needed. At times he can hit the cover off the ball, especially when he plays at Miller Park. But there are other times when he can commit two errors in a single inning. He’s a Nieuwenhuis. And that spells trouble for the heir apparent in right, Santana. Hurt most of the season, when he got well, he was at home and nobody was going to out hit Nieuwenhuis at home. Thus, he has to wait until September when the team will be on the road for the majority of the closing month. This is another legendary position for the Brewers. Just a couple of years ago, Aoki brought new life to that position. Before him, Hart and Hall, Bichett and Lescano, Moore and even Braun was the center of fan adoration. It’s just one of those positions that endears for the hometown nine. Perhaps Santana can begin to live up to his great anticipated reputation.

In pitching, there is Nelson, Davies and Peralta, all of whom bring hope. While the two righties have struggled to find their top form, it is left hander Davies who has risen to the top of the staff. There is hope with the trio in the days ahead.

While this may look like a rose-colored view of a team which is struggling to remain relevant to a town that is devoted to…country western…err baseball in the summer (nearly 36,000 came out to see the team Saturday night with the main draw a country western singer who gave a concert after the game), it is still fiction. As Tom Clancy stated, ‘The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.’

Let’s hope that the new constructors of tomorrow’s Brewers create fiction that makes sense.

Play Ball!

#otsmlb.com #win63 #‎watchingattanasio⚾️

Banksarelli

gale_wade_autograph
When you live away from Chicago it is guaranteed that you will know someone who is a diehard fan of those crazy Baby Bruins from the North Side. It is part of their heritage. From mother and father down through their children, and their children’s children, these were and continue to be official members of the living Cubs family of fanatic fans. No matter where you go to see a game in the Majors, if the Cubs are playing on the road, there will be a hoard of fans at the visiting stadiums…shouting, screaming and bringing a little bit of Chicago to their new home town.

Living in Wisconsin, there were quite a number. Growing up in the ‘50s, they would trade nearly anyone of their baseball card collection for a Pete Whisenant or an Owen Friend or…you get it. Hobie Landrith was a god to their misplaced youth as were Dee Fondy, Don Hoak, Walt Moryn, Monte Irvin and of course, the one and only Ernie.

Nearly every kid who grew up in the ‘50s knew who Ernie was. But to these devoted Cub Crazies, there were few before and until a season ago, none since that could live up to the legend of Ernie Banks.

One of my friends was devoted to the everyday doings of Ernie. If you happened to have a Sporting News (the bible of ‘50s baseball) beware of my friend. He would grab it and devour nearly every at bat Ernie had the week before. Game for Game, Inning by Inning, Ernie could do no wrong. If you wanted war, just argue who should be in the All-Star game, Banks or Johnny Logan, the shortstop of the Milwaukee Braves, then Wisconsin’s team.

But the one thing I remember most about this devotee was one day he actually believed that Ernie Banks was a relative of his. In arguing with his friends that Ernie was a distant cousin, we scoffed knowing with a large amount of certainty that he probably was not. That made our friend determined. That made him press his argument with his family. At dinner, he proposed to his mom and dad that in fact Ernie was a distant cousin. His dad, holding back a smile, gritting his teeth on his water glass, asked how he determined that. His mom simply said, ‘I never heard that. Is that true dear?’.

Then it dawned on him to pull out a Gale Wade. Now if you haven’t heard, the one Mr Wade, only played in 12 major league games in his entire career in The Show during 1955 and 1956. This was a card that nobody but a Cubs fan would want. It was bicycle spokes material. His mom loved the Wade card. ‘There’s Jeanny’s brothers’ next door neighbor’s cousin on the mother’s side’, she explained.

Maybe it was Wade who was a distant relative.

But no. My friend continued to push the issue of Ernie Banks being some-how related.

’Son…’, his dad said, ‘we are Italian. Ernie, I assume is not. Therefore, if Mr. Banks was related his name would probably have to be Banksarelli. Go ahead. Look at your Topps and see if that is his name on the back of the card.’

My friend quickly looked and it said Ernest Banks, Booker T. Washington High School, Dallas, TX. It showed in cartoon which stated, ‘He played in every game in ’54 and ’55.

Without a word, he got up from the table, excused himself, and was determined to find the family heritage tie between his beloved Ernie Banks and his family.

And that is how the legend of Banksarelli began.

It was 1957 on the East Side of Beloit, WI.

It has since shifted to Bonita Springs, FL.

Play Ball!

P.S. Gale Wade is now one of the 100 oldest living players. Is this the year he gets to see his former team win?

A Complex Measure


It was simply a very complex day in baseball. In New York City, at the legendary home of Champions, the Yankees on Friday were either saying good-bye or ridding themselves of one of the most gifted, tarnished individuals who ever played the game. For the record, this was Alex Rodriguez last game for the New York Yankees.

Perhaps the center focus of the PED-Era in the game, here is one of the best players who ever played the game crystalized in everything that is bad and good about the game. There is no middle ground when speaking of A-Rod. For the record, he is tied as the 23rd best fielding shortstop in the history of baseball with a career .9772 fielding percentage at shortstop. But in all fairness, he only played 1,272 of his 2,784 games at short. His fWAR was below 50%. At third base, he ranked tied for 32nd place all-time with a .9648 fielding percentage. Let’s face it, fielding isn’t what got him to be one of the highest paid players in the history of the game, although he won the Gold Glove twice in his career at shortstop.

When it came to hitting, he hit 50+ home runs three (3) times with a high of 57 in 2002. In his career, over 22 years, he had a lifetime .295 batting average in 10,566 at bats. 3.115 hits; 548 doubles; 31 triples; 696 home runs; 2,086 RBI; .550 slugging percentage; .930 OPS; 5,813 total bases; and 14 time All-Star; 3 time MVP in 12 years with the New York Yankees, 7 years with the Seattle Mariners and 3 years with the Texas Rangers. In his career he made $375,416,252, with a high annual salary of $33 million in a single season (2009 & 2010). Three times he was named the Major League Player of the Year; won the AL batting title once in 1996 with a .358 average; won the Hank Aaron Award four (4) times and the Babe Ruth Award once. He won the Silver Slugger Award ten (10) times. For his career his WAR was 117.8, five (5) times finished #1. He had an on-base percentage of .380 in his career, had 2,021 runs scored while on base 4,629 times. As a batter he ranks with Willie Mays.

This was a great player in the game of baseball. But that is what you would want in the first player selected in the 1993 MLB draft.

Yet he played under the shadow of suspicion, jealousy, admiration and contempt for the better part of the last eight years. It probably began when he left Seattle. But the flight of other great top players from that team including Ken Griffey, Jr. and Randy Johnson (both now in the Hall of Fame) was not that big of a contributing factor to dislike. In 2007, the cornerstone of fan disillusionment when Rodriguez was finishing the last year of a $252 million contract. He did the unthinkable for pin-strip fans. He opted out, effectively making him a free agent once again. Now the die was cast as it was announced he would not renew his contract with the Yankees citing that he was ‘unsure of the future composition ‘ of the team. He was now the target of criticism not only for not meeting with team officials before his announcement but for financial gluttony. But the biggest issue with fans was that he did it during the 8th inning of Game Four of the World Series as Boston was finishing their victory over the Colorado Rockies. MLB’s chief operating officer, Bob DuPuy, called it ‘an attempt by Rodriguez’ agent, Scott Boras, to try to put his selfish interests and that of one individual player above the overall good of the game’. After a quick PR repair job by A-Rod himself, a new 10 year $275 million contract was finalized on December 13, 2007.

Out of nowhere, the report hit. In the February 7, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands, it reported that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for testosterone and the anabolic steroid Primobolan in 2003. His name had appeared on a government-sealed list of 104 major-league players (out of 1200 tested) who came up positive for performance-enhancing drugs. As crazy as it seems today, there was no penalty or punishment for a positive steroid test in Major League Baseball. To his credit, two days after the allegations, Rodriguez admitted to steroid use from 2001 until 2003, claiming that he cease using such substances after spring training that year.

What might become a reason for so many star players to take PEDs, injury, has loomed over the game. Prior to the 2009 season, A-Rod was forced to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic where he would represent the Dominican Republic, when an MRI revealed a cyst in his right hip. He went to have the cyst drained but discovered that he was also suffering from a torn labrum in the same hip. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure with a recovery period of 6 to 9 weeks, instead of the usual three to four months. He would require a second, more extensive surgery in the off-season. He missed spring training and the month of April. But he came out with a very strong season. It was his 12th consecutive season and 13th overall of reaching 30 home runs and 100 RBI breaking a ties with Manny Ramirez, Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx for the most in Major League Baseball history. And as a topper to any career, he helped the Yankees win their 27th World Series Championship and his first.

Two years later, Rodriguez opted for arthroscopic surgery on his knee to repair a torn meniscus that placed him on the disabled list at the All-Star break. During his recovery, he was facing serious allegations that he had participated in illegal, underground poker games. One of those games turned violent and cocaine was openly used Rodriguez denied that he had ever participated in illegal poker games. MLB had warned him in 2005 not to participate in such games. After retiring in late August, he sustained another injury with a jammed thumb.

In 2013, he underwent another arthroscopic surgery in his hip to repair a torn labrum. It was the second time in four years that he had the surgery. But this operation was more serious than before. He began the season on the 60-day disabled list. While rehabbing, he again was embroiled in a series negative situations He became a central figure in the Biogenesis baseball scandal and MLB’s investigation into his possible connection to performance-enhancing drugs. Then he again got embroiled with Yankee management when he said on social media (Twitter) that his doctor had medically cleared him to play in games. Yankee GM Brian Cashman said Rodriguez’s doctor did not have such authority and that Rodriguez should ’shut the fxxx up.’ While rehabbing in the minors, he sustained a new injury as an MRI later revealed a Grade 1 quad strain, delaying his return and forcing him to continue in the minors. Rodriguez clearly frustrated sought a second opinion on his quad strain with a doctor who stated that there did not appear to be an injury. The Yankees were incensed. The war began. They said he had violated league rules for seeking a second opinion without the team’s permission. The stage was now clearly set for Yankees to get rid of Rodriguez. The ‘Cashman Conflict’ was the beginning of the end. Rodriguez continued to feud with Yankees management following his return, as his lawyers accused the team, and specifically Christopher S. Ahmad MD, of mishandling his hip injury in several ways; Rodriguez’s legal team contends the team withheld the injury from him and continued to play him in 2012 despite his health, and that team president, Randy Levine told Rodriguez’s hip surgeon that he would be happy if Rodriguez never played again. In response to the accusations, Cashman said, “I’m not comfortable talking to Alex about this because we feel we are in a litigious environment. Hello and goodbye, that’s about it.” He added, “It’s not just Yankees’ management. He’s putting it at the level of our trainers, our medical staff. The organization. The team.” It wasn’t a good year for A-Rod.

Alex Rodriguez was suspended from baseball but he delayed it pending an appeal. The suspension was upheld for the entirety of the 2014 regular season and post season. He was found to have violated the league’s Performance Enhancing Drugs policy, specifically through the ‘use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years’ and ‘attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.’

In the 2015 off-season it was reported that Rodriguez met with new Commissioner of Baseball, Rob Manfred, in which it is reported that Rodriguez apologized while promising to behave in the future. In February he issued a hand-written letter of apology to “Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you,the fans’.

And now here we are. Criticism is plenty. In Joe Torre’s 2009 book, ‘The Yankee Years’, Rodriguez earned the nickname ‘A-Fraud’ from teammates and particularly from clubhouse attendants who were said to resent his demands. Steroid-user Jose Canseco said in his book, ‘Juiced:Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big’ called A-Rod a hypocrite. But then again, who cares what Canseco says. The fact remains, there is a playing stats side and there is the drugs side.

Performance enhancing drugs have torn baseball’s unique stat world apart. Those accused and/or suspended, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Ryan Braun, Rager Clemens, Rafael Palmero, Lenny Dykstra, Eric Gagne, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Glenallen Hill, Todd Hundley, David Justice, Andy Petite, Mo Vaughn, Fernando VBina, Manny Ramirez, Melky Cabrera, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Carlos Ruiz, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Miguel Tejada, Dee Gordon, Raul Mondesi, Rick Ankiel, Jose Canseco, Gary Matthews, Jr., Matt Williams, Wally Joyner, Ken Caminiti, Chuck Knoblauch, Paul Lo Duca, David Ortiz, Ivan Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Mike Stanton and many more have put the stain on the game. We are not talking about hard drugs or alcohol consumption here. We are talking about people taking drugs to make them perform better.

Thus the dilemma.

Alex Rodriguez could hit. Alex Rodriguez could field. Alex Rodriguez took performance enhancing drugs. He paid for the results. He served his time. His day in the game appears to now be over.

Baseball is a game we all play as kids. It is a game we love from our very core. He did as well and did it better then nearly anyone.

A-Rod…we hardly knew ya.

Play Ball!

Another Scab Is Formed


It begins with an affection…perhaps from childhood, when you admire from afar that player who becomes one of your favorites on your favorite team…perhaps after one moves and establishes new ties, there is that certain player that literally allows you to slightly shift alliances and like your ‘second’ team. It is convenient. You can always fall back on your ‘second’ when or if your ‘main’ team stumbles during a season.

Then something happens. Adoration is damaged with a scratch which draws angry protest or dismay over the actions of the player or the team. It is a blood spill. The next day or the next week or month, a scab develops to cover the pain of the initial hurt. Eventually, the scabe goes away and there is just a mark left…then a feint mark then…nothing.

This week in the land near Pigsville, the team departed to the West Coast and with it the disappearance of one of Cream City’s favorite sons. He was one of us. He came up through the minor league system. He was the ‘good citizen’ of the group…a favorite among veterans of the Armed Forces for the work he did. He was one of the best defensive catchers in the Majors and in fact, a two-time All-Star. He was an accomplished hitter. And, he was not the top earning player on the team, not even close. Yet, he was one of the very best. And that made him vulnerable to the system of baseball. He was an attractive, valuable piece to be traded on the board game of baseball.

The first offer over the weekend was with Cleveland. But like a smart player, he had exercised his right not to go to Cleveland. Besides LaBron, who would go to Cleveland? Even United Airlines pulled out as a hub city. Not to say there is anything bad with Cleveland but it is Cleveland.

According to Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated, the Indians offered Lucroy absolutely nothing to approve the deal. Lucroy, a strong defensive catcher who finished fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 and has hit .300/360/.484 (123 OPS+) thus far this season, projects to be worth $26.7 million next season and more than $100 million over the next five years. By way of comparison, the most expensive contract in Indians history was the four-year, $57 million extension they gave to Travis Hefner in late 2007. That was considered a bust. The Indians understandably refused that demand given the impressive quartet of prospects they had agreed to send to Milwaukee—catcher Francisco Mejia, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, centerfielder Greg Allen and right-hander Shawn Armstrong. Then the Indians told the Brewers it was up to them to get Lucroy to accept the trade. Given that Lucroy’s focus was on “long-term gain,” per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, there was little the Brewers could do that would make sense for them or Lucroy and the deal collapsed.

Then the game turned into a school lesson for the new, youthful General Manager. Granted, his marching orders when he was hired was to rebuild a farm system that had been depleted as the Brewers made their charge in the past ten years which came to a complete collapse under the non-leadership of Roenicke. Boy GM was about to meet his match. He quickly found out that the learning tools of an effective general manager in major league baseball is not what he saw as an assistant in Houston. This is a game for big boys. This is a game where one plus one equals a minus one. Take the deal which created that which is a scabe today.

Meet Jon Daniels. He is the President of Baseball Operation and General Manager of the Texas Rangers. He has led the Rangers to two World Series appearances and besides the Blue Jays and the Yankees, is the only franchise to win back-to-back American League pennants in the last 22 years. When he was hired, he was the youngest GM in MLB at the time. He was only 28 years old when elevated in 2005. He is a Master of The Trade. And he is the Master of Milwaukee. Lets review: just before the 2006 trade deadline, he traded Lance Nix, Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero to the Milwaukee Brewers for Nelson Cruz, who would become an All-Stare in 2009, and All-Star left fielder, Carlos Lee.

Now, ten years later, he led a lamb to slaughter. He suggested to the young general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers that he would be interested in acquiring the All-Star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. The rookies GM in Cream City said he would have to have a couple of players which would have to include one of the most sought after young slugging third basemen in the minors, Joey Gallo. Gallo is a legend and has all of the ability to become a great player in The Show. The crafty GM of the Rangers said, he would have to have a pitcher along with Lucroy for that trade to become a reality. The rookie stumbled going back to his chair to think about the implications. Lucroy was a jewel in his trade crown. How the other guy wants a pitcher, a relief pitcher. The young GM couldn’t offer the 8th inning specialist, Will Smith because he had already committed to trade him to the Giants for a great prospect and a journeyman catcher. How about the closer, Daniels suggested. Jeffress was the closer for the Brewers with 27 saves in a horrible season for the team. He was the real deal who had been brought up through the farm system only to be traded away in the Greinke deal from KC and then returned last season. Mulling this over, the young GM obviously felt comfortable because he was going to trade Lucroy and he needed a catcher to back up Maldonado, so he brought up Pena from Colorado Springs, the center of pitching hell in the minors. Then told Lucroy not to travel with the team. If a trade could not be worked out, he would fly him out to San Diego to rejoin the team in time for Monday nights game.

That was check-mate time at the Miller Park B-Bar-B.

Daniels either pulled Gallo from the deal or simply did not include him in any further discussion and now left the rookie GM with a bag of nothing except an quietly concerned owner and a reputation that was clearly becoming backboneless. He balked and probably demanded Gallo be put back in. If he didn’t, that would be crazy. Daniels knew that he didn’t have to do anything because the kid didn’t have any cards. All the aces had been played and Daniels held all the kings.

As time slipped by, and no deal in sight, the deal was concluded when Daniels offered a solution. He would give the rookie not one but two minor leaguers…a AA outfielder, Lewis Brinson, a right handed AA pitcher, Luis Ortiz plus the most famous words in baseball, a player to be named later.

With no other team to rescue him, one young Mr. Strearns accepted. He was just sent to school…baseball school.

Jon Daniels stated, ‘We feel we definitely improved the club and we feel like we kept a number of the young players we liked.’

Thus the cut was made and now the scab formed…another mark on our body of baseball life.

Now we have no Jonathan. We have no Jeffress. We have no Smith. We have no Hill. But one thing we do have is a boat load of minor leaguers.

Rush to the ticket office, Brewer fans. See what-his-name playing over there. After all, its still baseball.

Want a beer?

Play Ball!

#watchingattanasio

‘The Moment’

'The Moment'

‘The Moment’


Many people in life have ‘a moment’. And, in the annuals of life, one time…..just one time, a person has ‘the moment’. It is defining.

On Friday with most of the crowd headed for the parking lot, the 31 year old rookie sensation, Junior Guerra, was pitching a gem for the Cream City Nine. He had stepped into the top of the ninth against the mighty Pirates, having giving up only two hits the entire evening and now was leading 3-0. He appeared to be in complete control.

His journey in Pigsville had begun, not against the Pittsburgh nine, but when rookie General Manager, David Stearns’ made his first official move after being hired in that position. He claimed, last Fall, one Junior Guerra off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. As Manager, Craig Counsell said, ‘I don’t think anybody accurately forecasted this. But he was claimed for a reason. He was claimed because we thought there were possibilities there and there was talent there. We thought he was a guy that had gone about it in a really different way and got to this place in a really different way, but that he was a really good pitcher at this point. This level of success, maybe not. But yeah, I think we thought he’d have success.’

And he showed his confidence that really wasn’t at all about the Bob ‘Hurricane’ Hazel of this generation, but rather the rookie manager’s grasp of the psychology of the game. In the 9th inning, Junior had begun with only 87 pitches and Counsell was attempting to have his starting pitcher finish a complete game, the first complete game for the Brewers since last July. The first batter, Matt Joyce, got a single. Then John Jaso was walked. Two on, nobody out, Gregory Polanco was coming to the plate as the tying run.

It is one thing to face Jaso, but it was quite another to face this guy before the big guy in the Buc’s lineup.

The eyes of the 29,000+ were all on the manager in the dugout. Would he come out and bring in, what has been, a very iffy bullpen to try to wrap up the game? Or would he let his rookie pitcher try to complete the game in style? It was the beginning of ‘The Moment’ that will live with Brewer fans forever. Out came Counsell, looking quickly right down the first base line, then eyes down and walked up toward the mound as he approached the pitcher and the gathering infielders, Carter, Gennett, Villar and Jonathan Lucroy (in his last inning and game as a Brewer?).

Collectively the crowd at Miller Park was disappointed expecting the manager to accept the ball from his pitcher. But now he became a fan-legend in the land of beer, brats and cheese. With Guerra offering the ball to the manager, Counsell refused to accept his pitcher’s decision and slapped him on the back and it was now his game to try to finish. With stunning and overwhelming approval and cheers from everyone in the crowd and those watching on television, Counsell left the mound, with an astonished pitcher receiving slaps with the gloves of the other players on the mound. This was ‘The Moment’ when the guy from Whitefish Bay proved to be the next great Brewer manager, in the shadows of George Bamberger and Harvey Kuenn. Right then and there, Craig Counsell would be marked in history as doing something that most in the stands had never seen. But to be truthful, all were very happy to see. What a confidence booster. This was one giant step for the kid from Whitefish Bay.

The rest of the story, although a bit bizarre, finished with a win. Polanco hit into a fielder’s choice as Carter forced the runner at second. Andrew McCutcheon hit into another fielders choice to drive in Pittsburgh’s only run when Marte singled off the head of the second base umpire before Jeffers relieved Guerra and retired Kang to end the game with another (sic) Brewers victory. While the details of the game were unusual, THE story was about the decision that Counsell made on this historic night. ‘I really wanted him to get through the inning’, Counsell said of Guerra. ‘I thought he pitched like he deserved to, and I don’t think he was tiring or anything like that. I thought he was still making pitches.’

Guerra had won his seventh game of the year. He had lowered his ERA to a most respectable 2.70, ranking him #8 among Major League starters, just behind Stephen Strasburg and ahead of Jake Arrieta. And for all the stat rats, in 16 starts over 103.1 innings this season, the ‘Velvet Venezuelan’ has posted a 3.67 FIP, and an 85/34 K/BB rate while generating ground balls (46.3%) and infield pop ups (11%) along with a 20.8% K rate and an 11% swinging strike rate.

But the real story that will live well beyond the wins and losses of the pitcher will be…’Do you remember the time when Counsell walked out to the mound and kept the pitcher in the game?’ That will be ‘The Moment’. And that is when Whitefish Bay’s favorite son became THE manager of the Milwaukee Brewers in the minds of the Crew’s faithful forever.

Play Ball!

#win63
#watchingattanasio

Disrespect



Often, in Urban conversations among athletes, the term ‘disrespect’ comes up. It is usually centered around a verbal slight that the athlete has experienced or believes he has experienced. But rarely has an athlete who is the center of attention had others use the word to express their dismay. And never has a Major League team shown such sophomoric behavior and insensitivity than have the Milwaukee Brewers to one of their bright young stars.

Zach Davies is a young pitcher for the Crew whom the Brewers acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for OF Gerardo Parra. Many of you probably recall his starts from last September. He appeared in six games for the Brewers totaling 34 innings. He put up a pretty solid 3.71 ERA and 3.81 FIP. His .210 BAA was excellent, which helped keep his WHIP quite manageable (1.21). For those who are not up to speed with the vernacular of the MLB stat wonks…he showed a lot of promise with an amazing amount of poise for such a young pitcher. After he was traded, Buck Showalter, Manager of the Baltimore Orioles called the Brewer manager, Craig Counsell, and told him he was getting a bright young star.

Davies has a slight build (6’0”, 150 lbs) and has a fastball in the 88-91 range. While his build and average fastball is a call his critics give, don’t believe this lack of confidence. Believe the importance he brings to the Brewers as a starter. His change-up is terrific. And he also has an good curveball. But it is his above average command that allows everything to work. Like most pitchers, he needs his command to succeed.

However, he excels in one pivotal area: batted ball distribution. While many today are fly ball pitchers, Davies has always induced ground balls at a well above average rate. It’s an impressive package. Counsell points to Davies’ growing relationship with catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado as one reason for his recent success. “They’re really getting on the same page and making good choices,” Counsell said. “He’s been on the attack. He’s got all four pitches as weapons. I think he’s really starting to get a feel for playing with the hitter front-to-back, side-to-side. “It’s good stuff.”

Davies used his weapons just before the All-Star break in meeting and beating the Washington Nationals. The Nationals’ lineup features reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and current NL batting leader Daniel Murphy, who was hitting .347. “He’s a young starter who is learning as he goes and proving as he goes; he’s gaining more confidence, getting comfortable with his stuff, how it plays to hitters and how it needs to be good,” Counsell said. “He’s getting it through experience. It’s not easy to go out there for a young guy and what’s good is that he’s taking everything that’s happened before, applying it and getting better. “

It was interesting how Davies found his way into the starting lineup this season. Matt Garza, 32, was expected to return to the Brewers’ rotation after losing his spot late last season, but he was placed on the disabled list instead. Davies stood out in the Spring as a likely candidate to step into the rotation.

The year before, he faced the Cardinals, always a problem for the Cream City Nine. “He just made quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.”He used his breaking ball to steal strikes early in the count. But it was about fastball location and chasing out of the zone with the change-up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. It left St. Louis’ sluggers frustrated after entering the day second in the National League with 71 homers and a .460 slugging percentage. ‘It’s just one of those where he just had trouble finding the feel on a consistent basis,’ Matheny said. ‘But still, he only gave up only a couple runs, five hits. But he had a lot of traffic and a lot of stress innings.’

Kolten Wong, who struck out twice, said Davies kept the Cardinals off-balance with his change-up. ‘Just something that caught us off guard,’ Wong said. ‘He kept us off balance with his fastball coming in and threw that change-up away.’

That’s the kind of stuff he brings to the game. And he did it once again against the Nationals. That was Tuesday before the All-Star game. On Wednesday morning, the infamous Milwaukee Brewers optioned Davies to Class AAA Colorado Springs to open a roster spot to add first baseman/outfielder Andy Wilkins from that club. It was noted that the team had been playing short-handed on the bench while carrying eight relief pitchers for several weeks. Here, their winning pitcher the previous night in a 5-2 victory over Washington, boosting his record to 6-4 on a losing ball club with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts, including a 6-1 mark and a 3.24 ERA over his last 12 outings, was ceremoniously banished to the Sky Sox.

Astounding!

Astoundingly stupid.

The Brewers PR spin was that in sending down Davies, the Brewers said he would not pitch for Colorado Springs, which also entered its All-Star break after play on that Sunday. But rather then sending down one of their incompetent relief pitchers, which are many, they pick on the kid…a kid who is a rising star in their own organization. To make matters worse, the official pronouncement from the Brewers was that Davies would not pitch for Colorado Springs. But a player must remain in the minors for 10 days when optioned. Thus Davies would be recalled to pitch for the Brewers on the third day after the break in Cincinnati. That would be today.

But that’s not all. The cheapness of the Milwaukee Nine caused Davies to lose 10 days of major-league service time as well as about $24,000 in salary with the demotion.

To his credit, the mild Mr. Davies, upon hearing the news, quietly told reporters ‘Baseball is a business.’

His agent, the legendary Scott Boras, said the Milwaukee Brewers should not have have sent rookie right-hander Zach Davies to the minors for 10 days to open a spot for an additional bench player. Boras was more direct, saying, “In this game, performance earns respect. After beating one of the best teams in the National League, he was told he no longer was a member of the team. “It’s disrespect for someone who will be a principal part of the organization for years to come, to add a bench player for 10 days. Not exactly a valued ethic. In this game, teams do not send down starting pitchers who are performing well.’

He added, ‘Flying a starting pitcher cross-country interrupts his regular routine and his normal bullpen sessions. This is not how you prepare successful starting pitchers.’

Meanwhile, the Freshman Brewers General Manager, David Stearns, said he meant no disrespect to Davies in making the player move. Stearns said the major goal was to provide another bat for the bench during a period in which Davies would not have pitched for the Brewers. Unfortunately, without experience, young Mr. Stearns created a PR gaff unprecedented in modern baseball management.

‘We certainly value Zach’s contributions to the club and consider him an important part of our starting rotation,’ Stearns said. ‘Given that he wasn’t scheduled to pitch for a 10-day stretch, we wanted the extra flexibility of another player on the bench.’

Baseball purest suggest from a pure baseball point of view, the move makes great sense. Davies, as a starting pitcher who has already made his final start prior to the All-Star break, made it a good decision. He couldn’t be recalled for 10 days but with the All-Star break coming, that wouldn’t even cost Davies a start.

But the baseball side isn’t the only one to consider. We simply can’t forget about the human element. In sending Davies down, the Brewers are costing him service time. That can potentially impact the timing of him becoming a free agent down the road. This is not to say anything of the $24,000 he lost after beating one of the best teams in baseball.

Milwaukee was well within its rights to do this. It’s certainly true that baseball is a business. But good businesses also have business partners. With this move, the Brewers are giving a potential business partner a reason to be upset or frustrated with them down the road. At the moment, Davies isn’t upset (at least not publicly), but Boras clearly is. And you don’t want to make Mr. Boras angry.

It’s certainly a business move, and admittedly, stuff like this isn’t entirely unprecedented. Still, it’s generally not a kind of move pulled by the game’s top organizations. This goes to the root of all that is bad about the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. They are not a class organization. Nor are they a top organization. In all the years they have been in the Majors, they have never won a World Series, a key mark in measuring the quality of a management team. They have a losing record. Again, not a mark of a good management team.

Now, the new management group is making its mark to the world.

They are disrespectful.

Play Ball!

P.S. So how did Davies do upon his return on Sunday, July 17, 2016?
7.0 inning pitched
92 Pitches
59 Strikes
0 Runs
4 Hits
5 SOs
0 Walks
9 Groundouts
4 Fly outs
23 Batters faced in 7 complete innings

Brewers lost in bottom of the 9th as Thornberg, with two outs walks Hamilton. Then, walks Votto. Will Smith comes in, can’t hold Hamilton as he goes to third and gives up winning run with a Passed Ball (Lucroy), Hamilton scoring.
Final score: Cincinnati 1 Milwaukee 0.

Midsummer’s Night Classic


It began with an uncharacteristic speech in the clubhouse by the star veteran who channeled the past champions to motivate his teammates.

Then the troops took over.

The 2016 Major League All-Star Game held in San Diego, CA, in the shadows of the great aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Midway (CVA-41), was one of the best in a long time. The power of the American League was evident along with solid pitching.

In the end, it was the strength of the American League or more specifically, the Kansas City Royals. In Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals was named the MVP after collecting two hits, two RBIs and hitting a home run. And his teammate, Salvador Perez crushed a two-run homer as the American League won 4-2. Mets manager Terry Collins, who was the skipper for the NL squad, had certainly seen enough. Always classy in defeat, Newsday recounted this story: “We said the same thing,” Collins said of fans having flashbacks. “I’m tired of seeing (expletive) Eric Hosmer getting a big hit. (Expletive) sick of it.”

It’s tough being a Met.

It was the fourth straight victory for the Junior Circuit and sixteenth out of the last twenty. The record now stands at 43-42-2 with the National League leading. The latest tie of course was held in Milwaukee during the 2002 game when teams ran out of eligible players in extra innings.

It’s tough being a Brewer fan.

Next year, the 88th All-Star Game will be held in Miami. And if you have never attended this event, it is a ‘Must See’ on your bucket list.

Play Ball!