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Archive for the ‘John Axford’ Category

What Makes a Good Story?

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Recently, I wrote about Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher John Axford, and I said that the way his story ended was not the way his story was supposed to go.

This begs the question: What makes for a good story, anyway?

By contemporary standards, what would’ve made Axford’s story much better would’ve been him coming into the game, striking out the side (or at least getting three outs), getting the save, and having the stadium rain cheers upon his head. (The crowd did cheer him when he came in — I think he may have even received a standing ovation — and cheered him on the way out, too, which is not usual when a pitcher is unable to get out of the inning. This last happened because we Brewers fans knew Axford well from his previous service with us, and knew he was deserving of such approbation due to how well he’d done before.)

In previous eras, though, they had stories such as MADAME BOVARY that sold a ton. Those stories would have characters put through the wringer and they’d never be able to come up for air; instead, even their children would be put through the wringer for no purpose, and would never be able to get ahead.

Why audiences appreciated such stories is beyond me, but that was the fashion at that time. The would-be heroine (or hero) had a tragic flaw (or two, or five), and because of that flaw would taint herself and everyone around her beyond any hope of redemption.

The fashion now tends more to happy endings, but well-deserved happy endings. Characters still get put through the wringer (see Lois McMaster Bujold’s MIRROR DANCE, or Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS, or any of Robert Jordan’s novels in the Wheel of Time series, among others), but they live to fight another day. They learn from their mistakes, too. And they continue on, having learned much more about themselves in the process.

Of course, the Harry Potter novels also exemplify this sort of story. Harry grows up to be a powerful magician, but he’s put through the wringer and must fight the big, bad, nasty, evil, and disgusting Lord Voldemort (and yes, I meant all those descriptions, as Voldemort is just that bad) in order to become the magician he needs to be. He and his friends Hermione and Ron are put through all sorts of awful things, but they eventually prevail.

My friend Chris Nuttall’s novels about Emily, starting with SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and continuing through to FACE OF THE ENEMY (with CHILD OF DESTINY coming soon), also have a plot that shows Emily being thrown into awful situation after awful situation, but she finds a way to prevail every time through hard work, effort, and a talent to get along with people even if they’ve crossed her (or she’s crossed them). Emily scans as a real person, and we care about her because she faces things most of us face even though we’re not magicians.

What are those things, you ask? Well, she has to learn from her own mistakes. She has to realize that she can’t fix everything and everyone. She has to find out that her snap judgments are not always correct. And she has to reevaluate people and situations, even when she doesn’t want to.

Of course, my own stories about Bruno and Sarah (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) have many of the same lessons. There are things Bruno can do, and does, once he realizes he’s been lied to about nearly everything. Sarah is in much the same boat, except she has different talents — complementary ones, in most cases — and the two of them have to find that they’re stronger together than they could ever be alone. But there are still things they can’t do, and they must make their peace with that (as every adult does), while continuing to work on the things they can.

In other words, they can control what is in their power to control. But they can’t control other people. (It would be wrong to do so, anyway. They have to make their own lives meaningful in whatever way they can, too. And make their own mistakes, as we all do…but I digress.)

Anyway, the stories I love best are those with happy endings. People sometimes start out with situations they don’t deserve (such as my friend Kayelle Allen’s character Izzorah, who went through a childhood illness that damaged his heart and nearly blinded him), but they get into better positions and find the people who can help them — maybe even love them the way they deserve. (Izzorah, for example, finds a treatment for his heart — it’s not a standard one, by any means, but it works in the context of the story — and finds love along the way in SURRENDER LOVE.)

So, to go back to the beginning of this blog, as we love happy endings and we want to see deserving people find good luck and happiness, the true ending we wanted for John Axford was to get the outs, get the cheers, bask in the glow of achieving his dreams once again at the baseball-advanced age of thirty-eight, and stay with the Brewers the rest of the season as they continue to make their run at postseason play.

That Axford was unable to achieve this happy ending was distressing. But all the hard work and effort he put into his return to the big leagues should still be celebrated. And my hope, overall, is that he will still be with the Brewers in one way or another after this season ends.

What makes for a good story? Do you agree or disagree with me, and if so, why? Tell me about it in the comments!

John Axford Rejoins Brewers, Gets Injured…Not the Way the Story Was Supposed to Go

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A few days ago, pitcher John Axford rejoined the Brewers, came out to pitch in the 9th inning to wild applause…then injured his elbow after first hitting a batter, then walking two (getting one out in the process). I could see the injury when he threw to the last batter (the second walk), as the elbow looked wrong in a way I can’t quite explain.

This was not the way the story was supposed to go.

Axford is now thirty-eight. He is the Brewers single-season saves leader with 46. And he’d recently pitched for Team Canada during Olympic qualifications, then was sent by the Toronto Blue Jays to their Triple-A ballclub as Axford had looked impressive and his velocity (upper nineties on the radar gun) was back. Then Toronto traded Axford, a then-minor league player, to the Brewers for cash considerations. This was a classy move by a classy organization.

To make matters even more interesting, Axford had worked for the Blue Jays as a TV analyst at the start of this season before making his comeback effort. (To say that all of this is quite uncommon, almost of a storybook quality, is understating Axford’s story.)

So, we return to Milwaukee and Axford’s appearance a few days ago. As I said, he came out to wild applause; there may have even been a standing ovation. (We Brewers fans do not forget our players.) Axford, who’d not pitched for the Brewers since 2013, seemed touched by this (I was watching TV, and saw his expressions). He warmed up on the mound, as every pitcher does, and he looked quite good.

I was happy to see Axford. I wrote about him years ago (that’s why I have a “John Axford” category here at my blog), and I know he’s a quality human being and a class act. I also knew that he’s not the type of guy to accept a challenge unless he believes he can beat that challenge.

Anyway, during the first at-bat by the opposing team (Pittsburgh), he looked impressive. His fastball was hitting 94 or 95 mph consistently and hit 96 at least once. (Fastball velocity matters because major league hitters can tee off on pitches that are slower than that, in general. There are exceptions to this, pitchers who can make change-ups work for them, such as Brewers pitcher Devin Williams. But Axford is not one of those exceptions.) And he’d gotten a couple of strikes on the batter — I forget the guy’s name now, but he always stands right on top of the plate — before hitting him.

So, that guy goes to first base.

Axford still looked OK. He wasn’t rattled. (As an experienced closing pitcher, he’s certainly done things like that before. Not often, but often enough that it wouldn’t throw him.) He kept going.

But something happened to his elbow during the next few at-bats. While he did get one guy out (soft outfield fly, if I remember right), he was not able to get any more outs. And with the last few pitches he threw, the ball came nowhere close to the plate. In fact, they didn’t even come close to the batter’s box, that’s just how far outside they were.

That’s not like Axford, or any experienced player. I knew this. And I also knew that if you ever see something like that in a professional ballgame, the pitcher’s hurt.

Axford was taken out of the game. An MRI was done the next morning, and all Brewers fans know to this point is that Axford is out for the rest of the season as he has unspecified elbow damage.

I feel for Axford. I truly do.

I am not a professional pitcher — not hardly! — but when I was in my teens I had a good fastball for a fourteen-year-old and tried out for the local team. (Unofficially, mind.) Another of the girls I knew, who ran cross-country, also tried out. And we showed enough that it’s possible both of us would’ve gotten an official tryout, even during a time where young women weren’t exactly encouraged to be athletes — and definitely not encouraged to be pitchers. (My friend was a first baseman, mind, and hit a ton. But I digress.)

Anyway, sometime over the next year, I messed up my right arm. I went in to see the orthopedist, and he said as I was not ever going to be pitching again, I didn’t need to have my arm fixed. But that I’d apparently torn something — a ligament, a rotator cuff, he wasn’t sure (and no, he didn’t do an X-ray, either; MRIs were quite expensive, then). Because I was a musician, not an athlete, he did not recommend getting my arm fixed.

Ever since, instead of throwing in the high 70s/low 80s (which was quite good for a fourteen-year-old, I point out again), I can maybe throw a fastball in the mid 30s. My right arm hurts when the weather changes, too.

I know that professional pitchers do get their arms fixed, and they should. But I’m here to tell you that I know these injuries are extremely frustrating. Even to someone like me, who wasn’t really an athlete (though I wanted to be, desperately), an arm injury of the type Axford apparently suffered is difficult to deal with. (I had pain while playing my instruments for at least six months, too. But I digress, again.)

Everyone among the Brewers faithful, and probably most others as well, wanted Axford’s appearance to go differently. They wanted Axford to get the save. They wanted Axford to remain uninjured. And they wanted Axford to enjoy a night that he’d worked hard to get back to: a night in the big leagues, again.

That did not happen.

The story did not go where it should’ve. And that just goes to show you that stories, even when they don’t go the way you want, are important.

I wish Axford well, hope he fully recovers, and pitches again in the big leagues before he retires. But if he isn’t able to make it back to “the Show” again, I hope he’ll remember that the journey to get there was important. All the work he’d done to stay in shape, to try out for Team Canada, to go to the minors and work hard, was important as well.

Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and care are all important. Axford has all of that in droves. And now, he — along with the rest of the Brewers faithful — needs to remember that he’s done everything he can.

The rest, unfortunately, is out of his hands.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 6, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Milwaukee Brewers 2013: A Dreadful First Week

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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.

Milwaukee Brewers 2012 End-of-the-season Wrap-up

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As promised, here’s my end-of-the-season assessment of the Milwaukee Brewers.

While most writers have concentrated on the Brewers’ pitchers major league-leading 29 blown saves (ouch!), or the many injuries to key players (first baseman Mat Gamel, pitcher Chris Narveson, and shortstop Alex Gonzalez suffered season-ending injuries early, while catcher Jonathan Lucroy and pitcher Shaun Marcum spent significant time on the disabled list), or the weak first-half performances by Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks and third baseman Aramis Ramirez as reasons why the Brewers finished third in the National League Central and missed the second Wild Card slot by four games, I’d rather focus on something else.

Put simply, the Brewers had an extremely inconsistent season.  Some months, the Brewers looked terrible.  Other months, the Brewers looked like world-beaters — with one of their best months being the month of September (which is why they were in Wild Card contention at all).

This is the main reason the Brewers could lead the league in positive categories like runs scored, home runs, and strikeouts (by pitchers), and also lead in such a horrible category as blown saves at the same time.

In other words, the 2012 season for the Brewers was one of some very high highs, some very low lows, and one of remarkably puzzling statistics.

That said, some players stood out more than others.

On the bad side:

Closer John Axford had the most inconsistent year of his young career.  While his stat line doesn’t look that bad — 35 saves in 44 chances, a 4.67 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP, a 5-8 record and 93 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings — the fact remained that Axford’s ERA was much higher in 2012 than it was in 2011, when Axford posted a 1.95 mark along with 46 saves in 48 opportunities.  And of course Axford blew far too many saves, actually losing his job as a closer for a while before regaining it after a series of sparkling performances as a set-up man in July  (Axford posted three holds during that time).

But at least Axford was able to regain his form, as he looked much better toward the end of the year.  This bodes well for his future with the Brewers.

Backup closer/set-up man Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez had an even more inconsistent year than Axford; while K-Rod had 32 holds, by far the most on the club, K-Rod also had only three saves in 10 opportunities (seven blown saves, in short), a 2-7 record, and a 4.38 ERA in 72 innings of work.

As K-Rod had an $8M contract last season and vastly underperformed considering his talent and overall reputation, it’s obvious that unless K-Rod takes a serious pay cut, he’s likely headed to another team.

The rest of the Brewers bullpen (save only Jim Henderson): for whatever reason, most of the bullpen looked like deer caught in the headlights for the vast majority of the 2012 season.  There were reasons for this — for example, the death of Jeff Adcock the long-time assistant groundskeeper, who knew all of the relievers extremely well, certainly played a part in the Brewers’ overall inconsistency.

Even so, the performance of Kameron Loe (6-5 record with a 4.61 ERA in 61 1/3 innings with only seven holds and two saves out of seven opportunities, compared to his 2011 statistics of 4-7 record with a 3.50 ERA in 72 innings of work with 16 holds and one save out of eight opportunities) was perplexing; the performance of Manny Parra (2-3 record with a 5.06 ERA in 58 2/3 innings of work with nine holds and zero saves out of two chances, compared with his 2010 stats of 3-10 record with a 5.02 ERA in 122 innings of work, half as a starter and half as a reliever, with no holds and no saves) was merely irritating, and while Jose Veras’ stats look good (5-4 record with a 3.63 ERA in 67 innings of work with 10 holds and one save in two opportunities), more was expected of him than this.

Now to the disappointing starter, Shaun Marcum.  Marcum spent two whole months on the disabled list, and ended up with a 7-4 record with a 3.63 ERA in 124 innings of work, which looks OK.  But Marcum’s 2011 record of 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 200 and 2/3 innings of work showed that he’s capable of much more.

Marcum’s year was disappointing because of his injuries, not because of his talent.  But because he couldn’t pitch every fifth day for two months, the Brewers’ record suffered.  That is an undeniable fact.

And because of Marcum’s lengthy stint on the DL, the Brewers actually waived him late in the year, hoping someone else would pick him up.  When no one else did, it was obvious that the Brewers were less than pleased that Marcum was still on the roster.  That’s why it seems most unlikely that Marcum will remain a Brewer in 2013, especially as he’s now a free agent.

Then we get to perhaps the most disappointing player on the entire team — Rickie Weeks.  Weeks had a horrendously bad first half, as his .162 batting average on June 12, 2012, shows.  And while Weeks eventually did pull his hitting form together, as his ending line of a .230 BA with 21 home runs and 63 runs batted in shows, his fielding was atrocious: a .974 fielding percentage with 16 errors and perhaps the least range of any second baseman in major league baseball.

Weeks is thirty years of age.  This is significant because very few players improve their defense at this stage of the game (my favorite player, Vinny Rottino, is one of the few who demonstrably has, at least at the catcher position).  But Weeks shouldn’t have had this sort of precipitous decline in his range; the only possible excuse for it is the nasty injury he suffered in 2011 where his foot, at full extension, hit the first base bag at an odd angle, which put Weeks on the disabled list for a substantial length of time.

If that’s the case, Weeks’ range should improve again now that he’s fully healed.  But I’d still like to see the Brewers find Weeks a fielding mentor, as when Willie Randolph was the bench coach for the Brewers a few years ago, Weeks’ fielding improved markedly.

Now let’s get to the positives, some of which were quite surprising:

Reliever Jim Henderson came up from AAA, where he’d been the closer, and showed he has the talent and the moxie to pitch extremely well at the major league level.  Henderson posted a 1-3 record with a 3.52 ERA in 30 and 2/3 innings pitched, with 14 holds and three saves in seven opportunities.  Henderson was one of the few bright spots during the late July/early August part of the season, and he’s someone I’m rooting for in 2013 to cement his job as the primary set-up man for Axford.

Starter Yovani Gallardo improved from a 7-6 record at the All-Star break to finish at 16-9; his ERA was 3.66 in 204 innings.  Gallardo also had 204 Ks.

The main reason Gallardo’s late season dominance was important was due to the trade of pitcher Zack Greinke in late July.  Greinke had a 9-3 record with the Brewers in 123 innings of work; he also had 122 Ks, and was the undisputed ace of the staff.  That’s why Gallardo had to step up in the second half of the season — and step up he did.

Right fielder/first baseman Corey Hart was a revelation at first base; after being shifted mid-season, and after not playing first base since 2006 (that at the AAA level, and only part-time), Hart posted a .995 fielding percentage with only four errors.  And Hart’s hitting continued apace; Hart had a .270 average with 30 HRs and 83 RBI, which possibly would’ve been even better had he not been hobbled with a nasty injury to his plantar fascia late in the season.  (Hart hit only .254 in September due to that injury.)

Compare Hart’s fielding and excellent range with that of former Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder in 2011 — the 5’10” Fielder had a .990 fielding percentage with 15 errors and a much smaller range than the 6’6″ Hart — and it’s clear that Hart has an excellent future ahead at first base.  Because if Hart could do this well after changing positions mid-season, how well is he going to do after he’s fully recovered from his injury to his foot and has a full Spring Training under his belt in 2013?

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez ended the season with a .300 BA, 27 HR, 105 RBI and 9 SBs in 11 attempts, which seemed nearly inconceivable on April 24. 2012, as Ramirez was in his characteristic season-starting slump and was hitting only .164 with only one HR and six RBI.  Ramirez’s fielding in 2012 was much better than it had been in 2011; he cut his errors in half (from 14 in ’11 to seven in ’12) and improved his fielding percentage (from .953 in ’11 to .977 in ’12) while increasing his range.

And when you consider that in 2011, the Brewers had Casey McGehee — whose .942 fielding percentage and 20 errors, along with a very small range, didn’t exactly inspire confidence — it’s obvious that Ramirez was an extremely bright spot for more than just his bat.

Right fielder Norichika Aoki hit well and improved his fielding as the season progressed; Aoki should be a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year award with his .288 BA, 30 stolen bases in 38 attempts, 10 HR and 50 RBI.

The Brewers’ young pitchers Michael Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers all did extremely well as rookies.  Fiers’ record of 9-10 is deceptive as Fiers ran out of gas in the final three weeks of the season; still, his ERA of 3.74 in 127 and 2/3 innings of work was quite promising, and his 135 Ks (a better than one strikeout per inning ratio, which is excellent for a starter) shows his talent in full measure.  Rogers, who came up in August, posted a 3-1 record with a 3.92 ERA in 39 innings of work, and his 41 Ks (again, a better than one strikeout per inning ratio) bode well for Rogers’ future.  And Peralta, who was called up in September, looked so good with his 2-1 record and 2.48 ERA in 29 innings of work that both Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez said Peralta has all the makings of long-term starter in the major leagues.

But I’ve saved the best for last.

Put simply, Ryan Braun is in a class by himself.  Braun had perhaps his best overall season in 2012 (.319 BA, 41 HR, 112 RBI, and 30 SB in 37 attempts), easily equaling or improving upon his 2011 National League MVP effort (.332 BA, 33 HR, 111 RBI, and 33 SB in 39 attempts) despite losing teammate Prince Fielder to free agency and having to deal with clean-up man Ramirez starting off in a horrendous slump.  While Ramirez eventually got it together (by the All-Star break, Ramirez was hitting .272), the fact remained that Braun didn’t have much support in the first month or so of the season, which meant Braun could be pitched around.

And, of course, due to the whole performance-enhancing drug scandal (did he or didn’t he?  I believe he didn’t.), Braun was booed mercilessly in every ballpark save one: Miller Park in Milwaukee.  But this didn’t stop him, nor did the rancor of various sportswriters, nor did the ruination of his reputation — absolutely nothing stopped Braun from putting up MVP-like numbers and carrying the Brewers to their 83-79 record and missing out on the second Wild Card by only a few, short games.

Ultimately, though, the Brewers 2012 season will be remembered for its inconsistency — for its excellent late-August to mid-September run to the playoffs and an above-.500 record, yes, but also for the bullpen meltdowns of mid-June to mid-July.  For their excellent cadre of young starters, yes — but also for the two months of Shaun Marcum’s stint on the DL.  For John Axford regaining his form, yes — but also for his losing his form, and losing it badly, mid-season.

The next question is, whither 2013?  Well, a lot depends on things that can’t be known right now.  For example, how many of the 2012 relieving corps will come back next year?  How many injuries will the ’13 Brewers have to deal with?  Will Chris Narveson be able to regain his form as a starter, or will his post-surgical recovery limit him to shorter stints out of the bullpen?

But things do look promising despite the ’12 Brewers’ puzzling inconsistency, which is far better than I thought back in early August.  And that, most of all, is why I believe that the 2013 Brewers might surprise everyone and finally make it back to the World Series for the first time since 1982.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

Brewers Sweep Reds — Then Lose to Astros. Huh?

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I have been puzzled by many things when it comes to the 2012 edition of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz continue to have jobs is definitely at the top of the list.

The Brewers had a three-game homestand on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday against the best team in the National League — the Cincinnati Reds.  And what do you know?  The Brewers swept them.

Now, as to why I didn’t say anything about it?  I was hoping to write something tonight about the Brewers now having a four-game winning streak, and I didn’t want to jinx it.

Anyway, the Brewers were doing well against the Houston Astros in the top of the eighth inning, as they were leading, 3-1, in Houston after a nifty start by Brewers rookie starting pitcher Mark Rodgers.  However, Houston scored a run against Brewers reliever Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth, which made the game 3-2.

The Brewers ninth came and went, so it was up to Brewers relief pitcher John Axford to close out the 3-2 win.  However, Axford was wild; worse, Axford couldn’t seem to throw strikes.  And because of this, Axford ended up first blowing the save, as the Astros tied it up, 3-3; then, Axford also lost the game, as the Astros scored the winning run, 4-3.

Rodgers’ winning effort goes for nothing, all because Roenicke didn’t have the sense he was born with to get someone else in there once it was clear Axford didn’t have it.  (Two batters in would’ve been soon enough; also, that was before the Astros scored a run, so maybe a different pitcher would’ve still been able to save the game.)

And what really stinks about this is that Brewers reliever Jim Henderson (a thirty-year-old rookie who has two saves in two save opportunities) and Axford were both ready to go in the bottom of the ninth.  However, Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz (who supposedly consults with Roenicke on every pitcher, all the time) called for Axford.  And then, Roenicke didn’t realize he needed to get Axford out of there — which is why I blame them both for this loss.

See, sometimes it’s easy to blame a player like Axford who just doesn’t have it.  But Axford is a very good pitcher who’s tried everything to get it together; as I’ve said before, I think there’s something mental, not physical, going on there (though if I were the Brewers, I’d also check out Axford’s pitching mechanics with a specialist, just to cover all the bases).

That’s why I blame Kranitz and Roenicke instead, as they are supposed to understand when one of their players is having trouble.  Yet, for whatever reason, they just didn’t — and when Axford, quite predictably, ran into problems, neither of them seemed to believe there were any other viable options than Axford. 

Even though Henderson was warm in the bullpen.  And certainly could’ve at least attempted to save that win for Mark Rodgers and the rest of the Brewers, especially considering that Axford had shown nothing while putting the first two guys on base.

Yet Roenicke and Kranitz didn’t make a change.  And the Brewers lost.  Again.

That’s how the Brewers, who looked great at home against the Reds, ended up losing to the worst team in baseball, the lowly Houston Astros. 

And as it’s the joint failure of the Brewers manager and Brewers pitching coach that led to this unlikely win for the Astros, not just the failure of any specific pitcher (even though it’s obvious Axford had nothing), my solution is simple: fire Kranitz and Roenicke.  Fire them both.  Now.

Otherwise, they will both continue to make bad decisions about which pitchers should come in, and which shouldn’t.  (As they’ve done all year long.)   And they’ll never blame themselves; oh, no.  Instead, they’ll blame the players — yet it’s obvious that the blame must be shared to anyone excepting these two men: Rick Kranitz, pitching coach.  And Ron Roenicke, manager.

That’s unacceptable to me as a Brewers fan.  Especially as I have eyes and a brain, and know how to use both.  Which is why I’m sick and tired of Roenicke and Kranitz continuing have jobs when, during the course of 2012, they’ve done nothing to deserve it. 

The definition of insanity has often been given as, “Doing the same thing over and over again after it’s already been proven not to work.”  If that’s the case, then Kranitz and Roenicke have both proven that they are not up to the task of doing even a mediocre job for the Brewers.  Which is why both of them should be fired, soonest.

Second Blog-i-versary . . . Some Quick Hits

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Folks, my second “blog-i-versary” passed on July 10, 2012, without comment, mostly because the weather in Wisconsin has been extremely hot.  While I’ve continued to blog here and there, certainly this hot and humid weather we’ve had — which has destroyed crops, damaged lives, and caused all sorts of financial problems, as our 2012 summer is being compared to other, difficult summers like the summer of 1988 and worse, the “Dust Bowl” summer of 1936 — has gotten in the way.

That said, I’m very pleased that my blog is still here, two years after I started it (two years and a week, to be precise).  I hadn’t anticipated this, but I suppose this blog still being in existence shows a good side to the Law of Unintended Consequences after all.

Here’s a few quick hits as to what’s going on right now in Wisconsin, aside from our dreadful weather:

Last night, the Milwaukee Brewers dropped a heartbreaker, 3-2, to their arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals.  Particularly troubling in this loss is the fact that the Brewers led, 2-0, in the top of the ninth; closer John Axford got the first two outs (though both were long fly balls caught close to the fence, meaning both hitters nearly hit the ball out of the park rather than made these long, loud outs), then loaded the bases.  Eventually, three runs scored, and Axford was removed from the game; Kameron Loe got the last out.

So, what happened to the Brewers in the bottom of the ninth?  The hitters put too much pressure on themselves, that’s what.  Corey Hart, who’d hit his 17th HR of the year earlier in the game, went to a 3-2 count before striking out.  The next hitter, Rickie Weeks, took a few pitches, but also ended up striking out.  And Martin Maldonado — well, he didn’t do anything, either.  So the Cardinals closer, Jason Motte, got the three outs he needed, while the Brewers closer, Axford, was wild in and out of the strike zone and didn’t pitch effectively.  Now, it looks like Axford may have been removed from his job as Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) has 19 holds and 1 save, and has looked far better than “Ax,” and no one can blame Brewers manager Ron Roenicke for wishing to try someone else at this point.

Oh, yes — the guy who started the game, rookie pitcher Mike Fiers, pitched extremely well (again), but didn’t get the win due to Axford’s meltdown.  (I like Axford a great deal, and believe part of his troubles with command of his fastball and breaking ball come down to the usual problems relief pitchers have from time to time.  But I have to call ’em as I see ’em.)

Otherwise, I’m continuing to work on AN ELFY ABROAD, and have some reviews planned this week at Shiny Book Review for Stephanie Osborn’s third book in her “Displaced Detective” series, and for Rosemary Edghill’s VENGEANCE OF MASKS . . . I may even review another book on economics, to keep my hand in the game.  So stay tuned.

Finally, I played a concert with the Racine Concert Band last Sunday; for the record, I played second alto saxophone, and didn’t have any solos, though I did have a few good parts.  I was glad I was able to play the concert despite the heat and humidity; the crowd at the concert (which was free, as it always is) was a bit diminished, possibly due to the heat, but we still had a couple of hundred people there and that’s encouraging.  This was my fourth service for the band this year; I have a few more planned later this month and into August, though I hope to be playing clarinet at that time (I say “hope” because originally I’d been scheduled to play my clarinet on the last concert).

But whether I’m playing in the group or not, if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin and love free, live music, you owe it to yourselves to get out to the Racine Zoo and take in the Racine Concert Band.  Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays in July, and are at 7:00 p.m. on Sundays in August through August 19.  There’s a wide variety of music, including marches, show tunes, light operas/operettas, and more — and best of all, it’s free.

Now back to our regularly scheduled sweltering, already in progress.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Hallelujah! Brewers OF Ryan Braun Wins Appeal; Will Not be Suspended (UPDATED)

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Folks, I told you this would happen, and it did.

Today, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not be suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs (read: steroids).  Apparently, he was able to prove a problem with the “chain of custody” (that is, how the urine sample was handled before it got to the lab); Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt said, in essence, that the Brewers breathed a big sigh of relief after hearing this.

Apparently MLB itself isn’t happy that Braun won his appeal, but that’s just too bad about them; the fact is, arbitrator Shyam Das agreed with the Major League Players Association and with Braun himself, and that’s what matters.  (Anything else is just a fig leaf for MLB, and should be discounted.)

Here’s a link to Haudricourt’s story:


Ryan Braun has released a statement, which the Journal-Sentinel has at this link:

Here’s an excerpt from that statement:

I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.

It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.

Later in the statement, after Braun thanked the many people (including the Brewers organization) he felt he should, he said this:

This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.

Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.

As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.

Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.

And friends and teammates of Braun have not been shy saying they’re very pleased to hear this, either.

Brewers closer John Axford, on Twitter, said this regarding Braun:

All I can say is that Braun has exemplary character is continuing to handle this in an unbelievable manner. #ThereBetterBeSomeApologies

And Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who is a good friend of Ryan Braun’s, said this via Twitter:

MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated

My own take, as you know, is that back in December, I said that I believed Braun would be found innocent or at minimum be vindicated and this suspension would not hold up.  Here’s a bit from that blog, written on December 10, 2011:

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).

Then on December 22, 2011, I pointed out that Braun knew the one minor leaguer, Brendan Katin, who’d successfully fought his appeal, and that maybe this meant something for him.  And Katin said that he didn’t believe Braun was dirty; he said he was “shocked” to hear of an impending suspension, as it didn’t really make any sense.  My conclusion was as follows:

In other words, Braun’s test could be a false positive of the sort Katin had happen to him; just because it hadn’t yet happened as far as anyone’s aware in the majors yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  Tests are handled by humans, thus are inherently flawed, and it is possible that a completely innocent man could be caught in the cross-hairs, just like Katin was back in 2007.

My view remains that Braun is innocent until and unless he is proven guilty, not the reverse — and that I fully expect that Braun will be exonerated.  (emphasis added)

So as I said before, I fully believed Braun would be vindicated.  I was right, and I’m not afraid to tell you all “I told you so,” either.

Now, the Brewers, their fans, and Braun himself can breathe a sigh of relief; as for MLB, they should realize that tests can be messed up and not every player who tests positive initially is a dirty player.  Rather than being mad at arbitrator Shyam Das, they should be grateful that Das is an independent person and used his head for more than a hatrack.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Prince Fielder signs with Tigers; 9 years, $214 million

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Folks, there are reports all over the Internet that former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder has signed a deal with the Detroit Tigers; the deal is reported as being $214 million over the course of nine years, or an average $23.78 million per year.

See this story from Ken Rosenthal for further details:

Here’s a relevant quote:

On the long list of Scott Boras shockers, this one ranks near the top.

Boras’ top free-agent client, first baseman Prince Fielder, has agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Tigers, according to major-league sources.

Fielder’s deal with the Tigers does not include an opt-out provision, a source said.

Tigers general manager David Dombrowski recently told that Fielder, “doesn’t fit for us. He’s looking for a long-term deal and that just doesn’t fit.”

Either Dombrowski was shading the truth, or Tigers owner Mike Ilitch — who has worked well with Boras in the past — made a last-minute call to sign Fielder.

So, see, it’s not just me who’s shocked.  Rosenthal is obviously shocked, too.

The reason this deal surprised so many people, including me, is because of how long it took on the one hand (as we’re only about a month away from when pitchers and catchers must report to Spring Training) while on the other hand, the team that ended up landing Fielder — the Tigers — wasn’t even on the radar screen until now.  (This last bit is very reminiscent of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s pursuit of Albert Pujols; no one on the outside of the negotiations had any idea that the Angels were interested in Pujols, much less that they’d lay out big money for him.)

At any rate, the Tigers’ plans apparently include having Fielder play some first base and DH other days; they already have a first baseman in Miguel Cabrera (who hits from the right side, and is a power hitter), but Cabrera is no better defensively than Fielder and presumably wouldn’t mind DHing now and again.

Now, as a Brewers fan, I wasn’t surprised at all to see that Fielder is moving on.  It was obvious that he didn’t want to re-sign here; he had an opportunity to do that last year, and even at the end of this year, he had the opportunity to accept arbitration and come back for another year — Brewers set-up man Francisco Rodriguez (“K-Rod,” one of the best closers in the game), decided to do this even though the Brewers have a particularly good closer in John Axford — one who set team records last year and one who isn’t being paid very much.  (Axford should be getting a lot more than he is; at this point, he’s making just over the major league minimum and that really seems unfair.  But I digress.)

This situation has happened before, albeit with C.C. Sabathia.  Sabathia helped the Brewers get to the 2008 playoffs; the Brewers clinched the “wild card” spot on the final day of the season, and they wouldn’t have done so without Sabathia’s stellar performance (he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts with the Brewers).  But Sabathia, as good as he was, was a half-season rental; Fielder was developed by the Brewers farm system and his entire career (six full seasons and part of a seventh) was spent in Milwaukee up until now.

Still, unlike Ryan Braun, who accepted a contract below market value in order to stay in Milwaukee because he apparently likes the stability of knowing he’ll be financially solvent (good thing, too, but other than Evan Longoria, there isn’t a single player in MLB who’s anywhere near as interested in his long-term financial future as Braun), Fielder obviously wanted to go wherever he’d get the most money.  And he does have ties to Detroit; his father played there, and Fielder took batting practice there as a pre-teen — part of the “Fielder legend” says that Fielder hit several HRs in batting practice when he was twelve, though I’m unsure that’s factually correct.  (Fielder has enormous power, and even as a child he probably had a great deal of it also.  But Fielder himself cast aspersions on some of these legends while he was in Milwaukee, saying, in effect, “Don’t believe everything you hear, but isn’t it a nice story?”)

I just hope that whatever Fielder is getting out of this deal is worth it to him, because it’s one thing to be a “Big Man On Campus” like he was for the Brewers; it’s another to become the highest-paid player on the team, as he will be for the Tigers.  The media in Detroit isn’t as friendly as the media in Milwaukee, and even if they were, Fielder’s contract will make him much more of a target than he’s ever been in Milwaukee.  This is something he’s not likely to understand until he’s lived with it for a while; I just hope the learning curve for him won’t be too steep along the way.

Granted, Fielder is a big man (in many senses, including his heart) and I’m sure he can handle it.  But it will be much more difficult for his family and friends to deal with the media on days where he goes 0 for 4 with a couple of Ks (even a guy who strikes out as little as Fielder does, proportionately, has a few days like this a year) than it’s ever been in Milwaukee.

All I can say now is, “Enjoy the contract, Prince.  Play well.  And don’t forget your fans in Milwaukee.”  Because assuredly, we will not forget about you anytime too soon.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 25, 2012 at 12:05 am

Brewers win game 5 in 10 innings, Advance to NLCS

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Game five of the NLDS between the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks is over, with the Brewers winning, 3-2, in ten innings.  But let me set the scene for you, as this game was even more exciting than the scoring shows.

The Brewers led, 2-1, after Yovani Gallardo had pitched a smart and gutty game through six innings.  Both relief pitchers, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod), pitched well enough in their innings (Saito the 7th, K-Rod the 8th) to keep the game 2-1.   The Brewers went into the top of the 9th with Brewers closer John Axford, who hadn’t blown a save since April, brought into the game to close it out. 

But sometimes, the best-laid plans of mice and men do not work.  Instead, Arizona tied the game at 2-2, though Axford was able to get three outs and preserve the tie (he still got a blown save).

The ninth went by quietly, as only Jerry Hairston, Jr., hit the ball hard (and, unfortunately, right at Gerardo Parra in left field).   No runs, no hits, no errors.

The tenth inning rolled around, and Axford was still in there.   Axford had only pitched two innings seven times this past year; he usually is a strict one-inning closer, partly because of how successful he’s been.  As Axford had not looked all that good in the ninth, I was very concerned — however, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made the right move to leave Axford in as he breezed through the top of the tenth.

In the bottom of the tenth, J.J. Putz, the D-backs closer, was brought in to pitch to preserve the tie.  Craig Counsell went up to bat; he lined out to right field.  Carlos Gomez came up, and hit a single to left field.  Now Nyjer Morgan stood at the plate, and he’s been a tough clutch hitter for the Brewers all season long; I’m sure D-backs manager Kirk Gibson knew this, but he also knew that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder (the Brewers #3 and #4 hitters) were up after Morgan and so Gibson elected to take his chances with Morgan.

At this point, Gomez stole second base, but was unable to take third on a wild pitch by Putz. 

Pitch after pitch went by; finally, Morgan got a pitch to hit and roped a single into center.   Gomez is the fastest man on the team, so I knew if anyone could score from second base, Gomez could do it.   And Gomez did it — he scored easily — which means the Brewers won, 3-2, and will advance to the National League Championship Series against the winner of the St. Louis Cardinals-Philadelphia Phillies matchup, which is currently in progress.  If the Cardinals win that game, the Brewers will have home field advantage in the next round of the playoffs; if the Phillies win, the Brewers will not.

This is the first post-season series the Brewers have won since 1982.  Like the ’82 Brewers, it took the ’11 Brewers five games to win the series; unlike the ’82 Brewers, they were ahead, 2-0 (the ’82 Brewers were behind, 0-2, even though they, too, had home field advantage; unlike this series, until game five, every road team had won the game).  And in this one, the ’11 Brewers did not win a single road game — but they didn’t have to, either.

Now, the one thing you need to be aware of is that Sam Ryan, reporter for TBS, was on the field right after the Brewers won the game.  Morgan dropped a few “f-bombs,” which I would’ve told you were quite predictable — but Ms. Ryan doesn’t seem to understand things like this. 

This is the same reporter who didn’t seem to know who in the world Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount was when she spoke with him during game 2; Yount was very polite to her, but if I had been Yount, I would’ve pulled her aside and pointed to Yount’s retired number #19, which is prominently displayed at Miller Park (the Brewers’ stadium).  I would’ve told her that I was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, too, and one of the few players to ever win Most Valuable Player awards at two different positions, shortstop in 1982, and center field in 1989.  And next time, that she should do her homework or stay home and let someone who knows more about baseball get paid.

There are many female baseball reporters who would’ve done a better job than Ms. Ryan did, during game 2 and at the end of game 5; I do blame her for even putting a microphone on Morgan because while I really like Morgan as a player, he’s a high-strung guy who’s been known to lose his cool before.**  (Granted, he was on a huge emotional high at this point.  But he’s not like Brewers sluggers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart or Rickie Weeks; Morgan doesn’t have that level of self-control and everyone should know it unless they’re completely clueless, like Ms. Ryan apparently is.)

Anyway, Axford ends up with the ultimate rarity for a closer — a blown save, and a win.  I’m sure he’ll take it, as will all Brewers fans.

What a game.  What a finish.

Let’s hope the Brewers have something left for the NLCS, where Zack Greinke will be pitching game 1.


** Now, does this excuse Morgan for dropping the “f-bombs?”  No, not really.  It makes it comprehensible, but it certainly isn’t excusable.  Morgan should know better.

Questionable Moves from Roenicke; Brewers Drop Fifth Straight

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Ron Roenicke, again tonight, made me question whether he has any in-game managerial skills at all.

Here’s the situation.  After John Axford pitched a solid ninth, which kept the Brewers tied 2-2, Roenicke sent up Nyjer Morgan for Carlos Gomez in the bottom of the ninth.  This was a safe move that unfortunately didn’t pay off, but I was glad he tried something.  Next, Roenicke sent Taylor Green up to bat for Axford rather than the much more reliable pinch hitter, Mark Kotsay; Green made a rather predictable out.  Finally, Jonathan Lucroy, batting ninth as he’d pinch hit for Randy Wolf in the 7th (Wolf, by the way, pitched quite well tonight, but took a no-decision), made another extremely predictable out.

So we go to the top of the tenth.  LaTroy Hawkins comes in to pitch for the Brewers, and he didn’t do badly as a pitcher.  However, he made a very poor fielding play — something that I know isn’t Roenicke’s fault, mind you, and something I’m sure Hawkins wish he hadn’t have done — and it allowed the Phillies to score the go-ahead run.

Now it’s the bottom of the tenth.  Corey Hart, the lead-off hitter, walks.  Mark Kotsay was in the on deck circle for the second time in the game, and was once again pulled back in favor of Craig Counsell.  Everyone watching the game knew Counsell was sent up to bunt, and he did on the second pitch; it was a beautiful bunt that advanced Corey Hart to second.

So here’s our situation.  We have a runner on second (Hart) with one out.  Ryan Braun comes up to bat.  He strikes out.  (It happens, even to good hitters.)  Prince Fielder comes up to bat.  He is intentionally walked (this, I knew, was going to happen, too; Fielder leads the league in intentional walks with 29).  Which brings up Casey McGehee, who hasn’t had a good year, but did have an RBI and one run scored in this game.

I don’t know about any other baseball fans, but I know I was screaming for Roenicke to put Kotsay up there to bat for McGehee.  If Kotsay could’ve gotten a hit, that would’ve more than likely have scored the speedy Hart, and remember, Counsell had already PH in the inning so he could’ve played defense at 3B at the top of the 11th if the Brewers had managed to get that far.

But no . . . Roenicke does nothing but allow McGehee to take his at-bat.  Worse yet, Yuniesky Betancourt was in the on-deck circle rather than Mark Kotsay — Betancourt is another light-hitting infielder who’s had at best a so-so year, and lacks McGehee’s power — so if McGehee had been patient and taken a walk (he was ahead in the count, 3-0, at one point), the Brewers would’ve had another guy up there who had no business being there in a clutch situation — Betancourt.

Instead, McGehee did something rather predictable; he hit a weak ground ball to third, and Hart was forced out.  Game over.

Look.  If the Brewers are to advance to the post season, as I know every Brewers fan wants, Roenicke needs to start managing every single game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series.  He needs to make good choices for pinch hitters (he did make one good choice earlier in the game by pinch hitting Rickie Weeks; I was glad to see him play.  Weeks drew a walk, and was immediately lifted for a pinch runner, Josh Wilson.), he needs to make good choices and pull pitchers out of there when they’re struggling (he never should’ve left Gallardo out there to get shelled against the St. Louis Cardinals last week; he shouldn’t have left Wolf, a few starts ago, out to get shelled against the Cardinals when the Brewers were playing at home).

So here we are.  The Brewers “magic number” to get in the playoffs stands at 11.  The Cardinals won again tonight, and the Brewers lost their fifth straight game, which means the Brewers now have a six game lead over the Cardinals with fifteen games to play.  And the Brewers have lost their second consecutive series, and their third series out of the last four, because Roenicke doesn’t pull his starters fast enough on the one hand (he should’ve pulled Marcum out sooner last night, too; this is one of Roenicke’s patterns) and sends up either the wrong pinch hitters or refuses to pinch hit for light-hitting Brewers regulars like McGehee or Betancourt when he still has someone like Kotsay sitting on the bench.

From this Brewers fan out into the ether: Roenicke, please get your head out of your nether regions and realize the Brewers might not make the playoffs, especially if you keep making bad managerial decisions.  You need to start managing like it’s the last inning of the last game in the World Series, or the Brewers won’t even sniff the postseason.  (You shouldn’t need a long-time fan like me to point that out, either, if you’re half the baseball man you think you are.)