Scaredy Cats


‘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.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Play Ball!

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Let The Marathon Begin


A Look At 2018

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.

Let the marathon begin.

Play Ball!
#watchingattanasio⚾️

Video Review Frustrating Fans


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?

Crap!

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.)

Getting back to the video review, here is the official rules in major league baseball covering this very issue:http://m.mlb.com/official_rules/replay_review.

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.

What?

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?

Play ball!

Oh, They Met Before


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?

Stay tuned.

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.

Play Ball!

The Strange Case Of Pauly


The Twin Cites is an unusual place. It is surrounded by water, so much so, roads have to go around rivers, lakes, streams and ponds in order for people to get to where they are going. It is so cold in the winter, you have to plug in your car to keep the engine warm enough to turn over the next morning. It is so Norwegian in one part that you have to love the smell of lutefisk cooking at the next door neighbor’s house and learn how to smile when waving to them, acknowledge friendliness and not the aroma. On the other it is so Catholic, hunting season is reason for a Mass to bless the international day-glo orange vested parishioners on opening day.

Then there is the ‘Purple’ thing.

In baseball, the tradition of the sport goes back a long way. It had the legendary Minneapolis Millers where the wonderful Willy Mays played. There was the St. Paul Saints, where they played at Lexington Park and won the American Association pennant 9 times. Today, the Saints are the legendary independent team that is not part of the new American Association, playing just 10 miles from the Major League Twins. What other town has a big time minor league franchise next door to a Major League team?

Baseball is part of the fabric of this unique community. Some of the biggest stars in the game have come from here. David Winfield, from St. Paul and a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, was so good, he was drafted professionally in baseball, basketball and football. He also played hockey. Paul Molitor, another native of St. Paul and a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, was a 7 time All-Star, 4 time Silver Slugger, 3 time batting champion and a member of MLB All-Time Team. Jack Morris, a native of Highland Park, was a 5 time All Star, 4 time World Series champion and the 1991 World Series MVP and threw a no hitter. Joe Mauer, an a native of St. Paul, still playing for the Twins, has a .328 lifetime batting average as a caters is it is the all-time mark. Kent Hrbek, a Bloomington native, All-Star and 2 time World Series champion, played for 14 years in the Show. But that isn’t all: Johnny Blanchard, Dan Johnson, Josh Johnson, Tom Johnson, Mike Mason, Walt Moryn, Robb Quinlan, Larry Rosenthal, Dick Siebert, Terry Steinbach, Brand Hand, Jack Hannahan, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins among others.

This is a baseball community.

That is why it is so disconcerting about how they handled one of their very best. Paul Molitor, not only played for them, but has been their Manager for the past three seasons. In his first year, he took the Twins and won 83 games, a 13 game improvement over the preceding season and was in contention for an AL Wild Card until the last weekend of the 2015 season. Then in 2016, the team collapsed, with a horrible April and eventually lost 103 games. But this past season, the roared back with a 26 game improvement, the best in the Majors and won 85 games and the second AL Wild Card spot. In his three years, he has a 227-259 record. And now, after the season has ended, he did not have a contract to manage the team going forward.

He is ‘new school’ baseball. Upon his arrival in Minnesota, the team played a much more aggressive placement in defensive shifting. And this season, in Fort Myers spring training camp, he made sure his team would be at the top of their tame defensively. And he told them so. In other words, if you can play defense, you can’t play baseball. Defense makes every pitcher better. And that means, games are won, not lost. What Minnesota has now is a leader who not only understands the game more than most, he leads. And that is the main difference between his teams and the Twins of the past.

Former General Manager, Terry Ryan, hired Molitor but was fired last season after the disaster. Now Thad Levine, the present General Manager and the Chief Baseball Officer of the Twins, Derek Falvey, are thought to want to bring in someone they want. So their mediocre solution is to offer Molitor a one year contract. For Molitor, it put him in a no-win situation. If he accepted, he had to prove to the new controllers of the team he can do the job, year after year, and go on one year contracts forever. He is loyal to the Twin Cities. He is a native legend in the Twin Cities. Should he have said no and demand a multi-year contract, it would look as though he was not in step with the way Minnesotan’s do things. If he simply said ‘No’, then he would remain with all of the respect everyone in the Twin Cities believes he has.

The Twins front office should not have made this an issue at all. They should have re-signed him by extending his contract before the season ended. This was an exciting team which was a true reflection of ‘The Ignitor’ throughout his career. He is the Hall of Famer…Falvey and Levine are not.

The deal finally got done last Monday and the frightful Twins management signed Pauly for three years at $4 million per.

What we need in this world is less tension, not more. And we need to honor those who do a great job. Paul Molitor did a great job.

Play Ball!

Choke City!


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.

Play Ball!

7 To Go ‘And Milwaukee Has Walked It Off. Santa Maria!’


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:

American League

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%

National League

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.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Play Ball!