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Five Things about the Milwaukee Brewers, July 2014 Edition

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Thus far in 2014, the Milwaukee Brewers have played exceptionally well. They have led the National League Central division since early April, they have the best record in the entire National League at 52-38, and they’re sending four people to the All-Star game next week: CF Carlos Gomez and 3B Aramis Ramirez will be starters, as they won the fan vote, while C Jonathan Lucroy and closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez are also on the squad, voted in by the players.

And as such, they’ve received massive media publicity. So you’d wonder why I’d want to blog about them (especially if you don’t already realize I’m a big Brewers fan) . . . but I have noticed five interesting things about Milwaukee’s season thus far that I felt were worthy of sharing.

1) Baserunning errors need to be minimized.

Look. The Brewers are a very good team, no lie. But they’d be even better if they didn’t make stupid mistakes on the basepaths.

Last night’s game was a case in point. Milwaukee lost to Philadelphia, 3-2, mostly because of three baserunning mistakes killing rallies: the worst was when Jean Segura got thrown out at third base in the fifth inning, just after Jeff Bianchi had delivered a pinch-hit single with the bases loaded to drive in two runs and get the Brewers on the board. Segura needed to stop at second base, but was overly aggressive and ended up getting thrown out at third by a mile.

Later, Ryan Braun delivered a double to start off the eighth inning, but was obviously hobbled due to injury. (Ryan Howard actually jogged alongside Braun while Braun made his slow way toward second base. I’ve never seen an opposing player do that before.) So Logan Schafer came in to pinch run for Braun, which was sensible . . . however, when Lucroy weakly hit a ball to the right side of the infield, Schafer should’ve stayed where he was.

But did he? Hell, no.

Instead, Schafer went with the pitch and was easily thrown out at third. So a promising rally was immediately snuffed out, and the Brewers went quietly.

Somehow, these baserunning blunders need to stop. Because it’s reasonable to assume the Brewers could’ve come up with one more run and tied the game, especially back in the fifth inning before Segura’s mistake . . . if they’d just shown some common sense.

2) The relief pitching has been stellar.

Every reliever the Brewers have, with the exception of Wei Chung-Wang, has been somewhere between good to outstanding. Rob Wooten pitched two scoreless innings last night, and he has the highest ERA of any bullpen pitcher who’s pitched regularly and not been hobbled by injury at 4.34. And the best of the lot have been Will Smith, whose 21 holds and 2.16 ERA are worthy of an All-Star game appearance, and of course K-Rod, who’s 27 saves in 30 opportunities leads all of baseball is going to the All-Star game, as he ought.

3) The hitting isn’t working on all thrusters.

You might be wondering how I can say that when the Brewers, in general, score a lot of runs. I’m well aware that Lucroy is having the best season, hitting-wise, he’s ever had, and Gomez has done well also. Ramirez and Braun are performing well despite some nagging injuries. Davis and Reynolds have respectable power numbers. In addition, Scooter Gennett has done better than anticipated, while Rickie Weeks has had a good bounce-back season thus far.

So why am I saying the hitting isn’t quite there yet? Well, it’s not just that Braun is obviously hobbled by injuries (so, too, is Davis, who went station-to-station on the basepaths last night, a clear sign that he isn’t running well). Jean Segura really hasn’t found himself at the plate at all. Schafer isn’t using his speed to leg out hits, as he should. Both Reynolds and Davis strike out far too much, and often look completely befuddled at the plate. And Lyle Overbay is mostly showing that while he still has value as a part-time player, he’s definitely in the twilight of his career.

4) The starting pitching, with one exception, has been solid.

Kyle Lohse has pitched like a bona fide ace all year. Matt Garza and Yovani Gallardo have both been solid #2 starters. Wily Peralta has looked much steadier than last year and has killer stuff, but I’m not yet certain he’ll ever be an ace. (He may top out at the same level as Gallardo — very good, but not quite an ace.)

The one exception, of course, is Marco Estrada. Estrada has given up many, many home runs, to the point that you could probably win a betting pool if you bet that Estrada was going to give up a HR to someone whenever he starts. He’s had some rough outings. And yet, he’s a smart and talented pitcher, so his lack of success, comparatively speaking, is baffling.

Is he a decent #5 starter? Sure. But Estrada has the potential to be much better than this.

Personally, if I had to bet on one player being traded any time soon, I’d bet on Estrada as that player, even over Rickie Weeks and Weeks’ bloated contract. Because Estrada has clearly underperformed, so another team may take a chance on straightening him out.

5) The defense has, with one exception, been much better than anticipated.

For the most part, the Brewers have had solid defense all season long. Reynolds, in particular, has been much, much better than anticipated, making many sparkling plays at both third and first base.

However, Khris Davis’s outfield play continues to perplex. Even before Davis’s recent injury that limits his speed on the bases and in the outfield, Davis doesn’t seem to know how to play left field very well. His arm is quite weak, and down the line, his ultimate position would probably be designated hitter as he does hit pretty well most of the time.

Even Weeks’s infield defense has improved, but nothing much seems to improve for Davis. He reminds me of the older Carlos Lee out there, before Lee was moved to first base, minus Lee’s obvious intelligence (Lee at least knew how to position himself in the outfield, most of the time, and Davis seems to lack that despite having superior coaching available).

As Davis is hurt right now, my advice would be for him to rest over the All-Star break. (Braun needs to do that, too.) Then, after that, Davis needs to listen to Gomez and Braun and Schafer, who are all much better outfielders than Davis will ever be, and try to learn from them. Davis also needs to listen to coach John Shelby, who was an excellent defensive outfielder in his time, and do whatever Shelby and his fellow outfielders tell him to do.

Maybe that way, Davis will improve.

In summation, the Brewers have to limit their baserunning mistakes. They need better pitching from Estrada, or to acquire a solid and serviceable fifth starter. They need better defense, by far, from Davis. They need better hitting from Segura and Overbay and they need to get healthy.

Otherwise, everyone needs to keep doing what they are. Because that’s the way to win baseball games and get to the playoffs . . . maybe even the World Series. (One can dream, anyway.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 8, 2014 at 5:47 pm

DBacks Throw at Braun “Unintentionally,” But Brewers Win

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Last night’s baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks was notable for two things: a grand-slam homer by Jonathan Lucroy that won the game for the Brewers, and an “unintentional” plunking of Ryan Braun that served to load the bases for Lucroy.

Let me break it down for you.

The Brewers were down, 4-3, in the top of the 7th inning. Two men (Scooter Gennett and Lyle Overbay) were standing on second and third base, and Ryan Braun was at the plate. There were two outs. Braun has been doing better lately, but right now, Lucroy is the better all-around hitter.

Anyway, the DBacks had a number of options. They could’ve intentionally walked Braun. They could’ve pitched to Braun. They could’ve given Braun an “unintentional” intentional walk — where they do try to pitch to Braun, but give him nothing worth having.

Instead, they threw at his backside. Twice.

The first pitch missed. The home plate umpire, Ted Barrett, went out to ask the DBacks pitcher, Evan Marshall, what occurred — Marshall clearly said something like, “It slipped,” so the ump went back behind the plate.

However, when Marshall threw again at Braun’s backside, this time hitting him, Barrett didn’t wait: he threw Marshall out immediately.

Marshall exited to fist-bumps from his own dugout and a standing ovation from many in the crowd. (Note that the Brewers play their Spring Training games in Arizona, so there were a goodly amount of Brewers fans in the audience. They definitely did not stand up; instead, they booed.)

Now, Jonathan Lucroy came to bat. He’d hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, is among the hottest hitters in baseball (currently is hitting .340, good for third in the league), and considering Braun is “only” hitting .284 at the moment (low by Braun’s standards), no one in his right mind would intentionally hit Braun to get to Lucroy.

And Lucroy delivered, just as you’d expect him to do. He hit a grand slam homer. And just like that, the Brewers went from being down, 4-3, to winning, 7-4. And they eventually won the game, 7-5.

All of Marshall’s posturing aside, it was obvious that Marshall intentionally threw at Braun. (The smirking Marshall insisted in the post-game interviews aired by Fox Sports Wisconsin that he’d not intended to hit Braun at all. But that’s just absurd.)

It’s also obvious from all the fist-bumping in the dugout that Kirk Gibson not only knew of Marshall’s plan, but Gibson must’ve approved of it. (How else would a guy who’s just lost the game and not even gotten one single batter out get fist-bumps from his own dugout?)

And finally, DBacks catcher Miguel Montero obviously knew of this plan as well, as both times he set his glove far inside, right behind Braun’s butt.**

Mind, Kyle Lohse did hit two DBacks earlier in the game — Didi Gregorious, and Chris Owings. But Lohse barely grazed Gregorious (in fact, I’m not even sure Lohse hit him, it was that light; he got him on the pant leg), and the pitch to Owings wasn’t anywhere near as blatant as that thrown at Braun — twice.

It’s well-known that Kirk Gibson does not like Ryan Braun, and blames Braun for the DBacks losing the NLCS to the Brewers in 2011. (Gibson seems to think that if Braun hadn’t been taking PEDs then, the DBacks would’ve won. An odd assumption.) So having Braun go to the plate and get hit, and having the unseemly display in the dugout after Marshall quite rightly got ejected from the game, seems like Gibson planned this particular event to the letter.

The only thing that failed was in having to pitch to Lucroy one batter later. Lucroy was fired up, as was everyone in the Brewers dugout. Had Lucroy not hit the grand-slam homer, it’s possible there could’ve been some ugliness between the two teams.

Fortunately, Lucroy hit the grand slam. The DBacks quieted down. The partisans in the crowd quieted also, while the Brewers fans rejoiced. And Milwaukee won the game because of Gibson’s stupidity in loading the bases to pitch to Lucroy, incompetence (enough said) and obvious hatred of Ryan Braun.

As Braun said when asked after the game about all this:

Braun said he was anticipating getting hit at some point, just not at that point.

“We know the way the game works. I wasn’t surprised I got hit,” Braun said. “I was surprised I got hit in that situation, those circumstances — go-ahead run at second base, tying run at third.”

Any speculation that Gibson may have wanted Braun because of the PED issue brings to mind Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster intentionally hitting the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez last August after Rodriguez was suspended 211 games by MLB. Dempster was suspended five games.

Asked if he thought the drug angle figured in Marshall’s pitch, Braun said: “You’d have to ask him (Gibson). I wish him the best, hope he finds peace and happiness in his life.”

Which, really, is all Braun can say.

All I know is this: What the Arizona Diamondbacks did yesterday in deliberately plunking Ryan Braun in the butt, then fist-bumping and high-fiving the pitcher, Evan Marshall, who did it (and promptly got ejected for it), was classless, shoddy, and stupid.

No wonder the DBacks are 30-44. Because acting like that, they’ve obviously proven themselves to be losers of the first water.

———

**Note: Expect suspensions for Marshall, Gibson, and possibly Montero. Because they’ve all earned them.

Milwaukee Brewers Beat Orioles in Thriller…and other Brewers News

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Folks, last night the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Baltimore Orioles in ten innings, 7-6. The Brewers sent up Yovani Gallardo, a pitcher scheduled to start Wednesday night’s ballgame, to pinch hit for closer Francisco Rodriguez, who’d been sent out at the top of the 10th to keep the game tied. Gallardo got a ringing double, missing a home run by maybe a foot, which drove home the winning run (Mark Reynolds, who’d been intentionally walked and was standing on first base).

This was a great game for the Brewers.

They weren’t perfect, but they got the job done. Jonathan Lucroy, of all people, tied the game up with an infield single in the bottom of the ninth (Lucroy is known for his clutch hitting and currently has a nine-game hitting streak, but he rarely gets infield hits). The bullpen was stellar, again, after starting pitcher Matt Garza fell apart in the 7th (though, admittedly, an error by SS Jean Segura didn’t help matters and prolonged the inning).

Still, what did I find when I went to look at the sports section at various Internet sites this morning? In addition to this fun story, there was something much darker.

According to Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin, OF Khris Davis actually had a threat made against his life via Twitter back when the Brewers were playing the Cubs in Chicago. (This was about ten days ago, give or take a few.) Davis said he reported it to Major League Baseball, and Melvin says it’s “been handled.”

No one should threaten anyone with death. Period. Not via Twitter, and not via any other means, either. This behavior is reprehensible. It cheapens every fan, everywhere, when someone makes death threats against a player for any reason.

In short, I’d like to see some common sense when it comes to baseball fans.

Yes, criticize the players for their play on the field when they make mistakes. Definitely compliment the players when they do something right — or better yet, something unexpected, like Gallardo’s walk-off double. Go ahead and exercise your freedom of speech as much as you like . . . but do not make death threats against players.

Period.

A Quick Friday Round-up

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Folks, things continue to be very challenging around here, but I thought I’d try to catch you all up on what’s been going on with me over the past few days.

First, I just played a concert with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band on the clarinet. I was fortunate enough to have solo clarinet parts on two pieces (Gordon Jacob’s William Byrd Suite and Gioachino Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio), and my former clarinet teacher, Tim Bell — who’s been retired for several years now, but looks as youthful and energetic as ever — told me he thought I played well, which was very nice to hear.

The reason I am mentioning this concert, though, is because it was the final concert for Professor Mark Eichner, who’s been the Director of Bands at UW-Parkside for many years. Professor Eichner was my faculty advisor when I finished up my Bachelor’s degree at Parkside many moons ago, and also helped me rough out some musical compositions (Parkside did not have a composition teacher at that time, so Prof. Eichner was gracious enough to help me on an independent study basis); I couldn’t have had a better one.

The Community Band played as well as we ever have in order to salute Prof. Eichner and send him into retirement on a good note. (Pardon the pun.)

Best of all, Prof. Eichner received three standing ovations after the concert was over . . . no musician could’ve had a better send-off.

Next, I wanted to let you all know that author Dina von Lowenkraft has put up a blog for the most recent Blog Hop (called “4×4″ or “Four Questions for the Writer”) . . . please go check that out when you have time. (She had tagged me, as did Katharine Eliska Kimbriel; I discussed my own answers here.)

I am also happy to report that I read Eric Brown and Jason Cordova’s new novella KAIJU APOCALYPSE (which I discussed here) and actually reviewed it on Amazon. I enjoyed it; it’s a very quick read with a lot of action, very well-paced.

Other than that, though, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be reviewing anything over at Shiny Book Review (SBR) this weekend due to my cousin’s passing. But I should be back at it next week, so do stay tuned.

Aside from that, what’s going on with my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers? Over the past week-plus, the Brewers have lost six of the last eight; before that, they’d started the season 20-7. Their record now stands at 22-13.

This is maddening mostly because the Brewers are not hitting very well. The starting pitchers have been really good to excellent with one exception (Matt Garza, I’m looking squarely at you), and the relievers have mostly been lights-out.

Still, I’m hoping the Brewers’ bats will get it together.

Before I go, it’s time for my weekly shameless plug: if you’re interested in buying something I wrote, or something my husband Michael wrote, please go to the “about Barb” page; there are links there that will get you to Amazon so you can purchase them to your heart’s content.

Enjoy your weekend, folks. (As for me, I intend to think about my cousin Jacki and reflect on her life, which was one well-lived.)

Blog-hop Madness Coming Soon . . . and Other Things

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Folks, the inestimable writer Katharine Eliska Kimbriel has tagged me in a blog-hop called “Four Questions for the Writer.”

Then, so did another of my writer-friends, Dina von Lowenkraft — she of DRAGON FIRE fame — which is why I’m letting you all know that I will be doing this particular blog-hop.

Just not today.

Nope. Instead, I’m going to whet your appetite a little bit and give you a link to Ms. Kimbriel’s current blog post (so you’ll know what the four questions are), and when Ms. von Lowenkraft gets her questions up (which should be soon; I didn’t see it yet, but that may be more about me and my inadequate Web searching abilities than anything else), I’ll be glad to get a link to that as well.

I plan to answer these questions on Sunday . . . by then, I may have some idea of just which writers I’ll be tagging in return, so there should be plenty of blog-hopping fun to go around.

As for everything else, I’m glad the Milwaukee Brewers continue to win baseball games. They’re playing well as a team, and are bouncing back from tough losses (like Tuesday night’s twelve-inning contest, which the Brewers ended up losing, 2-1). Wednesday night’s starter Kyle Lohse looked extremely impressive in seven innings worth of work, giving up only one earned run and striking out five (he did, however, walk an uncharacteristically high four batters, but the walks didn’t hurt him).

And really, every starter with the exception of Matt Garza (who’s going on Friday night against his old team, the Chicago Cubs) has looked very good. The team ERA for Milwaukee’s pitching staff is a sparkling 2.52, and that’s despite the terrible inning Wei Chung-Wang pitched in Pittsburgh (where he gave up six runs in an inning’s worth of work).

It’s mostly because of the Brewers’ outstanding pitching staff that they currently maintain the best record in Major League Baseball at 16-6.

Finally, it’s time for a quick report on what Racine native Vinny Rottino is doing these days. As I discussed a few months ago, Rottino is currently playing in South Korea with the Nexen Heroes, and he’s actually made some baseball history over there.

See, it seems that they’d never had an all-American battery over there (for non-baseball fans, a “battery” is a catcher-pitcher combination). Until April 11, 2014, that is, when Rottino caught Andy Van Hekken — Rottino and Van Hekken were the first all-American battery in the 32-year history of the Korean Baseball Organization.

Here’s how Yonhapnews.com described it (from their English language website):

The 34-year-old, who has caught 305 games in the minors and three in the majors, didn’t look too out of place behind the plate, as the Heroes defeated the Tigers 5-2. Van Hekken tossed seven shutout innings with six hits and four strikeouts to improve to 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA.

Rottino did give up a couple of steals and threw the ball into the left field when trying to nab Kim Sun-bin stealing third.

Kim sprinted home, but Rottino caught left fielder Moon U-ram’s throw and tagged out the runner at home.

Batting ninth, Rottino went 2-for-3 at the plate, and You Jae-sin pinch-ran for him in the seventh.

All I can say is “congratulations” for a job well done — even if I’m a few weeks late off the draw. (Well, better late than never, right?)

Fines Handed Down for Brewers-Pirates Brawl — Brewers Not Happy

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Well, it’s official. Several suspensions and fines were leveled today against most of the players involved in the recent brawl between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates — and the Brewers as a whole are not happy.

Why?

Well, the guy who actually started the ruckus, Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, wasn’t given either a suspension or a fine. Cole lied when he said he didn’t swear (as I said in my previous blog, it’s obvious he dropped a few f-bombs), and that makes me think whatever he said was more than has been reported . . . because if you lie about one thing, what’s to say you didn’t lie about something else?

Not that what Gomez did was right, but why wasn’t Cole at least given a slap on the wrist?

That being said, the other strange part about it was that Pirates OF Travis Snider, the first guy who came off the bench to mix it up with Gomez, was given a lesser fine (two games) than Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado (five games). Granted, Maldonado punched Snider and everyone knows it — Snider is sporting a black eye, and perhaps that’s why Major League Baseball didn’t give him the same five game suspension.

But it still seems odd.

Next, Pirates catcher Russell Martin, who also appeared to have landed a punch or two, was only given one game, while Carlos Gomez — who didn’t land any punches as far as I could tell in my copious review of all available replay angles — got three games.

For the record, I think this is a fair assessment of Martin and Gomez’s actions. The suspensions seem reasonable.

However, the Brewers definitely do not think Gomez’s suspension is fair, and they don’t seem to believe Maldonado was punished fairly, either. Here’s what Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, as quoted by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel baseball beat writer Todd Rosiak, said earlier this afternoon:

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, like Gomez, didn’t agree with the suspensions and thought the Pirates got off too lightly.

“No, I don’t,” he said when asked if they were fair. “The guy who started it all got nothing, and I don’t understand that. So, no I’m not happy with it. Doug (Melvin) isn’t happy with it. I know they’re tough decisions, I know they have a lot to think of, they’ve got precedent, they’ve got a lot of things that go into this, but I don’t think it’s fair.”

Again, here is how the brawl went down (summarized excellently by Rosiak):

The incident began during the third inning of the Brewers’ 3-2, 14-inning victory over the Pirates. After Gomez tripled off Cole, the two exchanged words, leading to both dugouts emptying. Gomez was eventually tackled by Snider, who wasn’t even playing in the game, and Maldonado punched Snider in the face in the ensuing melee.

Martin was also involved in the scrum with Gomez, Snider and Maldonado.

Snider, Martin, and Gomez are all appealing their suspensions, while Maldonado accepted his (note that Maldonado is the only player involved in that brawl who’s actually apologized, this via his Twitter account). The only fine that anyone has actually discussed (which is officially unconfirmed, but was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney and discussed by Yahoo’s Big League Stew blog here) was Maldonado’s $2500 fine — this may seem shockingly low, but Maldonado makes the major-league minimum (or not much above that), and $2500 is a big bite out of his paycheck.

Mind, I was concerned that Maldonado might get hit with a really bad fine — something like $25,000 or even $50,000. That would hurt him disproportionately hard, as the major-league minimum is $500,000 — when you compare that to Gomez, who’s making $7 million, you can see where a $50,000 fine would hurt Maldonado much more than Gomez, or Martin (who’s making $8.5 million), or even Snider (who’s making $1.2 million — all salaries courtesy of http://www.baseballplayersalaries.com).

At any rate, my own personal belief is that Martin’s suspension is fair, Snider’s is too low, Cole should’ve been fined but not suspended, Gomez’s suspension is fair, and Maldonado’s is too long but the fine — if accurately reported and they’re not leaving a zero off the end of it — is acceptable.

Anyway, as Gomez, Martin and Snider are all appealing their suspensions and fines, it’s impossible to know what’ll happen next. It’s possible that Gomez’s suspension may be cut a game, or they might even add two for him not accepting it immediately. Snider — to my mind, he didn’t get a long enough suspension as it was, so I think his appeal is baseless, especially as he was the first guy off the bench for either team. And Martin, as a long-time catcher in MLB, certainly knew better than to do what he did . . . so to my mind, Martin’s suspension and fine will get upheld.

Why Cole did not get fined, though, is beyond me. Even a token fine would’ve been acceptable ($500 to his favorite charity, perhaps) . . . but not giving him one sets a very bad precedent.

Aside from that, I’d still like to know why Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron was thrown out of the Brewers-Pirates game, because obviously MLB did not feel he deserved either a suspension or a fine — and if he did something so egregiously wrong that he deserved to be ejected, why wasn’t he fined and/or suspended as well?

What do you think of the fines and suspensions? Let me know in the comments. (Surely this blog, of all blogs, will draw a few of those?)

Milwaukee Brewers Win a Wild One in Pittsburgh in 14; Gomez Ejected

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The Milwaukee Brewers managed to win a wild game, 3-2, against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. The game took fourteen innings, and featured the ejection of Brewers star centerfielder Carlos Gomez — a known hothead — in the third inning after he hit a triple off Pirates starter Gerrit Cole and appeared to delay his start from the batter’s box a bit. (Apparently Gomez thought he’d hit a homer, but he hadn’t.)

All very typical behavior in a baseball game, to be sure. Hitters do this all the time, and only rarely do pitchers get upset by it. (Instead, they try to get even, usually by throwing a baseball or two past the offending player’s head during the next at-bat.)

Words were exchanged between Cole and Gomez; Cole appeared to be barking at Gomez, and whatever Cole said was enough for Gomez to come off the bag, throw his batting helmet in frustration, and then charge toward Cole. Brewers third-base coach Ed Sedar went and immobilized Cole — an interesting choice — while Pirates third baseman Josh Hamilton tried to calm down Gomez.

At this point Pirates reserve Travis Snider charged off the bench and threw a punch or two at Gomez. The remaining benches cleared, with only Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen trying to keep their heads and keep everyone separated.

Before it was over, Martin Maldonado had thrown a punch that connected with Snider’s face after Rickie Weeks had Snider in a headlock, and Russell Martin threw several punches, only one of which seemed to connect (this one, perhaps, with Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron).

After all was said and done, Gomez was ejected (Elian Herrera came in to pinch run, then took over Gomez’s duties in center for the rest of the game), Narron was ejected (even though Narron didn’t do anything that I saw), and Snider was ejected.

Cole stayed in the game. Martin for the Pirates and Maldonado for the Brewers resumed their seats on the bench.

That the Brewers actually won this wild game 3-2 in fourteen innings is almost beside the point.

Yes, there were some wonderful heroics. Ryan Braun hit a solo HR in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 2, and Khris Davis, of all people, hit a solo HR in the fourteenth to give the Brewers the win.

And the relief pitching, again, was stellar — can’t ask for more from any of them, as nearly all of them are doing their jobs save Wei-Chung Wang (who wouldn’t even be at the major-league level excepting he’s a Rule 5 guy, so the Brewers have to keep him on the roster).

I’d much rather talk about the relievers as a group, or the three solo HRs from Mark Reynolds, Braun and Davis, or about Francisco Rodriguez’s 311th career save . . . but instead, what I’m left to talk about is this fight.

According to Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Todd Rosiak, Gomez explained what happened this way:

“That (Atlanta) game I know I go over (the line). But today I’m not,” Gomez said. “First of all, I hit a triple – it’s not a double – I’m not flipping my bat because I think it’s a home run. I thought it was an out. I thought it was a fly-ball out, line-drive center field. And I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, I had good contact but I don’t think it’s going out.’

“It’s not like I’m pimping a home run. Then I get to third base and somebody’s screaming at me – ‘It’s not your job.’ But everything’s over and Snider comes real angry and talks to me that way, so I responded back, he tried to punch me and everything started there. I don’t know why they’re mad for something like that.”

Then, Gomez went on to say that the Pirates had been doing a goodly amount of showboating themselves, but the Brewers said and did nothing about it. So why should the Pirates care even if Gomez was showboating (which, as you have seen, Gomez insists he wasn’t)?

That’s why Gomez insists he will not apologize. And he intends to appeal any suspension Major League Baseball intends to give him, for that matter — because he truly feels he did nothing wrong whatsoever.

Here’s a quote from Rosiak’s piece that’s from Brewers reserve catcher Martin Maldonado, the Brewers other “main offender” in today’s fracas:

Said Maldonado: “I saw Snider and Martin over Gomez. I could tell it wasn’t fair, so I had to protect my teammate. I don’t worry about (a suspension). That’s part of baseball. Whatever happens.”

Or, in not so many words, Maldonado’s saying he was protecting his teammate from being ganged up on. Period. And so if he gets suspended for that, fine.

Rosiak also interviewed Russell Martin and Gerrit Cole for his piece, and what they had to say was eye-opening in turn:

In the Pirates’ clubhouse, Cole didn’t deny giving Gomez a piece of his mind in the aftermath of his triple.

“I grabbed the ball from (Harrison) and I said, ‘If you’re going to hit a home run, you can watch it. If you’re going to hit a fly ball to center field, don’t watch it.’” said Cole. “I didn’t curse at him, I didn’t try to provoke a fight. I was frustrated and I let my emotions get the better of me and I ended up getting one of my teammates hurt.

“Not too thrilled about it.”

Snider had left the Pittsburgh clubhouse before reporters were allowed in, but Martin made it clear that the Pirates weren’t happy with Maldonado’s role in the incident.

“The fair thing would be to have our team hold down Maldonado so that Travis can go back and sucker-punch him right in the face,” Martin said. “That would be the fair thing to do. I don’t know if we ask the Brewers if they’re going to be down for that.”

I watched this game, so I can tell you for a fact that Cole did indeed swear at Gomez — Cole dropped the f-bomb a few times, in fact.

But was that enough for Gomez to go off like that?

And even if it was, should Gomez have allowed himself to get so carried away, considering he’s one of the most important Brewers on the team?

Personally, I think Gomez should’ve held his temper. He’s said in the past that he wants to set a good example for his young son, which he can’t do if he’s going to be throwing batting helmets or worse, throwing punches, no matter what the provocation.

Worst of all, the fact remains that every pitcher in the league has to know by now that Gomez is such a hothead that he can be removed fairly easily from games merely by taunting him. So if you’re an opposing pitcher, what’s to keep you from trying to “get the edge” by throwing a few f-bombs or whatever it takes to make Gomez go ballistic, which will get him tossed from ballgames like nobody’s business?

As a Brewers fan, I’m appalled that Gomez keeps having these things happen to him. He needs to learn how to hold his temper. It’s not easy, but he has to do it — otherwise his value to the Brewers is much less than it should be.

This is why, as both a person and a fan, I urge the Brewers to get Gomez into counseling before it’s too late.

Milwaukee Brewers 9-Game Winning Streak Comes to an End

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All good things must come to an end . . . something every baseball fan knows, most particularly a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers like yours truly.

You see, over the past two weeks, the Brewers had won nine games straight up until last night’s contest against the St. Louis Cardinals (which the Brewers lost by a score of 4-0). After my blog post bemoaning the Brewers’ lack of hitting in their opening series against the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers started to hit.

Better yet, Brewers pitchers kept pitching at the same high level as they had during that opening series.

And every baseball fan knows that when a single team has both good pitching and good hitting, that particular team is likely to win more games than it loses.

But a nine-game winning streak takes more than just good pitching and good hitting, welcome though those are. It also takes good defense — which, to the Brewers credit, they’ve mostly had — and a goodly bit of luck, besides. Without all of that, you don’t win nine games in a row.

So what will happen next to the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers, now that their first winning streak is over?

Well, there’s an old truism that states you’re never as good as you think you are (with the corollary, of course, that you’re also never as bad as you think you are, either). This is the main reason I don’t expect the Brewers to win ten out of every twelve games for the rest of the season — well, that, and the fact that the best team of the modern era, winning-percentage wise, won approximately seven games out of ten (that team, of course, being the 1954 Cleveland Indians and their gaudy 111-43 record in a 154-game season).

And in the past twenty years, only two teams have approached the level of the Indians’ past success — those two teams being the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46), and the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48).

So no, I don’t think the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers are likely to reach such dizzying heights.

But I do think they are likely to make the playoffs, providing Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez stay healthy.

Anyway, it’s been fun watching them play so well . . . and for the record, the main reason I didn’t talk too much about the Brewers during their nine-game winning streak was because as a true-blue diehard baseball fan, I really didn’t want to jinx my favorite team.

Realistically, I know that nothing I say matters. The Brewers are going to go out there and play the same way regardless. But I still didn’t want to jinx them . . . make of that what you will.

Odds and Ends, April 2014 Version

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Well, folks, as usual, I’ve been so busy the past week that I have barely had enough time to turn around.

Whenever I get this busy, I don’t blog much, I don’t do much other than what must be done first — editing, in this case, and glad to have the work — and everything else basically takes a backseat.

This is why I didn’t review anything last week at Shiny Book Review (SBR).

This is why I didn’t write a follow-up blog regarding the two elections that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity group threw a lot of money into . . . and it’s also why, despite the Milwaukee Brewers’ impressive sweep of the Boston Red Sox, I didn’t get back here to write about that, either.

That being said, here’s a few quick hits regarding the odds and ends I left open last week:

  1. The elections in Iron County, WI, and in Kenosha County for the Kenosha Unified School Board seemed to be largely unaffected by the huge amount of money Americans for Prosperity threw into the races. The folks in Iron County basically said in a number of televised interviews that they disliked interference from people who didn’t live in Iron County — so the money that AFP threw into the election seems to have gone by the boards. And the people in Kenosha County didn’t change their minds regarding their candidates, either . . . so it does appear, as my late friend Jeff Wilson once put it, that there is a monetary ceiling to an election where a group (or groups) can spend whatever they like, but after a certain point, people just tune out.
  2. The Brewers going into Boston and sweeping the Red Sox was completely unanticipated, at least by me. After only scoring four runs in three games and losing two out of three at home in the Brewers’ own opening series, it was particularly impressive that the Brewers could go into Boston, win all three games (including an 11th inning thriller), and actually have some clutch hits in games that mattered.
  3. What a shame that Wisconsin lost to Kentucky in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. I’m glad the Badgers did so well and got to the Final Four — that’s the one thing I got right in my NCAA bracket — but I wish they’d have had just one more game in them. (C’est la vie.)
  4. Normally after turning in a really big edit — as I did on  Saturday morning — I’d take a few days off. Right now, I can’t, because I’m looking over my master file for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. There is a reason for that: The e-book will be up on Amazon and most other major dealers on April 15 — so if you’ve ever wanted to find out what the deal is with regards to my Elfyverse or my character Bruno the Elfy, now’s your chance to set your clocks.

Later in the week, I should have at least a bit of time to get a review or two in over at SBR, and I hope to be able to talk more about baseball, or politics, or maybe even the recent decision by the NLRB arbitrator in Chicago who ruled that Northwestern University’s football players should be able to form a union, as they are employees like any other (as that last really intrigues me, but I haven’t had enough time to do justice to the subject as of yet).

But for now, all I can do is please ask you to let people know that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is coming soon . . . and if you think anyone will be interested (or even if they aren’t), tell them that my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s two stories of military science fiction about his excellent character Joey Maverick, a quiet and responsible man who is nonetheless every bit a hero, are available now at Amazon (here and here).

Even with my own novel coming out, it still matters a great deal to me that Michael’s stories find their audience, especially as, years ago, Michael had hundreds of people who said they wanted to buy them as soon as he was willing to put them out. (I don’t know where these people went, mind you. But maybe at least a few of them are still alive, and if so, perhaps they’ll discover the stories one of these years. Hope springs eternal, and all that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 7, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Milwaukee Brewers Opening Series — Heartbreaking, in More Ways than One

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The Milwaukee Brewers “Opening Series” has ended after the Brewers lost today, 1-0, against the Atlanta Braves. Today’s loss means the Braves take the series, 2-1, and that the Brewers scored only four runs in three games.

Yep. You read that right.

Four runs. In three games.

Terrible.

What’s sad about today’s game is that Brewers right-hander Matt Garza took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Garza only lost it after giving up a home run to Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson at the 6 and 2/3 innings mark — but that was all the Braves needed due to the impressive performance of Aaron Harang (who took his own no-hit bid into the sixth also) and the relievers who followed him.

Now, could the Brewers have scored some runs today? Yes, they could have. But they had only two innings in which to do so — the third, where Lyle Overbay stood on second base and Carlos Gomez had a chance to drive him in (but didn’t), and the seventh, where Ryan Braun stood on third with Aramis Ramirez on first with only one out. Jonathan Lucroy, the Brewers best clutch hitter after Ramirez and Braun, couldn’t even hit the ball into the outfield for a sacrifice fly, instead popping it up weakly to the second baseman (infield fly rule)  — then, with two outs, Ron Roenicke sent up Rickie Weeks as a pinch-hitter for Scooter Gennett, and Weeks promptly struck out.

What Roenicke needed to have the Brewers do in the seventh was this: Bunt. A suicide squeeze might’ve tied that game up, and the way the Brewers pitchers were going, we might be in extra innings right now.  Gennett was the right guy to get that done, as he has speed and his bat control last year was excellent.

Instead, Roenicke sent up Weeks. The results were predictable. Weeks did what Weeks generally does: he struck out, albeit on seven pitches. (He nearly took a walk. But nearly doesn’t count.)

Mind you, if Roenicke had just made out his lineup card slightly differently, and had put Overbay sixth instead of eighth, Overbay would’ve been up instead of Gennett (or Weeks) in the seventh. And there was a good chance that Overbay, unlike Weeks or Gennett, would’ve been able to successfully take a walk and extend the inning. With the bases loaded, anything could’ve happened.

But that’s water under the bridge, considering Roenicke for whatever reason decided to use Gennett instead of Overbay in the six spot.

What’s frustrating to me as a Brewers fan is that just a few, small changes would’ve won today’s game.

Granted, it’s much easier to manage a team from an armchair — I will admit this freely — but I do not understand why anyone would put Weeks into a clutch situation. Weeks has clearly lost his speed, he can’t catch up to the fastball, and his situational hitting skills are atrocious. He’s the last guy you want up in a 1-0 game with two guys on and two outs.

In fact, I’d rather have had a pitcher come in to try for a suicide squeeze — someone like Kyle Lohse, last night’s starter (who pitched more than well enough to win, providing the Brewers had just managed to score a few more runs) — than sent Weeks up there to strike out.

One thing is clear. The Brewers are not hitting yet.

But if they don’t start hitting, and soon, it’s going to be a very, very long year. No matter how good the starting pitchers are.

 

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