All of the fresh bats are in the racks. The new gloves have been broken in with weeks of catching in Spring Training. Now the marathon known as a Major League Baseball season is upon us.
Six teams begin today. The New York Yankees visit Tampa Bay Rays; the San Francisco Giants meet the Arizona Diamondbacks and the World Champion Chicago Cubs begin their season visiting their biggest rival, the Saint Louis Cardinals.
This is probably one of the most exciting days of the year. All of the hopes of fans everywhere is at its highest.
There is only one thing to say….
The Milwaukee Brewers won’t win the pennant.
A fan favorite, Scooter Gennett has been let go to division rival Cincinnati. The National League home run leader in 2016, was let go. An All-Star catcher and his defensively skilled back-up were traded. While all of this happened, the Cream City Nine brought in two new first basemen; a new third baseman and a partridge in a pear tree.
But, they got younger.
Yet they still have, through no fault of their own, one of the finest baseball players to ever play the game, Ryan Braun.
He is an absolute gem.
While rival fans love to trash him for his past problems with PEDs and of course his lying about taking performance enhancing drugs, fans of Pigsville, love this guy. He has a regime like few in the game. He is the consummate professional. At the plate, he is rarely off-balance. And he can hit the ball out of the ballpark nearly everywhere in the strike zone. His fielding and arm are exemplary. He is the last of the players from the great teams of the early ‘00s. He is their only All-Star left.
After ten years, here is what he has done on the field:
He’s played in 1,354 games with 1,597 hits.
He has banged 317 doubles, 43 triples and 285 home runs.
He has driven in 937 RBI, stolen 181 bases, walked 473 times while striking out 1,070 times while compiling a .304 batting average with an OBP of .367; a slugging percentage of .544 and an OPS of .910. On defense, he has 225 assists and only 47 errors (26 of which were in his first season at 3B) in 10 years with a fielding percentage of .981.
He is a six (6) time All-Star and did you know that he actually was #23 in the MVP last season?
In the history of the game, he compares with Hack Wilson.
At the age of 32, he compares with Lance Berkman and Larry Walker in hitting.
Is he the greatest player in Milwaukee Brewer history?
There is Robin Yount. And Paul Molitor. Cecil Cooper. Prince Fielder.
All he has to do is play another ten years and perhaps he will have number 8 up on the ring at Miller Park.
Tomorrow he will hit the field. In the meantime, as we said, baseball is a marathon.
‘The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.’ Sara Teasdale
April showers bring May flowers but not in Pigsville.
On May 24th, 2007, Ryan Joseph Braun came up to the Majors. By that date next season, he will no longer be wearing Blue…Milwaukee Blue as in True Blue Brew Crew.
What was so promising…with him becoming one of the best players in the game, crashed down around him when he was declared out for most of the 2013 season because of prohibited drug use. He lost all respect. He lost all commercial ties. He lost partnerships. He lost friendships. He lost his dignity.
There is a soulless emptiness at the bottom. It is nowhere land. No friends and plenty of enemies. People turn away when you are sighted walking toward you. People, who were once your friends, don’t respond to emails. People who once welcomed your contact, do not respond to phone calls. They are always conveniently out. People whom you have helped when they needed help ignore you. You are persona non rata, literally a person not appreciated. ‘Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.’ stated General George S. Patton. Ryan Braun was on the bottom.
That is what hit Braun squarely in the face. ‘Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.’ Muhammad Ali said. In Braun’s case, it wasn’t even at all. The only thing going for him was his contract which would tie him to the Milwaukee Brewers through 2020.
He was once the Rookie of the Year; he became the third-fastest major leaguer to reach 50 career home runs; in 2008, he reached the 150-RBI milestone faster than any major leaguer since Boston’s Walt Dropo needed only 155 games, in 1949–51; was a starting outfielder for the NL in the 2008 All Star Game, finishing first in player voting; Braun hit his 30th home run, becoming just the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first two seasons as he hit 71 home runs in his first two seasons, tying him with Pujols for fourth all-time as Joe DiMaggio topped the list with 75 home runs, followed by Ralph Kiner (74) and Eddie Mathews (72). He was the toast of all the baseball world. Apple released a commercial for a new iPhone, that showed a clip of Braun’s 10th inning walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008, which kept the Brewers’ Wild Card hopes alive. Gatorade used the same clip in its November 2008 “League of Clutch” commercial.
But imagine, only behind DiMaggio, Kiner and Mathews. Here was the star Milwaukee was praying for.
In 2009, Braun was named to Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking #32. In 2011, he rose to #16. He was named to the Team USA in the 2nd World Baseball Classic. On September 23, Braun hit a three-run, 450-foot home run that sealed the Brewers’ NL-Central-clinching victory. He was named MVP of the National League that season. And in 2012, Braun was awarded the 2012 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the fifth year in a row. His five consecutive awards was the longest active streak in the major leagues.
Then the fall.
Like Phoenix rising, he began a comeback. “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed—all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates.” He was seen in around Milwaukee even in the cold dead of winter, in the parking lot assisting in various charity drives, thanking the fans for coming out. He was at every Brewer Fest during the off-season, signing autographs and taking tons of pics with the fans.
However, 2014 was not a good year. With that time off, he was heckled in nearly every ballpark in America. He stood quietly in left field. He took the heat. Fans were angry. Opposing fans were merciless. In spring training, even in Maryvale, opposing fans yelled and screamed offensive insults. During the regular season, if you ever attended a game in Phoenix or Chicago, you heard the raw, cutting insults smashing through the air, mother’s quickly covering their children’s ears. ‘What did you do that for, Ma?’, was the response. On the field he managed to be only a mere shadow of what he had been before. A .300+ hitter, he battled insults and injury coming away with a .266 average and only 19 home runs. But after another off season of rest, he came back and there were bright spots which appeared as he lifted his average .285 with 25 home runs while suffering from a bad thumb and back and once again became an All-Star. Then this season, he finally found his old form, batting well above .300 for the season, often in the top five in hitting, and as of today, reached the 30 home run level with 88 RBI.
They still yell insults at him in a couple of towns, particularly Phoenix and Chicago. But for most good baseball fans, they have stopped the childish insults.
Ryan Braun is back. He is world class in the outfield, back in his old position in left field and is back as a world class hitter. And that is bad for Brewer fans.
The owner now has a valued commodity with which to enrich his pockets, drastically decrease his costs, and is dangling his star player in front of an ownership group where he does business (Los Angeles) like a fresh piece of meat. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of only six teams that Braun has named as favorable as part of his no trade clause contractual rights. And just as the trade deadline neared, his piece of meat was dangled hard. The Dodgers agreed to trade the oft injured and big time trouble fielder Puig along with a host of injured and players to be named later. The only thing that saved Milwaukee fans from this disgusting trade was their general manager’s inability to agree with the Dodgers on those players to be named later. In the meantime, Braun was in the clubhouse waiting to see if his long career with the Pigsville Nine was over.
But this is not the end. The Milwaukee Brewers owner is a classic meat dangler. He is a hedge fund man. He knows value of meat…fresh, hard hitting meat that is one of the best pieces of steak on the baseball planet. By next May, Braun’s 10/5 rights kick in. At the end of May, when Braun accumulates 10 years of service time, Braun will gain full no-trade rights, which will complicate any trade the Brewers try to make involving him. Though Braun could waive those for a situation he likes, it’s another factor that has to be worked into negotiations, and one that could further complicate any deal that the Brewers try to make in the future.
Thus this next week, take a look at the magnificent talent playing left field for the Milwaukee Brewers. It may be the last time you will see this quality of baseball player wearing the Milwaukee Blue. Winter is coming and with it, the old meat man will be behind the counter dangling for every team owner to mouth-water over. He has USDA Prime in his freezer. And the owners of the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Diamondbacks and Marlins and any other owner willing to part with a bunch of no-name players for a star, are all invited to attend the bidding war in Pigsville.
What a nightmare of a season for some of these teams this year. Catastrophe hit a number of them while several decided to rebuild, which means drop in attendance and a groan from their fans. In Milwaukee it is called SOT, the ‘Same Old Thing’.
In Minnesota, first Prince and now this? In Atlanta, what’s new? For Cincinnati, this proud franchise can’t seem to get past the Redbirds, Pirates and now the Cubbies. For the Diamondbacks, it should come as no surprise. They only have two players. But for the Astros and the mighty New York Yankees, it is an entirely different story. In Houston, is this the flash-in-the-pan season of truth? In New York, this is simply not acceptable. George must be rolling over in his grave. Spend the money, sons. That’s how you get a winner in the Big Apple! Now you run the risk of Trump not showing up to your games because you’re no a ‘Winna’.
Have these teams season ended in May?
OK. Here is the question after the first near 30 games of the season: Can the Brewers, Braves, Reds, Padres or Diamondbacks win 63 games this season? Can the Astros, Twins or Yankees win 63 games this season? While it seems to be a crazy question considering it contains the New York Yankees, what is universally linking these teams to this question is their pitching or lack thereof.
Stearns/Arnold/Counsell…this is the triumvirate of the Milwaukee Brewers. They will attempt to put together a team that will do something none have done with this organization before…win a World Series. In 45 years, no combination of General Manager, Assistant General Manager and Manager have ever won a Word Series for this franchise. For those who are 45 years old, nada. For those who are 55 years old, nada for a ball club in this city. For those who are 57 years old, join the ‘never seen a World Series winning ball club in this City’ (NSAWSWBCLITC) club.
It has been a long, cold dry spell.
Now these three will go about their business devising a way which will bring a winner to this City.
What do they have? They have a catcher who can hit, but didn’t this past season because of injury and other things. Can’t really get full value from him until he proves he can hit once again. They have a first baseman who actually stayed healthy and can hit. Good time to trade him. They have a second baseman who might be able to hit but has a difficult time fielding. No trade value. There is a shortstop who has shown signs of great promise and on again, off again fielding and hitting. No real value there unless he gets hot. There is no third baseman except for Rodgers but he might be better at first. No value there.
A left fielder who can hit and hit with power but has one itsy bitsy problem. He can’t throw. The entire league takes advantage of his poor arm strength and accuracy. But teams need hitting and the American League would be a perfect place for this young, valuable bat. The Angels would always go for more hitting because they have never believed in pitching. No real center fielder that is proven. Scout the waiver wires. Center fielder who can run like the wind and hit for a team that traded away their last two who could do so, one to Kansas City and the other to Houston, would be the way you would write a help wanted ad for this position.
There is a right fielder coming back from injury, who is an emotionally tainted superstar and has a contract only a major market can afford. Are you listening, Yankees? Dodgers? Giants? Angels? White Sox? Tigers? Rangers? Sure, he’ll get boo’d in Arizona but chances are if you are an AL team, you won’t have to go there except for every sixth year. There is a back up catcher who can’t hit. A back up outfield who can’t hit. As for pitchers, we have a great young, up-and-coming pitching staff with favorable contracts. Nelson, Jungmann, Peralta, Davies, they have tremendous value. Do you dare trade any of them in a game today where pitching is more valuable than gold? There is Garza who has a contract bigger than most and cannot win any games. Not much value there. And if anyone…I mean anyone offers anything for him, they should not even think twice. Just get rid of this mess of a contract.
There is relief pitching. There is a left hander who has value because there are very few decent left-handed pitchers coming out of the pen in the Bigs. Just don’t tell anyone that he blows a few games every once in a while. He’s got value. There is a great relief pitcher who is destined to become one of the greatest all-time relievers in the game but has a bit of a problem showing up for Spring Training because…now all together, ‘he has problems getting through Venezuela’s passport procedures’ year after year. But once he gets to Arizona, he only occasionally steps on a cactus. There is that big guy, Hellweg, but he probably doesn’t have much value.
There is a third base coach who can’t hit or coach. He leads the league in bonehead plays, year after year. But he’s such a good guy, and, he’s funny. He tells jokes. Works hard. Must have something on the organization or owner because he’s still here after most of the staff was let go. He probably HAS value…to somebody.
Wait: there is a radio announcer who can’t make road trips anymore yet has more value than most of the guys on the field. A TV announcer who is on more networks than any social media surfer. He’s apparently got value. And that guy who sells the popcorn from the wagon behind home plate in the entrance lobby. He’s got value as he is the one person with salt. Then there is the real asset, Bernie. He’s got value…to somebody who wants to slide for a living. Unfortunately, the people with the most value in this organization are the ‘Racing Sausages’ but they are owned by the sausage maker. Great value…but can’t trade them.
There are those motorcycles in the gap in left center field. They have value. The Miller Park sign would fit perfectly into the man-cave of a fan with a basement big enough to house a dirigible. OK. Limited value.
So, as we stand here today, watching the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets battle for the World Series Championship, there is this team on the Western banks of Lake Michigan, near a legendary corner of this earth known to locals as Pigsville, where the aroma of Red Star Yeast waffles through the noses of residents in Kilbourntown, Walker’s Point and Juneautown, within eyeshot of Johnston Cookies, that is headed by SAC.
What on earth will they do this winter? Maryville is just 105 days away.
There was a hush in the big room at the ballpark as everyone seated around the table was in rapt attention as they wanted to know what the ‘Big Guy’ thought of the idea.
‘Dumb’, he said. ‘It’s a dumb idea. And I can say that because I am the GM and not one of you.’ Ah. Those words. It makes you just a little bit proud that a fellow from the North who could, in fact, put two words together without mispronouncing the word ‘schedule’ instead of ‘sheedual’. Yet he is the de-architect. He is the tearer-downer of the team.
While there was a huge departure of Latin players from the Brewers roster as the trade deadline neared, in one of the trades, the one that sent the most popular Crew member to Houston, Carlos Gomez, along with starter, Mike Fiers, was that this GM also traded away the International Bonus spending rights to Houston. It was that little single line in the trade legaleze that may come back to haunt a team which resembles a minor league franchise while season ticket holders pay big boy bucks for their right to view this mess on the field. For the 2015-16 twelve month period, Houston, which already has a bonus pool of $4,248,800, now gets the Brewers $2,389,300 for a total of $6,638,100 which pushed them from #4 to #1, over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Most important, it drops back that lovable Cream City Nine to #30 or dead last with $0 to invest. Any investment they may want to make in the next 11 months will come with a stiff penalty consisting of 75% tax on the amount invested. In other words, the Brewers will have to pay nearly double the amount if they really want to sign an International player.
The bonus pool is determined based on reverse order of winning percentage from the 2014 major league season which means that the Brewers finished somewhere in the middle because of their monumental collapse last season. Now that they are in the need for fresh new talent, they have $0 bonus to entice new players from around the world to consider Milwaukee their home.
On today’s active roster of the Milwaukee Brewers there are seven players who are Internationals. This week they traded away their two best players who were Internationals. Obviously with no bonus pool for the next year, there will probably be none added.
In a time when the game is loaded with International stars, the Brewers find themselves with precious few of star quality. If they are to build out of this extreme hole they themselves created, they need to rethink their position on the climb out of obscurity. If they really want to get above, not just even with the Mendoza Line of baseball they find themselves in at present, they have to become less satisfied with the world of mediocrity they have created.
Perhaps trading the star center fielder to another team could have been done without giving up a starting pitcher that had some value himself. It could also be stated that the trade didn’t have to include giving up the International Bonus. But then they are led by a guy who thinks a moose is a national icon … in Milwaukee. This isn’t Chatham, Ontario. For a guy who began his executive career in baseball as a batting practice pitcher, his claim to fame is that he helped bring the franchise its first postseason berth in 26 years. Yet he has never won a league pennant of any kind during his storied baseball executive career.
This is called: melvinitis.
The chance of the Milwaukee Brewers improving themselves as have Houston and Arizona are hidden in a cloudy permanency that hangs over Miller Park like another losing season. The maddening reality of losing two of the most popular players on the team this week is depressing enough. But the hope hinges on a person who has shown he is better at digging a hole than digging out of one.
They are New York’s second team. And there are plenty of reasons for that position. They are the Diamondbacks-of-the-East as far as ineptitude in making trades. While the D’Backs trade players away who have been, and for some become future All-Stars, the Mets are reluctant to trade to improve without including the Yankee-type head fakes and faints to get the majority of fans in their mind-set before they make a trade. It is the ‘trade dance’.
Then there are the Brewers. A lovely team formerly in pinstripes, the team from the Cream City dances the Polka. No Metropolitanism here, these are the beer and brat team of the Midwest. They have heart. They cry a lot. They leak out the possibility of something new in the bush when rarely does that exist. They never believed that ‘one in the hand’ is better stuff. Go for the unknown hope of the future…never for the reality of today. That just isn’t parochial. And if there is one trait the citizens of Pigsville are known for, they are and forever will be parochial. ‘Hail Mary full of grace…’.
These two teams were made for each other in trades. After all, Frankie Rodriguez came to the Crew via the Mets. But this is another year. And we have a few examples of this amazing dance as the Loveables attempt to fill the holes at third, at short, in the outfield and at first at the bane of the Brewers. They have good noses. They can smell these things. After all, they are the Mets. They have extensively scouted Jean Segura, the young shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers who will be moved because of a bright young star in the bush leagues. Remember, ‘One in the hand’ philosophy? But the Mets have sent out signals, via the press, that they don’t like his ‘free swinging’. Using the press to push the price down? What would you expect from the home of ‘The Donald’. Segura has shown some upside and is young. Plus, he has three more seasons under club control. That makes him affordable. If there is one thing those lovable Mets like is ‘affordability’. It solves every question in a press conference. All of this for a guy who stole first base.
Moving to the waltz, there is the Aramis Ramirez dance, as the veteran Brewer third baseman is on the Mets radar. He is the one sitting against the wall of the ballroom. A notorious late season hitter, he is at the end of his playing career. But he still has some pop in his bat, as evidenced on Saturday night. But those lovable Mets have again floated a lovely head fake of ‘who would play where’ if Ramirez were acquired. It’s all so wonderful to see a fully orchestrated Metropolitan talk-fest prior to decision making. ‘Run it up the flagpole and see which way the wind blows’ seems to be a favorite tack out at a sea called ‘Citi’. After all, they would only be obligated to pay the last couple of months of his $14 million contract. (Let’s see, $14 million divided by 6 times 2…) He is the ultimate rent-a-player. They, through the press, let it be known that they don’t like his play on both sides of the ball (per Joel Sherman of the New York Post via Twitter). That means they really must like him.
While all this is going on, the Brewers have the Twins and Rangers looking at Neal Cotts; The Padres looking at Gerardo Parra, along with the Giants who have ‘loved Parra forever’ according to Andrew Beggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (via Twitter). They wanted to get him from the D’Backs but then Arizona didn’t want to trade him to a division rival. Note to D’Backs: you have no rivals until you field a winning team. The 2001 Championship is just a memory. The Angels are also looking at Parra. And of course, those crazy Mets have leaked out that they would like a left-handed hitting outfielder who plays in Milwaukee. Head fake!
Surprisingly, The Mets haven’t said anything about their bullpen. The Blue Jays are looking at Francisco Rodriguez. Everybody in need of a first baseman are looking at Adam Lind of the Crew including those Loveables.
Why all of this interest in a team in last place in the National League Central? Last year at this time this same team was in First place. The only addition since their collapse was Jonathan Broxton who has disappeared in a fog of ineffectiveness. Along with the acquisition of Will Smith who became a Brewer in one of the most despised trades in Milwaukee history (OK…Stormin’ Gorman to Cleveland was a doosey) when traded to KC for Nori Aoki, they also got rid of the numb Roenicke as a manager.
Point is, the teams who are chasing this year’s dream of winning a pennant and a World Series championship, see weakness in the Brewers executive ranks. The non-effective General Manger is in limbo as he is in the process of being offered the face-saving transition to upstairs where he will be in charge of Zoo Nights in August with the title of ‘Head of Whatever’, a title passed down by Harry Dalton in his quiet dual with Buddy Selig, the ex-used car ex commish. Craig Counsell is in line to become the next GM. The San Diego Padres interim manager, could succeed Counsell in the dugout. The third base coach would be replaced; Garza would be sent to limbo on permanent DL and all the world would be better in Cream City. Weak GM? Lower costs for players needed. The Mets love this type of upheaval.
That’s how the Mets play ball..err dance. Floating rumors and letting the pot boil with ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots’. That’s the way those dizzy Metropolitans like to play the game. And their record shows exactly what a success that has led to. Of course, Milwaukee is not much better. Looks like a marriage made in baseball heaven. #watchingattanasio
When the play on the field is less than spectacular, fans throughout baseball can always smile when their mascots cavort. In a season gone wrong, for many it is only habit which keeps fans coming back. It’s hot out. The summer is long. Kids demand it. Moms and Dads everywhere seek the shade of the stadiums as a brief respite from the daily tasks of raising their children.
That’s baseball in many parks in America this June, the last Sunday of June, 2015.
In Philadelphia there is the Phillies Phanatic. The team’s manager resigned this week. What? A manager resigned rather than letting the team axe him so he can walk away with the monies that are owed him? Yet there is always the Phanatic…the one with the wobbly stomach whose antics are some of the best in all of sport. Many, this season, just go to the ball park in the City of Brotherly Love to see what the Phanatic will do on that day. They already have a pretty good guess on what the team will do.
In Milwaukee, they have a bunch of mascots. There is barrelman roaming the stands as the original mascot come to life. Bernie is in his chalet ready to make that slide in case this team is a memory of Harvey’s Wallbangers. And then there are the ‘sausages’…Klement’s Racing Sausages.
Twenty-two years ago, when the team was as bad as they are today and would remain until the ‘Prince’, Ricky, Cory and Ben would save them from obscurity and the misunderstanding of the game by the Family Selig, one of the team’s sponsors, Klement Sausage Co. wanted to put their product on the field as the ‘Racing Sausages’. If you were in the stands on that day in 1993, you witnessed one of the greatest spectacles in sport. Yes. Greater than the skier falling off the ski jump in the ‘Wide World of Sports’ opening on ABC. Yes. Greater than Howard’s call, ‘Down goes Frasier. Down goes Frasier’. The sausages racing in from left field to somewhere past the first base bag, had the crowd betting ‘ons ons’ on the sausages.
By the way, if you don’t bet on Polish this season, you are going against the house. It is named in the honor of Max Surkont who ate himself out of major league baseball during his stint as a Milwaukee Braves ‘sausageing’ himself beyond recognition as he dined on a number of them each and ever night. But I digress.
Back then, in the 90s, the crowd went wild. And well before the day of social media, everyone in the community began talking about it, even in the boardroom of Splinter Pickles where it was discussed whether ‘Pangborn S. Pickle’, the company mascot, should challenge Klements, another south side food manufacturer, to a duel in the sun. But alas, the Splinter board found out it would cost sponsorship monies and that deal was out. Their lawyer, the Grand Russ Pickel said in a statement, ‘No Dill!’.
Up in Little Chute, the executive committee pondered introducing ‘Jack’s Rolling Pizzaman’ and challenge the sausages. After all, they were once a sponsor of the pregame Brewers broadcasts in the 80s. But it was decided that ‘Pizzaman’ would be too difficult to make in motion unless it could be done on a big wheel. In the search for the perfect penny farthing, the search for a rider in a pepperoni pizza suit simply could not be found. Jim, who ran Jack’s and didn’t want it named Jim’s, said: ‘No Dill!’
But in Waukesha, the chessemen at Milwaukee Cheese were not to be outdone. The Swiss owner felt they could have a wheel of cheddar challenge with a cheese race of their own in the Fifth Inning, rather than wait for the Seventh. Always looking for a way to one-up the competition when it came to shelf space in the grocery stores, the cheese czar felt Cheddar could challenge Swiss along with Jack (the cheese not the pizza) and Havarti and bring the crowd to its feet. Preparations were made but alas, Klement’s had a non-compete clause in its contract with the Brewers leading advertising station and the head of that, W.T.M. Steve, said ‘No Mold’ to the cheese king. That was grating.
Thus, and to this day, Klement’s has been putting on a show, so great, that even the Cubbies on the North Side of Chicago have called them in to entertain their crowd from time to time. That of course is considered almost sacrilegious and some of the sausages refused to go down to the Windy land of chewing gum, gaining career applause from the sauced-up crowd in Milwaukee (Secret Stadium Sauce). After all, they are the Cubs. Well done, link. Well done.
And here we are today. When you stand for that stretch and the sausages are announced, call out ‘Polish’ as your ons-ons bet. Chances are pretty good it will win by at least seven links.
Remember, and now for a moment of silence, all of this began with the legendary San Diego Chicken. RIP, Chicken. The kids of San Diego are sad today because they will never see the legend perform in what led to that ‘thing’ in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
P.S. The Presidents in DC are not included because their team is a traitor and are leading their division. But Teddy’s OK. The racing big heads in Phoenix are not included because they have arguably cheated because they thought everybody was doing it so why not for the team that is owned by the guy who owns all the baseball cards. As for the Mets, they are not included because they are associated with the Big Apple in Center Field and because of their nearness to ‘The Hair’, one and only, ‘The Donald’. The Twin City dude is not included because his team is only a couple of games out of the lead. We’re talking losers here, folks. Nuff said.
In Grateful Memory Baseball Award goes to ‘Youppi!’, the mascot of the Montreal Expos, as it was the first mascot to be thrown out of a Major League Baseball game. On August 23, 1989, in the 11th inning, while atop the visitors’ dugout, Youppi! took a running leap, landing hard and noisily on its roof, and then sneaked into a front row seat. L.A. Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda, complained to the umpires and Youppi! was ejected. Come on, Tommy. What were you thinking? Youppi! was abandoned as a mascot after the Expos franchise moved to Washington in 2005, but was adopted by the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens team on September 16, 2005, as potentially the first sports mascot to switch their allegiance from one sport to another, while remaining in the same city. Go, You ol Youppi you.
In 1958, two teams ventured out of the East and settled on the West Coast, the Giants of the National League in San Francisco and the same league’s Dodgers who settled into Los Angeles. Along with the Bums came their announcer, Vince Scully. And from that date, just 14 years after the Invasion of Normandy, baseball and the West settled into a love affair that has lasted for over a half a Century.
Baseball is played out West and of the eight teams West of the Pecos, four of them have .500 or better records this season, with one team a game under .500. But in the Senior Circuit, three are above .500 including the two originals. They play baseball out in the West.
For many, fans have long gone to bed when the West Cost games begin and end. It’s as if they don’t really exist in the East until those teams have to travel to the left coast. And when they get there, throw those team’s records out. This is the land of pitching. If you are in Seattle, the King resides up there and you don’t want to face the King. In San Francisco, it’s the home of Madison and Timmy. Down in LaLa, Clayton and Greinke rule. Further South, just North of North Island, James and then Kimbrel reside. In other words, when you go out West, young man, you better bring your hitting shoes.
On Saturday night, there was a game that proved this point. Both starting pitchers, Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, fired bullets. At one time during the game, Kershaw and Garcia had 0-2 pitch counts on 18 batters, 10 of those by Kershaw. With that kind of pitching, there is a good chance you will not get a good pitch to hit. And in fact, only the right fielder, Grichuk, got a single hit off of Dodger pitching on the evening. Garcia, beginning the bottom of the Seventh inning, had only thrown 77 pitches. But in the next five pitches, he gave up a double down the third base line which eluded the third baseman who moved over from Second base after the original third baseman, Carpenter, was hit earlier in the game and had to leave. Then, Kozma’s replacement at second, Wong, couldn’t handle a hot line drive which drove in the second run (this was after Puig had driven in the first with a double to the gap in right center). A game of inches? Yes. A game of what ifs? Yes. In five pitches the game was over. Garcia only threw 87 pitches in his outing, good enough to win most games, but in three games this year, the Cardinals haven’t scored any runs for him.
Throughout all of this, Vin Scully gave us all a delightful presentation of the game along with a history lesson on why this date is so important to Americans.
As Vin Scully told the story that wrapped in and out of pitches, in the Ninth Inning as the Dodgers were putting away the Cardinals and shutting the out, 2-0, he weaved his magic as he said, “a young man who waded ashore in Normandy on this date 71 years ago who was to become a great American writer…he pops up to the catcher for the second out…who had the first six chapters of his novel stuffed in his back pocket…and another guy who is trying to get noticed in the game…and the young man on that fateful day who was in the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach was JD Salinger…a roller down the third base line, foul….and the great American novel was ‘A Catcher In The Rye’. ‘Poor guy’…now 1-2 on Matt Holiday who fouls it off again….who can ever forget Holden Caulfield…fast ball got him looking. Do us all a favor…please tell your children and grandchildren what June 6th is all about. 12 Cardinals strike out tonight and the Dodgers remain in first place, a half a game in front of the San Francisco Giants. Good night, everybody.”
And only those of us on the West Coast could hear this fascinating melding of a sporting event in the time of our lives, on a day with a Triple Crown winner became the 12th ever to accomplish that feat, and on a date with destiny that changed the world forever so many years ago.
For those of you back East, you missed one of the greatest story telling blendings in history by a Master of the Art who ventured West fifty-seven years ago. Good night, Vin.
There is something magical about Spring Training. It is not like the games you see in the season. Everyone in the stands are full of laughter and hope. Families bring their kids who can crawl on the grass and not even know that the player a few feet away is Ryan Braun. Because that is not what is important.
For the players, it is another day when smiles are on their faces as well. It is time to get into the rhythm of the game. Catch up with the fastball. Fire the ball right where you want it. Get a feel for the ball. Work on catching up with the slider. Get that winning feeling back.
It is a time when you get to see the stars of the game in a relaxed mood. The pitchers are just warming up as they throw to their 48 pitch count which will now be expanded to get ready for Opening Day. For some, the form already appears to be there. Sergio Romo, was on fire as his slider this week was amazing, especially as he completely fooled Kris Davis with the winning runners on base retiring the side and taking the win for San Francisco, with slider, after slider.
Kris Davis, for those who have not seen him at the ballpark this season, is doffing a Mohawk. Which brings us to the question: how does that ‘Do’ fit into that hat?
The fans are here to enjoy. The ‘where are you from’ is inevitable. The guy to the right of us on Friday was form a town in Wisconsin that I had never heard of. He informed us all that it was near Richland Center. When asked if there was anyone left in town now that he and his three friends had made the journey down, he informed us that his wife was still there and that she would have loved the weather. The fellow on my left was from nearby but was a Dodger fan. He is still confused about letting Kemp go. A woman in front of us showed off her amble assets and gave us all an opportunity to see the Diamondbacks logo in a whole new light…repeatedly. Which brought out a stern warning for a guy behind us as his wife (not from near Richland Center) said, ‘Stop looking’! To which he responded ‘I’m at a ball game. What am I supposed to do?’. She then knocked him over his head with a bag of Krackle Korn. Yup…there were smiles all around. ‘Go Diamond…..backs. Go.’ Or at least we think that was what was printed on her sort of cut-off jersey. You just have to love Spring Training Cactus League games.
As the game progressed, the regulars walked from the dugout to the clubhouse after the fifth inning. They’ve had their at-bats. They smile and wave to the fans who are applauding them all the way down the line to the dugout. Lucroy is looking sharp as he appears over his hamstring issue. Garza, Lohse and Fiers walk down with the other Brothers of the Mound at about the same time calling it a day and heading for the links as Nelson pitched a good Spring outing. Peralta must have been resting as he was not to be seen. Aarmis did the unbelievable as he gave one of his game bats to you young boy in the front row which drew a standing ovation. Been to a lot of baseball games in my life but I have never seen a player give one of his gamers away like that.
Over in the other dugout, there are two legit players who looked as good as ever. First is The Babe of Chase, Paul Goldschmidt, who looked in mid-season form. If only his team could win, he might be the MVP of the League. And, Mark Trumbo, is also in top form, driving in Goldy for the tieing run.
In the end, on a day when the old ballpark was nearly filled, and thousands on the grass around the outfield in front of the long line at the Leinenkugel Beer House in left center, along with the fans in the stands, sun-filled and still with smiles on their faces, enjoyed the 5-3 score in the home team’s favor. For them the point was to make sure their hope is still intact. For them, it was a day with family and friends, one that goes in the scrapbook of life, more for the parents and grandparents than their kids. But then again, on a beautiful spring day, one is reminded that her favorite thing about the ballpark in spring, in a text wishing she was here stated, eating funnel cake. Perhaps next year. Perhaps next year.
But on this beautiful spring day, as the crowd wandered out following the path of the Racing Sausages, the questions in the mind could be heard, ‘Is this the year?’