It was a team that drew a solid attendance of 2,797,384 or 34,535 per game, 82.4% of capacity. It was the 8th highest in baseball and the fourth best in the National League. And, they were the seventh best draw in baseball on the road. In baseball you make money both home and away. And the Cream City 9 were big draws.
2013 record was 74-88. 2014 record was 82-80.
So, what went wrong? Who is to blame?
2013 Brewers .252..2014 Brewers .251
RF Aoki .286…………Braun .266 – .020
CF Gomez .284…….Gomez .284 even .020
LF Braun .298……….Davis .244 – .054 .074
3B Ramirez .283……Ramirez.285 + .002 .072
SS Segura .294…….Segura .246 – .048 .120
2B Weeks .209……..Gennett .289 + .080 .040
1B Francisco .221….Overbay .233 + .012 .028
C Lucroy .280………..Lucroy .300 + .020 .008
So, what is the difference between a Pennant Winner and an average team?
a) Better General Manager
b) Better Manager
c) Better Players
Of not, it is on the owner? Who has won a World Series?
With current ownership of their teams in the 21st Century:
New York Yankees (2x) 2000; 2009
Philadelphia Phillies 2008
St. Louis Cardinals (2x) 2006; 2011
Boston Red Sox (3X) 2004; 2007; 2013
San Francisco Giants (2X) 2010; 2012
Chicago White Sox 2005
Miami Marlins (Florida Marlins) 2003
Remember, the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks were owned by a partnership headed up by Jerry Colangelo. And the 2002 Anaheim Angels were owned by the Walt Disney Company.
The general manager has to take some of the heat. One can only look at the Kansas City Royals and their top hitters…the center fielder; the right fielder and the short stop. Even their manager and hitting coach were integral to the success of rebuilding the Crew. Look in the other dugout. It all began with the trade of the rising star shortstop, JJ Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez. Gomez potential success led to the trading of Escobar AND Cain to the Royals for Greinke who was traded to the Angels for Segura. Question: who is a better center fielder, Gomez or Cain? Who is a better shortstop, Hardy, Escobar or Segura? And, who is a better manager, Yost or Roenicke? Who is a better hitting coach, Sveum or Narron?
The manager is judged by winning championships. The Milwaukee Brewers has had only one manager in their history who won a championship.
The players have to be placed in a position to succeed. And if, as the above stats are any indication, they have not been placed in that position. The manager is not doing what he is expected to do. If he doesn’t have the players to accomplish winning a championship, he has to press the GM to acquire them. The GM has to press the owner to acquire them.
Now it is up to the owner to prove he is a champion. He has made his course. He kept the general manager. The general manager has kept the manager.
The chance was still there and it was in their hands. But as the manager made the decision to insert a rookie in his first Major League start, brought up in the September call-up from Huntsville in AA ball, to play first, it seems as though it was not in their hands. On one of the easiest 5-4-3 double play opportunities, the newbie could not catch the very catchable throw from second. Error on the 1st baseman for dropping the ball. It was discovered that his glove did not work. Thus the reason he is called a minor leaguer. The door opened for the Cincinnati Reds to pull ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth-to-last game of the season and they took a 3-2 lead which they never relinquished.
This was an important game.
In fact, it was one of the most important games of the year.
The manager again did something that has eluded him from past mistakes. When this team has more veteran first basemen than any other team, why start someone who isn’t even #5 on the depth chart? The manager continues to make moves to lose, not to win. But it isn’t just the manager and his coaching staff that are less than adequate.
The veteran second baseman committed yet another fielding error when he failed to field a pop up.
Again, the veteran second baseman committed his second error, and the team’s third in the game, by making a wild throw to second.
The second year shortstop who brought us so much hope before this year, stayed on the ground rather than rush to the ball to control the game. A mental error.
The season ended at Great American ballpark on the banks of the Ohio River.
The catcher was left in the game to see if he could hit some sort of record double, again leaving the backup catcher sitting on the bench. The catcher, who has been attempting to get this double for a week, would break an existing record of a catcher leading his league in doubles. Hasn’t been done for quite a while. Let’s go after some records rather than try to win a game that could keep you in the hunt.
The right fielder looked tired. For the first time in his career, his bat looked too long…too big for him to catch up to a 95+ mph heater. In a season which greeted him with catcalls throughout the games wherever the team went, he progressively broke down physically at first with a hand injury and a hammy, a this or that which a season is made of. But this season, in an effort to blow all of the negative thoughts out of his head, it became clear to his loyal fans, he no longer was the player he used to be. The center fielder, playing with more heart and soul than anyone on the team gave his all, that Go Go spirit, played hurt down the stretch, and just hit pop ups, no more slashing singles turning into doubles as he had early in the season to bring him All-Star status. Scooter just hit shallow pop flys. Rickie, at bat, hit. In the field, he was not such a hit.
Why all the concern over a baseball team? When one follows a team and a home town with a team for most of their lives, an attachment grows. It boils in the blood. It reaches the heart. It possesses the soul. There is a bond of escape filled with moments of joy and wonder that are the adrenaline of the spot. But if you are a Milwaukee Brewers fan, if you are one of the faithful of the Cream City Nine, it has been 57 years since the City was presented with a World Champion in baseball from its team. Two owners. Fifty-Seven years. In dog years, that’s more than four dog lifetimes. It is almost incomprehensible that a team, outside of those hapless loveable Northsiders of Chicago, can go through such a drought with players like Joe Torre, Tony Cloninger, Roy McMillan of the old Braves and Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Don Money, Robin Yount, Ben Oglivie, Teddy Higuera, Gorman Thomas, Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers, Ken Sanders, Jerry Augustine, Sal Bando, Dante Bichette, Chris Bosio, Jeremy Burnitz, Mike Caldwell, Jeff Cirillo, Craig Counsell, Rob Deer, Billy Hall, Darryl Hamilton, JJ Hardy, Tommy Harper, Cory Hart, Mike Hegan, Larry Hisle, Trevor Hoffman, Geoff Jenkins, Sixto Lezcano, Mike Methany, Davey May, Bob McClure, Charlie Moore, Jaime Navarro, Juan Nieves, Lyle Overbay, Dan Plesac, Darrell Porter, Francisco Rodriguez, George Scott, Richie Sexson, Gary Sheffield, BJ Surhoff, Fernando Vina, Pete Vuckovich, Greg Vaughn, Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, Aarmis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Zach Greinke, Ryan Braun, Jonathon Lucroy and a host of other fine players. Perhaps Fred Haney was the only real manager this City ever had. Most of the rest were losers. OK. Even if Bambi and Harvey didn’t bring us the World Championship, they did bring us near the pinnacle once. Once! That’s it. One League Pennant which was brought home when Coop did a Jeter.
There can only be one conclusion. And it is one that rips at the heart of everyone who cherishes Cream City.
It’s the water.
To many that is a sacrilege. ‘Go to the confessional immediately.’ they say. ‘Blastphemer’, they can be heard yelling. ‘Step on his face and twist’, they shouted. ‘Don’t say that. You’re making our city look bad’, others murmured under their breath honoring the guiding word of Sister Ramegia.
But consider this. When the Milwaukee Braves won the World Championship in 1957, Schlitz was the #1 beer. Enough said.
At one time the water in Milwaukee was great. Grandma would say, ‘Just drink from the tap. Its that good.’ City fathers would point with pride to their many beers brewed with the great water. There was Fox Head 400, Blatz, the city’s favorite (‘Blatz is Milwaukee’s finest beer.’), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Gettelman, Miller and many, many more.
But one should not forget what the native Potowatami’s called this special place, remembering that the Milwaukee area was originally inhabited by the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) native American tribes. The name “Milwaukee” comes from an Algonquian word ‘Millioke’, meaning “Good”, “Beautiful” and “Pleasant Land”. That’s what many natives believe and they all follow the Chamber of Commerce pledge: ‘Never give St. Louis the opportunity to hold one over on us. They make rice beer…pretend beer.’
Yet there is a rumor, buried along side of Jacob Best in the Forest Home Cemetery that there is a piece of paper which says that when he talked to a native in Juneautown when he began to brew his first frothy drink, that the name ‘Millioke’ meant: land of stinking water.
Come on. Monks made beer because the water was bad. Boiled water with some wheat, barley and hops purified the drink. Have no idea what rice does to it. Never drank that stuff from the Mississippi River.
So kids, take heart. The former Brewers who make up a good number of the Kansas City Royals, escaped the plight of Cream City and are now in the playoffs. Congratulations to Nori Aoki, one of the best right fielders we ever had is tied for the second best hitter on the Royals. Congratulations to Alcides Escobar, one of the best young shortstops we ever had, is tied for the second best hitter on the Royals. Congratulations to Lorenzo Cain, one of the best outfield prospects we every had and is the best hitter on the Royals and the third best base stealer on the Royals. Congratulations to Dale Sveum, the Royals hitting coach, former Brewer and the best manager the Brewers ever had. Congratulations to Nedly Yost, a former player and manager of the Crew who almost did it, guiding the Crew to two winning seasons, their first in 11 years, before being relieved of his duties 16 games above .500. Sixteen games ABOVE .500. Oh, Mike Jirschele, the Royals third base coach, is from Clintonville. Doug Henry, the Royals bullpen coach, a former Brewer, lives in Hartland. They no longer have to drink the water. They are in the playoffs. The Brewers aren’t.
The mark of a good leader is one who never fails to place his people outside of Harm’s Way. A leader places his people in a position to succeed and not fail. Not since Bob Bremley has any manager in major league baseball been so stubborn and restrictive to the old looney rules of baseball as happened this week. In this case, the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers has again failed miserably.
On Thursday, behind a brilliant performance by Kyle Lohse, pitching as though he wanted to show-up his former team for not re-signing him and allowing him to become a free agent after a great season for the Cardinals, was removed after 7 1/3rd innings of great clutch baseball. At this time of the year, you want to see your horses prove themselves, not only to the team but also to themselves. That’s why they are paid the big dollars. Pitching wins. Hitters are for show. Managers lose.
The Cardinal manager let his pitcher remain in the game even though he was down 2 runs. He knew he had his horse on the mound and no one in the bullpen was going to do any better. But the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers simply does not understand that. He needs to manipulate the game as the modern-day dictates, the starter goes 6 or 7, the set-up man comes in for the 8th and the closer in the 9th comes in. So he put in a set-up reject from Cincinnati. Which begs an entirely different question: Why would a team trade their set up guy to a team within their division? The only answer probable is that he can not stand the pressure of season play off drives. And so the die was cast when the general manager made the deal to bring him over. Quickly, he gave up not one, but three runs ending the Brewers series loss and the pennant race as well. Why bring him in when your starter was as strong as a rock? You didn’t see the Central Division leading team manager play that arrogant mental game!
And don’t give the excuse that the set up guy fell victim to a bone headed play by Mark Reynolds at first when he was thinking of daffodils in the spring rather than understanding that there was only one out as he was keeping the runner at first close to the bag. He could have simply flipped the ball to second and the shortstop would have thrown it back to him for an inning-ending double play. But series are filled with bonehead plays.
Nope. This one goes down to lossy pitching…really lossy pitching.
So what does the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers do on Friday, after a flight to Pittsburgh to face the team that is between them and the playoffs? With the lead again in the eighth, he pulls Yovani Gallardo, THE veteran horse of the Brewer staff who was pitching one of his best games of the year, for … guess who? Yup. Same Cincinnati reject. Same result. He could have brought in anybody but the Reds Reject, even Wei-Chung Wang who is like a Bonus Baby, of 2014 no less. At least he would have had the desire to perform against the team that waived him. But in came the lumbering giant from Cincinnati. Out went the last possible chance of reaching the post season.
Now I ask you…why?
Bob Bremley revisited is the apparent answer. Why did Bremley put Byung-Hyun Kim in back-to-back relief appearances in the 2001 World Series and create Mr. November? Why? In one 24-hour period he nearly crashed everything Buck Showalter created. What possesses a manager to go back to the bad-smelling, stinky well after he has just been poisoned the night before?
Bremley eventually got fired because everyone finally understood that the team that won the championship was the creation of Showalter and not Bremley’s genius.
In 2008, the Brewers had one of their best teams. They were loaded with great young talent, the heyday of Prince and Braun, Weeks the giant left-hander from Cleveland, not Cincinnati, CC Sabathia. The owner knew that this was their time. He fired Ned Yost who did a lot of the same things that the present Brewer manager does continuously. They brought in bench coach Dale Sveum. The Brewers were assured of a post-season playoff berth.
Perhaps the manager of the Brewers said it best on Saturday evening as he was kicked out of the game in the 5th inning. When asked by a reporter about certain decision making as the game progressed during the manager’s post game news conference from Pittsburgh, he said, ‘You can see the game much better here (watching television) than in the dugout. The decisions are clearer here. You can make them instantaneously. No problem.’
It was the most disturbing statement ever made by the head of a team, including Dennis Green’s post game tirade years ago. Nope. The current manager of the Brewers said it all. He can see the game better and make sure decision while watching television. Isn’t that exactly what Bremley is doing today?
Labor Day weekend is a changing point for the fan. The first taste of ‘gridiron fever’ has been feed and few surprises developed, except for North Dakota State’s amazing upset. On the diamond, we already know who will be in and who will not make the playoffs, with a couple of exceptions. The biggest surprise of all is of course Pittsburgh. The Pirates will make the playoffs for the first time since the early ‘90s. Now it is time to make some predictions on who will win the big prizes and who will not be back. Of course, this is only one man’s view.
For the AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers. Nobody in modern baseball does what he does with a bat. There are only two that can be compared to him in the entire history of baseball…Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Yes. He’s that good. Yes. He is the MVP in all of baseball.
For the NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks. He plays in the middle of the night to most of the baseball world. So the world doesn’t know how good this young Gehrig really is. Stay up late one night and see the vision of young greatness.
For the AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tiger. In one of the worst deals in baseball history, the Diamondbacks gave up on one of their true first round drafted superstars for who? Get this. In a three-team trade, Tigers get Scherzer for Edwin Jackson and sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees who sent Ian Kennedy to the D’Backs who was traded to San Diego for Matt Stites and Joe Thatcher. So, Scherzer (71-43) was traded for Thatcher (8-11 career). This year he is the best pitcher in baseball.
For the NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers. Inordinately talented, he is the best pitcher in the National League and perhaps in all of baseball. He is the one pitcher this year who ‘dominates’ in every game, even when he loses.
For the AL ROY: J.B. Shuck, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Batting .297 as lead-off hitter, he leads all American League rookies in hits. Has 2 HR and 33 RBIs. What makes this a tough choice is that he is from Ohio State but we needed someone from SoCal to offset THE Rookie of the Year in all of baseball. Saint Puig.
For the NL ROY: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers. Descended from heaven, via Havana, and spread peace and grace upon Chavez Ravine as Düsseldorf mustard is to the Dodger Dog. OK. It’s Sunday. What do you want?
For AL Mgr Year: Ron Washington, Texas Rangers. With no star outfielder (Hamilton left for a place behind the Orange Curtain), half a season without their PEDBoy, without great pitching, he is in first place in the West and 16 ½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This does not make Arte feel good.
For NL Mgr Year: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers. Idiot sports radio babblers ranted about how he should be fired. Then St. Puig descended upon the masses and magic came from each and every decision Donny Ballgame made. Who should be fired? Sports radio personalities in the City of Angels. Who should be hired? Donny Ballgame. His team is 20 games ahead of the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants who went from first to worst.
The AL GM: Jerry Dipoto, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, signed Pujols, Hamilton, traded Segura for Greinke, whom he couldn’t sign and keep. Left his manager hanging. He got rid of Segura, an All-Star shortstop. That alone should get him fired. Plus he doesn’t know how to sell billboard space.
The NL GM: Michael Hill, Miami Marlins, for working under Loria He should be fired just for making the decision to accept the job and work for Loria. His team is the worst in baseball’s National League, 33.5 games behind division leading Atlanta.
The AL Mgr: Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals. He should be fired because his name is Ned Yost, which rhymes with ‘most’ but leaves a taste of burnt toast. Neddly just doesn’t know how to manage, particularly young players.
The NL Mgr: Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers. He should be fired because he is not ready to be a manager. He cannot manage his players nor his coaches. Must have had over 100 lineup changes in first 130 games. His team is 20 games behind Pittsburgh.
The AL Coach: Jeff Manto, Chicago White Sox. Poorest hitting team in the AL and the poorest performing team in nearly all of baseball. If you can’t hit, you can’t score. If you can’t score, you can’t win.
The NL Coach: Ed Sedar, Milwaukee Brewers, the worst 3B coach ever in the history of baseball.
It’s just one man’s opinion. Now let’s go out for one more month and ….
For a number of springs, the son of Jill and Kerry from Scottsdale, AZ, has attempted to make his dream come true. In 2003, he became the first round draft choice of the Angels. It was a golden future that laid ahead. While this trip is never easy, few have been more difficult. It takes a special person to continue to believe in ones self so strongly that after another strike out or another word from a manager that says, ‘Sorry. We’re going to make room for someone else on the roster.’ you continue to hold your head up, practice harder, turn down invitations to play in the World Baseball Classic for Australia and continue that dream of landing on a big league roster again and make the magic come alive.
Brandon Wood is a rarity in sports. A really good guy who can really hit the ball a mile if given the chance to be himself and not a version someone else sees in the former ‘5 tool guy that can’t miss’. He turned down a scholarship at the University of Texas to grab the chance within the Angels system to play shortstop. At Rancho Cucamonga in the California League he played in 130 games, hit .321, hammered 43 home runs with 51 doubles and 4 triples and smashing in 115 rbi. He was 20 and was the #3 major league prospect according to Baseball America. The next season, he hammered 25 home runs in Double A while generating a .907 OPS and then hit 23 dingers the following season in AAA at Salt Lake, again having an impressive .835 OPS. The following year, again in Salt Lake with the Bees, he smashed 31 home runs with a .970 OPS in only 103 games. He became the first known minor leaguer to have more than 100 extra base hits in one year. That was 2008. In 2009 he joined the Anaheim-Salt Lake City train, back and forth…forth and back. In 2010 the Angels finally gave him an opportunity to earn the starting job at third. Forgetting he was a shortstop that earned All-Star status on a number of occasions while in the minors, it was a new position. He struck out a lot. But that’s what power hitters do. In the infinite wisdom of management, they had everyone and their brother giving him advice on how to hit. HOW TO HIT? He was perfectly fine before all of the ‘pro’ advice from the ‘experts’ in Angel management. It didn’t work out well. He hit .146 and was sent down again. After a cup of coffee in early 2011, he was cut by the Angels. The golden boy of their organization, the bright new shining star, was cut loose. Baseball is a cold, heartless business.
But it is also a forgiving business. Second and third chances abound. The lowly Pittsburgh Pirates grabbed him. But in 99 games, he could not bring the Pirates from losing 90 games and hit only .220 with a .347 OPS in limited action. They released him after the season.
Third chance. In 2012, the Colorado Rockies signed him to a minor league deal. Like the Angels in the past, they had their hitting coach tell him exactly what it was they saw to correct him. HE KNOWS HOW TO HIT. But experts are experts. In 16 at bats in spring training, he hit .438 and had an OPS of .813. As his manager, Jim Tracy said, “He’s a very intriguing guy. Rest assured what Brandon Wood has done: He’s played himself into the picture. He’s gone from below the radar to playing himself onto the radar.” Despite all of those nice words, Brandon never saw the light of day in The Show with the Rockies in the entire 2012 season. The radar Tracy was using must have broke. Tracy finally resigned. In five previous seasons, Brandon had been at bat in the Major Leagues 700 times with 130 hits for a .186 batting average but with an OPS of .513. Most players would quit at this point. But not Brandon Wood.
This is the week to see if the dream will finally be realized whether he can make yet another Big League roster, this time for the talent loaded Kansas City Royals, and fulfill the promise those scouts raved about all those years. “Can’t miss.” “Great 5-tool player.” As of today, he has been to bat 31 times in this Spring Training in 17 games. He has 10 hits with 2 home runs and 9 rbi while putting together a most respectable .323 batting average and an amazing 1.021 OPS. Not many can do that. Not many have done that. But Brandon knows, life’s journey’s sometimes takes unexpected turns.
Will he make it? This is the week we will all find out.
Here’s to Brandon Wood. Baseball needs a great guy like this. Come on, Kansas City. Let’s see how ‘up to date’ you really are. All Brandon Wood needs is a chance to play regularly and the promise will show through. Ned. It’s up to you.