The Mystical, Mysterious, Magical Tour


Part Houdini, part Blackstone. The Master of Minestrone in Baseball. 2 tablespoons of 30+ rookies, 1 large Korean import. 1 slightly crumbling superstar. 3 great young arms. 1 relief pitcher. An overpaid starting pitcher who has been on the DL more than not. Hercules who sometimes plays first. Two catchers who are an equal part of one. A second baseman with all the speed in the universe but no baseball brain. A centerfielder who simply can’t find his hitting grove. And absolutely there is no rhyme err thyme or reason why this concoction should work. But the Wizard of Whitefish Bay has leaned on a learned master in his dugout and worked closely with a newbie GM, and stirred this unbelievable pot of people like himself into a winning unit. In fact, his team, the beloved Milwaukee Brewers have risen to the top of the Central Division of the National League on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Are you kidding me?

Last night in Arizona in 106 degree temperatures with the roof open (the D’Back’s owner is so cheap…How cheap is he?) there was a 30+ refugee at First Base, a 30+ refugee at 2nd base; a multidimensional player at 3B; a first baseman playing left field (and it looked like a 1st baseman who was playing left field); a rookie in centerfield who got his first hit on Monday, sent down on Wednesday, brought back up on Thursday; and regular players in right field, shortstop and catching.

The night before, in 106 degree temperatures with the roof open (the D’Back’s owner is so cheap…How cheap is he?) every regular position player was used in a two run victory. Every player off the bench was used. That doesn’t usually happen in non-extra inning games. But the Wizard of Whitefish Bay was busy mixing his concoction and cooked up another victory.

On the record, they are 1 game ahead of the World Champions of last year. And they have a winning record on the road, one of only three teams in the National League to do so (Washington and Colorado are the others, both leading their divisions). They are the only team in their division with a winning record and one of only five in the league to do so. How good are they? Who knows?

This is a real team…a group of guys who are bonded with…their skipper and their bench coach. They are a group of carrots and onions, with a bit of mystery thrown in. And as they continue on this unbelievable magical tour of a baseball season, from city to city, they are exceeding all expectations.

Don’t wake up.

Don’t do anything you didn’t do yesterday.

Don’t change your socks or shoes.

This is a ride that no one knows how long it will last but on this wave, it is going much longer than anyone expected.

Just enjoy.

Play ball!

#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!

Flop Sweat


Baseball is a game of averages. It is pretty easy to gauge how a player or a team will perform as averages usually don’t lie. After all, the marathon tends to even things up.

Opening Day in Cream City showed exactly how the averages work. In 2016, the Milwaukee Brewers were the worst fielding team in Major League Baseball. Only the Minnesota Twins came close, but the Twinkies were still a distance from their Southern neighbors. The illustrious Brew Crew committed 136 errors last season. In all honestly, they also probably led the league in mental errors. Their fielding average was .978.

In pitching, they had the third worst record for striking out opposing batters. Only the Angels and Rangers had fewer. In relief pitching, they had the fifth worst record for striking out opposing batters. Only the Angels and Rangers, who where joined by the Giants and the Tigers, were less effective.

This led the management to stress fielding and pitching in spring training. Let’s concentrate on fielding. While they let their second baseman go on waivers, and traded away both of their catchers, their strength up the middle would be at a premium this season. It didn’t work that way. One of the new catchers they obtained as one of two second stringers from other teams (remember, they traded away their All-Star catcher who also was an excellent hitter, a rare combination in the game of baseball), committed two (2) errors in his first game. Both were on throws. Then the eclectic Jonathan Villar, who now plays second, gave an over enthusiastic throw in a critical situation into the home team’s dugout, striking the back of the Double Bubble plastic pail with such authority, the reserves thought it was Halloween, thus allowing runners to advance and eventually score the go-ahead and winning runs.

As for pitching, their Opening Day starter, Guerra, suffered a pulled calf in the bottom of the 3rd while batting and running to first. Then the bullpen came in and gave the game away. Well, to be specific Jhan Carlos Mariñez gave it away. Get this, after 1/3rd of an inning, he gave up 2 runs and 3 hits, walked a batter for an ERA into infinity, or in Mr. Mariñez case, an ERA of 27.00. He will have to pitch a zillion innings to find respect.

OK. It’s only the first game. But familiarity is ever present.

While Miller Park was packed, new food venues were opened with local goods, and Big Jim West was behind the plate as the Hot Dog won the Sausage Race, the team on the field looked the same.

It is good to love mediocrity if you live in Milwaukee. After all, with one of the lowest payrolls (‘Managable’ as the owner said on television on Opening Day) in The Show, the Pigsville Nine will always perform to their averages. And that means it will be a long, long season in the ‘Gathering place [by the water]’. Gemütlichkeit!

#WatchingAttanasio

Play Ball!