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!

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!

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!

Baseball Rebirth

During the past two weeks, while most sports fans were watching college basketball’s conference tournaments, the NCAA first round of March Madness, the first night of the second round of March madness, golf from Florida, NASCAR, motorcycle racing, boxing, WWE, the Premiere League, NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey, there was something that was exceptional happening in the world of sport. Some of the best players in the world were playing baseball for their home nations or for nations someone in their family might have a hereditary line, were playing baseball behind a flag. The WBC this year is exceptional.

For those who have been watching these games, from Korea, Japan, Mexico, Miami and San Diego, the game progressed to mid-season form in a hurry.

Last night in San Diego, with everything on the line for the defending champion, Dominican Republic and the United States, baseball was reborn. In front of a packed stadium at Petco Park, the feeling was electric. Could the USA come back and beat the team who had defeated them in Miami after giving up a big lead last week? Could anyone get the tremendous players from DR out? There were 23 All-Stars on both teams for one game. And something happened.

This was big time, Major League Baseball at its very best. The crowd was in it. In fact, the crowd was one of the loudest one could imagine. But, three plays stood out to make this one of the most amazing games you could ever want to see. And perhaps that was the point. You go to a game in hopes that you see something you can talk about for a long time to come. Then it happens. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

The first was the incredible pressure the Dominican team puts on its opponents. There is one basher after another. There is not space to take a breath. And in the first inning, as the home team, they began pounding the ball. But as it again happened in the second inning and the fifth inning, somehow the USA team stopped what could have ended the game as it had in Miami a week before. Solid pitching and solid defense stopped the DR in its tracks. Danny Duffey’s great pitching and a terrific tag of Nelson Cruz at home by catcher Jonathon Lucroy with a fine throw to him by Brandon Crawford, kept DR at bay in Mission Bay.

The second was an unbelievable force of one Giancarlo Stanton. The ‘Adonis of Miami’ absolutely crushed a baseball which took off faster than one could imagine to give the USA a huge lift and the lead. An unbelievable speed of a ball being hit into the warehouse in left field went out faster than Staton could complete his swing. If in all the time you spend watching baseball, here is a memory nugget you can keep forever. Wow!

Then the third made this game an important turning point for the game. This WBC showed off big time baseball at its very best. And this is a memory nugget you will never forget. The incomparable Manuel Arturo ‘Manny’ Machada hit a blast to deep center field and as if time stood still in the marine layer, Adam Jones, the centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, raced to the fence and leaped way over the wall to make one of the best catches in the history of the game. Electric. Unbelievable. Fantastic. The Golden Memory Nugget. The pitcher mouthing ‘Oh My God’. But it is what happened a moment later that made this the great game and gave rebirth to the new era of baseball. Muchada while rounding first acknowledged Jones great athletic feat by his regular season teammate by doffing his cap to him as he headed back to the dugout on third base. In return, silently while a tumultuous roar of the crowd, tipped his hat in return to his teammate for saluting him.

This is when baseball was reborn in the hearts of the old who love the game, in the hearts of the fathers who take their sons and daughters to the game and to the young people who packed the stadium and watched on television what a great game can be as a fabric of their lives today and into the future.

This is baseball.

This is why it is so important.

Play Ball!

It’s Empty Now.


There is a promise in the air which begins with hope. The air in the morning is warmer than what you would expect at this time of the year. The same traffic one would expect from snow birds filling up the roads and freeways are the norm. But there is a different sound in the air.

It is not a ping from the golf courses, nor the sound of another automobile crash as that snow bird didn’t go right on read (its the law down here) as a local citizen banged into snow coast driver. No. It is the sound of a ‘pop’ as the ball hits the glove…not a ‘wack’ yet….just a mild ‘pop’ with the milling sounds of baseball language muffled in the air of conversations. ‘Hey, baby. Hey, baby.’ ‘That’s it. Get it in there.’ ‘My glove is tight. Got to get it flexed out.’ ‘Hum baby hum.’ Grunts and groans are customary as the kinks are beginning to work out. Laughter is heard as the players are back home…in their spring homes…on a practice field at a spring training camp.

This is not only a rite of spring, this maybe the right for spring as attention turns away from all of the political wrangling as the sounds and sights of delight present it self once again in Florida. The Major League teams have their pitchers and catchers reporting this week. And that brings us to that great word ‘hope’. There are smiles on faces, young and old. It is a time for, as ESPN anchors might say, ‘positivity’.

For many, living in San Diego or Oakland, Seattle or Phoenix, in Denver or Minneapolis, in Milwaukee and the South side of Chicago, in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh or even Philadelphia, in Atlanta or Tampa, in Miami or in Orange County California, hope is eternal. There is promise, promise from all of those cities owners that this year the rebuilding is going according to plan, or that this is the year that there will be a breakthrough, but in reality, most of the citizenry in these great areas hang onto hope. Let’s face it, Las Vegas odds are 100-1 that the Reds, Braves, Padres or Brewers will win the NL Pennant. For some reason, the D’Backs and Phillies are only 50-1. Go figure. Over in the AL, the White Sox are 100-1 while the Athletics, Rays and Twins are 50 to 1 to win their Pennant.

Now believe it or not, they say the Angels are 25-1 and that Mariners are 15-1.

On the other hand, the Red Sox are expected to win the AL Pennant as 5-2 odds are placed in their camp. In the NL, the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs (almost an oxymoron) have 7-4 odds with the Dodgers 7-2.

So you can see what an important day this will be during the coming week as Spring Training arrives.

Hope will be in the air everywhere.

Play Ball!