All of the fresh bats are in the racks. The new gloves have been broken in with weeks of catching in Spring Training. Now the marathon known as a Major League Baseball season is upon us.
Six teams begin today. The New York Yankees visit Tampa Bay Rays; the San Francisco Giants meet the Arizona Diamondbacks and the World Champion Chicago Cubs begin their season visiting their biggest rival, the Saint Louis Cardinals.
This is probably one of the most exciting days of the year. All of the hopes of fans everywhere is at its highest.
There is only one thing to say….
The Milwaukee Brewers won’t win the pennant.
A fan favorite, Scooter Gennett has been let go to division rival Cincinnati. The National League home run leader in 2016, was let go. An All-Star catcher and his defensively skilled back-up were traded. While all of this happened, the Cream City Nine brought in two new first basemen; a new third baseman and a partridge in a pear tree.
But, they got younger.
Yet they still have, through no fault of their own, one of the finest baseball players to ever play the game, Ryan Braun.
He is an absolute gem.
While rival fans love to trash him for his past problems with PEDs and of course his lying about taking performance enhancing drugs, fans of Pigsville, love this guy. He has a regime like few in the game. He is the consummate professional. At the plate, he is rarely off-balance. And he can hit the ball out of the ballpark nearly everywhere in the strike zone. His fielding and arm are exemplary. He is the last of the players from the great teams of the early ‘00s. He is their only All-Star left.
After ten years, here is what he has done on the field:
He’s played in 1,354 games with 1,597 hits.
He has banged 317 doubles, 43 triples and 285 home runs.
He has driven in 937 RBI, stolen 181 bases, walked 473 times while striking out 1,070 times while compiling a .304 batting average with an OBP of .367; a slugging percentage of .544 and an OPS of .910. On defense, he has 225 assists and only 47 errors (26 of which were in his first season at 3B) in 10 years with a fielding percentage of .981.
He is a six (6) time All-Star and did you know that he actually was #23 in the MVP last season?
In the history of the game, he compares with Hack Wilson.
At the age of 32, he compares with Lance Berkman and Larry Walker in hitting.
Is he the greatest player in Milwaukee Brewer history?
There is Robin Yount. And Paul Molitor. Cecil Cooper. Prince Fielder.
All he has to do is play another ten years and perhaps he will have number 8 up on the ring at Miller Park.
Tomorrow he will hit the field. In the meantime, as we said, baseball is a marathon.
During the past two weeks, while most sports fans were watching college basketball’s conference tournaments, the NCAA first round of March Madness, the first night of the second round of March madness, golf from Florida, NASCAR, motorcycle racing, boxing, WWE, the Premiere League, NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey, there was something that was exceptional happening in the world of sport. Some of the best players in the world were playing baseball for their home nations or for nations someone in their family might have a hereditary line, were playing baseball behind a flag. The WBC this year is exceptional.
For those who have been watching these games, from Korea, Japan, Mexico, Miami and San Diego, the game progressed to mid-season form in a hurry.
Last night in San Diego, with everything on the line for the defending champion, Dominican Republic and the United States, baseball was reborn. In front of a packed stadium at Petco Park, the feeling was electric. Could the USA come back and beat the team who had defeated them in Miami after giving up a big lead last week? Could anyone get the tremendous players from DR out? There were 23 All-Stars on both teams for one game. And something happened.
This was big time, Major League Baseball at its very best. The crowd was in it. In fact, the crowd was one of the loudest one could imagine. But, three plays stood out to make this one of the most amazing games you could ever want to see. And perhaps that was the point. You go to a game in hopes that you see something you can talk about for a long time to come. Then it happens. Not once. Not twice. But three times.
The first was the incredible pressure the Dominican team puts on its opponents. There is one basher after another. There is not space to take a breath. And in the first inning, as the home team, they began pounding the ball. But as it again happened in the second inning and the fifth inning, somehow the USA team stopped what could have ended the game as it had in Miami a week before. Solid pitching and solid defense stopped the DR in its tracks. Danny Duffey’s great pitching and a terrific tag of Nelson Cruz at home by catcher Jonathon Lucroy with a fine throw to him by Brandon Crawford, kept DR at bay in Mission Bay.
The second was an unbelievable force of one Giancarlo Stanton. The ‘Adonis of Miami’ absolutely crushed a baseball which took off faster than one could imagine to give the USA a huge lift and the lead. An unbelievable speed of a ball being hit into the warehouse in left field went out faster than Staton could complete his swing. If in all the time you spend watching baseball, here is a memory nugget you can keep forever. Wow!
Then the third made this game an important turning point for the game. This WBC showed off big time baseball at its very best. And this is a memory nugget you will never forget. The incomparable Manuel Arturo ‘Manny’ Machada hit a blast to deep center field and as if time stood still in the marine layer, Adam Jones, the centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, raced to the fence and leaped way over the wall to make one of the best catches in the history of the game. Electric. Unbelievable. Fantastic. The Golden Memory Nugget. The pitcher mouthing ‘Oh My God’. But it is what happened a moment later that made this the great game and gave rebirth to the new era of baseball. Muchada while rounding first acknowledged Jones great athletic feat by his regular season teammate by doffing his cap to him as he headed back to the dugout on third base. In return, silently while a tumultuous roar of the crowd, tipped his hat in return to his teammate for saluting him.
This is when baseball was reborn in the hearts of the old who love the game, in the hearts of the fathers who take their sons and daughters to the game and to the young people who packed the stadium and watched on television what a great game can be as a fabric of their lives today and into the future.
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.
The crowds have gone home. Hot dog wrappers and paper cups litter the grandstand. There is a chill in the air. And, beyond the gates there is only the hope of a better season next year. The Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, the Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies join for a rare time, the Cardinals in the National League as the gates are closed and locked on their hopes for 2016. Their dreams of winning a pennant or the World Series is over. In the American League, the Twins, White Sox, and the World Champion Royals are joined by the Rays, the once mighty Yankees, the Mariners, A’s, Astros, Angels are joined by the Tigers, where dreams of a great season have ended.
Now, one of the most exciting times of the year begins with a shock and a bang. The playoffs begin on Tuesday.
But it is up to those fans, whose teams are no longer in the run, left to wonder ‘what if’. What if the Brewers had a 3rd base coach who didn’t cost so many games? What if the White Sox had realized that Robbie Ventura just couldn’t manage a winning squad? What if the Twins hadn’t gotten off to one of the most horrible starts any club has faced. What if the Yankee owners hadn’t gotten cheap? What if the Marlins hadn’t lost their stars? What if the Rays didn’t play baseball. What if the Braves hadn’t left Milwaukee? What if the Pirates got a manager? What if the Reds actually had a good front office? What if the Astros weren’t a flash in the pan? Unfortunately for them, they woke up. What if the Padres actually had a team? What if BillyBall actually worked? What if Arte Marino kept out of baseball decisions for the Angels? What if the Colorado Rockies moved to sea level? What if the Royal didn’t have Ned as a manager? What if the Phillies could actually rebuild? What if the Tigers were owned by the owner of another pizza company? What if the D’Backs had more than one player? What if the Mariners were owned by SONY? Who’d that matter? What if Cardinals didn’t get old? What if …. What if …
What if Vin Scully didn’t retire….we could all hope the dreams of tomorrow were closer than ever. Who else would weave into the balls and strikes, ‘The Yankees put pinstripes on their uniforms to make the Babe look thiner., ball one.’ Or, as he said this Friday about Giants second baseman, Kelby Tomlinson . ‘Everyone in his family has a name that begins with a ‘K’. And when their son came along, his mom loved the name Shelby so she called him Kelby. He comes from a small town called Elgin, Oklahoma. It only has 2,156 people. It is so small, they have a hardware store, a grocery store, a Sonic and a McDonalds’. His mom works……..ball two’.
Now most of us wait for the next year.
Other sports will be played. We’ll have Thanksgiving and begin our hectic shopping season. We’ll go to Grandma’s for Christmas. The chill of winter will grab us and then, once again, as the thought of flowers pop up through the snow, the thoughts of the sounds of spring in Florida and Arizona will grab us like a great friend and shake us into the new dreams of another year.
After all, if it can happen to the Cubs, it can happen to any team.
‘The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.’ Sara Teasdale
April showers bring May flowers but not in Pigsville.
On May 24th, 2007, Ryan Joseph Braun came up to the Majors. By that date next season, he will no longer be wearing Blue…Milwaukee Blue as in True Blue Brew Crew.
What was so promising…with him becoming one of the best players in the game, crashed down around him when he was declared out for most of the 2013 season because of prohibited drug use. He lost all respect. He lost all commercial ties. He lost partnerships. He lost friendships. He lost his dignity.
There is a soulless emptiness at the bottom. It is nowhere land. No friends and plenty of enemies. People turn away when you are sighted walking toward you. People, who were once your friends, don’t respond to emails. People who once welcomed your contact, do not respond to phone calls. They are always conveniently out. People whom you have helped when they needed help ignore you. You are persona non rata, literally a person not appreciated. ‘Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.’ stated General George S. Patton. Ryan Braun was on the bottom.
That is what hit Braun squarely in the face. ‘Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.’ Muhammad Ali said. In Braun’s case, it wasn’t even at all. The only thing going for him was his contract which would tie him to the Milwaukee Brewers through 2020.
He was once the Rookie of the Year; he became the third-fastest major leaguer to reach 50 career home runs; in 2008, he reached the 150-RBI milestone faster than any major leaguer since Boston’s Walt Dropo needed only 155 games, in 1949–51; was a starting outfielder for the NL in the 2008 All Star Game, finishing first in player voting; Braun hit his 30th home run, becoming just the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first two seasons as he hit 71 home runs in his first two seasons, tying him with Pujols for fourth all-time as Joe DiMaggio topped the list with 75 home runs, followed by Ralph Kiner (74) and Eddie Mathews (72). He was the toast of all the baseball world. Apple released a commercial for a new iPhone, that showed a clip of Braun’s 10th inning walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008, which kept the Brewers’ Wild Card hopes alive. Gatorade used the same clip in its November 2008 “League of Clutch” commercial.
But imagine, only behind DiMaggio, Kiner and Mathews. Here was the star Milwaukee was praying for.
In 2009, Braun was named to Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking #32. In 2011, he rose to #16. He was named to the Team USA in the 2nd World Baseball Classic. On September 23, Braun hit a three-run, 450-foot home run that sealed the Brewers’ NL-Central-clinching victory. He was named MVP of the National League that season. And in 2012, Braun was awarded the 2012 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the fifth year in a row. His five consecutive awards was the longest active streak in the major leagues.
Then the fall.
Like Phoenix rising, he began a comeback. “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed—all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates.” He was seen in around Milwaukee even in the cold dead of winter, in the parking lot assisting in various charity drives, thanking the fans for coming out. He was at every Brewer Fest during the off-season, signing autographs and taking tons of pics with the fans.
However, 2014 was not a good year. With that time off, he was heckled in nearly every ballpark in America. He stood quietly in left field. He took the heat. Fans were angry. Opposing fans were merciless. In spring training, even in Maryvale, opposing fans yelled and screamed offensive insults. During the regular season, if you ever attended a game in Phoenix or Chicago, you heard the raw, cutting insults smashing through the air, mother’s quickly covering their children’s ears. ‘What did you do that for, Ma?’, was the response. On the field he managed to be only a mere shadow of what he had been before. A .300+ hitter, he battled insults and injury coming away with a .266 average and only 19 home runs. But after another off season of rest, he came back and there were bright spots which appeared as he lifted his average .285 with 25 home runs while suffering from a bad thumb and back and once again became an All-Star. Then this season, he finally found his old form, batting well above .300 for the season, often in the top five in hitting, and as of today, reached the 30 home run level with 88 RBI.
They still yell insults at him in a couple of towns, particularly Phoenix and Chicago. But for most good baseball fans, they have stopped the childish insults.
Ryan Braun is back. He is world class in the outfield, back in his old position in left field and is back as a world class hitter. And that is bad for Brewer fans.
The owner now has a valued commodity with which to enrich his pockets, drastically decrease his costs, and is dangling his star player in front of an ownership group where he does business (Los Angeles) like a fresh piece of meat. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of only six teams that Braun has named as favorable as part of his no trade clause contractual rights. And just as the trade deadline neared, his piece of meat was dangled hard. The Dodgers agreed to trade the oft injured and big time trouble fielder Puig along with a host of injured and players to be named later. The only thing that saved Milwaukee fans from this disgusting trade was their general manager’s inability to agree with the Dodgers on those players to be named later. In the meantime, Braun was in the clubhouse waiting to see if his long career with the Pigsville Nine was over.
But this is not the end. The Milwaukee Brewers owner is a classic meat dangler. He is a hedge fund man. He knows value of meat…fresh, hard hitting meat that is one of the best pieces of steak on the baseball planet. By next May, Braun’s 10/5 rights kick in. At the end of May, when Braun accumulates 10 years of service time, Braun will gain full no-trade rights, which will complicate any trade the Brewers try to make involving him. Though Braun could waive those for a situation he likes, it’s another factor that has to be worked into negotiations, and one that could further complicate any deal that the Brewers try to make in the future.
Thus this next week, take a look at the magnificent talent playing left field for the Milwaukee Brewers. It may be the last time you will see this quality of baseball player wearing the Milwaukee Blue. Winter is coming and with it, the old meat man will be behind the counter dangling for every team owner to mouth-water over. He has USDA Prime in his freezer. And the owners of the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Diamondbacks and Marlins and any other owner willing to part with a bunch of no-name players for a star, are all invited to attend the bidding war in Pigsville.
Day after day, night after night, the season lumbers on. The old adage of ‘The Dog Days Of Summer’ is a misnomer as this season has been going down since the beginning of the season for the Pigsville Nine. This neighborhood team is stocked with today’s names of the game, with guys like Cravy, Boyer, Knebel, Marinez, Scahill, Pina, Carter, Villar, Arcia, Broxton, Nieuwenhuis, the Blue’s Brothers lost brother, Jake Elmore and others. Yes, Ryan Braun is still with the team, the only star who remains, and the only player hitting above .300 for the season. Maldonado, Nelson, Gennet and Peralta also are names of familiarity. Each day they face big names on bigger teams. And if you haven’t been paying attention, the Cream City Nine is just a breathe away from the cellar of the Central Division of the National League. Going into Sunday’s play, they are 56-73 with a .434 winning percentage and 26.5 games behind the leader.
After a brief winning streak, Craig Counsell’s team has dropped three straight to the charging Pittsburghers as the second to last month of the season comes to an end. For many, it is way too long to continue through the remaining games. However being very fair, just because there are non-familiar names dotting the box score for the Crew, this does not automatically mean they are not good. You can actually imagine Counsell’s pre-game speeches, pulling from one Jimmy Dugan of the Peaches: ‘All right, everyone, let’s listen up now, listen up. Hey! Something important has just happened. I was in the toilet reading my contract, and it turns out, I get a bonus when we get to the World Series. So, let’s play hard, let’s play smart, use your heads.’
The positivities are a buzz. So let’s follow the Buckminster Fuller philosophy at this point in time. “When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”
Think about that for a second. Here we have a guy named Pina behind the plate. Did you see that beautiful throw on Thursday evening when he fired down to second and got the runner trying to steal? When putting a puzzle together, to meld the team, the catcher is an important cog. Then over at First, there is Mr. Carter…a behemoth of a man, with the softest, sweetest swing every conceived. He is a giant among men. When he connects, the ball flys beyond belief. At shortstop there is the kid who followed the kid (All-Star Segura) who followed the kid (All-Star Escobar) who followed the local kid (Counsell) who followed the kid (All-Star Hardy) who followed the original Kid (Hall of Famer, Yount). It is called the ‘Litany Position’ in Cream City. A deeply religious town, litany is a perfect name for that position on the Brewers. Five decades of the rosary. Five guys who made a legend at the position located just South of the Stadium Interchange.
At third there is Perez. Taken off the waiver wire last season from the Detroit Tigers, he possesses the ability to play a host of positions and can hit with power. He was a byproduct of Melvin’s last-ditch effort to rebuild a team before departure. While known for his many bad trades, this acquisition may be a touch of genius. But then again, Georg Lichtenberg once said, ‘Everyone is a genius at least once a year; a real genius has his original ideas closer together.’ Sorry Melvin.
In center is a perplexing individual. Broxton can run like the wind (although to my knowledge, nobody has ever seen wind running). Thus the kerfuffle. He came up 0-for-forever, then got sent down, brought up, sent down again and then brought up again where he discovered that with a brand new batting style (congratulations to the Brewer’s hitting coach, Coles) has turned him into a real good hitter. While often not taking the correct line in chasing down a ball hit in his direction, he could be the sleeper of the summer.
In right, there is the true definition of a journeyman. Nieuwenhuis is simply a Nieuwenhuis. No more explanation is needed. At times he can hit the cover off the ball, especially when he plays at Miller Park. But there are other times when he can commit two errors in a single inning. He’s a Nieuwenhuis. And that spells trouble for the heir apparent in right, Santana. Hurt most of the season, when he got well, he was at home and nobody was going to out hit Nieuwenhuis at home. Thus, he has to wait until September when the team will be on the road for the majority of the closing month. This is another legendary position for the Brewers. Just a couple of years ago, Aoki brought new life to that position. Before him, Hart and Hall, Bichett and Lescano, Moore and even Braun was the center of fan adoration. It’s just one of those positions that endears for the hometown nine. Perhaps Santana can begin to live up to his great anticipated reputation.
In pitching, there is Nelson, Davies and Peralta, all of whom bring hope. While the two righties have struggled to find their top form, it is left hander Davies who has risen to the top of the staff. There is hope with the trio in the days ahead.
While this may look like a rose-colored view of a team which is struggling to remain relevant to a town that is devoted to…country western…err baseball in the summer (nearly 36,000 came out to see the team Saturday night with the main draw a country western singer who gave a concert after the game), it is still fiction. As Tom Clancy stated, ‘The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.’
Let’s hope that the new constructors of tomorrow’s Brewers create fiction that makes sense.
#otsmlb.com #win63 #watchingattanasio⚾️
It begins with an affection…perhaps from childhood, when you admire from afar that player who becomes one of your favorites on your favorite team…perhaps after one moves and establishes new ties, there is that certain player that literally allows you to slightly shift alliances and like your ‘second’ team. It is convenient. You can always fall back on your ‘second’ when or if your ‘main’ team stumbles during a season.
Then something happens. Adoration is damaged with a scratch which draws angry protest or dismay over the actions of the player or the team. It is a blood spill. The next day or the next week or month, a scab develops to cover the pain of the initial hurt. Eventually, the scabe goes away and there is just a mark left…then a feint mark then…nothing.
This week in the land near Pigsville, the team departed to the West Coast and with it the disappearance of one of Cream City’s favorite sons. He was one of us. He came up through the minor league system. He was the ‘good citizen’ of the group…a favorite among veterans of the Armed Forces for the work he did. He was one of the best defensive catchers in the Majors and in fact, a two-time All-Star. He was an accomplished hitter. And, he was not the top earning player on the team, not even close. Yet, he was one of the very best. And that made him vulnerable to the system of baseball. He was an attractive, valuable piece to be traded on the board game of baseball.
The first offer over the weekend was with Cleveland. But like a smart player, he had exercised his right not to go to Cleveland. Besides LaBron, who would go to Cleveland? Even United Airlines pulled out as a hub city. Not to say there is anything bad with Cleveland but it is Cleveland.
According to Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated, the Indians offered Lucroy absolutely nothing to approve the deal. Lucroy, a strong defensive catcher who finished fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 and has hit .300/360/.484 (123 OPS+) thus far this season, projects to be worth $26.7 million next season and more than $100 million over the next five years. By way of comparison, the most expensive contract in Indians history was the four-year, $57 million extension they gave to Travis Hefner in late 2007. That was considered a bust. The Indians understandably refused that demand given the impressive quartet of prospects they had agreed to send to Milwaukee—catcher Francisco Mejia, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, centerfielder Greg Allen and right-hander Shawn Armstrong. Then the Indians told the Brewers it was up to them to get Lucroy to accept the trade. Given that Lucroy’s focus was on “long-term gain,” per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, there was little the Brewers could do that would make sense for them or Lucroy and the deal collapsed.
Then the game turned into a school lesson for the new, youthful General Manager. Granted, his marching orders when he was hired was to rebuild a farm system that had been depleted as the Brewers made their charge in the past ten years which came to a complete collapse under the non-leadership of Roenicke. Boy GM was about to meet his match. He quickly found out that the learning tools of an effective general manager in major league baseball is not what he saw as an assistant in Houston. This is a game for big boys. This is a game where one plus one equals a minus one. Take the deal which created that which is a scabe today.
Meet Jon Daniels. He is the President of Baseball Operation and General Manager of the Texas Rangers. He has led the Rangers to two World Series appearances and besides the Blue Jays and the Yankees, is the only franchise to win back-to-back American League pennants in the last 22 years. When he was hired, he was the youngest GM in MLB at the time. He was only 28 years old when elevated in 2005. He is a Master of The Trade. And he is the Master of Milwaukee. Lets review: just before the 2006 trade deadline, he traded Lance Nix, Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero to the Milwaukee Brewers for Nelson Cruz, who would become an All-Stare in 2009, and All-Star left fielder, Carlos Lee.
Now, ten years later, he led a lamb to slaughter. He suggested to the young general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers that he would be interested in acquiring the All-Star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. The rookies GM in Cream City said he would have to have a couple of players which would have to include one of the most sought after young slugging third basemen in the minors, Joey Gallo. Gallo is a legend and has all of the ability to become a great player in The Show. The crafty GM of the Rangers said, he would have to have a pitcher along with Lucroy for that trade to become a reality. The rookie stumbled going back to his chair to think about the implications. Lucroy was a jewel in his trade crown. How the other guy wants a pitcher, a relief pitcher. The young GM couldn’t offer the 8th inning specialist, Will Smith because he had already committed to trade him to the Giants for a great prospect and a journeyman catcher. How about the closer, Daniels suggested. Jeffress was the closer for the Brewers with 27 saves in a horrible season for the team. He was the real deal who had been brought up through the farm system only to be traded away in the Greinke deal from KC and then returned last season. Mulling this over, the young GM obviously felt comfortable because he was going to trade Lucroy and he needed a catcher to back up Maldonado, so he brought up Pena from Colorado Springs, the center of pitching hell in the minors. Then told Lucroy not to travel with the team. If a trade could not be worked out, he would fly him out to San Diego to rejoin the team in time for Monday nights game.
That was check-mate time at the Miller Park B-Bar-B.
Daniels either pulled Gallo from the deal or simply did not include him in any further discussion and now left the rookie GM with a bag of nothing except an quietly concerned owner and a reputation that was clearly becoming backboneless. He balked and probably demanded Gallo be put back in. If he didn’t, that would be crazy. Daniels knew that he didn’t have to do anything because the kid didn’t have any cards. All the aces had been played and Daniels held all the kings.
As time slipped by, and no deal in sight, the deal was concluded when Daniels offered a solution. He would give the rookie not one but two minor leaguers…a AA outfielder, Lewis Brinson, a right handed AA pitcher, Luis Ortiz plus the most famous words in baseball, a player to be named later.
With no other team to rescue him, one young Mr. Strearns accepted. He was just sent to school…baseball school.
Jon Daniels stated, ‘We feel we definitely improved the club and we feel like we kept a number of the young players we liked.’
Thus the cut was made and now the scab formed…another mark on our body of baseball life.
Now we have no Jonathan. We have no Jeffress. We have no Smith. We have no Hill. But one thing we do have is a boat load of minor leaguers.
Rush to the ticket office, Brewer fans. See what-his-name playing over there. After all, its still baseball.
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.
It began with an uncharacteristic speech in the clubhouse by the star veteran who channeled the past champions to motivate his teammates.
Then the troops took over.
The 2016 Major League All-Star Game held in San Diego, CA, in the shadows of the great aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Midway (CVA-41), was one of the best in a long time. The power of the American League was evident along with solid pitching.
In the end, it was the strength of the American League or more specifically, the Kansas City Royals. In Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals was named the MVP after collecting two hits, two RBIs and hitting a home run. And his teammate, Salvador Perez crushed a two-run homer as the American League won 4-2. Mets manager Terry Collins, who was the skipper for the NL squad, had certainly seen enough. Always classy in defeat, Newsday recounted this story: “We said the same thing,” Collins said of fans having flashbacks. “I’m tired of seeing (expletive) Eric Hosmer getting a big hit. (Expletive) sick of it.”
It’s tough being a Met.
It was the fourth straight victory for the Junior Circuit and sixteenth out of the last twenty. The record now stands at 43-42-2 with the National League leading. The latest tie of course was held in Milwaukee during the 2002 game when teams ran out of eligible players in extra innings.
It’s tough being a Brewer fan.
Next year, the 88th All-Star Game will be held in Miami. And if you have never attended this event, it is a ‘Must See’ on your bucket list.
On the 400th anniversary of The Bard’s death, when the buds of Spring state ’Now is the Winter of our discontent’, two teams met near the Johnson Cookies sign atop the factory that produced the legendary Johnson Cookie cards of ’1953, ’54 & ’55, exactly two seasons removed from a time when they ruled the Senior League. On Saturday in a Park called Miller, with a roof over thine selves, they came out of the dugout dressed in togs alike Major League uniforms taking the field as though they were the real, genuine version of those teams not so long ago. ‘There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest’ said the merchants wence I answered ‘Why, though hast put him in such a dream, that when the image of it leaves him he must run mad.’ This was not Sir Toby Belch but a fellow named Anderson, once removed from the team of D’Backs in the land of Sun, who is to say politely in a crowed of boisterous fans, is not the best of pitchers. He is not a Sir. He is not a Toby. But he does make us belch.
On this night, not the ‘Twelfth Night’, but the Eighteenth night of the new season’s play, two pitchers decided to set back time and proceeded to throw 59 pitches in the first inning where there were more 3-2 counts than the master of liver pills could provide. ‘If it be thus to dream, still let me sleep!’ said ol Sebastian. I wanted it to be a nightmare. The game became unwatchable as that first inning lasted nearly an hour. And they wonder why the younger women and men do not grasp the game as their parents and grandparents do. The home team with the funny logo on its cap, however, had fans in the stands, young and old, mostly older. ‘It is the cause’, they said. It certainly was not the pitching. When this many come out to witness such trivial play where the three basic tenants of the game of ball is played…pitching, fielding, hitting (‘You are three men of sin’)…is not in evidence, then in the stands they say, ‘I must eat my dinner.’ Ah, The Tempest. But after all, this is one place where you don’t have to ask another if they want to grab something to eat. After all, this is the land of beer and cheese for butter or wurst.
‘Alas poor Counsell’, the fans sympathetically murmured. No matter what he did, the more he changed pitchers, the more he knew this would be a long season of discontent. He has no pitching except for the horse from Klamath Falls, OR. Of the eighteen games this season, in just the first three weeks of the dream of the impossible, this team, our team…the team of our hearts and of our youth, languish near the bottom of quality starts. In a world filled beyond the a cup full of stats, quality start stats measure the strength of a team. As for the Cream City nine, they rank 29th out of 30 teams with with only 4 quality starts as that horse, James Jacob Nelson, has three. Without quality starts, the bullpen is soon to wear out. As Craig of Whitefish Bay must say, ‘O, reason not the need.’. ‘Hey, David of the House of Stearns. I need some pitching!’
If this season is to be measured by the owner’s need for being competitive in each and ever game, the team named after the monk’s brew of Miller, shows promise. On Saturday, they came back, time after time to give hope. As late as the bottom of the eighth, a fellow on the Crew, another from his former team of D’Backs named Hill, drove a ball which dreams are made of…flying up and up…with hopes of bringing in the leading runs, fell into the hands of that cheesesteak fellow up against the fence in left.
The fans were perplexed. Flummoxed, if you will. In the stands they were heard to say, ‘Once more unto the breach dear friends’ to which the fellow named Romeo yelled out, ‘Dreamt a dream tonight.’ His seat mate, Mercurio, stated ‘That dreams often lie.’ Everyone of the lads laughed. Sitting behind the dugout on first, the only place to watch a game, the lads continued the banter of the moment, Hammy said, ‘A dream itself is but a shadow’. Caliban stated, as the home team took to the field in the top of the ninth, ‘Who I waked, I cried to dream again’. Give me another brat. And some mustard. Now standing, glaring at the pitching mound, he yelled, ‘Did you hear that new pitcher from the pen of bull, some mustard on that ball…now.’
His friend, Antigonus, harking the vendor for more mustard, looked back and up at Cal said ‘Dreams are toys’. After all, these are the kids who pretend they play in the Major of Leagues. This is the fate of a feigned philosophy called ‘rebuild’. It is false hope for us, the diligent bees of the Crew…the True Blue Brew Crew of 2016. ‘What’s in a name?’ Hammy stated, raising one of Wisconsin’s finest brews, standing up with cup held high in his right hand, foam slipping over the top and dropping upon his bald noggin, ‘To die, to sleep-To sleep-perchance to dream…ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pass.’ To which Mac responded, sitting watching the next action on the field unfold, talking on top of Mac’s soliloquy, ’Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.’ he muttered to no one in particular, showing his disgust for that fellow who weaves the tales for the faithful to follow from afar.
The owner, that fellow from afar, basking in the warm climes of a California so Southern, watching via satellite on his telly, was heard saying he is pleased the team is competitive, no overwhelming losses (except for last Monday or Thursday against a team at the bottom of the Junior Circuit called the ’Twinkie’).