Why #9 May Have Been The Greatest

“He stood out like a brown cow in a field of white cows.”, Eddie Collins said. While still in high school, this ‘brown cow’ was offered contracts with both the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. His mother said no. He was too young to leave home. Instead, before his Senior year in high school, he signed and played with the then major league of the West, the Pacific Coast League’s local team, the San Diego Padres. This was Nuxhallian. A kid, ‘The Kid’ graduated and rejoined the Padres for his second year and entered the starting lineup on June 22nd with an inside-the-park home run in his first at bat. That season he would lead the PCL in hitting with a .291 average and 23 home runs, all of this in about 100 days and pushed the Padres to win the PCL Championship. That was 1937.

Born Teddy Samuel Williams (that’s right…not Theodore), this mother’s son did not take to his Mom’s Salvation Army soldiering nor her evangelism, but instead to a bat and a ball, for which he would gain immortality in the world of 109 stitches.

Then, history rewritten by baseball, states that Ted was signed as an amateur free agent in December 1937. In fact, the General Manager of the Boson Red Sox, one Eddie Collins, traded for his favorite brown cow and in turn, gave the San Diego Padres (who had been paying the brown cow for two season, hopefully more than hay and oats) two major league ballplayers and two minor leaguers plus $35,000. You’ve gotta love the story telling by the historians of  baseball. That’s where baseball’s fictional tale and Mr. Williams’ amateur status ends.

He spent one year with the Minneapolis Millers, then the Red Sox Triple A club, where he crafted his art of hitting and won the American Association Triple Crown. Then in his very first Major League game, on April 20, 1939, on Opening Day, the torch was passed. It was on that day, for the one and only time, Ted Williams played against Lou Gehrig. Ten days later, Gehrig played in his 2,130 consecutive game. He went hitless in that game against the Washington Senators and in the next game, at Detroit, he took himself out of the lineup. Tiger fans, upon the announcement being made over the public address system, gave Lou Gehrig a standing ovation. He never played in another game again. On June 13th, he went to the famed Mayo Clinic. On July 21st, the New York Yankees announced his retirement from baseball. On June 2, 1941 he died.

Gehrig was THE player before Williams. He was the torch bearer between Babe Ruth and ‘Teddy Ballgame’. Gehrig was the last man to have won a triple crown with .363 BA, 49 HR and 159 RBI in 1934. Here was the only player in history to have 400 total bases per year for five seasons.

Ted Williams was worthy of carrying on the tradition as he was the youngest man ever to hit .400 (.406 in 1941) and seventh youngest to ever win a batting title. Sure there was Joe DiMaggio, who throughout Williams early career, was his main rival. But for pure hitting, no one compared to ‘The Kid’. He was one of 15 men to win the Triple Crown and only the second ever to win it twice (the first being his former manager of the Minneapolis Millers, Rogers Hornsby). He also hit .388 sixteen years later in 1957 (age 39) and the oldest ever win the batting title at the age of 40 in 1958. ‘Teddy Ballgame’ was an All-Star 17 times; finished with a career .344 batting average, seventh best in the history of the game and 20 points better than DiMaggio; won the MVP twice; was the Runs leader six time and leader in doubles twice; took the Home Run title four times, and, perhaps most important, was the wingman for Marine Captain John Glenn in Korea.

He served his country through his military obligation not once, but twice. He volunteered and entered Naval Aviation which lead to his commission as Marine officer. He retired from the Marines after serving in both the Second World War and the Korean War. He was honored by earning an Air Medal with two gold stars; the Navy Unit Commendation, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W Bush; awarded the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with service star; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with two service stars; the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation; the United Nations Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

On his 40th birthday, he received an oil painting of his hero with the inscription: “To Ted Williams – not only America’s greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur, General, U.S. Army”

Greatest hitter of all-time? How about the greatest United States Military Veteran baseball player of all-time!

The ‘Splendid Splinter’ was an American original, the last player to bat .400 in a season. He was simply magnificant.

Play Ball!

Dollar Time

For many Major League baseball teams during this time of the year, it is a year of ‘what ifs’. What if this didn’t happen. What if that key guy didn’t get hurt. What ifs are part of the game. Now, however, these teams are watching the excitement of the playoffs on the outside looking in. This is also a time when arbitration is on the docket and the budget for next year is put in place. While many teams simply look around to see what is out there with a clear budget in mind, others like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, all of whom are on the outside right now, along with the astute management of the Boston Red Sox, are willing to pay the price for the next guy who will take them to the top. These owners understand ‘star’ power better than most. And they have the money to pull it off.

But for the others, like the Milwaukee Brewers with limited outside revenue,  compared to the ballooning cable fees offered other teams, a budget means a real budget, usually south of $90 million. If this team caught on fire at the beginning of the season, which historically they have rarely done, they could push the 3 million mark in attendance. To a small market team, that is gold. It not only means the generation of $60 million+ dollars in ticket sales, but the added $60 million+ in concessions and merchandise revenue. With their smallish radio and television rights revenue and the team’s share of MLB television revenue, Milwaukee can make a profit, albet a small one. There are a lot of expenses besides those of player’s payroll.

Thus the player budget is critical. This coming year, there are some givens. The key players including Aramis Ramirez will make $10 million. Although no longer considered a key, Rickie Weeks, in what many consider his last big league payday, will earn $11 million, as will Kyle Lohse and the center of all that is Braunschweiger, upon his return from the depths of deceit. Yovani Gallardo will earn the top salary on the team with $11.5 million. All Star centerfielder, Carlos Gomez, unquestionably the MVP for 2013 will earn $7 million. All Star second baseman, Jean Segura will make $505,000 in only his first full season in The Show. One of the top lead off hitters in the major leagues, the solid right fielder, Norichika Aoki, will earn $1.5 million. Tom Gorzelanny who has both started and turned into an excellent long reliever, will earn $2.95 million. These ten players will account for $68,600,000 of the budget next season if no further deferments are negotiated. The remaining 15 players will need to be assembled within a $20 million window. That’s chump change for some of the teams, but not for the club who holds sausage races each home game.

Let’s examine how that might be accomplished. Some of the players, like the closer, Big Jim Henderson, will earn $505,000 as will Brandon Kintzler who also looked good in relief. Martin Maldonado will back up Lucroy and earn $505,000. The jack-of-all-trades, someone the Milwaukee club always is in need of, Jeff Bianchi, will earn $500,000 as will rising star starting pitcher, Wily Peralta. The dueling reserve outfielders Logan Shafer (left handed hitter) and Khris Davis (right handed hitter) are $500,000 apiece. Then there is the next starting second baseman, Scooter Gennet, who will also make $500,000 in 2014. This adds up to an additional $4,150,000 for a total of $72,750,000.

Thus, one has a little less than $15,250,000, give or take a million, to fill in the seven remaining positions on the opening day roster.

The fourth starter on this year’s team that showed promise toward the end of the season was Marco Estrada. He made $1,955,000 last season but is in arbitration. If the team can sign him for under $2,500,000, it will have $12,750,000 for the remaining six players. But is he worth it? If you could pull in a top line starter like David Price, you could let other teams suffer the ups and downs of Estrada. Let’s assume that there is no Estrada in Milwaukee’s future.

Tyler Thornburg and 6’9″ Johnny Hellweg (Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year) can both be paid $500,000 apiece to come out of the pen and be spot starters. Now you would have $14,250,000 available for four players.

Juan Francisco is a player who probably cannot be changed from the “I’ll swing at anything, anytime to show everyone how far I can hit a baseball” school. So many players of Francisco’s mindset have failed to play in the majors for long. It  is probably not worth the time nor the cost to keep him around. Rather, the beloved former All-Star Cory Hart, if he is able to get on his two feet and swing a bat and play first base, should be convinced to take a $2,500,000 plus incentives to see if he can play. Milwaukeeans love him. He IS a true Brew Crew member. The balance of the budget, some $11.75 million, could then be used to offer better pitching to come to the land of brats and beer. You could increase this a little bit more if you decided to have Shafer or Davis recharge in Nashville, to up the ante to $12.25 million on four pitchers. As a replacement for Francisco or Hart, should he fail, Lucroy is the logical candidate.

Doug Melvin is a master at finding a diamond in the ruff. He can find someone or a couple of someone’s who can fill the bullpen bill out of a scrape heep that others have gone through and discarded. But as everyone should know after reading overtheshouldermlb, pitching is everything. If only the Brewers could dump Rickie’s huge $11 million contract and convince the left fielder to donate his $11 million contract for the good of the game and the Brewers (think about it. What a PR coup that would be. Talk about taking liver and making it real Usinger Braunschweiger?), they could go after someone like David Price. Now 3 million fans in attendance could very well be a sure thing AND playoffs could once again be a subject of conversation in the land that Schlitz once made famous.

Rickie: do yourself a favor and ask to defer a healthy chunk of that salary to 2015 and/or 2016. Left fielder: think about what a positive affect you would create by working for $1 this season, without strings attached. Allow the team and the city you emotionally destroyed for a season, recover and once again fall in love with you all over again. Result? Brewers would have an extra $18,499,999+ to be able to use to land a stalwart on the mound.

A star brings fans into the park. Rarely do ‘diamonds in the ruff’ provide such a boost.

Hitting is for show. But pitching is for all the dough.

Come on, Milwaukee. Get back into the game.

Play Ball!

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