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Ben Sheets Signed by Atlanta Braves to Minor League Deal

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Folks, Ben Sheets’ comeback is official, as he’s been signed by the Atlanta Braves to a minor league deal as of last evening (Sunday, July 1, 2012).  Here’s a quote from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, which is here:

“We’re getting a guy who is a four-time All-Star and there is nothing wrong with his arm,” Wren said. “You have a quality major league pitcher prior to the deadline without having to give up any talent. It really is the best of all worlds.”

Sheets is scheduled to make at least two starts in Double-A Mississippi, largely because it’s only 90 minutes from his home in Louisiana. He’ll go five innings or 75 pitches on Wednesday, then six innings or 90 pitches in a start after that. If all goes well, the Braves think he could be ready shortly after the All-Star break.

This all bodes well for Sheets, as the Braves’ team philosophy is one Sheets can get behind.  Plus, the Braves obviously haven’t forgotten the fact that Sheets once struck out eighteen of them on May 17, 2004 and seem to want Sheets on their side if he can indeed make a comeback a la former Milwaukee Brewers teammate (and pitcher) Chris Capuano.

Best of luck, Ben, with your comeback efforts.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 2, 2012 at 2:04 pm

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

2012 Brewers Pluses, Minuses, and Oddities thus far

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Folks, so far 2012 is shaping up to be a very strange year for the Milwaukee Brewers.

For example, if I had to grade the starters right now, I’d say they’re a net minus for the team.  (This when they were expected to be a major strength.) 

Consider, please, that the ace of the staff right now is #4 starter Shaun Marcum.  Marcum’s current ERA is 3.46, his record is 1-1, he’s pitched 13 innings thus far and he has 12 strikeouts.  The aces we’re supposed to be able to depend on, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke, have each had one good game and one bad game thus far — they, too, are 1-1, and Greinke has 12 Ks right along with Marcum to lead the team thus far.   But it gets murky after that — Gallardo’s ERA is 5.91 while Greinke’s is even worse at 6.75.  Both have pitched exactly 10 2/3 innings, while Gallardo has somehow walked 7 men thus far (Greinke has only walked 1, but that’s not much of a comfort when almost every other statistic he has is abysmal).

And as for #3 starter Randy Wolf, he’s has had two bad outings thus far, which is why his ERA is a whopping 10.61 in only 9 1/3 innings.  Wolf said he “stunk” a few days ago, and that he will do better; he’s a proud man, and I’m well aware that no professional baseball player ever goes out on to the field and wants to do so poorly — especially to start the season.  But this just isn’t good.

And #5 starter Chris Narveson, who pitched so well in his first start, pitched poorly today; he now stands with an ERA of 7.00 with 9 innings pitched, 5 Ks and 4 walks.  While he’s not expected to be a shining light (as he is the #5 starter), he is expected to be competent; Narveson most likely will improve right along with Wolf and the others, but this is a most inauspicious start to the 2012 for the entire starting rotation.

As for the relief pitching, here we’re looking at oddities instead; while there are some minuses (John Axford’s had two bad outings, though he does have two saves, while Francisco Rodriguez has had one bad outing), there are two big pluses thus far — the pitching of Manny Parra, coming back after being out all last season with back and arm issues, and the pitching of Kameron Loe.  Both of them have sub-3 ERAs; Loe has consistently gotten the ground-ball outs he needs to get to be a successful pitcher, while Parra has 8 Ks thus far (better than some of the starters).

And the rest of the relievers have been pretty good, too; Jose Veras has pitched well thus far, as has Marco Estrada; even Tim Dillard has done surprisingly well (don’t let his ERA of 7.11 fool you, as that’s due to one, bad outing).  So the guys expected to do well — Axford and K-Rod — mostly haven’t, but the rest of ’em have.  I’d rank that an oddity.

Now, we get to the fielding, which is just plain awful and is a huge net minus for the team.  Ryan Braun, who’s hitting pretty well, has already made an unusual throwing error (he was off-balance the other day against Atlanta, threw to third base, was off the mark, and a run scored), while Carlos Gomez, probably the best fielding outfielder on the team, has already made two errors.

But the infielders have been by far worse; Alex Gonzales, who’s supposed to be such a good defender, has three errors already (though one wasn’t his fault as Mat Gamel wasn’t where he was supposed to be; really, Gonzales shouldn’t have had to be charged with that as that’s where the “team error” stat should come into play — which is why MLB needs to adopt that rule, stat).  Rickie Weeks at second base has one, while Mat Gamel has two . . . and Aramis Ramirez has one.

So the team defense so far has lacked quite a bit.

As for the hitting, only one regular player is doing very well and being productive, and that’s Corey Hart.  He’s hitting .321 thus far with 4 homers, 8 RBI, and 3 doubles.  Ryan Braun has done the best otherwise, as he’s hitting .343 with 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 stolen bases and 4 doubles. 

The biggest net plus when it comes to this team thus far is the catching tandem of Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras.  Lucroy is hitting .364 with 2 HR and 6 RBI, while Kottaras is also hitting .364 (a statistical anomaly, that) with 3 HR and 6 RBI.

But there’s still some real problems with the hitting; the team as a whole is only batting .228, while Weeks and Ramirez are batting below .200.  (Ramirez in particular has been terrible, as he’s batting only .114.)

This is why I call the hitting an oddity thus far; there are some people hitting, a few you’d expect to do well (Hart and Braun), a few you wouldn’t who are doing well (the catchers), and a few you expect to do well who aren’t (Weeks and Ramirez.

All of this adds up to a 4-6 record and a highly unpredictable and frustrating season thus far.

Randy Wolf Pitches Great — Brewers Win against Cardinals and Tie Series at 2-2

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The Milwaukee Brewers, going into tonight’s National League Championship Series game against the St. Louis Cardinals, needed at least one pitcher to step up and pitch a good game.   Even Yovani Gallardo, last night’s starter, wasn’t able to pitch well (he had one bad inning, the first inning, which led to last night’s 4-3 loss against the Cards), and he’s the Brewers ace.   

Up until tonight, it was an open question as to whether or not any of the Brewers pitchers would be able to pitch a good game in the NLCS, much less give the Brewers a chance to win due to the strength of their pitching (rather than the Brewers’ hitters ending up having to bailing out the pitchers with their great hitting).

Then left-handed starter Randy Wolf stepped up to the plate and delivered not only a win, but his first-ever post-season victory.  (Talk about pressure.)  

Wolf pitched seven innings, giving up two solo home runs (one, to Cards OF Matt Holliday, was as cheap as they come, barely getting over the fence near the right field foul pole) and nothing else; he was in command, and pitched a calm and competent game to give the Brewers the chance to win.

Fortunately, the Brewers were able to get four runs, first with two runs off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning, then a third run in the fifth inning (also off Lohse, then he was removed from the game), and finally a fourth run in the sixth against Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs.   That was all they needed, as Brewers pitchers Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for a hold, and John Axford pitched a scoreless ninth for a save.

This win by the Brewers ties the series at 2-2, and guarantees that no matter what happens in game 5 tomorrow night in St. Louis, the Brewers will return to Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.  That’s a good thing, as the Brewers play far better in Miller Park than they do anywhere else — and besides, win or lose, we Brewers fans deserve another chance to cheer for “our guys.”

Mind, I have no idea how Greinke will do in game 5; he didn’t pitch well in game 1, at all, yet managed to eke out a win because the Brewers’ hitters managed to bail Greinke out.  So he’s due to pitch well — but then again, so is Cardinals’ starter Jaime Garcia, who is also returning from a tough stint in game 1 (where his team’s hitters nearly bailed him out).

I guess we’ll see how it goes, but it’s good to know that at least one pitcher besides Gallardo is still capable of buckling down and pitching a good game.  (Thank you very, very much, Randy Wolf!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Baseball, Mike Flanagan, and Depression

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It’s now been a week since former pitcher Mike Flanagan’s death rocked the world of major league baseball.  It’s been six days since Flanagan’s death was ruled a suicide.  And it’s taken me all this time to try, somehow, to come to terms with Flanagan’s death enough to discuss it because I think it’s important.

Flanagan lived an interesting, fulfilling life, and was a bright man with a biting wit and a winning personality to go along with his substantial athletic gifts; all you have to do to understand this is to read Washington Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell’s tribute to him, or perhaps former Washington Post baseball writer Jane Leavy’s piece about how unusual Flanagan was because he wasn’t self-focused as many athletes are, or better yet, Kevin Cowherd’s assessment in the Baltimore Sun (reprinted by the Boston Herald, where I found it) on how the Orioles did their best to cope in their first game back (Friday night) after Flanagan’s suicide.  All of these are essential reading if you want to know who Flanagan was, much less how big a hole his passing has left in its wake.

But to this long-time Brewers fan, the best way I have to remember Flanagan is to remember how good a pitcher he was.  How strong a competitor he was.  How indomitable his spirit seemed while he was out on the mound, and how impressive Flanagan was even in defeat (which was a rare thing as the Brewers seemingly never got the better of him).

But baseball, as important as it was to Flanagan, wasn’t the sum total of his life.  Flanagan was a husband, a father, a friend, a mentor, and many other good things in a life that spanned fifty-nine years; that he left behind three daughters, a wife, many close friends and a baseball community behind who will miss him greatly is heartbreaking.

Depression is an illness that knows no boundaries; it can strike anyone at any time.  Baseball players are far from immune, and baseball itself should have realized this quite some time ago as it’s been over fifty years since Jimmy Piersall wrote FEAR STRIKES OUT, the story of Piersall’s struggles with mental illness and how he overcame them to play professional baseball with the Boston Red Sox and other teams.  And yet despite the publication of Piersall’s important book, it seems like baseball would rather not admit problems like Piersall’s — or Flanagan’s — exist.

Flanagan’s depression and suicide is not an isolated incident by any means, as there have been a number of players suffering depression in recent years.  Joey Votto, famously, had to make a statement regarding his father’s death and subsequent severe depressionKen Griffey, Jr., once tried to commit suicide; fortunately, he didn’t succeed.  On the Milwaukee Brewers, my favorite team, there are two players — both pitchers — who have problems often linked to depression or anxiety.  These are Zack Greinke, who has SAD, an anxiety disorder treated by medication, and Zach Braddock, who has a severe sleep disorder that may well have caused some depression — quite understandably, to be sure — and who is now on the disabled list.

So this problem is not unknown here in Milwaukee; in actuality, we should be among the cities who understand this issue the most because two of our players are battling these problems.

Yet it disturbs me that so little has been said in the Milwaukee area regarding the death of Flanagan, who was a superb pitcher in his time and used to give the Brewers fits (this, of course, was when the Brewers were still in the American League).  Bob Uecker discussed the rain-out of games due to Hurricane Irene and made an off-handed remark after finding out that the Orioles didn’t want to schedule a double-header on Friday that Baltimore probably “didn’t want to lose out on gate receipts” in conversation with Cory Provis on the Brewers Radio Network last Friday night.  But Uecker had to know that the real reason the Orioles didn’t want to play a double-header that evening is because the team was grieving and in shock as Flanagan had been one of the Orioles’ television broadcasters at the time of his death, and had been heavily identified with the whole Orioles franchise as he’d been a player, coach, assistant general manager, and member of the television broadcast team.   And Friday’s game between the Orioles and Yankees was the very first one since Flanagan’s death had been ruled a suicide; tributes to Flanagan, including a moment of silence and a retrospective of Flanagan’s service to baseball and the Orioles franchise in particular, abounded during Friday night’s game as Cowherd’s article, referenced above, clearly shows.

Lest you think that it’s only the Brewers radio broadcast team that seemingly would rather avoid the whole subject of Mike Flanagan, the Brewers television broadcast team of Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder also hasn’t said anything at all regarding Flanagan to the best of my knowledge.   The only possibly reasoning that I’ve come up with as to why Anderson and Schroeder would be silent is that due to the Brewers impressive record and season (in the last 32 games, the Brewers are 27-5, one of the best stretches in their history, and are currently 10.5 games ahead of their nearest National League Central Division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals) that talking about Flanagan would be “a downer” or perhaps even irrelevant despite the fact that Schroeder was a catcher for the Brewers years ago and had to bat, several times, against Flanagan.

The lack of discussion regarding Flanagan is disturbing, because depression is a part of life.  Many of us have light bouts with it from time to time, and we pull out of it; some have heavier bouts, get medication, and are eventually able to pull out of it.  But some, sadly, cannot pull out of it no matter how hard they try, with Flanagan obviously belonging to this last list along with 49 other baseball players known to have taken their own lives.

How I wish baseball weren’t so close-mouthed regarding those who suffer with depression.  How I wish that baseball would do what Leavy suggested:

Flanagan’s suicide and that of former Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu after the spotlight passed them by, that of Denver Bronco’s receiver Kenny McKinley and LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg after suffering debilitating injuries, and that of former Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest so his brain could be studied for evidence of trauma-induced disease — which was found to be ample — cry out for the availability of on-going psychological services for professional athletes and for a reexamination of the fallacious assumptions we make as a result of their sturdy professional lives.

I agree with Ms. Leavy, and wish that baseball along with all professional sports would come out of the “dark ages” and realize that depression is not a dirty word, nor one to be shunned.  Those with the courage to admit they have a problem and get help for it should be appreciated, rather than being pushed to the side or ignored.

Considering that major league baseball has known since 1957, if not before, that some of its players have struggled with mental illness, anxiety, depression, and now sleep disorders (which often have a depressive component mixed in), it’s long past time that baseball did something to attempt to head future tragedies like Flanagan’s off at the pass.  And if they decide to actually do something about all this, that would be the best memorial to Flanagan’s life that this baseball fan could possibly imagine.

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 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

Brewers Update

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Today’s update is mostly about Rickie Weeks’ injury situation.  It’s been reported by both Adam McCalvy (of and Tom Haudricourt (of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) that Rickie Weeks has both a severely sprained left ankle and some ligament damage that will not require surgery.  The estimated time for Weeks’ return is anywhere from three to six weeks; as Weeks has been injured before — both wrists and one of his knees — he’s aware of what he needs to do to rehab, so the Brewers are hoping Weeks will only be gone about a month.

For the moment, the Brewers have re-acquired infielder Felipe Lopez, who’s played with the Brewers before.  Lopez is an iffy defender with a good bat — similar to Weeks in that way, though Weeks is a bit better in the field and works really hard at it while Lopez, to be charitable, is mostly known to be a guy who’s been a bit of a loudmouth (which is why he doesn’t stick around very long at any team he’s ever played for).  Lopez, who had been in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, batting over .300 at AAA ball, will start tonight at second base and bat fifth, which is where Weeks had been batting before the injury due to the Brewers’ woes at that batting position . . . here’s hoping Lopez can put his money where his mouth is, as the saying goes.

Otherwise, I was remiss not to mention John Axford during my last Brewers-centered post, as Axford has set a new Brewers record for 27 saves in a row (his 26th save, which broke the previous record, was on Wednesday; his 27th save was yesterday afternoon).  Axford is nearly certain to be the Brewers player of the week, as this was a tough record to surpass; Axford has been consistently good (not always great, but good) as a closer, and has been a big part of the Brewers success this year.

One reason I like Axford so much, though, is that he has a blue collar sensibility to him.  He just goes out to the mound and gets the job done.  No histrionics.  No drama.  Just goes out every day and does his job.

I wish we had more people in this world who were like Axford.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Brian Sabean Goes Ballistic re: Posey/Cousins collision; also, a Ben Sheets update

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What on Earth has gotten into Brian Sabean?

Sabean is the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants, and is mad as Hell over the 5/25/11 collision between Florida Marlins catcher Scott Cousins (who was trying to score a run) and Giants catcher Buster Posey (who was trying to block home plate and keep Cousins from scoring).  Posey sustained a serious injury and is now out for the season; for more on his injury, check out this article.

Now, I can understand why Giants fans — and most baseball fans in general — want Buster Posey to play, not see him sitting on the DL with a long-term injury to deal with.  He’s an exciting young player and fans love him.  I also can understand why the Giants, and Sabean in particular, would be angry that Posey was injured, especially as some others, including Mike Matheny, seem to believe that Cousins was most definitely at fault in that collision and that Cousins may well have been trying to injure Posey (even though Cousins insists he wasn’t and has apologized several times; check this article out if you don’t believe me).

But why this sort of incendiary rhetoric, all available at this link?

Sabean did not pull any punches during an interview on KNBR on Thursday, calling Cousins’ targeted hit “malicious” and saying he didn’t blame Posey for refusing to return an apologetic phone call.

“Why not be hard-nosed?” Sabean said. “If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy.”

Asked if perhaps those words were too harsh, Sabean didn’t back down. In fact, he left little doubt that the Giants are bent on getting some on-field vengeance.

“He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal,” Sabean said. “We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (former catcher Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost, and there shouldn’t be.”

Now, the Giants have apologized for Sabean’s comments, which to my mind is way too little, way too late, especially as Cousins has been getting death threats; see this link for details about that.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Joe Torre, who now works for Major League Baseball, wants to talk with Sabean (see this link for details).  Torre is a well-respected former manager and catcher, and knows the game as well as anyone living; Sabean should listen to Torre, who I hope will tell Sabean the equivalent of this:  “Shut up.  Shut up now.  Don’t be any more stupid than you have to be; you’ve already said more than enough as it is.”

Torre telling Sabean off is the best thing to do — but in case Torre’s message doesn’t take, I hope Torre will exercise his authority and suspend Brian Sabean as a fine, no matter how hefty, will not do.  Sabean’s comments should not be tolerated, no matter how frustrated Sabean is, and no matter how much Sabean appreciates Posey’s play (or Posey’s positive effect at the box office).

Now for something completely different, as I’d like to pass along some good news regarding Ben Sheets. 

As previously reported, Sheets had a huge surgery on his elbow last year and his prospects for playing at all in 2011 looked dubious.  While I’m not sure if he will be able to pitch this year, I did find one Web site, here, that says Sheets is rehabbing in Arlington, Texas as of March of this year — and Sheets wouldn’t be rehabbing so seriously if he wasn’t at least going to try to make a comeback ASAP.

Sheets being in Texas makes perfect sense for a wide variety of reasons.  Sheets’ home is in Louisiana, so Texas isn’t all that far away, comparatively; better yet, it’s where his former Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux now makes his home (as the pitching coach for the Rangers, naturally).  It also seems that Sheets is comfortable with the doctors in Texas and that his rehab is proceeding well.

All I can say is this — good for you, Ben, and I truly hope you’ll be like Chris Capuano this time next year.  (As in, you’ve made it all the way back, you’re pitching as well or better than ever, and your second major rehab stint will have gone successfully.)

Brewers win, 4-3, as Greinke pitches well; recount update

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Folks, tonight I’m glad to be a Milwaukee Brewers fan.  Zack Greinke pitched well in his first appearance at Miller Park, going six innings, giving up two runs with no walks and getting nine strikeouts.  This excellent performance, along with some unusually fine defense, was why the Brewers won tonight over the San Diego Padres, 4-3. 

Note that the much-maligned of late bullpen pitched reasonably well also, with LaTroy Hawkins pitching a scoreless seventh, Kameron Loe giving up a run in the 8th due to a run scoring while a double play was in the process of being made, then John Axford picked up his sixth save by pitching a scoreless ninth.

Here’s a link to more about the game from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story:

As for tonight’s mandatory recount in the Wisconsin state Supreme Court election, held on 4/5/2011, a judge allowed Waukesha County two and a half more weeks to get its entire count done.  But as Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pointed out, JoAnne Kloppenburg has an uphill battle on her hands if she’s to win this recount with only Waukesha County remaining as it is known to be the “reddest” Republican county in the entire state.

Here’s the link to his story dated today, May 9, 2011:

And a relevant quote from Mr. Gilbert:

With the recount in the April 5 Supreme Court race now complete in every county but Waukesha, JoAnne Kloppenburg has sliced a mere 355 votes off David Prosser’s lead of 7,316 votes, underscoring the extreme odds against Kloppenburg emerging victorious in the fiercely contested judicial contest.

In effect, Kloppenburg would have to gain 6,962 votes in one county – Waukesha – after gaining a tiny fraction of that in the recount of all the state’s other counties.

In those 71 counties recounted so far, Kloppenburg has made a net pick-up of one vote for every 3,873 votes cast.

In Waukesha County, she would have to make a net pick-up of one vote for every 18 votes cast.

And that math actually understates the improbability of a successful outcome for Kloppenburg because about 30% of Waukesha County has already completed the recount process. So far, there’s a net gain of 18 votes for Prosser.

But here’s the main reason why Kloppenburg had to pursue the recount, IMO:

Without taking Waukesha County into account, Kloppenburg leads in the other 71 counties by 712,910 to 660,366, for a margin of 52,544 votes.

So you see how close this election was, state-wide, right?

Here’s the rub:

But based on the election canvass, Prosser carried Waukesha County by 59,505 votes out of a total of 125,021 votes cast.

The problem is, the vote total is in question all because of Kathy Nickolaus’s actions not just in finally figuring out she hadn’t counted the Brookfield tally until a day and a half after the election had ended (and everyone in the state save the folks in Brookfield who knew their vote totals weren’t properly reflected in the count thought JoAnne Kloppenburg had won by about 200 votes), but in several previous elections.

As I’ve said before, there are problems in Waukesha County that go back not just to 2008, but actually to 2004.  (See this link for further details:  Seven years ago, there were problems.  Again, five years ago, there were problems.  Then three years ago, there were more problems, yet nothing was ever done by the Government Accountability Board, the Wisconsin state Senate or Assembly (or both), or anyone else, because despite all these systematic problems, apparently no one was paying attention.

If this recount has done nothing else, it has at least assured me that the voters of Wisconsin will be paying attention to Waukesha County for a long, long time to come.  And that the way Waukesha County conducts their future elections had best be a whole lot better — more ethical, above-board, understandable, comprehensible, and transparent — than they have for the past seven years.  Minimum.

Otherwise, as I’ve said before, we in Wisconsin will have no faith at all that our elections mean anything at all.

More baseball updates — Greinke pitches, Hart plays

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I wish I had a better update today to report, folks, but here it is.

Zack Greinke, while he looked really good at the start of the first inning, was done in partly by very poor defense behind him and partly because he had to throw too many pitches in the first inning (over thirty) — he lost his first game, giving up 5 runs (4 ERs) in 4 innings.  Here’s the story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Note that the Brewers were swept by the Atlanta Braves and are currently 1-5 during this recent 10-game road trip.  (That means we Brewers fans have four more games to endure before the Brewers finally return home.)

And while Corey Hart is back, and looks good in the field, he does not have his hitting stroke yet and it shows every time he’s at bat.  (But I’m still glad he was finally put back in the #2 hole tonight; no way, ever, that Carlos Gomez should bat there due to Gomez’s awful on-base percentage much less Gomez’s propensity to strike out swinging as often as humanly possible.)

Now, the real story of this past game (which was an 8-0 loss to Atlanta) was pitcher Tim Hudson of the Braves; he pitched a one-hit, one walk shutout (both the hit and the walk came to Rickie Weeks, Brewers second-baseman).  Unless it was the terrible defense by the Brewers — mind you, Hudson was on his game and the Brewers would’ve done poorly anyway.  But it would’ve looked better and perhaps felt better for the Brewers if they hadn’t committed three errors in the field.

In other baseball updates, Vinny Rottino has started to hit at New Orleans; he’s hit .350 in his last ten games and his overall average for the season is up to .235 (remember, he started out something like 1 for 24 or the like, so it takes time to pull the average up).  His OBP is a very fine .354 and he has 2 HRs, 7 RBI, 3 SB (no caught stealings, so a perfect 3-3 percentage), has taken 11 walks and has struck out 7 times.  So it sounds like he’s having a much better time of it and he is playing often (every day or every other day — maybe in the fourth OF slot?) for the Zephyrs.  (Good for him!)

Oh, yes — Rottino continues to hit left-handers better than right-handers, having an overall .286 BA against lefties, with an overall .222 against righties.  (There appear to be many, many more left-handed pitchers in the minors than there are right-handers considering Rottino has batted at least four times as much against right-handers thus far this year.)

So at least there’s good news about Rottino, and about Hart and Greinke’s health as both are now healthy enough to play.  But otherwise, the Brewers aren’t playing very well right now and it shows.  Unfortunately.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm