Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category
Folks, sometimes people ask me questions . . . and when I’m hunting for a blog subject, as now, I decide to answer them. (Lucky you, huh?)
The first question goes something like this: “So, Barb. Why is it that you get so hyped up about figure skating, anyway? You’re not a figure skater, so why do you care?”
Well, I care because I like to see justice done. I got upset back in 2010 during the Vancouver Olympics when Johnny Weir didn’t get the score he deserved as he should’ve won the bronze medal. So I signed petitions, formed groups, wrote to the United States Figure Skating Association (to no avail) . . . all because I felt injustice should not be a part of sport.
Obviously, I realize that nothing in life is fair. But we should strive to make our pursuits as fair as we possibly can.
And sports, in particular, should be much fairer than most other things. People spend years of their lives in the pursuit of perfection, so when inaccurate or shoddy judging — or worse, potentially corrupt judging as in the case of the 2002 Olympics — ruins the skater’s Olympic experience, that can’t help but make me take notice.
Another question: “But Barb. Seriously, Yuna Kim is a millionaire with a gold medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She doesn’t need your help, so why is it you’re so upset regarding Adelina Sotnikova’s free skate in Sochi? Will anyone really care in four years anyway?”
I don’t know if anyone will care in four years or not. But the system needs to be overhauled. Ashley Wagner was right when she said the judges should stop being allowed to hide behind their supposed anonymity . . . if the skaters must identify themselves (as they do), the judges also must identify themselves so if they get something wrong, they can be retrained — or at the very least questioned as to what happened that led to whatever wrongness that occurred.
And again, I go back to Johnny Weir’s skate in 2010. I still care about it in 2014, because justice was not served.
So it’s quite likely that in 2018, I will still care about this if justice is again not served.
Onto another topic: “Barb, who do you think the Milwaukee Brewers are going to trot out at first base this year? They didn’t sign Manny Ramirez, so who do they have as possibilities?”
Heh. The Manny Ramirez thing was something I threw in there just to see if people were paying attention, though I honestly think the man can still hit and could learn to play first base if he wanted . . . but as the Brewers didn’t sign him, here are the potential first basemen in camp at this time:
- Hunter Morris (spent last year at AAA, hit .247 with 24 HR and 73 RBI). He is a bit raw, but has power to burn and a good, solid work ethic. He’ll probably start the year again at AAA but might come up later.
- Lyle Overbay (hit .240 with the New York Yankees with 14 HR and 59 RBI in 2013). Overbay still fields well at first, and continues to have some pop. He’s been with the Brewers before, so he knows Milwaukee well. My guess would be that he starts the year with the Brewers, as Overbay also can pinch hit and is a left-handed bat.
- Mark Reynolds (hit .220 with two teams with 21 HR and 67 RBI in 2013). Reynolds strikes out a ton. He is not a good defensive first baseman, to put it mildly. But he does have some power and it’s very likely the Brewers will keep him around to see what he’ll do as some of his HRs are moon shots of the Russell Branyan variety.
- Juan Francisco (His 2013 campaign was split into two parts — he hit .221 with 13 HR and 32 RBI in Milwaukee; before that, he hit .241 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in Atlanta). He is not a good first baseman, though some of that is because he’d never played the position prior to last year. He has astonishing power potential, but strikes out a good deal — nearly as often as Mark Reynolds. It’s likely that the Brewers will keep him around, but they also could trade him if they can find a buyer.
- And finally, there’s always Jonathan Lucroy. Yes, Lucroy’s a catcher, but he played first base several times last year and was competent if not comfortable. Lucroy is a consistent hitter who’s only weakness is grounding into double-plays . . . then again, Carlos Lee used to ground into double-plays all the time and no one complained, so it’s unlikely anyone’s going to say much about Lucroy either.
One final question, this yet again on a different topic entirely: “So, Barb. Why didn’t you review any books last week at Shiny Book Review?”
This one’s easy, folks . . . as I was doing my best to get a major edit out the door for a client, I simply ran out of time.
But I’ll be reviewing at least two books this week, so do stay tuned.
Folks, over the last week or so, I’ve been riveted by the current contretemps over Major League Baseball’s suspension of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (“A-Rod”) being upheld by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz . . . albeit not for the 211 games MLB wanted. Instead of 211 games, Horowitz reduced the suspension to 162 games — the length of a major league season — and further said that if the Yankees make the playoffs next year, Rodriguez would be ineligible for that as well.
I’ve written extensively in the past about Ryan Braun’s struggle with MLB over the same issues (go here, here and here for the three latest blogs on the subject), so if you’ve read my blog before, you know what I’m about to say.
But in case you haven’t, here goes:
I don’t approve of what MLB has done in paying off witnesses like Anthony “Tony” Bosch. I don’t approve of MLB purchasing stolen documents, either. And while I don’t approve of performance-enhancing drugs in the main, I think it’s wrong for MLB to go after one person — whether it’s Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, or anyone else — with so much vigor that they’re willing to do practically anything to “get their man.”
Stooping to the defense of “we’ll do anything necessary to stomp out PEDs” is not good enough. It’s a witch hunt, just as Rodriguez has said on many occasions. And I think Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra was right when he said:
. . . I would not, if I were running Major League Baseball, have permitted my investigators to purchase the stolen Biogenesis documents. Maybe that costs me valuable information. Maybe that blows my case entirely. But I see no end result, including the possible failure to punish A-Rod, that is worth an organization under my command breaking the law, which I believe happened in this case. I also do my best to get better sourcing for the information my investigators obtained than guys named, simply, “Bobby.”
Even with the knowledge that Rodriguez could’ve and perhaps should’ve taken a much lesser suspension last spring (he apparently was offered a fifty-game suspension, this being the standard length for a first-time offender), I still believe that MLB’s actions were completely and utterly absurd — not to mention wrong.
“The ‘clear and convincing evidence’ found by arbitrator Horowitz in this case proves that non-analytical methods have an increasingly important role to play in uncovering those athletes who have breached anti-doping rules,” (WADA President) Reedie said. “Sharing information and intelligence is something WADA continues to encourage its own stakeholders to do in order to help protect the rights of the clean athlete.”
Um, even when “non-analytical methods” include intimidating and browbeating witnesses in the court of public opinion, then paying the very witnesses MLB just spent a fortune to vilify? Even when MLB is buying stolen documents of unknown veracity, then using them to back up their claims that the athlete in question — in this case, Alex Rodriguez — is guilty as sin of using PEDs?
How could any of those things ever be right, regardless of what Rodriguez actually did while a patron of Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic?
Granted, MLB wants to rid the game of PEDs — but why do it this way?
Because there is another way, and that way is called education. If you let all the players know exactly what these various banned substances do in the body — if they’re truly deleterious in their effects — that should take care of a good part of it.
And maybe that’s all MLB can do. Because as broadcaster Keith Olbermann has said many times, there will never be a way to remove everything considered a “performance enhancer.” (KO has famously referred to an player who was known to have taken monkey testosterone — back in the 1890s.)
Years ago, baseball players took amphetamines to cope with the rigors of a 162-game season, and no one blinked an eye. Then, some players coped with the same rigors of a 162-game season by taking steroids — legal and illegal — because that was the only way they knew to keep their bodies in shape to play. (Note that the first player who admitted he took a steroid — a then-legal steroid called androstenedione — was Mark McGwire, who had well-known back problems.) Finally, some players — such as the recently-retired Andy Pettite — admitted using human growth hormone (HGH) in order to recover from injuries faster.
Now, all three of those substances are banned from baseball — though there are some workarounds for amphetamines in small doses with a doctor’s prescription. (For example, some baseball players have been approved to have Adderall to treat ADHD and/or narcolepsy; Adderall is a stimulant.)
Considering MLB’s current zeal and their scorched-earth philosophy when it comes to PEDs, will energy drinks that give players a natural “high” be banned next?
Don’t laugh. The World Baseball Classic banned albuterol because it helps asthmatic athletes breathe, so it obviously gives asthmatic athletes an unfair advantage. (I hope you can see my eye-roll from there.) And MLB has banned certain types of over-the-counter cold medicines, mostly because they contain a small dose of some form of stimulant.
All I know is this: Shaming people into doing something never works. MLB needs to educate the players in order to keep them away from PEDs, rather than shame them.
Maybe then, they’d actually get what they want — a PED-free game. And they’d not look so much like villains in the process.
Folks, for the second year in a row, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, is at the center of a scandal.
Last year, of course, the big scandal was that no one was voted into the Hall whatsoever (I wrote about that here). But this year’s scandal is nearly as bad, considering — despite big names such as seven-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens being on the ballot again, the Baseball Writers of America voted only for three men — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, all first-time nominees — and ignored everyone else.
Mind you, Glavine, Maddux and Thomas were all deserving candidates. I’m glad they got in. But I’m frustrated that Bonds and Clemens didn’t even get 40 percent of the vote, all because the BBWAA would rather punish alleged steroid users than celebrate great players.
This hypocritical attitude has already forced 3,000 hit club member Rafael Palmeiro off the ballot (he didn’t get the required five percent to stay eligible), has caused former All-Stars Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s candidacies to be largely ignored despite their memorable home run record race in 1998 that reinvigorated baseball, and has caused Bonds and Clemens to wonder if the BBWAA will ever allow either one of them into the Hall, either.
And I’m not the only one wondering about this. Keith Olbermann, on his ESPN sports show last night, asked again why the BBWAA insists on behaving in this fashion. (Granted, Olbermann is much more miffed about 3,000 hit club member Craig Biggio once again falling short of the Hall, this time by a mere two votes, than by the exclusions of Clemens or Bonds. But the point is much the same.) Olbermann believes at bare minimum that the BBWAA should allow voters to vote for more than ten people, the current maximum.
Here’s a sample of a few other good blogs on the subject, the first coming from writer Jonathan Weber at The Ballclub, a blog devoted to the New York Mets that in this case discusses the case for catcher Mike Piazza in detail:
But once again, the argument revolves around who didn’t get in, and central among the snubbed is Mike Piazza. Piazza’s credentials don’t need to be discussed. Neither do those for the similarly snubbed Craig Biggio or any of the others who probably should be taking their rightful place in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls.
The issue obviously lies in the voting process, and how those 571 individuals choose to cast their votes. It becomes, then, a rather subjective process and a bias against certain players who might have rubbed one, or several, of those 571 the wrong way. Or, however many of those 571 that choose to vote based on some archaic principle that only makes sense to them. Invariably, we get stories like the ballot holder from Los Angeles who voted for Jack Morris—and nobody else. Of course, what ends up happening is that Craig Biggio, who should be a Hall of Famer whether you feel he’s a compiler or not, falls 0.2% shy of election, and Mike Piazza falls 12.8% short.
Neither Biggio or Piazza has been specifically implicated of any wrongdoing. . . Piazza’s problem is basically guilt by association—though he’s never failed a drug test and never been specifically implicated for steroid use, he’s of that era so the suspicion will follow whether he’s guilty or not. At this point, if you haven’t gotten a smoking gun on Piazza, you’re probably not going to, because there really aren’t any guns left for the players of that era.
(Emphasis and ellipsis by BC)
Imagine it is the year 2114. A young boy from San Francisco visits Cooperstown with his family. The kid strolls through its corridors, gazing with wonder at the memorabilia enshrined in glass and the bronze faces of baseball’s greatest players staring back at him along its hallowed halls. Slowly, his excitement turns to confusion.
“Dad, where is Barry Bonds?” asks the boy.
The father stops, temporary stumped. “He’s not here,” he responds carefully. “Barry Bonds is not allowed to be in here.”
This confuses the boy even more . . .
Is this really the kind of conversation we want in the corridors of Cooperstown 100 years from now? Apparently the writers charged with voting players into the Hall of Fame do, as they used yesterday’s election ballot to strongly rebuke several players of the PED generation . . . (including) Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.
(Links to Baseball Reference removed because they’re already extant in this article, and ellipses added to condense quote — BC)
As one side seethed about the indignity of Greg Maddux failing to show up on 16 Hall of Fame ballots and another side bellowed about the shame of Dan Le Batard giving his vote to Deadspin readers and another wallowed in the misery of Craig Biggio falling two votes shy of induction and the entire operation reached levels of rage and fulmination and wrath that have turned sports debate today into the modern-day Cuyahoga, a conflagrant river of pollution, a harrowing fact fell to the background.
The man who may be the greatest hitter ever and the man who may be the greatest pitcher ever are going backward in their efforts to join the Hall in which they belong.
If Passan, a man who’s seething hatred of Brewers OF Ryan Braun is already legendary due to Braun’s PED use (and subsequent cover-up of same), can say this, why can’t the rest of the baseball writers?
Oh, wait. At least a few have, including Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt, who admitted to voting for Bonds, Clemens, and a number of others (he didn’t vote for Palmeiro as Palmeiro failed a drug test).
But it’s obvious that many in the BBWAA are retaliating against supposed PED users, though there’s another factor in play — that ten-vote rule — that Haudricourt discusses here.
My view is simple. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Piazza, and Biggio are all clearly Hall of Famers and should’ve been elected into the Hall right away. But because the BBWAA seems to want to be punitive, these men aren’t getting into the Hall.
How do you fix this? Olbermann’s suggestions (referenced in this article by the Washington Post) of adding people like Bill James, some sportscasters like Vin Scully (perhaps Brewers-own sportscaster Bob Uecker might qualify for a vote due to his fifty-plus years in baseball?), and even a fan vote counting for one percent overall sound like a step in the right direction.
But one thing is clear: this must be fixed.
Because this is wrong.
Folks, I’m glad that editor C.C. Finlay said in his post announcing his guest editorship for the July/August issue of the greatly respected Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF for short) that he wanted to see some humor, because that’s what I do best. And after first readying the other story for F&SF (all I can tell you is that it’s science fiction, as that one’s off to the Writers of the Future contest, as I said before), I wasn’t sure what I could polish up in time to send, under the circumstances.
Then I remembered the baseball story.
I wrote the baseball story a couple of years ago for a humor anthology. It didn’t work for the editor of that anthology, possibly because it was shorter than I’d envisioned and cut it down to fit the anthology requirements. But once I’d fleshed it out, I sent it to a few of my writer-friends . . . and they laughed.
Mission accomplished, right?
Well, partially. You still have to make sure you send in a clean manuscript, which is why the “dusting and polishing” phase is mandatory, and you have to make sure you conform to whatever the formatting is the editor in question wants.
Here, that was not onerous; the editor wanted more-or-less standard formatting (double-spaced, Times New Roman or another font that’s unobtrusive, identifying marks as appropriate in case the story is printed out and the pages get separated, etc.). But sometimes it can be really interesting to get to that last phase — for example, if an editor wants a single-spaced manuscript with underlines around italics (yes, I’ve seen this, and as it’s actually how I tend to write e-mail because I’ve been writing e-mail since the Internet was first popularized — don’t tell anyone I’m actually that old, will you?), you have to give the editor what he wants or you have zero shot to sell a story to him.
Anyway, the baseball story is off — and in case you’re wondering, it’s because of working on not one but two stories this past week that I wasn’t able to review anything over at Shiny Book Review. So do look for a book review (or maybe two, if I’m feeling ambitious) late next week . . . just in time for the deep freeze gripping much of the United States (and most definitely my home state of Wisconsin) to ease up a trifle.
So if you live anywhere in the frigid zone, do what I plan to do: Stay home, put up your feet, watch the Green Bay Packers game later today, then read several good books. That’s by far your safest option . . .
. . . but if you must go out, be sensible and have an emergency kit along for the ride (at bare minimum, the kit should include a blanket, some water, and some food in case of emergencies; if you have a candle, bring that along as well).
Folks, after Racine native Vinny Rottino’s injury-plagued 2013 campaign in Japan, I was concerned. Then when I deduced that he was given his outright release by the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese Professional Baseball League, I really started to worry about where Rottino was going to play in 2014 — or if he was even going to find a team to play for at all.
Mind, I say “deduced” because most of the Japanese baseball sites have to be translated to be useable. The translations can be dicey — for example, I’ve seen a walk called a “dead ball” in Japanese translation, and some of the other stats can be just as interesting to figure out.
What wasn’t hard to figure out, though, were Rottino’s 2013 stats: 37 games played, 111 plate appearances, a .206 batting average . . . the four homers, the eight RBI, and the single stolen base notwithstanding, this obviously was not the year Rottino was hoping to have in Japan.
Despite Rottino’s talent, he’s now 33 years old; yes, he plays the infield, the outfield, and catches — which is a very rare skill set. He’s good at all of them, too, and had a stellar Triple-A career, being named to the Triple-A All-Star team several times (most recently in 2011 while in the Florida Marlins organization).
But the timing was never right for Rottino; while with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, Rottino never got a chance to play regularly – despite being the Brewers minor league player of the year in 2004.
And Rottino seems to need to play regularly to be successful, as has been shown over and over in his minor league career. (Not that this is any real surprise, of course; most baseball players are like anyone else. You do much better at something if you are able to do it every day rather than once in a great while.)
Watching Rottino continue his baseball career is both inspirational and frustrating — inspirational because he has refused to give up (for which I applaud him), but frustrating because he obviously has the talent to succeed . . . but time is no longer on his side.
At the age of 33, it gets harder and harder for any baseball player to find teams willing to pay him to play. And in Rottino’s case, the major leagues are now out of reach. Japan didn’t work for him, partly due to an ill-timed injury (then again, when are injuries ever convenient?). So I didn’t know what would be next for Rottino — would he end up as a coach, as the Milwaukee Brewers, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, and several other teams have expressed interest in hiring him as such once his playing career is over?
Would he end up in the Mexican League?
Would he end up taking a year off from baseball, as health-wise it might be desirable — remember, I don’t have hard information to work with, as Rottino was just too far away for me to keep a good eye on, but I do know that when you get above age thirty, injuries can be tougher to rehab. (Witness former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Corey Hart’s struggles last year as a case in point.)
At any rate, I asked a friend if she’d heard anything about Vinny Rottino, as I was concerned. Fortunately, she’d seen a wire story, which is here, about Rottino signing to play with the Nexen Heroes over in South Korea on December 10, 2013.
Rottino is in good company, as former big leaguers Luke Scott and Felix Pie, among others, have recently signed to play over in Korea. And Korean baseball has been growing in prestige lately, partly because of Shin-Soo Choo’s success in MLB.
I’m very pleased to see that Rottino will continue his baseball career in 2014. I hope he has a great season in Korea and enjoys himself immensely.
Now, as for my plea to the Milwaukee Brewers regarding their first base situation — there is one and only one obvious solution to this mess: Sign Manny Ramirez already.
Ramirez is a free agent. Yes, he’s been tainted twice with performance-enhancing drug allegations. But he can still play ball, is a power hitter, and I’m betting he can play first base with the best of them.
The Brewers must think outside the box, because every player they’d normally think about has been taken. The players I’ve heard as current possibilities for the Brewers include Tyler Colvin, who hit .241 during his 2013 campaign; Ike Davis, who’s bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the majors and had a low batting average of .205; and Carlos Pena, who hit all of .207 during 2013.
None of these players will make any difference to the Milwaukee Brewers — not one.
Whereas Ramirez is a career .312 hitter with 555 HRs, 1831 RBIs and a .411 on-base percentage. Yes, he’s now 41. Yes, he only hit .259 last year with Texas’ Triple-A team in limited playing time. But the man can still hit — witness how he tore up the Taiwanese league last year, prompting his signing to first Oakland’s Triple-A team, then Texas’s. He truly seems remorseful for his past actions. And I’m certain he could do a better job than Colvin, Davis, Pena, or maybe all three of them put together.
Yes, the Brewers should be cautious and go over his medical records. They should make sure Ramirez is clean, healthy, sober, whatever else they need to do — but they should make a serious push toward seeing if Ramirez has anything left.
Because it’s either sign Ramirez, or coax Geoff Jenkins out of retirement at this point — and while I loved Jenkins as a player, he retired five full years ago.
It’s official, Milwaukee Brewers fans — Corey Hart has signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Seattle Mariners.
While I’m extremely disappointed, I understand why this happened. Earlier this baseball offseason, the Mariners signed former New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano to a huge deal worth $240 million. As the Mariners for the past several years have been pitching-rich but offense-poor (Felix Hernandez won a well-deserved Cy Young in 2010 with a 13-12 record and a 2.27 ERA with 232 strikeouts, and the Mariners’ offense hasn’t improved since then), they needed to upgrade their offense desperately if they had a hope of maximizing Cano’s abilities as a hitter.
So . . . enter Corey Hart. As Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, Corey Hart can be a DH for Seattle, as they’re an American League club. This means it’ll be easier for Hart to meet whatever benchmarks his incentive-laden contract includes (as the specifics of Hart’s contract are not yet known, partly because Hart must still pass a physical before the contract is approved) than it would be if he were still playing for the Brewers in the National League, as the NL does not have a DH.
In addition, the Mariners traded for OF Logan Morrison, sending P Carter Capps to Miami in exchange. So it’s obvious that Seattle has majorly upgraded its offense — first they got Cano, next they got Hart, and now they’ve acquired Morrison.
One would think that the Mariners’ offensive woes will now be a thing of the past, providing Hart and Morrison (who both have extensive injury histories) can stay on the field.
Anyway, Brewers fans, while you nurse your disappointment, you may want to check out this post from Book View Cafe author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff — Ms. Bohnhoff is a baseball fan, just like me, and also like me, she’s written several baseball-themed SF stories. (Though unlike me, she’s actually gotten her stories into print. Well, the century is young and I have faith . . .)
Here’s a quick taste (keeping in mind that Ms. Bohnhoff is talking about author W.P. Kinsella and his novel SHOELESS JOE in addition to her love of the game):
One day, after years of believing that baseball was a boring game played by overweight men in their jammies, the corn fields and the thrill of the grass and the brilliant sounds of the diamond gave me that sensation, just as Ray Kinsella describes it to Salinger.
As my husband tells it, we were driving home from a nursery, having purchased a trunk load of plants for our garden. I was pregnant with our second child. Jeff turned on the car radio to a Giants game and braced himself for a wisecrack from me. Instead, I said (and this is the Gospel truth), “You know, I just realized that I love baseball!”
And I did. And do. Because the word is baseball.
Yes. Yes it is.
And it’s good to be reminded of that, even when your favorite player has just signed with a team that’s so far away, geographically, that you have next to no chance to see him play unless his new team does so well that they end up getting picked up several times for ESPN’s or MLB Network’s game of the week.
Folks, my health has delayed this blog significantly, but as I promised an end-of-the-year wrap-up talking about the World Series, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Carlos Gomez and his Gold Glove, and any significant trades, I figured I’d better get down to business and write one. Because of the rather lengthy wait, I’ve even thrown in a Corey Hart update in the bargain . . . so let’s get started.
First, the World Series did not go the way I expected it to whatsoever. I’d expected that the St. Louis Cardinals, which had been the best team in baseball over the latter two-thirds of the season, to waltz away with the Series. But instead, the Boston Red Sox played much better than the Cardinals, even though neither team was anything close to error-free.
In fact, Boston’s pitching was better; its hitting was better; even its defense was better, which was extremely surprising as the Cardinals had been among the best defensive teams in the majors all year long.
And, of course, David Ortiz had a monster World Series, hitting .688 (no misprint) to carry the Red Sox to victory in six games.
After that shocker of a Series, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Carloz Gomez of the Brewers won a well-deserved Gold Glove for his play in center field during 2013. Gomez was most definitely the best defensive center fielder in baseball, but it wasn’t a lead-pipe cinch that he’d win the Gold Glove as Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is also a very good center fielder and had a much better offensive year than Gomez. Fortunately, McCutchen won the Most Valuable Player Award, a well-deserved honor, but did not win the Gold Glove due to an increased focus on defensive metrics.
Since the Gold Gloves and MVP Awards were announced, there have been two trades that caught my attention. The first of these was the trade of Detroit Tigers first baseman (and former Brewer) Prince Fielder to Texas for the Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. At first, I was extremely surprised at this trade because of Fielder’s offensive value to Detroit, but after reflection I thought I understood it. Detroit needed better defense, which Kinsler will provide at second, and by trading Fielder it’s possible for the Tigers to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base.
But I really think Fielder would still be a Tiger today if not for his really awful postseason. Fielder looked bad defensively throughout the postseason, but worse than that, he looked as if his bat speed was not there — extremely distressing when your primary value as a player is due to your offense. Even so, he might’ve rode out all of that if not for his infamous “belly-flop slide” into third in game six of the American League Championship Series that may have cost his team the ALCS, then some ill-advised comments afterward (which I’ll get to in a bit).
Since Fielder’s been traded, it’s now common knowledge that Fielder is in the process of getting a divorce. I don’t normally comment on player divorces, but I’m going to make an exception in Fielder’s case because he and his wife were so prominent in Milwaukee.
I don’t know when Fielder was served with divorce papers, but it’s quite possible that Fielder’s “indifferent season” (where he “only” hit .275 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs and again backed up AL MVP Miguel Cabrera nicely) was made far less meaningful to him once he found out his wife wanted out. This seems like a very trite statement — and perhaps it is — but Fielder is very well known in Milwaukee as a family man, and he took great pride in his wife and two young sons while he was here. So it’s very possible that getting a divorce, for him, is much more difficult than it might be with someone else . . . not that divorce is ever easy.
In addition, Fielder wanted economic stability for his family. This was the main reason he turned down the Brewers’ offers of roughly $20 Million a season for five or six years (there were several offers, but that is the last one I remember) to go to Detroit in the first place. (Not that Fielder didn’t have any other offers; I’m sure he did. But he liked Milwaukee, found it a stable and safe place for his family, and enjoyed the family friendly Brewers clubhouse, and was known as someone who was interested in more than just the greenbacks.)
Finally, my guess is that Fielder’s psyche is a bit more fragile than it appeared. He’s a big, strong, tough man, sure — and he plays a great game of baseball. But his own father, Cecil, was not a model father — this is well-known — or a model husband. Prince took great pride in being both, and to find out that his wife didn’t want to be married to him anymore must have been devastating.
I said all this because without that context, Fielder’s comments after the ALCS was over (he said, roughly, that he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over his performance because he still had two young sons to take care of) make no sense. And fans excoriated him over it, because it sounded like Fielder just did not care what happened.
After going 9 for 40 with 0 HR, and 0 RBI in 12 playoff games this postseason, it’s understandable that Prince would be upset. But many believe his comments are crossing a line. We all know he’s going through a now very public divorce, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for yet another awful postseason.
It wasn’t so much what he said to the media post-game, but how he said them. To me, it was evident his head was elsewhere this season. Almost as if he didn’t care.
I’m not saying Prince should ignore his family issues and focus solely on baseball, but when you’re making $25 million a year, you have to be able to cope with them. And if you can’t, take yourself off the field because you’re hurting your name and your teammates. Many people go through tough times in their life, especially over the past few years in Detroit. Yet, we still go to work and get our jobs done. Why should Prince Fielder be any different?
There’s a lot of truth in what Deacon said, and I completely understand and agree with the frustration in Detroit over Fielder’s comments. But Fielder made many similar types of comments in Milwaukee long before his divorce, and we didn’t get upset with him over it.
Maybe this is because Brewers fans understood Fielder a little better, or maybe it’s just that Fielder was not going through his divorce when he was with Milwaukee.
At any rate, my view of what Fielder said is simple — as bad as it sounded, Fielder pointed out that the season was over. He didn’t want it to be over, for sure, and he assuredly wanted to play better in the ALCS. (No one, most of all a prideful professional baseball player, wants to look bad in the national spotlight.) But he has to look at the big picture, which is how he takes care of his two sons from here on out and how he rebuilds his personal life after his divorce is finalized (probably sometime late next year if Mrs. Fielder filed in Michigan and my understanding of Michigan divorce law is correct — which, admittedly, it may not be).
So had Prince Fielder still been in Milwaukee and said something like this, it’s unlikely there would’ve been as much of a furor. Instead, fans would’ve been likely to forgive him, because Brewers fans always saw Prince as one of their own and would be likely to empathize with him over his impending divorce.
Anyway, let’s get to the second trade that sparked my interest, which was of Brewers relief pitcher Burke Badenhop to Boston for low minor league pitcher Luis Ortega. Ortega is only twenty years of age, pitched in the rookie league last year, and is in no way, shape or form an equal talent to Badenhop.
Look. Badenhop did a fine job for the Brewers this year, appearing in 63 games, pitching 62 1/3 innings with a 2-3 record and a 3.47 ERA, but he was due to make more next year in arbitration than this year’s $1.55 million. The Brewers have to know that Ortega may or may not develop into a major league pitcher of any sort, as Ortega is just too young and raw to make any judgments, but they may have seen something in him that caused them to make this trade (giving them the benefit of the doubt).
My view, though, is very simple: the Milwaukee Brewers are again in “salary-dump mode” if they’re willing to jettison a proven major league reliever like Badenhop for someone like Ortega. I’m so tired of the Brewers doing things like this, especially considering Badenhop’s more than adequate year as a middle reliever — he’d only been with the team a year, did a great job keeping the Brewers in games during an exceptionally difficult season and seemed to truly enjoy playing baseball in Milwaukee despite all the ups and downs of the 2013 Brewers season. Which is why I’m sad to see Badenhop go.
One final thought — it looks like the Brewers are going to make a serious run at Corey Hart once Hart is medically cleared for baseball activities on December 3, 2013. This is very good to hear.
But I’m worried, again, that the Brewers will make Hart a low-ball offer due to Hart’s stated wish to stay in Milwaukee, especially after the Brewers jettisoned Badenhop for next to nothing. The fans need our favorites after the dreadful 2013 season, and Hart’s one of the most fan-friendly players around . . . here’s hoping the Brewers will offer Hart enough money to stay in Milwaukee, where he’s comfortable and wants to continue playing.
I know it’s early Wednesday morning, and it’s been a week since my last blog. But there’s been a good deal going on that’s taken my energy away from blogging — plus, there really haven’t been any stories that have demanded I write about them, either.
Let’s start out with the good news: The story I worked so hard on was bought. I cannot tell you who bought it yet, as the contract hasn’t been signed and the editor hasn’t made a public announcement. But I can tell you the story was accepted, and I’m looking forward to receiving the contract and signing it.
I also am nearly done with a book-length edit. I have three others in progress at this time, not counting my own final edit of the first half of ELFY, which is over 3/4 complete as of this writing. As this is most of how I make my living, it’s obvious I’ll be spending a lot of time editing in the weeks to come (as I always do).
My plans for the week include a new book review for Ash Krafton’s BLOOD RUSH over at Shiny Book Review (long-delayed due to my health), an interview with author Stephanie Osborn (it may be up next week, but I’m working on it right now), and continuing to write, edit, and comment as often as possible.
Now let’s talk about the World Series, which starts later today between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. I’ve already said on my Facebook page that I am underwhelmed by this matchup for two reasons: One, Boston is an older, veteran team without superlative pitching and thus doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to stand up to St. Louis, a younger team with far better pitching. And two, I’m really tired of seeing the same teams going year after year.
Look. I basically lost interest in the National League playoffs once the Pittsburgh Pirates were out. I really wanted the Pirates to go to the National League Championship Series because it’s been so long since they’ve been there (or to the World Series, either). I knew that Pittsburgh had the best shot of knocking the Cardinals out — and if Pittsburgh couldn’t do it, it was likely the Cardinals would sweep everyone else out of the way and go to the World Series.
Which, of course, they did.
As for the American League playoffs, I lost interest there far earlier as what I’d wanted to see was a Cleveland-Boston matchup — the old Red Sox manager turned Indians manager Terry Francona against new Boston skipper John Ferrell. But Cleveland lost the Wild Card game and was out right away.
After that, while I had a mild interest in Detroit as I wanted to see if Prince Fielder would be able to hit any better in the postseason this year (he didn’t), I wasn’t riveted. I did think Detroit would go back to the World Series because the Tigers have two excellent pitchers in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and Boston’s pitchers, while still good in Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester and John Lackey (the latter victimized by poor run support), weren’t in the same class.
However, in a short series anything can happen. Detroit was plagued by some poor defense, some baserunning miscues (poor Prince Fielder, getting caught off third base in a rundown), and just wasn’t able to handle the pressure of returning to the World Series.
My best guess as to what will happen — knowing full well guesses don’t mean much until at least one or two games have been played — is that St. Louis will win easily over Boston. (I like Boston better. But they don’t seem to stand much of a chance.) St. Louis’s pitchers are far better, they have excellent hitters and their defense was among the best in the National League all year long. I just don’t think Boston has enough to compete with the Cardinals.
The main questions remaining are: Does Boston have some fight left? Or did they use it all up getting Detroit out of the way in the ALCS?
If they don’t, this particular World Series is likely to be a yawner for all but hard-core Cardinals fans.
The 2013 season for the Milwaukee Brewers was one of intense disappointment, yet with some glimmers of hope for the future. The play of the “baby Brewers” (Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, et. al.) down the stretch was extremely enjoyable, and the starting pitchers finally rounded into form in late July to help them along.
So, without further ado, here’s my take on the Brewers’ high points, low points, and “huh, what were they thinking?” points of 2013.
The high points:
Brewers CF Carlos Gomez’s many highlight-reel worthy catches made watching the Brewers far less painful after Ryan Braun ended up getting a 65-game suspension. Gomez had his best overall season, batting .284 with 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases, and was named to the 2013 All-Star team. Gomez has a legitimate chance to win a Gold Glove award for his work this past season; if he wins, he’ll be only the second Brewers OF to win (Sixto Lezcano was the first, in 1979) and will be the first Brewers player to have done so since Robin Yount in 1982.
Brewers SS Jean Segura, in his first full-time major league season, performed extremely well with the exception of his running the bases backward (see below). Segura played well defensively at short (committing only 15 errors in ’13 versus 10 in ’12 in a much smaller sample size) while batting .294 with 12 HRs, 49 RBI, and 44 SBs, and was named to the 2013 All-Star team.
Note: Segura was easily the top first-year player in major league baseball during 2013, but is not eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award because he played too many innings for the Brewers during the 2012 stretch run.
The Brewers bullpen was the best in the league for most of the 2013, slipping only in August and September due to their season-long heavy workload. The best of the bullpen were Francisco Rodriguez, who notched his 200th overall save before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, Jim Henderson (5-5, 2.70 ERA, 28 saves in 32 chances) and setup man Brandon Kintzler (3-3, 2.69 ERA, 26 holds, 77 innings pitched). Kintzler’s success story is remarkable in two ways: One, he sustained an injury last year that resulted in him getting designated for assignment in late June — fortunately for the Brewers, every other major league team passed on Kintzler and they kept his rights and contract. And two, it wasn’t so long ago (four years, to be exact) that Kintzler was just a regular guy, pitching in one of the independent leagues to keep his baseball dreams alive and driving a limousine to support himself.
Finally, the outstanding pitching of starter Kyle Lohse (11-10, 3.35 ERA, 20 quality starts in 198 2/3 innings pitched) needs to be discussed. Lohse was signed right before the season started, so it took him a few months to get into his regular season form. But once he did, Lohse became the ace of the Brewers staff while mentoring many of the Brewers younger pitchers. Lohse’s record is deceptive due to exceptionally poor run support during June and July, which caused Lohse to get a substantial amount of no-decisions rather than wins.
Lohse’s best game was that wild win in Atlanta just one week ago, where he pitched a complete game shutout while giving up only two hits and throwing only 89 pitches. This particular effort was noteworthy because of the game’s odd start — Carlos Gomez hit a home run, then was impeded from scoring by Atlanta Braves C Brian McCann. An altercation ensued, punches were thrown (by bench player Reed Johnson, mostly), Gomez and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman were both ejected while McCann and Johnson were inexplicably allowed to continue onward. A lesser pitcher than Lohse would’ve allowed himself to get thrown by all this drama; instead, Lohse concentrated on what he had to do — and did it brilliantly.
The low points:
Oh, brother. Must I even say it? (Yes, I suppose I must.)
Obviously, the suspension of Brewers LF Ryan Braun was the biggest, baddest low point of the entire 2013 season. (See my blogs here, here and here for further details.) Braun is the best player the Brewers have; he’s a former MVP, has been named to the All-Star team several times, and was also a former Rookie of the Year. So when his season was cut short due to a 65-game suspension (after having significant time on the disabled list for a thumb issue), it couldn’t help but adversely affect the Brewers.
Once Braun had to admit that he’d lied about ever taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), he was excoriated in the court of public opinion. This was due to the fact that before the scandal broke, he had been seen as what the best of baseball is supposed to be about — a clean game played by clean players on a clean field.
(Yes, that’s hyperbolic for a reason. I’m getting to that.)
As you might expect, no one is as perfect as all that, most especially not a major league baseball player.
When Braun finally had to admit that he’d lied about taking a performance-enhancing substance (believed now to be some form of quick-acting testosterone), all Hell broke loose in the media. Jeff Passan was possibly the worst offender, writing several columns about Braun that showed that Passan viewed cockroaches above Braun — way, way above — and making a major journalistic mistake late in August when he failed to check his sources before again excoriating Braun, then having the sources roundly deny his allegations. But other respected writers like Christine Brennan and Bob Nightengale also were extremely critical of Braun (though they didn’t make Passan’s sourcing mistake), mostly because they seemed to feel a sense of personal betrayal that usually is only felt by fans, not by reasonably impartial journalists with major reputations to consider.
Nothing else — no, not even the Brewers woeful 6-22 record in May — came close.
But because there were obviously many, many other low points to consider, I’ll name just a few:
- The revolving door at first base due to Corey Hart’s knee surgeries was a major key to the Brewers’ failures, both defensively and with regards to driving in runs. None of the replacements did particularly well, with Juan Francisco being perhaps the worst of the lot due both to his slipshod defense and his propensity for swinging wildly at balls in the dirt.
- The infield defense was suspect, partially due to the gaping hole at first base. When utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt ends up playing 137 games (including numerous stints as a defensive replacement at first despite never playing the position in the majors prior to this year), that’s a sign of desperation right there.
- Second baseman Rickie Weeks’ season (.209, 10 HRs, 24 RBI, 7 SB in 10 attempts with 105 Ks in 399 plate appearances) was abhorrent. Weeks has lost what little defensive range he ever had, lost the vast majority of his speed on the bases along with his bat speed, lost most of his power . . . in some ways, it was almost a blessing that Weeks tore his hamstring because nearly every Brewers fan was calling for Weeks’ head due to Weeks’ $11M contract. It’s even money that Weeks will lose his job to rookie Scooter Gennett in 2014.
- The starting pitching in the first two months of the season was Godawful. (‘Nuff said.)
- John Axford’s early meltdown as the Brewers closer was both surprising and sad. While Axford eventually rebounded as a setup man (allowing only one ER from May 15 to July 27), he never got close to sniffing the closer’s job again due to the joint performances of Rodriguez and Henderson before getting mercifully traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
And the “huh?” points:
The first one is obvious — what on Earth was Jean Segura thinking back in April when he first stole second base, then “stole” first base and tried to steal second again?
For that matter, why did Segura make so many baserunning mistakes early in the season? It seemed like he was always getting thrown out at third, or at home, or trying to stretch a double into a triple . . . granted, Segura’s fast and smart, and he did eventually learn from these mistakes. But it was really difficult to watch him make these mistakes over and over in the first three months of the season before he finally caught on.
That gets into the second “huh” — that is, so many Brewers got thrown out on the bases that I was tempted to send them all to baseball re-education camp. (Sample re-educator dialogue: “Now, children, you don’t want to make the first out by getting thrown out due to carelessness. Pay attention to what the other team is doing, children! Don’t let your mind wander so much! Don’t run yourselves out of innings! You’re old enough to know better, really! Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention!”) There was no excuse for this, either, aside from the whole “youth and inexperience angle” that was trotted out time and time again for Segura — and as he was far from the only offender, and as the others on the team were much older than his own twenty-two years, I just didn’t understand this at all.
Why did the Brewers re-sign Alex Gonzalez, anyway? Yes, he was and is a quality individual; yes, he probably was a good role model for the younger players. But after a year on the disabled list, Gonzalez had lost his hitting stroke and was never able to regain it, and was released midseason.
Everything else from the 2013 Brewers season falls into the realms of what might have been. To name just two burning questions:
- What would’ve happened had Corey Hart not played on his bad foot during the tail end of 2012, when the Brewers were desperately trying for the second Wild Card spot? Hart’s injury to his plantar fascia was the same one suffered by Albert Pujols of the Angels this year, and the Angels quickly put Pujols on the season-ending DL. Had the Brewers done the prudent long-term thing and shut Hart down rather than taping him up to the point his bad foot was immobilized and it was hard to watch him move around in the field or bat, would Hart have ended up needing not one but both of his knees surgically repaired in 2013?
- What would’ve happened had Braun told the truth in 2012? If he’d have served a 50-game suspension then, would he have been treated like Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon rather than the pariah he’s become? And would it have made any difference whatsoever to the 2013 Brewers’ record? (It surely would’ve made a difference to the Brewers players — not to mention Brewers fans.)
So here’s to 2014, Brewers fans. And let’s hope that for all our sakes that Braun will rebound, that Hart will be re-signed and have a monster season, and that if Weeks is still the starting second baseman at the start of 2014 that he actually deserves to be.
Sometimes, folks, I just need to vent. And what better thing to vent at than our electronically driven lives?
I’ve had four things happen lately that are really vexing, but in a very slow-burning sort of way. The first one was when I took an online exam for a place of employment — this is something many employers do these days — and was told after I took it that I “must be a computer” because I’d “gone too fast to be a human being,” and was immediately disqualified from that particular job!
I still don’t know what to think about that one, with one exception: I’m obviously not a computer. No matter what that particular program thinks.
The second thing was back in August, when I played the contest “Beat the Streak in a Day” through MLB.com’s fantasy page. In case you don’t know about the whole “Beat the Streak” contest, it’s named after Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56-game hitting streak. Fans pick 57 players (over time in the regular Beat the Streak contest, but in one day for BTS in a Day) who we hope will all get hits. You can pick any position player (it won’t let you pick pitchers), providing they’re not on the disabled list, the suspended list, or are otherwise unavailable.
I saved all my picks, did everything the program said to do — and then seven of my picks somehow were not updated even though the site said they were.
When I compared notes to the picks I knew I had made, I had 43 out of 57 right. This would not be enough for a prize. It certainly does not beat Joe D’s streak, and many others came closer than I did to getting all of the players they’d picked to get hits right. But I was annoyed with this program for saying I’d only gotten something like 35 out of 57 right rather than the 43 I know I had right.
When this happened again with the BTS in a Day contest this past Friday — where I couldn’t even check to see how my picks had done because the site glitched, though I checked twice before all the picks were locked and made sure of my actual picks (I wanted no repeat of the August issue, thanks) — I was extremely frustrated, and did write to the contest to ask for an explanation.
This time, the results page said I got 36 right. I don’t have any idea if this is correct because I cannot check it; I can basically go over every player I know I picked, painstakingly (which is what I did last time), but my rough estimate had me getting around 44 or 45 right rather than 36.
I don’t know if I’ll get an answer. I don’t know if they’ll actually get my real picks right — the “results page” I got was for the earliest BTS in a Day contest back in June, I think, because some of “my picks” were Ryan Braun (who I used to pick before his suspension), Yasmani Grandal (same) and a few others like Paul Konerko who I know I didn’t pick this last time.
So that’s two and three — which means you might be wondering what the fourth vexing issue is. (Even if you aren’t, I’m going to tell you anyway. Lucky you, huh?)
It’s simple. An e-mail to me got trapped somehow in the ISP aether, and I didn’t get it until five full days after it was apparently mailed. As it was a professional e-mail — meaning it has bearing on one of my joint careers (music and writing) — this was not good.
Obviously, I couldn’t answer the e-mail until I saw it. But I didn’t see it in my inbox for five full days — and then, it showed up only as spam, which it wasn’t. (I check my spam folder every day, and I know it was not there all that time before it finally did show up.)
Because of this electronic glitch, I wasn’t able to answer this professional e-mail. And it was a time-sensitive e-mail, to boot, which makes me appear less than professional — all because of my ISP doing something really bizarre.
Mind you, this sort of thing happens far less than it used to. But e-mail, reliable though it usually is, can still go astray . . . I just have to hope that my explanatory e-mail will make sense, and that they’ll believe me that this really did happen.
Anyway, that’s four solid things that have something to do with computers, computer programs, or otherwise electronically driven oddities. And while I understand how programs can get messed up from time to time, I’m beyond tired of it.
Let me know if I’m the only one these weird things are happening to, OK? Because I’m starting to wonder if Murphy has my number on speed dial.