The design of life, leads to death. This is caused by the body when it stops breathing. No oxygen. No life. The body is made up of Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Chlorine, Sodium, Magnesium with fractions of Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium and Florine. Then there is the next step.

In baseball, teams are born and designed with chemistry. They are dependent up young, dynamic players who are eager to prove themselves in The Show and older players who are eager to win one last time. For many, it would be the first time to reach the top of the mountain. The team is made of rookies, journeymen and stars. It is usually put together by a general manager who molds the team for just the right moment to explode upon the scene and win. The team is led by an experienced baseball man who understands the nuisances of the game and who has majored in psychology of life. This last part is critical. As it is up to him to bring a team to peak performance, each and every day, by making sure the right words are said to the right players at the right time. For instance, as Orel Hershiser recently commented during a Dodger telecast, Tommy Lasorda made sure his players did everything possible to win the big game. And to Lasorda, every game was THE big game.

If any part of this preparatory does not work, the team will fail to reach its full potential and win a Pennant.

The next step is in the simplest of terms, Purgatory…a place where old teams go to become ready for their next life. It is a place for cleansing and a time of emptiness as many of the fans who once went to the stadium no longer fill the seats as they are fully aware that this team has no present. And, in a society that is bent on making it happen now, patience is not a virtue. Thus the dichotomy. Purgatory is not a good place for a baseball owner. That is why he is reluctant to make changes.

The Milwaukee Brewers are headed for Purgatory, not in Utah, but metaphorically. When the last great class graduated from AAA (that’s Triple A baseball) and headed to Cream City, fellows like Hart and Weeks, Fielder, Gallardo and Braun made Miller Park one of the most exciting places on the planet. They had All-Star talent with a spirit of success in every stage of their baseball developmental lives. They won where ever they went. They invented new ways to celebrate home runs (see above) and made the faithful believers. They made runs at the top, several times, but never finishing higher than the final game of the National League playoff. So close. So painfully ghostly.

Today the team is faced with the errors of the past, the sins of gluttony. They mortgaged their farm system talent to make one last run at a playoff berth over the past few years. Last year, as three of the last of the Great Quintet came back for the ring, hope turned into absolute horror as two were in their finals days in a Brewer uniform and the other coming back from banishment, seeking absolution for his sins. That dream faded like a discarded ice cube left outside on the pavement of an Arizona summer’s day. Now it is time for Purgatory. It is time to rebuild. But that will not be easy to accomplish because they lack both quality prospects down on the farm (not Stanford but the minor leagues) and tradeable veterans. Their cupboard is bare. While the fans are hungry for victory, there are no brats on the grills with Secret Stadium Sauce nor beer on tap. That is what Purgatory is like for the Pigsville Phaithful.

The A’s have Billy who can pull magic from a dry fountain and relieve the thirst of defeat. The Cubs have Theo who brought the searchers out of the near hundred-old-desert of defeats in Beantown. The Brewers need minds like these to move out of Purgatory in our time. They need new leadership to have the insight of Rickey (Branch, not Weeks) and the dugout tenacity of McGraw (John not Tug) whom Connie Mack once stated, ‘There has been only one manager – and his name is McGraw’.

Where do we find them…those people who are winners in their design and execution of baseball management? How do we rebuild with such a poor hand that is delt? How long will it take to turn it around, if that is even a certainty in a land so barren of pennants? And, perhaps even more important considering its market size, can Milwaukee compete ever again? This is a town where half of the television signal goes to the fishes to the East and cows to the North and West. What kind of TV deal can it negotiate? All it has going for it right now is a face of the team sitting on the DL and nearly 3 million fans who will show up in a snow storm. And the guy in right field who is trying to play ball under a constant ring of ‘Mea Culpa’.

We are now entering the next phase of a team’s baseball life. And the chants are clear…’Mea Culpa’…they are silently praying for someone with Devine intervention to hear. We are all #watchingattanasio. ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’. It is time for cleansing. It is bead-time in this council grounds of the Potawatomi, this gathering land the Algonquian called beautiful land. All we want is a hope to win and…

Play Ball!

The Amazing Billyball Is As Exciting As It Gets Because Of DER

They play in one of the oldest stadiums in Spring Training. Their major league home is one of the last football/baseball combo stadiums of the ’60s. Yet the team that makes these two parks home is playing amazing Billyball. Today they are only three games out of first place in the American League West behind the mighty Texas Rangers. The Oakland A’s are making baseball history once again.

History is the analysis and interpretation of the human past that enables us to study continuity and change over time. It doesn’t say how long ‘over time’ has to be. But in yesterday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, the A’s third baseman, Brandon Inge threw out Pedro Ciriaco at first base in the top of the third inning. What few knew was that ‘pop’ he heard in throwing that ball across the diamond was a season ending right shoulder dislocation which will undergo surgery…season ending surgery.

But he didn’t really tell anyone how badly it hurt him. In the bottom of the third, he went to bat with two runners on. He promptly slapped a double to right, driving in both runners and the A’s were on their way to their 8th straight victory and the crowd was in their glory with impersonations of Bernie Lomax and his celebratory dance. After all, this was Bernie Weekend at the old ballpark. Terry Kiser, the actor who played Bernie in the “Weekend at Bernie’s” movies threw out the first pitch at the beginning of the game. “Lean like Bernie” is the promotional call this weekend. Inge was out of the game and out for the season in a way few will be able to recreate.

The whole season for the A’s will be hard to recreate. Here is a team that was destined to finish last. But somehow, the best General Manager in baseball, Billy Beane, is pulling off another magical season. First he pulled his magic by signing Yoenis Cespedes, a 27 to 37-year-old center fielder/DH to hit this season and many more. This Granma, Cuba (yes, Granma) native is hitting .300 and an OPS of .858. In left field, Jonny Gomes, is hitting .253 and won Friday evenings match. Josh Reddick, in right field, has hammered 28 home runs while driving in 73 RBIs. But who many believe is the key to this team, came in an unusual manner.

The trade that brought Stephen Drew was announced over the club’s public address system in the middle of the seventh inning of a game at the Coliseum with the Twins. He suffered a horrible, season ending injury last season while a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, sliding into home plate in a collision with the Brewer catcher. He was not only out on the play, but out for the season. While recovering this season, he was publicly called out by the D’Backs majority owner suggesting that Drew was taking his time getting his injured ankle back to health. But then again, who listens to what the D’Back’s owner says. The trading of Drew was in the air even before that public spew by the owner.

Yet, Billy B understood the value of Drew. And with his usual magic, he traded for Drew for a 17th round draft pick. Can you imagine that? He got one of the best shortstops in baseball for a 17th round draft pick. That’s must be what makes Arizona so good.

Then there are the Brandon’s. Brandon Moss, the first baseman (who went 4 for 5 on Friday’s drubbing of the Bostonians). He’s hitting .254 with 15 home runs. Brandon Inge, now officially out for the season. Brandon Hicks, Drew’s backup at short hitting well below the Mendoza line. Then there is Brandon McCarthy, the tallest Brandon at 6.7″ with an 8-5 season going for him with an impressive 3.10 ERA. It is my belief that Billy is really trying to get every Brandon in baseball to play for the team and then change the name of the team to the Brandon’s, thus giving him an added injection of cash in new jersey sales that he will need until they get approval for a new stadium in San Jose. “Come get your East Bay Brandon Jersey’s”.

The real reason, however, why the A’s are doing so well is that they are playing great defense with timely hitting. Using a relatively undervalued metric called DER (Defensive Efficiency Rating), the A’s are regarded the second best defensive team in major league baseball. OK. We know this is the home of Moneyball. DER rates how well a team converts “balls in play” into actual outs. The A’s do this extremely well.

Then there is the old man himself, Coco Crisp patrolling center field. He’s hitting .260 but his defense is exceptional, leading us back to DER. You only get a great DER if you have great DER up the middle.

But, can defense win a pennant? Any team that has an outfield of great first names (Yoenis, Coco, Jonny, Josh and Collin) has to play great defense. It’s the All-Smucker outfield. (“With a name like Smucker’s, You Have To Be Good”).

No. It’s none of that. It’s all about Billy. First it was Moneyball. Now it is DER ball. Here’s to you, Mr. Beane. Maybe this season you will get your pennant. We’ll all be pulling for you.

Play Ball!