The Curious Travels Of Mr Carter


He is a huge man. The soon to be 30 year old is 6’4″ and near 250 lbs. When he comes to the batter’s box, his shadow precedes him to plate nearly as soon as he steps out of the dugout. Nearly everyone looks up to him. He is massive. And his power is impressive. It is not often that opposing players come out to view the other team’s batting practice. But they do to see Mr Carter pound ball after ball into the stands.

In his seven years in the Big Leagues, he has hit 150 home runs in 688 games. That means that 21.8% of the games in which he bats, the ball leaves the yard. In fan terms that means he lofts one each series. Wow!

The home run has always been the ‘hit of choice’ for the fans since Babe recreated baseball in the ’20s. In 2.503 games, the ‘Sultan of Swat’ banged 714 home runs. For the stat geeks, that a lofty 28.5% of the games he played in, the crowd stood and cheered for another home run.

No. Mr. Carter is no Babe Ruth. The problem is Mr. Carter is on his way to another team. It will be is fourth team in eight years. And he is the National League Home Run Champion. Yet the lowly Milwaukee Brewers don’t want to pay for such power and gave him his papers. They are replacing him with a Korean League first baseman.

Why?

Mr. Carter strikes out a lot. He has led the league in strike outs twice, including this past season. He has struck out 875 times in 688 games (that’s 1.27/game). Fans do not like strike outs. He did that 206 times last season, setting a Brewers’ record. Babe did that less than 1 per game (0.82/game).

In Milwaukee, there is a legacy of great first baseman. From George Scott to Cecil Cooper, Richie Sexson to Prince Fielder, this is the standard of excellence any first baseman in Cream City has to measure up to.

Prince 998 games 230 home runs 656 RBI 779 KOs .929 OPS (7 years)
Sexson 534 games 133 home runs 398 RBI 528 KOs .902 OPS (4 years)
Cooper 1490 games 241 home runs 944 RBI 721 KOs .809 OPS (11 years)
Scott 782 games 115 home runs 463 RBI 529 KOs .798 OPS (5 years)

69 Minchner 140 games 25 home runs 78 RBI 69 KOs .829 OPS
70 Hegan 148 games 11 home runs 52 RBI 116 KOs .701 OPS
71 Briggs 125 games 21 home runs 59 RBI 79 KOs .845 OPS
72 Scott 152 games 20 home runs 88 RBI 130 KOs .746 OPS
73 Scott 158 games 24 home runs 107 RBI 94 KOs .858 OPS
74 Scott 158 games 17 home runs 82 RBI 90 KOs .777 OPS
75 Scott 158 games 38 home runs 109 RBI 97 KOs .857 OPS
76 Scott 156 games 18 home runs 77 RBI 118 KOs .748 OPS
77 Cooper 160 games 20 home runs 78 RBI 110 KOs .789 OPS
78 Cooper 107 games 13 home runs 54 RBI 72 KOs .833 OPS
79 Cooper 150 games 24 home runs 106 RBI 77 KOs .872 OPS
80 Cooper 153 games 25 home runs 122 RBI 42 KOs .926 OPS
81 Cooper 106 games 12 home runs 60 RBI 30 KOs .858 OPS
82 Cooper 155 games 32 home runs 121 RBI 53 KOs .870 OPS
83 Cooper 160 games 30 home runs 126 RBI 63 KOs .849 OPS
84 Cooper 148 games 11 home runs 67 RBI 59 KOs .693 OPS
85 Cooper 154 games 16 home runs 99 RBI 77 KOs .779 OPS
86 Cooper 134 games 12 home runs 75 RBI 87 KOs .682 OPS
87 Brock 141 games 13 home runs 85 RBI 63 KOs .809 OPS
88 Brock 115 games 6 home runs 50 RBI 48 KOs .649 OPS
89 Brock 107 games 12 home runs 52 RBI 49 KOs .750 OPS
90 Brock 127 games 7 home runs 50 RBI 45 KOs .692 OPS
91 Stubbs 103 games 11 home runs 38 RBI 71 KOs .641 OPS
92 Stubbs 92 games 9 home runs 42 RBI 68 KOs .665 OPS
93 Jaha 153 games 19 home runs 70 RBI 109 KOs .753 OPS
94 Jaha 89 games 12 home runs 34 RBI 75 KOs .412 OPS
95 Jaha 88 games 20 home runs 65 RBI 66 KOs .968 OPS
96 Jaha 148 games 30 home runs 118 RBI 118 KOs .941 OPS
97 Nilsson 156 games 20 home runs 81 RBI 88 KOs .798 OPS
98 Jaha 73 games 7 home runs 38 RBI 66 KOs .709 OPS
99 Loretta 153 games 5 home runs 67 RBI 59 KOs .744 OPS
00 Sexson 57 games 14 home runs 47 RBI 63 KOs .957 OPS
01 Sexson 158 games 45 home runs 125 RBI 60 KOs .889 OPS
02 Sexson 157 games 29 home runs 102 RBI 136 KOs .867 OPS
03 Sexson 162 games 45 home runs 124 RBI 151 KOs .927 OPS
04 Overbay 159 games 16 home runs 87 RBI 128 KOs .863 OPS
05 Overbay 158 games 19 home runs 72 RBI 98 KOs .816 OPS
06 Fielder 157 games 28 home runs 81 RBI 125 KOs .831 OPS
07 Fielder 158 games 50 home runs 119 RBI 121 KOs 1.013 OPS
08 Fielder 159 games 34 home runs 102 RBI 132 KOs .879 OPS
09 Fielder 162 games 46 home runs 141 RBI 138 KOs 1.014 OPS
10 Fielder 161 games 32 home runs 83 RBI 138 KOs .871 OPS
11 Fielder 162 games 38 home runs 120 RBI 106 KOs .981 OPS
12 Hart 149 games 30 home runs 83 RBI 151 KOs .841 OPS
13 Francisco 89 games 13 home runs 32 RBI 95 KOs .733 OPS
14 Reynolds 130 games 22 home runs 45 RBI 122 KOs .681 OPS
15 Lind 149 games 20 home runs 87 RBI 100 KOs .820 OPS
16 Carter 160 games 41 home runs 94 RBI 206 KOs .821 OPS

The Cream City Nine was at its best when it had a great first baseman. Both Cooper and Fielder led their teams to the post season. Both were the heart of their teams.

With Mr Carter moving on, this team is looking for their heart once again.

Play Ball!

Cubs ‘America’s Team’

It was on a cold evening in Wrigley Field on Sunday, October 30, 2016, that established once and for all that baseball rules and that the team from the Friendly Confines rules the sporting interest in America. As the North Siders provided all of the excitement in trying to stay alive against the Cleveland Indians, as they faced elimination in Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, the audience of America tuned in.

On Sunday evening, the Chicago Cubs vs the Cleveland Indians drew an estimated average 21.539 million viewers who stayed with the game from beginning until the end when Chapman came in and locked down their second win of this World Series. What is significant about this was that at the very same time, on a competing broadcast network, the team that called themselves ‘America’s Team’ were out drawn by the Cubs as Dallas could only muster an estimated average 16.825 million viewers. That represented a difference in favor of baseball of 4.714 million viewers.

And it wasn’t as if the football game was a blow out. Not to offend the magnificent Cleveland Indians, but a close game featuring the Cubbies for the first time in a World Series since 1945 with the possibility of winning the Series for the first time in over 100 years, overwhelmed the football game which was a tight game featuring two of the better teams in the NFL this season.

While pro football seems like it is slipping a bit with massive overexposure, baseball with the Cubs and Indians are revitalizing America’s youth. Proof? It pulled in a 6.3 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic vs only 6.1 rating for football which featured two teams with big fan bases. And, couldn’t Philadelphia vs Dallas for the divisional lead prevail?

No!

Sunday was baseball’s night. But in truth, it was placing the crown of ‘America’s Team’ squarely on the shoulders of those lovable Cubbies from the North Side of the City that Works.

Play Ball!

For 20 It’s Over

The crowds have gone home. Hot dog wrappers and paper cups litter the grandstand. There is a chill in the air. And, beyond the gates there is only the hope of a better season next year. The Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, the Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies join for a rare time, the Cardinals in the National League as the gates are closed and locked on their hopes for 2016. Their dreams of winning a pennant or the World Series is over. In the American League, the Twins, White Sox, and the World Champion Royals are joined by the Rays, the once mighty Yankees, the Mariners, A’s, Astros, Angels are joined by the Tigers, where dreams of a great season have ended.

Now, one of the most exciting times of the year begins with a shock and a bang. The playoffs begin on Tuesday.

But it is up to those fans, whose teams are no longer in the run, left to wonder ‘what if’. What if the Brewers had a 3rd base coach who didn’t cost so many games? What if the White Sox had realized that Robbie Ventura just couldn’t manage a winning squad? What if the Twins hadn’t gotten off to one of the most horrible starts any club has faced. What if the Yankee owners hadn’t gotten cheap? What if the Marlins hadn’t lost their stars? What if the Rays didn’t play baseball. What if the Braves hadn’t left Milwaukee? What if the Pirates got a manager? What if the Reds actually had a good front office? What if the Astros weren’t a flash in the pan? Unfortunately for them, they woke up. What if the Padres actually had a team? What if BillyBall actually worked? What if Arte Marino kept out of baseball decisions for the Angels? What if the Colorado Rockies moved to sea level? What if the Royal didn’t have Ned as a manager? What if the Phillies could actually rebuild? What if the Tigers were owned by the owner of another pizza company? What if the D’Backs had more than one player? What if the Mariners were owned by SONY? Who’d that matter? What if Cardinals didn’t get old? What if …. What if …

What if Vin Scully didn’t retire….we could all hope the dreams of tomorrow were closer than ever. Who else would weave into the balls and strikes, ‘The Yankees put pinstripes on their uniforms to make the Babe look thiner., ball one.’ Or, as he said this Friday about Giants second baseman, Kelby Tomlinson . ‘Everyone in his family has a name that begins with a ‘K’. And when their son came along, his mom loved the name Shelby so she called him Kelby. He comes from a small town called Elgin, Oklahoma. It only has 2,156 people. It is so small, they have a hardware store, a grocery store, a Sonic and a McDonalds’. His mom works……..ball two’.

Now most of us wait for the next year.

Other sports will be played. We’ll have Thanksgiving and begin our hectic shopping season. We’ll go to Grandma’s for Christmas. The chill of winter will grab us and then, once again, as the thought of flowers pop up through the snow, the thoughts of the sounds of spring in Florida and Arizona will grab us like a great friend and shake us into the new dreams of another year.

After all, if it can happen to the Cubs, it can happen to any team.

Play Ball!

No May Day

braun
‘The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.’ Sara Teasdale

April showers bring May flowers but not in Pigsville.

On May 24th, 2007, Ryan Joseph Braun came up to the Majors. By that date next season, he will no longer be wearing Blue…Milwaukee Blue as in True Blue Brew Crew.

What was so promising…with him becoming one of the best players in the game, crashed down around him when he was declared out for most of the 2013 season because of prohibited drug use. He lost all respect. He lost all commercial ties. He lost partnerships. He lost friendships. He lost his dignity.

There is a soulless emptiness at the bottom. It is nowhere land. No friends and plenty of enemies. People turn away when you are sighted walking toward you. People, who were once your friends, don’t respond to emails. People who once welcomed your contact, do not respond to phone calls. They are always conveniently out. People whom you have helped when they needed help ignore you. You are persona non rata, literally a person not appreciated. ‘Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.’ stated General George S. Patton. Ryan Braun was on the bottom.

That is what hit Braun squarely in the face. ‘Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.’ Muhammad Ali said. In Braun’s case, it wasn’t even at all. The only thing going for him was his contract which would tie him to the Milwaukee Brewers through 2020.

He was once the Rookie of the Year; he became the third-fastest major leaguer to reach 50 career home runs; in 2008, he reached the 150-RBI milestone faster than any major leaguer since Boston’s Walt Dropo needed only 155 games, in 1949–51; was a starting outfielder for the NL in the 2008 All Star Game, finishing first in player voting; Braun hit his 30th home run, becoming just the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first two seasons as he hit 71 home runs in his first two seasons, tying him with Pujols for fourth all-time as Joe DiMaggio topped the list with 75 home runs, followed by Ralph Kiner (74) and Eddie Mathews (72). He was the toast of all the baseball world. Apple released a commercial for a new iPhone, that showed a clip of Braun’s 10th inning walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008, which kept the Brewers’ Wild Card hopes alive. Gatorade used the same clip in its November 2008 “League of Clutch” commercial.

But imagine, only behind DiMaggio, Kiner and Mathews. Here was the star Milwaukee was praying for.

In 2009, Braun was named to Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking #32. In 2011, he rose to #16. He was named to the Team USA in the 2nd World Baseball Classic. On September 23, Braun hit a three-run, 450-foot home run that sealed the Brewers’ NL-Central-clinching victory. He was named MVP of the National League that season. And in 2012, Braun was awarded the 2012 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the fifth year in a row. His five consecutive awards was the longest active streak in the major leagues.

Then the fall.

Silence.

Alone.

Probably afraid.

Like Phoenix rising, he began a comeback. “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed—all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates.” He was seen in around Milwaukee even in the cold dead of winter, in the parking lot assisting in various charity drives, thanking the fans for coming out. He was at every Brewer Fest during the off-season, signing autographs and taking tons of pics with the fans.

However, 2014 was not a good year. With that time off, he was heckled in nearly every ballpark in America. He stood quietly in left field. He took the heat. Fans were angry. Opposing fans were merciless. In spring training, even in Maryvale, opposing fans yelled and screamed offensive insults. During the regular season, if you ever attended a game in Phoenix or Chicago, you heard the raw, cutting insults smashing through the air, mother’s quickly covering their children’s ears. ‘What did you do that for, Ma?’, was the response. On the field he managed to be only a mere shadow of what he had been before. A .300+ hitter, he battled insults and injury coming away with a .266 average and only 19 home runs. But after another off season of rest, he came back and there were bright spots which appeared as he lifted his average .285 with 25 home runs while suffering from a bad thumb and back and once again became an All-Star. Then this season, he finally found his old form, batting well above .300 for the season, often in the top five in hitting, and as of today, reached the 30 home run level with 88 RBI.

They still yell insults at him in a couple of towns, particularly Phoenix and Chicago. But for most good baseball fans, they have stopped the childish insults.

Ryan Braun is back. He is world class in the outfield, back in his old position in left field and is back as a world class hitter. And that is bad for Brewer fans.

The owner now has a valued commodity with which to enrich his pockets, drastically decrease his costs, and is dangling his star player in front of an ownership group where he does business (Los Angeles) like a fresh piece of meat. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of only six teams that Braun has named as favorable as part of his no trade clause contractual rights. And just as the trade deadline neared, his piece of meat was dangled hard. The Dodgers agreed to trade the oft injured and big time trouble fielder Puig along with a host of injured and players to be named later. The only thing that saved Milwaukee fans from this disgusting trade was their general manager’s inability to agree with the Dodgers on those players to be named later. In the meantime, Braun was in the clubhouse waiting to see if his long career with the Pigsville Nine was over.

But this is not the end. The Milwaukee Brewers owner is a classic meat dangler. He is a hedge fund man. He knows value of meat…fresh, hard hitting meat that is one of the best pieces of steak on the baseball planet. By next May, Braun’s 10/5 rights kick in. At the end of May, when Braun accumulates 10 years of service time, Braun will gain full no-trade rights, which will complicate any trade the Brewers try to make involving him. Though Braun could waive those for a situation he likes, it’s another factor that has to be worked into negotiations, and one that could further complicate any deal that the Brewers try to make in the future.

Thus this next week, take a look at the magnificent talent playing left field for the Milwaukee Brewers. It may be the last time you will see this quality of baseball player wearing the Milwaukee Blue. Winter is coming and with it, the old meat man will be behind the counter dangling for every team owner to mouth-water over. He has USDA Prime in his freezer. And the owners of the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Diamondbacks and Marlins and any other owner willing to part with a bunch of no-name players for a star, are all invited to attend the bidding war in Pigsville.

Once again, Milwaukee will be the loser.

#watchingattanasio

Play Ball!

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?