Tagged: Brewers

I’M SORRY, BUT WE DON’T NEED YOU

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Brewers
fans know that Manager Ken Macha has shut down top starter Yovani Gallardo for
the year because, gasp, he has thrown over 3,000 pitches! Imagine that, getting
laid off because you were “overworked”. 
Never mind that there are still two weeks to play. Never mind that this
is another ridiculous trend regarding use of a pitching staff. In the last 20
odd years we have gone from a 4-man to a 5-man rotation which seemed radical at
the time. Then we segmented the bullpens into long relievers, middle relievers,
one batter “specialists” (usually a lefty), set-up men and the closer. If I
hear one more manager say that their bullpen is overworked I think I will buy
Red Sox tickets (there is no fate is worse than that, I’d rather see the
Nationals). As the game lags on, nothing is more brutal than to watch the late
inning tedium, in the name of strategy, of managers doing the lefty-righty
shuffle between hitter and batter that usually doesn’t do much to the outcome
and drags the game on mercilessly long. I mean bringing in a lefty to face a
lefty in the 7th when you are down by five runs? Give me a break!

About that 3,000 + pitch total. This is more
ludicrous than the pitch count that has swept over the game like some vile
threat of destitution. When figuring Gallardo’s numbers, he averaged around 17
ppi (pitches per inning- just wait this stat is on the horizon).  In his illustrious career, Bob Gibson
averaged 292 IP/year. When you do the math, it means he threw on average 4,454
ppy (pitchers per year) and was never on the DL for an extended period of time.
Some other examples:

o  
Don Sutton                        3,995

o  
Tom Seaver                        4,250

o  
Nolan Ryan                        3,944

o  
Fergie Jenkins                    4,131

o  
Steve Carlton                     4,165

Every one of these Hall of
Famers except Jenkins pitched for at least 20 seasons and Fergie pitched for 19
and all for the most part were in 4 man rotations.

Here’s a scenario I’d love
to see:

I enter the office with my
cup of coffee in one hand and my Blackberry in another. I sit at my desk, fire
up the computer and check my voice mails. Just then I get a call from Willis,
my boss. “I need to see you in my office right away”.

Nothing good ever comes from
that request. I saunter on down the hall and plant myself on a chair directly
in front of Willis’ imposing desk. “Wilford”, he says, “it’s come to my
attention that you have already exceeded your sales quota for the year. You are
outperforming everyone else on the staff.” Great, I thought, a nice big raise.

“I’ve decided to let you
take off for the rest of the year”.

“What’s that?”

“You heard me. You have done
exceedingly well. It’s time to let the others catch up.”

“But who will call on my
customers. Take care of their needs?”

“We’ll handle that fine. You
need to go home and rest, you know, get fired up for next year. We’re gonna
need that drive and determination.”

“But….”

“No buts. Clean up your
office and we will see you in January.”

As I walked back to my
office, it occurred to me that I have been laid off with pay for doing too
well! Maybe I can become a starting pitcher in the major leagues!

 

 

 

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CATCHING UP

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A Player For the Ages….

No it wasn’t as sexy as, say, setting a new hitting streak
record, but what Derek Jeter accomplished last week was monumental in its own
right. Think of the most storied franchise in the history of the game and of
all of the Hall of Famers who passed through Yankee Stadium: Ruth, Gehrig,
DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra. These names are synonymous with the Yankee tradition.
Now comes Derek Jeter, the team’s all-time hits leader, breaking Gehrig’s
record, which stood for 70 years.

Derek Jeter is now a true Yankee legend. Yet is doesn’t seem
like it, because his low-key and modest persona does not attract media scrutiny
like, say, Manny Ramirez.

Ten years from now it will sink in when a tour of Monument
Park will include seeing the number two included on the wall of retired
numbers. Maybe then we will appreciate what an asset to the game Derek Jeter
is.

 

Pity Milton Bradley?

Should we be surprised that Milton Bradley proved again that
he is his own worst enemy? Another meltdown has led to his season ending
suspension. He lambasted the press, the fans, and his teammates.  He has left a wake of chaos and
discontent wherever he has played. Yet, one can’t help to have some sympathy
for the man. He has a mental health disease that needs to be treated quickly
and aggressively. The Cubs’ fans shouldn’t be surprised by this since they have
booed him unmercifully almost since opening day. The sensitive nature of his
fragile makeup almost guaranteed this unfortunate outcome.  While it is easy to bash someone and
call them vile names, people need to understand that Milton Bradley is not a
bad person, he has a real medical condition that needs treatment.

Please, Milton, for your own sake, get some help.

 

The Brewers Are Mailing It In

Today, September 21, the Brewers open a three game series
against the Cubs 12 ½ games out of first place. They have effectively been out
of the race since the beginning of the month. Everyone knew that the starting
pitching has been woefully ineffective. GM Doug Melvin’s failure to improve the
rotation was unfathomable. He appeared during the telecast tonight defending
his inaction by saying he still has faith that the starters will bounce back
next year. Yah?  If you believe
this, you also believe that national health care will be cheaper and more
efficient.

The team is mailing it in. They might as well pack it up and
go home since they are playing like they can’t wait to get there.  Manager Ken Macha’s use of the pitching
staff is like a house painter using a different color paint in the middle of
doing a room. He lets the starters get pounded and when the game is all but
officially over goes to his “tired” bullpen. He will not give Yovani Gallardo
another start citing the number of “pitches” he has thrown! This is another
trend that is unsettling. If a team’s good players are not going to be used,
why don’t we just end the season a month earlier or give the loyal fans a
discount, like minor league ticket prices. Who needs to pay full price to watch
this travesty?

A promising start has been reduced to protecting pitchers
for next year. Do you feel as cheated as I do?

 

Should The Brewers Trade Prince Fielder?

This will be the hottest topic in the hot stove talks this
winter. Getting a jump on the speculation, I believe that the team should seek
legitimate offers. There are a few logical reasons for this.

First, when he is eligible for free agency he will seek and
probably get Teixiera money, his agent being the notorious Scott Boras. That,
of course, is out of the club’s price range.

Second, with the club in dire need for quality pitching, a
Fielder trade could reap a harvest of good young arms.

Third, not many teams will be able to afford Fielder and
among those who can, most are set at first base. The most likely pursuers will
be the Red Sox and the Mets.  The
Sox could upgrade the position since right now they are working a rotation
there between Youkalis, Martinez and Kotchman.  The Mets will have money to burn since they will show Carlos
Delgado and his $19.2 million expired contract to the door.

Who has the best pitching prospects? With Boston, it starts
with Dan Bard, Clay Bucholz and Michael Bowden. With the Mets, there’s not much
to offer. A Jon Niese or a Tobi Stone is about it. If the Mets had any other
good prospects they would’ve been up this year.

Trading Fielder will create a crater in the offense that
will not be easily replaced. And it will be spectacularly unpopular with the
fans. But he’s going to leave eventually so upgrading the pitching staff sooner
than later is the best outcome.

 

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS

Brewers….Stick  a Fork In Them
The year long struggle to get a resemblance of a starting pitching rotation has doomed the Brewers. I’m baffled that Doug Melvin could not find one decent starter or take a chance on someone ala the Phillies with Pedro Martinez and the Cardinals with John  Smoltz. I mean what do you have to lose? They couldn’t be any worse than our current group of slugs (except for Yovani Gallardo) and who knows, they could find lightning in a bottle.

Instead he demotes JJ Hardy and then refuses to trade him, releases then trades Bill Hall to the Mariners for a minor league pitcher and gives Bill Castro his walking papers.

Even though Alcides Escobar has started out fine, he can’t pitch and it is still way too early to project what kind of player he will be. 
 
So the Brewers who started out so promising are now cooked. And don’t look for much improvement in the near future. There are some attractive free agent starters worth pursuing in the off-season; Josh Beckett, Rich Harden, Tim Hudson, Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb to mention a few. Look for the club to make some half-hearted offers just to appease fans by saying offers were made but were rejected. Of the above mentioned, I would take a shot at getting either Hudson, Webb or, yes, even Ben Sheets. All three will be coming off major surgeries and their contracts could be uploaded with incentives. Perhaps they can go overseas and sign a Japanese pitcher, most of whom have done pretty well over here. 


BULLETIN: All may not be lost yet this year. It was just announced that Suppan and Bush are coming to the rescue with anticipated starts this week. l contend that nothing will change, that their chronic inflammation of the suck will continue to hinder whatever hope the Brewers have of climbing out of this mire. Quick, order a shipment of the anti-suck vaccine.

Jim Rice…Shut-Up!
Now that he is in Cooperstown, Jim Rice apparently feels that he can mouth off on all things baseball. His ridiculous criticism of Derek Jeter was uncalled for. He said that Jeter is not a good example for Little Leaguers! What, and I suppose Manny Ramirez is?
 
Who is Jim Rice to talk about a player who is already better than Rice ever was? Soon, Jeter will become the Yankees all-time hits leader. He is one of few major leaguers who truly represents the image of the game the way it should be. Scandal-free, he avoids tabloid headlines. He takes his Captain’s designation seriously.  If I had a young son right now you better believe I would want him to emulate Jeter.

And Rice? He’s lucky to be in the Hall of Fame.  If I were him, I would walk quietly into the sunset and never be heard from again.

Strasburg Era Begins.
Well the Nationals signed phenom Stephen Strasburg to a record contract for a draft pick. Thanks to Scott Boras, who’s only goal is to eventually bankrupt teams so long as his players are taken care of, a new era of inconceivable wealth is being awarded to unproven players who have yet to pitch or hit at the major league level.

These kids are now being enriched based on their potential. Imagine if Strasburg blows out his arm before he’s even pitched in the major leagues. Who loses? All of the risk is on the team, not the player.

Something needs to be done. To those who want to compare these contracts to those that rookies get from the NFL and NBA there are two big differences. One, first round picks almost always make the professional team the year they are drafted. In baseball, there is no guarantee. They sign rich contracts and begin in the minors. Second, both the NFL and NBA have restrictions on what they pay draft picks. The NFL has a slotting system with suggested pay ranges for draft picks, (baseball supposedly does to but it is, at times, ignored). The NBA has a hard salary cap for rookies. Baseball has neither and won’t as long as the union is calling the shots.

I don’t know where the Nationals, who play in front of some of the smallest crowds in the majors, came up with the money for this contract. They will be paying Strasburg over $15 million over the life of the contract. By contrast, the Brewers signed their first 13 picks for just over $6 million! The Marlins entire 2009 payroll is just over $21 million. 


The players contract ends in 2011 and this needs to be addressed before it gets out of control. The league will propose hard caps for signing bonuses like the NBA. Otherwise, as Melvin points out, why have a draft at all? Let every team have the opportunity to sign players. 
 
Of course, the union will make no concessions unless something is offered in return. Maybe a bigger percentage of royalties can be a negotiating chip.

ANOTHER PANIC ATTACK

So Brewers GM Doug Melvin thinks the answer to fixing a horrid starting rotation is to send JJ Hardy to the minors and Bill Hall to the Nederlands. It’s another panic attack that did nothing to address the real problem with this team.

Did I miss something here? If I recall, JJ Hardy wasn’t throwing batting practice curveballs during the game.  Yes, he was having a down year and he let his season long slump affect his fielding but to not cut him any slack is unfair. Jimmy Rollins is having a similar off year but I doubt that the Phillies will send him down. Was Hardy solely to blame for this dilemma?

As for Hall, this unfortunately was going to happen. Was it just three years ago that he went to center field and hit over 30 HR’s? The Brewers gave him more than a fair chance. Hall was one of my favorite players but I can’t argue with this move.

Finally, pitching coach Bill Castro gets the ax as the fall guy for the atrocious pitching staff. All Castro can do is give the staff his knowledge and wisdom; he can’t go out there and pitch himself. He ended up being the scapegoat because Melvin refuses to take responsibility for putting together the staff, including paying Jeff Suppan an obscene amount of money in what will go down as his worse free agent signing ever.

Melvin spoke about performance and being held accountable. Is that so. What about Mike Cameron and Jason Kendall neither of whom have performed well? Cameron strikes out at an alarming rate and is the worst hitter in the majors with RISP. Its obvious Kendall’s best days are behind him as he can’t throw and he can’t hit anymore.  Yet they stubbornly keep running him out there playing in more games than any other catcher.  Corey Hart wasn’t exactly tearing it up either before he got hurt.

We all knew Escobar would be up sooner or later, but how would you like to be in his shoes now, trying to replace one of the most popular players on the club?

So what did all of this upheaval prove? Not a darn thing. We still have the smelly staff and as long as we do, all the roster moves in the world will not change our direction.

Both Melvin and Mark Attanasio say they haven’t given up on the season.  If you think these moves will make the Brewers any better, then you are a dying optimist or a fool.

SEEKING A CURE

There is a disease spreading among members of the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff, especially among the starters. It started with Jeff Suppan and quickly became contagious. Now it appears to have even spread to Yovani Gallardo.  The diagnosis is a chronic inflammation of the suck. There appears to be no quick cure for this.
 
Just in the past four series, the disease has caused a total collapse of an already infected body. The staff has allowed the average Atlanta Braves, the pathetic Washington Nationals and the woeful San Diego Padres their biggest number of hits in a game this year. Then last night, the fever hit Gallardo and by the time RJ Swindle was through, the Dodgers tallied 17 runs, their largest outburst at home in 30 years. When last seen, Swindle was on life support while Prince Fielder was looking to take out his frustration on Guillermo Mota who purposely hit him.  When Prince gets this mad, even Bigfoot hasn’t a chance. Do you think any Brewers pitcher had his back?

It’s gotten so bad that they have resorted to intentionally hitting batters thinking it’s better to plunk them than to be constantly giving up hits. It’s gotten so bad that even our ridiculously partial TV broadcasters could not come up with an excuse. It’s gotten so bad that the team ERA is a feverish 4.86, next to last in the NL. It’s gotten so bad that future opponents are circling the days on the calendar when they get to feast on Brewers pitching like a six-year old off a T-Ball.

The normal treatment for this inflammation is to seek extensive care of the psyche and avoid strenuous activity, like pitching during a game.  With so many pitchers afflicted, newcomers may have to be quarantined.
 
The disease is likely to last until late September long after any effective therapy is administered. By then, the inflammation may have spread to the whole team as they slowly and painfully sink to the sordid depths of the division.

Only rigorous off-season research to come up with an effective vaccine to ward off the symptoms will help. If this fails, the inflammation of the suck becomes worse than chronic. It becomes part of the anatomy of a losing team.
 

 

An Open Letter To Doug Melvin

Dear Mr. Melvin:
Thanks for nothing. I wasted the entire afternoon waiting for the move that never came. I guess this means that we are one and done. What was the reason you became paralyzed at the last minute and could not make a move so obvious?

I know we were all seduced by the C.C. acquisition last summer. It was a season that ended in euphoria. The fans were hoping for more than just a one year wonder and have poured into Miller Park this year at a record setting pace. Your marketing department has done such a good job that there are ad signs in every possible place in the stadium including between-inning promos. That doesn’t include the revenue generated by the broadcasts including ads between pitches!  The revenue is pouring in.

Could it be that you are burdened with salaries that have crimped the payroll? The $10 million you wasted on Gagne? The $8 million you will pay your once starting 3b who was just sent down? The money still being paid to last year’s manager? What about the albatross that is Jeff Suppan, the most overpriced starting pitcher in the game?

Doug, I know that being a GM today is extremely difficult and I wrote a previous piece defending your ability to make us a contender. But I think we deserved more than Claudio Vargas, a pitcher you jettisoned after he won 11 games in 2007. All of a sudden he’s the answer? I was so hoping the Washburn rumor was true, but I understand that you would not include Escobar or Gamel in any deal. Are they gold plated or what? Are you saving them like so much winter silage? When, in your opinion, are they going to be ready to help up here and who are they going to replace? You said that every team that you talked to wanted pitching, something that the club is woefully short of in the minors as well. That may be true. The Phillies sent three pitching prospects to the Indians for Cliff Lee and the White Sox four to San Diego for Jake Peavy. Who did you have to offer?
 
As a partial season ticket holder who drives more than 80 miles one way to each game, I feel cheated. In this economy, these tickets are a luxury.

This is a narrow window of opportunity.  After next year JJ Hardy can opt out. In two more years, Prince Fielder will be leaving. But with no reasonable options on the near horizon to fortify the rotation, I think it’s look out below.

The fans have been wildly supportive but as you know can be fickle which is why I’m sure the broadcast team is told not to say anything negative. Once the football season starts, the Miller Park sellouts will cease if the team keeps falling faster than a skydiver without a parachute.

Doug, it was nice while it lasted and this lack of movement to keep the team in contention is disappointing to all of us hard-core fans.

My seat is in Section 423, Row 4, Seat 1 if you ever want to stop over during a Sunday afternoon game to chat.

A lifelong baseball lover and loyal fan.

 

SIZING UP THE NL CENTRAL

The trading deadline is one week away and Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay.

Odds are that by this time next week he won’t be. Will he be wearing a uniform from one of the NL Central teams? Milwaukee says they are interested and can afford him but at what price prospects? Will Doc want to play in Milwaukee? He has a no-trade clause. If he witnessed what happened when CC Sabathia became an overnight sensation last year he will know that the fans will immediately embrace him.

Other than the Brewers, the only other team in the division that appears interested are the Cardinals who also have the resources. The Cubs can’t make any moves right now since they are in the final process of being sold. The Astros could make an offer, but they are weighed down by hefty contracts for players like Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and Lance Berkman.

The Reds are cash strapped and probably don’t have the prospects Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi is looking for.

The Pirates abandoned ship long ago.

So who will take a division that as of this writing has four teams within 2 ½ games of each other.
 

Let’s go down the list from fourth to first.

Milwaukee Brewers  48-47     2 ½ out
The Brewers are in a quandary. Last year they rode CC Sabathia to the playoffs. GM Doug Melvin does not want to part with prospects Alcides Escobar or Mat Gamel. Both are in the club’s plans in the near future. But, reportedly, that’s where talks begin and end with the Blue Jays. The Brewers will not make the playoffs with the rotation they have now and with only two players hitting (Braun and Fielder). Halladay can certainly add a few wins if acquired and that may be all that is needed in this up-for-grabs division. But last year, Sabathia was paired with All-Star Game starter Ben Sheets. Although Yovani Gallardo is close, there is no one to form a similar duo this year.

Houston Astros    49-46       1 ½ out
The Astros are surging and just now playing up to their capabilities. Wandy Rodriguez is finally showing he belongs and pairs nicely with Oswalt.
But like the Brewers there are questions at the back of the rotation. The team has been going with re-treads Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz. Will their fragile arms and shoulders hold up?

The first half of the season featured Miguel Tejada and not much else. But since July 1st, Carlos Lee has been el fuego and Lance Berkman woke up his bat. Hunter Pence made the  All-Star team and Michael Bourn has blossomed. Still, while they will make a respectable run, they will miss out because they, like the Brewers, do not have enough pitching.

Chicago Cubs   48-45                  1 ½  out
OK, I’ll forego all of the shots it is so easy to take at this team, which has underachieved all year. At the plate, Alfonso Soriano looks lost and Milton Bradley was a colossal mistake. When Aramis Ramirez went down, nobody picked up the slack. Only Derrek Lee has been hitting.

The starting pitching has been inconsistent all year. Except for Ted Lilly no one else can be counted on. Carlos Zambrano has been hot and cold (ask the Gatorade machine). Rich Harden is struggling with his control and, not surprisingly his health, Ryan Dempster is on the DL but is due back any day.  The biggest surprise has been rookie righthander Randy Wells.
Meanwhile the jettisoned Jason Marquis leads the majors with 12 wins. Go figure.

The club is shackled from making any big trades due to the sale of the team. So unless the hitting picks up and Lou Piniella can sort out a troubling bullpen, look for the Cubs to yet again disappoint their long suffering fans.

St Louis Cardinals    52-46
The Cardinals sent a message to their rivals this week that they are serious about taking the division. They needed to fill two glaring holes and went out and did so, first by getting shortstop Julio Lugo who wore out his welcome in Boston, for Chris Duncan and then the stunning trade for Matt Holliday and cash for a handful of prospects. So let’s see, the A’s actually paid the Cardinals to take Holliday?
 
Shortstop has been a revolving door since Kahlil Greene’s unfortunate breakdown. The duo of Brian Barden and Brendan Ryan was not doing the job. Lugo will bring a better bat, solid defense and a veteran presence.

The trade for Holliday was a no-brainer. All year Albert Pujols was carrying the team on his incredible shoulders.  All year we have watched teams intentionally walk him or pitch around him to get to the next batter. Usually, that has been Ryan Ludwick who has only started to get going this week.

Now Manager Tony LaRussa has a legitimate cleanup hitter who will protect Pujols in the lineup. With the recent trade for Mark DeRosa, the Cardinals are solid at every position.

Their starting pitching boasts a trio that is incomparable to anyone else’s in the division in Carpenter, Wainwright and Piniero.
 
Ryan Franklin emerged so well as the closer that he made the All-Star team.

If they do get Halladay, it will almost certainly cinch the title.

My verdict: The Cardinals will win the division this year.

A BEAUTY FOR BUEHRLE
Mark Buehrle threw only the 18th perfect game in all of the glorious history of this great pastime. DeWayne Wise’s leaping catch over the wall in the 9th inning to protect it will go down as the seminal play.

An interesting stat was supplied by the Wall Street Journal. It appears that Buehrle’s perfecto was the second toughest to achieve among the eighteen. They used team OBP to rank them since this is a good indicator of how well a team gets on base by hit, walk or hit batter. The Rays ranked number two on the list with a .350 OBP.

Here is the top four of all time:
1. Charlie Robertson Chicago White Sox     1922 Detroit Tigers (.373)
2. Mark Buerhle        Chicago White Sox      2009 Tampa Bay Rays (.350)
3. Randy Johnson     Arizona D’Backs         2004 Atlanta Braves (.343)
4. Don Larsen           New York Yankees      1956 Brooklyn Dodgers (.342)

Of course, Larsen remains, some 53 years later, the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in the World Series.