Game #7 of the NCLS on a cold Fall evening in the upper Midwest is a rarity. Baseball in October hasn’t been played in these parts since the Fall of ’82, then for the American League Championship. But on this October day, the 20th of the month in the team’s 173rd game of the season, in the bottom of the 5th inning, the right fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich, who has had a miracle season and expected to be the National League’s MVP, slammed a ball to left center field. With a runner on second, this was surely going to tie the game and get the Brewers crowd roaring and the team exploding to a National League Championship.
But there was a fellow named Taylor, who began the game as the Dodger’s second baseman, who was moved to left field in a switch earlier in the game. And at the crack of the bat, he ran 85 feet to his left at full speed, raising his arm and extending it to its fullest and miraculously caught the ball in the glove’s webbing to make what some consider the best catch since Willie May’s in the 1954 World Series. Sliding to the ground Taylor still had the ball and took the breathe out of the capacity crowd in Milwaukee’s Thunderdome, better known as Miller Park.
The life came out of the team. It also took away hope from the fans in the park and throughout the State and the nation who had hopes of rekindling the days of Robin, Mollie, Rollie, Coop, Simba, Vouch and the gang so long ago.
But four months from now, in a refurbished baseball park in Maryvale, AZ, the weather will be warm and the the sound of another season will be upon us with a team that is now a contender, a team with a legacy of accomplishment and a host of great young pitchers who will finally bring the City and the State, along with all of Brewer fans everywhere the chance to hope that this season will be the best ever in team history.
All series long, there was a major dissatisfaction with the umpiring crew covering the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers. The strike zone is always an issue along with judgmental calls in the field of play. On Sunday, everything came to a head.
Madison Bumgarner, in an injury prone year, was noticeably a different pitcher than what one of the top mound performers had been in the past. And he knew it. His big sweeping curve really wasn’t there. His fastball absolutely was not there. His absolute perfect control was definitely not there. Or was it?
In the past couple of games, Bochy was barking at the umps for their calls, trying to get an upper hand for his under talented team. What just a few years ago was a juggernaugt, is now just a faint memory.
On the other hand, there is the powerful Milwaukee Brewers. As indicated by the Giant’s TV announcers, the first six batters in their lineup are all 20+ home run hitters. That is anything but a soft lineup to face.
But today, in Miller Park, in the bottom of the sixth, with the Giants leading 2-1, Bumgarner after retiring 15 straight hitters, walked Christian Yelich. Jesus Aguilar banged a single. Then came Ryan Braun. All series, when Braun wasn’t smacking balls over or off the outfield fences, Boochy intentionally walked Ryan to get to Schoop. But this time they wanted of faced him. Or maybe not. The first pitch came at Braun’s face. The second came inside. The third hit him. The moment after that became a setting for an explosion. Braun slowly walked to first, talking to his Giant blocking back, their catcher, as big bad Bumgarner came off the mound in the general direction of Braun mouthing big bad stuff. Braun at the same time was giving the catcher an earful. The Brewer bench posed just outside of the dugouts to defend their star while the Giants remained in the dugout clearly indicating that this was pre-planned. The Brewer manager, Craig Counsell went out to ask why the umpire had warned both teams when it was only the Giants who were headhunting. After all, Bumgarner is one of the best control pitchers in baseball. A discussion followed and that prompted the manager of the Brewers to get thrown out. Then tomorrow’s starter, Wade Miley got the toss while barking in the dugout, followed by recently called up catcher, Jacob Nottingham.
Then up stepped Jonathan Schoop, the apparent target of Bochy’s humiliating moves throughout the series. He again got what he wanted, not to face Braun but to face the weak hitting Schoop. On a weak 85 mph slider, Bang!. A grand slam home run gave the Brewers a 5-2 lead.
Bumgarner’s game was over.
The Brewers finally won 6-3, sweeping the series, finishing 5-1 on the homestead and now heading for a showdown at Gummy Park for the final regular season series with the Northsiders.
18 games to go. 3 games in the loss column behind with the second best record in the National League, 20 games above .500.
One game to go with the Giants, three against the Pirates, the Reds and the Tigers remain on the Cream City Nine’s home schedule.
On the road, three game series with the Cubs, the Pirates and the Cards remain.
Ten at home.
Nine on the road.
Every Thursday is an off day for the final weeks of the Milwaukee Brewers regular season schedule.
This is the season The Crew makes it to the Playoffs.
The reason is they have veteran presence in both pitching and hitting.
The acquisition of Jhoulys Chacin from San Diego gave the Brewers an ace no one ever realized he was.
The acquisition of Lorenzo Cain, (10 HRs & .308 BA) with playoff experience at Kansas City, from free agency was the first step.
The trade in acquiring Christian Yelich from Miami was astounding. At this writing, he has 28 home runs and a .314 BA, 2nd in the league.
The acquiring of Erik Kratz (5 HRs & .248 BA) from the New York Yankee farm system, now with his 7th team, gave depth to the often depleted catching position.
The trade in acquiring Mike Moustakas (25 HRs & .251 BA) from Kansas City gave added veteran strength, again with playoff experience.
The trade in acquiring Joakim Soria from the Chicago White Sox added yet another closer who was a set-up man.
The trade in acquiring Xavier Cedeño from the Chicago White Sox added another closer who is another set-up man.
The trade of Geo Gonzalez from Washington added the much needed veteran front-line starter which everyone knew the Brewers needed.
The trade of Curtis Granderson (12 home runs) from Toronto added additional veteran presence with huge playoff experience.
Then there is the remarkable journey of Jesús Aguilar. The massive Milwaukee first baseman, nearly cut after spring training as he and Ji-Man Choi battled for the last spot, didn’t really start until the middle of April when thumper went onto the DL with an injury. Aguilar has become a living legend in Cream City. Not only did he make the All Star game as the last player chosen by the fans (with over 20 million votes) but led the league in home runs for part of the season. As of this writing, he had a .276 BA with 31 home runs and 97 RBI. He is one of the top home run hitters in the game.
The Brewers went into the beginning of the season with Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Brent Suter and Jhoulys Chacin. All but Chacin went on the DL during the season. Jimmy Nelson, who was the staff ace, was a no-show this season as he recovered from an injury sliding into first base toward the end of last season against the Northsiders at Gummy Park. Then there is Wade Miley. 3-2 record after coming off of the DL twice in the season with a 2.12 ERA. How they made it through being one of the finalists for a playoff position this season is the credit of the bullpen. Knable’s up and down season is not on the way up after a disappointing 4.79 ERA with 14 saves. All-Star Jeremy Jeffress has produced an 8-1 record with 9 SVs and a brilliant 1.46 ERA. Josh Hader, a first time All-Star, has averaged 15.2 Ks/9 in a nearly perfect on the field performance. Corbin Burnes has a 3-0 record with a 3.00 ERA, 1 SV and 8.67 Ks/9.
This morning, after the Northsiders lost a double header to the Nats early this morning, the Milwaukee Brewers are in second place of the Central Division of the National League down 3 games in the loss column.
The Milwaukee Brewers headed into the All-Star break with six straight losses, making everyone think that this was another of the early beginnings of the Ron Years…that time in Cream City lore when one Ron Roenicke was the manager with one of the better teams in the National League, only to see the team fade from the top to out-of-consideration. The name send shivers through the body of Crew fans hoping against hope for a return to the playoffs.
They lost a three game series to the visiting Los Angeles (We can buy anyone we want to) Dodgers with their newly acquired Manny Machado. His presence in a Bum’s uniform was a dagger to Brewer fans who had hoped the Cream City Nine would have him at shortstop after the All-Star break.
Then on that series heels, came the KapNats, those delirious fellows from the Nation’s Capitol who have played like Trump has been running the government. After all, this team had been to the playoffs two straight years with more talent than most teams dream about. But, like they always do, they fired their winning manager, Dusty Baker, and elected to take a Disciple of Madden to head the team to their promised land. Not a chance.
The KapNats look more like a middle-of-the-road ball club. Tuesday evening proved it as they ran off to a lead and lost it to those wacky Brewers who look more like a M*A*S*H unit than a baseball club. The tandem of Cain & Yelich produced seven hits with the error-prone shortstop, Tyler Saladino getting the winning RBI in the 10th, going 0-4, yet became the hero to take the series.
Back-to-back wins, rare air for the past there weeks, with Chacin and Guerra starting on the mound and a bullpen that is coming back to life.
Now with 59 games to go, the Cream City Nine are three behind the Northsiders, after leading the league for most of the first half of the season.
What will the last 59 games produce for the City of Beer, Brats and Cheese? After all, they are 58-45.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
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?
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?
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.