Melvinitis

The Milwaukee Brewers have had eight general managers in their lifetime. Names like Marvin Milkes (his teams won 64 and 65 games) and trader Frank Lane (coming in 1971-72 winning 69 than 65 games) were the first two. One of the things Lane did was trade for George ‘Boomer’ Scott who became the cornerstone of great Milwaukee first basemen. Jim Wilson lasted for just two years, but brought the City the first 70+ winning seasons since the Braves historic run in Cream City. He had teams that won 74 games then 76. Of course, in typical Brewer ownership fashion, Wilson was replaced and was followed by Jim Baumer. In three seasons, Baumer regressed as his teams won 68, 68 and then 67 games.

Then the owner finally realized that he was not the smartest person and hired he greatest of all Brewer general managers with unquestioned credentials was the late, great Harry Dalton. For 15 years, he brought the Milwaukee nine to greatness with great managerial selections, incredible trades which rank near the top of all-time in the history of the game and an incredibly sad time toward the end of his reign as the owner barely spoke to him, rarely acknowledging him in public and in private treated him like an unwanted employee. Yet no one could match him in intelligence or humility. He was an incredibly well liked individual and understood the game better than most. He immediately hired George Bamberger, a tremendous pitching coach from Baltimore. The team immediately began to jell. They were the first to win 90+ games, with 93 and then 95, dropped back a bit to 86 after which he made the greatest trade in history by gaining Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich and then fought for the American League East title in 198 strike shortened season. Finally, after 20+ years in existence, in 1982 with a record 95 wins, under rookie manager, Harvey Kuenn, the Milwaukee Brewers won their first and only pennant, an American League pennant, falling short to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games of the World Series. From 1978 to 1991, before being demoted to V.P, Special Projects, Dalton’s teams finished below .500 only four times.

In 1992 he was followed by one of the most ill-equipped general managers of all-time, one Sal Bando. One had the feeling that here was a guy who angled for the job, kissing up to an under funded owner who needed a miracle. The unfortunate aspect of Bando’s hiring was that he drove the once proud franchise into one of its lowest periods of in history. In his years with the team in this capacity, other than the 1992 team he had inherited from Dalton, none of his teams finished above .500. He was reassigned in August of 1999 making his tenure as a GM, sub par  for 7 & 1/2 seasons.

Dean Taylor was brought in. In 2000 the Brewers won 73; ’01 his team won 68 and in ’02, they could only win 56, losing a record 106. Therefore, in twelve years following Dalton’s architecture, the Brewers were below .500 every year.

Doug Melvin, after leading the Texas Rangers to three post season playoffs as general manager, the first in that team’s 48 year history, he is replaced and spends a season as a special assistant to the Boston Red Sox before being hired by the Brewers, baseball’s answer to the tunnel without a light at the end of it. After two season, he brought the Brewer fans a .500 season. Then they fell below again, then two seasons above, then below, again above for two seasons and below.

In eleven seasons at the helm, he has had his team finish above .500 four times, even at .500 once and the remaining six season below. He is not Harry Dalton. He doesn’t work for an owner who is strapped for cash. He has brought in countless players who have been overpriced and under performed. He has let a treasure go twice. Prince Fielder was allowed to leave because they didn’t want to pay him. The Tigers stole him. Then just this past week, while in need of a first baseman for a team that has a history of terrific first basemen from George Scott to Cecil Cooper to Richie Sexton to Lyle Overbay to Prince… briefly Hart…he had an opportunity to get Prince back for a price less than what they offered him just two years ago. Fielder is of Brewer blood. He was drafted by Milwaukee. He came up through the ranks. He was a fan favorite. Can you imagine the enormous boost in fan morale to bring their Prince back? But no. He was messing around with destroying one of the better players the Brewers have ever had, Norichika Aoki, who was not even on the Brewer’s radar because Melvin had no Japanese scouts to witness a six-time Japanese batting champion, the best since Ichiro, to take the place of Braun in case that player was suspended. But Braun won that arbitration. Aoki is the best leadoff hitter, arguably in the entire game. He is consistent. And he is one of the few left-handed hitters in the game who kills left-handed pitching. But here is Melvin having lunch with the owner discussing whether to move Braun to right field, thus eliminating Aoki for someone who has not proven himself over the course of an entire season, a rookie to replace the former left fielder in left.

Melvin has had a history of dubious moves. Gagne, Suppan, Riske and Wolf, all over priced over-the-hill pitchers. The renting of C.C. Sabathia for a couple of months, whom he could not resign with the club. The renting of Greinke, who could not be resigned. The inclusion of Nelson Cruz, thrown into the Carlos Lee trade. The hiring of managers like Ken Macha and allowing assistant coaches like the horrible third base coach of the Brewers right now. Here is a coach who actually loses games for the team, consistently.

This is the year Melvin has to have this team perform, not like in the past, but be able to beat the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates in their division at home and on the road. This is the year the team has to reach the playoffs and win the National League pennant. This is the year to prove that he is capable of winning and setting the stage for plus .500 seasons to come.

It has been a long time since Harry Dalton set the plan of winning in Milwaukee. Now it is time for Melvinitis. Let’s hope it is a solution and not a disease. He has to begin winning.

Play Ball!

The Big 14

Every boy’s dream it to make it into the highest echelon of sports. Some youngsters dream about that big day when they actually walk onto their field of dreams. In baseball, every time you took to a diamond in the sand lots around your neighborhood with bat, ball and glove in hand, the dream became more real. Soon, that dream will come true for a couple of Major Leaguers when the Rookie Of the Year will be named. It is the hope of the winners that they will not become a Joe Charboneau, who became better known for opening a beer bottle with his eye socket than his long term batting prowess. Let’s not forget Walt Dropo.

His dream will be one of The Big 14. These are the men who became both Rookie Of the Year and a Hall Of Famer. They are the few…the greats of the game.

It began with Jackie, the ROY in 1947 as a Dodger and HOF in 1962. He is the only Dodger ever to accomplish this fantastic feat. Then there was Willie (’51 & ’79) as a Giant. Frank Robinson was the Cincinnati Red who became ROY in 1956 and Hall Of Famer in 1982. Then Luis Aparicio became the first American Leaguer to have become the ROY (’56 with the White Sox, the only member of the Pale Hose ever to do so) and HOF (’84). Orlando Cepeda (ROY ’58 with the Giants & HOF ’99); Willie McCovey (ROY ’59  as a Giant & HOF ’86) and Billy Williams (ROY ’61 as the first Cub to do so & HOF ’87). Tom Seaver was the only pitcher to ever accomplish this masterful feat by winning the ROY in 1967 as a Met and Hall Of Fame in 1992. He remains the only Met to do so. Then there was Rod Carew (ROY ’67 as a Twin & HOF ’91). Think for a moment of all the great Twin ROY’s who have not been elected into the Hall. Johnny Bench became the first catcher to win this double tribute (ROY ’68 as a Red & HOF ’89); Carlton Fisk (ROY ’72 with the Red Sox & HOF in 2000); Eddie Murray (ROY ’77 as an Oriole & HOF in 2003); Andre Dawson was the one and only Montreal Expo to win (ROY ’77 & HOF in 2010) and finally the last of The Big 14, Cal Ripken, baseball’s ironman who gained ROY in 1982 with the Orioles and entered into the Hall Of Fame in 2007. Eight from the National League. Six from the American League. Jackie did it when there was only one chosen in all of baseball.

Will two of the six up for the Rookie Of The Year award this year achieve the greatness of these great players? Or will they become the Jerome Walton or Dwight Smith like so many before them?

Play Ball!

Choo McCann

In the world of baseball today, free agency is one of the huge topics of consideration as teams prepare for next season, especially those teams who are no longer in the race for the championship or those teams that fall short of their ultimate goal at the end of this season’s journey. This season is no different from any other in this respect. Among all of the players eligible this next year for free agency, two stand out as key players who may be overlooked because of the Cano’s, Ellsbury’s and Garza’s.

There are two unique, nine-year veterans that should be on everyone’s list, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann.

Brian McCann is a powerhouse. His .528 slugging percentage (7th in the National League) makes him one of the top power hitters on the free agent market. An added factor in his favor is that he will not turn 30 until spring training next February. In addition, he will not be in the $100+ million Cano sweepstakes that the Angels, Dodgers and Yankees continually participate in. Many consider McCann one of the top five catchers in the league. who needs a catch of tremendous proportion?

There is also, Shin-Soo Choo. His .416 on-base percentage absolutely dwarfs the next free agent, Cano, who has a .371 mark. At 31, he is just entering the peak of his career. His .389 OBP over nine years in The Show attests to his remarkable consistency. 21 home runs and a .289 batting average this season for Cincinnati, his first in the National League, is exactly the same as his career stats. Who needs a consistent outfielder? Again, you won’t have to pay him the Cano rate.

With McCann making $12,000,000 and Choo making $7,375,000, both are in for a big payday increase.

Play Ball!

One Down, Three To Go

It is that time during every marathon to take stock in how the race is going. We have just reached the quarter-mile post of this years great seasonal march to the crown jewel…  the World Series Championship.

As the second leg begins, in the American League, the New York Yankees are on top of the Eastern Division. So what else is new? They are ahead of Boston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay, all of whom are .500 or better.PREDICTION: Yankees pull away when their big guns return.

In the Central Division, Detroit is the team to beat as they have been for the past few seasons. They have the best 3-4 batters in baseball’s lineup and their pitchers are once again on top of their game. Cleveland, the surprise team is one game back. But, can they keep up with the American League champion all season long? PREDICTION: Detroit will win this division again.

Once again in the Western Division, the Texas Rangers are on top, as they should be. But once again, the Oakland A’s, with a cast of near nobodies, are the only other team over .500 in this division. PREDICTION: This time the Rangers will actually win the division and not collapse completely.

In the National League, the marathon continues with more of the usual suspects atop their divisions. In the Eastern Division, Atlanta has a good lead over the Washington Nationals, the only teams over .500 in this division. PREDICTION: Atlanta moves on again hoping to reach the final rung.

In the Central Division, St. Louis is atop with Cincinnati close behind. Along with Pittsburgh, all three teams are playing plus .600 baseball, the only division playing at this high level. PREDICTION: St. Louis continues in its traditional position.

In the Western Division, the biggest battle looms with three teams, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants are all tied with a .551 record. This year pitching will once again separate the teams as the race enters its second stage. PREDICTION: Arizona Diamondbacks will pull an upset win over the World Champion Giants.

Who do you think will win the marathon?

One down, three to go. The marathon is just getting interesting.

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!

What A King Can Do By The Sea

 

 

 

He was a quality pitcher who threw flames instead of balls for strikes. His fastball smoked. His team didn’t just rely on him, then RELIED on him. He was the ultimate stopper. It is not just his overwhelming fastball that is the secret. It is the two-seam fastball that dances the way Baryshnikov moved on the ballet floor.  That and a hard curve, a devastating change-up and with a great slider and you have the perfect storm for a perfect game.

This past Wednesday, August 15, 2012 to be exact, Félix Abraham Hernández García better known as “King Felix” pitched his way into the Hall fo Fame as he threw the 23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball history against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco  Field in Seattle, in a 1-0 victory. And with it, by the end of the week, his Seattle Mariners had won their 20th victory (against 13 losses) since the All-Star game, the second best winning record in the American League during that time span.

Like Baryshnikov who could dance his way to stardom at an early age on stages of Russia and then in the United States, Hernandez born in Valencia, Venezuela, could throw a fastball 90 mph when he was 14 years old. By the age of 16, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a Major League Baseball contract. That was number sixteen, as in 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.  Not that he was the youngest ever to be signed and played. That belongs to Joe Nuxhall who was 15 years, 10 months and 11 days old when he first stepped foot on a mound in The Show for the Cincinnati Reds in a 1944 game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He lost in that first appearance. But after all, he was a 6’3″ ninth grader a the time. And it was in the middle of WW II.

Regardless of age, “King Felix” has defied all the odds and averaged over 200 innings pitched in his last 7 years on the mound showing what ‘great’ is all about. His durability has been superb in an era when starting pitchers go down with injury all of the time. This three-time All-Star and 2010 American League Cy Young  Award winner, has averaged 8+ strikeouts per game over his entire career. And now he has the only perfect game for the Seattle Mariners in their history.

That’s a big deal when you consider Randy Johnson pitched for the Mariners. Jamie Moyer, in his prime, pitched for the Mariners. Mark Langston pitched for the Mariners. Each of them pitched over 1190 innings for the Mariners. But Felix Hernandez leads them all in ERA (3.17), well ahead of Randy Johnson (3.42), Moyer (3.97) or Langston (4.01). He is #1 in walks & hits per innings pitched (1.203) for the Mariners. That only 1 hit or walk per inning pitched in his entire career. That’s astonishing.

Is he the greatest Mariner pitcher of all time?

He has pitched 300 inning fewer than Johnson. Randy is sure to go into the Hall of Fame. So by the time Felix reaches that point of  more than 1839 innings pitched in his career as a Mariner (he has pitched in 1568 through Wednesday), time will tell.

But right now, The Puget Palooza, the best pitcher in the American League if not all of baseball, is “King Felix”. He’s got the stuff that make him a show in THE SHOW. And if you don’t believe that, name another who even comes close to the stuff he has.

What a Wednesday he brought us, Seattle and all of baseball.

Mikhail Baryshnikov once said “It doesn’t matter how high your lift your leg. The technique is about transparent, simplicity and making an earnest attempt”. Trust me. Felix Hernandez understands that completely.

If Seattle pulls off the improbable this season and keeps up the good playing that they have shown over the past month or so, they will be riding on the shoulders, arm and yes, legs, of the “King”. And that’s what a King can do by the SEA.

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!

Romo-Them’s In The Land of Lombardi

It was to be a great series, the Philadelphia Phillies against the Milwaukee Brewers. At least that’s what most thought would happen in the City of Brotherly Love at the beginning of the season. Here were two teams loaded with pitching talent, ready to take on the world as a preliminary face-off of the National League Championships in October. That was not to be the case. The Brewers limped into Philadelphia fresh from a three game losing sweep by Cincinnati and trailed the Reds by 10 games in the loss column at the time. They were only moments away from unloading a bunch of talent because they couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them to make a run for the pennant.

There are some fundamental flaws in the team structure this year. The first baseman, Cory Hart, a right fielder who is just learning to play the position because the regular first baseman is on the DL for the season. The second baseman, Week’s, is not fielding nor hitting, two vital flaws in anyone’s game. The current shortstop-of-the-moment is playing because the starting shortstop is on the DL for the season. The third baseman, Aramis Ramirez is a doubles machine. He has 35 doubles this season and is one of the bright spots on the team. The left fielder (we call him Mr. Braun in the land of beer and sausage and, yes John…cheese curds), after a very difficult off-season, is playing better than he did last year when he won the league MVP. The center fielder (whoever plays that position) is missing in action. The right fielder, Aoki, is a huge surprise and playing above what anyone expected. The catcher, Maldonado, is also a wonderful surprise but he had to move over for the starting catcher (Lucroy) who came back Thursday from the DL (he had broken his hand when his wife dropped a suitcase on it during the Dodger series way back in June). And that leaves the pitching.

Want a migraine? Strangely, starting pitching has been fairly good of late for the Brewers (forgetting last night’s Wolf-mare). Now that may all change. So you want relief pitching? So do the Brew Crew. The relief pitching has been a disaster. They have lost at least 19 blown saves in games that were in the bag. Only Philadelphia in the National League have a worst blown save percentage (comparing this year to last year) than the Brewers. While the Phillies are -23.0 vs last year, Milwaukee is -18.3 in save percentage in 2011/save percentage in 2012 difference. Both Philadelphia and Milwaukee were playoff teams last year. The Phillies have a save percentage of 62.5% this season. Milwaukee has a miserable 52.9%. The major league average save percentage is 69% this season. You get the picture.

Then there is the hitting, or lack thereof. Only Braun is hitting above .300 (with a .313 batting average, a league leading 28 home runs and the second best RBI total with 70 and an OPS of 1.002. Aoki, who could win the Rookie of the Year honors, is hitting .280. The starting catcher, Maldonado, who came up from AAA Nashville after Lucroy went on the DL is hitting a respectable .272 while Ramirez is hitting .286 and an OPS of .845. That’s it. They are the only batters above .270. Hart is hitting a disappointing .260; Gomez who alternates in center field is hitting .244 while Morgan the other center fielder is at .228; the shortstop Izturis is at .220 while Rickie Weeks, former All-Star second baseman last season is struggling at .209. When your middle can’t hit, you will loose.

As for the ‘Fightn’s’, they were 15 games in the loss column behind the Eastern Division leading Washington Nationals. In order to get to the playoffs, they have to jump over four teams in their division. Only the Cubs, Padres, Rockies and Astros have lost more games this season. And these are the fearsome Philadelphia Phillies. These guys won the entire thing just a couple of seasons ago. So what happened? Milwaukee was swept again.

The twisting in the wind began after that last loss in Philly and before you could spell Greinke, he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three minor leaguers quicker than you could spell Greinke’s wife’s former profession, that of a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.

Of all that is holy, that just isn’t right. No, not that the Brewers got nothing in return for a front line pitcher but because his wife was one of Romo-them’s in the land of Lombardi. That would make any cheese head spit out a perfectly good bratwurst.

It’s been that kind of week. That kind of year. Only 62 regular season games left, boys and girls. Fourteen and one-half games out, ten under .500. Only six teams have lost more games in the National League this season.

There is a hint of a breeze beginning to blow from the North this year across Pigsville and Miller Valley, earlier than anticipated. Green is replacing Blue in the jerseys. What a horrible thought. And it isn’t even August yet.

If baseball is a game built upon hope and prayers, it is time to hit the kneelers, bring out the beads and say after me, “Hail Mary full of grace”.

Play Ball!

072912

I Saw A Guy Throw 100 mph On Wednesday

You would never believe it unless you saw it. Aroldis Chapman, relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, in the bottom of the 8th inning against the Brewer’s Rickey Weeks, at Miller Park in Milwaukee, threw four pitches. Three of them were strikes. The real story was that the first pitch was 100 miles per hour; the second was 100 mph and a bit outside. The third pitch was 99 mph and the fourth, to strike out Weeks, was 101 miles per hour.

101 miles per hours.

This is not an April Fool’s joke. This was no Sidd Finch. This wasn’t fiction written by Plimpton. This was actually done on May 9, 2012 at 2:15PM (CST). It was a Wednesday to remember. The 24-year-old Cuban native on the final batter of the inning just threw cheese at the batter. Think of it. If you thought about swinging, the ball was already by you at 100 mph.

Chapman was born in Cuba. He defected in July 2009 before the start of the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands. To make him eligible to play in the major leagues, he established residence in the Principality of Andorra, making him a free agent allowing him to be signed by any Major League team. In September, 2010, he became the only pitcher in the history of major league baseball to throw the fastest pitch ever recorded. On that Friday evening in San Diego, as a Cincinnati Red, he fired one 105 mph. But I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Perhaps in a former life I was from Missouri like Willard Vandiver.

This year, in 14 and two-thirds of an inning, he has struck out 25 batters, Weeks being the last of two in the only inning he faced them in the game.

When all is said and done, I saw a guy throw a baseball 101 miles per hour in a game…for a strike and an out.

That is more than cheese. It is pure smoke.

Play ball.