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.
Often, in Urban conversations among athletes, the term ‘disrespect’ comes up. It is usually centered around a verbal slight that the athlete has experienced or believes he has experienced. But rarely has an athlete who is the center of attention had others use the word to express their dismay. And never has a Major League team shown such sophomoric behavior and insensitivity than have the Milwaukee Brewers to one of their bright young stars.
Zach Davies is a young pitcher for the Crew whom the Brewers acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for OF Gerardo Parra. Many of you probably recall his starts from last September. He appeared in six games for the Brewers totaling 34 innings. He put up a pretty solid 3.71 ERA and 3.81 FIP. His .210 BAA was excellent, which helped keep his WHIP quite manageable (1.21). For those who are not up to speed with the vernacular of the MLB stat wonks…he showed a lot of promise with an amazing amount of poise for such a young pitcher. After he was traded, Buck Showalter, Manager of the Baltimore Orioles called the Brewer manager, Craig Counsell, and told him he was getting a bright young star.
Davies has a slight build (6’0”, 150 lbs) and has a fastball in the 88-91 range. While his build and average fastball is a call his critics give, don’t believe this lack of confidence. Believe the importance he brings to the Brewers as a starter. His change-up is terrific. And he also has an good curveball. But it is his above average command that allows everything to work. Like most pitchers, he needs his command to succeed.
However, he excels in one pivotal area: batted ball distribution. While many today are fly ball pitchers, Davies has always induced ground balls at a well above average rate. It’s an impressive package. Counsell points to Davies’ growing relationship with catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado as one reason for his recent success. “They’re really getting on the same page and making good choices,” Counsell said. “He’s been on the attack. He’s got all four pitches as weapons. I think he’s really starting to get a feel for playing with the hitter front-to-back, side-to-side. “It’s good stuff.”
Davies used his weapons just before the All-Star break in meeting and beating the Washington Nationals. The Nationals’ lineup features reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and current NL batting leader Daniel Murphy, who was hitting .347. “He’s a young starter who is learning as he goes and proving as he goes; he’s gaining more confidence, getting comfortable with his stuff, how it plays to hitters and how it needs to be good,” Counsell said. “He’s getting it through experience. It’s not easy to go out there for a young guy and what’s good is that he’s taking everything that’s happened before, applying it and getting better. “
It was interesting how Davies found his way into the starting lineup this season. Matt Garza, 32, was expected to return to the Brewers’ rotation after losing his spot late last season, but he was placed on the disabled list instead. Davies stood out in the Spring as a likely candidate to step into the rotation.
The year before, he faced the Cardinals, always a problem for the Cream City Nine. “He just made quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.”He used his breaking ball to steal strikes early in the count. But it was about fastball location and chasing out of the zone with the change-up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. It left St. Louis’ sluggers frustrated after entering the day second in the National League with 71 homers and a .460 slugging percentage. ‘It’s just one of those where he just had trouble finding the feel on a consistent basis,’ Matheny said. ‘But still, he only gave up only a couple runs, five hits. But he had a lot of traffic and a lot of stress innings.’
Kolten Wong, who struck out twice, said Davies kept the Cardinals off-balance with his change-up. ‘Just something that caught us off guard,’ Wong said. ‘He kept us off balance with his fastball coming in and threw that change-up away.’
That’s the kind of stuff he brings to the game. And he did it once again against the Nationals. That was Tuesday before the All-Star game. On Wednesday morning, the infamous Milwaukee Brewers optioned Davies to Class AAA Colorado Springs to open a roster spot to add first baseman/outfielder Andy Wilkins from that club. It was noted that the team had been playing short-handed on the bench while carrying eight relief pitchers for several weeks. Here, their winning pitcher the previous night in a 5-2 victory over Washington, boosting his record to 6-4 on a losing ball club with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts, including a 6-1 mark and a 3.24 ERA over his last 12 outings, was ceremoniously banished to the Sky Sox.
The Brewers PR spin was that in sending down Davies, the Brewers said he would not pitch for Colorado Springs, which also entered its All-Star break after play on that Sunday. But rather then sending down one of their incompetent relief pitchers, which are many, they pick on the kid…a kid who is a rising star in their own organization. To make matters worse, the official pronouncement from the Brewers was that Davies would not pitch for Colorado Springs. But a player must remain in the minors for 10 days when optioned. Thus Davies would be recalled to pitch for the Brewers on the third day after the break in Cincinnati. That would be today.
But that’s not all. The cheapness of the Milwaukee Nine caused Davies to lose 10 days of major-league service time as well as about $24,000 in salary with the demotion.
To his credit, the mild Mr. Davies, upon hearing the news, quietly told reporters ‘Baseball is a business.’
His agent, the legendary Scott Boras, said the Milwaukee Brewers should not have have sent rookie right-hander Zach Davies to the minors for 10 days to open a spot for an additional bench player. Boras was more direct, saying, “In this game, performance earns respect. After beating one of the best teams in the National League, he was told he no longer was a member of the team. “It’s disrespect for someone who will be a principal part of the organization for years to come, to add a bench player for 10 days. Not exactly a valued ethic. In this game, teams do not send down starting pitchers who are performing well.’
He added, ‘Flying a starting pitcher cross-country interrupts his regular routine and his normal bullpen sessions. This is not how you prepare successful starting pitchers.’
Meanwhile, the Freshman Brewers General Manager, David Stearns, said he meant no disrespect to Davies in making the player move. Stearns said the major goal was to provide another bat for the bench during a period in which Davies would not have pitched for the Brewers. Unfortunately, without experience, young Mr. Stearns created a PR gaff unprecedented in modern baseball management.
‘We certainly value Zach’s contributions to the club and consider him an important part of our starting rotation,’ Stearns said. ‘Given that he wasn’t scheduled to pitch for a 10-day stretch, we wanted the extra flexibility of another player on the bench.’
Baseball purest suggest from a pure baseball point of view, the move makes great sense. Davies, as a starting pitcher who has already made his final start prior to the All-Star break, made it a good decision. He couldn’t be recalled for 10 days but with the All-Star break coming, that wouldn’t even cost Davies a start.
But the baseball side isn’t the only one to consider. We simply can’t forget about the human element. In sending Davies down, the Brewers are costing him service time. That can potentially impact the timing of him becoming a free agent down the road. This is not to say anything of the $24,000 he lost after beating one of the best teams in baseball.
Milwaukee was well within its rights to do this. It’s certainly true that baseball is a business. But good businesses also have business partners. With this move, the Brewers are giving a potential business partner a reason to be upset or frustrated with them down the road. At the moment, Davies isn’t upset (at least not publicly), but Boras clearly is. And you don’t want to make Mr. Boras angry.
It’s certainly a business move, and admittedly, stuff like this isn’t entirely unprecedented. Still, it’s generally not a kind of move pulled by the game’s top organizations. This goes to the root of all that is bad about the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. They are not a class organization. Nor are they a top organization. In all the years they have been in the Majors, they have never won a World Series, a key mark in measuring the quality of a management team. They have a losing record. Again, not a mark of a good management team.
Now, the new management group is making its mark to the world.
They are disrespectful.
P.S. So how did Davies do upon his return on Sunday, July 17, 2016?
7.0 inning pitched
4 Fly outs
23 Batters faced in 7 complete innings
Brewers lost in bottom of the 9th as Thornberg, with two outs walks Hamilton. Then, walks Votto. Will Smith comes in, can’t hold Hamilton as he goes to third and gives up winning run with a Passed Ball (Lucroy), Hamilton scoring.
Final score: Cincinnati 1 Milwaukee 0.
They are not gleefully shouting at the top of their lungs today in the Windy City on ‘Talk Radio’. Today there is a hush…soft tones of impending doom…as this year’s edition of those dazed fans on the North Side are once again the walking zombies of generations past. This team…the team of destiny…this manager…this magic man from Tampa…may not be what the zanies of Spring Training in Mesa told us they were. They were beaten by one of the worst teams in the Big Leagues this past week. Their mighty pitching faltered. Their clutch hitting was inconclusive. Are they just over-inflated talent, boosted by the Bear hope of another really close season of sorrow and defeat? Wake up, Chicagoland. the team from the North Side are the Cubbies. This is what they do with your hearts. They don’t win. They just show promise. The team to watch this season are on the South Side of the City that knows how to work. And the only songs that are heard in the heads of the fans are a faint memory…
‘Baseball season’s underway
Well, you’d better get ready for a brand new day
Hey, Chicago, what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today
But it was Saturday afternoon in The City, where the fog rolls in with uncanny accuracy and covers San Francisco like a wet blanket. And even the opposing pitcher got into the act. After a long flight following Thursday’s game in Milwaukee where they had lost the series, they beat the Giants Friday but Saturday was another day where the hopes of Spring seemed distant.
In a faint voice, with a tired refrain, they’re singing:
‘Go, Cubs, Go!
Go, Cubs Go!
Hey, Chicago, what do you say?
The Cubs are gonna win today.’
But can they?
On May 8th, they had experienced an incredible week. They were 24-6 and everything was going their way. They had tied a franchise record in April.
Then they faced the lowly San Diego Padres at home and dropped a double header, losing their first series of the year. They they faced the Pirates and won two before losing the last game in that series. Then came their dreaded rival the lowly Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee where they dropped two of three, losing another series and exhausting their bullpen before heading to San Francisco.
One thing to look at is how they are doing when Arrieta is not pitching. On May 14, Arrieta pitched and won. Then they lost 3 out of 4 before Arrieta won on Friday. This is called ‘Arrieta and insane then pray for two days of rain’. Result: this is not a formula for success.
On Sunday, Hendricks faces Bumgarner then on Monday Lackey faces Wainwright in St. Louis. Hammer is up against Wacha on Tuesday before Arrieta is on the mound again on Wednesday.
Let’s see who is singing by the end of this week.
Will it be the North Side fans or the South Side crowd?
Sunday 052216: San Francisco Giants 1 Chicago Cubs 0
Monday 052316: St. Louis Cardinas 4 Chicago Cubs 3
He smiles as if he is lighting up his team when in fact he is lighting up a city. Two doubles, five RBIs and he single-handedly destroyed the Dodgers in Mary Hart’s home park. That was Saturday night in the City of Angels.
But it is more than just a smile and a mile of talent that makes Carlos Gomez the leader of The Crew. Notice what he did when Parra his a home run late in the game. Up on the steps of the dugout, he welcomed Gerarado with a rehearsed chorigraphical routine reminiscent of Prince at his finest. He was the welcome mat. He was the cheerleader. He is the backbone of the team.
In the Era of Craig, he IS ‘The Face’, the heart and soul of the new Brewer spirit. Rival fans don’t like his antics as they think it is showboating. Certainly he has no friends in St. Louis. But to fans of the Pigsville Nine, that is just the way GoGo rolls. Flashing the glove with speed to burn; turning that single into a double; firing behind the runner to double him off of first; and smashing a clutch hit when it counts, Mr Gomez has left Braun and Lucroy behind in a memory of dust for this team’s leadership.
But the best reason why he is what he is to Cream City is what he does to the opposing teams. He made sure that a Braves pitcher who might think of throwing inside would be up for retaliation. And he said so. He created a fun atmosphere with Puig by throwing a wad of gum at him and then making it a contest with their arms on Saturday night. Puig threw a runner out at second. GoGo threw a runner out at first. He simply is not afraid of anyone. And that is a sign of a winner.
If he had not been hurt so much early this season, Gomez would again be an All-Star. He already is an All-Star to Brewer’s fans. Hitting .278 with 41 RBIs as the All-Star break is upon us, Gomez is more than stats. He is a spirit of excitement…of accomplishment that makes this version of the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers now fun to watch.
They finally have a manager who will allow a young man to finish a game. In fact, Taylor Jungmann became the first Brewer in history to have a complete game in Dodger Stadium. He fired 100 pitches in a 7-1 complete game win. He had the force of Gomez banging in five of those runs. And, coming off the mound for the post-game high-fives, there was ‘The Face’ of the franchise making sure, with a slap on the back with his glove to the rookie pitcher that he did OK. In the post game interview he praised Jungmann’s pitching and command.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Carlos Gomez, at 29, is The Face of the Milwaukee Brewers.
In 1958, two teams ventured out of the East and settled on the West Coast, the Giants of the National League in San Francisco and the same league’s Dodgers who settled into Los Angeles. Along with the Bums came their announcer, Vince Scully. And from that date, just 14 years after the Invasion of Normandy, baseball and the West settled into a love affair that has lasted for over a half a Century.
Baseball is played out West and of the eight teams West of the Pecos, four of them have .500 or better records this season, with one team a game under .500. But in the Senior Circuit, three are above .500 including the two originals. They play baseball out in the West.
For many, fans have long gone to bed when the West Cost games begin and end. It’s as if they don’t really exist in the East until those teams have to travel to the left coast. And when they get there, throw those team’s records out. This is the land of pitching. If you are in Seattle, the King resides up there and you don’t want to face the King. In San Francisco, it’s the home of Madison and Timmy. Down in LaLa, Clayton and Greinke rule. Further South, just North of North Island, James and then Kimbrel reside. In other words, when you go out West, young man, you better bring your hitting shoes.
On Saturday night, there was a game that proved this point. Both starting pitchers, Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, fired bullets. At one time during the game, Kershaw and Garcia had 0-2 pitch counts on 18 batters, 10 of those by Kershaw. With that kind of pitching, there is a good chance you will not get a good pitch to hit. And in fact, only the right fielder, Grichuk, got a single hit off of Dodger pitching on the evening. Garcia, beginning the bottom of the Seventh inning, had only thrown 77 pitches. But in the next five pitches, he gave up a double down the third base line which eluded the third baseman who moved over from Second base after the original third baseman, Carpenter, was hit earlier in the game and had to leave. Then, Kozma’s replacement at second, Wong, couldn’t handle a hot line drive which drove in the second run (this was after Puig had driven in the first with a double to the gap in right center). A game of inches? Yes. A game of what ifs? Yes. In five pitches the game was over. Garcia only threw 87 pitches in his outing, good enough to win most games, but in three games this year, the Cardinals haven’t scored any runs for him.
Throughout all of this, Vin Scully gave us all a delightful presentation of the game along with a history lesson on why this date is so important to Americans.
As Vin Scully told the story that wrapped in and out of pitches, in the Ninth Inning as the Dodgers were putting away the Cardinals and shutting the out, 2-0, he weaved his magic as he said, “a young man who waded ashore in Normandy on this date 71 years ago who was to become a great American writer…he pops up to the catcher for the second out…who had the first six chapters of his novel stuffed in his back pocket…and another guy who is trying to get noticed in the game…and the young man on that fateful day who was in the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach was JD Salinger…a roller down the third base line, foul….and the great American novel was ‘A Catcher In The Rye’. ‘Poor guy’…now 1-2 on Matt Holiday who fouls it off again….who can ever forget Holden Caulfield…fast ball got him looking. Do us all a favor…please tell your children and grandchildren what June 6th is all about. 12 Cardinals strike out tonight and the Dodgers remain in first place, a half a game in front of the San Francisco Giants. Good night, everybody.”
And only those of us on the West Coast could hear this fascinating melding of a sporting event in the time of our lives, on a day with a Triple Crown winner became the 12th ever to accomplish that feat, and on a date with destiny that changed the world forever so many years ago.
For those of you back East, you missed one of the greatest story telling blendings in history by a Master of the Art who ventured West fifty-seven years ago. Good night, Vin.
Since the greatest warrior of Homer’s Iliad, slayed the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troyhe, how he was killed near the end of the Trojan War by Paris, still sends shivers through the heart of any athlete. We know Achilles was shot by him in the heel with an arrow. But now, one of the warriors of baseball faces a long rehab as he fights through the stunning pain of the imaginary arrow into his Achilles’ heel. Mathew Melton wrote, ‘From radios to broadband, streetcars to subways, and megaphones to smartphones, there was baseball. With that sublime inspiration, there also comes a callous reality to the game. How else can you describe a sport where the very best hitters fail seven out of every ten times they enter the batter’s box? Or where the very best teams leave the park losers at least sixty times during the season? However, the game (and life) are not always kind to its members.’
Around the major leagues, they are dropping like flies. And the season has just begun. Now that Dr McDreamy is no longer working on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, perhaps he can help out in The Show as this has turned into a Season of DL.
In just one week, from March 20-26, 2015 this is the designated list:
Chicago White Sox placed RHP Matt Albers on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. broken little finger on right hand
Chicago White Sox activated RHP Jake Petricka from the 15-day disabled list.
Chicago White Sox placed RHP Javy Guerra on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 13, 2015. Right shoulder inflammation.
St. Louis Cardinals placed RHP Adam Wainwright on the 15-day disabled list. Left achilles and left ankle injury.
Toronto Blue Jays activated RF Michael Saunders from the 15-day disabled list.
Toronto Blue Jays placed C Dioner Navarro on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 22, 2015. Strained left hamstring.
Oakland Athletics placed 2B Ben Zobrist on the 15-day disabled list. Medial meniscus tear in his left knew.
San Diego Padres activated RHP Ian Kennedy from the 15-day disabled list.
Boston Red Sox placed RF Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, 2015. Right hamstring strain
Tampa Bay Rays activated 1B James Loney from the 15-day disabled list.
Tampa Bay Ray activated LHP Drew Smyly from the 15-day disabled list.
Tampa Bay Ray placed LHP C.J. Riefenhauser on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19, 2015. Left shoulder inflammation.
Tampa Bay Ray placed 2B Ryan Brett on the 15-day disabled list. Left shoulder subluxation.
Tampa Bay Ray transferred LHP Jeff Beliveau from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Left shoulder soreness.
Miami Marlines placed LF Christian Yelich on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Lower back strain.
Baltimore Orioles placed 2B Ryan Flaherty on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, 2015. Right groin strain.
San Diego Padres placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, 2015. Left calf strain.
Seattle Mariners placed RHP Hisashi Iwakuma on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 21, 2014. Right Lat Strain.
Houston Astros activated RHP Josh Fields from the 15-day disabled list.
Los Angeles Angels transferred RHP Josh Fields from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Left core muscle injury.
Philadelphia Phillies placed RHP Sean O’Sullivan on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18, 2015. Tendinitis in his left knee.
Washington Nationals placed LHP Felipe Rivero on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18, 2015. GI bleed.
Colorado Rockies placed RHP LaTroy Hawkins on the 15-day disabled list. Right Bicep Tendinits.
Colorado Rockies activated LHP Jorge De La Rosa from the 15-day disabled list.
New York Mets placed C Travis d’Arnaud on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Fracture of his right little finger.
New York Mets placed LHP Jerry Blevins on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Distal radius fracture of his left arm.
New York Mets transferred RHP Zack Wheeler from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Recovering from March 2015 Tommy John surgery.
Milwaukee Brewers placed C Jonathan Lucroy on the 15-day disabled list. Broken left big toe.
Milwaukee Brewers placed 2B Scooter Gennett on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Left hand laceration.
Chicago Cubs transferred 3B Mike Olt from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Hairline fracture in his right wrist.
Arizona Diamondbacks placed 3B Jake Lamb on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19, 2015. Left foot stress reaction.
Arizona Diamondbacks transferred C Gerald Laird from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.
Thirty-two DL actions in seven days. And did you notice how many were pitchers? Eighteen were hurlers. Of these, probably the most devastating was the loss of ace right hander, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals. His injury was really quirky. (See above) Wainwright suffered his injury in the fifth inning of last Saturday night’s game against the Brewers as he was running out a pop-up. Wainwright, who has pitched four scoreless innings, was running to first when he came up lame after hurting his left ankle. The 33-year-old (34 in August) missed the entire 2011 season thanks to Tommy John surgery. Through four starts this season, the three-time All-Star has posted a 1.44 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9. For his career, Wainwright has pitched to a 2.98 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
What does all of this mean? If you read articles, blogs and listen to the pendants, here are some of the topics they have made for discussion on the subject:
Lack of team training year round. Individual training rather than team training.
Short term attitude
But what is probably more logical is what Ben Charington, GM of the Boston Red Sox said two and one-half years ago on the subject. “I think players put their bodies in positions that they never did before in the name of performance. Pitchers manipulate the ball like never before: cutter, sinker, split, multiple types of fastballs. This all requires different finger pressure, different hand position at release. When this happens, it could very well change the torque on the elbow and shoulder. Pitchers have had to do this because hitters are so much better. They’d get killed if they weren’t manipulating the baseball. But it could come with a downside — more stress on the joints.”
No matter the reason why, injuries cost team owners tens of millions of dollars and change the pennant race landscape. For some, it ends their season before it can bloom.
As Melton wrote, ‘For a select few in the game’s history, their greatness was never fully realized.’ Players like Eric Davis, Rick Ankiel, Juan Encarnacion, J.R. Richard, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Nomar Garciaparra, Bo Jackson and Mark Fidrych had career ending injuries’. Others, who had fantastic careers, struggled through injury to finish their baseball life, players like ‘Junior’, ‘Sandy’ and ‘Mickey’. But they are the exceptions.
What will this year’s host of injuries tell us about the future?
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 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?
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.
Before Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu or Yoenis Cespedes, there was Minnie Minoso. Thirty years ago this week, after 12 years of retirement and after 17 years in the Major Leagues, Minoso was activated by Bill Veeck, then owner of the Chicago White Sox an started as designated hitter, batting ninth, in the first game of a twin bill with the California Angels. In the second inning, with two outs and Chet Lemon on first base, he singled to left off Angels’ starter Sid Monge. At age 53, Minoso had become the second oldest player to notch a hit in a major league game (Jim O’Rourke had a hit at 54 years/21 days) and the second oldest to suit up after Satchel Paige had played at age 59 for Veeck’s Indians in 1965. Minoso would play three games in 1976, getting one hit in eight at bats. He played again in 1980 for the White Sox. In 1993 (at age 71) and 2003 (at age 81), he put on a uniform for the independent Northern League’s St. Paul Saints, becoming baseball’s first octogenarian and only seven-decade player. He was a 7 time All-Star and batted .298 for his career. He won the Golden Glove three times. In his 12 years with the Chicago White Sox, he batted .304.
Minnie Minoso is one of the famous Great Ten of Cuban baseball players. These are the Shadow Players. With one exception, all were terrific players who played in the shadow of having two handicaps, one was the color of their skin and the other was the unfamiliar language when grew up with, spoke and understood.
Certainly Luis Tiant would head the list as he pitched 19 years in the Show, winning 20 or more games four times and was an All-Star three times. He’s not in the Hall.
Tony Perez is the lone Hall of Famer of the Great Ten as he won two World Series as a player for Cincinnati and a 7 time All-Star and MVP in the 1967 game.
Tony Oliva was the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and played 15 years for the Minnesota Twins becoming an All-Star 8 times. With a 3.04 lifetime batting average, it is seemingly improbable that he is not in the Hall of Fame.
Mike Cuellar won 20 or more game four times and was the 1969 Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star. He finished after 15 years in the Major Leagues with a 185-130 record and a 3.14 ERA. He is not in the Hall of Fame.
Dolf Luque, The Pride of Havana, was a legendary pitcher who spend 20 seasons in the Bigs. He had the second most wins of any Cuban pitcher and finished with 194-179 record with a 3.24 ERA from 1914-1935. In 1923, he went 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds. He won the 1923 and the 1925 NL pitching title. He is not in the Hall.
Camilo Pascual for 18 season produced a 174-170 record with a 3.63 ERA, particularly with poor teams. He was a 7 time All-Star. Ted Williams said he had the ‘most feared curial in the American League’. In an era when pitchers were real pitchers, he had back-to-back 20 game win season and had 18 complete games in each of the 1962 and 1963 seasons and led the AL in strikeouts 1961 thru 1963. He is not in the Hall.
Bert Campaneris played in the MLB for 19 seasons and at one time in 1965, played all nine positions in a major league age, the first to ever do that. He was an All-Star 6 times and won three World Series titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974 with the fantastic Oakland A’s. The undisputed shortstop of his day, he is not in the Hall of Fame.
Two of the Great Ten were the Tainted Ones.
Rafael Palmeiro ended a 20 year career with Baltimore Orioles in 2005 when he gained his 3,000th hit. He is one of four players to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his career (he hit 569 home runs). A 4-time All-Star, he escaped from Cuba with his family to Miami in 1964. Some say he was a juicer. While he is not in the Hall, others who took cocaine were admitted.
Jose Canseco hit 462 home runs in 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. A 6 time All-Star, e won two World Series with the 1989 Oakland A’s and the 2000 New York Yankees. He was the American League MVP in 1988 and was the first player to ever compile 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. He is not in Cooperstown.
But this is about Saturnino Orestes Armas ‘Minnie’ Minoso Arrieta, the fuel behind the ‘Go Go White Sox’ of the ’50s. To anyone growing up in the Midwest at that time, every team had their stars. In Milwaukee it was Eddie and Warren. In St. Louis it was Stan ‘The Man’ and ‘Country’. But in Chicago it was ‘Billy and Minnie’. Minnie was one of the most exciting players in his day and someone who belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame.