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.
‘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.
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.
It is something to see those players who can perform under pressure and those who cannot. When it comes to post-season play, in the time when everything speeds up and the fastball explodes, it is amazing to see, time and time again, the failure of those who are not real honest-to-goodness stars of the game.
First, this who did. After all, baseball is all about handling pressure when the chips are on the line. Hats off to Clayton Kershaw, Turner. They won. Hats off to Altuva. He hit the cover off the ball and they won…twice. Hats off to Bauer, Bruce and Lindor. They won twice. Bryant, Lester & Rizzo. They won once. Adam Lind, Harper & Zimmerman. They won once. Goldschmidt, with no help from anyone, they lost…twice.
Who didn’t? Grey, Girardi, Judge & Sanchez. They lost twice. Bogaerts, Sale & Pomeranz. They lost twice. Madden, Edwards and Montgomery. They blew one. All of the D’Backs except Goldie.
For those who did not, most of them were young to the game. They weren’t the veterans. So, there is an excuse. Nerves have to be tested. Thinking ahead has to be in peak form. Pressure has to be held under control.
For some, the strike zone became larger and for others, it was smaller. It depended on the umpire behind the plate, always an issue. But for the veterans, not so much. Sure, they didn’t like some of the calls. But they understood the flow of the game. You have to perform under pressure regardless who is calling the balls and strikes.
For the pitchers, there were some stunning performances. Strasberg’s first 12 batters, seven were K’d. Kershaw’s fastball was just electric. And VerLander was no slouch, nor was Hendricks.
But what happened to Greinke? What happened to the poise of this veteran?
There is a school of thought that outside of his early success in Kanas City and Milwaukee, something happened being #2 in Los Angeles. Fact of the matter is that he was #2 in Milwaukee. So, maybe it is a problem with the pressure being the #1 on the staff to perform in post season.
Whatever, there was ‘Choke City’ everywhere except in Houston and Cleveland so far in the playoffs.
http://atmlb.com/2xwjggH An old voice came back with those words to change an entire season of hope…hope that was lost going into the 9th and hope that was ever more after the 10th. Matt Vasgersian was the Voice of Brewers Past.
In their fourth straight extra inning game, of which they had lost all of the previous three, Ryan Braun smacked a double and Travis Shaw hit the game winning, walk-off home run, creating a world of Brewer fans shocked with delight, bringing back dreams of ’82. Always dreams of ’82.
So, with 7 games to go in the regular Major League Baseball season, here are the odds of the teams making it into the playoffs:
Boston Red Sox 100%
New York Yankees 100%
Cleveland Indians 100%
Houston Astros 100%
Minnesota Twins 90%
Los Angeles Angels 4.2%
Texas Ranger 3.8%
Kansas City Royals 1.1%
Tampa Bay Rays 0.5%
Seattle Mariners 0.3%
Los Angeles Dodgers 100%
Washington Nationals 100%
Arizona Diamondbacks 100%
Chicago Cubs 99.2%
Colorado Rockies 61.7%
St. Louis Cardinals 27.9%
Milwaukee Brewers 11.2%
Of the National League teams that are not in guaranteed to be in the playoffs, only the Milwaukee Brewers have a winning record on the road. The Card nor the Rockies do. And that is important because the Brewers finish a three game series with St. Louis on the road next weekend. The Cardinals still have to play the Pirates on the road today in Pittsburgh. The Rockies have only one game on the road and that is also today in San Diego.
The Cardinals close their final seven games at home beginning on Monday with the Cubs and Brewers. The Rockies have at home, six more games against the Marlins and Dodgers.
The next eight days of baseball are going to be full of ups and downs. And as Craig Counsell stated, ‘There are always ups and downs and they will continue to happen this next week.’ The key is to win the game today.
There are two weeks to go from today. And there are 14 games to be played. Between now and then, we will find out who can pitch in the clutch; who can hit in the clutch; who can throw in the clutch and who can pop a clutch to get their car started when the battery is dead.
Right now we know that in the American League, the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians and the Houston Astros will be in the big dance with a 100% guarantee. In the National League, the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks will join them, also with a 100% guarantee.
To join them, here are the odds:
New York Yankees 99.9%
Minnesota Twins 68.9%
Los Angeles Angels 20.6%
Seattle Mariners 4.9%
Kansas City Royals 2.6%
Texas Rangers 1.7%
Colorado Rockies 83.8%
Chicago Cubs 82.5%
Milwaukee Brewers 20.1%
St. Louis Cardinals 13.6%
What is remarkable about this season, and for that matter, the real essence of baseball is how ‘hope’ becomes realized. For instance look at the Minnesota Twins. Last season they were blown out of any chance of having a good season due to an unbelievably bad April. This season, they are going to make it into the playoffs unless they have a total collapse.
Then look at the Milwaukee Brewers. They have come out of a lifelong coma, a hiatus from obscurity if you will, waking up only a few times in their history. And this season with a skinny kid who looks like a college freshman leading the league in wins; a catcher who is on his third chance in his career to hit it big and is; a first baseman from Korea; a second baseman from the Mets; a 2nd year shortstop who is brilliant; a third baseman from Boston; a right fielder from Santana Domingo; a center fielder…who is the center fielder? And the pro’s pro in left, along with arguably one of the strongest and strangest bullpens in baseball, led by a kid who throws the ball through a door and made the All Star team in his second year. Oh, then there is the home town kid who is managing all of this, along with his college coach and a GM who is younger then the young coach. Got that. This is the miracle of a season. This is why baseball is the game of games. This is why you fall in love with it as a kid and become more attached to it as life goes on.
Can they make it into the playoffs?
That brings us back to that magic word…hope.
The Pigsville Nine is making us all proud this season. Oh, an alum is managing the Twinkies, and another is managing the Royals. Their old shortstop is up in Seattle. Their HR leader in the NL last season is with the Yankees, we think. Their former second string catcher is the backstop for the Angels, and there have been a rafter full of the Crew passing through the Rangers clubhouse. There’s one in Denver and hopefully none with the Northsiders nor the Redbirds.
Thanks for bringing hope back to us for so long this season.
Now it is getting serious. During the past two weeks there has been some separation.
Here are the odds on the teams in contention making the playoffs:
Houston Astros 100.0%
Cleveland Indians 100.0%
Boston Red Sox 100.0%
New York Yankees 87.8%
Minnesota Twins 51.5%
Los Angeles Angels 20.5%
Texas Rangers 9.9%
Seattle Mariners 8.1%
Kansas City Royals 7.5%
Baltimore Orioles 5.9%
Tampa Bay Rays 3.3%
LA Dodgers 100.0%
Washington Nats 100.0%
Arizona D’Backs 99.8%
Chicago Cubs 89.3%
Colorado Rockies 76.8%
St. Louis Cardinals 11.4%
Milwaukee Brewers 7.2%
Miami Marlins 0.1%
The Central Divisions in MLB have taken a big turn in the past two weeks. In the American League, Cleveland, with a remarkable 17 game winning streak through Saturday, broke out of a close situation and now has a 100% chance of making the playoffs. The Yankees and Twins appear to be the two other teams that will make the wild card. In the National League, the D’Back’s have virtually secured a spot in the playoffs. And while it appears the Rockies at this point are the favorite for the final spot, the Cards and Brewers are technically still in the hunt. And the reason is that the Brewers still play the Cubs 5 more games and the Cards in a season final three game series. And, the Cards still have seven games against the Cubs plus that final 3 games series against the Brewers.
If, and that is a huge word, the Cards and Brewers sweep the Cubs, the last series of the season will be one for the ages.
What is the worst team to make the playoffs?
There is little question that the Los Angeles Dodgers are one awful, painstaking mental drop, losing 16 out of the past 17 games. They are losing to everybody as the Brewers began the slide and the D’Backs and Rockies continued the slide. Can this team regroup mentally? Or will that spook of a thought, (are we good enough to do this?), sneak into their brains. Frankly, it does not appear as though they have either the pitching or the hitting to go far in the playoffs.
Now there are only 20 to go. How will you team fare?
Milwaukee, St. Louis, Arizona, Colorado and Miami are battling for two playoff spots in the National League.
New York Yankees, Minnesota, Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are slugging it out for two playoff spots in the American League. Thus, 17 teams are in the race for the World Series Championship in 2017.
Bud Selig’s master plan to get more cities involved in the excitement of September is working, with over half the teams still in the hunt with less then 20% of the season remaining.
In the next 32 games, which one of all of these teams will win 21+ games, and will be able to reach the big dance in The Show?
The Yankees, with the best record among all of these chasing teams has a 94.4% chance of making it into the playoffs.
The Twins have a 28.7% of making it…from the outhouse to the penthouse in one season.
The Royals have an 18.7% chance.
The Mariners have an 18.2% chance of making it.
While the Angeles have a 17.1% chance.
The Rangers have a 14.4% chance of finishing in the play offs.
The Marlins have an 11.0% chance in the National League.
The Cardinals have a 25.2% chance.
The Brewers, as inconceivable as it seems, has a 14.7% chance of making it into the playoffs.
The Diamondbacks have an 89.4% chance of getting back into the playoffs.
While the odds of the Rockies making it is 70.4% chance.
As for the Brewers, they play these teams that are in the hund:the Dodgers (1), Cardinals (5), Nationals (4), Cubs (7) and Marlins (3) in the remaining 32. That is 20 out of 32.
It could be a bumpy ride. Then again, miracles do happen.
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.