‘The Moment’

'The Moment'

‘The Moment’


Many people in life have ‘a moment’. And, in the annuals of life, one time…..just one time, a person has ‘the moment’. It is defining.

On Friday with most of the crowd headed for the parking lot, the 31 year old rookie sensation, Junior Guerra, was pitching a gem for the Cream City Nine. He had stepped into the top of the ninth against the mighty Pirates, having giving up only two hits the entire evening and now was leading 3-0. He appeared to be in complete control.

His journey in Pigsville had begun, not against the Pittsburgh nine, but when rookie General Manager, David Stearns’ made his first official move after being hired in that position. He claimed, last Fall, one Junior Guerra off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. As Manager, Craig Counsell said, ‘I don’t think anybody accurately forecasted this. But he was claimed for a reason. He was claimed because we thought there were possibilities there and there was talent there. We thought he was a guy that had gone about it in a really different way and got to this place in a really different way, but that he was a really good pitcher at this point. This level of success, maybe not. But yeah, I think we thought he’d have success.’

And he showed his confidence that really wasn’t at all about the Bob ‘Hurricane’ Hazel of this generation, but rather the rookie manager’s grasp of the psychology of the game. In the 9th inning, Junior had begun with only 87 pitches and Counsell was attempting to have his starting pitcher finish a complete game, the first complete game for the Brewers since last July. The first batter, Matt Joyce, got a single. Then John Jaso was walked. Two on, nobody out, Gregory Polanco was coming to the plate as the tying run.

It is one thing to face Jaso, but it was quite another to face this guy before the big guy in the Buc’s lineup.

The eyes of the 29,000+ were all on the manager in the dugout. Would he come out and bring in, what has been, a very iffy bullpen to try to wrap up the game? Or would he let his rookie pitcher try to complete the game in style? It was the beginning of ‘The Moment’ that will live with Brewer fans forever. Out came Counsell, looking quickly right down the first base line, then eyes down and walked up toward the mound as he approached the pitcher and the gathering infielders, Carter, Gennett, Villar and Jonathan Lucroy (in his last inning and game as a Brewer?).

Collectively the crowd at Miller Park was disappointed expecting the manager to accept the ball from his pitcher. But now he became a fan-legend in the land of beer, brats and cheese. With Guerra offering the ball to the manager, Counsell refused to accept his pitcher’s decision and slapped him on the back and it was now his game to try to finish. With stunning and overwhelming approval and cheers from everyone in the crowd and those watching on television, Counsell left the mound, with an astonished pitcher receiving slaps with the gloves of the other players on the mound. This was ‘The Moment’ when the guy from Whitefish Bay proved to be the next great Brewer manager, in the shadows of George Bamberger and Harvey Kuenn. Right then and there, Craig Counsell would be marked in history as doing something that most in the stands had never seen. But to be truthful, all were very happy to see. What a confidence booster. This was one giant step for the kid from Whitefish Bay.

The rest of the story, although a bit bizarre, finished with a win. Polanco hit into a fielder’s choice as Carter forced the runner at second. Andrew McCutcheon hit into another fielders choice to drive in Pittsburgh’s only run when Marte singled off the head of the second base umpire before Jeffers relieved Guerra and retired Kang to end the game with another (sic) Brewers victory. While the details of the game were unusual, THE story was about the decision that Counsell made on this historic night. ‘I really wanted him to get through the inning’, Counsell said of Guerra. ‘I thought he pitched like he deserved to, and I don’t think he was tiring or anything like that. I thought he was still making pitches.’

Guerra had won his seventh game of the year. He had lowered his ERA to a most respectable 2.70, ranking him #8 among Major League starters, just behind Stephen Strasburg and ahead of Jake Arrieta. And for all the stat rats, in 16 starts over 103.1 innings this season, the ‘Velvet Venezuelan’ has posted a 3.67 FIP, and an 85/34 K/BB rate while generating ground balls (46.3%) and infield pop ups (11%) along with a 20.8% K rate and an 11% swinging strike rate.

But the real story that will live well beyond the wins and losses of the pitcher will be…’Do you remember the time when Counsell walked out to the mound and kept the pitcher in the game?’ That will be ‘The Moment’. And that is when Whitefish Bay’s favorite son became THE manager of the Milwaukee Brewers in the minds of the Crew’s faithful forever.

Play Ball!

#win63
#watchingattanasio

The Annual Visit Of The Billy Goat


They are not gleefully shouting at the top of their lungs today in the Windy City on ‘Talk Radio’. Today there is a hush…soft tones of impending doom…as this year’s edition of those dazed fans on the North Side are once again the walking zombies of generations past. This team…the team of destiny…this manager…this magic man from Tampa…may not be what the zanies of Spring Training in Mesa told us they were. They were beaten by one of the worst teams in the Big Leagues this past week. Their mighty pitching faltered. Their clutch hitting was inconclusive. Are they just over-inflated talent, boosted by the Bear hope of another really close season of sorrow and defeat? Wake up, Chicagoland. the team from the North Side are the Cubbies. This is what they do with your hearts. They don’t win. They just show promise. The team to watch this season are on the South Side of the City that knows how to work. And the only songs that are heard in the heads of the fans are a faint memory…

‘Baseball season’s underway
Well, you’d better get ready for a brand new day
Hey, Chicago, what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today

But it was Saturday afternoon in The City, where the fog rolls in with uncanny accuracy and covers San Francisco like a wet blanket. And even the opposing pitcher got into the act. After a long flight following Thursday’s game in Milwaukee where they had lost the series, they beat the Giants Friday but Saturday was another day where the hopes of Spring seemed distant.

In a faint voice, with a tired refrain, they’re singing:
‘Go, Cubs, Go!
Go, Cubs Go!
Hey, Chicago, what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today.’

But can they?

On May 8th, they had experienced an incredible week. They were 24-6 and everything was going their way. They had tied a franchise record in April.

Then they faced the lowly San Diego Padres at home and dropped a double header, losing their first series of the year. They they faced the Pirates and won two before losing the last game in that series. Then came their dreaded rival the lowly Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee where they dropped two of three, losing another series and exhausting their bullpen before heading to San Francisco.

One thing to look at is how they are doing when Arrieta is not pitching. On May 14, Arrieta pitched and won. Then they lost 3 out of 4 before Arrieta won on Friday. This is called ‘Arrieta and insane then pray for two days of rain’. Result: this is not a formula for success.

On Sunday, Hendricks faces Bumgarner then on Monday Lackey faces Wainwright in St. Louis. Hammer is up against Wacha on Tuesday before Arrieta is on the mound again on Wednesday.

Let’s see who is singing by the end of this week.

Will it be the North Side fans or the South Side crowd?

Play Ball!

Sunday 052216: San Francisco Giants 1 Chicago Cubs 0
Monday 052316: St. Louis Cardinas 4 Chicago Cubs 3

It’s A New Year.

‘There are only two seasons…Winter and Baseball.’ Bill Veeck

It is a time when every fan has hopes of having a brilliant, unbelievable season. It is a time when no one has lost. Every star will have a great, Hall-Of-Fame year. The ground crew has prepared the fields from the long winter’s rest. Chalk has been laid down from Home to First and Home to Third as well as the batter’s box.

Now, who will win in 2016?

In the American League East, Toronto Blue Jays will win the division. They are a national team with a huge fan base that leads all teams in daily television viewership with an average over 500,000 fans tuning in day after day, night after night. Plus they have Joey Batts.

In the American League Central, in what is the most competitive division in baseball, virtually every team has an opportunity to win the title and it promises to be a heart breaker for many. You have the past World Champions as the Kansas City Royals know how to win. The Minnesota Twins have tremendous rookie presence. The Detroit Tigers have an aging lineup that has been left as a bridesmaid before. There is a fantastic pitching staff in Cleveland with a great manager. But in the end, the Chicago White Sox will take the crown.

In The American League West, it will come down to Texas. Last year’s division champions, the Houston Astros were the miracle team. But the power this coming season will rest in Arlington as the Texas Rangers will win the title. It’s all about the ‘Power of Yu’.

In the National League East, the New York Mets have the pitching staff. No question about that. But the Washington Nationals, who have knocked at the door, finally have a manager who can take them to the Division title and they will win the National League East this season.

In the National League Central, the title has been given to the the boys on the North Side of the Windy City. They have the great young players. They have the prize veteran who signed over the winter. They have a tough pitching staff. They have the second best manager in baseball. But they have two other teams who will treat the Cubs like the hated brother. St. Louis is riddled with injuries already. But they are the Cardinals and that alone makes them a threat. And they open today with the first game of the 2016 season against their rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates. And the Bucs will win the Central Division title this season. They simply cannot be the Buffalo Bills of baseball. This is the year at PNC.

In the National League West, it is an even year and that means that the San Francisco Giants, with the best manager in baseball, will win the crown. The pitching staff is the best in the division. The Dodgers have lost one of their best pitchers. The Diamondbacks have two big time players but nothing else. The Padres and Rockies will battle for the basement. Give it up to the boys who play at AT&T Park.

Play Ball!

Swede And A Rose

Did The Swede Tell the Truth? Did The Tigers Throw 1917 Pennant? In Pettibone, North Dakota, it was the topic of conversation on a blissful, summer Sunday in 1929 as all was well with nearly everyone in the land. Prices of wheat were at record levels. People had money. And America’s pastime was baseball…everywhere, including Pettibone, it was baseball.

‘See that guy playing shortstop over there?’, Frank asked his young 10-year-old son, Stanley, while attending a Deluge Cuban game in Lignite, North Dakota. ‘Who is he?’, Stan asked. ‘He’s Swede Risberg.’ Stan asked, ‘Who’s Swede Riseberg?’ It was a beautiful, hot summer’s day and for once in his life, Frank was not working the farm. It was Sunday. And today it was all about baseball. Besides, he was there to see his oldest daughter’s (Irene) boy friend play, a big fellow called Harry Fleming. It was said he was the Babe Ruth of these parts. Big hands. Big arms. And he was very fast. Could hit the ball a mile.

While Harry was on deck, Frank told Stan that ‘Swede’ ‘was one of the infamous Chicago Black Sox, banned from major league baseball for life because he took a bribe and threw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. I watched him play with the Mesaba Range Black Sox along with two other member of the old powerful Chicago American League team, Happy Felsch and Lefty Williams when I visited Stein (his wife’s brother).’ ‘Was he any good with the White Sox?’, Stan asked. ‘He was OK, but in 1919, he was better but went 2 for 25 in the Series plus he made 8 errors. You just knew something was up.’

‘What did he do?’, Stan asked again. Frank said that Chicago was a heavy favorite in the 1919 World Series but he and a group of White Sox players decided to intentionally lose the series in exchange for parents from a group of gamblers. Swede was the ringleader. He convinced some of this teammates like Shoeless Joe Jackson’ to accept the payments. Rosberg got $15,000 for the fix. He made $3,250 a season, so that was quite a take.’

The Chicago White Sox were split into two factions in 1919. One was the more educated group of players, led by second baseman and team captain Eddie Collins and the other, more rough-and-tumble group led by former boxer and current first baseman, Arnold ‘Chick’ Gandil. Swede belonged to the rough and tumblers. He was the youngest White Sox.This was the group that agreed to throw the 1919 World Series in exchange for payoffs from gamblers.

‘He’s a real snitch’, Frank told Stan. He threatened to kill Shoeless Joe if Jackson blabbed about the fix. Jackson was reputed to have said ’Swede is a hard guy’.

Everyone considered Risberg a bad guy. ’The idiot even sent a telegram before the Series to his friend, St. Louis Browns infielder Joe Gideon, informing Gideon that the Series was fixed and advised him to bet on Cincinnati.’ ‘Really!’, Stan exclaimed. ‘Yep.’ replied Frank. ‘Did he bet on the Reds?’, Stan asked. ‘Don’t know,’ Frank replied, ‘but a year later Gideon informed on Risberg to the White Sox, in hopes to collect a $20,000 reward offered by that tightwad Charles Comiskey for information on the fix.’ Stank asked, ‘Did he get it?’ ’No,’ Frank replied. ‘Gideon didn’t get the reward, but he was later banned from baseball for his prior knowledge. Ya gotta love that Comiskey.’

On December 30, 1926, The Chicago Tribune reported the 1917 Tigers had thrown a four-game series to the White Sox to help Chicago win the pennant. Within the week, Commissioner Judge Landis began a hearing to investigate the charges.

Risberg was called by Landis to testify about a gambling scandal involving Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Although he had nothing to add to that case, Swede (with the help of Chick Gandil) suggested that in September 1917, the Detroit Tigers deliberately lost four games to the White Sox, helping Chicago capture the pennant. Two weeks later, Rosberg added, he and Gandil collected $45 each from White Sox players, and forwarded the money to players in Detroit. Landis called many Tiger players to testify. But the former White Sox and Detroit players contradicted Swede’s story claiming that the money was paid out to Detroit players as a reward for winning late-season games against the Boston Red Sox, Chicago’s chief rival for the pennant. This practice of ‘rewarding’ opponents was common during the Deadball Era. But Landis quietly banned it and cleared the Tigers of any wrongdoing. Will Rogers attended Rosberg’s hearing and in his view, ‘It was just that bottled up hate against everything that made Risberg think he hadn’t had a square deal in the game, and he exaggerated the incident.’ Landis dismissed all charges. Landis could not find any witnesses to confirm any part of Swede Risberg’s claim.

Risberg’s first wife, Agnes, at the time of the events stated about Swede’s game-fixing scandal, that Risberg grew fond of saying, ‘Why work when you can fool the public?’.

Did the Swede tell the truth that the Tigers threw the 1917 Pennant?

During the summer of 1922, Risberg joined Cicotte, Williams, Weaver, and Felsch on a traveling team known as the “Ex-Major League Stars.” They scheduled a series of games against teams from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, but lackadaisical play and poor management meant the players left with only a few hundred dollars afterward. Cicotte left the team in mid-June after an argument with Risberg over money. It seems the hard-nosed Swede reportedly responded by punching Cicotte in the mouth.

The New York Times claimed him as the worst player in the game.

Why kick off the Risberg story to kick off 2016?

Betting on baseball is illegal. Every player understands what will happen if they bet on the game. Pete Rose knew. Risberg was banned for life from the game. So was Rose. There should be no Hall of Fame talk for any of these who disgraced the game. After all, Risberg said it all…’Why work when you can fool the public.’

Play Ball!

Flumoxity

Flumoxity? 'It takes one to know one-and vice versa!'

Flumoxity? ‘It takes one to know one-and vice versa!’


Flumoxity….baseball’s way of flimflamming through nearly any and all problems related to the game.

Baseball is a simple game. It is apparently for simple people.

But for the men running the game, they understand more than simple people can understand. For instance, the Band of 30 (those not so simple owners of Major League Baseball teams) occasionally join together to make policy. They have regularly scheduled meetings in AAAA resorts around the nation or the world to gather, talk, dine and make policy for America’s pastime. They have no fear of any overwhelming governmental intervention because they are immune to Monopoly.

Yet these folks, when they gather, can do some amazingly mystical things, like what happened early this year. This was the year when a new Major League Baseball Commissioner was placed on the job. Rob Manfred, succeeded Allan Huber ‘Bud’ Selig. He now sits in a big chair in MLB’s Manhattan offices on Park Avenue, not the one in Milwaukee, where the Commissioner Emeritus sits as an overviewer to allow him to collect a handsome pension, far above the one he would have earned as a used car salesman for his father’s Southside auto dealership. But one digresses because of the love of the man who brought baseball back to Milwaukee.

Alfred sez: “Today, if you ask a car dealer to let you see something for 10 grand, he’ll show you the door!”

One of his first decisions Mr. Manfred made was extraordinary. Imagine if you will, naming Barry Bonds the head of drug enforcement for the ‘good of the game’. No. That has not happened yet. Or, he could allow Pete Rose eligible for the Hall of Fame even though he confessed to betting on baseball games while he was a manager. No, that hasn’t happened yet. But beware. He could do something curious because in one of the first decisions he made when he became the new commish was to appoint New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon as the Chairman of Major League Baseball’s Finance Committee.

That is not a misprint. It is in fact truth. Rob Manfred named Fred Wilpon the overseer of MLB’s money…as the Chair of MLB’s Finance Committee.

Alfred sez: “Most people don’t act stupid: it’s the real thing!”

It is a strange choice. Wilpon was on the financial ropes after he was involved with Bernie Madoff.

His team allegedly owes hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and there is a question of whether the New York Mets franchise has been properly financed over the past half-dozen years. Fred Wilpon seems to be bad with money yet he will be in charge of counting Major League Baseball’s cash. Who would have guessed?

It takes all kinds of Brass Junk Hangers to make a decision like this and actually say ‘Public be damned. I’m the Commish!’.

And that he is.

He has to, however, in order to earn all of that annual pay, walk a high-wire act to make the bad inferences all go away. He has been handed a Selig legacy of personal friendship between the former Commissioner and his friend, Wilpon. Selig used personal relationships to build his internal baseball political power base. Favors flowed between the various owners. Selig to former Twins owner, Carl Pohlad, who lent $3 million short-term bridge loan to Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers in July 1995. Contrary to a Major League Baseball rule, the loan was not approved by other team owners at a time that Selig was serving as acting commissioner while continuing in his role as president and chief executive of the Brewers. Coincidently, Fred Wilpon of the Mets said at the time, ‘It may ruffle some feathers, but it’s inappropriate and sad that people would attack Carl and Bud on this.’ ‘Frankly, I’ve borrowed very little money in my lifetime,’ Selig said. ‘He [Pohlad] was a friend. He was a banker.’

Selig and the White Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who was more like a collusion brother where they together made a pact to keep players pay down, have had an ongoing friendship. They tried to fix free-agent pay scale. That didn’t work. But they tried.

Alfred sez: “Blood is thicker than water . . . but it makes lousy lemonade!

Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law, Saul Katz, the Mets’ other owner, had been fighting a $1 billion lawsuit against them by the trustee for victims of the infamous Bernard L. Madoff’s fraud. The trustee, Irving Picard, accused them of using illicit profits from their Madoff accounts to fuel their sports and real estate empire. Selig was pleased that Wilpon and Katz, who said they were victims of evidence fabricated or misrepresented by the trustee, tried to sell nearly half the team to raise up to $200 million and the Commish felt it unnecessary to step in to force them to do any more.

The owners trying to get in on the inside, guaranteed high interest returns, had invested some $500 million with Bernard Madoff, the ‘Don of the Greedy’, whose Ponzi scheme collapsed in 2008. After everything unraveled, Mets ownership didn’t even get the benefit of being considered “victims” because they had made more in fictitious gains than they had lost. By 2011, Wilpon and Katz faced a $1 billion lawsuit from Irving Picard, trustee for the liquidation of Madoff Investment Securities, which accused Wilpon and his partners of being reasonably aware of Madoff’s scam while investing more money into it. Now, in 2015, the Mets owners gained a legal victory with Picard and agreed to a settlement whereas Wilpon and Katz could pay the trustee just $162 million, a fraction of the $1 billion he was seeking. Thus, the two will be liable for far less than that huge figure because it has been gradually offset by their losses as Picard continues to recoup funds lost for the Madoff fraud victims.

Alfred sez: “Who says nothing is impossible? Some people do it every day!”

The Wilpon family’s burden with the Madoff liquidation trust is down to approximately $60 million. In negotiating this down, Wilpon and Katz quietly managed to sell some 12 minority stakes in the team, 4% ownership each for $20 million apiece. One of the alleged buyers was noted hedge-fund operator Steven Cohen. This entire endeavor brought the brothers-in-law more than $200 million. They also had to then repay their $40 million loan from Bank of America and the $25 million loan from Major League baseball. All of this must have made the powers that be in the MLB feel like Wilpon was some sort of financial wizard.

But never let greed get out of sight too long. It seems, while the Madoff victims will recover 57¢ on every dollar they lost in the fraud, ESPN reported that this was good news for Wilpon and Katz. They can now deduct 57% of their Madoff losses ($178 million) from the $162 million in gains they owe the trustee thus bringing their new debt to just $60.56 million, payable in two installments in 2016 and 2017. And, that figure will likely go down again before the Mets owners need to make the first payment because Wilpon and Katz agreed to pay a guaranteed minimum of $29 million.

Ain’t it great to be an American in baseball?

Alfred sez: “A lawyer is someone who writes a 40-page document and calls it a brief!”

One can reduce a billion dollar debt down to perhaps only $29 million or, for the mathematically inclined, just 2.9% of the total originally owed.

But what legal maneuvering giveth, morality and the gods of baseball taketh away. You see the team and the cable network still carry a lot of debt, even as the owners’ debt to the Madoff trustee shrinks. Just last year, good ol’ Saul was reportedly considering selling his entire stake in the team, leaving his bro-in-law just a minority owner. While Saul may no longer be responsible for his brother-in-laws character, Wilpon was still able to get the team in legal trouble over sexual discrimination suits brought upon them by a former high level single executive. But, who’s counting?

Alfred sez: “Nowadays, the perfect crime is getting caught and selling your story to T.V.!”

They still have more money troubles than that. It is reported that the Mets still owe money to two players that haven’t played for the Mets in 20 years: Bobby Bonilla, who has $1.2 million coming to him every year until 2036 and Bret Saberhagen, who is owned $250,000 each year until 2029.

Now you can see just how good a money man this Wilpon is. The brothers-in-laws have managed to stay afloat largely by borrowing against the skyrocketing equity in their 65% investment in S.N.Y. Yes, that’s the cable home of the Mets. You see, it has been reported that they have been using the local sports television network boom to stave off bankruptcy.

It seems very logical. This Wilpon fellow really knows how to handle finances. Thus, who wouldn’t make him the Czar of all the MLB cash.

Which all begs the question: What’s he got on the Commish?

Play Ball!

Alfred sez: ‘In retrospect, it becomes clear that hindsight is definitely overrated!’.

SAC Attack


Stearns/Arnold/Counsell…this is the triumvirate of the Milwaukee Brewers. They will attempt to put together a team that will do something none have done with this organization before…win a World Series. In 45 years, no combination of General Manager, Assistant General Manager and Manager have ever won a Word Series for this franchise. For those who are 45 years old, nada. For those who are 55 years old, nada for a ball club in this city. For those who are 57 years old, join the ‘never seen a World Series winning ball club in this City’ (NSAWSWBCLITC) club.

It has been a long, cold dry spell.

Now these three will go about their business devising a way which will bring a winner to this City.

What do they have? They have a catcher who can hit, but didn’t this past season because of injury and other things. Can’t really get full value from him until he proves he can hit once again. They have a first baseman who actually stayed healthy and can hit. Good time to trade him. They have a second baseman who might be able to hit but has a difficult time fielding. No trade value. There is a shortstop who has shown signs of great promise and on again, off again fielding and hitting. No real value there unless he gets hot. There is no third baseman except for Rodgers but he might be better at first. No value there.

A left fielder who can hit and hit with power but has one itsy bitsy problem. He can’t throw. The entire league takes advantage of his poor arm strength and accuracy. But teams need hitting and the American League would be a perfect place for this young, valuable bat. The Angels would always go for more hitting because they have never believed in pitching. No real center fielder that is proven. Scout the waiver wires. Center fielder who can run like the wind and hit for a team that traded away their last two who could do so, one to Kansas City and the other to Houston, would be the way you would write a help wanted ad for this position.

There is a right fielder coming back from injury, who is an emotionally tainted superstar and has a contract only a major market can afford. Are you listening, Yankees? Dodgers? Giants? Angels? White Sox? Tigers? Rangers? Sure, he’ll get boo’d in Arizona but chances are if you are an AL team, you won’t have to go there except for every sixth year. There is a back up catcher who can’t hit. A back up outfield who can’t hit. As for pitchers, we have a great young, up-and-coming pitching staff with favorable contracts. Nelson, Jungmann, Peralta, Davies, they have tremendous value. Do you dare trade any of them in a game today where pitching is more valuable than gold? There is Garza who has a contract bigger than most and cannot win any games. Not much value there. And if anyone…I mean anyone offers anything for him, they should not even think twice. Just get rid of this mess of a contract.

There is relief pitching. There is a left hander who has value because there are very few decent left-handed pitchers coming out of the pen in the Bigs. Just don’t tell anyone that he blows a few games every once in a while. He’s got value. There is a great relief pitcher who is destined to become one of the greatest all-time relievers in the game but has a bit of a problem showing up for Spring Training because…now all together, ‘he has problems getting through Venezuela’s passport procedures’ year after year. But once he gets to Arizona, he only occasionally steps on a cactus. There is that big guy, Hellweg, but he probably doesn’t have much value.

There is a third base coach who can’t hit or coach. He leads the league in bonehead plays, year after year. But he’s such a good guy, and, he’s funny. He tells jokes. Works hard. Must have something on the organization or owner because he’s still here after most of the staff was let go. He probably HAS value…to somebody.

Wait: there is a radio announcer who can’t make road trips anymore yet has more value than most of the guys on the field. A TV announcer who is on more networks than any social media surfer. He’s apparently got value. And that guy who sells the popcorn from the wagon behind home plate in the entrance lobby. He’s got value as he is the one person with salt. Then there is the real asset, Bernie. He’s got value…to somebody who wants to slide for a living. Unfortunately, the people with the most value in this organization are the ‘Racing Sausages’ but they are owned by the sausage maker. Great value…but can’t trade them.

There are those motorcycles in the gap in left center field. They have value. The Miller Park sign would fit perfectly into the man-cave of a fan with a basement big enough to house a dirigible. OK. Limited value.

So, as we stand here today, watching the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets battle for the World Series Championship, there is this team on the Western banks of Lake Michigan, near a legendary corner of this earth known to locals as Pigsville, where the aroma of Red Star Yeast waffles through the noses of residents in Kilbourntown, Walker’s Point and Juneautown, within eyeshot of Johnston Cookies, that is headed by SAC.

What on earth will they do this winter? Maryville is just 105 days away.

Play Ball!

Improvement?

It was a team that drew a solid attendance of 2,797,384 or 34,535 per game, 82.4% of capacity. It was the 8th highest in baseball and the fourth best in the National League. And, they were the seventh best draw in baseball on the road. In baseball you make money both home and away. And the Cream City 9 were big draws.

2013 record was 74-88. 2014 record was 82-80.

So, what went wrong? Who is to blame?
2013 Brewers .252..2014 Brewers .251
RF Aoki .286…………Braun .266 – .020
CF Gomez .284…….Gomez .284 even .020
LF Braun .298……….Davis .244 – .054 .074
3B Ramirez .283……Ramirez.285 + .002 .072
SS Segura .294…….Segura .246 – .048 .120
2B Weeks .209……..Gennett .289 + .080 .040
1B Francisco .221….Overbay .233 + .012 .028
C Lucroy .280………..Lucroy .300 + .020 .008

2013: 23 BlownSV….2014: 20 Blown Saves
Fielding: .981…. .984
HR: 157 ……….. 150
RBI: 610 ………. 616
ERA: 3.84 ……… 3.67
Errors 114 …….. 98
Francisco/? 14….. Overbay/Reynolds 13
Weeks/Gennett 10/5=15.. Gennett/Weeks 9/7=16
Segura=15………… Segura=16
Ramirez=7…………. Ramirez=10
Braun/Davis-2……. Davis/Parra=6
Gomez=5 …………. Gomez=5
Aoki=3………………. Braun=3
Lucroy/Meldonado 10-4=14.. Lucroy/Meldonado 4/7=11
Pitchers: 7………… Pitchers 4

2013…………………….. 2014
Gallardo 12-10 4.18.. Gallardo 8-11 3.51 -4W +3L – 0.67
Lohse 11-10 3.35…… Lohse 13-9 3.54 +2W -1L +0.19
Peralta 11-15 4.37…. Peralta 17-11 3.53 +6W -4L – 0.84
Estrada 7- 4 3.87…… Garza 8-8 3.64 -1W +4L – 0.23
Gorzelanny 3 -6 3.90. Nelson 2-9 4.93 – 1W +3L +1.03
Relief +2W……………. +5L -0.53

2013…………………………….. 2014
Henderson 5-5 2.70 28 SV.. K-Rod 5-5 3.04 44 SV
Axford 6-7 4.45 0 SV……….. Smith 1-3 3.76 1 SV

So, what is the difference between a Pennant Winner and an average team?
a) Better General Manager
b) Better Manager
c) Better Players

Of not, it is on the owner? Who has won a World Series?
With current ownership of their teams in the 21st Century:
New York Yankees (2x) 2000; 2009
Philadelphia Phillies 2008
St. Louis Cardinals (2x) 2006; 2011
Boston Red Sox (3X) 2004; 2007; 2013
San Francisco Giants (2X) 2010; 2012
Chicago White Sox 2005
Miami Marlins (Florida Marlins) 2003

Remember, the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks were owned by a partnership headed up by Jerry Colangelo. And the 2002 Anaheim Angels were owned by the Walt Disney Company.

The general manager has to take some of the heat. One can only look at the Kansas City Royals and their top hitters…the center fielder; the right fielder and the short stop. Even their manager and hitting coach were integral to the success of rebuilding the Crew. Look in the other dugout. It all began with the trade of the rising star shortstop, JJ Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez. Gomez potential success led to the trading of Escobar AND Cain to the Royals for Greinke who was traded to the Angels for Segura. Question: who is a better center fielder, Gomez or Cain? Who is a better shortstop, Hardy, Escobar or Segura? And, who is a better manager, Yost or Roenicke? Who is a better hitting coach, Sveum or Narron?

The manager is judged by winning championships. The Milwaukee Brewers has had only one manager in their history who won a championship.

The players have to be placed in a position to succeed. And if, as the above stats are any indication, they have not been placed in that position. The manager is not doing what he is expected to do. If he doesn’t have the players to accomplish winning a championship, he has to press the GM to acquire them. The GM has to press the owner to acquire them.

Now it is up to the owner to prove he is a champion. He has made his course. He kept the general manager. The general manager has kept the manager.

How can this be an improvement?

Play Ball!

Minnie, A Shadow Player.

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Before Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu or Yoenis Cespedes, there was Minnie Minoso. Thirty years ago this week, after 12 years of retirement and after 17 years in the Major Leagues, Minoso was activated by Bill Veeck, then owner of the Chicago White Sox an started as designated hitter, batting ninth, in the first game of a twin bill with the California Angels. In the second inning, with two outs and Chet Lemon on first base, he singled to left off Angels’ starter Sid Monge. At age 53, Minoso had become the second oldest player to notch a hit in a major league game (Jim O’Rourke had a hit at 54 years/21 days) and the second oldest to suit up after Satchel Paige had played at age 59 for Veeck’s Indians in 1965. Minoso would play three games in 1976, getting one hit in eight at bats. He played again in 1980 for the White Sox. In 1993 (at age 71) and 2003 (at age 81), he put on a uniform for the independent Northern League’s St. Paul Saints, becoming baseball’s first octogenarian and only seven-decade player. He was a 7 time All-Star and batted .298 for his career. He won the Golden Glove three times. In his 12 years with the Chicago White Sox, he batted .304.

Minnie Minoso is one of the famous Great Ten of Cuban baseball players. These are the Shadow Players. With one exception, all were terrific players who played in the shadow of having two handicaps, one was the color of their skin and the other was the unfamiliar language when grew up with, spoke and understood.

Certainly Luis Tiant would head the list as he pitched 19 years in the Show, winning 20 or more games four times and was an All-Star three times. He’s not in the Hall.

Tony Perez is the lone Hall of Famer of the Great Ten as he won two World Series as a player for Cincinnati and a 7 time All-Star and MVP in the 1967 game.

Tony Oliva was the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and played 15 years for the Minnesota Twins becoming an All-Star 8 times. With a 3.04 lifetime batting average, it is seemingly improbable that he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Mike Cuellar won 20 or more game four times and was the 1969 Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star. He finished after 15 years in the Major Leagues with a 185-130 record and a 3.14 ERA. He is not in the Hall of Fame.

Dolf Luque, The Pride of Havana, was a legendary pitcher who spend 20 seasons in the Bigs. He had the second most wins of any Cuban pitcher and finished with 194-179 record with a 3.24 ERA from 1914-1935. In 1923, he went 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds. He won the 1923 and the 1925 NL pitching title. He is not in the Hall.

Camilo Pascual for 18 season produced a 174-170 record with a 3.63 ERA, particularly with poor teams. He was a 7 time All-Star. Ted Williams said he had the ‘most feared curial in the American League’. In an era when pitchers were real pitchers, he had back-to-back 20 game win season and had 18 complete games in each of the 1962 and 1963 seasons and led the AL in strikeouts 1961 thru 1963. He is not in the Hall.

Bert Campaneris played in the MLB for 19 seasons and at one time in 1965, played all nine positions in a major league age, the first to ever do that. He was an All-Star 6 times and won three World Series titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974 with the fantastic Oakland A’s. The undisputed shortstop of his day, he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Two of the Great Ten were the Tainted Ones.

Rafael Palmeiro ended a 20 year career with Baltimore Orioles in 2005 when he gained his 3,000th hit. He is one of four players to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his career (he hit 569 home runs). A 4-time All-Star, he escaped from Cuba with his family to Miami in 1964. Some say he was a juicer. While he is not in the Hall, others who took cocaine were admitted.

Jose Canseco hit 462 home runs in 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. A 6 time All-Star, e won two World Series with the 1989 Oakland A’s and the 2000 New York Yankees. He was the American League MVP in 1988 and was the first player to ever compile 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. He is not in Cooperstown.

But this is about Saturnino Orestes Armas ‘Minnie’ Minoso Arrieta, the fuel behind the ‘Go Go White Sox’ of the ’50s. To anyone growing up in the Midwest at that time, every team had their stars. In Milwaukee it was Eddie and Warren. In St. Louis it was Stan ‘The Man’ and ‘Country’. But in Chicago it was ‘Billy and Minnie’. Minnie was one of the most exciting players in his day and someone who belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Play Ball!

 

Halftime.

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It has been a very interesting first half of the baseball season in 2014 as a couple of things stand out. First, there have been very few umpire disputes that have resulted in the old-fashioned kicking-up dirt and in-your-face heated arguments, spewing high blood pressure to transfer into a blast of spittle upon the face of the beloved ump. Not sure if that is a relief or something we should want back like the ‘No Pepper’ signs on the fence behind home plate. Regardless, the micro view of the slo-mo cameras from the many different angles make today’s baseball look like a reinvention of steam power into the combustible era.

Second is the excitement in several markets throughout America. Seventeen of the teams have officially hit the half way mark in the season. The winningest team in baseball is the Milwaukee Brewers, leaders in the Central Division of the National League. The top team in the American League is the Oakland A’s. There are three areas of North America that are entering the world of delirium. First there is Milwaukee. This week they had a three game series against the Eastern Division leading Washington Nationals and drew over 100,000 fans ON A MONDAY THRU WEDNESDAY time frame. Yesterday’s game was packed to the rafters as they defeated Colorado for the seventh straight game against the Rockies. Surprisingly they rank #8 in attendance with 78.5% capacity. Another area where baseball is king is the Bay Area. Both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s lead their league’s Western Divisions. Both teams are loaded in pitching. Both teams are very exciting. San Francisco leads the major leagues in attendance with 99.4% of capacity while Oakland, in one of the worst stadiums in the world, is drawing 66.9% capacity. Then there is Toronto. They are in front in a very tight Eastern Division of the American league. With over 6 million people in their marketing area, they are the fifth largest city in North America and the largest on the Great Lakes, surpassing Chicago. They are drawing 54.2% capacity but unfortunately that places them only 26th among the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Only four American League teams rank worse (Chicago White Sox with 50.1% of capacity; Tampa Bay Rays while having a disastrous season at 50.0% of capacity; shockingly the high payroll team in Seattle with only 49.9% of capacity and the Cleveland Indians with 38.8% of capacity. FYI: the lowest team in the National League is the Arizona Diamondbacks with only 54.8% of capacity reached this season.)

Frankly, all of those things are shocking except for Billy Beane’s exceptional overseeing of a team with a huge budget limitation and a continual exceeding above expectation as the A’s continue to drive the Western Division in the American League.

As for Milwaukee, who would have thought that Doug Melvin would have put together a team this good. A critic of his methods, I have to admit through the first half of this season, he should be given the Billy Beane Award for the most Outstanding General Manager of the Year trophy. He has put together a splendid bullpen by trading one of the City’s most favored players, Aoki, for an unknown left hander in Smith, who has performed way above expectation. The first base fix with Overbay and Reynolds was masterful in bringing veteran leadership to the club and a solid defensive and occasional offensive performance day-in and day-out. The revival of Rickie Weeks has given Scooter Gannett the time to adjust to Big League pitching and provided Milwaukee with great depth at second. Khris Davis is continuing to develop as a key player for the team in left allowing Braunschweiger to learn how to play right field and concentrate on something other than the mess he created last season. Then there is Jonathan Lucroy. Pound for pound, he is the best catcher in baseball this season. Offensively, there is no match. In the clutch, there is no match. He is single-handedly taken leadership of the team and molding it into a winner only Melvin could have seen before the season began. Then there is the manager, Roenicke. He has proven that this year, with four right handers and four left handers in the bullpen, he can manage as well as anyone in the game. So far, I am the one who has to eat crow IF he continues to lead the team to victory and the Central Division Championship, the national League Championship and the World Series kings.

But…we are only half way in the marathon that is known as a baseball season.

Play Ball!

Fresh Air

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When a kid grew up in the Midwest, on those long summer nights, the radio became your best friend. Tuning into games from around the various big league cities allowed you to hear some of the greatest broadcast voices in that era. You could tune in St Louis, and hear on KMOX, the Voice of St. Louis, , Harry Carey bring the Cardinal games to you along with Jack Buck and Joe Gargaiola. In Detroit, on WJBK, you could hear the great description of Tiger games by Van Patrick and later, Ernie Harwell. KDKA in Pittsburgh would bring Pirates games to you by Bob Prince. On the South Side of Chicago, Bob Elston gave his unique delivery to the White Sox broadcast over the Voice of Labor, WCFL. On the North Side of Chicago, you always tuned into WGN.

WGN, the Chicago Tribune radio station, brought you Cubs baseball since 1925. It was like peanut butter and jelly. Since Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States, Cubs baseball has been on WGN. They just went together. Beginning with Hal Totten, then Bob Elson, Pat Flanagan, Ronald Reagan, Russ Hodges, Jimmy Dudley, Jack Drees, Charlie Grimm before Jack Brickhouse, the Bert Wilson, and then back to Jack Brickhouse, Bud Campbell was in there as was Harry Creighton. Vince Lloyd came in as did Milo Hamilton. Jack Quinlan and Lou Boudreau were behind the mike. Lloyd Pettit, the great voice of the Blackhawks was there as was Jim West and Joe Wilson. Harry Caray toning ‘It might be…it could be…it is!’ ‘Holy Cow!’ ‘Cubs Wins!’ was there. Steve Stone, Dewayne Staats, Dave Nelson, Ron Santo and Bob Brenly. Thom Brennaman, Pat Hughes, Dan Roan and Josh Lewin. Andy Masur, Chip Caray, Joe Carter, Dave Otto, Len Kasper, Dan Pleasac, Cory Provus, Judd Sirott, Keith Moreland, Jim Deshaies and Ron Coomer. The voice of Jack Brickhouse bringing you the exploits of those lovable Cubbies still rings in my years.

Since 1925 you could tune into WGN. Now, after this season, no more.

Since nobody reads the newspaper anymore, the power of the Chicago Tribune has waned. Now, according to bean counters at The Trib, the Cubs are no longer of financial value to McCormick’s ‘All The News That’s Fit To Print’ domain. The Tribune, whose assets are now delivering circulars as a distribution channel to people who really don’t want more fish wrap and a local television station that now thinks it is a cable network, have dropped both the Cubs broadcasts and telecasts. This in itself is a bit confusing as Cub and White Sox games are huge content fillers. Now, supposedly, people will flock to tune into reruns of ‘Friends’ and ‘Two and a Half Men’ on WGN-TV. Good luck. You’ve just lost four hours per day of LIVE content to fill your independent station schedule. Arsenio is cancelled. You won’t even have him in the evenings any more.

But just like ‘JAG’ fans who were disappointed that NBC cancelled the series, people flocked to the series which spun off ‘NCIS’ when it shifted to CBS. Now Cubs fans will be able to hear their favorite team on WBBM, ‘News Ratio 78’, and it won’t skip a beat. The only looser is that group of dudes sitting in Tribune Tower wishing they could have one of the cornerstone franchises in the world back on their air.

It’s time for Fresh Air in Chicago.

Play Ball!