Spiritual Pilgram


It is that said time of the year when baseball fans everywhere feel a bit despondent. It is a time when other sports are beginning to cut in on the glorious days of this sporting summer, taking some of the press headlines away from the sport of 108 stitches. And today, for many of the teams in the sport reportedly founded by Doubleday, they have entered the 30% solution period…they only have 50 games left in the regular season.

For teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, running 1/2 have behind the NL Central leading World Champions of last season, this has been a year of delightful discovery. This team made up of rebuilding journeyman, a flawed aging and aching star, and a youthful front office and clubhouse management, the excitement they have created is what gives baseball the spirit of the ages for their fans everywhere. They have found the mystery other search for…chemistry…that drives success.

The philosophy that success breeds success, and positive thinking bring good things to the top, have all been exercised in enormous doses of hope and excitement. And so much of it is due to a ‘spiritual pilgrim’ of this team.

Hernán Perez de Ovando was a 13th Century nobleman. Hernán is a Spanish given name, originating from Germanic Hernan in the Visigoth culture in Spain. It is the Latinized version of the compound name Fard-nanth, which seems to mean ‘gentle traveler’ or ‘spiritual pilgrim’. The House of Hernan gave its name to those with the surname Hernández, the -ez at the end denoting membership of that House. The surname, like many Spanish surnames, is of Teutonic-Gothic origin.

In Milwaukee, Hernán is the ‘spiritual pilgrim’ who has become the glue that holds a team of wildebeests together on the plains of baseball. One of the many vagabond players the Brewers have compiled to form a team as they re-build from their recent glory days of Prince-Ryan-Cory-Rickie and the Gang, Hernán is the key to getting this team to where they are today…far ahead of what anybody in baseball expected of this Craig Counsell led team.

Players fall down because of physical ailments, then another steps up. This has happened to the Pigsville Nine all year long. Villar stumbles out of the gate after given a clear path to future stardom and Sogard takes his place. Sogard goes down and Hernán Pérez takes his place. Piña has been a rock behind the plate while each of his co-workers have been injured, first Bandy, then Vogt and then and then Bandy again and now Susac. At first, two unknown talents have taken the bag, one from Korea, Thames, who knocked the cover off the ball in April, then Aguilar who goes by the first name of Jesus, has filled in everywhere and has given the first base position solid thumbs up during the season. At short, Arcia is on the brink of becoming a superstar. On Friday, he nearly singlehandedly won the game for the Cream City team, first with the bat and then with his defense as the team shut out the near mirror-image of themselves in the American League, Tampa Bay. And yesterday, it was Arcia again who helped the team earn another shutout and Davies 13th win of the season, At third, an overachiever in the Don Money school of playing the hot corner, Shaw got knocked out of the game yesterday with a weird injury sliding into second and being hit on the neck with a thrown ball by the Ray’s catcher. Hernán Pérez filled in. In Center, a host of player have filled that position, be it Broxton or Brinson, Phillips, Nieuwenhuis or, yes, Hernán Pérez again. In left, the steady, Braun has, when not injured, been the solid star performer he has always been. But when injured, you will find Hernán Pérez filling in. And in right, Santana, is the rising superstar of this team. Rock solid arm in right, his batting has driven him up the ladder of ‘most reliable’ on the team. Yet one he needs a day off, Hernán Pérez can be found in right. On the mound, Davies has been the most underrated and most abused pitcher in the majors, not only by the entire game ignoring his contribution to the team but the continual harping by the television announcers who are more or less suggesting this right hander is lucky in winning the amount he has because the team ‘hits for him’ or because he isn’t as precise with his pitches as they think he should be. At last glance, he appears to be the stopper of the team. Wake up Bill. Then there is Nelson, the powerhouse right hander who is always a threat to go the distance. Garza is finally earning his pay with surprisingly solid work, while Anderson, before he went down with an injury was considered the top arm on the team. Yet he was replaced by a Harvard trained, quick worker, Suter who has been brilliant in his few outings since he came up. Then when the bullpen was completely overworked, when the Midshipman Drake, Hughes and Knebel were ineffective, Hernán Pérez came in for an inning to assist. Yup, the same Hernán Pérez who plays first, second, shortstop, third, left, center, right and is the back-up to the back-up catcher on the team. Then there are the latest additions to the bullpen, the ever returning Jefferess, Starzak and the future superstar starter, Hader. They all probably talk to Hernán Pérez for something because everyone knows the value of this man.

Take all of these players, and line them with a Pérez, and you have a team of excitement that has 50 more games to make history happen. And to do that, they have to win their division over the past World Champions. That’s their only path to the playoffs this season as the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies of the National League West appear to have all of the wild card positions filed in the National League.

Thirty point eight (30.8%) percent of the regular season games are still to be played. Fifty (50) games are all ahead of them.

Can this team of spare parts, the Wildebeests of baseball, actually achieve the unbelievable?

Stay tuned. It may all land at the feet of the man named Hernán.

Play Ball!

#watching attanasio

Rarified Air


Founded in 1969 as something called a Pilot in the American League West, the Milwaukee Brewers in their 49 year history, had their first winning record ten years later in 1978 when they finished with a 93-69 record. Bambi’s bombers had arrived and they were led by Mike Caldwell on the mound. In 1979, they improved to 95-66 with Paul Molitor and they still had not reached First Place in the American League East. The next season they slipped a bit and the Buck Rodgers/George Hamburger managed team was led by Robin Yount. But then, in the 1981 season, in a Strike-shortened season, they finished first in the American League East, with Robin Yount leading the team into their very first League Division Series where they lost, 3 games to 2. Rodgers was again the manager. Then in 1982, led by Robin Yount after a rough start as Rodgers was fired after a 23-24 start and replaced by Harvey Kuenn, Harvey’s Wallbangers brought the American league Championship to Milwaukee for the very first time as they pulled off a miracle victory over the California Angeles in the LDS 3-2 as heroes forever were born, Mark Brouhard & Cecil Copper. In 1983 they slipped a bit, finishing 5th but still had a winning record (87-75) in Harvey’s last season as Robin was again the star player and for the first time in history drew 2.397,131 fans into Milwaukee County Stadium.

The Yount-led Brewers would have one more winning season, 1987, a remarkable year as Teddy Higuera led the team with a 91-71 record, but could only finished 3rd under Tom Trebelhorn. They had one more winning season in 1988 (87-75) as again Teddy led the way.

The next decade brought only two winning seasons, in 1991 when they went 83-79, finishing 4th led by Paul Molitor and the last season with Tom Trebelhorn at the helm; 1992 the Crew finished 2nd in the American league East led by Bill Wegman and managed by Phil ‘Scrape Iron’ Garner. That would be the last winning season until the next Century. They would have to leave their home of County Stadium and their league, the American, which is all the Milwaukee Brewers had ever known, dating back to 1901. Guys like Jeff Cirillo, Jeff D’Amico, Ron Belliard, José Hernández, Scott Podsednik and Geoff Jenkins would never see the top end of the standings as Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster joined Joe Schultz, Dave Bristol, Del Crandall, Alex Grammas and Rene Lachemann as the losing record skippers during 28 years as bottom feeders.

Then in 2007, led by Corey Hart and managed by Ned Yost, they finally had a winning record, 83-79. There was a slight change for ‘hope’. Then in 2008, the faint whispers of Robin, Pauly, Cecil, Simba, Rollie, Sutton, Vuck, Gantner, Stormin and Harvey came back louder as the Brew Crew were back, first under Yost and then by Dale Sveum for a few brilliant games and moments led by Ryan’s remarkable home run and a score of other fabulous plays, Prince pulling off the HR flop, CC Sabathia led the team to the LDS in the National League Central against the Philadelphia Phillies. They lost 3-1 but there was hope, now in the new confines of Miller Park.

Shockingly, they drifted into mediocrity once again under the inept leadership of Ken Macha as Braun and Fielder tried to lead the way.

It would take the next decade, in 2011, that they would reach the top once again with a 96-66 record as Ryan Braun was the star and Ron Roenicke was the manager. It is the largest winning percentage in team history, .593. The team would win again in 2012 with an 83-79 record and in 2014 with a marginal 82-80 record as Jonathon Lucroy led the Roenicke managed team.

Now, for the first time since 2014, on July 1st, the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place by 3 games over the World Champion, Chicago Cubs, with a record of 44-38. It is made up of players from absolutely everywhere, with the lowest payroll in all of MLB. And the enthusiasm of these players is contagious. The grand master is Craig Counsell, the manager, who uses the lineup card like a bingo player at the church hall. So many players play so many positions, you really can’t tell the players without a scorecard. And the starting lineup for any given day will amaze you. And ladies and gentlemen, this team is in First Place!

A team with a record of 3685 wins and 4040 losses, and a winning percentage of .477, being in First Place is a big thing.

Forty-Nine (49) years.

Three (3) First Place finishes.

This in fact is rarified air in the land of beer and brats.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Time


The Game of Baseball is measured in memory, in the senses…in the mind. An accumulation of this is what baseball is all about. In the hurry hurry and rushy rushy of today’s world, some forget that baseball was never in a rush to complete. In the world focused on Millennial behavior and the never ending try to capture them in the sales cycle, some have said that the game has to speed up. Saul Steinberg said, ‘Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.’

For many Millennials, they are too impatient and too busy to understand any of this. But all of this is about attracting Millennials. A 2015 study by Microsoft revealed that the average person’s attention span in this wild world of technology and social media is down to eight seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish.

What are the facts about baseball and the length of the game. Yesterday, Saturday, May 20, 2017, of the thirteen games played (two were postponed, one for rain and the other out no rain https://www.facebook.com/Overtheshouldermlb/) the average time of the game was 3 hours and 0 minutes. The longest was the Yankees v Rays which took 3:50 and the shortest was the Indians v Astros which took 2:35. So if you were in Tampa Bay, you were at the ballpark an hour and fifteen minutes longer than in Houston. But as Humphrey Bogart said, ‘A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz’. Perhaps Millennials don’t appreciate all that nitrate. NOTICE: Hot dogs don’t have nitrate in them anymore.

But what about the other major sports. In 2016, the average MLB game ran 2:56. The average NFL game ran 3:07. The Average NBA game ran 2:59. Only the average NHL game was decidedly less with games averaging 2:30.

Babe Ruth said, ‘Baseball changes through the years. It get milder’. This should be a reminder to all of us who are fans that changes come to the games slower than most sports. While there is still 90’ between bases, there are designated hitters today in the American League. While a mark of excellence in starting pitchers was once finishing a complete game, for many pitchers today, it is getting through 6 innings that mark a ‘quality start’. No more crashing into the catcher at home. Shifts, defensively, are everywhere.

Perhaps baseball is not made for the Millennial mind. Perhaps it never was. It is the time when you are building careers, new relationships, families, personal responsibilities. But when people find a time when they have to find a place to get away from all of the maddening crowd, they go to baseball, where time is not a factor. It is a place where memories are built. Dad’s and Mom’s bring their young children to the ballpark and the cycle of fandom begins anew. ‘This is a gem to be savored, not gulped. There’s time to discuss everything between pitches or between innings’, Bill Veeck told us. Families actually get to know each other at the ballpark.

Ken Burns noted, ‘Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time’s constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.’

On this date in 1943, the Chicago White Sox topped the Washington Senators 1-0 in one hour and 29 minutes. Today that would cause indigestion.

Play Ball!

The 127th Day


This date is a memorable date for a couple of reasons. It marked a date which saw power pitchers reach a cornerstone in their lives.

When fans watch baseball today, it is very different from years ago. Nobody has to face ‘The Big Train’ or Herb Score, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan or a Randy Johnson. When you went to a game featuring those power starting pitchers, there was a chance you could see a no-hitter. Yet the one thing you could count on was that batters were just a bit on their toes when facing the heat of these power pitchers.

On this date, in 1917, Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox allowed only two hits as he out pitched Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, 1-0. Can you imagine being there for that game? Oh, by the way, Ruth knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly. In that year, he would go on to start 38 games and win 24 against 13 losses. He had an ERA of 2.01. In Babe Ruth’s 1916 season as a pitcher, his record was 23 Wins and 170 Strikeouts, with a 1.75 ERA, 9 Shutouts and 23 Complete Games, as he was at the time, one of the best pitchers in baseball. He was undefeated as a pitcher in postseason play. In 1916, he had a 1-0 record with an ERA of 0.64 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1918, he went 2-0 against Chicago Cubs with a 1.06 ERA. The last time he ever pitched, was in the 1933 All-Star game, when he started and won. Thus what began in 1914 as a pitcher, ended up on the mound 20 years later…a winner. Overall, he won 94 games pitching, losing 46 with a 2.28 ERA lifetime.

Jumping ahead to 1957 on this date, it was another sort of a day in Cleveland as the Indians were facing the New York Yankees in a night game. Herb Score, the fireballing left hander was coming off of a 20 win season the year before where he finished with a 20-9 record with 5 shutouts, an ERA of 2.53 with 263 strikeouts. In his first two years, he was an All-Star and was already 2-1 in the ’57 season. Facing Gil McDougald, as the second batter in the inning, the count was 2 and 2. He shook off the both the curve and slider because he felt he lacked command of his breaking stuff. On his 12th pitch of the night, he fired a fastball that had helped him earn 508 strikeouts over his first two season.

The pitch was low and inside and McDougald lined it up the middle. This is what Herb Score said about the rest. ‘I heard the crack of the bat while my head was down in my follow-through. All I ever saw as my head came up was a white blur. I snapped up my glove, but the white blur blasted through the fingertips and into my right eye. I clutched at my face, staggered and fell. Then I thought, ‘My God, the eye has popped right out of my head!’. Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was hushed as the career of one of baseball’s best young pitchers and a sure Hall of Famers was finished.

Laying near the mound, bloody and battered, he called on his patron saint for help. He left the field cracking jokes, ‘They can’t say I didn’t keep my eye on that one’, he told teammate Mike Garcia on the field.

In the Yankee clubhouse after the game, McDougald was disconsolate. The seven year veteran and as the American League rookie of the year, told his teammate Hank Bauer, ‘If he loses his sight, I’ll quit baseball. The game’s not that important when it comes to this.”

Talking to Jimmy Cannon the following year he was asked if he felt like giving up. Score said, ‘Give up? I never gave up. When I was first hit, they bandaged both eyes. I could hear people walking. I thought we never appreciated what God does for us. We never think what it is to see. I can see very well. My ankle has been a little sore. But the eye, the only problem I have now is to get the fellows out.’

This date in baseball history is powerful. First we see what a phenomenal player the mighty Babe Ruth was. Secondly, we see what a real man Herbert Jude Score was.

Play Ball!

Eric…Hits The Ball Real Far

‘He’s a comic book hero with a prep school education.’ That is what Adam Karen, Eric Thames agent was told by the Korean representatives as they were in pursuit of Thames for the NC Dinos in the Korean League. A graduate from Bellarmine Prep, a private Jesuit school in San Jose, California, then majored in Integrated Marketing at Pepperdine University, Mr Thames was drafted in the 7th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. In 2011 and 2012 he was a platoon player while appearing in 141 games and batting .257 with 15 HRs and 48 RBI. On July 30, 2012, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Steve Delebar. In Seattle, he appeared in 40 games during batting .220 with 6 HRs and 15 RBI. On June 30, 2013, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Ty Kelly and did not appear in a single game. Then on September 5, 2013, he was selected off Waivers by the Houston Astros. In the field, he only had 5 errors. Disappointed, but not discouraged, he went and played in the Venezuelan Winter Ball league in December 2013.

By this time, the Dinos understood a couple of things: Eric Thames was covered in tattoos and had a big personality while in 633 at bats in the major leagues, he had hit 21 HRs and driven in 54 RBI, had an on base percentage of .296 and a slugging percentage of .431. He was not afraid to travel to other countries to play ball. They understood what this would translate for their fans in Southeastern Korea.

According to Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Senior writer (11/29/16), ‘After signing with the Dinos, Thames bought the Rosetta Stone Korean program and dove head-first into learning the language. “When you look at this as just a paycheck, that’s when you struggle,” Thames said. “The key is to enjoy the ride. Fully embrace the experience. [The] Hangul [alphabet] is pretty easy to learn, so I was able to pick it up easily. I am not fluent by any means, but speaking like a baby is better than not knowing any at all.”

As Thames immersed himself in the Korean culture and began clearing fences with regularity, he developed an ardent following. He patiently signed autographs for long lines of fans at Masan Stadium, and he grew accustomed to having meals interrupted by fans in search of selfies. “Going anywhere with him is insane in that country,” Karon said. “It’s like going out with the Beatles. Girls are crying and people are trying to touch him and get pictures. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In Korea he put up cartoon numbers. In 2015, Thames won the MVP award and a Gold Glove at first base, became the first KBO player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a season, logged a .391/.497/.790 slash line and became the first player in Korean baseball to hit for the cycle twice in the same season. In 2016, Thames regressed slightly, but he still hit 40 homers and logged an OPS of 1.101 for the Dinos, who lost to the Doosan Bears in the KBO final, known as the Korean Series.

According to Crasnick, ‘Thames showed a strong work ethic in Korea and was popular with his teammates. The natural question was how his skills would translate to the majors. Could he adjust to higher level of competition and bigger ballparks in the majors? Thames has more of a line-drive swing than loft power. Could he catch up to 94-95 mph fastballs after feasting on 89-91 mph heaters in the KBO? “He’s very aggressive at the plate and on the field, too, for that matter,” a scout said. “He’s a first-ball fastball hacker, boy. He’s trying to hit the ball hard. Sometime you see guys who are happy to make contact and put the ball in play. That’s not him. He’s gonna hurt somebody someday.”

Thames’ defense in the outfield was considered below-average in Toronto. He moved to first base in Korea and would most likely be viewed by MLB teams as a combination first baseman-corner outfield-DH candidate. A National League front office man said he wouldn’t be surprised if teams were willing to give Thames a multiyear deal to return to the States. “You have an element that’s going to be skeptical,” the executive said. “He’s already played over here, and he wasn’t a tremendous success the first time. But you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this guy a late bloomer?’ “Look at some of the money that Cuban players have gotten. What’s the difference here? I think somebody is going to bite, and he’ll get a contract for two years and $12 million, or three years and $15-18 million.”‘

So far, through Saturday, he has appeared in 23 games, hit 11 HRs, driven in 19 RBI while batting .350 with an OPS of 1.312.

What an April. What a month.

Will it last?

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Play Ball!

Who We Picking?


We now have three weeks under our belts and some of the divisions are upside down. But what we see through the crystal ball is that the creme will always rise to the top.

American League

Eastern Division
Baltimore Orioles
They have an excellent manager and it is time for Buck to win a pennant, divisional, but a pennant none the less. The best third baseman in the American League, plus JJ and one of the three best outfielders in the AL today in Jones, make this the team to beat in the East.

Central Division
Cleveland Indians
They have an excellent manager and based off of last year’s performance, they are hungry and talented, plus great starting pitching. Oh ya, they have a sensational second baseman.

Western Division
Texas Rangers
They have a battery of All-Stars and Vu. If they can find solid relief, they could win it all.

Wild Cards
Detroit Tigers
While they lead the league in day games in the first two weeks, their pitching has been solid and they have Miggy.

Chicago White Sox
For four years, I have suggested this is the team to watch. Now, without their star pitcher, they have a chance to succeed.

What’s the matter with the rest?
Tampa Bay just doesn’t have the pitching.
New York Yankees have tradition, an excellent manager and a couple of dopes for owners.
Boston lost their soul to retirement.
Toronto needs a change in managers. Their team is not performing up to their high level of competency.
Minnesota is breathing rarified air. That bubble will burst but be much better than last season.
Kansas City is wandering in a wilderness of ‘what happened?’ with a lack of pitching and timely hitting.
Houston was a flash in the pan. Too many trades with Milwaukee will do that to a team.
Oakland has become the biggest thing in the East Bay and for good reason. They have an exciting team that can win if they have Khris in left. He has no arm.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will never win with Socscia. He has a penchant for making everyone mad. No pitching. But they have the star-of-stars on their team in center. Hello, Mr. Trout.
Seattle is all talk and Cano. If the King dominates, they still need a lot of help.

National League

Eastern Division
Washington Nationals
They have an excellent old-school manager, a brilliant pitching staff and a guy in right, one of the three great outfielders in the National League.

Central Division
Chicago Cubs
They have an over-imaginative manager, and a batting line-up to die for. If you are an opposing pitcher, this is a nightmare to face. They can outhit everybody to win regardless how their pitching holds up this season. Unless they get complacent or suffer a batch full of injuries, they will be in the October Classic.

Western Division
Los Angeles Dodgers
In a division that all of a sudden got weak, they have Clayton and some guys who can hit.

Wild Cards
New York Mets
They are the talk of New York City…the belle of the ball…with a great pitching staff.

Colorado Rockies
The only problem this team has is that it plays in thin air. It has all the hitting in the world and a shockingly good relief corps to go along with it. Plus they have Cargo and the human vacuum cleaner at third.

What’s the matter with the rest?

Miami lost their star pitcher. Yet have one of the most exciting players in the game, Giancarlo Stanton, one of the three great outfielders in the NL today.
Atlanta is a couple of years away as they are rebuilding.
Philadelphia just doesn’t have the guns yet as they are rebuilding.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have a great manager nor the purse strings to finally make it happen. Now they are beginning to fall out of contention … early.
Cincinnati is yet in another rebuilding program. If they hang their hopes on Scooter to take them to the top, they are in for a shocking surprise.
Milwaukee is a AAA team, with a great young manager, a more than tight owner, a kid GM and one of the three great outfielders in the National League as Ryan Braun is the only All-Star on the team today.
St. Louis became blind to what a great team is all about. Too many star players walked away because they want more money. Yet they have the best catcher in baseball behind the plate.
Arizona loves to over perform with the craziest owner in the game today, outside of Miami. But pitching will do them in. But they have the best first baseman in the game today. Goldy gives the D’Backs hope. But not that much.
San Diego. Nope.
San Francisco has a great manager but has not figured out how to secure a starting pitcher to replace a fading group, a relief pitcher who can shut the other team down nor a left fielder of dominant abilities. Unless they fix this right now, they are on a long slide out of grace.

OK. How do you see it?

Play Ball!

Another Side

It would be redundant to attempt to tell all that Jackie Robinson meant to baseball, his race, this world. So today, on the final day of Jackie Robinson weekend, 2017, we will take you to another side of the man you may not have known about.

For that story, go to: https://overtheshouldernfl.wordpress.com

Play Ball!