Disrespect



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.

Astounding!

Astoundingly stupid.

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.

Play Ball!

P.S. So how did Davies do upon his return on Sunday, July 17, 2016?
7.0 inning pitched
92 Pitches
59 Strikes
0 Runs
4 Hits
5 SOs
0 Walks
9 Groundouts
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.

Bremley Revisited

The mark of a good leader is one who never fails to place his people outside of Harm’s Way. A leader places his people in a position to succeed and not fail. Not since Bob Bremley has any manager in major league baseball been so stubborn and restrictive to the old looney rules of baseball as happened this week. In this case, the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers has again failed miserably.

On Thursday, behind a brilliant performance by Kyle Lohse, pitching as though he wanted to show-up his former team for not re-signing him and allowing him to become a free agent after a great season for the Cardinals, was removed after 7 1/3rd innings of great clutch baseball. At this time of the year, you want to see your horses prove themselves, not only to the team but also to themselves. That’s why they are paid the big dollars. Pitching wins. Hitters are for show. Managers lose.

The Cardinal manager let his pitcher remain in the game even though he was down 2 runs. He knew he had his horse on the mound and no one in the bullpen was going to do any better. But the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers simply does not understand that. He needs to manipulate the game as the modern-day dictates, the starter goes 6 or 7, the set-up man comes in for the 8th and the closer in the 9th comes in. So he put in a set-up reject from Cincinnati. Which begs an entirely different question: Why would a team trade their set up guy to a team within their division? The only answer probable is that he can not stand the pressure of season play off drives. And so the die was cast when the general manager made the deal to bring him over. Quickly, he gave up not one, but three runs ending the Brewers series loss and the pennant race as well. Why bring him in when your starter was as strong as a rock? You didn’t see the Central Division leading team manager play that arrogant mental game!

And don’t give the excuse that the set up guy fell victim to a bone headed play by Mark Reynolds at first when he was thinking of daffodils in the spring rather than understanding that there was only one out as he was keeping the runner at first close to the bag. He could have simply flipped the ball to second and the shortstop would have thrown it back to him for an inning-ending double play. But series are filled with bonehead plays.

Nope. This one goes down to lossy pitching…really lossy pitching.

So what does the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers do on Friday, after a flight to Pittsburgh to face the team that is between them and the playoffs? With the lead again in the eighth, he pulls Yovani Gallardo, THE veteran horse of the Brewer staff who was pitching one of his best games of the year, for … guess who? Yup. Same Cincinnati reject. Same result. He could have brought in anybody but the Reds Reject, even Wei-Chung Wang who is like a Bonus Baby, of 2014 no less. At least he would have had the desire to perform against the team that waived him. But in came the lumbering giant from Cincinnati. Out went the last possible chance of reaching the post season.

Now I ask you…why?

Bob Bremley revisited is the apparent answer. Why did Bremley put Byung-Hyun Kim in back-to-back relief appearances in the 2001 World Series and create Mr. November? Why? In one 24-hour period he nearly crashed everything Buck Showalter created. What possesses a manager to go back to the bad-smelling, stinky well after he has just been poisoned the night before?

Bremley eventually got fired because everyone finally understood that the team that won the championship was the creation of Showalter and not Bremley’s genius.

In 2008, the Brewers had one of their best teams. They were loaded with great young talent, the heyday of Prince and Braun, Weeks the giant left-hander from Cleveland, not Cincinnati, CC Sabathia. The owner knew that this was their time. He fired Ned Yost who did a lot of the same things that the present Brewer manager does continuously. They brought in bench coach Dale Sveum. The Brewers were assured of a post-season playoff berth.

Perhaps the manager of the Brewers said it best on Saturday evening as he was kicked out of the game in the 5th inning. When asked by a reporter about certain decision making as the game progressed during the manager’s post game news conference from Pittsburgh, he said, ‘You can see the game much better here (watching television) than in the dugout. The decisions are clearer here. You can make them instantaneously. No problem.’

It was the most disturbing statement ever made by the head of a team, including Dennis Green’s post game tirade years ago. Nope. The current manager of the Brewers said it all. He can see the game better and make sure decision while watching television. Isn’t that exactly what Bremley is doing today?

There is a lesson to be learned somewhere here.

Play Ball!


Measuring Up

In the City of Beloit, there was a sandlot where the junior high school team played. There wasn’t a blade of grass on the entire field. After all, it was used as a gigantic hockey rink during the winter, which if memory serves me correctly, was nearly all the time. There were two seasons: hot, humid, allergy-filled summers and the dead of winter. As one summer began, my father, the baseball coach of the Lincoln Nine, had a couple of pro prospects on his roster. On was Dick Mogoleky, a big 8th grader who could really throw the ball. After seeing him warm up on this particular afternoon, my dad said, better get behind the fence today. And, we’d better tell John he’ll be coming in relief sometime soon. As I went behind the fence, the first pitch out of Mogo’s hand went sailing right into the backstop fence where I was watching. It was already time to get John warmed up.

There are three big holiday weekends in a major league baseball season. Memorial Day weekend is the first. For years one uses these data points as guideposts for a season. Thus, the season is conveniently decided into four parts: the Opening; The Summer; The Dog Days and finally the Race To The Finish.

So far this season, the following teams are the leaders in their Divisions in the Opening Period.
NL East … Atlanta Braves
NL Central … Milwaukee Brewers
NL West … San Francisco Giants

AL East … Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central … Detroit Tigers
AL West … Oakland As

The Brewers position is unusual…not because it is an unusual place for a Milwaukee Nine to be, especially considering their horrible historical performances in May, but the mental gymnastics they tend to pull off. This past week, even the Attanasio Club put new meaning into sloppy, non-professional play.

You had to be in Atlanta to catch this one. Leading the Carpetbaggers 4-2, and Braves runners at 2nd & 3rd, Roenicke, the Brewers manager, stepped out of the dugout and signaled for a new pitcher, a left hander. As he walked to the mound, head down, he never looked up to see who was coming out of the bullpen. When he did, he saw it was not the guy he wanted. The pitcher who was coming in, stopped in his tracks and mouthed…’There’s no one warming up’. At which time he headed straight back into the bullpen as Roenicke motioned for the ‘other’ left hander, Will Smith. Smith, who most recently was sitting on the bullpen bench considering all sorts of things in life, the least of which was to sprint straight onto the field WITHOUT warming up. Big league pitching is tough enough, but with runners on second and third and a one run lead and not having had the ability to warm up, the odds at success were easily 100-1 AGAINST.

The comparison between what my dad did so many years before and what Roenicke did or did not do, last Thursday, reminds me that the Milwaukee Brewers are not a professional organization. Can you imagine this happening with the St. Louis Cardinals? How about the New York Yankees. Do you think it ever would happen to a Buck Showalter team?

We have reached the first milestone of the marathon that is called the baseball season. With organizational leadership like Roenicke showed, there is no chance the Brewers will be on top at the end of the season.

Play Ball!

It Was A Season To Forget For 29 Others

The San Francisco Giants are champions of baseball, once again. Their sold out season at home was a testament to their power in the West and throughout all of the game. The center of attention come spring will be Scottsdale. That is where they will begin to defend their title this past season and second in the past three years. For other teams it was a season to forget.

In Miami, what should have been a season to remember, became a nightmare quicker than you can say Fidel Castro. Of course when Ozzie said those two words, the beginning of the end began. Ozzie is no longer the manager of the Miami Marlins. He’s out of the fish tank. Now he can spout off about the aged dictator in Cuba all he wants with his profanity laced vocabulary. Así que lo siento. Me encanta el béisbol.

In Boston there was a tea party like only Beantown can deliver. They had fired the most successful manager in their history, who won not one but two World Series supposedly because he had lost control of his team. Guys were actually drinking beer in the clubhouse. Imagine that. Baseball players drinking beer in the clubhouse. After that horrible discovery was blabbed throughout New England on every fish wrap and sports talk mediums, there was a long debate between the candidates they would select as the next great Red Sox manager. Suffice to say the guy they should have taken grabbed the job with the Cubs before the Red Sox decided on Bobby Valentine. Yikes!

In Philadelphia and Milwaukee, great pre-season pitching staffs do not materialize to automatically put them into the playoffs. In Minneapolis, they found out that you can’t have a team built around one high-priced catcher. On the North side of Chicago, Dale Sveum is facing, like others who have taken over that franchise before him, another losing season which must be followed with a winning season or Sveum will have swum. On the South side of Chicago, they let a season of great leadership by one of their own disintegrate in September. St. Louis, Atlanta and Cincinnati had hopes crushed by the tidal wave known as the Giants. Arizona’s owner showed how he knows more about baseball than anybody because he has all the baseball cards Topps has ever printed. That makes him an authority. Unfortunately, Gibson can’t manage cardboard players. Houston was seen rushing over to the American League. They forgot to play ball in 2012.

Seattle had a season to remember. They gave up the greatest player in the game to the Yankees but had more great pitching performances at their stadium than anywhere on the planet ever. They are smiling in Seattle. Same with the fans in Washington, DC, where they were rewarded with a team that brought the city their first divisional championship. Quite an accomplishment for a City that had not seen a title winner since 1933.

Pittsburgh did it again. After a hot start, they faded badly. What do you expect from a team  that is managed by Clint Hurdle. Cleveland was never in the papers the entire season. Nor were the Padres. The New York Mets were non-factors this past season. Colorado disappeared in their own thin air plus their manager left after the season. Kansas City’s only claim to fame this season was hosting the All-Star game. The two ‘T-Towns’, Toronto and Tampa Bay had flashes of brilliance but not enough to put them in the big dance. On top of that, the Blue Jays lost their manager who became the head dude of the Boston Valentines.

Then there were the New York Yankees. The rapid loss of skills of A-Rod and the physical loss of The Captain, doomed the pinstripers this past season. In Dallas, the almost unexplainable coldness of Hamilton’s bat late in the season doomed the Rangers third attempt to win it all in three straight seasons. This franchise still hasn’t realized it needs pitching to win. Did you hear that Nolan Ryan? Remember what you did better than most? It wasn’t hitting. And what can you say about Detroit that hasn’t already been said?

That brings us to Baltimore. What a magical season Buck Showalter brought to baseball. 93 wins. Finally, Buck got his due. After rebuilding the Yankees and then getting fired; after building the Diamondback from scratch and setting all of the pieces together to win the World Series and got fired; after rebuilding the Rangers before he got fired; he took over a team that had won only 66 games the year before he got there and in two short years took them to the door of greatness.

Then there is Oakland and Billyball. The Athletics won the American League West title. And they played for the Championship of the American League. Go ahead. Name three players on the A’s besides Coco Crisp. They won an exciting 94 games. This was one of the most amazing stories in baseball. Billy Bean for President. He is the star of this franchise. Nobody understands the game better…on how to get the most out of talent like Mr. Bean.

On the other side of the equation is the Battle for LA. On one hand there is a billionaire who  bought a pig in a poke and thought he could win the American League pennant and finished third. On the other hand there are billionaires who not only  have to improve a team on the field but a stadium they play in and make it once again safe to go and see games. The Pujols Angels were only exciting because of one rookie. Their manager finally showed what he is made of. Arte has to take a look at his manager if he hopes to capture a title soon. As for the former LaLa Dodgers, they have gotten rid of all that has been bad over the past couple of years by taking out of the game the battling McCourts.

Which leads us to the Giants of San Francisco. Jack Elliot once said “Baseball is grown men getting paid to play a game.” In the City by the Bay, men enjoyed playing baseball this season like few before them. The had food fights before the games. One of their biggest boosters was an injured pitcher who played Ernie Kovacs routine of The Nairobi Trio in the dugout during the game. There were more than smiles. There was laughter and joy of being in a game they love to play. Pandemonium ruled. They put new gas into the gashouse gang. Think of them as the laughing gasers. They have all winter to smile the smile of victory.

Play Ball!

From The Navy Yard To Pigsville And Beyond

In case you are living under a rock, baseball fever is at an all-time high due to the expanded playoff spots now up for grabs. It is pandemonium in the parks. All you have to do is watch the Fightin’s and the BrewCrew to see what’s happening. Both teams, picked to finish near or at the top of their divisions before the season began, struggled to find their bearings throughout the summer. But now when the window is closing fast, both Philadelphia and Milwaukee are putting together winning streaks that are defying the odds.

As of this morning, both teams are closing in. The Phillies are only one game behind in the loss column and the Brewers two games behind because the Dodgers pulled off another great 9th inning rally to beat St. Louis and tie the Cardinals for the wild card spot. That leads us all to the next question: if you tie for the Wild Card at the end of the season, do you have a one game playoff? And, where would that game be played? How is it determined? Let’s not forget the D’Backs. There are only 4 games out in the loss column.

Wild Card fever is not only limited to the National League. In the American League, there is an insane rush  for the playoffs going on as well. The Amazing A’s not only are in the driver’s seat for the Wild Card spot, they are only 2 1/2 games behind the mighty Texas Rangers for the top spot in the AL West. Baltimore, behind their Manager of the Year candidate, Buck Showalter, are three games ahead of the payroll laden Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the unbelievable Tampa Bay Rays and the powerful Detroit Tigers. For everyone who wants a final half month of the season to be up for grabs, you’ve got it this year.

The Angels are another interesting story in all of this. With a payroll that is bigger than most, along with an amazing AL Rookie of the Year candidate in Mike Trout, they continue to stumble when they need it the most. The latest Scioscia Slip occurred last night in Kansas City where former Royal’s Cy Young Award winner, Zach Greinke, the former Brewer earlier in the season, took the mound and was Greinkesque. He masterfully shut out his former team for 8 innings. Then Scioscia, as only he can do, decided to let him go  back out to the mound for he 9th. With the pitch count running into the low 100s, Greinke had not finished  a complete game in years. But if Big Mike wills it, it will happen.

Or not.

Greinke got the first two out before he gave up a single into left. Now Mike the Merciless jumped out of the dugout and immediately called for a reliever who promptly gave up a game tying home run and then the winning home run, back-to-back. If you could have seen Greinke’s face in the dugout when Billy Butler slammed the game tying home run, you would have been whisked back to an earlier few days in the season when he had the same experiences while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Deja Vu all over again.

How quickly we come full circle back to Pigsville’s favorite ball park. Last night the Crew unloaded against the Mets only to see Scoscia’s disciple, Ron Roenicke bring in Axford in the ninth inning with a big lead. Axford promptly made the game interesting as he gave up his usual runs in the 9th. But unlike what happened in KC or in Dodger Stadium, the game at Miller Park ended with no more runs scoring.

We’re in for a great final few weeks in September. As Jim Murray said, “The charm of baseball is that as  dull as it may be on the field, it is endlessly fascinating as a rehash.”

Play Ball!