2 & 9

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One of the joys of baseball is the many parks that present the game. Chase Field in Phoenix is a terrific venue for baseball. Yankee Stadium is more of a cathedral. Wrigley is a trip back in time (now, more than ever with few bathrooms). Dodger Stadium is a great place to see a game. The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is great if you are in a suite (it is extremely hot and uncomfortable for most of the games). Miller Park is one of the great restaurants in the nation as it is clear, eating is more important than the team on the field. But one of the most delightful baseball palaces is AT&T Park in San Francisco.

The view is frankly unbelievable. And the fans are absolutely into the game. They may be some of the best fans in the game today. Why is this possible? If you want to be outdoors (and what Californian doesn’t?), this is the place. If you want a view with your game, this is the place. If you want a winning tradition, this is the team. If you want post season play, this is the team that can provide it. And the food? This IS San Francisco.

So that was the way today’s article was going to go. It was more of a food oration rather than a venue description. But for the Pigsville crowd, wondering why the Cream City Nine is continuing their losing ways, gathering around the bar of Dave and Melanie’s at Sobelman’s Pub n Grill, the question is answered out loud: when are they going to fire the manager, Ron Roenicke? In what was one of Milwaukee’s original Schlitz taverns, another chimed in, ‘What about firing Doug Melvin? He’s the one who didn’t do anything in the off-season and told us that this is a better team than last year.’. The natives are getting restless in the land of bratwurst and beer.

The facts are that they now have the worst record in all of baseball. No team has won fewer games (2) and they are tied with the Marlins and Giants for the most losses (9) going into Sunday’s action. If not for Cole Hamels (7), Brandon McCarthy (6) or Anibal Sanchez (5), Kyle Lohse, the Cream City Nine’s #1 starting pitcher, would be leading the majors in most home runs given up in just the first two weeks of the season, four (4). As for fielding, the Miller Parkers have committed the third most errors so far this season (11), behind only the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees. Milwaukee is ranked at the bottom of the hitting charts this season, as they rank #30 out of 30 teams. And they did fire their old hitting coach and replaced him this year. And, they are ranked #28 in pitching with a whopping 4.69 ERA. Needless to say, they lead the world in Opponents Batting Average, giving up a .290 average. Hit against Milwaukee and you have a shot at All-Star numbers.

The Brewers did make one move this off-season: they traded their #1 pitcher for whom they received…nothing of consequence. Let’s see…if you don’t pitch, you don’t hit and you don’t field…you become today’s new old Chicago Cubs.

So, how is this team better than last year’s team that folded like a paper cloth last season?

Come on, Ron, tell us. Come on, Doug. Tell us.

So in-between frustrating talk over a meal consisting of the best burger in Milwaukee, we are still #watchingattanasio.

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.┬áBut 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!