Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category
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.
Folks, most of you know I’m a huge fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball club.
And most of you are aware that when good players like Carlos Gomez, Gerardo Parra, and Mike Fiers get traded for minor-league prospects, that usually indicates that the team in question (in this case, the Brewers) is undergoing a rebuilding phase.
As a fan, I don’t like seeing rebuilding phases. I know they’re necessary. But it’s frustrating all the same, because I like to see a team that competes hard and does its best every day.
Right now, the MIlwaukee Brewers cannot do that.
When you take a hitter like Carlos Gomez out of the lineup, you lose a great deal. Couple that with taking Gerardo Parra out of the lineup — Parra hitting better than he ever has, and playing solid defense at all three OF positions, and you have the recipe for a lineup with little pop and even less situational hitting.
Couple that with the earlier trade of Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates, and the hitting situation grows even more desperate.
Right now, the Brewers have only two hitters with any chance of doing well: Ryan Braun and Adam Lind. Both have had trouble with back spasms this season, and Braun has a lingering issue with his thumb that will almost certainly plague him from time to time for the remainder of his career. So these things have to be taken into account, health-wise; both players cannot play every day in the high heat and humidity, not if manager Craig Counsell expects to get a maximum return out of them.
The other hitters are not doing that well this season. Jonathan Lucroy hasn’t looked like himself all year. Khris Davis — he still strikes out too much, and he waves at pitches in the opposing batter’s box, too. So no one with any sense is going to throw Davis a fastball. And Hernan Perez?
Granted, Jean Segura has shown flashes of his old hitting style, and is playing reasonably decent defense in the field. But he’s not a guy the Brewers should be depending on for RBIs; he’s a table-setter, not a meat-and-potatoes type of guy.
Then we get to the starting pitching. And we see the void that the trade of Mike Fiers has left in the Brewers pitching staff.
Look. Taylor Jungmann has had a great ride thus far, and looks like a solid pitcher for 2016. But Kyle Lohse — much as i like the man, and much though I root for him, he looks like he’s at the end of the road. And Matt Garza’s been up and down, Jimmy Nelson is still overrated (he’s done well most of the time, but I still don’t trust that), and Wily Peralta is showing just why his 17-win season last year was such a fluke.
If the Brewers didn’t have excellent relief pitching, they’d probably be even worse off than they are. Neal Cotts has actually been good (I have to say this, as early on I said I wanted him gone). Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has been stellar, as always. Will Smith has been iffy lately — at about the same point he became iffy last year — but was very good at the start of the season. And Tyler Thornburg is back up and pitching well…Jeremy Jeffress looks solid…really, I have few complaints with the bullpen.
The Brewers are currently 44-62. They look like they probably won’t even win sixty games this year, the way they’re playing. So I understand, mentally, why GM Doug Melvin made the trades that he did.
Still. Right now, what the Brewers front office is doing is an exercise in narrative framing. They’re saying, “Hey, in a year or two, we’ll be really good. Look at all these prospects!” And trying to divert the long-time fan, who’s seen the Brewers be awful before (in my case, many times), into dreaming of the future…all while the present looks downright depressing.
The thing about prospects is this: It’s all speculative.
We knew that Carlos Gomez loved Milwaukee, would hit reasonably well, would play excellent defense most of the time, and make some baserunning mistakes while striking out a goodly percentage of the time. Because that’s who Gomez is.
But Gomez is a known commodity. Brewers fans knew exactly what we were getting in him.
Similarly, Fiers and Parra were also known commodities. I knew, as a fan, that Parra would be tenacious at the plate and have good situational-hitting skills, and I knew that Fiers would always try his hardest and be unsparing of himself in postgame commentary if he just didn’t have it.
But fortunately, Fiers mostly does have it.
Anyway, Doug Melvin took three very good players — one perhaps a superstar in Gomez — and traded them, when the Brewers are already having trouble with their offense. He got back some very solid prospects, some of which may develop into decent-to-better players (Phillips, which the Brewers received in the Houston trade, might even turn out to be a superstar himself down the line; but that day is not today).
But for now, the situation is bleak and getting worse.
What I want to see, as a fan, is for Doug Melvin to go out and get some hitters. Daniel Nava was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox last week — and Nava can hit. (Granted, he hasn’t hit well this year at all for Boston, but a change of scenery might really help him.) Plus, Nava has some speed and would play a better left field than Khris Davis, who really shouldn’t be in the field at all (why, oh why, hasn’t Davis been traded to the AL by now? He is a DH in the making; he’ll never make an outfielder.)
And the Brewers need to find other diamonds in the rough like Nava. Guys who can hit, who’ve proven they can hit, and who can do a little better than the Shane Petersons or (gasp! shudders! horrors!) the Hernan Perezes of the world.
So that’s where I’m at, as a fan. I think the aftermath of the Brewers trades of Parra, Gomez and Fiers is showing itself right now.
And if I had to bet, I’d probably say it’s very unlikely the Brewers will even win 60 games this year. Which is very, very sad.
So don’t believe the narrative hype, my friends. Know full well that the Brewers will be awful for the remainder of this year, with some flashes of solid playing by folks like K-Rod, Braun and probably Lind.
And hope that somehow, some way, we’ll get some people in the lineup who can hit, run, and field…because right now, they’re just not there.
Carlos Gomez remains a Brewer.
This may not seem very surprising, if you weren’t following MLB Network last night. They, among others, had reported that the Milwaukee Brewers were about to trade Carlos Gomez to the New York Mets in exchange for pitcher Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores. (Wheeler is on the disabled list with Tommy John surgery, and Flores is playing out of position at shortstop; he’s projected to be a power hitter in the major leagues, possibly at the third base position.) The deal was reported as all but done, pending physicals…
Then Sandy Alderson, GM of the Mets, said this: “The deal will not transpire.”
After all that, there are now conflicting reports saying that the Mets did not like Carlos Gomez’s health issues of the past season. And that the Brewers didn’t like the extensive arm surgery Wheeler endured.
Whatever the truth is, the only thing this Brewers fan knows is that Gomez remains in a Brewers uniform. Which is, on balance, a good thing.
Look. I get annoyed sometimes with Gomez because of his baserunning blunders and his propensity to strike out. But he’s an outstanding outfielder, and his defense makes up for a lot.
This trade, from my perspective, made very little sense for two reasons.
First, if you trade Gomez and then trade Gerardo Parra (long rumored to be on his way out of town due to his contact being up at the end of the year), who is going to play center field?
I mean, look at who’s left on the team. You have Ryan Braun, Shane Peterson, and Khris Davis left. Braun is the fastest of them, but he’s not a center fielder and has been dealing with back spasms lately. Peterson is a decent left fielder who possibly would be better off at first base, long-term. And Davis, while he does have some speed in the outfield, cannot throw to save his life.
None of them are well-suited to playing center field. Which means the Brewers would either have to trade for someone, or they’d have to bring up the only pure center fielder in the Brewers organization: Logan Schafer.
And Schafer has had multiple opportunities to show he can hit major league pitching…and hasn’t managed to convince me or anyone else that he can.
Second, Zack Wheeler is on the DL and can’t help anyone for at least another full year. (I’m sure Brewers fans remember just how long it took Chris Capuano and Ben Sheets to recover from arm surgery; well, we’re looking at a similar time-frame for Wheeler.) Even if Wheeler comes back fully from his Tommy John procedure, he’ll have to relearn his arm mechanics and possibly have to reinvent himself as a pitcher. (Stephen Strasburg is struggling with doing just that right now, which shows that recovery from Tommy John is not as automatic as some make it out to be.)
So here’s where we stand, Brewers fans:
Carlos Gomez remains on the team, meaning Milwaukee continues to have a solid-to-better center fielder patrolling the outfield.
And both the Brewers and Mets have leaked conflicting information regarding the proposed trade, so no one’s completely sure exactly why this proposed trade was nixed.
What a mess.
Folks, this just breaks my heart.
Darryl Hamilton was known as one of the original good guys in Milwaukee. He played full-time for the Brewers from 1990 to 1995, and debuted with the team in 1988. He was a brilliant defensive outfielder and a good clutch hitter with a lifetime batting average of .291 (not too shabby)…eventually, he made his way to the World Series with the New York Mets in 2000 during the course of a successful thirteen-year career.
Now, he is dead.
As Adam McCalvy reported, Hamilton was shot to death over the weekend by Monica Jordan — Jordan was his girlfriend, and the two of them had a child together. Then Jordan turned the gun on herself.
What’s even sadder is this: a little child, born of Hamilton and Jordan, was left behind.
Words fail me in this tragedy.
The first thought I had after hearing this terrible news was this: Domestic violence is real, whether it’s at the hands of a man, like Ray Rice, or a woman, Monica Jordan.
(Or Hope Solo, who hasn’t been sanctioned at all by USA Soccer. But I digress.)
My second thought is how much Hamilton will be missed in Milwaukee, and all around MLB. He was a good-hearted man who enjoyed life, and had a boundless passion for baseball.
He should not be dead at age 50.
Edited to add in Hamilton’s stats, and his “cup of coffee” with the Brewers in 1988. Also edited the bit about Ms. Jordan; she now has been positively identified as his late girlfriend.
Is Memorial Day truly for sale?
It sure seems that way, after finding out that 14 NFL teams have actually taken money to “honor” military veterans — including my own favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.
In a lengthy monologue on Friday’s broadcast of ESPN2′s Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to school over the recent revelation that the National Football League has taken millions of dollars from the US military to promote the armed forces of this country. Over the past few years, it has been estimated that the NFL has received $5.4 million since 2011 to ‘honor’ members of the military at games and other events. As Olbermann pointed out, the main issue isn’t that the league took money, but that it pretended that it was honoring the soldiers out of true patriotism rather than love of money.
This disturbs me for more than one reason.
First, veterans of the armed forces deserve to be treated well without teams being paid to do so.
Second, that teams have been pretending they’re doing this out of the goodness of their nonexistent hearts rather than some sort of business-oriented motivation is incredibly hypocritical.
It is especially upsetting because fans are expected to be both patriotic and uncritical of the teams they follow. So when we see teams giving what surely look to be deserving shout-outs to serving military members (or honorable veterans), we think it’s genuine.
We don’t expect these “Hometown Heroes” shout-outs to be merely a matter of public relations.
But they are. And that’s wrong.
Olbermann isn’t the only high-profile person angered by this behavior. Arizona’s two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are also appalled. In an article from the Washington Post, McCain was quoted as saying:
“I think it’s really disgraceful that NFL teams whose profits are at an all-time high had to be paid to honor our veterans,” he said Tuesday (via ESPN)..
Agreed. (To the Nth power.)
Taking money in order to salute these real hometown heroes is wrong. Just ask U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, as quoted in the Washington Post article:
“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”
This, right here, encapsulates why I’m so steamed.
Look. According to Olbermann (see his YouTube rant here), the Green Bay Packers took $600,000 from the Department of Defense for this practice.
But even if the Packers hadn’t taken any money, I’d still be upset.
As a fan, I’ve always seen military members get shout-outs. They are feted, get tickets to games, often are highlighted on the scoreboard, and the impression is that the teams are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.
Sure, it’s all public relations. We know this, deep down inside.
But we don’t expect that teams would actually be crass enough to require payment.
That these 14 NFL teams have done so is truly shameful. A recent editorial at Jacksonville.com said:
…the Department of Defense and 14 NFL teams deserve boos over revelations that the federal agency paid the clubs $5.4 million over a three-year period to feature military members during games. According to the Defense Department and the 14 teams, the payments were merely part of mutually agreed “sponsorship deals” designed to promote the military in a flattering, high-profile manner. But in truth, the deals were simply “crass” and “disgraceful,” as Sen. John McCain — a military hero who bravely survived captivity during the Vietnam War — so aptly put it.
(Preach it, brothers and sisters.)
Why the Packers ever thought it a good idea to take money to salute the military makes no sense.
NFL teams make money hand-over-fist. They do not need to take money from the Department of Defense or anyone else to salute the hard-working men and women who comprise the United States military.
That they did was absolutely reprehensible.
P.S. Because it’s come out that 14 NFL teams have taken money to salute soldiers, it makes me wonder…are teams in Major League Baseball also taking money for this practice?
Have the Milwaukee Brewers actually taken money over the years to salute these “Hometown Heroes” in order to put them on the big scoreboard in centerfield?
I sincerely hope the Brewers haven’t.
Folks, I’ve been head-down in my final edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, so I am a bit behind-hand in discussing what’s going on with the Milwaukee Brewers lately.
Let’s rectify that.
A few days ago (on Thursday, May 21, 2015), Brewers reliever Will Smith came into a game against the Atlanta Braves and had something shiny on his forearm. This substance was something to help him better grip the ball on a cold and somewhat windy day, and many pitchers use it for exactly that. But they don’t put it openly on their arm; they attempt to conceal it.
Smith, because he did not conceal this substance, got thrown out of the baseball game after Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez complained. And Smith was irate.
After the game, Smith answered some questions from reporters (this was shown on Fox Sports Wisconsin’s postgame show). Smith said he’d put that substance (identified as a mix of sunscreen and rosin) on his arm in the bullpen to help with his grip. He said he wanted to wipe it off, but forgot…and then he got thrown out. Smith pointed out that many pitchers do this, and they do not get thrown out.
On Friday, Smith was suspended by Major League Baseball for eight games for using this illegal substance.
Of course Smith is appealing the suspension, because both Smith and the Brewers management think that eight games is too long, considering the cold weather and the fact that Smith is a relief pitcher. (Why does the last part matter? Well, a starter who’s suspended for 10 games misses two starts. But a reliever who misses eight games misses eight potential opportunities to pitch.)
Smith is allowed to keep pitching until his appeal is heard (probably sometime early next week).
What do I think of all this as a Brewers fan? I think Smith was at best absentminded, at worst incredibly foolish, to have that substance openly on his arm. But I don’t blame him for wanting to get a better grip on the ball considering the conditions, especially as the Brewers have had several players hit in the head this year — most notably Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura.
(Of course, Smith hit a batter anyway. So I don’t know what good that substance actually did him. But I digress.)
Ultimately, I think the suspension is likely to be reduced on appeal. It’s possible MLB could reduce it by a couple of games, maybe even three…which will leave Smith with a five- or six-game suspension rather than the current length of eight games.
Let’s hope that Smith can use his impending time off wisely. (Maybe he’ll study up on just how to properly conceal the same substance so he’ll not get thrown out of the game next time. Or am I being too cynical?)
Folks, Alex Rodriguez has returned to his hitting ways with a vengeance.
After sitting out all of the 2014 season with an unprecedented 162-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez has come back to the New York Yankees revitalized. And it’s allowed him to first hit his 660th home run — tying Willie Mays on the all-time HR list — then his 661st last night.
Apparently, being away from baseball and able to heal completely from a number of nagging injuries has allowed Rodriguez (also known as A-Rod) to partially sip from the fountain of youth. And that’s why he’s hitting so much better than he has in years.
OK, OK. I’m being a bit fanciful. (Then again, I am a science fiction and fantasy writer by trade. Can you blame me?)
Truthfully, I don’t know why A-Rod is hitting so much better than he has in years. I do suspect that having to take time off and fully heal up has helped him. He’s also known as a “workout warrior,” much like Kobe Bryant — or before him, Nolan Ryan; sometimes being in such excellent physical condition allows a premiere athlete like A-Rod additional time in the sun.
(Doesn’t that explain such feats as Julio Franco’s extraordinary longevity in baseball? But I digress.)
Rodriguez has also been much different with regards to how he behaves in front of the media and how he behaves with the fans. A-Rod seems to have learned some humility in his year away from baseball, too. (Or perhaps a brilliant public relations person has whispered into his ear, and the message stuck.)
Now, all of a sudden, A-Rod seems to understand that being a baseball player is a privilege. Not a right.
Or at least that while he has enormous gifts for baseball (which should be celebrated), that doesn’t make him the best thing since sliced bread.
Look. I am on record as saying I don’t care about PEDs that much. I don’t think PEDs help you hit a baseball; I don’t think they make you that much better of a fielder; the only thing PEDs are proven to affect, as far as I can tell, are the skinny pitchers who can’t gain weight. (On PEDs, that scrawny guy can gain weight, which will allow him to have a higher MPH fastball, which might get him entrance to the majors. Maybe even keep him there.)
I’ve seen that with the Milwaukee Brewers, my own team, mind. Derrick Turnbow was an excellent closer for the Brewers, for a while. But he apparently was one of the Brewers “outed” by the Mitchell Report…when he had to start passing drug tests, all of a sudden he lost his effectiveness. Then he was out of baseball not too long after that.
I still don’t know for certain if Turnbow actually gained that much with PEDs. But I do know that for an elite athlete, confidence is everything. If he thinks that he’s taking something that’ll help, it will help…psychologically, anyway.
Whether it actually does anything physiologically is another story entirely.
And closers are particularly friable. They lose their confidence for whatever reason, and they aren’t able to regain it sometimes. It may be years, or never, before they regain their top form.
Baseball is funny that way.
At any rate, premiere hitters like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds do not need PEDs to hit homers. They might need PEDs to stay on the field a few years longer, to somehow help with their physical conditioning.
But they were HR hitters before they took PEDs (if Bonds actually took anything; nothing was ever proven). That doesn’t change after you stop taking PEDs, as A-Rod is showing right now.
All I can say to Rodriguez is this: Good for you, Alex.
I’m glad you came back to the Yankees, and I’m glad you’re hitting homers again. You make baseball a more exciting game to watch.
Thank you for understanding that, and for being willing to work so hard to regain your top hitting form without the use of PEDs.