62 To Go


It seemed like yesterday the balls started flying around the spring training fields of Arizona and Florida. Hope was in the air. But today, for many teams, including the Cream City Nine have only 62 games to go. And what began as hope for these players has turned into a shocking first place in the Central Division of the National League. From one of the worst teams in the league to the top of the heap ahead of the World Champions on July 22 is truly shocking.

This team like many others, are a true reflection in their manager, Craig Counsell. As one of the great utility players, who had the opportunity to win two World Championship rings, his team is made up of players who can play a number of positions. And they have players who will be the All-Stars of the future.

Who are these wonders of 2017?

Behind the plate, a younger journeyman, Manny Pena, has a cannon for an air and the ability to block everything a Lombardi-type pitcher can throw at him. He has been given a chance and has taken full advantage of it. This may be the next great catcher in the game today. Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar at first give an interesting interpretation on being big league first basemen. Mr April, believe it or not, still is among the top home run hitters in the NL even though he hasn’t really hit many in the past three months. Aguilar is one of the best pinch hitters in the majors. And might just become the regular first baseman if Thames continues to slide back to Seoul. At second, Eric Sogard before he was injured, had replaced the fading Jonathan Villar who has been in a season long slump. But because neither seem to regain their hitting eye, it may be a position that the Crew needs to address since they gave up on ‘Scooter’ (who is setting the world on fire in Cincinnati). As short, Orlando Arcia IS the rising superstar. Along with one of the great defensive skills few possess, he has finally begun to hit. Few are better at his position. At third, Travis Shaw is Mr. Consistancy. He is one of the steadiest players in the game and was a brilliant part of a trade by the new GM. In left, one of the great players in the game, Ryan Braun, when healthy is a superstar. In center, the team is awaiting the return of Brinson from the minors to take his place which many expect he will in short order. Brett Phillips has been a pleasant surprise replacing the slumping Broxton, but Brinson will be the man unless the Crew can entice the rerun of one of the greatest players to ever be traded away, Cain, from Kansas City in the disastrous ‘let’s win now’ Zach Greineke acquisition. In right is the next great superstar, Santana Domingo from Santa Domingo. One of the most casual players in the game, Mr. Relaxed has no zone in his strike zone which he cannot hit. Great arm in the outfield and great power at the bat. Then there is the best utility man on a team of great utility men, Hernan Perez. Absolutely a terrific player and can fill in anywhere and do it with style and with power.

Then on the mound, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and perhaps Brent Suter give the Nine quality starts. But it is in the bullpen that will determine the fate of the Crew for the remainder of the season. And frankly, the only one who seems to be making a difference it the rookie, Josh Hader. If Corey Knebel can recover to his early season form, the the Brewers have a chance with this improbable lineup of overachievers.

Sixty-two to go for a team that is made up of players who can play anywhere and are not afraid of any other team.

They are in first place today with one of the best minor league systems in the game.

Will they trade it away to ‘go for it now’ or continue to build this exciting, dynamic and youthful experiment in organized ball? Understand, this has never been done before. Basically, what you have is a team built with players who can play anywhere, anytime…just like their manager. And they are doing it with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Is this the new Moneyball? But their plan to build a consistent pennant challenging and World Series threat can only be done by continuing to build their minor league system in the eyes of their manager, where defense and an infectious joy to play the game everyday overcomes everything else. St. Louis has proven this theory time and time again. It is the minor league system that provides the player of the future to come up and step into a winning system to carry the legend forward.

It will be a real test of character of the new GM David Stearns to see how he handles this very difficult situation.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

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Wallowing In A Season To Forget…Or…


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.

Play Ball!

#otsmlb.com #win63 #‎watchingattanasio⚾️

‘The Moment’

'The Moment'

‘The Moment’


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.

Play Ball!

#win63
#watchingattanasio

Nelson and Davies…And Pray For A Couple Of Rainies

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

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

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

How’s that for a lineup, folks.

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

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

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

So, what do the fans think?

‘What’s an Erceg?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You think?

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

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

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

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

They didn’t

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

#watchingattanasio #win63

Play Ball!

And, Happy Father’s Day.

Vanishing Lineup


One of the things fans love about baseball is that consistency…consistency in a lineup that you can cheer for…consistency in Milwaukee, where you can play ons-ons knowing how the players perform day-in-and-day-out. It is where the love of the game is imbedded.

For the 2016 edition of the Cream City Nine, consistency doesn’t exist. There are only three players who were in the starting lineup in April of 2015 still on the team. Jonathan Lucroy, the catcher, along with Khris Davis in left and Ryan Braun in right. As of Saturday, there is a new second baseman in Pigsville as Aaron Hill and pitcher, Chase Anderson, who will wear the ball and glove logo traded for the starting shortstop, Jean Segura, to Arizona. That means that it is bye-bye time for Scooter. Gone too is the first baseman, Lind to Seattle; the third baseman went to Pittsburgh; the popular center fielder on Opening Day last year is in Houston. One of the game’s top relievers flew to Detroit. This year’s team will truly be the a ‘can’t tell the players without a program’.

Along with the deal for Segura came starting pitcher, Chase Anderson, who has a penchant for tossing gopher balls. With a hitter friendly stadium like Miller Park, he seems like a strange fit for Cream City.

So what does the starting lineup on Opening day look like at this point?

Lucroy behind the plate.
who’s on first.
Hill at second.
Arcia is a short.
I don’t know at third.
Davis in left.
Somebody’s in center.
Braun is in right.
And starting, who knows.

It’s going to be an interest spring training where hope is all that the Brew Crew has in 2016.

But by the time a team gets to Miller Park in April, one thing is for sure: the brats will be ready with the secret stadium sauce and raw chopped onions and mustard. Along with a cold Miller Light, and a bag of fresh popcorn, there will be a winning lineup in the Cream City this coming season. As for on the field, who cares.

After all, the Milwaukee Brewers have never won a World Series in their history of forty-six seasons. And the current ownership has never won a league pennant.

This year there are players who are named Barnes, Barrios, Blazek, Cravy, Goforth, Guerra, Houser, Z. Jones, Knebel, Pena, C. Carter, Cecchini, Villar, Walsh, Wilkins, K. Broxton, Flores, Liriano, Reed, Santana and Nieuwenhuis. Now, quick…what are their numbers.

‘Can’t tell the players without a program’.

Play Ball!