In the City of Beloit, there was a sandlot where the junior high school team played. There wasn’t a blade of grass on the entire field. After all, it was used as a gigantic hockey rink during the winter, which if memory serves me correctly, was nearly all the time. There were two seasons: hot, humid, allergy-filled summers and the dead of winter. As one summer began, my father, the baseball coach of the Lincoln Nine, had a couple of pro prospects on his roster. On was Dick Mogoleky, a big 8th grader who could really throw the ball. After seeing him warm up on this particular afternoon, my dad said, better get behind the fence today. And, we’d better tell John he’ll be coming in relief sometime soon. As I went behind the fence, the first pitch out of Mogo’s hand went sailing right into the backstop fence where I was watching. It was already time to get John warmed up.
There are three big holiday weekends in a major league baseball season. Memorial Day weekend is the first. For years one uses these data points as guideposts for a season. Thus, the season is conveniently decided into four parts: the Opening; The Summer; The Dog Days and finally the Race To The Finish.
So far this season, the following teams are the leaders in their Divisions in the Opening Period.
NL East … Atlanta Braves
NL Central … Milwaukee Brewers
NL West … San Francisco Giants
AL East … Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central … Detroit Tigers
AL West … Oakland As
The Brewers position is unusual…not because it is an unusual place for a Milwaukee Nine to be, especially considering their horrible historical performances in May, but the mental gymnastics they tend to pull off. This past week, even the Attanasio Club put new meaning into sloppy, non-professional play.
You had to be in Atlanta to catch this one. Leading the Carpetbaggers 4-2, and Braves runners at 2nd & 3rd, Roenicke, the Brewers manager, stepped out of the dugout and signaled for a new pitcher, a left hander. As he walked to the mound, head down, he never looked up to see who was coming out of the bullpen. When he did, he saw it was not the guy he wanted. The pitcher who was coming in, stopped in his tracks and mouthed…’There’s no one warming up’. At which time he headed straight back into the bullpen as Roenicke motioned for the ‘other’ left hander, Will Smith. Smith, who most recently was sitting on the bullpen bench considering all sorts of things in life, the least of which was to sprint straight onto the field WITHOUT warming up. Big league pitching is tough enough, but with runners on second and third and a one run lead and not having had the ability to warm up, the odds at success were easily 100-1 AGAINST.
The comparison between what my dad did so many years before and what Roenicke did or did not do, last Thursday, reminds me that the Milwaukee Brewers are not a professional organization. Can you imagine this happening with the St. Louis Cardinals? How about the New York Yankees. Do you think it ever would happen to a Buck Showalter team?
We have reached the first milestone of the marathon that is called the baseball season. With organizational leadership like Roenicke showed, there is no chance the Brewers will be on top at the end of the season.