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Former Brewer Pitcher Ben Sheets to Make Comeback at age 33

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In August of 2010, I wrote a blog about former Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets, who had just had a major surgical procedure on his right arm (called at that time the “most massive surgery in the history of pitching” by the Hardball Talk blog.)  At that time, I said that I hoped Sheets would be like former Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, who has come all the way back after two “Tommy John” procedures and is now pitching extremely effectively for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

About one year ago, I wrote a blog after finding out that Sheets was doing rehabilitation in Arlington, TX.  I said at that time that it would make no sense for Sheets to be doing rehabilitation if he wasn’t planning on making a comeback.

Well, my blog posts have been trumped by Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, who wrote that on June 13, 2012, Sheets threw in front of scouts in Monroe, Louisiana.  The four teams represented were the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Atlanta Braves.**  

The team that signs Sheets will have a proven ace who in the past made four All-Star teams (Sheets started the All-Star game for the National League in 2008).  Because Sheets is a hard-nosed, tough-minded competitor, he should be able to help just about any team win some ballgames down the stretch if he’s able to pitch effectively.

Sheets’ road to recovery most likely will start in the minor leagues, as that’s the path every pitcher who’s been able to make a comeback (such as Capuano) has taken.  But providing Sheets is patient and works his way back into top form, it’s possible for Sheets to become the same, effective pitcher as before (perhaps with a little less heat on the fastball, but he should be able to compensate for that with guile).

Chris Capuano has proven that it is indeed possible for a pitcher in his early 30s to come back from an extensive surgical procedure and pitch just as well if not better than ever.  So if Sheets takes “Cappy” as a model, and gives himself time, he could still have several more years in the big leagues left.

Here’s hoping.

————

** Note that the team that originally signed Sheets, the Brewers, was not on this list.  I’m not pleased about that, but my best guess is that the Brewers need so much other help that they don’t see how Sheets could possibly fit into their plans.  I view that as shortsighted, shoddy thinking, especially because the Brewers did sign Capuano to a minor league deal in 2010 (which worked out extremely well), which is why the Brewers know that it is indeed possible for a pitcher who’s sustained horrific arm injuries more than once to come back stronger than ever. 

But I’m not the ones making the calls in the Brewers front office.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Chris Capuano, now a Met, pitches a 2-hit shutout

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Former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, now 33 years of age, pitched a 2-hit shutout in New York for his new team, the New York Mets, last night.  Capuano did this knowing full well that Hurricane Irene was on its way and won easily, 6-0, against the Atlanta Braves.

As the story from the New York Times said: 

While the storm commanded headlines, Capuano’s superb performance got attention at Citi Field. He threw a two-hit shutout, striking out a career-high 13 and walking none.

“I was able to get ahead and just finish some guys off,” Capuano said. “It just felt really good.”

The Times story also pointed out that Capuano did not fret about the weather before Friday evening’s game as many of his teammates (quite understandably) did.  Capuano’s serenity paid off, as he took a no-hit bid into the 5th inning before Dan Uggla got the first hit off Capuano, a single.

Here’s a bit more from the story:

Capuano threw at least 65 percent of his pitches for strikes in all but three innings, according to data from the Web site pitch f/x. He effectively used his changeup, which generated swinging strikes more than 25 percent of the time.

Capuano said his trust in catcher Josh Thole was an important element of his outing.

“I took a little different mental approach tonight,” said Capuano, who improved to 10-11. “I really tried not to shake off too much and just stayed in a good rhythm. I let Josh call the game back there, and it worked out.”

This was by far the best game Capuano has pitched since his return to the big leagues last year for the Brewers.

As I said last year when “Cappy” returned to the Brewers after rehabilitation from a second “Tommy John” surgery, I knew it was only a matter of time before he’d regain his complete pitching form.  But now, it looks like he’s done so, and the Mets are the beneficiaries of taking a chance on him.

“Cappy,” when he’s on, pitches lights-out in the same way future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux used to (Maddux, like “Cappy,” never had blazing speed; he instead had pinpoint control).  He’s also one of the most professional, put-together ballplayers around, as shown by going out the night before he knew a huge hurricane was on the way that was about to postpone the rest of the baseball series and pitch a two-hit, complete game shutout.

Note that ESPN.com called Capuano’s performance last night “one of the best games in (Mets) franchise history.”  And on that article page is a link to last night’s “Baseball Tonight” show on ESPN where the commentators talk about how good it is when a veteran like Capuano can “persevere” through two major arm surgeries, which just goes to show you how important persistence — along with faith and belief in yourself — can be in overcoming nearly any obstacle.

The only odd thing about Capuano’s game last night from my perspective (being a long-time observer of his pitching style) is that “Cappy” struck out thirteen guys.  (Not walking anyone, well, that’s part of “Cappy’s” game.)  Normally, “Cappy” is a pitcher who induces a lot of ground-ball outs and might strike out one or two guys, not thirteen.  Even in “Cappy’s” best season, 2005, where he was 18-12 for the Brewers, he didn’t come close to doing anything like this.

As Chris Capuano’s USA Today fantasy baseball page put it (emphasis added):

Chris Capuano had the start of a lifetime on Friday, striking out a career-high 13 in a two-hit shutout of the Braves in New York.

The outing was one of the best by any pitcher in baseball this season.

Well done, “Cappy!”

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Happy 4th, Go Brewers (and Marcum), and Other Odds and Ends

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Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Today’s the day to remember the beginning of the United States of America — when we declared independence from Great Britain.  (We actually declared independence on July 2, but the predecessor to the United States Congress didn’t ratify the document until July 4, which is why we celebrate on today’s date.)  It’s also a great day to watch baseball, eat hot dogs and apple pie, and for families to appreciate being with each other (or at least put aside their differences for the day).  And, finally, it’s become another day (like Memorial Day and Veterans Day) to remember our military men and women, especially those serving overseas in war zones, partly because we have three wars going at the same time, but mostly because our military remains an important part of why we remain an independent nation to this day.

Before I go on, I’d like to mention one military man overseas — my cousin, Wayne.   I know he’s seen a number of Independence Days away from the United States, but I can’t believe it ever gets that easy for him — he’s away from his family, most of his friends, and all that is familiar, which would be hard enough even without the three wars going on right now — and I want to remind him that I really do appreciate his service to our country.

Anyway, today is a day for baseball, as I said before, so it’s time to celebrate my favorite players.  Corey Hart hit his 9th home run of the year against Arizona (game is still in progress as I type this; the Brewers lead, 6-4, in the 6th) to make it 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth, then Shaun Marcum — the pitcher — hit a grand slam home run to make it 6-1.  (The Diamondbacks got a run back in the top of the 5th and two runs in the 6th.)  This is the first grand slam of the year for the Brewers — with all their vaunted hitters, including the three 2011 All-Star starters Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks, and of course the aforementioned Hart, you’d think the Brewers would’ve had multiple grand slam HRs by now.  Not that the first one of the year would be hit by the rather light-hitting pitcher Marcum (who started today batting only .103).

Next, Casey McGehee looks like he’s finally getting on track, and that’s good.  He has two hits today, but so far for the year he’s hitting in the .220s with only 4 HR and 33 RBI despite playing in the vast majority of the Brewers games in the #5 spot.  McGehee has good power to all fields when he’s right, but most of this year he’s been mired in a slump and his defense has also suffered (when one thing goes bad, it tends to make everything go bad; this is an axiom that doesn’t just apply to baseball).  Here’s hoping that his two hits in two ABs (so far) will spur him to better things in the second half.

Next, I wanted to point out how former Brewer Vinny Rottino’s doing in AAA ball for the New Orleans Zephyrs.  Rottino has continued to hit well, though he’s no longer on a tear; he’s batting .307 with 4 HRs and 31 RBI, and his OBP remains a robust .378.  Rottino isn’t really a power guy; instead, he’s a contact hitter, an intelligent runner, and an above-average defender at any outfield position, first base or third base.  Rottino’s now thirty-one years old, yet is in excellent shape and could easily play several more years — perhaps as many as ten — and I really wish someone would give him a chance as a utility player and pinch hitter in the majors.

Next, there’s Chris Capuano, a former Brewers pitcher who now pitches for the New York Mets.  Capuano recently beat the Brewers in Milwaukee and was given a huge round of applause when announced in the starting line-up for the Mets — a sign of respect that isn’t often seen for an opposing player, but Brewers’ fans do not forget “their own.”  For the year, “Cappy” is 7-7 with a 4.27 ERA and has struck out 77 while walking only 24; I wish him nothing but success in the second half.

Finally, there’s former Brewer shortstop J.J. Hardy, who now plays for the Baltimore Orioles.  Hardy’s defense has remained outstanding while his hitting stroke has finally returned after a succession of wrist injuries marred his last two seasons — for the year to date, Hardy is hitting .295 with 11 HR, 30 RBI and 31 runs scored in 54 games played.  That last stat (runs scored) is a bit surprising as Hardy is not exactly what you’d call “fleet afoot” due to a horrific collision sustained in 2006 while trying to score a run — Hardy decided to slide late, and this may have exacerbated that season-ending injury.

At any rate, I enjoy watching my Milwaukee Brewers, past and present, and I hope they all succeed, wherever they are now and wherever they’ll be in the future.  They make the 4th of July — and every day — more interesting, as especially with this year’s team I never have any idea of how they’re going to do.

I hope you all enjoy your 4th of July experience — whatever it may be, from fireworks to Summerfest to just “hanging out” — and do it safely so you’ll be around for July 5th, 6th, and beyond.

Odds and Ends — including the End of the WI State Supreme Court race

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I have so many different things to discuss right now that I’ve decided to make this an “odds and ends” post — otherwise known as a “quick hits” post.

The first is that the race for the Wisconsin state Supreme Court has come to an end as JoAnne Kloppenburg conceded.   The recount, which I viewed from the beginning as a mandatory one due to the closeness of the vote and the chicanery going on in Waukesha County in particular, brought her a few hundred votes closer to David Prosser but not nearly enough for her, apparently, to keep on fighting despite the hundreds of irregularities and errors found in Waukesha County alone.  Ms. Kloppenburg is a very good lawyer and knows the law regarding recounts much better than I do, so she must’ve felt that it was unlikely she’d win a court case, so prolonging the race any further made no sense to her.

My reaction to all of this, however, is that while I found out by observing the recount in Racine County for a day that our election proceedings here are on the up-and-up, I really think the election was stolen and that Ms. Kloppenburg was the true winner.  I cannot prove this, and it’s possible no one will ever be able to prove it — or maybe someone will after the fact, as some observers did in Florida after the Bush v. Gore incident, or in Ohio with the numerous problems there in the 2004 election — but it’s how I feel.

I also feel that the state of Wisconsin has missed out, because Ms. Kloppenburg had an outstanding record and would’ve made a great judge.   Republicans, especially of the Scott Walker variety, liked to paint Ms. Kloppenburg as a “liberal,” but what she really was happened to be an independent, someone who’d worked for both Republican and Democratic Governors.  We needed a centrist on our extremely polarized Supreme Court, and we didn’t get it — what a terrible day for Wisconsin, and what an awful thing to have to say . . . but it’s all true, and it’s sad.

Now onto a happier update.  Vinny Rottino hit .373 in May for the New Orleans Zephyrs (the AAA affiliate of the Florida Marlins); this was after suffering a 1-for-26 slump to start the season.  Rottino has stolen 7 bases, being caught stealing twice; he’s hit 20 RBI, 2 HR, has 10 doubles and one triple, and his current on-base percentage is .407.   Rottino now appears to be playing every day in right field and is playing excellent defense and a fine overall game while putting together another quiet, but good season as a contact hitter.

Here’s a story from nola.com that was written on May 15, 2011, about the Zephyrs and the hot-hitting Rottino in particular:

Vinny Rottino continued his hot hitting Saturday night, and New Orleans Zephyrs relievers continued their shut-down pitching.

The result was a 5-4 Zephyrs victory against Tacoma at Zephyr Field.

Rottino, who has reached base in 21 consecutive games, drove home the go-ahead run in a three-run rally in the sixth inning and also scored two runs.

And here’s what Rottino had to say about it all, especially his 1-for-26 start:

“I never panicked,’’ he said. “That’s the key. I’ve gone through spells like that before at the beginning of the year. … Now I feel pretty good at the plate, just waiting for the pitcher’s mistake. That’s the main thing.’’

Rottino’s game is similar to someone like the Brewers’ Nyjer Morgan; he’s speedy (though not as speedy as Morgan), he plays excellent defense and has a strong arm, and he’ll rarely make mistakes on the basepaths.   Rottino plays all positions except pitcher and second base (unlike Morgan) including catcher (though he’s more of an emergency catcher due to taking it up late) and would be an asset to any major league team whose General Manager is using his brain today.

Finally, there’s the Milwaukee Brewers update.  They actually won their first game against Cincinnati last night and Corey Hart hit yet another home run, raising his season total to five.   Hart’s still not all the way back to last year’s All-Star form, but he’s looking good in the outfield and is hitting steadily now, with some power . . . though I’m a big fan of Hart, the best thing about the ’11 Brewers is that so far, their pitching has been anywhere from OK to outstanding, with Shawn Marcum and Randy Wolf in particular pitching much better than expected.  (Yovani Gallardo is still a little inconsistent, though his last two-three games have been great, and Zack Greinke is still rounding himself into form.  As for Chris Narveson, while he’s a very nice man and can pitch, he’s had some really rough outings lately.   And I keep thinking the Brewers would’ve been better off to keep Chris Capuano, who’s doing well for the Mets despite a 3-5 record because of how poor the Mets are playing as a team.)

So that’s it for updates . . . what I’d encourage you to do is to keep your eye on Rottino (when he finally makes it to the majors to stay, that’ll be one of the best human interest stories of the past several years as he’s now thirty-one years old and has been the apparent victim of what I like to call “age prejudice” as most teams would rather look at a really young guy than an older one with a steady batting eye and a steady presence in the field), keep an eye on the Brewers (especially their pitchers), keep an eye on Capuano, and watch for the upcoming Wisconsin recall elections in July.

Pitcher Chris Capuano signs with New York Mets

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Just a short observation today, folks . . . a few days ago, left-handed pitcher Chris Capuano signed a one-year contract with the New York Mets for what’s been reported as $1.3 million dollars.  He’s expected to be given a chance to make the starting rotation, which is the main reason Capuano didn’t re-sign with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I’ve written a few blogs about Capuano in the past; I admire him greatly.  He has an outstanding work ethic.  He is a very smart man, having a degree from Duke University and being his high school valedictorian before that, and he’s used his combination of intelligence, athleticism and toughness to come back from not one, but two “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgeries.

It’ll be difficult to see Capuano in a different uniform, but I understand his position.   He’s best off as a starter; that’s what he’s good at.  And the Brewers would not even give him the opportunity to make the team as a starter — I guess they feel Chris Narveson (also a left-hander) was a better bet, though I’d highly disagree — which would upset me if I were Capuano, too.

I plan on continuing to follow along with Capuano’s career; as I have said here many times, he is a study in perseverance.  In faith in yourself, in your own abilities, even when life itself seems against you.  And he has “the goods” to be an outstanding pitcher, still.  Even at age 32.  Even after two “Tommy Johns.”

Good luck, Chris Capuano.  I’ll be rooting for you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 6, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Ken Macha out as Brewers manager; more on Brewers.

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The Milwaukee Brewers, who finished with a 77-85 record, fired manager Ken Macha today by the simple expedient of not picking up his option for next season.  Macha said here (http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/104276948.html):

“Nobody likes to be let go, but I understand baseball, too,” Macha said. “I’ve been around a long time and been through this stuff. I told (Melvin) this Milwaukee experience for me was tremendous.

“It’s too bad we didn’t win more games, but I appreciate him bringing me here. … The expectations were to put up more wins and we didn’t do that. That’s the game.”

Macha’s words were classy, especially as he found out he’d been fired last evening via the media rather than by his good friend, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin.  Macha continued:

“When you sit down and build your club … you really got to compare your club to the other teams that have won,” Macha said. “How do we stack up with say St. Louis? We signed Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins. … Yeah we filled some holes, but are we on the same level with (Chris) Carpenter and (Adam) Wainright? So maybe the expectations were a little high but you still have to win.

“We lacked that No. 1 guy going out there. That’s my thoughts. If you could put someone at the top (of the rotation) and move everybody else down, you’d give yourself a much better chance to win.”

Now, this is something I, as a fan of the Brewers, said all year long.  Yovani Gallardo is not an ace.  He is a good pitcher and would probably be just fine as the second pitcher on the Brewers staff, but he is no ace.  And Randy Wolf, who’s a fine number three pitcher, has too much pressure on him as a number two pitcher — all of those roles, ace, number two pitcher, number three pitcher, are clearly defined now in major league baseball, and the ace of the staff is expected to be the guy who shuts down the opposition no matter what’s been happening with the rest of the club.  (In other words, if the Brewers had lost six or seven in a row and Gallardo’s turn was up, he was expected to keep the other team in check while he was out there and get the Brewers a better chance to win thereby.  Gallardo can do this, but he mostly doesn’t — that’s why he’d be better as the number two pitcher on the staff because he’d have far less pressure on him thereby.)

Going on in Anthony Witrado’s blog from today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Macha also acknowledged his trying relationships with stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder while noting that several other players he had good relationships with thanked him after yesterday’s season finale, including Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Wolf among plenty of others.

Skipping ahead in the blog:

“If the effort wasn’t reciprocated, then there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. You can’t force guys to do that,” Macha said. “Some guys were open to discussion and some guys weren’t, I guess, but that’s the same with every club.

“I talked a lot to Ryan, almost every day, but he does his own thing. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

“With Prince, I think he had some issues this year to deal with, the contract probably being the main thing, and at times he was hard to talk to. I don’t know if there were any guys on the staff that talked a whole lot to him this year.

“Those are the two guys, but the rest of the guys it was all positive. I opened up to (Braun and Fielder) but you have to have a back and forth. The faces of the franchise, that’s what they are.”

After reading all this, while I remain convinced Ken Macha was always the wrong man for this job, I feel rather sorry for him.  I’ve been in positions where I came into a job and wasn’t really given a chance, and it sounds like that’s exactly what happened between Macha and Brewers’ stars Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, who were both extremely angry after Ned Yost was fired in 2008 with only twelve games remaining in the season.  (For the record, I was, too.  I liked Yost a great deal.)

Macha had nothing to do with Ned Yost’s firing whatsoever, but I think because he was known to be such good friends with Brewers GM Doug Melvin, those two players in particular never gave Macha much of a chance.  But what really surprises me is that apparently no one could reach Fielder this year — which explains Fielder’s extremely poor year, where he dropped in home runs from 46 to 31, dropped in RBI from 141 to 83, and dropped in batting average from .299 to .261.  Fielder is the Brewers clean-up hitter, yet he had the fewest RBI of anyone who batted in the top five of the Brewers batting order, as you’ll see by this quick list:

Brewers RBI leaders:

Casey McGehee, 104 (bats fifth) — .285 BA, 23 HR, .464 slugging percentage

Ryan Braun, 103 (bats third) — .304 BA (led team), 25 HR, .501 slugging percentage, .365 on base percentage

Corey Hart, 102 (bats second) — .280 BA, 31 HR (8th in league), .525 slugging percentage (led team)

Rickie Weeks, 83 (bats first) — .269 BA, 29 HR, 184 strikeouts (led team), .366 on base percentage

Prince Fielder, 83 (bats fourth) — .261 BA, 32 HR (sixth in league), .401 on base percentage (led team), 114 walks (led team)

Now that you’ve seen that list, here’s some more information.  Corey Hart started the season on the bench because he’d had a horrible Spring Training; he played so well Macha had to play Hart, and eventually Hart not only made the National League All-Star team, he took part in the Home Run Derby as he was among the league leaders in home runs at that time.  Corey Hart finished with career highs in home runs and RBI and greatly improved his defensive play in right field; pretty good for a guy who started out on the bench, eh?

Then there’s Casey McGehee, who in his second full season led the team in RBI.  McGehee is a third baseman who was an older-than-average rookie last year that GM Doug Melvin picked up prior to 2009 — McGehee had been buried in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs, but was a good, solid hitter and Melvin knew it.  Signing McGehee, who started 2009 on the bench and eventually became the starting third baseman, then continued on in that role in 2010, was probably one of Melvin’s best — and most unheralded — moves of the past two years.

The other three guys — Weeks, Braun and Fielder — were all expected to do well.  But Weeks, in the past, had trouble staying healthy due to problems with his wrists that required operations; that he finished a whole season credibly, improved his defense, and led all major league lead-off men in RBI was impressive.  Braun got hit on the hand by a fastball thrown by Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson early in the season, had a huge dip in all batting stats during the summer, but rallied to have his usual excellent year in RBI, batting average and on base percentage (this includes hits, walks, and getting on base via errors).  It was only Fielder who had a rotten year, especially by his standards — and as Macha said, that’s probably due to contractual reasons as Fielder is eligible next year for arbitration, then is a free agent, so for the moment does not have financial stability assured.  (That Fielder is a client of hard-nosed agent Scott Boras is another concern, but of course Macha would never mention that even though everyone knows it’s part of the problem.  The Brewers offered Fielder $100 million for five years — $20 million a year — but Boras said that wasn’t enough.  That didn’t go over well with Brewers fans at all, though no one blamed Fielder, a bluff, genial, good-hearted man, for Boras’s actions even though Boras works for Fielder, not the reverse.)

Since this will probably be my final blog about the Brewers for a while, I may as well give my end of the season awards now.

Brewers Most Valuable Player: Corey Hart (Casey McGehee, second) — this is because when the Brewers still had a shot to get back in the pennant race and everyone else slumped, Hart carried the team through much of May and June.

Rookie of the Year: John Axford, who took over the closing job from Trevor Hoffman and never looked back, going 8-2 with a 2.48 ERA, and saving 24 out of 27 games.

Brewers Most Valuable Pitcher: John Axford.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chris Capuano — Capuano’s stats of 4-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 24 appearances (and nine starts) are a little misleading, though they’re perfectly fine.  As it stands, “Cappy” is the first player to effectively pitch in the major leagues after a second “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery on his pitching arm.  He also is a study in perseverence, as his second comeback required nearly two full years of rehabilitation.  Capuano deserves serious consideration as major league comeback player of the year.

The Brewers had many good players who had fine years for them in 2010; they just did not jell as a team.  Here’s hoping that next year, the Brewers will be much better and give the fans a great deal more excitement overall.

Updates on Past Blogs: Kratz out, Capuano finishes season.

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Today I wanted to write a quick update about what’s going on with some of those who’ve been featured in my past blog entries.

First and best, Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz is now the former DA of Calumet County as he has resigned.  As I’d previously written — and hoped would happen — Governor Jim Doyle (D-WI), who used to be the Attorney General of the state of Wisconsin before he was elected as Governor, had started the process to formally remove Kratz from office, which put an enormous amount of pressure on Kratz to resign.  Doyle had said in this article from 9/21/2010  (http://www.htrnews.com/article/20100921/MAN0101/309220021/Wisconsin-Gov-Jim-Doyle-sees-Calumet-County-DA-Ken-Kratz-sexting-case-as-very-serious-issue-), which was widely covered by Wisconsin newspapers:

An outraged Doyle said Monday he would start the process to consider removing Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz and that he hopes to make a decision in a month. At a news conference five days after The Associated Press broke the story, Doyle said any prosecutor who would have behaved that way on his watch would have faced repercussions.

“I consider this to be a very, very, very serious issue,” said Doyle, a former district attorney and attorney general who leaves the governor’s office in January.

“It’s one that personally strikes to a lot of things I have worked very hard on in my career: crime victims’ rights and domestic violence. It troubles me deeply that somebody turns to the criminal justice system for help and receives the kinds of texts we have seen.”

And Gov. Doyle delivered, as Kratz, as of today, has resigned his position as DA.  Kratz’s resignation was covered widely as well; one account of it is here at this link:

http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20101004/GPG0101/101004091/1207&located=rss

Kratz’s resignation was quiet and done via press release, which stated:

“It is with deep sadness and regret that I announce my resignation as Calumet County district attorney, effective immediately,” Kratz wrote in a statement. “I have lost the confidence of the people I represent due primarily to personal issues which have now affected my professional career.”

I am very happy that Kratz is gone, and hope the people of Calumet County will now rest a bit easier with Kratz’s resignation.

Next, Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano completed his comeback season; as previous blogs have reported, left-hander Capuano came back this year from his second “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery in his left arm and pitched effectively, going 4-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 66 innings, starting nine games and appearing in 24.  The rest of his statistics are available many places, but I prefer FanGraphs.com, an excellent baseball resource site for the serious fan; here’s that link:

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1701&position=P

Capuano started his final game last Saturday and struggled against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up three runs, ten hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings.  After the game, a 7-4 loss (Capuano did not lose the game due to the Brewers offense tying the game at 4-4 in the seventh inning), Capuano said:

“It was a battle,” said Capuano. “It was one of those games when even when I had them hitting my pitch, they found holes. They hit a couple of balls hard.

“They never took the pressure off me, never really allowed me to settle into a groove. As a pitcher, you’re aware of the pace of the game (3 hours, 39 minutes). I was saying, ‘Let me have a clean inning. Let me move this game along a little bit.’ ”

But as Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Tom Haudricourt said at this article (http://www.jsonline.com/sports/brewers/104209094.html):

Capuano wasn’t going to let the shaky outing tarnish the comeback season he enjoyed after sitting out two years following a second Tommy John elbow surgery.

He quoted Capuano, who said:

“Physically, I’m feeling great,” said Capuano, who is eligible for free agency. “That’s everything that I hoped for out of this year. I had an uphill battle today. They’re a good team; they have a good offense.

“I don’t know what to expect (on the market). I’m glad now I can take a rest from throwing. I really haven’t stopped throwing since this rehab program began.”

I’m very, very proud of Chris Capuano, and I’m glad the Brewers re-signed him to a minor league deal last year.  Capuano is an outstanding example of patience, resilience and endurance, and I truly hope the Brewers re-sign him for next season as he’s shown he can still be an effective major league pitcher.

Persistence Pays Off, Part II — Chris Capuano Wins Again. Also Ben Sheets Surgery Update.

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This past week hasn’t been much fun; I celebrated my birthday while dealing with a nasty sinus infection, and thus my blog was inactive during that time as I hadn’t much to write about — or at any rate, what I would’ve tried to write wouldn’t have made much sense due to feeling so terrible.

But last night, I had another epiphany, and thus, a second blog post about Brewers left-handed pitcher Chris Capuano.  Capuano, as you might recall, has returned to the major leagues after having a second “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery performed in mid-2008.  His rehabilitation was extensive, and without a whole lot of faith in himself, along with a great deal of hard work rehabilitating his surgically-repaired left arm, he’d never have returned to pitch again, period — much less in the majors.

But he has, and he has pitched for the most part with amazing efficiency — or to be less unnecessarily wordy, he’s been very good indeed, one of the best pitchers the Brewers have had during this lost season of 2010.

Last evening, Capuano came in after Yovani Gallardo — the Brewers’ best starting pitcher, and their supposed “ace” of the staff thereby — gave up six earned runs (ERs) in only three and one third innings pitched.  He left the bases loaded, too, meaning if those runners had scored, nine runs would’ve been charged to Gallardo.

So what did Capuano do?  He mopped up the damage, that’s what.  He got out of the fourth inning with none of Gallardo’s runs scoring — and pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball.  Eleven men up, and eleven men down — no hits, only one walk, and one double-play ball which wiped the walk off the board.

This was Chris Capuano’s first win at Miller Park since May of 2007.  And in it, he also went one for two in hitting — getting his first hit in the bigs since 2007.  See this post about the game, although it did not stress enough to my mind the magnitude of Chris Capuano’s second win:

http://www.jsonline.com/sports/brewers/101197154.html

At any rate, you probably see where, if Chris Capuano were a different sort of person, all that rehab might’ve put him off from returning to baseball.  You can also see that Chris Capuano, fortunately for the Brewers, has more dedication, drive and determination than most people — because it’s incredibly difficult to recuperate from one “Tommy John” surgical procedure to pitch well.  It’s even more difficult to recover from two.

Chris Capuano’s stats for the season are now two wins, two losses.  He’s started two games, winning one, losing one.  He has a 3.86 ERA in 28 innings pitched, with 8 walks, 27 strikeouts (Ks), and has given up three home runs.  These may not seem like outstanding stats, but consider how hard this man has worked — then consider the Brewers staff pitching ERA average of 4.90, and the fact that only Yovani Gallardo, Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe and John Axford have lower ERAs on the entire Brewers staff of thirteen pitchers.

Chris Capuano is now thirty-two years old.  He’s recovered from two surgeries that are life-altering for pitchers; usually, if a pitcher works hard and is fortunate, he can recover from one such procedure.  Only rarely has a pitcher recovered from two on the same arm — and Chris Capuano is, if not the first, possibly the second pitcher in the majors to have returned from two “Tommy John” surgeries.

I mention this because another of my favorite players, former Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, recently had a surgery so extensive that it was reported by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Web site www.sfgate.com) as a “surgery (that) involved every structure in the elbow — both tendons and the ligament — ” that Slusser was:

“amazed he was pitching with that kind of damage, and he wasn’t getting shelled; he was adequate.  That’s extraordinary.  There was basically nothing working in his elbow.”

The rest of Slusser’s blog from 8/11/10 is available here:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/athletics/detail?entry_id=69876

Sheets, like Capuano, is thirty-two years old.   He’ll be nearly thirty-four (and that only because he has a July birthday)  if — and when — he can attempt a comeback.   His surgery has been called the “most extensive” in the history of baseball — this headline at NBC Sports Hardball Talk on 8/11/2010 says it all:

Ben Sheets just had the most massive surgery in the history of pitching

Or how about this headline from the Contra Costa Times of 8/11/2010 — 

A’s update: Pitcher Ben Sheets faces long odds after undergoing Tommy John surgery

http://www.contracostatimes.com/sports/ci_15749396?source=rss&nclick_check=1

This article points out that Sheets is looking at nearly a two-year rehab cycle to rehab his surgically repaired right elbow, complete with both tendons and the “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery.   And he’s a pitcher, unlike Capuano, who’s always relied on his plus-fastball and his plus-curveball (meaning he throws high heat, really fast, over 90 mph fastballs with serious movement on them, and the curveball he has moves so much that it’s not only hard to hit, it’s hard to catch, besides) to win in major league ball, whereas Capuano was always a control pitcher.  These surgeries do take a toll on the arm and they do lower the velocity on the fastball for most pitchers; it will be harder for Sheets to be effective in the majors afterward even if his rehab goes successfully.  (As I sincerely hope it will.)

Sheets ended his season with a 4.53 ERA, a 4-9 record (a bit deceptive; the A’s didn’t give Sheets much in the way of run support), and a walks plus hits per inning (WHIP) rating of 1.39, the highest in his career.  But as Ms. Slusser said, basically nothing was working in Sheets’ elbow; it’s amazing Sheets struck out 84 guys while walking 43 in 119 1/3 innings, considering that datum.

At any rate, Chris Capuano was always known to Brewers fans as a “workout warrior” while Ben Sheets was considered, at best, to be a guy who would rather pitch than do running, stretching, weight training, or anything else pitchers are supposed to do these days to keep themselves in shape.  This perception of Sheets by Brewers fans is probably less than accurate, especially considering Sheets’ recovery from his surgery after the 2008 season for a torn labrum (a different elbow ailment) took all of 2009 to rehab.  So it’s obvious Sheets can and will rehabilitate serious injuries — the main question here is, can he do it twice, as has Capuano?  And can he do it at an advanced age for any pitcher, much less a power pitcher like Ben Sheets?

Granted, Capuano (who’s now 32) was able to come back from two serious surgeries.  But it took him nearly two years the second time, and he had to swallow a great deal of pride, no doubt, when he signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in ’09 (he was in the low minors, mostly rehabilitating, toward the end of August last year), then again in ’10.

Chris Capuano has shown that it’s possible for someone with a strong will and a strong gift to win out over a recalcitrant body.  I hope Ben Sheets will be able to do the same; I hope his body will let him.   I do know that Sheets should be well aware of Capuano and the struggles Capuano had returning to the majors, because Sheets and Capuano were teammates for many years, though were never known to be close friends.

At any rate, the lesson here for writers, or for anyone at all, is the same as my first post about Chris Capuano — persist.  Keep trying.  Don’t give up.  Don’t lose hope.  Or if you do, shake it off and keep trying some more.  Because that is literally the only way — the only way — to win.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 22, 2010 at 2:16 am

Persistence Pays Off — How Writing Compares to Brewers Pitcher Chris Capuano

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Talking about persistence — the refusal to give up and give in — may seem like an odd topic for a writer’s blog.  Especially when compared to Milwaukee Brewers left-handed pitcher Chris Capuano’s personal experiences — that is, if you don’t know anything about Capuano, who came back from a second “Tommy John” ligament replacement surgery on his pitching arm and fought his way up to the major league level earlier this year.

But the two things have more in common than it might appear at first, because we writers need to refuse to give in to the small voice inside us that says, “You’ll never sell another thing.  No one will ever read what you’re writing, so why bother?”  And Chris Capuano needed to say to his small voice, “You know what?  I don’t care how long I’ve been injured.  I don’t care what you, small voice, are saying, because you are wrong  — I’ll make it back to the big leagues, and I will win.”

Tonight Chris Capuano won for the first time in three-plus years.  He did it because he overcame adversity and made his way back to the bigs, and then by refusing to give up on himself as he was only given one start back in June, then placed in the bullpen, seemingly to languish.  But Capuano didn’t take no for an answer — in fact, he seemed pleased to be back in the majors, and was not worried by the length of time his comeback was taking.

We all could learn a great lesson from Chris Capuano.  And that lesson is, persistence pays off.  We just need to keep trying, because if we can just keep working away at our writing, slowly but surely, and trust enough in ourselves to know that it will matter in the end.

Here’s the story of tonight’s win:

http://milwaukee.brewers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100719&content_id=12403076&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=mil

And here’s a relevant (albeit lengthy) quote from that article, including some words from the hero of the day, Chris Capuano:

Starting in place of the injured Doug Davis, Capuano (1-1) notched his first win in the big leagues since he beat the Nationals at Miller Park on May 7, 2007. He would spend all of 2008 and 2009 recovering from his second career Tommy John surgery, a grueling elbow procedure from which some pitchers never return.

But there he was in the box score with a “W” next to his name for the first time since Ned Yost was the Brewers’ manager and Monday’s catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, was a Draft hopeful at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Now 31 and married to his college sweetheart, Sarah, who was in the seats Monday night, Capuano allowed three hits over five innings. He struck out four and issued one walk, which led to Pittsburgh’s lone run.

“The winning and losing part of it becomes a lot less important when you’re faced with, ‘Am I going to be able to play again?'” Capuano said. “Going through a time like that, where you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to make it back, it really puts the bad stuff in perspective.

“So, coming into this year, I wasn’t really thinking about [the winless drought]. But tonight, pitching in the game and then coming out [to] watch the rest of the game, I surprised myself how much I was aware of it, how anxious I felt. And how good it felt for the team to get that win.”

We, as writers, need to believe in ourselves.  And remember that no matter how long it takes, the only one who can take you out of the game is you.

Believe in yourself.  Be like Chris Capuano.  And live to write another day.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 20, 2010 at 4:40 am