Clutch

Clutch

It is the most desired tag a man can have. Whether in business, in baseball or in life, to be called ‘Clutch’ is an honor.

One of the greatest baseball players I have ever seen was Bo Jackson. Bo Knew! In his prime he was amazing to watch. He was a six tool player. The sixth ingredient was ‘clutch’. One cool September evening in old Milwaukee County Stadium, the hated Chicago White Sox came to town as they were on their way to winning the American League Pennant. The Brewers were ahead by one in the top of the Ninth as a Pale Hose player got on first. The manager then brought in a pinch hitter.

It was Bo. Hobbling to the on deck circle, he was crippled with the devastating football injury that took away his ability to perform up to the level he once was the only person to have. As he was announced, stepping to the plate, I said the one of my employees who came to the game with me, ‘This is exactly what you don’t want. A great star who can turn the game around with one swing. They can’t throw a fast ball to him. It creates THE situation. This is what he is meant to do.’

Bang!

Sure enough the ball went like a shot faster than it came in. Bo hobbled to second with the biggest grin on his face you could possibly imagine as with one swing he had just brought the Chicago White Sox one step closer to a pennant. He was ‘clutch’.

On Saturday evening, in Miller Park, with the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, with runners on 1st, the Pirates manager instructed his pitcher to non-intentionally intentionally walk a .104 hitter, to get to the guy on the index circle who was struggling and coming off of a calf injury. The pitcher did was he was told and in what is oddly one of the dumbest moves in baseball, he walked Sogard. Up stepped Ryan Braun. Now what you do not want to do is pitch anything near the plate to a player who is capable of taking charge of the game with one swing. This is exactly why they pay him the big bucks. He is the face of the team and Clint Hurdle just embarrassed the heart and soul of the Milwaukee Brewers. The pitcher saw the traditional Braun step-in. Raising his right arm above him and toward the empire as he stepped in, he took a couple of swings and the historic stage was set to be written. But like a dangling participle, a hanging breaking ball was slashed to left center for a double, scoring both runners and winning yet another game for the Milwaukee Brewers. ‘Clutch’. Braun has been doing that all of his career.

Like most ultra-ego inflated managers who have never won a World Series, but have been given an imaginary Manager of the Year monicar because of a talented group of guys from the front office to the club house boy had handed him a gift of excellence, their genius is only in their heads. Last night proved it.

And ‘clutch’ is part of a six tool player.

Play Ball!

#watchingattanasio⚾️

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Scaredy Cats


‘Its a beautiful day at Wrigley Field. The sky is blue. The grass is green. It’s very colorful in the stands with people wearing blue, some white. And Lake Michigan is a turquoise blue.’, that was how Pat Hughes began the broadcast on Saturday. ‘Beautiful, but it is cold. It is 43 degrees and very windy. There are going to be some adventures in the field today.’

What an understatement. The Milwaukee Brewers looked like the Keystone Cops (The term is to be used to criticize a group for its mistakes, particularly if the mistakes happened after a great deal of energy and activity, or if there was a lack of coordination among the members of the group.) in a Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle movie. Orlando Arcia flashing out from shortstop to center field to chase a wind driven fly ball which allowed Javier Báez to reach second with a double. Ryan Braun shaded his eyes with his first base glove as Johnathan Villar called him off at the last moment to grab the pop up near first base. Hernán Pérez ran all across the infield from his third base position to completely miss the pop up behind the pitchers mound as neither Arcia nor Villar could provide any help. In the sixth, Braun again fought the wind and the sun to miraculously catch a pop up to first. Then the next batter, Anthony Rizzo smashed a fly into right and Dominico Santana made a nice running catch against the wind and the vicious sun. This ain’t a beautiful ballpark. It is a field inside of a mix master with a bright light shining into it with a gummy attitude.

But it wasn’t the wind nor the sun that was reflective of a team in turmoil. This was a first place team that completely rolled over and did everything they could to loose again to the Northsiders. The Cream City Nine simply can’t complete with bully teams like the Northsiders or the Mississippi Mudders. They go limp, hoping something bad won’t happen to them. In plain English, they are ‘Scaredy Cats’.

When they play at that other beer stadium, they are bushed. And when it comes to playing in Gum Park, they are overwhelmed by the crowd, the small locker room and the idea they are in a big city. Small farmers can’t fit into big cities. The Cream City Nine is left on the farm.

But why does this happen? Why do teams who are so good play so badly, excessively fearful, when it comes to playing their rivals?

The answer is seasoning. Not salt and pepper but playing time in pressure situations of a pennant race, Divisional playoffs, Championship series and the World Series. On The Crew, there are only a couple of players who have had that ‘seasoned’ experience. Ryan Braun (15 games) has been through a number of playoff runs. And Lorenzo Cain (31 games) has been through the ultimate playoff wars. But if you look further, you will come up short. Only Matt Albers (2.1 innings), Jeremy Jeffries (1.0 inning), Hernán Pérez (2 games), Travis Shaw (1 game), Eric Sogard (5 games) and Jonathon Villar (1 game) have playoff experience. None of the other 17 players on their active roster have any of that in their MLB history. They simply do not have any seasoning.

On the other hand, the Northsiders are awash in Playoff experience, for one of the few times in their history. And they are all young players who can hold their ‘big brother’ mastery for a number of years until the Scardedy Cats from Pigsville go through the grind of understanding the mental attitude of winning.

While The Crew is looking good, slightly better than the previous, exciting season. They beat those teams that are not very good. Lorenzo Cain is a magnificent example of a complete all-around player of the highest caliber. Ryan Braun is a proven star on the field. He is the face of the team and can do everything. But they still do not have the one big stopper on the mound who puts the fear into the opposition.

When you saw Randy Johnson pitch for the D’Backs, the opposition felt, even if they were a good team, they had little to no chance of winning. When Madison Bumgarner or Clayton Kershaw are on the mound, same goes. And when you see Max Scherzer start on the mound for the Nationals, the game is as good as a win for Washington. Until that happens, until this team has a star pitcher, this team is excessively fearful to the point that they cannot beat the big boys of baseball.

Don’t misunderstand. The Cream City Nine had excellent pitching, both starting and in relief, during the first three games of a four game series in Gum Park. But overall, it was just that one mistake a player would make that made the final decision. Excessively fearful is the backbone of this team.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Play Ball!

Tinkers To Evers To Nobody


Saturday’s baseball game at Miller Park was a catastrophe. The error-prone Brewers played a game of tiddlywinks as Arcia and Shaw both looked like Keystone Cops as they committed costly errors in a single Ninth inning which also saw a mental error by Thames load the bases in a 2-2 tie game without the ball going past the infield. Cain battled the sun in Center (roof was closed but the bright sunshine flooded the outfield as the sun blazed through the first base glass high atop the upper deck) as he dropped a ball off the bat of the Northsider’s Bryant (what no error?). Baby Bruins laughed all the way to a four run top of the ninth inning to prove once again, the Cream City Nine leads the league in bratwurst, beer and custard…but not Central Division.

In all honesty, Barnes came in and delivered ground balls to retire most teams. But for some reason, the Milwaukee Brewers begin to shake when they play the Wrigley-ites. After nine games of the season, the Brewers have lost 4 at home. That is suppose to be a home team advantage.

For a team full of power, none are doing much at the plate. Sure, the April-riser, Thames, banged his third banger of the season but Braun looks tired. Yet he has to play because Yelich has a sore quad and can’t play. This team was tied 2-2 going into the 9th yet only produced a couple of hits all day.

Whatever the players thought about a shortened Spring Training, surely there are signs that the Brewers could have used batting practice in the heat and sun of Arizona for an extra week.

This team is not ready to play the season if the first wine games are any indication.

Play Ball!
#watchingattanasio⚾️

Let The Marathon Begin


A Look At 2018

Here is the annual prognostication for Major League Baseball In 2018

After seeing a number of Spring Training games, it appears as though
the New York Yankees will win in the AL East. The loss of Bird @ 1st hurts. Out 6-8 weeks. Rookie manager is a question. Red Sox threat.
Cleveland Indians will win the AL Central. One of the best managers in baseball will keep team together for another division championship.
Houston Astros will win the AL West. Good hitting, good pitching will win but pushed by surprising Oakland.

The Washington Nationals will win the NL East, in one of the weakest divisions in baseball.
Milwaukee Brewers will win the NL Central. The loss of Nelson hurts. Out 6-8 weeks.
Colorado Rockies will win the NL West. Impressive batting lineup and half of their games in thin air.

Let the marathon begin.

Play Ball!
#watchingattanasio⚾️

Oh-tani Surprise


There was a big crowd around the batting cages at Maryvale this week. Travis Shaw was smacking the ball as many of the invitees were watch with intentness as the veteran third baseman blistered each machine thrown pitch. Rarely do you see the big boys in The Show in the outside batting cages. Something was up. As we entered, we saw a Brewers team on the field and a team in red jersey’s coming to bat.

As some of the first through the gates, we took our seats and there were just a few in the ballpark. Love this time of the year and the early time at the ballpark. It is all yours. Usually there is just a few players warming up in the outfield. But today, we were given a sheet with all of the players numbers, many in the 90s on the back of their uniform.

There was no announcement of the game. Like an old time ‘Hollywood Sneak Preview’, before the scheduled game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Seattle Mariners, the Angels and Brewers, represented by lineups otherwise consisting mostly of minor leaguers, played inside Maryvale Baseball Park, in front of a few fans, including me, a bunch of scouts and a ton of media.

Then the red jersey’s took to the field. And out of the third base dugout came large man wearing #17 who walked to the mound, quite confident. With his warm ups, he was a pitcher with great confidence.

The sudden realization of what was happening hit me like a smack of thunder. This was to showcase a starting pitcher. Shohei Ohtani, was right in front of me. ‘Smack’, the sound of the fastball hitting the back of the catcher’s glove ricocheted throughout the stands. Although the stands were quite empty, the anticipated attention back in Japan, we were told, was such that the practice game was shown on live television, despite the first pitch coming at 2A, Saturday, Tokyo time.

For the next 2 2/3rds innings, eight (8) strikeouts, two (2) runs and four (4) hits, one realized that Ohtani, who had been the highest priced import from Japan, looked good, with a massive slider that was awesome as he had batters leaning back thinking they were about to get hit. Bigger than one expected, Ohtani was the real deal and it was thrilling to see this reward before the regularly scheduled game.

Someone once said, you nearly always see something in baseball that you have never seen before.

Sure, it was a ‘B’ game featuring the Salt Lake City Bees and the Sky Sox, but this morning…this very special morning, one glimpsed a bit into the future which few were fortunate enough to witness in person.

The magic of spring.

Play Ball!
#watchingattanasio

Video Review Frustrating Fans


First, when a review is made, it is supposed to take just a few seconds. With the help of New York, this shouldn’t be a problem. We live in an instant gratification age. So what do we have?

Crap!

We can no longer yell and scream at the ump for making a horrible decision because the ump isn’t the final arbitrator of any calls except balls and strikes, and that discussion is for a later ‘hot stove league’ masterpiece.

Yelling and screaming had health benefits. It allows one to get rid of their frustrations and if at home in the stands, it gives you unification amongst the mad backers of the home team.

But now, what we have is a failure to communicate.

The umps don’t explain to the crowd in the stands what has gone on. They do not inform anyone of what is being discussed. They are the deaf dwarfs of the diamond when sitting in the second deck. (Note: in keeping with the tradition of nearly every owner, player in any sport that has made a mis-statement or said something which they regret for public pressure, I apologize for using the word deaf and/or dwarf. It was intended to play upon the plugged ears of the men in blue, not the Dodgers, but those associated with calling the game as in referee, umpire, doofus behind the plate et al). (Further Note: I apologize for using the word doofus. It was intended to play upon the inexplicable actions of the man behind the catcher who believes he calls balls and strikes and an occasional calls at the plate who uses a small brush to clean off the plate when the catcher is accidentally hit in an area of his body that results in a massive display of pain. However, this discussion is for a later ‘hot stove league’ masterpiece.)

Getting back to the video review, here is the official rules in major league baseball covering this very issue:http://m.mlb.com/official_rules/replay_review.

Now, what happens when someone at the plate says he was hit and his manager calls for a video review? In yesterday’s World Series game, it appeared the ball DID NOT hit the Astro’s batter. But, the umpires called for a video review which after a lengthy look and discussion with those in New York, ruled the batter was not hit. For many who were running out of their seats to grab a hot dog, they didn’t have a clue to what was going on.

‘What happened?’, the hot dog getter asked to anyone within earshot.
‘The umpires had to gather to discuss where they were going to eat after the game.’, answered a spectator.
‘No.’, said another. ‘The batter said he was hit but the ump said no. So, AJ called for a challenge review.’
‘That true?’, asked the guy to got the hot dog.
‘I don’t know’, said others in unison.

The problem is, there is a ‘failure to communicate’ in baseball.

The only one who tries to communicate is the commissioner who is the guy who said that the guy who made racial looks after he hit a home run off of Darvish the night before, would be … punished by sitting out five of the games NEXT YEAR because he didn’t want to hurt the other 24 players on his squad during this most important series.

What?

We’re talking ‘failure to communicate’ not failing in communication.

Point at hand…the next half inning, Puig was at the plate and was hit as the ball bounced off the plate and after running to first, as would be a normal reaction not knowing what any umpire would call, that challenge was not honored.

Is ‘video review’ a home team privilege?

And, when is baseball going to wake up and actually get an ump a microphone to explain to the tens of thousands who are gathered in the stadium and tens of millions who are watching on TV what is going on during these multi-minute delays in the game?

Play ball!

Oh, They Met Before


In the crazy, strike shortened season of 1981, two teams battled it out for the NL Division Series. The Houston Astros met the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best of five. And it was a terrific series.

Game one lineups are familiar with fans today as most are coaches or team execs. Some are even Hall of Famers.

The lineup for Game #1 for the Astros looked like this:

1 Terry Puhl RF
2 Phil Garner 2B
3 Tony Scott CF
4 Jose Cruz LF
5 Cesar Cedeno 1B
6 Art Howe 3B
7 Kiko Garcia SS
8 Alan Ashby C
9 Nolan Ryan P

The lineup for the Dodgers was this:

1 Davey Lopes 2B
2 Ken Landreaux CF
3 Dusty Baker LF
4 Steve Garvey 1B
5 Rick Monday RF
6 Pedro Guerrero 3B
7 Mike Scioscia C
8 Bill Russell SS
9 Fernando Valenzuela P

In the bottom of the 6th, Terry Puhl singled to RF. Phil Garner walked. Then Tony Scott singled and drove in Puhl for a 1-0 Astro lead.

But in the top of the 7th, Steve Garvey hit a home run off of Nolan Ryan to tie the score.

Then in the bottom of the 9th, in this pitching dual, Craig Reynolds singled to CF then Alan Ashby provided the legendary moment in the Astrodome smashing a walk off home run to RF as the Astros won 3-1.

Nolan Ryan had 7 Ks, the victory and a complete game.

Last night, behind the plate in the first row sat Nolan Ryan, along with his wife, watching the Astros win the American League pennant. As the executive advisor to the owner of the Houston Astros, he still has his fingers on the game. After the game, he was on the field and noticeably was seen talking with Justin Verlander of the Astros. It was an interesting picture…the all-time strikeout leader talking with the MVP of the ALCS.

Perhaps they were talking about game one of the 2017 World Series. Could it be Verlander against Kershaw?

Stay tuned.

This should be a terrific series as both teams won over 100 games this season which is the first time in 40 years two teams with century wins are facing each other for the top prize in The Show.

Play Ball!