Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category
Some days, it’s harder than others to be a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers.
My team has never, in its forty-six year history, won the World Series. It’s won only one league championship, back in 1982 — when the team was still in the American League. It’s competed only a handful of times in the postseason, including 1981, 1982, and 1983 (banner years, truly), 2008, and 2011.
That’s been about it, for me as a Brewers fan.
So I’m used to futility. I’m used to frustration. And I’m used to the best players I’ve come to know and appreciate ending up on better teams around the league, as only a few players these days play their entire careers in Milwaukee or anywhere else.
Still, today is a worse day than many, because the Brewers have done something teams rarely do — on August 1, 2016, Milwaukee traded their starting catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, their closer, Jeremy Jeffress, and one of their best bullpen arms in Will Smith away to two different teams. Lucroy and Jeffress went to the Texas Rangers, while Smith went to the San Francisco Giants. And what did the Brewers get back? Prospects…with one exception. (And that one exception, former Giant catcher Andrew Susac, has played fewer than 100 games in the major leagues.)
Up until now, the Brewers have been better than expected. While not a world-beating team by any means, they haven’t been embarrassing, either. They’re currently five games over .500 while home at Miller Park, and their overall record is 47-56.
In fact, a few weeks ago, my father asked me, “How many more games do you think the Brewers can win?” My answer was between thirty-five and forty, as they’d been improving lately…providing Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun were not traded. (I would’ve included Jeremy Jeffress in that, but trading a closer at the deadline that’s still extremely productive is almost rarer than trading a starting catcher, so I have to admit it never crossed my mind that this would happen.)
This year has had some good surprises — pitcher Junior Guerra being one of those. So it’s obvious that David Stearns, the Brewers GM, can find talent…but so far, he doesn’t seem cognizant of the fact that fans have to have something on the field to root for.
I expected this to be a bad year, mind. I expected this to be a year where top prospect, shortstop Orlando Arcia, gained time in Triple-A, and where we’d have a shuttle going back and forth from Triple-A affiliate Colorado Springs and Milwaukee — and we have.
I did not expect this to be the year the Brewers traded away two impact players, literally minutes before the trade deadline, and then expect fans to be happy about it.
I’m sorry. I’m not into pain, so of course I’m unhappy with this move.
Do I understand it rationally? Sure.
Do I appreciate it emotionally? Oh, Hell no.
And will I watch games? Yes, but quite frankly, I won’t expect very much…especially with the new closer almost certainly to be Tyler Thornburg. (I like him, but is he closer material?) And with the new starting catcher being defensive whiz Martin Maldonado…
All I can say is this: Dammit. (In lieu of a blue streak of profanity that none of you need to hear, or see, or that I need to say.)
And, of course, I need to add this, specifically to Lucroy, Jeffress, and Smith: Good luck to all three of you. May your teams go to the playoffs, and may you enjoy excellent careers. And someday, remember the fans in Milwaukee, still waiting for our day in the sun…and that we remain in your corner.
Folks, I’m frustrated right now. I just read the story of former major league baseball sideline reporter Emily Austen (see link here from the story at AOL: http://www.aol.com/article/2016/06/10/mlb-sideline-reporter-fired-after-making-several-inappropriate-c/21393140/), who said a number of derogatory things during a social media video. This video was made on the Barstool Sports Live Facebook broadcast, and while I don’t like any of the things Ms. Austen said, none of them were so abhorrent to my mind as warranting her immediate dismissal from her sideline duties without at least giving her a chance to rectify her error.
Here’s a bit from the Business Insider story (carried at AOL at the address above):
During the broadcast, Austen made several racist and anti-Semitic comments. At one point, she said she “didn’t even know Mexicans were that smart,” then later said that everyone knows the “Chinese guy is always the smartest guy in math class.” While recalling stories from when she worked as a bartender, she called Jewish people “stingy.” She also referred to Kevin Love as a “little b—-.”
Edited to add:
I haven’t a clue why any sportscaster, male or female, worth her salt wouldn’t realize that when the camera is on, she has to watch what she says. With a beer, without a beer, she should be professional.
Much of what she said is insensitive at best, outright racist at worst. (Saying that she “didn’t even know that Mexicans were that smart” is ludicrous. Doesn’t she know any history at all?)
I don’t approve of this behavior. At all. But I also don’t understand why a male sportscaster like Curt Schilling, formerly of ESPN, was given chance after chance to rectify his own public off-the-job comments before he finally was booted out.
Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…
I am not a fan of this sort of behavior, folks. But I also don’t think it’s something that warrants an immediate dismissal.
Consider, please, that Ms. Austen was probably having a beer. She was off-duty, discussing her job as a sideline reporter for both the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and for the Orlando Magic (NBA), and was probably trying to make “good copy” for the folks on Barstool Sports. Male sports personalities push the envelope all the time, and only get suspensions, at best…yet Ms. Austen got the axe right away, without any possibility of coming back to say, “I know I went too far. I’m sorry.”
Note that to my mind, especially out of context, I don’t have a problem with her saying these obnoxious things as much as I have a problem with her being immediately booted from her job without any possibility of correcting the obnoxious things she said.
I’d only fire Ms. Austen if she refused to try to correct any of this. (What she said about the Asian guy in math class, while not necessarily a bad thing, is still a stereotype. My Japanese-American friend would be happy to tell you all about how much effort she put into her studies; she loved school, and still enjoys learning things, but effortless, it was not. And math was not her best subject, either.**)
This, to my mind, smells more like political correctness than a sensible personnel decision. If Ms. Austen was good at her work — and I’m going to assume she was, or Barstool Sports wouldn’t have wanted to have her as part of their Facebook Live broadcast after hours — she should’ve been talked with, and she should’ve been allowed to make amends. Giving her a chance to grow, to change, to learn that people are individuals and not stereotypes…that is a far better way to handle the situation than just firing her.
This way, what does Ms. Austen learn? That male sports personalities can be outrageous, but female sports personalities had best watch their backs?
In short, while what Ms. Austen said was not flattering, it did not warrant immediate dismissal.
Fox Sports Florida (and Fox Sports Sun, who together were her employers) should be ashamed of themselves. They at minimum should be called before the EEOC, and be prepared to defend their actions.
And in the meantime, Ms. Austen should do some volunteer work with the poor, the disabled, and those who are otherwise disenfranchised in this society. She’d learn a lot, I think…and never again would she be tempted to make such ridiculously stupid and bigoted statements as she did on Barstool Sports’ live broadcast on Facebook.
**Yes, I know that Chinese people and Japanese people and Korean people and Laotian people and Vietnamese people are all different people, different cultures, different ethnicities, and all have to be taken for themselves. But the stereotype I’m referring to — that Asians are better at math than anyone else — is still real, and it’s done a lot of harm. (End rant.)
Folks, as most of you know, I am a huge fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. I’ve watched them for years, through good years and bad…and this year is shaping up to be unpredictable at best, and downright awful at worst.
Why do I say this? It’s simple.
The Brewers have seven guys who’ve never been on an Opening Day roster before. Their best pitcher is Wily Peralta. And their leadoff hitter is likely to be rookie OF Domingo Santana, a high-risk, high-reward type player.
Or, to put it another way — “Who are these (flippin’) guys?” — quote from the movie Major League, 1989.
There are only a few players on this roster I recognize, including Ryan Braun, returning Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano (now a reliever), and Jonathan Lucroy — providing he isn’t traded anytime too soon. Much of the roster is made up of guys like Jonathan Villar (before he came to the Brewers, I’d never heard his name before), Yadiel Rivera (good-field, little-hit IF prospect), Keon Broxton, and Ramon Flores.
So, with a team that I barely recognize, it’s almost impossible for me to say what the 2016 “new look” Brewers will do. But I can tell you what it’s unlikely they’ll do — and that’s win over 70 games.
Of course, the young Brewers are going to play with chips on their shoulder. And in a week or two, I’ll know these guys better and their capabilities/weaknesses/upsides, too.
Still. The Brewers play in the toughest division in Major League Baseball. They’re likely to be beaten regularly by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, all division rivals with legitimate postseason chances. That alone makes their quest for a seventy-win season nearly impossible.
The 2016 Brewers will probably be fun to watch. They’ll give it their all, their fundamentals will be sound, they’ll steal bases and at least a few of ’em (like Santana, Braun, and new first baseman Chris Carter) will hit beaucoup home runs. And at least one pitcher will have a good-to-great year (perhaps hoping to pitch himself onto a contenting team at the All-Star break).
So, the 2016 Brewers are likely to have an entertaining team, but not a good one.
What do you think? (Give me a shout in the comments.)
Folks, when I read about the Milwaukee Brewers latest trade of closing pitcher Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers for single-A prospect Javier Betancourt — the first trade under new General Manager David Stearns’ tenure — I was not happy.
Well, one of the few bright spots I had as a Brewers fan, last year, was to watch K-Rod come out to save games. He was one of the few players to remain positive despite Milwaukee’s dismal season, and he had one of his best seasons, to boot.
As Tom Haudricourt wrote at JSOnline.com (aka the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
“K-Rod” had a tremendous season for the Brewers in 2015, converting 38 of 40 save opportunities with a 2.21 earned run average in 60 appearances. But the club is in the midst of a significant rebuilding program, and Stearns decided it made more sense to acquire young talent rather than keep an aging closer.
And K-Rod is still only 33 years old, plus was signed at a low price for an elite athlete, too…less than $10 million, including a 2017 contract buyout.
What did the Brewers actually get? Haudricourt has that covered, too:
Betancourt, 20, is primarily a second baseman but has seen limited action at shortstop and third base. Rated the No. 11 prospect in Detroit’s system, he played in 2015 at high Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League, batting .263 with a .304 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage, with 17 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 48 RBI.
Betancourt had 29 walks and 44 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances. He played all 116 games in the field at second base, a position manned mostly by Scooter Gennett for the Brewers over the last two years.
In other words, Betancourt is a step under Double-A ball. He’s a prospect, and somewhat unproven; he is known, apparently, as a good and solid defender, but has no power potential whatsoever.
Granted, the Brewers are full of free-swingers right now. Only Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, among the regulars, seem to know how to take a walk now and again.
That said, it’s extremely frustrating to me, as a long-time Brewers fan, that our new GM has traded one of the achingly few bright spots on the team for someone like Javier Betancourt. And, quite possibly, a player to be named later — though this trade, also according to Haudricourt, also has a player to be named later on Detroit’s side, too!
(How is it possible for Detroit to get another player, considering they’ve just garnered one of the best closers in the game in K-Rod? Your guess is as good as mine. But I digress.)
At any rate, I know the Brewers are in a major rebuilding mode. I accept that; I’ve seen it before.
What I don’t accept, as a fan, is the contention that anyone else could do as well as K-Rod on the 2016 roster. Nor that it’s not a salary-dump of some sort — despite Stearns’ assertion to the contrary. (Why Stearns would think any real fan who’s ever followed this team would believe that kind of baloney is beyond me. But again, I digress.)
Look, folks: What I want, as a fan, is for the Brewers to put an entertaining team on the field that at least tries to win every night. Having players who are happy to play in Milwaukee, despite the fact that they’re not likely to get one whiff of the playoffs for another three or four years, minimum, is a huge part of how the Brewers, as a team, can get there.
I fail to see how trading K-Rod away will promote team victories in 2016. Especially as the two most likely choices on the current roster to become closer — Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress — have zero closing experience. (Smith is a brilliant set-up man until July; after July, he’s competent or worse. And Jeffress, while I like him a lot, does not seem to be closing material, either.)
Maybe K-Rod will enjoy being in Detroit, because Detroit, on paper at least, is a better team than Milwaukee. (But as I’m also aware that K-Rod took less money last year to re-sign with Milwaukee because he liked it so much despite all the nonsense, I have to wonder about that assertion, too.)
Bottom line: The Brewers did not get nearly enough for K-Rod. And unless Javier Betancourt turns out to be the steal of the century, those folks in Detroit have to be laughing their butts off at the hicks in Milwaukee over this one.
Folks, this year has been a historic year for organized baseball.
Earlier this year, Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association, came out as gay.
And now, Milwaukee Brewers’ prospect David Denson, a first baseman currently playing for Helena in the Rookie League, has also come out as gay. Denson is the first person in organized baseball — major or minor leagues — to ever come out while still an active player.
Here’s a link to the story. Denson, quoted by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel baseball beat writer Tom Haudricourt, said this:
Before he knew it, Denson was making the emotional announcement he yearned to share, and the group around him expanded to the point that he soon was speaking to most of the team. Much to Denson’s relief, when the conversation ended he was greeted with outward support and understanding instead of condemnation.
“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” recalled Denson. “They said, ‘You’re still our teammate. You’re still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You’re still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don’t treat you any different. We’ve got your back.’
“That was a giant relief for me,” Denson said. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”
The more Denson thought about it, though, the more he came to realize that a clubhouse confession wasn’t going to be enough. Until he came out publicly as gay and released that burden, Denson didn’t think he could truly blossom and realize his potential on the field.
The Milwaukee Brewers have had a disappointing season in many respects. But they made up for it, at least in my eyes, when two players were quoted (again by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) as saying that Denson would be welcome in their clubhouse any time.
Both Ryan Braun and Scooter Gennett have publicly gone on the record as saying they would warmly welcome Denson. Here’s a few quotes for you from Haudricourt’s additional article:
“I think everybody is supportive,” said rightfielder Ryan Braun. “Overall, we realize it’s a courageous decision by him, to come out and embrace his true self.
“I’ve never met him but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. I can’t speak for everybody on our team but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way.”
Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett does know Denson and spent time in a team clubhouse with him. When Gennett was sent to Class A Wisconsin on minor-league rehab earlier this season while recovering from a hand injury, Denson was playing for the Timber Rattlers.
Denson, 20, a power-hitting first baseman, later was sent to the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena, Mont., and came out as gay to teammates there a month or so ago.
“He’s a great guy, an awesome guy,” said Gennett. “He has great tools. Now, he’ll be able to focus on playing and not focus on all the other stuff. This will be less clutter for him.
“I think it’s a great thing when people can clear their mind and just be honest with people around them. It’s an awesome thing. I think that will allow him to focus more on baseball and go out and have fun now.
“Would he be accepted here? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s a baseball player and a great guy. Anybody that goes out and plays hard every day is going to be accepted. Everybody has something to deal with. Baseball is such a mental sport. When you can just focus on the game, it’s amazing how much more fun it is.”
The Brewers as an organization are supportive of Denson, from GM Doug Melvin to manager Craig Counsell to the major league players on down. And that’s wonderful to see.
That said, I hope someday that it will not matter whatsoever what a person’s sexuality is — gay, lesbian, transgender, Martian, whatever.
Because a baseball player is simply that: a baseball player. Regardless of sexuality.
I’m glad the Milwaukee Brewers as an organization have figured this out.