‘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.
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.
Often, in Urban conversations among athletes, the term ‘disrespect’ comes up. It is usually centered around a verbal slight that the athlete has experienced or believes he has experienced. But rarely has an athlete who is the center of attention had others use the word to express their dismay. And never has a Major League team shown such sophomoric behavior and insensitivity than have the Milwaukee Brewers to one of their bright young stars.
Zach Davies is a young pitcher for the Crew whom the Brewers acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for OF Gerardo Parra. Many of you probably recall his starts from last September. He appeared in six games for the Brewers totaling 34 innings. He put up a pretty solid 3.71 ERA and 3.81 FIP. His .210 BAA was excellent, which helped keep his WHIP quite manageable (1.21). For those who are not up to speed with the vernacular of the MLB stat wonks…he showed a lot of promise with an amazing amount of poise for such a young pitcher. After he was traded, Buck Showalter, Manager of the Baltimore Orioles called the Brewer manager, Craig Counsell, and told him he was getting a bright young star.
Davies has a slight build (6’0”, 150 lbs) and has a fastball in the 88-91 range. While his build and average fastball is a call his critics give, don’t believe this lack of confidence. Believe the importance he brings to the Brewers as a starter. His change-up is terrific. And he also has an good curveball. But it is his above average command that allows everything to work. Like most pitchers, he needs his command to succeed.
However, he excels in one pivotal area: batted ball distribution. While many today are fly ball pitchers, Davies has always induced ground balls at a well above average rate. It’s an impressive package. Counsell points to Davies’ growing relationship with catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado as one reason for his recent success. “They’re really getting on the same page and making good choices,” Counsell said. “He’s been on the attack. He’s got all four pitches as weapons. I think he’s really starting to get a feel for playing with the hitter front-to-back, side-to-side. “It’s good stuff.”
Davies used his weapons just before the All-Star break in meeting and beating the Washington Nationals. The Nationals’ lineup features reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and current NL batting leader Daniel Murphy, who was hitting .347. “He’s a young starter who is learning as he goes and proving as he goes; he’s gaining more confidence, getting comfortable with his stuff, how it plays to hitters and how it needs to be good,” Counsell said. “He’s getting it through experience. It’s not easy to go out there for a young guy and what’s good is that he’s taking everything that’s happened before, applying it and getting better. “
It was interesting how Davies found his way into the starting lineup this season. Matt Garza, 32, was expected to return to the Brewers’ rotation after losing his spot late last season, but he was placed on the disabled list instead. Davies stood out in the Spring as a likely candidate to step into the rotation.
The year before, he faced the Cardinals, always a problem for the Cream City Nine. “He just made quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.”He used his breaking ball to steal strikes early in the count. But it was about fastball location and chasing out of the zone with the change-up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. It left St. Louis’ sluggers frustrated after entering the day second in the National League with 71 homers and a .460 slugging percentage. ‘It’s just one of those where he just had trouble finding the feel on a consistent basis,’ Matheny said. ‘But still, he only gave up only a couple runs, five hits. But he had a lot of traffic and a lot of stress innings.’
Kolten Wong, who struck out twice, said Davies kept the Cardinals off-balance with his change-up. ‘Just something that caught us off guard,’ Wong said. ‘He kept us off balance with his fastball coming in and threw that change-up away.’
That’s the kind of stuff he brings to the game. And he did it once again against the Nationals. That was Tuesday before the All-Star game. On Wednesday morning, the infamous Milwaukee Brewers optioned Davies to Class AAA Colorado Springs to open a roster spot to add first baseman/outfielder Andy Wilkins from that club. It was noted that the team had been playing short-handed on the bench while carrying eight relief pitchers for several weeks. Here, their winning pitcher the previous night in a 5-2 victory over Washington, boosting his record to 6-4 on a losing ball club with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts, including a 6-1 mark and a 3.24 ERA over his last 12 outings, was ceremoniously banished to the Sky Sox.
The Brewers PR spin was that in sending down Davies, the Brewers said he would not pitch for Colorado Springs, which also entered its All-Star break after play on that Sunday. But rather then sending down one of their incompetent relief pitchers, which are many, they pick on the kid…a kid who is a rising star in their own organization. To make matters worse, the official pronouncement from the Brewers was that Davies would not pitch for Colorado Springs. But a player must remain in the minors for 10 days when optioned. Thus Davies would be recalled to pitch for the Brewers on the third day after the break in Cincinnati. That would be today.
But that’s not all. The cheapness of the Milwaukee Nine caused Davies to lose 10 days of major-league service time as well as about $24,000 in salary with the demotion.
To his credit, the mild Mr. Davies, upon hearing the news, quietly told reporters ‘Baseball is a business.’
His agent, the legendary Scott Boras, said the Milwaukee Brewers should not have have sent rookie right-hander Zach Davies to the minors for 10 days to open a spot for an additional bench player. Boras was more direct, saying, “In this game, performance earns respect. After beating one of the best teams in the National League, he was told he no longer was a member of the team. “It’s disrespect for someone who will be a principal part of the organization for years to come, to add a bench player for 10 days. Not exactly a valued ethic. In this game, teams do not send down starting pitchers who are performing well.’
He added, ‘Flying a starting pitcher cross-country interrupts his regular routine and his normal bullpen sessions. This is not how you prepare successful starting pitchers.’
Meanwhile, the Freshman Brewers General Manager, David Stearns, said he meant no disrespect to Davies in making the player move. Stearns said the major goal was to provide another bat for the bench during a period in which Davies would not have pitched for the Brewers. Unfortunately, without experience, young Mr. Stearns created a PR gaff unprecedented in modern baseball management.
‘We certainly value Zach’s contributions to the club and consider him an important part of our starting rotation,’ Stearns said. ‘Given that he wasn’t scheduled to pitch for a 10-day stretch, we wanted the extra flexibility of another player on the bench.’
Baseball purest suggest from a pure baseball point of view, the move makes great sense. Davies, as a starting pitcher who has already made his final start prior to the All-Star break, made it a good decision. He couldn’t be recalled for 10 days but with the All-Star break coming, that wouldn’t even cost Davies a start.
But the baseball side isn’t the only one to consider. We simply can’t forget about the human element. In sending Davies down, the Brewers are costing him service time. That can potentially impact the timing of him becoming a free agent down the road. This is not to say anything of the $24,000 he lost after beating one of the best teams in baseball.
Milwaukee was well within its rights to do this. It’s certainly true that baseball is a business. But good businesses also have business partners. With this move, the Brewers are giving a potential business partner a reason to be upset or frustrated with them down the road. At the moment, Davies isn’t upset (at least not publicly), but Boras clearly is. And you don’t want to make Mr. Boras angry.
It’s certainly a business move, and admittedly, stuff like this isn’t entirely unprecedented. Still, it’s generally not a kind of move pulled by the game’s top organizations. This goes to the root of all that is bad about the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. They are not a class organization. Nor are they a top organization. In all the years they have been in the Majors, they have never won a World Series, a key mark in measuring the quality of a management team. They have a losing record. Again, not a mark of a good management team.
Now, the new management group is making its mark to the world.
They are disrespectful.
P.S. So how did Davies do upon his return on Sunday, July 17, 2016?
7.0 inning pitched
4 Fly outs
23 Batters faced in 7 complete innings
Brewers lost in bottom of the 9th as Thornberg, with two outs walks Hamilton. Then, walks Votto. Will Smith comes in, can’t hold Hamilton as he goes to third and gives up winning run with a Passed Ball (Lucroy), Hamilton scoring.
Final score: Cincinnati 1 Milwaukee 0.
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.
As we are now in the last 40 days and 40 nights of the regular season in baseball, its time to clear out our mental wastebasket.
Let’s Hear It For The Tough Guys. Cleveland pitcher, Ray Caldwell on this date in 1919, was flattened by a bolt of lightning in his debut with the team. However, he recovered to get the final out of the game and defeated the Philadelphia A’s, 2-1. So you think you were tough!
In the first game of a double-header that was getting completely out of hand, on this date in 1940, Ted Williams came in from Left Field to pitch the last two innings against the Detroit Tigers in a 12-1 loss. For the record, ‘The Thumper’ allowed three hits and one run but struck out Tiger slugger, Rudy York and finished the game with a 4.50 ERA. By the way, Joe Glenn, who caught Babe Ruth’s last pitching appearance in 1933 was William’s catcher. In another rare occurrence in this game, Williams went 0 for 4 with a strike out batting fourth in the lineup behind Jimmy Foxx.. And that rarely happened in his entire career. He was batting .342 at the time.
Fans have a long history of second guessing managerial and umpire decisions. As for the latter, just look at Friday’s Milwaukee Brewer game in the 8th inning as it ended with an out called as Aramis Ramirez as he slid into third base and the Pittsburgh third baseman missed tagging the base. But how would you have liked to have been a coach or manager (Zack Taylor) for the St. Louis Browns on this date in 1951? In a season that produced just 51 wins and 102 losses, In another of Bill Veeck’s zany PR stunts, ‘Fans Manager’s Night’, a thousand fans behind the Browns dugout were given ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ placards to vote on decisions by the Browns coaches. The fans coach the Browns to a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia A’s.
Today in 1983, you would not want to be a Toronto Blue Jay. After six Major League seasons playing infield positions, Baltimore Oriole Lenn Sakata moved behind the plate to catch relief pitcher Tim Stoddard who had also just entered the game. The Blue Jays looked to take advantage of this situation but Stoddard was ready for them. He picked off, in order, Barry Bonnell, Dave Collins and Upshaw to record all three inning outs. It had to have been a record.
Probably would not have wanted to be Manager Paul Owens on this date in 1983. Pete Rose did not play in Philadelphia’s 5-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants which ended Rose’s consecutive games played street at 745. Owens had planned to use Rose as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, but Joel Youngblood ended the game with a two-run home run off Steve Carlton in the bottom of the ninth for the victory.
And, just for the record, what if there were a brief gust of wind on this date in 1894 in Washington, DC. Why you asked? Chicago catcher Pop Schriver became the first player to catch a ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument.
And you thought you knew everything there was about baseball. Now you do know some of the crazier things about August 24th.
As a kid, the excitement of building something great with an Erector set was held with anticipation. Occasionally, one would build a crane which would carry products from one point to the next, just like the real things did. Then one morning, you came out to find out your brother had done something to which the dreams of building the perfect city would never come to be. The crane’s arm was hanging from a screw…limp and of no more use.
During the past month, K-Rod has come out of the bullpen, night after night, to save another win for the Brewers. The Cream City Nine has seen this before. A Canadian named Axford did it for some 40+ games before the ever present consistency was a thing of the past and all hope was lost. Now the pessimism of ‘when’ looms constantly as we see yet another tight game come down to the point where ‘K-arm’ is up in the bullpen, warming up hard to pinpoint his control on the outside corners before coming in again. It is not ‘how far can he go’. It is ‘when will it end’?
At 18-6 to begin with one of their better starts in their history, these malt and barley men are an interesting lot. A committee of veterans at first, a kid taking over for a vet at second, a miracle with a broken face at short, a heavy hitting veteran at third. A kid in left who is quietly performing within the excitement of the early season. A ball of energy and unpredictability in center…many consider the heart and soul of the ball club, with Braunschweiger in right with a bad thumb, a thing in his shoulder and the gas of millions of outraged fans in every opponents park yet still hitting and fielding like the best. Behind the plate there is the most underestimated catcher in the game with a backup who is now nicknamed ‘The Destroyer’ and a gaggle of starters who may or may not be reaching their peak all at the same time. Then K-Rod.
Francisco Rodriguez first poked his head into The Show in 2002 with the Angels, who were then proudly from Anaheim, for 5 innings and 13 strikeouts. He didn’t get his first save until the next season but on Saturday, in 14 innings so far this season in 24 games, he has 21 K’s and 11 saves. At this rate he will have 74 saves for the season and the Brewers will win 121 games.
His arm will fall off.
But if it doesn’t, with the help of rosary beads everywhere, this is going to be a nail-biting, internal hemorrhaging season of all seasons. But there is one more obstacle ahead. It is called May.
The Milwaukee Brewers in the month of May is like Clark Kent sleeping on a bed of kryptonite. The month begins in Cincinnati then moves home for the perplexing D’Backs and for the first visit in nine years, with the kings of baseball visiting Miller Park. Then on the road with the Cubs, the carpetbaggers and Miami. Then home again with a rare visit from the Orioles and the near weekly confrontation with the Northsiders.
So, the Erector Arm and the Month of May. Hope takes a strange shape this season.
The stands were full as the anticipation of ‘him’ coming to the plate was a long-awaited event, second only to the unveiling of the Bud Selig statue the previous year. But this anticipation was for someone who could actually do something ON a baseball field, not conspire against the players by collusion with the owner down on the South Side of Chicago.
Many had their first brat of the season, fully dressed with kraut and Secret Stadium Sauce from the middle stand on the third base side of the main entry. That’s where you get the good ones. It is dipped and smothered with the magic sauce. It went down smoothly with that cold Miller Lite as all eyes were on the first base dugout.
As he appeared to go onto the on-deck circle, picking up the rosin bag and tapping it on the handle of his black bat, there was a heightened murmur rolling throughout the stands as he was grasping it with both hands and pulling it over his head, waggling it back and forth over the back of his head to loosen up the kinks of a long winter wondering if he could play without assistance. The fans watched in near quiet as Gomez, last year’s Gold Glove winner in centerfield, led off the game for the home team against the team that left the Cream City so many years ago, breaking hearts of a generation of fans in the hinterland where beer and sausages go together like peanut butter and jelly, not chicken and grits.
The practice swings he made took on new meaning as last year’s All-Star, Jean Segura, batted second. Then, taking the bat upside down, grabbing the barrel of the stick, popped the bat to the ground, releasing the bat ring which weighted the bat for practice swings, he stepped out of the on-deck circle and riding a wave of applause and fans standing in ovation of their fallen star, Braunschweiger stepped across the batters box, across home plate and took his practice swing facing third base before he stepped into the box where right-handed hitters stood, politely acknowledging the crowd’s moving welcome with a slight upward motion by his right hand, bat resting and tapping home plate, before he took his stance.
Why this acknowledgment of by those who are, all that is, right and good, to a fallen hero who not only took PEDs but lied about it to everyone he had ever met…family, friends, workers, fellow players from his team and opposing teams, partners in business…everyone?
The understanding here, Milwaukee is an extremely parochial town. It is, from the very beginning, built upon hard-working, blue-collar folks who went to school to be educated and to church on Sundays and were taught the Golden Rules of life. The town is Catholic, not unlike Boston or Chicago or Baltimore. Yet this is a community filled with deep conviction that you do have a second chance to redeem yourself and people are entitled to redemption.
That won’t happen in Philly or Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Los Angeles. It’s not that they are bad. It is simply that they are not this parochial. It absolutely will not happen in Phoenix where they still believe that it is better to shoot someone than allow them to explain what they did and why they did it. After all, the Zona is only a bit over 100 years old. It is also the home of the Sherriff who puts his prisoners in pink and has them stay outside all year-long in Tent City.
What will be interesting is to see how he is greeted in one of the most respected baseball towns in the country, St. Louis. The bitter rival of the Milwaukee nines throughout most of the later half of the Twentieth Century, St. Louis has a reputation not unlike Milwaukee. It has seen some of its own disgraced and ashamed. How will they welcome the latest Black Sheep from the other beer city up North?
On Monday, April 28th, we will find out. That will be the fourth game of the year between the Brewers and the Cardinals and the first visit of the Cerveceros to the Land of Busch to play the Cardenales.
Then we will see. Then we will learn the depth of the disgrace. Let’s hope his thumb gets better before then.
No matter who you root for this coming baseball season, more than likely you will be cheering for a minor league caliber team. The New York Yankees signing of Tanaka, giving them a powerful starting pitching lineup along with one of the best catchers in the game, gives them a battery no one else can match. Even with the loss of Cano and Granderson, they will be overwhelming favorites to win the American League pennant. Across the country, the Los Angeles Dodgers have similar talent. Powerful pitching wins games and pennants.
What does talent do to a team? If we are judging baseball teams, talent is everything, especially when you consider pitching. So if you are not a Yankee, Dodger, Nationals, Cardinals, Tigers, Rangers and perhaps a Giant fan, you are an also-ran fan. At least, at the very best, you are an always-hopeful fan. If you are an A’s fan, you are always hopeful. If you are a Pirates fan, you are hopeful another miracle can happen. If you are a Rays’ fan, you have talent and a manager. If you are a Red Sox fan, hope is a built-in principal of life. If you are a White Sox fan you are hopeful the new guy can do what that Dodger kid did last season. To the rest of baseball, there is no hope.
Consider the Brewers. Pitching you have Vonnie and the rest. That’s a 12 win season. They were still playing the buyer’s remorse game with Garza on Sunday morning. But, as of 2P on Sunday, the Brewers signed Garza (for details go to: The Brewers signed Garza. http://www.facebook.com/overtheshouldermedia). Thus pitching would have been same-ol, same-ol if he hadn’t signed. That’s one hole filled. At catcher you have Lucroy. He is a very good craftsman with a good bat. But his arm is not there. At first you have nothing but the largest group of has-beens and wannabe’s in the history of first base. At second, you have a young hopeful. At shortstop, you have a legit All-Star. At third, there is a tiring veteran player on his way out of the game in the last of his contact years. In left you have a young hopeful…untested but a young hopeful. In center, you have a gifted defensive player who you hope can hit like he did in the first half of last year’s season all of this season. In right you have a guy who one will have to hope he can play without his meds. Watching a fallen star will be brutal in opposing ballparks. Watching in Miller Park will be a lot of shaking of heads and wondering what would have been. You don’t know what his season will be like . How long has it been since he didn’t play with some assistance? That’s on the field. In the dugout the Brewers have average managerial talent and the worst third base coach in baseball. If they get hot at the early part of the season, then perhaps the owner will give the GM the monies to pull off a bold move. Let’s hope it is not for one of their young pitchers or their shortstop. That’s a lot of hope.
Consider the Cubs. Here is an ownership family that says all the right things but simply are very conservative when it comes to spending their money. They have a new ballpark in Mesa for Spring Training. They have a good starting pitcher. They have a hopefully good first baseman. They have an erratic but hopefully improved shortstop who is All-Star quality. Yikes! Its been a long time since Gabby took the Cubbies to the land of dreams.
Consider the Mariners. They have Cano. They have one of the best pitchers in the game. They have an unknown in Cory Hart. They have, however, missed out on one guy who could have put thrill back into the Northwest. Tanaka. They have a new President. When will this management learn not to give up on their great players? When are they going to stop letting ‘The Kid’ go away? A-Rod escape? Johnson let go? And the idol, arguably the best player in the first decade of this Century traded away to the Yankees…Ichiro? Hey…how about another manager? It is time this management stops playing Nintendo and begins understanding that baseball is a game of professionals. Welcome to Peoria this spring.
Consider the Angels. Tanaka was simply too young for them to acquire. They want to give the Arte billions to old, over-the-hill players. Understand A.J. is available for behind the plate duties. Isn’t it time to trade the best young player in the game to the Yankees? He may be too young to keep around those gray hairs who pack the halo’s lineup.
Consider the Padres.
Consider the Rockies. Talk about tight. This ownership’s idea of building a team is in building a party deck in right field. They have a 40-year-old relief pitcher in LaTroy. Doesn’t he understand that the air is thin up there in Denver? Pitchers can’t throw curves in that atmosphere. To win they need to have hammers…big hitters who can win the game 15 to 14 in nine innings.
Consider the Diamondbacks. It is just too bad they couldn’t pull off the deal with Tanaka. They brought in Goldy to assist in convincing the young Japanese star to make the Valley of the Sun his home. It could have given new hope to a team that has disappointed many during the past season or two. Here was a team on the verge of dominance with one of the best coaching staffs in baseball. Now there is no great young outfielder to chastise. Two great coaches in Baylor and Williams have left. They have overpaid an underperforming catcher. And they still have no #1 pitcher. Bullpen? What bullpen?
Consider the Braves. No catcher. No money. Could be a decade of doom for the transplanted Milwaukee nine.
Consider the Orioles. Their manager has done what he has always done in the past. He takes nothing and pushes them to the almost-near the top. He is there again. Can he finally do what he has never done before and win the pennant and World Series? Davis and Hardy need more pitching.
Consider the Indians. Wow! When you get Axford and call that an improvement, I have a bridge I want to sell you. Back to the minors.
Consider the Reds. Why is this team located near one of the biggest package goods manufacturers in the world without funds to rebuild their incredible past? P&G…buy this team and give them some money to make they one of the greats again. Baseball needs it. This is the team who really started it all in the city where pro baseball began. Goodyear will be a terrible place to watch this Spring Training.
Consider the Royals. George Brett must be put into a position to do what John Elway has done in Denver. Ownership has to unload its pockets and provide Brett the monies that can rebuild a once proud franchise. Aoki is a monumental trade improvement. Watch him hit against Darvish and Tanaka. There is hope in KC. Surprise will be a great place to watch baseball this spring.
Consider the Astros. It is a few years off before they will be a power. But will they be able to compete without being paid for their television contract. It seems Comcast owes them monies from last July, August and September. The local Comcast is declaring bankruptcy. The Astro’s are saying Comcast is doing a slight-of-hand. No money…no power. They have the money to improve. We all know they have the city to attract top players.
Consider the White Sox. Money? They have it in spades as they are part owner of the same cable network that carries the Cubs. They are making money hand over fist but can’t seem to do anything to improve their team except to extend their manager’s contract. Yet they did add one key player from Cuba, first baseman Jose Abreu who may be the next big thing in baseball. By sharing Camelback Ranch with the Dodgers this spring, the crowds should be large and boisterous. Unfortunately, there is little shade at Camelback Ranch.
We are only a couple of weeks away before the pitchers and catchers report. Arizona is going to be a great place to begin the season to find out what’s shaking for 2014. Besides, the first games are only a month away in AUSTRALIA. Yep. The D’Backs and Dodgers open the Major League Baseball season Down Under.
Thanks Commish. Great job. Do you have any idea what that gate would draw in LA or Phoenix?
The Milwaukee Brewers have had eight general managers in their lifetime. Names like Marvin Milkes (his teams won 64 and 65 games) and trader Frank Lane (coming in 1971-72 winning 69 than 65 games) were the first two. One of the things Lane did was trade for George ‘Boomer’ Scott who became the cornerstone of great Milwaukee first basemen. Jim Wilson lasted for just two years, but brought the City the first 70+ winning seasons since the Braves historic run in Cream City. He had teams that won 74 games then 76. Of course, in typical Brewer ownership fashion, Wilson was replaced and was followed by Jim Baumer. In three seasons, Baumer regressed as his teams won 68, 68 and then 67 games.
Then the owner finally realized that he was not the smartest person and hired he greatest of all Brewer general managers with unquestioned credentials was the late, great Harry Dalton. For 15 years, he brought the Milwaukee nine to greatness with great managerial selections, incredible trades which rank near the top of all-time in the history of the game and an incredibly sad time toward the end of his reign as the owner barely spoke to him, rarely acknowledging him in public and in private treated him like an unwanted employee. Yet no one could match him in intelligence or humility. He was an incredibly well liked individual and understood the game better than most. He immediately hired George Bamberger, a tremendous pitching coach from Baltimore. The team immediately began to jell. They were the first to win 90+ games, with 93 and then 95, dropped back a bit to 86 after which he made the greatest trade in history by gaining Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich and then fought for the American League East title in 198 strike shortened season. Finally, after 20+ years in existence, in 1982 with a record 95 wins, under rookie manager, Harvey Kuenn, the Milwaukee Brewers won their first and only pennant, an American League pennant, falling short to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games of the World Series. From 1978 to 1991, before being demoted to V.P, Special Projects, Dalton’s teams finished below .500 only four times.
In 1992 he was followed by one of the most ill-equipped general managers of all-time, one Sal Bando. One had the feeling that here was a guy who angled for the job, kissing up to an under funded owner who needed a miracle. The unfortunate aspect of Bando’s hiring was that he drove the once proud franchise into one of its lowest periods of in history. In his years with the team in this capacity, other than the 1992 team he had inherited from Dalton, none of his teams finished above .500. He was reassigned in August of 1999 making his tenure as a GM, sub par for 7 & 1/2 seasons.
Dean Taylor was brought in. In 2000 the Brewers won 73; ’01 his team won 68 and in ’02, they could only win 56, losing a record 106. Therefore, in twelve years following Dalton’s architecture, the Brewers were below .500 every year.
Doug Melvin, after leading the Texas Rangers to three post season playoffs as general manager, the first in that team’s 48 year history, he is replaced and spends a season as a special assistant to the Boston Red Sox before being hired by the Brewers, baseball’s answer to the tunnel without a light at the end of it. After two season, he brought the Brewer fans a .500 season. Then they fell below again, then two seasons above, then below, again above for two seasons and below.
In eleven seasons at the helm, he has had his team finish above .500 four times, even at .500 once and the remaining six season below. He is not Harry Dalton. He doesn’t work for an owner who is strapped for cash. He has brought in countless players who have been overpriced and under performed. He has let a treasure go twice. Prince Fielder was allowed to leave because they didn’t want to pay him. The Tigers stole him. Then just this past week, while in need of a first baseman for a team that has a history of terrific first basemen from George Scott to Cecil Cooper to Richie Sexton to Lyle Overbay to Prince… briefly Hart…he had an opportunity to get Prince back for a price less than what they offered him just two years ago. Fielder is of Brewer blood. He was drafted by Milwaukee. He came up through the ranks. He was a fan favorite. Can you imagine the enormous boost in fan morale to bring their Prince back? But no. He was messing around with destroying one of the better players the Brewers have ever had, Norichika Aoki, who was not even on the Brewer’s radar because Melvin had no Japanese scouts to witness a six-time Japanese batting champion, the best since Ichiro, to take the place of Braun in case that player was suspended. But Braun won that arbitration. Aoki is the best leadoff hitter, arguably in the entire game. He is consistent. And he is one of the few left-handed hitters in the game who kills left-handed pitching. But here is Melvin having lunch with the owner discussing whether to move Braun to right field, thus eliminating Aoki for someone who has not proven himself over the course of an entire season, a rookie to replace the former left fielder in left.
Melvin has had a history of dubious moves. Gagne, Suppan, Riske and Wolf, all over priced over-the-hill pitchers. The renting of C.C. Sabathia for a couple of months, whom he could not resign with the club. The renting of Greinke, who could not be resigned. The inclusion of Nelson Cruz, thrown into the Carlos Lee trade. The hiring of managers like Ken Macha and allowing assistant coaches like the horrible third base coach of the Brewers right now. Here is a coach who actually loses games for the team, consistently.
This is the year Melvin has to have this team perform, not like in the past, but be able to beat the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates in their division at home and on the road. This is the year the team has to reach the playoffs and win the National League pennant. This is the year to prove that he is capable of winning and setting the stage for plus .500 seasons to come.
It has been a long time since Harry Dalton set the plan of winning in Milwaukee. Now it is time for Melvinitis. Let’s hope it is a solution and not a disease. He has to begin winning.
Every boy’s dream it to make it into the highest echelon of sports. Some youngsters dream about that big day when they actually walk onto their field of dreams. In baseball, every time you took to a diamond in the sand lots around your neighborhood with bat, ball and glove in hand, the dream became more real. Soon, that dream will come true for a couple of Major Leaguers when the Rookie Of the Year will be named. It is the hope of the winners that they will not become a Joe Charboneau, who became better known for opening a beer bottle with his eye socket than his long term batting prowess. Let’s not forget Walt Dropo.
His dream will be one of The Big 14. These are the men who became both Rookie Of the Year and a Hall Of Famer. They are the few…the greats of the game.
It began with Jackie, the ROY in 1947 as a Dodger and HOF in 1962. He is the only Dodger ever to accomplish this fantastic feat. Then there was Willie (’51 & ’79) as a Giant. Frank Robinson was the Cincinnati Red who became ROY in 1956 and Hall Of Famer in 1982. Then Luis Aparicio became the first American Leaguer to have become the ROY (’56 with the White Sox, the only member of the Pale Hose ever to do so) and HOF (’84). Orlando Cepeda (ROY ’58 with the Giants & HOF ’99); Willie McCovey (ROY ’59 as a Giant & HOF ’86) and Billy Williams (ROY ’61 as the first Cub to do so & HOF ’87). Tom Seaver was the only pitcher to ever accomplish this masterful feat by winning the ROY in 1967 as a Met and Hall Of Fame in 1992. He remains the only Met to do so. Then there was Rod Carew (ROY ’67 as a Twin & HOF ’91). Think for a moment of all the great Twin ROY’s who have not been elected into the Hall. Johnny Bench became the first catcher to win this double tribute (ROY ’68 as a Red & HOF ’89); Carlton Fisk (ROY ’72 with the Red Sox & HOF in 2000); Eddie Murray (ROY ’77 as an Oriole & HOF in 2003); Andre Dawson was the one and only Montreal Expo to win (ROY ’77 & HOF in 2010) and finally the last of The Big 14, Cal Ripken, baseball’s ironman who gained ROY in 1982 with the Orioles and entered into the Hall Of Fame in 2007. Eight from the National League. Six from the American League. Jackie did it when there was only one chosen in all of baseball.
Will two of the six up for the Rookie Of The Year award this year achieve the greatness of these great players? Or will they become the Jerome Walton or Dwight Smith like so many before them?