Erector Arm

K stands for Caracas

K stands for Caracas

As a kid, the excitement of building something great with an Erector set was held with anticipation. Occasionally, one would build a crane which would carry products from one point to the next, just like the real things did. Then one morning, you came out to find out your brother had done something to which the dreams of building the perfect city would never come to be. The crane’s arm was hanging from a screw…limp and of no more use.

During the past month, K-Rod has come out of the bullpen, night after night, to save another win for the Brewers. The Cream City Nine has seen this before. A Canadian named Axford did it for some 40+ games before the ever present consistency was a thing of the past and all hope was lost. Now the pessimism of ‘when’ looms constantly as we see yet another tight game come down to the point where ‘K-arm’ is up in the bullpen, warming up hard to pinpoint his control on the outside corners before coming in again. It is not ‘how far can he go’. It is ‘when will it end’?

At 18-6 to begin with one of their better starts in their history, these malt and barley men are an interesting lot. A committee of veterans at first, a kid taking over for a vet at second, a miracle with a broken face at short, a heavy hitting veteran at third. A kid in left who is quietly performing within the excitement of the early season. A ball of energy and unpredictability in center…many consider the heart and soul of the ball club, with Braunschweiger in right with a bad thumb, a thing in his shoulder and the gas of millions of outraged fans in every opponents park yet still hitting and fielding like the best. Behind the plate there is the most underestimated catcher in the game with a backup who is now nicknamed ‘The Destroyer’ and a gaggle of starters who may or may not be reaching their peak all at the same time. Then K-Rod.

Francisco Rodriguez first poked his head into The Show in 2002 with the Angels, who were then proudly from Anaheim, for 5 innings and 13 strikeouts. He didn’t get his first save until the next season but on Saturday, in 14 innings so far this season in 24 games, he has 21 K’s and 11 saves. At this rate he will have 74 saves for the season and the Brewers will win 121 games.

Nope.

His arm will fall off.

But if it doesn’t, with the help of rosary beads everywhere, this is going to be a nail-biting, internal hemorrhaging season of all seasons. But there is one more obstacle ahead. It is called May.

The Milwaukee Brewers in the month of May is like Clark Kent sleeping on a bed of kryptonite. The month begins in Cincinnati then moves home for the perplexing D’Backs and for the first visit in nine years, with the kings of baseball visiting Miller Park. Then on the road with the Cubs, the carpetbaggers and Miami. Then home again with a rare visit from the Orioles and the near weekly confrontation with the Northsiders.

So, the Erector Arm and the Month of May. Hope takes a strange shape this season.

Play Ball!

Get Up. You Can’t Be That Tired!

Baseball must be an easy sport to play. Most of the time the players are just casually milling about on the field waiting for the next pitch. You play catch before the inning starts. Nothing too strenuous. There is an eight-in-nine chance that you will not be involved in the next play. You get to sit down when it is your team’s time to bat. The game lasts only a couple of hours a day, far less than playing a round of golf on even the busiest courses. Sure, you have to grab a bat and walk up to the on deck circle after coming from your comfy position in the dugout. You take a couple of swings. And when it is your turn to hit, you walk up to the batter’s box, take your position with a couple of practice swings and zero in on the pitcher…particularly the throwing hand of the pitcher. From that moment the game either speeds up enormously or slows down incredibly depending upon your comfort zone at that time as the stars line up with the movement of the earth and your familiarity with the pitcher. As Yogi said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Every player on the field is an exceptional athlete. They are one of only 800 people on the planet to be able to play in ‘The Show’ at one time. For the record, that is one of eight hundred out of 7.013 billion people on the planet.

The mind races faster. On Friday night for five hours and four minutes, the struggling Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs (both entered the game with identical 13 wins and 18 losses) held one of their ‘big rival’ marathons. The Brewers used 22 players out of 25 men on their roster. They even used one of their starting pitcher to pinch hit, Zack Greinke. Only Vonnie Gallardo, Shaun Marcum (who starts on Saturday) and Marco Estrada (who pitched the game before) were not used. If further pinch hitters had to be used, there is no doubt that Gallardo and Marcum could have been used as both are also good hitting pitchers.

There were a lot of Brewers in the ballpark on this night as the Cubs manager, Dale Sveum, along with former Brewer pitcher and now Cubs pitching coach, Chris Bosio, former Brewer rookie of the year, Cubs third base coach Pat Listach and former Brewer infielder and now Cubs bench coach, Jamie Quirk. Add to this, former Brewer manager, Del Crandall at 81 years of age was there as he was honored in the stadium as he was inducted as a member of the The Milwaukee Braves Hall of Fame earlier in day.

The Cubs used 21 of their players including all of the position players.The two clubs had only pitchers that were not used. This game, more than most, gave new meaning to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first, What’s on second. I don’t know’s on third. Why’s in left. Because is in center. Certainly is the catcher. I don’t give a darn is at short. Tomorrow is the pitcher.”

Cory Hart for the Brewers had 7 at bats, the last gave every one of the 40,097 a chance to go home as it was a single in the bottom of the 13th inning which gave the home team a victory with the bases loaded. Mark Concannon, the Brewers television field announcer interviewed the winning team’s hero for the night, Hart, with “Good morning.” It was after midnight.

Saturday’s game was scheduled to start at 12:05P (CST) to accommodate the FOX Game of the Week schedule.

The game was over. Players rushed through the clubhouse, showered and left to travel home and grab some sleep. Milwaukee’s not tough to get around at 1A in the morning. They were all capable of being home at 1:30A. Say it took a little while to get to sleep at about 2A. Many get to the ballpark four hours before game time. That means they had to get up at 7A and in the clubhouse at 8A. Routine time is at hand followed by batting practice for the home team. Gates open two hours before the game so it is time to go back to the clubhouse and begin the preparation for tendencies of the opposing pitcher and hitters. Interviews for local radio and FOX television along with welcome back home hugs and hand shakes for Darren Sutton, the former Brewer television announcer and now the television voice of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will be covering the national telecast. Visit to the training room is scheduled. Stretching comes next. The pains and bruises from the night before are nagging, especially for Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun, both of whom were hit by pitcher Lendy Castillo in the bottom of the 13th. Week’s had x-rays earlier in the morning on his wrist which proved negative. There were no broken bones. That could have added him to the sideline along with two others in the infield. Only Ramirez stands alone as the only infielder not to be on the DL for the season for the heroes of the Cream City nine.

There is a chance of rain for Saturday with a high of 60 degrees. The roof is open and the crowd has gathered. The heroes have been on the field warming up. It’s time for that leisurely athletic endeavor for another day. Jogging onto the field to take their positions, Marcum takes the rubber and the game begins all over again, 0-0. A clean slate. All is right with the world. Batter comes to the plate. And the umpire yells,

“Play Ball”.