Programs Here! Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program.


Sadly, no more. There are no more hawkers in the stadiums shouting out, ‘Programs. Programs Here! Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program.’ It is a sound that has passed, like coins dropping in a coin operated telephone in a telephone booth or the ring of a landline phone in the home.

This year, the fans of the Cream City ball club could use the sound of the program hawker. For the money-pinching owners of Pigsville’s Nine, most fans will have trouble knowing who’s on first, what’s on second or I don’t knows on third.

For the record, the first baseman is Eric Thames. ‘Who?’ Eric Thames. Elig temjeuneun nugu-ibnikka? (‘에릭 템즈는 누구입니까?’). He’ll make $4,000,000 and is taking over for Chris Carter who made $2.5 million last season but was headed for arbitration which could have earned him $8+ million. After all, he was the National League Home Run champion. Thus, in the Brewers way of thinking, they saved $4+ million. You have to understand Brewer thinking. They save $4 million and gained 30 points in a batting average. Yet that is all hypothetical because Mr. Thames has been hitting against Korean baseball league pitching for the last three years. 오 좋은! Wow!
At second will be Jonathan Villar. ‘What?’ He is taking over from Scooter. Villar’s salary will be $512,900.
At third will be Travis Shaw. ‘I don’t know’. Shaw? He will earn $515,000.
At shortstop will be Orlando Arcia. ‘I don’t give a damn’ will earn $507,500.
In left will be one of the few we know…Ryan Braun, if he isn’t traded in the next couple of months before he reaches his ability to block any trade starting in late May, when he becomes a 10-year veteran who has spent his past five seasons with his current team. He will earn $20 million.
In center, Keon Broxton. ‘Hit like the second half of last season’ will earn $508,500.
In right, Domingo Santana. ‘Don’t Get Hurt Santana’ will earn $513,800.
Catching will be Andrew Susac. Not ‘today’. But this season, Susac, who replaced Maldonado who replaced Lucroy, will be making $507,500.

Compared to last year’s starting lineup, this year’s projected edition will save approximately $4.5 million less than last year. In fact, according to SPOTRAC, the Milwaukee Brewers will have the third lowest 25 man roster salary in the entire Major League. It is estimated that the team salary will be $41.175 million. Watch out, San Diego and Tampa. Milwaukee is coming after your cheap crown.

They have traded away one of the best catchers in baseball for somebody. They have traded away a veteran third baseman for somebody. They have released the National League’s home run champion for nobody.

If they trade away Braun, they will fly by the San Diego and Tampa and threaten the Salt Lake City Bees for salary.

What an accomplishment.

The Cream City Nine’s owner, who has never won a pennant much less a World Series title, will threaten most of the top Major League owners in profit. He knows that the Milwaukee fans will pack the stadium for Tiddlywinks. OK. That may be a stretch, but ‘program hawkers’ will be needed. Perhaps they can have a ‘Tiddlywinks Night’ to introduce all of the new faces.

We’ll be watching, Mr. Attanasio. We’ll be watching.

Play Ball!

#watchingattanasio

Nelson and Davies…And Pray For A Couple Of Rainies

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

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

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

How’s that for a lineup, folks.

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

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

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

So, what do the fans think?

‘What’s an Erceg?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You think?

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

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

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

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

They didn’t

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

#watchingattanasio #win63

Play Ball!

And, Happy Father’s Day.

Run Like A Hedge Fund Operation


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

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

Winning is the key.

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

And the new GM does not have that pedigree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play Ball!

Oh Me, Oh My

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One of the songs waffling in the air during a September in the Midwest is the sound of the crowd at the baseball stadiums. For those who expect to win, the sound is full of excitement. For those who are on the brink of collapse, the sound of pending failure is deafeningly muted in its outburst of last air escaping from a dying effort.

Down by two in the bottom of the night, with two outs and a runner on third, while two rookies tried in vain to deliver a key hit to extend the comeback, there was a crescendo from the crowd lifted by the hope that what might be could happen. But most in the park understood that this is where so few of these epic victories have taken place as the inevitable surly would happen.

Baseball in most cities in the Major Leagues have rarely seen the delight of a championship season. It is the hallowed ground of the Yankees and the Cardinals, the Dodgers and the Giants. Oh, there have been bursts of greatness in Oakland and once in Phoenix, Atlanta has had one and ironically, Miami and Baltimore have seen their share as have Minneapolis and Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Boston and Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and once years ago by a team no longer in Milwaukee. Even Washington saw it before most people who are alive today were born. But never has the World Championship flag flown in Houston or Dallas, Tampa or San Diego. Seattle has never seen it fly except in other team’s stadiums.

But now in the present era of the game, the team that now occupies a place in the major leagues in Milwaukee has never seen it fly at home. They came close one time when they had won the American League pennant, but never since…some thirty two years ago. And perhaps, after a gallant season where they were in first place in the Central Division for so long, since early in April until Labor Day, another season sounded a possible death knell last night as the crowd silently filed out of Miller Park into the gloom of another failed season’s night. And who else would have silenced the crowd but their brewery town rival from the western edge of the Mississippi River down on the Eastern edge of Missouri.

One has to understand that it will be another long season where the Hot Stove league always brings hope for the next season, where the Cubs could win this next year because they have all of these great young players. But settling back on a cold winter’s night with every next day is pewter gray, the thought will haunt how close the Brewers were to finally raising the crown this year.

But the assembled veterans who made first base their home really couldn’t pull off the power first base as Prince used to do for so many years. Scooter just turned out to be a rookie who couldn’t come through in the clutch while Rickey did an amazing job raising his average with so few attempts at Second. Jean was hit in the face with a bat by a team-mate in the dugout, lost his son in a season to be forgotten by him and all of us who hopes he never has to go through anything like this again. Davis performed OK in his rookie season, hitting with power sometimes when it really didn’t count and in need of an arm to control left. Go Go was just a shade off of amazing before he hurt himself again, and now the team misses his power of excitement and energy. Braun just looked hurt all year, unable to regain the powerful stroke that made him a superstar before his fall from grace. Now, sadly, he is just another ball player. Vonnie continued to pick at the corners into mediocrity where he could no longer blow the ball past the pesky hitters who continued to run the count to full. Lohse  just could not eliminate the one bad inning. Peralta, after an amazingly strong first five months, simply ran out of steam. Garza was a complete waste of a three-year, $50 million contract, no longer capable of being a stopper. Yet maybe there will be hope as Lucroy had a career season along with Maldonado who should be the catcher as Lucroy could solve the first base situation. Fiers was tremendous for the past month and the amazing Aramis was the real pro at third base who delivered with the bat and played a remarkable third, fielding superbly. No one plays the slow rolling grounder to third better.

When the great slump of 9 losses finally ended, the inexperience of the manager was exposed and his coaching staff, praised by the team announcers on television as hard-working, were overwhelmingly inadequate.

And on Saturday as the crowd quietly slipped out of the Miller gates, the field left behind was again witness to another close-but-no-cigar season of fading dreams.

Now the pewter gray days and cold winter nights are surely ahead as we head in the direction of Pigsville. But for the Cream City Nine, this year was better than most and with that as a memory, it is a blessing for those of us who have rarely seen the big flag fly above the place called home.

The Marquette will taste the same at Real Chili. The pepperoni and extra onion pizza will still be sensational at Balistrai’s in Tosa. And the Belvedere extra dry will be blessed at Elsa’s on Cathedral Square. Nothing will change. And the Brewers will miss the World Series Championship again.

Play Ball!

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!

A Pall Falls On The City

The Cream City has experienced this all before. On the day the announcement was made by the carpetbagger Bartholomay to remove the beloved Braves, a devastated population of loyal fans had jaws agape. It simply could not be true. How could someone remove a team from a city that supported it from day one with Major League record attendance, year after year? Was there no one in town who could offer greed more than the hope of Dixie?

The pain was real. It was deep. It cut through the boyhood memories, dragging them ruthlessly away, well ahead of its time. We had felt disappointment before. There were the continual battles with the Cardinals for the pennant where the sound of fingers on rosary beads were louder than the silent scream of hope that this would be our year. There was the release of Spahn, Buhl, Burdette, Bruton and others. But the hope of the future was there with Aaron, Carty and Torre. And Eddie was still there, the real deal, the heart of the team beloved by so many. Surely Henry and Mathews would refuse to move to the South and force the owners to reconsider.

The ballpark was vacant. ‘No Game Today’ signs hung on the box office windows as if penance from confession was not enough. No one was coming to ‘Will Call’. George Webb made no predictions. They had left town never to return.

No more battles with the Cubs and our next door neighbor who was a religious Cubbie fan. No more “Take Me Out” during the 7th inning stretch. No more excitement about the anticipation of who would see the stadium first when driving in from out-of-town. Hot dogs never tasted the same after that in our winter of complete and total discontent.

The citizens, with hidden tears being wisped away with a rub of a  shoulder to the eyes when no one was looking, were the same but now with a pall over the City. Joy had been ripped out of our hearts.

Then as if the skies opened up, with a huge check from Robert A. Uihlein, Jr., the owner of Schlitz Brewing Company after being persuaded by Ben Barkin, his and the world’s best PR man, the car leasing dealer’s son was bringing the game back to the City. There was hope. There was joy.

Baseball, throughout all of its years, after all is a game of hope. Players change. Manager’s change. Venues sometimes change. From County Stadium to Miller Park, the spirit of the Braves of old whistled through the stadium on opening day of the transplanted Seattle Pilots who went bankrupt in Seattle.

From that point, a new alliance was born between desperate fans yearning to erase the pain of old and replace it with new hope. A bond was created between fans who loved the game and a team that was saved from extinction. Yes. We were now in a new league but that league had the Yankees. We would now be able to see the greatest team in baseball a number of times a year play in the stadium where our home team once won and lost to them in a World Series.

No more Cubs, but we got the White Sox. Close enough.

We also got that new team up in the Twin Cities as a new rival. Life was getting better and now hope was rampant as a new surge of energy spread throughout the land of cheese and butter, beer and ‘B-O-L-O-G-N-A’. The bubblers and goulashes were back in fashion. Baseball was back in the City, the county, the State.

Through the years we latched onto heroes of the game our home team spawned. ‘Boomer’, ‘Vuch’, ‘The Kid’, ‘Molly’, ‘Bambi’s Bombers’, ‘Harvey’s Wallbangers’, Cecil, Sixto, Money, ‘Augie Doggie’, ‘Kenny The Sandman’, Prince, Rickie, Cory, Aoki, Lucroy, ‘Vonnie’, the new kid at short, ‘St. Jean’ and the guy in left.

Most of the pain that we experienced before came flooding back in a flash flood of sorrow. Sure some of the Crew had taken drugs before but none were ever banished with such suddenness, such deliberate heart wrenching disgust and suspension. And in a time when there was no more Prince to defend us, no more Cory to hit us out of our deep depression, the guy in left had us hanging by a thread…without much hope.

Hope drives the game. Hope instills a loyalty that suspends belief. Hope is the lifeblood of youth in all of us no matter what the age. Without hope we are adrift on an endless, joyless whim of no direction.

The pall is over the City once again.

We need a prince to bring life back to the fans of the True Blue Brew Crew.

Perhaps we should just abide and softly in typical Milwaukee fashion, quietly close with …

Play Ball!

Sciosciaitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play Ball!

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

Going To LaLa Land

It was once one of the beautiful stadiums in the world without rival. It stood atop of a hill overlooking the City. It was a marvel of its time known as Chavez Ravine.

The view inside is still the same idyllic pastoral setting baseball of your childhood can provide. The 1960’s roof line of the outfield bleacher below the iconic scoreboard still stand and the Dodger Dogs are as good as ever before, with the mustard and onions to top off dinner at the ballpark. The legendary peanut man still throws bags to those who want to buy, but instead of the two attached small bags, there is only one larger filled with the roasted goodness as before.

The play on the field this past week was the team from Milwaukee that took the field against the ancestries of the old Brooklynites. The Brewers were the better team this week against the best the Dodgers could throw, including a Cy Young pitcher. Play on the field was superb. One play defensively stood out above all others. Aoki, replacing Hart who was replacing Ishikawa who was replacing Gamel who replaced Fielder at First, showed how everyone should play baseball in Right Field. With runners on First and Second base and one out, playing off the line in right, a loopy single dropped over the first baseman’s head. Kemp raced around third on his way to score at home. But rather than trying a throw to home, which probably only legendary arms like Clemente could make, Aoki took the ball off of the grass and ran it back into the infield, holding the runner at second. That was one of the deciding factors in the Brewer’s one run victory.

Martin Maldonado jumped into Big League action behind the plate for the Brewers, replacing George Kottaras who replaced Jonathan Lucroy, and noticeably took charge. At one time during his first game on Tuesday, when he got his first hit, he was paired with another rookie, pitcher Michael Fiers (who replaced Marco Estrada who replaced Chris Narvason as the fifth starter) making it one of the first times the battery mates were both making their Major League debuts. Fiers won. In his second game on Wednesday, Maldonado went out to the mound and put his arm around veteran pitcher Gallardo which appeared to settle Yovani down. On Thursday, he did the same with Zack Greinke. During this entire series, it looked like the Nashville Sounds were wearing Brewer uniforms. At shortstop, Edwin Maysonet replaced Cesar Izturis who replaced Gonzalez. Taylor Green replaced Hart who….you already know that long thread at First Base. Brooks Conrad was seen at Second, Shortstop and Third on occasion. In the end, you could see a rookie pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman and shortstop playing for the Crew. During this series, you really couldn’t tell the players without a program. One has to feel sorry for the Nashville Sound. Who are they playing with today?

But in L.A., that is only part of the game. The second part is the celebrity watching. Sharon Stone was there. Rob Reiner was in his customary seat just off of the screen in the second row on the aisle on the first base side. Harry Hamlin of ‘L.A. Law‘ fame was there. The owner of the Brewers, Mark Attanasio, was noticeable at every game (after all he lives in Los Angeles). He was ever present, behind the plate, behind the dugout, walking the aisles talking to fans (“Mark. Let’s bring home a Brewer win.” to which he responded “Let’s hope so.”), signing balls and shaking hands and visiting with friends. Jimmy Iovine, the talent dude of ‘American Idol‘ was there schmoozing with Attanasio. Remember, Attanasio’s son has a band. Iovine’s bigger role is that of Chairman of Interscope Geffin A&M Records. Suffice to say, there were more stars in the stands than in the heavens on these nights in the City of Angels.

In the end, the fans were the same. This is the third part of a ballgame at Dodger Stadium. They booed Braun over the favored Kemp. They replaced the words ‘home team’ for the ‘Dodgers’ in “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the Seventh Inning stretch. The ‘kiss cam’ caught a proposal in the grandstand as a fellow dropped to his knees and offered a ring to a young lady. (Yes. She accepted.) The crowd applauded wildly. You would have thought the Queen was celebrating an Anniversary or something. Vin Scully for the Dodgers and Bob Uecker for the Brewers made up the oldest announcing team in the game today. The young fellow on ‘kid cam’ danced like he was auditioning for ‘America Loves Dancing‘. All was right with the world if you were a Brewer fan.

Leaving this legendary ballpark each evening and flowing swiftly in and out of traffic brought memories of nights long ago in the back of my father’s car, furiously finishing up my scorecard and making all of the stats official. Those were the glorious days of few trials and fewer worries. And that’s really why baseball is so important in a person’s life. It allows you to escape the rigid confines of today, full of problems, apprehension and worry while remembering the wide open hope the future could bring.

Remarkably, on an evening at a ballpark of your choice, even Dodger Stadium, it can do the same today if you let it.

Play Ball!