62 To Go


It seemed like yesterday the balls started flying around the spring training fields of Arizona and Florida. Hope was in the air. But today, for many teams, including the Cream City Nine have only 62 games to go. And what began as hope for these players has turned into a shocking first place in the Central Division of the National League. From one of the worst teams in the league to the top of the heap ahead of the World Champions on July 22 is truly shocking.

This team like many others, are a true reflection in their manager, Craig Counsell. As one of the great utility players, who had the opportunity to win two World Championship rings, his team is made up of players who can play a number of positions. And they have players who will be the All-Stars of the future.

Who are these wonders of 2017?

Behind the plate, a younger journeyman, Manny Pena, has a cannon for an air and the ability to block everything a Lombardi-type pitcher can throw at him. He has been given a chance and has taken full advantage of it. This may be the next great catcher in the game today. Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar at first give an interesting interpretation on being big league first basemen. Mr April, believe it or not, still is among the top home run hitters in the NL even though he hasn’t really hit many in the past three months. Aguilar is one of the best pinch hitters in the majors. And might just become the regular first baseman if Thames continues to slide back to Seoul. At second, Eric Sogard before he was injured, had replaced the fading Jonathan Villar who has been in a season long slump. But because neither seem to regain their hitting eye, it may be a position that the Crew needs to address since they gave up on ‘Scooter’ (who is setting the world on fire in Cincinnati). As short, Orlando Arcia IS the rising superstar. Along with one of the great defensive skills few possess, he has finally begun to hit. Few are better at his position. At third, Travis Shaw is Mr. Consistancy. He is one of the steadiest players in the game and was a brilliant part of a trade by the new GM. In left, one of the great players in the game, Ryan Braun, when healthy is a superstar. In center, the team is awaiting the return of Brinson from the minors to take his place which many expect he will in short order. Brett Phillips has been a pleasant surprise replacing the slumping Broxton, but Brinson will be the man unless the Crew can entice the rerun of one of the greatest players to ever be traded away, Cain, from Kansas City in the disastrous ‘let’s win now’ Zach Greineke acquisition. In right is the next great superstar, Santana Domingo from Santa Domingo. One of the most casual players in the game, Mr. Relaxed has no zone in his strike zone which he cannot hit. Great arm in the outfield and great power at the bat. Then there is the best utility man on a team of great utility men, Hernan Perez. Absolutely a terrific player and can fill in anywhere and do it with style and with power.

Then on the mound, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and perhaps Brent Suter give the Nine quality starts. But it is in the bullpen that will determine the fate of the Crew for the remainder of the season. And frankly, the only one who seems to be making a difference it the rookie, Josh Hader. If Corey Knebel can recover to his early season form, the the Brewers have a chance with this improbable lineup of overachievers.

Sixty-two to go for a team that is made up of players who can play anywhere and are not afraid of any other team.

They are in first place today with one of the best minor league systems in the game.

Will they trade it away to ‘go for it now’ or continue to build this exciting, dynamic and youthful experiment in organized ball? Understand, this has never been done before. Basically, what you have is a team built with players who can play anywhere, anytime…just like their manager. And they are doing it with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Is this the new Moneyball? But their plan to build a consistent pennant challenging and World Series threat can only be done by continuing to build their minor league system in the eyes of their manager, where defense and an infectious joy to play the game everyday overcomes everything else. St. Louis has proven this theory time and time again. It is the minor league system that provides the player of the future to come up and step into a winning system to carry the legend forward.

It will be a real test of character of the new GM David Stearns to see how he handles this very difficult situation.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Nelson and Davies…And Pray For A Couple Of Rainies

x

The team that now calls the spaceship, Miller Park, home which is located just a few miles away from the center of Pigsville, is in essence an above average Triple A team. Now before the hounds of Bernie attack, all one has to do is take a look at the product on the field.

◎ It has a fading first baseman who can strike out more than he hits his mammoth home runs.
◎ The second baseman is an average ball player.
◎ The shortstop is one of the surprising players in the game today as he leads the national League in stolen bases and is hitting like…well an All-Star. But he makes so many running mistakes when he is on base, he ignites more fires then he puts out.
◎ The third baseman is a journeyman player on the down side of an average career.
◎ In left field, the best player on the team resides, when he is healthy, which is approximately 66% of the time.
◎ In centerfield, there are two young players who cannot hit in the Major Leagues. They are both ‘tweeners’, with one so bad, on Thursday he actually committed two errors in one inning.
◎ In right field, there is a potential big time player when he is not on the DL. Unfortunately, he has been unable to play more than he has been in the field.
◎ At catcher, you have the second best player on the team and perhaps the third best hitting catcher in the National League. His replacement can’t hit the dugout.
The starting pitching staff is good for 50 wins. Nelson, Davies and Anderson (sic) are the most reliable so far this season. Peralta is in the minors and Garza is in ‘who knows land’. We’ll find out today as he makes his 2016 pitching debut on the 19th of June. ‘Nelson and Davies…and pray for a couple of rainies.’
The relief pitching, while statistically looks good, is not. More times than not, they blow games the team struggled to lead, tied or win. All you have to due is look at this entire weekend against the Dodgers.

The other day (Wednesday), here is the starting line up:
Presley, Nieuenhuis and Flores made up the outfield.
Nelson was on the mound with Maldonado catching.
Lucroy at first, Gennett at second, Villar at short and Perez at third.

How’s that for a lineup, folks.

Their best player in the line up was playing out of position at first.

This was so bad, Milwaukee television never picked up the game. The only way you could see it was if you had DirecTV and tuned into the San Francisco Giant’s telecast or attended the game at AT&T.

The team’s big news on this day was the signing of their second round draft choice a fellow named Erceg.

So, what do the fans think?

‘What’s an Erceg?’

To consider what the fans think is recorded in the team’s home attendance figures… 27,597 on average per game or less than 1 million fans in 36 home games. This is 3,783 less than last year when the team average was 31,389. That’s a decrease of 12.1% in one year. The real problem with this is that in 2014, the team averaged 34,535 per game. The Era of Roenicke has caused the proud Cream City franchise to drift downward from first place to last place in about 21 months. Thus attendance is down 6,938 fans per game (-20.1%). But then again, who cares to watch a minor league team play, unless you enjoy watching the stars from the other teams.

If business is down -20.1% over two years, in any other business, someone’s head would roll. But not with the beloved Milwaukee Brewers. In the Cream City it is called…’rebuilding’. It is familiar to the fans of beer, cheese and brats. This team has been rebuilding since 1970.

On that beautiful day game at AT&T on Wednesday, where there was another sell-out crowd in the City By The Bay, the difference was clear. One was a division leading team and the other looked like an affiliate. The True Blue Brew Crew’s third baseman on this day threw the ball into the stands attempting to complete a double play, a throw reminiscent of those lovable days when Sheffield was trying to have the Brewers get rid of him. It was a pure Sheffield toss-for-freedom-from-the-Man.

Sheffield was the sixth pick of the first round in 1986. When brought up to The Show in 1989, he struggled at shortstop and the Brewers farmed him out due to ‘indifferent fielding’ while he insisted that his foot was hurt. In fact in Denver, he was diagnosed with a broken foot. When he returns two months later, he played third for the Brewers, a move he didn’t like. In 1990, he settle in at third and hit .294, but he was not a happy camper. In 1991, he had a shoulder and wrist injury and the Brewers really made him not like management by subjecting him to not-so-random drug tests as a byproduct of his relationship to Dwight Gooden, who had already been to rehab for cocaine problems. Then Sheffield suggested the Brewers owner, the one and only Bud Selig, who now has a statue of himself outside of Miller Park, had gone back on offering him a long-term deal. Sheffield was about to go unhinged. Fans had to be careful and alert on the First Base side. After being sent to the Padres for nothing (another great Brewer trade), he told Bob Nightingale of the Los Angeles Time, ‘The Brewers brought out the hate in me. I was a crazy man…I hated everything about the place. If the official scorer gave me an error, and I didn’t think it was an error, I’d say, ‘OK, here’s a real error’, and I’d throw the next ball into the stands on purpose.

But that’s all beside the point. We’re talking about today’s Milwaukee Brewers…a team destined for whatever.

You could see it in Spring Training. All these kids were running around. Blasick was not getting a single person out at the plate; there was a tightness with fielding that was due to the over training of infielders in hope that this team did not commit all of the real and mental errors of the Roenicke Era. There was virtually no home runs except for the rookie who wanted to show the world that he was going to make this team. And then there were few appearances of Braun who was making his first moves since back surgery in the off-season. Lucroy was making sounds that he wasn’t happy to be with a team who was destined for a bad season. And, there was no shortstop as he was traded for a #5 pitcher and a tired veteran 3rd baseman. In essence, it looked like the old Kansas City teams that were continually being depleted of its talent whenever the Yankees wanted to restock their team.

At the end of the third inning on Wednesday, the Brewers line score was this: 0 runs 1 hit 3 errors. AFTER THREE INNINGS.
At the end of the fourth inning on Wednesday, the Brewers scorecard was this: 0 runs 1 hit 4 errors. AFTER FOUR INNINGS.
At this point in the game, the Giant’s announcers said that the Fourth Inning ‘must seem like 2 hours to the Brewers. It is an odd line score.’

You think?

At the end of the game on Wednesday, the Brewers line score was: 0 runs 8 hits 4 errors (with the possibility of 2 more errors which were scored hits by the homer official scorer).

This is not a Major League team’s performance chart.

When Sofia Loren said, ‘Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday…’ the new twist is ‘Nelson, Davies, rain, rain’.

But the sadness of this day was even with Nelson on the mound, the team that he is with, has to hit and score runs.

They didn’t

They were swept out of San Francisco in three games like the Fog in the evening. And in the first three games in Los Angeles, they have lost 2 out of 3. With Garza on the mound today, with memories of his last season, pray for rain in a dirt dry LA should be the first thing you do today.

#watchingattanasio #win63

Play Ball!

And, Happy Father’s Day.

Run Like A Hedge Fund Operation


The beautiful thing about life is that the older you get, the more you learn. The same goes for baseball. The longer you are in the game, the more you understand the intricacies of it. The Milwaukee Brewers have decided to turn that on its ear and suggest that a 30-year-old fellow will be the new guru of the organization and build it into a winner.

Attanasio is frugal. At least that is the world we will go with.

Winning is the key.

Brewers have two people in their entire organization who have World Series rings and who have been a part of a winning tradition. Two.

And the new GM does not have that pedigree.

Someone told me this past week that he is convinced that he was a better lawyer at 40 than he was at 30. Point, the longer you work at a job, the more knowledge you have to show success. In other words, the more you know, the better you become.

The Milwaukee Brewers will reduce their payroll this coming season. They will try everything within their power to relieve themselves of Matt Garza’s contract. Kids will be coming up to see if they can grab lightening…at a price. The starting rotation of Nelson, Peralta, Jungmann and Davies will have its ups and downs as collectively they advance in their ‘baseball training program’ while in the Major Leagues. They should trade Adam Lind to reduce their payroll some more and move Jonathan Lucroy to first to give him extra life and avoid further concussions. Lind has gone virtually injury free this season while hitting very well. The Brewers will never have a better time to trade him for value. Khris Davis should move from left to second base because he has the poorest throwing arm for an outfielder in the major leagues. Your daughter can throw better than this guy. But he can hit and hit with power. Putting him at second will give him a chance to be the most powerful second baseman since Cano. Jean Segura should remain at shortstop as Orlando Arcia develops his hitting in the minors, this coming season in Colorado Springs. Segura will be traded next September to allow the advancement of the phenom. Rogers should be permanently moved to third if he can learn to throw. He can hit and hit and hit and he has a chest big enough to knock balls down bruise after bruise. He just can’t throw to first. Domingo Santana should move to left as Shane Peterson will move back into center. He was very good in that position although many said he was a natural corner outfielder. Ryan Braun, one of the league’s best and the secret comeback player of the year, will remain in right field. After all, Ryan Braun is THE most valuable player for the Milwaukee Brewers. Without him there is no pop in the lineup who can be counted on to drive in runs. With him they have a chance to win the game.

As for moves into the future by the new GM, the best thing he can do is avoid talking to Melvin. That is because the message was loud and clear at his opening press conference. When asked, Attanasio stated that the hire of Stearns was the second most difficult move he had to make in his years as the owner, the other being the Greinke trade with Kansas City. The take away from this is that he listened to his hand-picked GM (Melvin) following his buying of the team from Selig, to trade for Greinke and trade away the future of the organization which resulted in the loss of two future All-Stars. By mentioning this, it is clear Attanasio has been burning from this decision for some time. The exclamation on this subject was made by Stearns when he said ‘Building an organization from the farm system is the way to go. You cannot build a winning baseball team through free agent trades.”! So, while platitudes flow, there should be an avoidance to talk to Melvin at all costs. He will now be put into Selig’s dungeon, the place where he sent the most brilliant of all GMs in the history of the Brewers, Harry Dalton. Selig barely talked to Harry for over a year Dalton was paid to be a consultant.

So what have we learned? Attanasio is frugal. He has brought in a newbie with no track record of winning to be his head of baseball operations under the guise that ‘baseball analytics’ are the way to go. He also mentioned the breadth of Stearns background in ‘all-aspects’ of the front office. Think about that. What breadth of knowledge can anyone pick up in a few years at the age of 30? Obviously, hiring Stearns was cheaper than an extension of Melvin’s contract. Money saved.

The Milwaukee Brewers have no legacy of winning. They won one pennant forty some years ago. That’s it. Once.

The Milwaukee Brewers have only two guys with a winning baseball tradition in their entire organization. Two guys.

The Milwaukee Brewers fans will come out because there are two things that drive provincial Milwaukee: FREE and HOPE.
Buy-One-Get-One-Free will fill the park. Hope for tomorrow because it is bound to be better than today is always a good sell in the land of Catholicism, cheese, bratwurst and beer. The Two ‘C’s’ & Two ‘B’s’ will always sell in the land of the Potawatomi on the edge of Pigsville.

Good luck Brewer fans. If you buy this pile of Hollywood BS, I’ve got a movie you can invest in.

Play Ball!

Rangers In Position

Yesterday, one of the key free agent outfielders in the Major Leagues, Shin-Soo Choo agreed to a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Texas Rangers. Choo is just the latest in a series of moves that have positioned the Dallas franchise to make a run for the pennant once again.

The line-up looks like this: Leading off: left handed, right handed hitting, Leonys Martin (CF); Batting second: right handed hitting, Elvis Andrus (SS); Hitting third: right handed hitting Adrian Beltre (3B); In the clean up position: left handed hitting Prince Fielder (1B); In the 5th spot, left handed hitting Shin-Soo Choo (LF/RF); Batting 6th: right handed hitter, Alex Rios (LF/RF); In 7th: left handed hitting Mitch Moreland (DH) In 8th: right handed hitting Geovany Soto (C) and in the 9th spot: switch hitting Jurickson Profar (2B). The flexibility and the power is exceptional. The team will definitely improve their #8 position for runs last season; their 7th place in slugging percentage; and their 10th place in on base percentage. This is a batting order that will wear opposing pitchers out and the bullpens of the opponents will be exposed.

This is a lineup which will be extremely tough on right handed pitchers, and should wear out opposing pitchers as Fielder, Choo and Soto run up pitch counts all day long. But what pitcher would want to face Beltre, Fielder and Choo? This is an extremely dangerous group of hitters, not unlike Braun, Fielder and Hart three and four years back.

Meanwhile, GM Jon Daniels have brought The Rangers closer to a championship and will have the incomparable Yu Darvish at the top of the pitching rotation. A 200 inning starter with a 14-7 record last season, Darvish is due for a big season as he enters his third year in the Majors. With a 3.11 ERA, this is a dominating stopper. Derek Holland, another 200 inning starter with a 12-8 record, should have a great year after coming off of a 3.74 ERA season. They represent a great one-two pitching staff with a lot of power to give them a run or two in most of their starts. Jason Frasor will be the closer this season. He had 60 innings last season and an excellent 3.20 ERA with 61 Ks and only  26 bases on balls.

While defending Oakland A’s will again be strong in their division, the question is will they be able to continue their upward run with the addition of left handed pitcher, Scott Kasmir? The question in Dallas is: did they do enough in the off-season to overcome the A’s in the AL West? Has their pitching situation improved enough to carry this team into and through  the World Series? IF Masahiro Tanaka is eventually posted by his club in Japan and IF the Rangers can sign him, Dallas will be the odds on favorite to win it all in 2014.

This is what the off season is all about, building for the future now. Daniels and the other executives of the Rangers deserve all the credit in making the Hot Stove League extremely warm. There is little question that their hitting will be on par with any team in the majors. On February 27th at Surprise Stadium in Arizona, the excitement will begin as they take on the Kansas City Royals in their first game in the Cactus League.

Play Ball!

For daily updates, on Twitter follow @overtheshoulde3    On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/overtheshouldermlb/

Sciosciaitis

We have the inane ability as humans to give the guy another break. It is part of our human DNA. We create excuses for not pressing the issue if it means terminating an employee for one reason or another. Our expectations are always at their highest right after hiring. After all, if you are the boss, especially in a family run business, it was your decision to hire that employee in the first place. He’s one of ours. So the field for excuse making widens as the boss attempts to give a little more rope in hopes the employee does something so outrageously bad the boss is given the general approval by all of those around that it becomes a ‘fait accompli’. Or, a miracle happens and the avoidance of termination is taken off of the table.

In baseball, the people are hired based upon the track record of others. If a manager is successful and wins a World Series, his staff is cannibalized by teams desperate to duplicate that same experience.

The major leagues and the a little league have only a couple of things in common. Both use bats and balls, bases and foul lines, gloves and bating helmets. One other thing they have in common is Ron Roenicke, a disciple and former coach under one Mike Lorri Scioscia, a manager who reached the top of the ladder earlier in this Century.

The little leagues have a rule that demands everyone on the roster must play. Roenicke obviously believes in this also. In the last couple of weeks this has become very apparent. After winning two straight against the top team in the NL East, the Atlanta team, he decided to bring his kid managerial skills to the fans who paid big-ticket prices to see the best their team has to offer. A few cases in point:

1. Instead of using his #4 outfielder, Schafer, who is replacing Braun (on the DL) and is just beginning to get needed at bats to get the rust off, he uses Caleb Gindl, also a left-handed batter. Gotta play him or his momma gets mad. Gindl misses an easy fly. He is sent to the minors a few days later. The maddening roster changes make programs necessary in Milwaukee.

2. Jeff Bianchi started at 3rd in place of Aramis Ramirez who had a day off two days earlier.

3. What came as a relief to all fans of the Milwaukee nine, Roenicke was given a ‘vote of confidence’ by his owner during this period. Has anyone noticed that the owner hasn’t appeared much in Milwaukee this season?

4. In the 6th, during a game last week, Roenicke elects to use his last right-handed hitter off the bench, trailing in a 6-4 game, Maldonado, batting for the pitcher, strikes out to end the inning and leaves the bench bare of right-handed hitters. Roenicke forgets this is a nine inning game.

5. On Saturday, June 29th, the manager decides to sit Aoki, one of the leading hitters on the team against left-handed pitchers. Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano faces the Brew Crew. Roenicke said he rested Aoki because Liriano may be too much with his stuff. When is a star player not good enough or not willing to face off against the best? When did a manager pull his leading left-handed batter against left handed pitching? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation for this continued unconscious thought?

6. July 4th displayed yet another lineup in a season filled with lineup changes. Halton (1st), Bianchi (2nd), Segura (ss), Francisco (3rd?), Schafer (lf), Gomez (cf), Aoki (rf), Lucroy (c), Hand (p). As a result, Bianchi doesn’t cover second with a man on first and a right-handed hitter at the plate as Werth steals second, the third off Lucroy in the first four inning of this game. With runners on first and second, no outs, Francisco lets a bunt pop up drop in front of him, taking away the possibility, however small, and fumbling the ball to load the bases, two of which eventually score. In the second double switch in as many innings, Roenicke brings in Weeks to play 2nd, moving Bianchi to left and moves Shafer to center, replacing Gomez who just hit a home run to tie the game. Please grasp this managerial masterpiece of maneuvering. It is truly Scioscia-esque.

This is a curious move, a move by a guy who wants to lose the game and his job. He brings in Kenzler in relief and promptly gives up a 3 run homer to make the score 8-5. Ramos, for Washington, drove in 5 runs in 2 innings. This is not a tribute to a fellow who just came back from the DL, but another example of managerial mayhem.

This is a team without fundamentals. The Milwaukee Brewers this season have fallen to the bottom of fan’s hope chest. This fundamental inadequacy may extend all the way through the organization, through the minor leagues to the big club. Outside of the Narron Bros., the rest of this coaching staff is less than adequate. So many runners have been picked off first base this season one can only hope that the players only hit doubles to avoid any and all input from the first base coach, who appears to be unconscious most of the time. As for the third base coach, everyone knows that he may be the poorest in all of organized sports. But they say, “He’s such a nice guy”. He’s always smiling. You would be too if you had a big league job.

To his credit, Roenicke admitted he made a mistake in Friday’s disappointing loss to the dreadful Mets. The mistake was that he showed up at the ballpark.

Play Ball!

Seven Come Twenty-Three

The dugout was tight, with jaws locked in the anticipation of pending doom. The relief pitching, the achilies of this season’s team, had just allowed three runs to put the Brewers behind 7-4 going into the 8th after leading 4-0. On the road, you don’t get the push from the home crowd, propelling you to the thrill of a rally to keep pennant hopes alive. From an improbable position of mediocrity, this Milwaukee team has been on a quest, since the All-Star break to do what no other team has done before…come back from 7 games below .500 and get a coveted Wild Card playoff spot.

The top of the 8th inning began like so many others had this year. Someone gets on and then another. Then up comes Nori Aoki to the plate. What is he going to do this time? Hammer it deep as he has been doing so many times during the later part of this season or will he lay down a bunt and fill the bases for the big boys that follow? #7 promptly slammed a double off the wall to drive in one run. Rickie Weeks (#23) followed and hammered a triple to left center to tie the score. Aramis Ramirez then delivered a single up the middle to drive in the go-ahead run and Milwaukee led, in an attempt to sweep the Pirates and move onto Washington for another series that would have its fans on the edge of their seats, wondering if the Boys from the Cream City could accomplish the impossible.

The trip this team has taken during the past three months has been remarkable and it has been led by the top of their order, Aoki and Weeks. Aoki has had four different 10+ game hitting streaks this season and is one of the reasons for the Brewers performance. As the lead off hitter, he has gotten on base 35.9% of the time. Hitting near .300, this six time batting champion in Japan really is the ‘hitting machine’ so many talked about earlier this spring when Milwaukee was looking for someone to fill an outfield position. He had to come over to Maryville, AZ, the site of the Brewers spring training facility, and basically give  an audition, like a musician trying to gain a spot in a major orchestra, in front of the Milwaukee brass to see what he could do. It’s little wonder that what they saw caused disbelief. Here was a master of the art of hitting, much like his hero, Ichiro. The entire field was his potential hitting target. Very few balls got by him at bat. When it came to having two strikes him, he got tougher at the plate. His impressive style, a bit strange for the fans of Miller Park, gave his manager the confidence to note aloud that he would be the team’s leading pinch hitter off the bench against left handed pitchers. Here was a left handed hitter who could pull off the art of being better than a right handed hitter when it came to hitting off of a left handed pitcher, a total alien view by baseball purists. But a pinch hitter? Here was a star of Japanese baseball, attempting to break into the Major Leagues and not being able to show his full potential as an every day player. In any language that had to be humbling.

As the season progressed, the Brewers found that Aoki was an exceptional fielder as well. The corners of their outfield was set for many seasons to come. Along with Braun in left, this team would have two .300 hitters at the corners.

Which brings us to Weeks. No player was hitting better than #23 was in 2011 when he earned an All-Star spot. But then came a near season ending injury when he stepped awkwardly on the first base bag trying to beat out a throw. He left a huge hole in the lineup and then came back too early in an attempt to contribute to a pennant drive. But Rickie was clearly under par. When this season began, Weeks could barely hit above his weight and struggled through the entire first half of the season. Credit the manager for keeping him in the lineup.

Then somewhere he found his stroke. During the last half of the season, he is hitting as well as he ever did. Batting behind Aoki, it gives the Brewers one of the most intimidating group of hitters deep into the entire order.

While Braun and Ramirez are the core of the power of the Milwaukee club, Aoki and Weeks are the table setters and are as good as any top of the order players in the Show.

The Brewers swept the Pirates with a 9-7 victory for their 24th victory in their last 28 games.

Then onto Washington to take on the top team in the National League. With 13 games to go, they were two games behind Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot. All they have to do is keep winning. To do that, #7 & #23 had to continue to do what they have been doing during this amazing stretch. In the 9th, they did exactly what you would expect from this team. Aoki got on, stole second and in a flurry of hits, the Crew took a 4-2 lead while Axford closed it out for their 26th victory in their last 30 games.

On Saturday, while Aoki threw out a runner at home plate, the team decided to take the day off as the Nationals tied up the series as rookie starter Wily Peralta just didn’t have it and Livan Hernandez daydreamed through an improbable fourth inning.

Now, with 11 games to go and the Brewers two games behind the Cardinals for the last Wild Card playoff spot, the game really begins. Hold onto your hats, sports fans. If they are to do it, Aoki and Weeks, #7 & #23 will show the way.

Play Ball!

If It’s Milwaukee, It Must Be Kielbasa

Doctors may say that the quickest way to solve a psychological condition is to eat. It’s comfort food time. It’s ‘get better’ time. It’s like ‘when the child is sick, give them some chicken soup’ kinda thing. The baseball team from the Cream City needs some chicken soup. Or….a Kielbasa.

This year the Brewers have had three major issues: 1. The psychological hurdle of AP;  2. The calamity of the Bullpen and #3. The problem of having an inexperienced manager at the helm.

The Psychological hurdle of AP

The Milwaukee Brewers this season are a team in transition, from the dynamic youthful bunch who came up through the farm system to AP, an era known as After Prince. For years, the Brewers have had great First Basemen. It all began with the popular Mike Hegan, a member of the original Seattle Pilots from whence the Brewers came. He carried on the Milwaukee tradition of big banging first sackers that was set in the days of the Braves with Joe Adcock/Frank Torre/Nippy Jones fame. George “Boomer” Scott followed up and set a new standard of banging the ball around the park, with his 36 home runs with 109 RBI in 1975 being the hallmark. Then St. Cecil of Cooper (32 home runs with 121 RBI and .313 batting average in 1982), the man who brought the Brewers into the 1982 World Series with one of the greatest clutch hits of all time to win the American League pennant over the California (nee Los Angeles, Anaheim, of Anaheim) Angels.

But the great first sackers didn’t stop there. John Jaha hit .300 with 34 home runs and 118 RBI in ’96. Richie Sexton is still legendary for hitting some of the longest home runs in the game hit 45 home runs in 2001 and 2003. Then came Lyle Overbay, who hit the cover off of the ball with more doubles (53 in 2004 while hitting .301) than any other Milwaukee first baseman before him or after. But he was just keeping the sack warm for the kid who everyone knew was the center of the first base universe storming up from the minors.

Prince Fielder was born to be a Milwaukee Brewer. He was everything a Milwaukee first baseman was all about. But Prince brought a new dimension to the game. He was an enthusiastic crusher with youth going for him. Here was the pillar of the young Brewers (50 home runs in 2007, 141 RBI and .299 batting average in 2009) and were everything the Milwaukee club was looking for ever since the great Robin Yount came up and spent the next 20 years making the Brewers a serious contender each and every year. He, along with Weeks and Hart came up through the ranks pounding the opposition with their youthful style and power (230 home runs as a Brewer). Prince was fun. Prince was the leader. Prince was the soul. Prince was the Man.

Then nothing.

If 2012 is remembered, it was for the silence of the void that was created when Prince left.

They wore Brewers on the front of their jerseys, but they simply were not the Milwaukee Brewers. Their Prince had left. Long live the Prince.

Then something very strange happened. Like the Autumn Spring, false hope gave way to a new and wonderous happening. The next ‘coming’ came and quickly went on the DL for the season. This created a nightmare of a lineup. But someone in the very mold of Adcock and Cooper moved into the outfield from his All-Star position in Right and after 2/3rds of the season, the Brewers began to look once again like the Milwaukee Brewers. Prince, for many diehards, was merely taking a vacation. And now Cory Hart took his position, not his place, but his position at first. Cory, long a favorite of the Keilbasa Krowd, began to hit the long ball once again, and did that crazy little shake of his hips to his teammates in the dugout when he banged a double time and time again.

With the help of the other corners, Aramis Ramirez at third, Norichika Aoki in right and of course Ryan Braun in left, along with the brilliant rookie catcher, Martin Maldonado, solid clutch hitting along with a couple of young rookie arms, brought back the excitement of the past few years where Milwaukee was averaging over 3 million fans at the gate. From way back, 14 1/2 to be exact, they began their move with an impressive sweep over the league leading Cincinnati Reds. Then came Houston.

The Calamity of the Bullpen

A microcosm of a season was in evidence in one single game this past Friday evening. Good fielding, good timely hitting. 24th blown save. K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) is finished. His $8.5 million isn’t worth the paper it is written on. John Axford is useless. If you cannot get a breaking ball over the plate, you are finished in The Show. After a tremendous seven innings pitched by rookie Mark Rogers, K-Rod came in and promptly served up a home run in the 8th inning to the lowly Astros. Then Axford’s walked the lead-off batter and flummoxed his was to the minors to lose the game in the 9th. The Houston Astros this season have NEVER had a walk-off hit before Axford showed up on a humid, air-conditioned evening before the big train on the wall of a ballpark. Axford became the Enron of Minute Maid.

The Problem of Having An Inexperienced Manager At The Helm

After the game, Ron Roenicke the Brewers manager, was downright lost for words. He visibly had lost all confidence in the team. He had visibly lost confidence in himself. Most important, it appeared that he didn’t have any answers. He appeared to be on the verge of tears. He knew he had not learned a thing from the past failures that the Brewers earned throughout this Season AP. Here was a guy who seemingly prides himself on following baseball’s crazy tradition of backing the veterans until their wheels fall off. Wake up, Scioscia’s puppet. The wheels have fallen off. They fell off when your silly decision to keep Cesar Izturis as a backup shortstop ended the progress Edwin Maysonet was making earlier in the season. The wheels fell off when you insisted K-Rod had something left in the tank. He doesn’t. It’s empty. (NOTE: He took arbitration because he couldn’t get anything close to what he was making with the Brewers.) They fell off when you continued to use Axford. Tell Milwaukee’s President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, Doug Melvin, John Axford needs to go back to the minors and work on getting his curve and screwball working again. It’s called ‘getting it over the plate’. He can get work on it down there and it won’t affect the big club’s record. Then take whatever you can get for K-Rod and save the last month’s salary for new hot water bottles for you to sit on or something. Anything but K-Rod.

You cannot fire this bullpen coach. You already did that as a miserable excuse for your inexperience in evaluating what was going on around you, Mr. Roenicke. When the fans in the stands begin to moan and get up to leave the ballpark when you walk out of the dugout and pull your ‘baseball veteran’ scam by taking out the starting pitcher and bring in the dynamic Blown Savers, you have to know, that we all know, you are going to a dry well. There is no more water in that well. It’s dry. That well dried up when the season began. You just didn’t believe it was dry because these two could still walk in from the bullpen. They are the ‘Walking Dead Arms’.

The Solution

It is time you faced the facts of the game in Milwaukee. When in doubt, eat a kielbasa. You need to understand the ‘Power of the K’. Do the honorable thing, Mr. Roenicke. Do what Max Surkont did. He ate himself out of The Show by dinning at those South side Milwaukee fans homes in the ’50s every night. That, plus a few of Milwaukee’s favorite brew, became his ticket out of baseball. But, let it be said that Big Max was more than just an expert on Polish sausages. He also was a bit of a linguist, a man of, one might say, unusual phrases. He once said, “Baseball was never meant to be taken seriously. If it were, we would play it with a javelin instead of a ball.”

So sayeth Max.

Eat, Mr. Roenicke. Don’t mess with the javelin. As they say on the South Side, ‘Eat them kielbasa and wash it down at the bubbler.’.  It is the honorable thing to do.

Then, when the urge comes to give that vet one more shot, forget it. Call in anyone except K-Rod or Axford. It is his time. And as you do that, just say, “Long Live Axford. He was the proverbial flash in the pan.”

Mr. Roenicke? Eat a Kielbasa! We will all be better for it.

Play Ball!