Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category
Folks, regardless of how poor my health is right now, there are some things that make me sit up and take notice.
Take this article from Yahoo Sports’ columnist Jeff Passan, which discusses major league baseball’s stalwart refusal to allow any pink bats with logos on them unless they’ve been acquired from Louisville Slugger itself, which has paid MLB a premium to be the only bat company allowed to put logos on them.
Mind you, the pink bats are to show support for breast cancer awareness, and are to be used this coming Sunday — Mother’s Day. Players started using pink bats back in 2006 to show their support for their mothers, wives, sisters, etc., who’ve had breast cancer. And while these bats back in 2006 were made by Louisville Slugger, there was nothing initially in the rules that said players couldn’t use bats made by other makers — which makes perfect sense.
Because this wasn’t supposed to be about the bats. It’s supposed to be about breast cancer awareness.
As Passan says (from the above-mentioned article):
Raising money for charity is often a painful process, and if a company like Louisville is willing to donate money – more than $500,000 since the inception of the program, it claimed on its Twitter feed – that is a great victory. At the same time, Louisville’s insistence on including the no-label clause for its competitors does more harm to the point of the day – increasing awareness – than its donation does good. The money is simply not worth the aggravation for any of the parties involved, particularly Louisville, which used its Twitter account to spin corporate gobbledygook about all the good it has done.
From a business sense, of course Louisville doesn’t want its competitors putting labeled pink bats in stores and claiming they’re just like the ones major leaguers swung. Then again, for such good friends of cancer research, Louisville seems far more concerned with ensuring a monopoly on that market than painting the batter’s box pink with every bat possible, manufacturer and label be damned.
The main reason this issue has come to a head a day before Mother’s Day (and the usage of the pink breast cancer awareness bats) is because Max Bat sent some pink bats to Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis (among others). And when Plouffe found out he wouldn’t be allowed to use his pink breast cancer awareness bat because it has the Max Bat logo prominently displayed (in pink), he quite rightfully got upset and said something on Twitter that he later deleted. (Mind you, Plouffe was not rude; he was just being honest, and Passan’s article has the screen captures to prove it.)
Look. This may seem like an extremely obvious thing to say, but here goes: These special pink bats are for breast cancer awareness. So why should anyone care about what specific company makes them?
Isn’t the fact that Plouffe and Markakis want to honor their mothers, both of whom are breast cancer survivors, by using pink bats in a baseball game far more important than whether or not Max Bat makes their bats?
There is no excuse for MLB to allow corporate greed to rear its ugly head on a day that’s supposed to be about breast cancer awareness.
Which is why as a concerned baseball fan, and as the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, I call upon MLB to allow any and all of its players to use whatever regulation pink bats they have — whether they’re Louisville Sluggers or not, whether Louisville Slugger paid for the “exclusive use” of the LS pink bats or not, and whether they have logos prominently displayed or not — in order to support the cause of breast cancer awareness.
Because refusing to do so is not just cowardly. It’s downright shameful.
Folks, there’s a number of things to cover, but I have only a limited amount of time to cover ‘em all. So let’s get started with a shameless plug, shall we?
Since you already know about HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, please check it out. I would really appreciate it. (Links available in the prior post.)
Next, due to my health continuing to be problematic at best, I won’t be reviewing anything at Shiny Book Review this week. I do hope to review two books by Karen Myers — good, solid fantasies about fox-hunting, dogs, and just a bit of the Wild Hunt for good measure — very soon. I also have books by Ash Krafton and Chris Nuttall that I’ve read and am pondering, but am not quite ready to review . . . anyway, I plan to review these four books as soon as I can, starting with at least one book by Karen Myers next week over at SBR. So please, stay tuned.
As for everything else . . . my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, lost a heartbreaker at home this afternoon to the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-6. The Brewers had tied the game in the bottom of the 8th on a suicide squeeze, perfectly executed by Nori Aoki, so things looked as if the Brewers might actually be able to win against the Cardinals at home. Unfortunately, when Brewers closer Jim Henderson entered in the top of the ninth, he ended up giving up a run partly because he didn’t hold his runners on base very well. Had he done a bit better at that, the Brewers and Cardinals might still be in extras right now, tied with a score of 6-6, because Henderson pitched well aside from that.
A health update: I continue to have problems with what I’ve been told are “the remnants of bronchitis.” Because I have asthma, these remnants continue to cause me to feel completely wiped out. I’m able to concentrate better, providing I continue to rest much more than usual, and I have been able to resume work on a difficult edit in progress. I’m also thinking about various stories and worked on one of them, albeit in prose notes form only (no dialogue, a couple of brief character sketches, and scene setting), earlier today.
So that’s progress, of a sort. But it is slow.
I just have to remember that even incremental progress is still progress. And that it’s important that I keep trying . . . as if I could ever forget.
Anyway, there were a number of other stories that caught my eye this week — Howard Kurtz getting fired from the Daily Beast due to a factual inaccuracy in an article Kurtz wrote about NBA basketball player Jason Collins (Kurtz said initially that Collins didn’t explain that he’d actually been engaged to a woman for eight years, which wasn’t true — in Collins’ first-person Sports Illustrated piece, Collins clearly says that he was engaged to a woman. Kurtz’s newspaper made a correction later, saying that Collins had “downplayed” his engagement instead, which makes more sense, but apparently Kurtz himself did not make this correction.), Harper Lee suing to regain her own copyright for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD due to what appears to be an unscrupulous agent giving her bad advice in order to profit himself, and, of all things, a second grade teacher in Colorado who taped the mouths of her twenty-eight students shut. She’s currently on paid administrative leave as, apparently, doing this to her twenty-eight students is not considered a crime in Colorado.
I’d love to write about those three things — any, or better yet, all. But right now is not the time, as I continue to have problems drawing a full breath. As long as this condition persists, my energy level is just not going to be what it should no matter how strong my will is that wishes it otherwise.
At any rate, all I can do is to get up every day and try my best. I’m doing that.
My hope is that I’ll be able to feel better soon and do much more of what I’m accustomed to doing — writing, editing, and playing music (I can’t do the last at all, and it’ll probably be at least a few more weeks before I can even make an attempt, considering) — rather than how I feel right now: more than a tad guilty for leaving three juicy blog subjects on the cutting room floor, all because my health just won’t allow me to do them justice right now.
Folks, as I continue to watch my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, stumble out of the gate, I have revisited a few of my baseball blogs from the past week-plus. Some of the comments I’ve made obviously were insightful — I suggested bringing up Blake Lalli, mostly because we need three catchers if two of them are likely to play due to being short-handed on the infield — but some were clearly not.
I wonder, sometimes, if this is how Brewers manager Ron Roenicke feels. Roenicke has all sorts of stats available to him that I’m not likely to ever see — even in these days of WAR (Wins Above Replacement), BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play), and other esoteric stats — and yet, he, too, can be wrong and get second-guessed. Frequently.
Now, I’m still not backing off what I said last night about Rickie Weeks. Weeks has a well-known tendency when in a serious slump to wave at the outside fastball. He’s done it for years, he’s unlikely to ever change, and because of this, he’s not the world’s best hitter to have up in a clutch situation.
Batting Weeks fourth was possibly the best choice considering the others tried at clean-up since Aramis Ramirez went on the 15-day DL (Alex Gonzalez and Jonathan Lucroy) did not do well. At least it was a change, and with change comes the possibility for better even if it doesn’t always happen.
My blog last night (the first half of it, anyway) was more about how frustrated I was that Weeks wasn’t pinch-hit for by either Martin Maldonado or Lalli, both of whom were still sitting on the bench. Maldonado has been an acceptable hitter with some power, while Lalli is a bit of an unknown quantity and might’ve taken St. Louis Cardinals’ closer Mitchell Boggs by surprise. And either of them could’ve done the same thing as Weeks — struck out on four pitches (the MLB recapper says only three, which I find odd) — but with greater panache.
That is, if panache matters in a 2-0 loss where the Brewers only garnered two hits, one by Nori Aoki in the first and one by Jean Segura in the ninth.
Speaking of Segura, I’m glad his injury wasn’t serious enough to put him on the DL. I’d called for that when I thought there was absolutely no way the Brewers would bring up another position player except by putting one of their few reasonably healthy ones on the DL; considering how Segura and Aoki are among the few bright spots on the team (Braun is hitting for contact and has a .406 average, though he took “the collar” with an 0-4 with 3 Ks last evening), it would’ve been a shame to shut Segura down.
So that’s a suggestion I made that obviously would’ve been a bad move for the team. And since I go off all the time about how I don’t understand this, that, or the other move by Roenicke, I may as well admit when a move I’d have made definitely wouldn’t have worked.
And two other suggestions I made — those of bringing Chris Capuano onto the Brewers and putting Chris Narveson back in the starting rotation for the Brewers — obviously won’t work at the moment, either. Capuano should get several weeks in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation now that former Brewers ace Zack Greinke is on the DL due to an injury to his collarbone sustained in a recent bench-clearing brawl with the San Diego Padres. (Carlos Quentin, who precipitated that brawl for the Padres, has been given an eight-game suspension. He’s appealing, so he’s still playing, but eventually he’ll have to sit.) And Narveson is on the DL with a blister on his pitching hand, so he’s obviously not a candidate for the rotation at this time.
One other suggestion I made requires more thought and far more information — that of sending Wily Peralta back down to AAA ball. Peralta had a good, solid start against the Cubs on Tuesday evening despite some horrible weather. But because it was so cold, and no one hit particularly well in that game for either side, it’s possible that Peralta’s performance looked a bit better than it actually was.
Even so, Peralta now has one terrible outing, and one good one. His ERA remains higher than it should be at 4.50 in twelve innings of work. I’m not convinced he’s the best answer over time, but he’s probably the best pitcher the Brewers have available unless they want to bring up Hiram Burgos from AAA Nashville. (Or until Capuano becomes available again down the line, providing “Cappy” can stay healthy.)
The main thing to remember with the Brewers right now, if you’re an ardent fan, is this: it’s still a young season. Anything can happen, no matter how bad things look right now. We have had some good pitching from Kyle Lohse and Jim Henderson (with relievers Figaro, Gorzelanny and even Gonzalez looking better every game) and some good hitting from Aoki, Segura, and Ryan Braun. Alex Gonzalez’s fielding all over the infield has been solid. Yuniesky Betancourt hasn’t been bad, especially considering he was a very late signee and had no Spring Training with the club. And so far, Maldonado has continued his hitting ways, as in a limited sample (four games), he’s hitting .286 thus far.
So it’s not hopeless.
Just remember, fellow fans, that it’s much easier for us to second-guess. I don’t often say something like this, because it is blindingly obvious, but here goes: Since we’re not there in the clubhouse, and we don’t know who has what nagging injury to deal with, or who may have come in hung over that might temporarily be in Roenicke’s doghouse for good reason, or who has the flu and can suit up to make things look good on the bench but can’t really play, we don’t have all the facts most of the time.
All of that said: I’d still have put in Maldonado, or maybe Lalli, to pinch-hit for Weeks last night. (I stand by that and will stick to it.) Though they are at least playing today — Maldonado’s catching for Yovani Gallardo, and Lalli is about to make his first-ever big-league start at first base — so maybe they’ll spark the Brewers to a big win.
The Milwaukee Brewers 2013 season is well underway, and there’s only one thing any observant writer can say: The Brewers look dreadful in just about every respect.
While there are some good things happening — Norichika Aoki’s four hits today (during his promotional bobblehead day), a clutch Sunday double by rookie OF-3B Josh Prince, the strong six innings pitched by Kyle Lohse on Friday, and the two good relief appearances by Jim Henderson among them — there are many more extremely frustrating things going on, which befits a team with a woeful 1-5 record.
First, and worst: The Brewers have faced many injuries already this season. Consider that half the Brewers starting infield is currently on the disabled list (DL) — first baseman Corey Hart, of course, had knee surgery back in February, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez tweaked his knee while sliding into second base on Friday evening. In addition, both prospective utility infielders, Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi, are on the DL along with backup first baseman-outfielder Mat Gamel (out for the year), while Brewers rookie starting shortstop Jean Segura sustained a bruised left thigh on Sunday and is now considered “day-to-day.”
But the most frustrating injury is to Brewers’ MVP Ryan Braun, who is out with neck spasms. While not on the DL, he’s unable to play — the closest he’s come to actually getting in a game since Friday was standing in the on-deck circle earlier today — and that means that the Brewers three best hitters are currently unavailable.
That doesn’t mean the Brewers aren’t trying in the hitting department. They certainly are. Players like Aoki, Prince, the recently signed Yuniesky Betancourt, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez are all doing their best to score runs.
Second, many players are playing out of position due to injury. Betancourt and Gonzalez between them, shortstops by trade, have played every position except second base, while Prince, an outfielder, played third base for the first time since AA ball on Sunday due to a lack of bench players.
Third, while the Brewers are carrying eight relief pitchers, half of them aren’t doing well. The worst of the lot has been closer John Axford, who has an ERA of 20.25 and a record of 0-1 (being the pitcher of record this afternoon in an eleven-inning loss) with one blown save, four home runs, and six earned runs given up in 2 and 2/3 innings pitched.
Now, it is still early, so Axford’s extremely depressing ERA is misleading. But giving up six earned runs — with four of ‘em being HRs — in less than three innings worth of work is extremely concerning. Worse yet, Axford has not looked sharp; his “three up, three down” tenth inning today is also, and quite unfortunately, misleading in that Axford gave up two fly ball outs that went to the wall (one in the deepest part of left center, the other to left) before striking out the third batter only after throwing a pitch wildly over the umpire’s head on a 1-2 count.
So, Axford has not looked good. Mike Gonzalez (13.50 ERA), who came in today in relief of Axford, has had a good appearance and at least two bad ones. And aside from Henderson, Brandon Kintzler, Alfredo Figaro and Chris Narveson, every other reliever has had at least one bad outing amidst a good outing or two.
Fourth, the starters, as a group, have also looked awful. A bad relief pitching corps could be circumvented if the starters were up to snuff. Unfortunately, the only starter who’s actually looked good to date is Lohse (with a sparkling 1.50 ERA). Gallardo (5.73 ERA) has looked, at best, serviceable. Estrada (7.20 ERA) looked awful against Arizona. Mike Fiers (10.80 ERA) had a forgettable start. Peralta (6.70 ERA) has looked overmatched since spring training.
As to who is available among starting pitchers? Well, former Brewers lefty Chris Capuano (12-12, 3.72 ERA in 2012) is a forgotten man in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, and is a better pitcher than Estrada, Fiers or Peralta. Narveson, who is in the bullpen probably because the Brewers are afraid of re-injuring his surgically repaired left shoulder, is also a better pitcher than Estrada, Fiers or Peralta. Those two pitchers would give the Brewers two lefties on the starting staff, and would at least make it harder for opposing teams to tee off on Brewers pitchers.
Also, Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.61 ERA) has already been designated for assignment by his new team, the Colorado Rockies. Harang, too, is a much better pitcher than Fiers or Peralta, and is probably better than Estrada. So if I were the Brewers, I’d certainly be willing to give Harang a look-see.
There are also two quality relievers currently without teams. One, Francisco Rodriguez, is well-known to the Brewers and is unlikely to be signed due to his 2012 struggles with the team. But the other, Brian Wilson, would be an intriguing choice — while Wilson would undoubtedly need time in Arizona in extended spring training before getting some rehab appearances in the minors, at least the Brewers would know that help would eventually be on the way.
My advice is as follows:
- Send Axford to a sports psychiatrist (if Axford isn’t already seeing one), as that may help.
- Sign Wilson, which would give Axford some competition, as Axford seems to do better when someone is seriously competing with him for the job.
- Trade for Capuano (and maybe even Harang).
- Send Peralta down, as it appears he needs more time in AAA ball, and think seriously about sending Fiers back down as well.
- And, last but not least, put Segura on the DL and call up Blake Lalli. The Brewers need a third catcher badly, and Lalli worked with the Brewers staff extensively in spring training due to both Lucroy and Martin Maldonado playing for Teams USA and Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Lalli also hit well in the spring, and certainly cannot hurt the Brewers any at this point.
The last move is necessary because the Brewers are unwilling to put Braun on the DL and obviously cannot handle having only three healthy bench players. In Sunday’s eleven-inning game, the Brewers actually had to use Lohse, the best hitter of the available starting pitchers, as a pinch hitter because that was the only move left for manager Ron Roenicke. But Lohse struck out to end the game (of course).
As it stands, though, I feel sorry for Axford. I’m sure he’s trying his best, as is everyone else on the team — you don’t get into professional sports if you aren’t interested in doing well for yourself and your team, after all. But it’s obvious that something is still not right with Axford, and my guess is that whatever is it has more to do with his head than his mechanics or his will.
I just hope he can sort it out, and get back to pitching the way Brewers fans know he can. Or it’s likely to be another long, frustrating season for the Brewers in 2013.
With the recent acquisition of right-handed pitcher Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012), the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers pitching rotation is now set.
The odd thing is, all five starters — Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Lohse, Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta — are right-handers. It’s highly unusual to go with an all right-handed starting rotation in this day and age, especially when you have a capable left-hander like Chris Narveson on your roster.
“But Barb,” I can hear you saying. “Narveson was injured last year. Don’t you remember? Season-ending arm injury, the 60-day disabled list, the whole enchilada?”
Of course I remember. But until Lohse was signed this past week to a three-year deal (the widely-reported terms were for $33 million over that time span, with some money being deferred), the Brewers’ brain trust maintained that Narveson would not be on a pitch count and would be in the starting rotation. Then, they suddenly changed their minds after Lohse was signed.
What I’ve seen out of Lohse over the years is heartening. He’s a smart pitcher, as Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said in several news reports (including this one from ESPN Wisconsin’s Drew Olson). He has a steady, even temperament that works well with other teammates and rarely riles up opponents. And he’s saying and doing all the right things thus far, which you’d expect out of such a savvy veteran.
The only possible downside has to do with Lohse’s age. He’s thirty-four. Very few pitchers have been able to pitch well for three straight years at thirty-four. But it’s possible that Lohse will do very well and buck the trend, especially as he seems to be much like former Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano with regards to work-ethic and training regimen.
The signing of Lohse was welcome, as it now gives the Brewers two solid starters in Gallardo and Lohse, along with experienced swingman Estrada (now firmly ensconced in the starting rotation). But the Brewers will still have two pitchers in their starting rotation with little major league experience in Peralta and Fiers, which is why it’s so puzzling that Narveson was put in the bullpen despite a solid spring.
Of course, Narveson is coming off major surgery. The Brewers obviously don’t want to reaggravate any shoulder problems that may not have healed properly, which might be considered a wise move considering what happened to New York Mets starter (and left-hander) Johan Santana — about to miss all of 2013 after re-aggravating his left shoulder. Many past Brewers pitchers recovering from injury — including Capuano, Ben Sheets, Mark Rodgers, and others — have been placed on pitch counts while they get back to full arm strength. And every good baseball fan knows that it’s far easier for a manager to keep a pitcher to a stated pitch count if he’s coming out of the bullpen,
This, of course, is provided that the manager doesn’t overuse the relief pitcher by calling upon him several days in a row, as doing so negates any advantage sticking to a strict pitch count could possibly bring.
At any rate, Lohse is now in the Brewers’ fold. That’s good.
But it remains to be seen what the Brewers will get out of Fiers and Peralta, especially as Peralta’s exhibition start against the Chicago White Sox last night was, to be charitable, awful. (Four runs in four and a third innings is not good by any stretch of the imagination, even if two were unearned.) Peralta actually looked so shaky in the third inning that it was surprising when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke left him out there long enough to get rocked in the fifth.
Because of how young Peralta is, I’d say he’s the most likely candidate to be sent down if he’s unable to regain the form he flashed during the Brewers end-of-the-season run toward the second Wild Card spot. Which is why if I were Narveson, I’d bide my time, and be prepared to pitch multiple innings when called upon in order to stay as “stretched out” as possible (so a spot start, or return to the rotation down the lines, is less difficult).
Because it seems to me that if Narveson does all that, he’ll be rejoining the starting rotation sooner rather than later regardless of how Peralta and Fiers actually perform.
Baseball fans will remember March 9, 2013.
Because today, of all days, the World Baseball Classic actually had a game that contained a nasty brawl. As the WBC is meant as an international showcase, and as baseball rarely has brawls, the juxtaposition of the two things did not go over well.
Here’s the situation. It’s the top of the 9th. The setting is Phoenix, Arizona. Team Canada leads Team Mexico by a score of 9-3. Canada’s Chris Robinson bunts for a base hit, which isn’t something usually done when your team is up by six runs.
This bunt upset Team Mexico. (Though perhaps the word “upset” is a bit of an understatement.)
And a brawl broke out.
As the Miami Herald’s account of the game pointed out:
Under normal circumstances, Robinson’s bunt would be considered a serious breach of etiquette and not attempted out of professional courtesy. But the WBC rules are different.
Run differential is the first tiebreaker when two teams have the same record, and with only two of the four countries in each pool advancing to the next round, chances are good it will come down to that.
As a result, piling it on is not only permitted in the WBC, it’s advised.
At any rate, Team Mexico was furious. Third baseman Luis Cruz clearly indicated to relief pitcher Arnold Leon that the next batter for Team Canada should get hit. It took Leon three tries to hit Rene Tosoni, though Leon was warned after his second close pitch that he’d be ejected if he continued to throw at Tosoni.
After that, things just went wild on the field. (To see the melee in progress, check out this link, courtesy of USA Today, for further details.)
From the Miami Herald’s account of the brawl:
Benches cleared immediately, and the situation deteriorated quickly.
Unlike most baseball skirmishes, tempers in Saturday’s disagreement resulted in fisticuffs, as a huge throng of players for both teams congregated at home plate and began throwing punches, hauling each other to the ground, and putting their opponents in headlocks.
“It’s part of the game that you don’t see all the time,” Canada first baseman Justin Morneau said. “Usually it’s just words being said. There’s not always punches being thrown. But there’s a point you’ve got to stand up for yourself.”
The upshot of the melee was that seven players were ejected: Tosoni, Pete Orr, and Jay Johnson of Team Canada, and Leon, Alfredo Aceves, Oliver Perez and Eduardo Arredando for Team Mexico. Surprisingly, the umpires did not feel that Cruz deserved to be ejected even though he’s the one who instituted the whole thing.
Then, the fans got into the act. From the USA Today’s account:
It turned ugly from the stands, too, when someone threw a water bottle that hit pitching coach Denis Boucher. Canadian shortstop Cale Iorg fired the bottle back into the stands.
Minutes later, someone threw a baseball at Walker, causing another stop in play. Whitt went to home-plate umpire Brian Gorman and told him that he would pull his team off the field if another incident occurred. Gorman went to Team Mexico and said the game was in danger of being forfeited.
The public address announcer informed the pro-Mexico crowd that any further disruption would cause a forfeit.
So, did you catch all that?
In case you didn’t, here’s what occurred: First, the pitcher for Team Mexico was told to throw at the second batter for Team Canada after the first batter had bunted for a base hit. It took Team Mexico’s pitcher three tries, but he eventually hit Team Canada’s second batter.
Team Canada’s batter went after the pitcher. (Too bad he didn’t go after the third baseman who started it all, but that’s another story.) So those two, normally, would be the only ones fighting.
However, in this case, two outfielders from Team Canada came off the bench and gleefully joined in the melee, while two relief pitchers plus one of Team Mexico’s outfielders also joined in the melee and hit numerous people, including Canada’s first base coach Larry “the Hat” Walker.
And somehow, the guy who started it all — Luis Cruz — not only didn’t get ejected, he didn’t even get fined. (Though this may change once the replays are viewed.)
The joke usually goes in hockey that a brawl was scheduled, but a hockey game broke out. It’s shocking to realize that baseball, too, can have such an occurrence happen — all because of this quirk in the WBC rules that says you need to run up the score, or you have no chance to advance in the case of a tie.
And because of one man — Luis Cruz — who was offended that Canada’s Chris Robinson did what he was asked to do by his manager, Ernie Whitt, and bunted for a base hit in the top of the ninth.
One would hope that down the line, Cruz will realize that not only was this unnecessary, it was an extremely stupid decision.
But for now, all Team Canada can do is wait to see if anyone ends up getting suspended. As Team Mexico is out of the tournament, further enforcement of WBC rules probably will not apply.
And if that seems unfair to anyone else, do let me know. Because I seriously hope I’m not the only one disquieted by Cruz’s actions.
Today, while driving around and doing errands, I finally felt the approach of spring.
What was it? (Hint, hint: if you’ve read the title, you already know.) Was it that the days are getting longer and the nights a wee bit shorter?
Was it that the snowfall we just got a few days ago started to melt today?
Again . . . no.
Instead, it was hearing Bob Uecker (along with partner Joe Block) call a Milwaukee Brewers game in Spring Training that reminded me that spring will soon be here. Uecker is a Wisconsin institution, as he’s announced for the Brewers since the early 1970s — not to mention being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, due to his skill as an announcer.
Hearing Uecker’s voice went a long way toward alleviating the otherwise cold, drab and somewhat dank day. This despite the fact that I only recognized the name of one player from last year — Alex Gonzalez, who’s trying to make the team as a backup shortstop and utility player after suffering a season-ending ACL tear in early 2012 — and only a few of the names of the prospects, either. (I recognized relief pitcher Johnny Hellweg, though — he came over in the Zack Greinke deal last year from Anaheim.)
Uecker’s voice was enough to remind me that soon, Corey Hart’s injury will be healed. He’ll join Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, Nori Aoki, Yovani Gallardo, John Axford and others, probably by the end of April (which is Hart’s timetable, not the Brewers’, as the latter is sticking to the end of May initial diagnosis until Hart proves otherwise).
And because of the recent purchase of DirecTV in the household, I’ll once again be able to watch games (perhaps listening to Uecker on the radio, as I enjoy his call of the game so much), which I hadn’t been able to do since the earliest part of 2012.
(Short answer as to why: I needed a break from TV. I got it. Now it’s back. We’ll see how it goes.)
Anyway, it’s time to give three cheers for Bob Uecker, Joe Block, and the Milwaukee Brewers — harbingers of spring.
Hip, hip . . . hooray! (Repeat as needed.)
This past Saturday (January 19, 2012 to be exact), news broke regarding the passing of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver. Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles for his entire career and had a 1480-1060 record, good for fifth-best among 20th century managers who managed for ten years or more.
But that’s not what I remember most about Weaver.
Nope. I remember Weaver as a firecracker, someone who loved to bait the umpires and held the record for most ejections in a career (with 91 regular-season ejections by most counts) until Bobby Cox later came along and broke it. (But don’t fret, Weaver fans; he still holds the American League record for ejections.)
Weaver was a great manager, don’t get me wrong. And he certainly beat my Milwaukee Brewers team more often than not, though we did win against Weaver and his Orioles in 1982 in the final game of the season. (Don Sutton out-dueled Jim Palmer in Baltimore. Had the Brewers lost that game, the Orioles would’ve advanced to the 1982 ALCS and the Brewers would’ve gone home, there being no wild cards back then.)
Here’s how Sports Illustrated described Weaver:
Anointed as “Baltimore’s resident genius” by Sports Illustrated‘s June 18, 1979 cover, Weaver was a 5-foot-7 spitfire whose irascibility was exceeded only by his tactical acumen; imagine Ozzie Guillen’s profanity crossed with Lou Piniella’s explosiveness, multiplied by Tony LaRussa’s mastery of roster usage. Weaver’s tirades against umpires were legendary; he holds the AL career record for ejections with 94. In 1969, he became the first manager thrown out of a World Series game in more than 60 years. In 1975, he was run from both games of a doubleheader in by umpire and longtime nemesis Ron Luciano, the second time during the exchange of lineup cards, then ejected again by Luciano the next day.
Mind you, Ron Luciano was one of the most colorful umpires in MLB history, and wasn’t likely to get along with someone as equally colorful as himself.
Not that Weaver was easy for any umpire to get along with. Don Denkinger said this in an article by the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports):
Former umpire Don Denkinger said he called one of Weaver’s last games in the majors.
”He comes to home plate before the game and says, ‘Gentlemen, I’m done.’ He told us the only way he’d ever come back is if he ran out of money,” Denkinger told The Associated Press by phone from Arizona. ”I told him that if he ever ran out of money to call the umpires’ association and we’d take up a collection for him. We’d do anything, just to keep him off the field and away from us.”
But Weaver had a slightly softer side. Again according to Denkinger (from the above-mentioned AP article):
Umpires found out just how demonstrative Weaver could be. Denkinger remembered a game in which the manager disputed a call with Larry McCoy at the plate.
”Earl tells us, ‘Now I’m gonna show you how stupid you all are.’ Earl goes down to first base and ejects the first base umpire. Then he goes to second base and ejects the second base umpire. I’m working third base and now he comes down and ejects me,” Denkinger said.
Much later, after they were retired, the umpire asked Weaver to sign a photo of that episode.
”He said absolutely. I sent it to him, he signed it and said some really nice things. It’s framed and hanging up in my office back home in Iowa,” Denkinger said.
I remember many games where I sat in the stands at old Milwaukee County Stadium, watching the Milwaukee Brewers play Weaver’s Orioles. Weaver was a brilliant statistician, something I didn’t fully appreciate at the time (especially as it always seemed whenever I went to a Brewers-Orioles game, the Brewers were going to end up on the short end of the stick). But he was an even better motivator, which is why he knew how to get the best out of such players as Mark Belanger (a defensive specialist who regularly hit below the “Mendoza line”), John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley.
Here’s a bit from the SI article, quoting a well-known “underground” audiotape of an interview Weaver did with broadcaster Tom Marr:
Weaver was known for assembling productive platoons, and nurturing exceptional pinch-hitters who could turn a game around. In this legendary 1980 “Manager’s Corner” interview recorded with broadcaster Tom Marr as a gag after a flubbed take — unaired but widely circulated since then (and again not safe for work) — he extolled the virtues of one of his long-time benchwarmers:
Terry Crowley is lucky he’s in ——- baseball for Chrissake. He was released by the Cincinnati Reds, he was released by the ——- ——- Atlanta Braves. We saw that Terry Crowley could sit on his ——- ass for eight innings and enjoy watching a baseball game just like any other fan, and has the ability to get up there and break one open in the ——- ninth.
Weaver believed in pitching, defense and a three-run home run (one of his most widely-shared sayings). And for the most part, he had the pitchers to back up that philosophy in Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Steve Stone, Mike Flanagan, Pat Dobson and Dave McNally, among others. He also had the acumen to move Cal Ripken, Jr., from third base to shortstop during Ripken, Jr.’s rookie year.
Weaver’s managerial record is extremely impressive. His demeanor on the field was that of a fiery Napoleon, which was fitting considering Weaver might’ve been 5’7″ on the tallest day of his life — exceptionally short for a major league anything, much less a manager.
And Weaver even has a Wisconsin connection (aside from all those games against the Brewers): He managed the Appleton Foxes (now known as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers) in 1960 to a 82-59 record and a league championship according to ReviewingtheBrew.com, and is ensconced in Appleton’s Baseball Hall of Fame for that season alone.
With all of Weaver’s potty-mouthed tendencies, he was also known as a devoted family man. He was married, only once, for forty-eight years.
With all of that color, and all of that style and all of those umpire-baiting moments (not to mention the chain-smoking and his well-known penchant for conducting post game interviews in the nude — back in the clubhouse, of course), Weaver will never be forgotten by anyone who ever saw him manage.
Now for something completely different: Brewers RF-1B Corey Hart has decided to seek a second opinion regarding his right knee issues, so surgery has been delayed. According to MLB.com, the MRI of Hart’s knee has been sent to Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, CO. Depending on what Dr. Steadman thinks of the MRI, the doctor may or may not wish to consult with Hart in person.
The Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said this in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article via Yahoo Sports about Hart’s delayed surgery:
“Until we get past this step, we don’t know what the next step will be,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said, according to the (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel. “Time is of the essence, so we’re hoping it won’t be delayed that long. It’s hard to say right now.”
My take? I understand Hart’s caution. He’s already endured one knee surgery on that knee already, and he probably would prefer not to have to go through another one. Plus, he’s in the final year of a three-year contract and has wanted the Brewers to give him an extension as he wants to join Ryan Braun as potential “Brewers for life.”
The Brewers will not even bother offering Hart an extension if he can’t play, no matter how much heart he showed at the end of the 2012 season while continuing to play on a ruptured plantar fascia. And no matter how much heart he showed by moving, midseason, to an unfamiliar position in order to better benefit the Brewers after Mat Gamel went down with an injury.
But unless there’s something really odd on that MRI, it’s highly unlikely that Hart will be able to avoid surgery.
What I’m guessing — and mind you, it’s only a guess — that Hart wants out of this second opinion is to perhaps endure a lesser knee surgery that will allow him to heal more quickly.
The current surgical plan would cause Hart to stay completely off his knee in a non-weight bearing capacity for six full weeks after the surgery. But Hart’s a workout fiend. He’s known for it. So being completely off his knee, unable to do any weight-bearing exercises, is likely to make him stir-crazy.
And when you add in the contract issues to the whole mix, I can see why Hart would rather have someone else look at the MRI in order to see if any other course of action will bring about a good result.
However, as a Brewers fan, I’d like to see the speedy Corey Hart of old return to the basepaths. That can’t happen unless he goes through the currently planned knee surgery, rests up, and then enjoys better flexibility and range of motion in his knee and foot thereby. (I know the plantar fascia issues seem to have improved, but I won’t really know how Hart can run until he’s able to get to spring training and give it a shot. Or get into rehabilitation, go to the minors and work his way up to the majors, whichever one is doable.)
That’s why I urge Hart to err on the side of caution with regards to this surgery. I know it may mean a lesser payday in 2014 if he really can’t play until mid-May or later. I know it may mean he’ll end up with a different team entirely if the Brewers are unwilling to give him a new contract (or an extension if he really burns it up upon his return).
But I want to see him healthy again, able to run the bases with greater abandon (and without knee and foot pain, natch) and to play at his full capacity.
As great as Hart’s 2013 season was (.270 average, 30 homers and 83 RBI), I believe he will feel a whole lot better once the surgery has been completed and the rehab done. And once he feels much better, he’s likely to hit even better and maybe even make a few more All-Star teams.
Let’s just hope the Brewers have the sense to lock him up to a new multi-year deal before his stock dramatically rises, post-surgery.
News broke Friday afternoon regarding Milwaukee Brewers first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart, as he’s slated to have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus this upcoming Tuesday according to this article from the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports).
Tom Haudricourt, the long-time Brewers “beat writer” for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, interviewed Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash for his Friday article (and previous blog post on the same subject). In both places, Ash said two things: one, the Brewers still have Mat Gamel on the roster. This is significant because Gamel started 2012 as the starting first baseman for the team, and only vacated that role due to a knee injury he suffered while fielding a foul ball in San Diego in late April. And two, it’s better for this injury to have happened now rather than right before the start of the season.
While both things are true — as is Corey Hart’s assertion that he’s a “fast healer,” considering how quickly Hart returned from surgery last season (he was supposed to miss some or all of April, but ended up starting Opening Day in right field just as he — and the Brewers — had planned) — this is still not a good thing.
I have nothing against Mat Gamel and think he will make a good everyday player if he’s given a chance. Gamel’s fielding in the short stretch of games he had before hitting that pothole in San Diego due to inadequate field maintenance was quite good. His hitting was acceptable for so early in the year (Gamel was batting .246). And there’s every reason to believe Gamel would’ve done an adequate-to-better job at first base.
However, Corey Hart did an excellent job at first base after being moved there midway through the season. His batting did not suffer, either, as he hit 30 home runs, drove in 83 RBI, and batted .270 (his average suffered somewhat in September due to playing on a sprained-or-worse plantar fascia, which brought his overall average down). Hart is one of the “big three” on the Brewers and is counted on along with Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez to keep the Brewers in games.
(And did I mention that Hart is a two-time All-Star? No? My bad.)
The Brewers currently have a starting rotation with only one proven, dependable guy — Yovani Gallardo — which is why it’s imperative that all the strong bats the Brewers possess be in the lineup. The other Brewers who could possibly be starting pitchers include last year’s “swingman” Marco Estrada, who filled in capably for the injured Chris Narveson; Narveson, who’s coming back from a serious arm injury and may be on a limited pitch count all year, which will limit his effectiveness as a starter; second-year starter Michael Fiers; and outright rookies Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg. These six men will battle it out for the four remaining starting pitching positions, but it’s impossible to know how many — if any — will be successful.
Let’s just say that the possible starters for the Brewers, with the exception of Gallardo, don’t exactly scare anyone and leave it at that.
At any rate, Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan’s latest column on the Brewers (a preseason lookover written before the news about Hart’s injury broke) said that Ryan Braun’s big bat isn’t enough to overcome the lack of quality starters. And that’s likely to be true.
My worry is this: How much difficulty are the Brewers likely to have scoring runs when Hart’s not in the lineup? (Because before Gamel got hurt, Hart was playing every day in right field. So it wasn’t like Gamel was taking Hart’s place — instead, after Gamel got injured, Hart moved over there and Norichika Aoki played in right field every day.)
My take? Hart will come back strong, but I hope he doesn’t rush himself. He’s in the final year of a three-year contract and will be a free agent at the end of 2013 unless the Brewers give him a contract extension, which is unlikely until he actually gets on the field and performs at a high level again.
If the Brewers do not have the sense to give Hart an extension, he needs to be at full strength in order to show the rest of the league just how good he is.
I really hope the Brewers will re-sign Hart, mind you. But I’m very nervous, as I’m afraid the Brewers might be too short-sighted to realize just what they have in Hart until he’s gone.