Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category
So far in 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers are a riddle wrapped in an enigma, then enclosed by a tesseract. (Yes, they are just that frustrating.)
Before you ask me how a riddle can be wrapped in an enigma, much less be enclosed by a tesseract, think about Jean Segura. Think about how this young man has been among the National League’s top hitters thus far, and currently leads the league with a .355 average. Then think about his main claim to fame — running the bases in reverse.
Then think about Carlos Gomez, a guy who’s never met a low, outside fastball he didn’t like to wave at. He, too, is among the NL’s league letters in hitting, something that is astonishing enough to perplex. This is a guy with a career .253 average, folks . . . yet he’s currently hitting .329. (Go figure.)
Then consider that not one, not two, but five Brewers in the starting lineup — Segura, Gomez, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez (in a limited sample) and Norichika Aoki — are currently hitting over .300 — which is astonishing. (Also, reserve infielder Jeff Bianchi, who just came off the DL, is hitting .357 thus far.)
But the rest of the team doesn’t have even a .250 hitter among them, as Yuniesky Betancourt continues to slump from his extremely fast start, Rickie Weeks’ woes continue, and Jonathan Lucroy’s bat has gone ominously silent.
Still, despite all that, the biggest problems with the current Brewers squad lies more with the starting pitching than it does their inconsistent hitting. The starting rotation consists of Kyle Lohse (1-5, 3.76 ERA), who’s pitched decently to better but has had little run support, Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.50), who’s had some good outings and some bad ones, Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44), who’s had the run support Lohse has lacked with a mostly subpar effort, and two rookies — Hiram Burgos (1-2, 6.58) and Wily Peralta (3-4, 5.94) — who’ve mostly proven that they deserve to be sent back to AAA forthwith.
Look. The 2013 Brewers have a decent bullpen, even though John Axford hasn’t truly been up to snuff. (Looking better lately, though, and he pitched a fine inning in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.) Guys like Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny (currently on the DL), Mike Gonzalez, and even the recently brought up Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) have done well, while closer Jim Henderson has saved eight games in eight chances, which is quite good.
But the 2013 Brewers only have two legitimate starters in Lohse and Gallardo. Estrada would be better off as the Brewers long man and spot starter, but as he’s the third-best healthy starter the Brewers currently have, he’s in the rotation to stay. And really, while Burgos and Peralta have both shown flashes of competence, they’ve mostly shown that neither one is ready to be a big league pitcher, day in and day out.
Complicating matters is the lack of healthy players Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has to call upon. Roenicke still awaits first baseman and power hitter Corey Hart, who is now slated to return sometime in June according to Adam McCalvy. Roenicke also awaits the return of pitcher Chris Narveson, who’s certainly a much better option even coming off major shoulder surgery than either Peralta or Burgos. (Perhaps better than both put together.)
And both Braun and Lucroy are playing despite persistent neck stiffness because there really isn’t anyone else to put in their slots. Mind you, it’s very difficult to replace someone who’s won the Most Valuable Player Award like Braun. But when no one can out-hit the currently light-hitting Lucroy, you have major problems.
Basically, I see the Brewers’ problems as threefold.
- They need two more good starters before they’re going to be able to be consistently competitive.
- They need the return of both Hart and Narveson, even if the Brewers “brain trust” of General Manager Doug Melvin and Assistant GM Gord Ash decides to keep Narveson in the bullpen.
- They need far better situational hitting than they’ve shown thus far, as it’s inexcusable to have someone hit a triple (like Lucroy did the other day) to lead off an inning but have him still standing on third base at the end of the inning because no one can figure out how to hit a long fly ball to get him home.
If the Brewers can fix all of these things within the next three weeks, they may manage to salvage their season . . . and, not so incidentally, their manager’s job.
But if they can’t fix it, someone’s head is going to roll. And that person is most likely to be Ron Roenicke, even though he’s obviously not to blame for the Brewers total inability to bunt, hit sacrifice flies, or do whatever it takes to score runs, nor is he to blame for Peralta and Burgos not being quite ready for prime time just yet.
For the latter, I blame Doug Melvin and Gord Ash. They had to know that it’s risky to start out a season with not one, but two rookie pitchers, no matter how well Peralta pitched at the end of last season and no matter how good Burgos looked in the World Baseball Classic, yet they were actually prepared to go with three rookies if they couldn’t come to a deal with Lohse or another veteran starter.
Anyway, my hope is that the Brewers will start to remember their situational hitting skills and use them more frequently. (They did a good job scratching and clawing for a run tonight, but then again, the guy hitting the RBI groundout was Nori Aoki, who happens to be the best situational hitter on the club.) That, along with some more run support for Lohse and two additional quality starters if the Brewers can somehow acquire them, can turn around the 2013 season and save Roenicke’s job.
But that’s a tall order, as every team in the league knows that the Brewers need pitching — and will make them pay high to get it.
Note: Stats had not yet been updated as that sometimes takes a few hours after a loss when I’d originally composed this blog. The records, averages, etc., have been fixed, as has the information about Corey Hart’s proposed return. (That Hart’s rehab goes slowly isn’t entirely a surprise, but as many fans have hoped Hart would return sooner rather than later — and as I’m assuredly among that particular group of fans — I’d said that I believed Hart would return on the first available date as I hadn’t yet checked out McCalvy’s blog post.)
Today was a watershed moment in American sports history, because today was the day that Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran center in the National Basketball Association, came out as gay. Collins is the first-ever professional athlete in any of the four major professional sports — hockey, baseball, basketball, or football — to come out while he’s still playing.
My first reaction: Hallelujah!
Then I read Jason Collins’ three-page, first-person story in Sports Illustrated (written with Franz Lidz). There are many relevant things here, including why Collins felt the need to come out, what his background is (he’s Christian and believes in Jesus, who promoted tolerance and mutual understanding), and why being gay is not a choice.
Instead, it’s just who Collins is, right along with his basketball ability, his love for history and the civil rights struggle, and many other admirable qualities.
Here’s a relevant quote from the third page of the SI story:
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road. Former players like Tim Hardaway, who said “I hate gay people” (and then became a supporter of gay rights), fuel homophobia. Tim is an adult. He’s entitled to his opinion. God bless America. Still, if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.
Speaking of Tim Hardaway, as Collins said, Hardaway has completely changed his opinion. Michael Rosenberg wrote at Sports Illustrated about how others have reacted to Jason Collins’ groundbreaking announcement — remember, Collins is the first-ever pro athlete to come out as gay in a major male American professional sport while he’s still an active player — and he included a quote from Hardaway:
Several years ago, (Tim) Hardaway made some harsh anti-gay comments, and the backlash was severe enough that Hardaway decided to educate himself about homosexuality. His views have changed radically. He told me he was wrong several years ago, and that gay people deserve the same rights that heterosexuals have.
Hardaway, who now works for the Miami Heat, also said this:
“If people on teams were to come out, people would get over it and accept it and move forward. I really do think that. Any sport. If one person or two people, whoever, comes out in any sport, that sport will accept it and go from there.”
My second reaction: Amen!
Then I read this story by openly lesbian professional tennis player Martina Navratilova, also at SI. Navratilova knows a great deal about professional pressure to remain closeted, as she was the first major pro sports player in any league to come out as lesbian back in 1981.
Navratilova praises Collins, which makes sense, and then gives a brief history of how difficult it’s been up until the past few years to get support in any professional sports league for gay rights, including the ability to be open about your sexuality rather than closeted. But she stumbles a bit, in my opinion at least, when she references the late, great Reggie White.
White, as any Packers fan knows, was one of the greatest defensive ends in the National Football League (see this link from Packers.com that summarizes White’s career nicely), and was enshrined in the NFL’s Hall of Fame in 2006. He was also a Christian minister, and had been raised with fundamentalist Southern Christian values. Because of this, while White loved everyone, he was not particularly tolerant of gays and lesbians and actually took part in a well-advertised TV campaign to try and get GLBT people to “cease” their homosexuality.
This was offensive, and both the NFL and the Green Bay Packers objected — but for the wrong reason as they were more upset that Reggie actually wore his football jersey in the ads than anything else.
White also could be verbally awkward, as when he went to address the Wisconsin Legislature in March of 1998. White said something about how Asians are endlessly inventive that sounded awful, like a racial stereotype, rather than the compliment he had intended. And his comments about other races, including African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans were no better.
All of these things caused White to lose out on a professional announcing gig after he finished playing football. So White did suffer censure.
White died in 2004. And at the time, he was attempting to educate himself in ancient Aramaic, as he believed that certain scriptures of the Bible may have suffered by translation — which means that he had apparently had a consciousness raising of sorts. But he didn’t get the time he needed to learn more, as he died of sleep apnea. (Here’s a link to the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Foundation, which is located in West Allis, Wisconsin.)
Now, whether this means White would’ve evolved on this issue is unknown. But I do know that in 2004, President Obama was against gay marriage. Hillary R. Clinton, while adamantly for gay rights in most senses, was also against gay marriage, as was her husband the former President. Tim Hardaway was still against gay rights (which, to be fair, Obama and the two Clintons were for), and hadn’t yet educated himself on this issue. And there were many, many people in all walks of life who said ignorant and bigoted things about GLBT Americans — so Reggie White was not alone.
Look. I met Reggie White in the summer of 1996. He was promoting one of his books, which was a Christian missive about how you need to make the most of every day you’re on this Earth and treat people with kindness and respect. I got to talk with him for fifteen or twenty minutes, without handlers of any sort, as I apparently impressed him because I didn’t ask for an autograph and just talked with him as a real, live human being. (Thank God/dess for book tours, eh?)
I related to White as a minister, and didn’t see him solely as a great football player. And White was a compassionate, caring man — he wanted to know what was going on in my life, and he gave me some advice that’s stuck with me to this day.
I truly believe that had White lived to see 2013, between his studies of Aramaic (he even was studying the Torah itself) and his knowledge of people and his love for everyone, he most likely would’ve changed his opinion. He may have even worked with Athlete Ally, which is a group of straight athletes supporting gay athletes — something that didn’t exist in 2004.
We all have to remember that when White died, he was only 43. He lived a good life. He loved God (who he couldn’t help but see as male, but also saw as all-inclusive — I know this from talking with him). He cared about everyone, and he loved everyone.
But he didn’t get to live another nine years. And in those nine years, anything could’ve happened.
That’s why I wish Navratilova had picked a still-living athlete with a homophobic stance. Because there are still quite a number of those, and with one of those she could’ve had a good, spirited and honest debate as to why whomever she’d picked is still so closed-minded in this day and age.
But as she didn’t — and as I’m a Packers fan who once got to speak with Reggie White at great length — I felt I should respond. Because it’s only right . . . White was a great man in many respects, but yes, he was flawed on this issue.
Still. He was a great man, and he is now deceased. It is time to let the dead rest, while we continue to support progress in all aspects of American life.
Folks, I’m still much more sick than well, so I hope this post will make sense. But I’m so tired of watching talking heads discuss various efforts in Washington, D.C., to curb gun violence as none of them seem to really understand what’s at stake.
What’s worse is the latest Internet meme, which goes something like this:
Right-wing gun owner (it’s always someone from the right, as if there are no left-wing gun owners, a logical fallacy): I told off a bunch of granola-eating hippie chicks at the sports bar yesterday!
Right-wing gun owner’s friend: Really?
RWGO: Yeah! I told those hippies that if an intruder was in their house, dammit, they’d want a gun and they’d want it fast!
RWGOF: Yeah? Then what happened?
RWGO: They agreed, put their tails between their legs, and left. How about that?
First off, this meme has got to go for a number of reasons.
- It states the problem in extremely simplistic terms.
- RWGO always wins, because the granola eating hippie chicks are always stupid and can’t reason their way out of a paper bag.
- There’s never any mention of those legitimately trying to curb the spread of gun violence in the United States, such as the various police departments, elements of the U.S. Armed Forces (especially the National Guard and the Army Reserve), and the Border Patrol agents . . . because guess what? Curbing illegal guns coming in from Mexico, which has been mentioned many times on Fox News and other right-wing media sources, is also part of stopping the spread of gun violence!
Look. The National Rifle Association has a much bigger media and lobbying presence than they probably deserve. And the NRA’s stated message on curbing gun violence in this country (such as what happened in Aurora, CO, in Arizona, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School) is this: “The only way you can stop a bad man with a gun is by having a good man with a gun right there.” Which is, in and of itself, an extremely simplistic message if you come right down to it.
There has to be a better way. And I’m thinking that as the United States Senate couldn’t even come up with a simple agreement on background checks — something 86% of the country supports (including most Republicans and gun owners of all political persuasions) — we’re going to have to look outside the Congress to do it.
So whom should be we looking at, if the Congress is not capable or qualified to study this issue? (Or perhaps even to ask the right questions, if the recent debate on the various amendments is any judge. Mind, I appreciate principled objection, but so many of the legislators who voted against the background check legislation seemed like the blind leading the blind.)
Perhaps we need to look at the various police departments, to start with. What do most sheriffs suggest when it comes to gun violence? Do they think background checks will help? (Why, or why not?)
Next, there is one thing most of my right-wing friends have agreed with from day one, and that’s that everyone who owns a gun should be properly trained. I think that mandating a certain number of hours at the firing range for all gun owners (but most especially new ones) might be something various state legislatures can pursue. And if you want to be stationed in a school (or you’re already a teacher, principal, or the like), taking an extra course on how to deal with pressure situations would not be amiss.
Because taking the training may at least help curb the incidents where someone who isn’t trained has a gun, and it goes off. (Like Plaxico Burress.) Sometimes, no one is hurt when this happens, but most of the time, someone is hurt or killed.
Finally, there needs to be a determination of what kinds of mental illness are the most dangerous. One of the very few decent points I’ve heard from any right-wing pundits is that mental illness is a slippery slope. Grief is often classified as a mental illness (it isn’t); having panic attacks is classified as a mental illness (which isn’t anywhere near as severe as someone overtly psychotic); someone who’s bipolar but always takes his/her medicine is still mentally ill, but has a controlled illness — and should not that person have a gun if he or she wants one?
Back to the Internet meme, though.
If someone came up to me in a coffee house, or in a sports bar, and said to me, “Hey, Barb! I know you don’t like guns, but if someone was in your house and had a gun and was ten feet away, wouldn’t you want one?,” do you want to know my answer?
“Hell, no, I don’t want one!” I’d say. “I’d rather have a baseball bat. That’s something where, even if the intruder gets it away from me, I’d at least get one good whack in — and it might even work to knock that gun out of the guy’s hand.”
Because, really. I know I don’t like guns, I’ve not been trained to use one, and even if I went and learned at a rifle range or whatnot, I’d still be way below par because it’s really not my skill. (Plus, hello? I have carpal tunnel syndrome. This wouldn’t make it easy for me to control a firearm. Just sayin’.)
At any rate, what I’m trying to get at is that somehow, the left and right are now so polarized that Internet memes, like the one I discussed before, are taken at face value by many of my right-leaning friends. And that’s as wrong as someone saying, “Background checks will get rid of all gun violence!,” something my right-leaning friends would automatically abhor (and rightly).
At this point, I don’t know what the hopes are for an honest dialogue among regular, honest Americans of all political persuasions. I tend to think that way too many of my left-leaning friends don’t know any right-leaning people (or if they do, they don’t see any value in most of what they say), and that it’s the same way for my right-leaning friends — they see very little value in whatever their counterparts on the left (or in the center) have to say.
That’s sad. That’s even shameful, considering how we as a country were founded because of a bunch of ornery dissenters.
But it’s where we’re at. And because I’ve seen this Internet meme one too many times in the past twenty-four to forty-eight hours, I just had to speak up and say, “This meme is stupid. Can’t we all use some logic, and just figure out a solution to these problems already?”
Because one thing’s for sure. Our Congress is not about to do thing one about it.
Note: This is a heavily divisive issue. Many of my friends on both sides have hair triggers and are extremely upset. I want a dialogue, something that hasn’t yet occurred at the national level — I’d like to know what, if anything, aside from better training for people who own firearms might offer some hope to those who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence.
Further note: Comments must be polite, or they will be deleted. (You have been warned.)
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.
Folks, some stories seem like broken records.
Take the story broken by Yahoo Sports through its blog “Big League Stew.” The headline reads, “MLB’s PED Vendetta Against Ryan Braun: Seeks Informants, Offers Immunity for Players Testimony.”
This article points out that Major League Baseball, in its infinite whatever, is using the Biogenesis Clinic information that has been leaked to the press as a way to go after Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun. Braun is the only major leaguer known to have successfully appealed a positive drug test, and MLB apparently just cannot handle it at all.
Instead, they wish to punish Braun after the fact despite losing their case in arbitration against Braun in 2012 — legally binding arbitration, at that.
MLB is even willing, according to an article at USA Today by Bob Nightengale (which the Yahoo Sports blog references), to grant some players immunity even if they test positive for PEDs themselves. Which seems extremely counterproductive if MLB’s interest here is in the cleanest sport possible . . . but more on that in a bit.
The reason MLB is upset is because their officials insist that Braun used performance-enhancing drugs due to a highly elevated level of testosterone in Braun’s urine sample back in 2011. Braun won his appeal in 2012 (here’s my earlier blog post on the subject); at the time, MLB “vehemently disagreed” with the decision. Later, MLB fired arbitrator Shyam Das, which looked terrible from a public relations standpoint — as apparently, the only arbitrators they want are the ones who rule in MLB’s favor.
As Ray Ratto pointed out in this column from February 23, 2012 (note that the lack of punctuation is also in the original column; the look of this has not been altered in any way save to cut out one link):
Rather than announce that Braun had won his appeal and had been found not guilty according to the procedures and protocols set up and approved BY Major League Baseball, it chose instead to swine-slap Das ruling, deciding that when they say guilty, they mean guilty.Now we dont know whether Braun hornswoggled the arbitrator, the system or nobody at all. We wont call him innocent or guilty. We will say, though, that he played by baseballs rules, he followed baseballs procedures, he went through baseballs process, and he was found not guilty.Thus, it is inconceivably bad form for baseball to scream about the result just because they wanted it to be something else.
Obviously, I agree with this assessment.
Ratto’s words, however, have proven prophetic in how MLB has behaved with regards to Braun. Take a look at this (also from Ratto’s above-referenced column):
The process is supposed to be about finding the truth, not getting the desired result. The desired result IS the truth, and baseballs system says Braun didnt do what he was accused of doing.MLBs reaction, though, shows that for it, testing isnt about determining a players guilt or innocence, its about nailing guys.”As a part of our drug testing program, the commissioner’s office and the players’ association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute, a statement from Rob Manfred, managements representative on the three-man appeals panel, read. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”Vehemently disagrees? Its your system, Robbo, the one your negotiators demanded. Is it only a good system when you win? (emphasis added by BC)
And if that’s the case, MLB is going to keep going after Braun in the same way Inspector Javert went after Jean Valjean in Les Miserables — even though it will do no good, much harm, and cause much strife for all concerned.
Look. I’ve thought and thought about this, and I’ve come to the same conclusions as in my original blog post on the Braun/PED issue:
Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007. His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.
So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).
Jumping a few paragraphs, I said back in 2011:
. . . my view is that Braun’s statistical performance was well within his own normals. So it’s very hard for me to believe that Braun actually did take anything illegal of the PED variety; because of that, and because of my admittedly laissez-faire attitude toward baseball players and legal drugs, I believe Braun should be considered innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.
And as we now all know, Braun was found not guilty.
Which makes me think that Braun had a point. He wasn’t juicing then, isn’t juicing now, and that as much as anyone’s performance can be in these days of high-tech nutrition and personal trainers, he’s as clean as they come.
Since Braun has been proven to not have taken PEDs under binding arbitration, MLB should really let it go. Because the longer they pursue this mindless vendetta, the more they look like Inspector Javert — and with far less reason than that fictional French bureaucrat of old.
My final take? I suppose it’s MLB’s prerogative to look silly, spiteful and stupid when it comes to this apparent vendetta against Ryan Braun.
But speaking as a long-time baseball fan, I wish they’d knock it off.
In the last week, two prominent politicians have come out in favor of same-sex marriage — one, of course, being far more prominent than the other.
The latter person is former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, Hillary R. Clinton, who today endorsed same-sex marriage with a video put out by the Human Rights Campaign, while the former is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Portman said his main reason for changing his stance from firm opposition to firm support is his son — who has told him he’s gay, and wants full rights to marry any partner he may take in the future.
This article from PennLive points out how difficult it’s been for Portman, the only Republican Senator in open support of gay marriage, since he’s made his stance public last week. And despite such well-known Republicans as former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Sec. of State Colin Powell also being in support of same-sex marriage, it’s far more easy for a Democrat like Mrs. Clinton or sitting President Obama to admit that he or she supports same-sex marriage than it is for any active Republican officeholder.
Why is this?
PennLive points out that Portman said:
Portman said his previous views on marriage were rooted in his Methodist faith. However, he wrote, “Ultimately, for me, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”
Yet most Republican leaders apparently met this with either stony silence or, as PennLive’s article put it, “a shrug,” while Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner actually told ABC’s This Week that he’d oppose gay marriage even if his own son was gay.
It’s hard to see this particular comment as anything except a slam against Senator Portman.
Fortunately, it’s not as difficult for a well-known Democrat to let it be known she is in favor of marriage equality.
Mrs. Clinton said that her work at the State Department, including the signing of measures meant to protect long-term same-sex couples, made her reconsider her beliefs (best paraphrase from her video for the HRC, which is available via PennLive). That’s why she, too, has now come out in full support of same-sex marriage.
And, thus far, the Democratic (or democratic-leaning) talking heads on both MSNBC and CNN seem in full support of Mrs. Clinton’s stance, which is not a surprise. The titular head of the party is the President, who is also in support of same-sex marriage (though perhaps less wholeheartedly than Mrs. Clinton).
So, on the one hand we have the Republican Party, which doesn’t seem to want to budge except for a few brave individuals like Senator Portman and several retired Republicans like Cheney and Powell. And on the other, we have the Democratic Party, which has an openly lesbian sitting Senator (Wisconsin’s own Tammy Baldwin), and has embraced advocacy of same-sex marriage as a human rights issue.
Which, to my mind, it is.
Look. This is an issue that everyone should get behind, but it may be impossible for some older Americans to fully understand. Nevertheless, if two people want to marry, and both are consenting adults, the state should allow them to marry. Not stand in their way.
And as far as the religious objections go, we have separation of church and state in our Constitution for a reason — which is why individual churches may still say no to same-sex marriage without penalty.
But it’s also why our country, as a whole, should say yes.
On a personal note, I’m very pleased that Senator Portman has been willing to publicly admit that his stance has changed. This makes me believe there’s at least some hope for the Republican Party to stop making marriage equality a partisan issue — despite well-known obstructionists such as Speaker Boehner.
There’s a scandal that’s been long a-brewing in Notre Dame . . . and no, it’s not related to star football player Manti Te’o or his fake girlfriend.
No, it’s much worse than that.
It’s about at least one rape, by at least one Notre Dame football player, that’s apparently been covered up by higher-ups at Notre Dame. It’s about that coverup, and about how the Athletic Director of Notre Dame, Jack Swarbrick, would rather discuss the Te’o situation, bizarre though that is, than the reputed sexual assault (or assaults). And it’s about the abuse of trust by Catholic priests, who are in positions of power in the Notre Dame hierarchy and are apparently much more concerned about the big money coming in via Notre Dame’s football program than any justice for rape victims.
Now, you might be asking, “Why do you keep saying ‘victims’ in this case, when only one (unnamed) football player has been implicated in the latest scandal?” Well, it’s simple. As Melinda Henneberger, herself a Notre Dame graduate, reported in the National Catholic Reporter back on March 26, 2012:
On her way back to St. Mary’s College from the University of Notre Dame, just across the street in Notre Dame, Ind., freshman Lizzy Seeberg texted her therapist that she needed to talk ASAP. “Something bad happened,” read her message, sent at 11:39 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2010. A sophomore in their dorm bolted from her study group after getting a similar message. When they talked a few minutes later, Lizzy was crying so hard she was having trouble breathing: “She looked really flushed and was breathing heavily and talking really fast; I couldn’t understand her. I just heard her say ‘boy,’ ‘Notre Dame,’ ‘football player.’ She was crying and having the closest thing to a panic attack I’ve seen in my life. I told her to breathe and sit down and tell me everything.”
Lizzy Seeberg”s story is the main one under discussion, as she reported the crime to the police. She wanted justice to be done. But then, as Henneberger’s account clearly shows, Lizzy Seeberg was pressured by various people at Notre Dame (mostly students) to drop the case.
Instead of dropping it, she committed suicide.
But Henneberger uncovered other current troubles. As she wrote later:
Lizzy wanted it to be better for the next woman. But one subsequent case, never reported until now, involved another young woman who decided that you really don’t mess with Notre Dame football. A year ago February, a female Notre Dame student who said another football player had raped her at an off-campus party told the friend who drove her to the hospital afterward that it was with Lizzy in mind that she decided against filing a complaint, that friend said.
So, did you catch that? Here another woman was raped, but did not go forward with her story because she, too, was afraid of being pressured.
Here’s another tidbit from Henneberger’s article:
One Notre Dame parent and longtime donor I interviewed, who asked that his name not be used because his daughter had reported being raped by a fellow Notre Dame student, said a top university official told him Lizzy was without question the aggressor in the situation: “She was all over the boy.”
So it’s obvious that the Notre Dame higher-ups appear to be seriously into blaming the victim. But they didn’t want to have to admit that’s what they were doing, which is why it was all innuendo, rumor and guess.
In a sense, Lizzy’s ordeal didn’t end with her death. The damage to her memory since then is arguably more of a violation than anything she reported to police — and all the more shocking because it was not done thoughtlessly, by a kid in a moment he can’t take back, but on purpose, by the very adults who heavily market the moral leadership of a Catholic institution. Notre Dame’s mission statement could not be clearer: “The university is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake.” But in this case, the university did just the opposite.
Henneberger also wrote a column for the Washington Post (her regular gig) explaining why she would not be rooting for Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship. As she put it:
It’s not only what I believe went on at that off-campus party, or in the room of the player Lizzy accused, that makes it impossible for me to support the team, though that would be enough. The problem goes deeper than that, and higher, because the man Lizzy accused had a history of behavior that should have kept him from being recruited in the first place. And as bad in my book as the actions of those young men was the determination of the considerably older men who run N.D. to keep those players on the team in an effort to win some football games.
Among those being congratulated for our return to gridiron glory is ND’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, who refused to meet with the Seeberg family on advice of counsel, and other school officials who’ve whispered misleadingly in many ears, mine included, in an attempt to protect the school’s brand by smearing a dead 19-year-old.
And that smearing was brutal. This was a young woman who volunteered her time at her local church. She was a political conservative (not that it matters). She was someone who firmly believed she should save her virginity for marriage, all according to Henneberger’s NCR report.
Yet she was called “mentally unstable.” A sexual innocent, she supposedly was “all over the boy.”
And this caricature of a young woman is something most rape victims will recognize, especially if they’ve tried to report a sexual assault at Notre Dame. According to Henneberger’s report:
In 1974, a South Bend woman who was hospitalized and then spent a month in a psychiatric facility after reporting being gang-raped by six Notre Dame football players was described by a top university administrator as “a queen of the slums with a mattress tied to her back.” No charges were filed, but the accused were suspended for a year for violating school rules. At the time, even so revered a figure as Holy Cross Fr. Theodore Hesburgh said: “We didn’t have to talk to the girl; we talked to the boys.” Hesburgh, who is 94, made that remark to Notre Dame alumnus Robert Sam Anson, who in his student days had founded the campus newspaper. Anson quoted Hesburgh in a story very much like this one, written 35 years ago.
Those who argue that, if anything, Notre Dame is too hard on its athletes regularly cite the 2002 expulsion of three players and a former player accused of gang-raping a woman, though none of them served a day in jail. But their accuser insists they were only expelled after officials failed to dissuade her from going public: “First they said, ‘No one’s going to believe you.’ ” When she went to South Bend police anyway, Notre Dame officials “treated me horribly at every opportunity. I had PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and I was afraid they [the players] were going to come after me again, but [school officials] wouldn’t let me park my car on campus because they said that wouldn’t be fair to the other students. When I tried to make an appointment with the counseling center, they called me back and said they couldn’t see me because of pending legal matters, though the legal matter they were talking about was the state versus these four rapists.”
So the anecdotal evidence is overpowering. But you might be asking yourself, why isn’t there more of a paper trail regarding all of these various accusers? (Much less a public outcry on the level of, say, the Penn State debacle of a year ago, something the Nation’s Dave Zirin wonders about as well.)
It’s simple. The town of South Bend, Indiana, doesn’t have much in the way of industry any longer. It’s economy is dependent upon Notre Dame, and to a substantial extent, on how many fans come to see Notre Dame’s football team every year.
Because of this, there’s a motive for covering things up. There’s a motive to say, “No, that couldn’t have possibly happened here,” even when it’s obvious that something bad has happened. And it sounds like from Henneberger’s exhaustive report at the National Catholic Reporter that Notre Dame, systematically, has done its level best to silence as many rape victims as it possibly can.
And I’m not the only person to feel that way. Henneberger, in her Washington Post column, talked with Kaliegh Fields, a St. Mary’s junior who attempted to help Lizzy Seeberg back in 2010. Pay close attention to what Fields has to say, as her final question is the one that’s been perplexing me ever since I started reading about Lizzy’s plight:
“I’ve watched almost every game this season and there’s not a single time that I don’t feel extreme anger when I see [the accused] on the field,” said Kaliegh Fields, a Saint Mary’s junior who went with Lizzy to the police station. “Once I start thinking about the people who put the school’s success in a sport over the life of a young woman, I can’t help but feel disgust. Everyone’s always saying how God’s on Notre Dame’s side,” she added. “And I think, ‘How could he be?’”
So after all this, you might be wondering why you should care about what’s going on at Notre Dame besides its football program. Or besides the current scandal with regards to Manti Te’o and “did he, or did he not, know that his girlfriend wasn’t real.” Or besides the fact that this one place, South Bend, Indiana, is dependent upon Notre Dame and its football program to stay alive in these uncertain economic times.
But if you have read everything I’ve posted, and honestly cannot understand why I’m hopping mad that Lizzy Seeberg did not get justice done . . . well, as Mr. T used to say, “I pity the fool.”
And the longer I think about it, the more I agree with Dave Zirin: the Notre Dame football program should be given the NCAA’s death penalty, because there’s something wrong when life becomes far less important than football.
Even at Notre Dame.
Folks, I never thought I’d have to write these words, but here they are: most blogs, believe it or not, are opinions.
This is such an obvious thing to talk about, but apparently there are people out there who don’t realize this simple fact. For example, if you blog specifically about sports, most of what you’re talking about are your opinions about what’s going on in the world of sports. Ditto for politics (except double that, and then some), current events, and just about everything else.
Yet some people are concerned that the quality of writing on the Internet is so low that it’s leading people to forget this. Take economist Graeme Maxton, for example. In his recent book THE END OF PROGRESS: How Modern Economics Has Failed Us, Maxton said on p. 76:
It is not just that much of the information on the Internet is of dubious provenance, it is that much of what is posted as “fact” is actually opinion.
Maxton also goes on to say on p. 77 that:
The Internet is a particular problem. As well as offering a cozy home for factual mistakes or a platform for those with ill-thought-out opinions, there is the diversion it provides. Studies’ show that people who read text that is scattered with hyperlinks understand less than those who read the old-fashioned printed word.
Note that Maxton does not directly reference these studies, as there is no endnote available. He also does not discuss anything specific regarding any actual studies that have been done in this paragraph, though in the next paragraph down he references a book by Nicholas Carr called THE SHALLOWS: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains that discusses the problem of hyperlinks and Web pages.
And, if you read the above-referenced paragraph very carefully, you’ll note that Maxton doesn’t point out the excellent, fact-based and fact-checked blogs that do exist on the Internet; he instead seems to paint all blogs and everything on the ‘net with a broad brush. While it’s possible Maxton was making the case that fact-based research should not begin and end on the Web due to these limitations (a completely inoffensive statement), he cheapened his argument when he didn’t admit that at least some good, hard-hitting, factually-based articles have been posted on the Web – and that some of these hard-hitting, factually-based articles have certainly been posted on blogs.
So these words by Maxton, while to a certain extent truthful, are also a way for Maxton to frame the narrative. In this case, Maxton’s narrative is simple: “The Internet is creating a bunch of morons who can’t think for themselves. Because of that, people who read blogs on the Internet may not realize they’re actually reading opinions, rather than facts. We must fix this!”
Yet that narrative, while it does contain truth, is also an opinion, is it not? (And in a hard-bound book, no less. For shame!)
That said, Maxton’s words remain prescient because there unfortunately are people out there who will read just about anything, then parrot it back without much further thought. And at least some of those will send material “viral” that may not deserve to be read by many people — or at least may not deserve to be thought of as factual rather than the opinions most blogs truly are (this blog included).
Mind you, most people who read blogs do seem to understand the difference between fact-based commentary (which can and usually does offer an opinion) and opinions.
But just in case you’re one of the people who haven’t figured that out as of yet, consider this lesson #1 in the importance of being overly obvious. Because when it comes right down to it, most blogs are opinions, folks. And it shouldn’t take an economist like Graeme Maxton to tell you so, either.