Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Major League Baseball

Former Brewers Coach, Broadcaster Davey Nelson dies at 73

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Earlier today, I found out that former Brewers coach and broadcaster Davey Nelson died on Sunday at age 73. And that made me feel awful.

Why?

Well, even though I never met Davey Nelson in person — and yes, he was always “Davey,” with the -y ending — he was an extremely positive person who lit up the room anywhere he went. And he could seemingly find the silver lining even to the worst game, even if it was just “no one got injured today.”

(That’s my quote, not his. Davey would’ve undoubtedly put it a much different way.)

There are some people who transcend sports because they have huge hearts and make a positive difference in as many ways as possible. Davey Nelson was one of those people without a shadow of a doubt. Adam McCalvy’s article (Brewers beat writer for MLB.com) quoted Brewers Chief Operations Officer Rick Schlesinger as saying, “Davey took every opportunity to turn a casual introduction into a lifelong relationship, and his legacy will live on in the positive impact he had on the lives of so many people. Davey’s love of life and commitment to helping those in need were second to none, and we are so grateful for the time that we had with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of those who loved him.”

I wish I had met Davey Nelson in person, mind. He was known for encouraging people. And even when he must’ve suffered setbacks — as I seem to recall him saying once, during a rain delay years ago, that he wished he could’ve played longer (though he was happy with what he did while he was there — see his stats, and you’ll know why) — he found a way to make you feel better.

That was one of his main talents.

Player after player have made statements on Twitter and elsewhere stating how influential, positive, and just plain good a person Davey Nelson was. And how much he will be missed.

As have broadcasters. And well-known sportswriters.

Still, what I will remember about Davey Nelson was his very strong belief that people matter. Not just in baseball, either…people, period.

That’s why he got involved with Open Arms for Children in South Africa. And was friends with the director of that organization for over twenty-five years. And met numerous children, whom he inspired…and who helped to inspire him as well.

And at the end of his life, as Adam McCalvy pointed out in his article, Davey’s TV and baseball family stepped up.

That, too, is a wonderful tribute, though I’m sure all those folks don’t see it that way now — and may not, ever.

All I know is, I will miss Davey Nelson. He was a very good man. He made other people around him feel better, and encouraged them to be their best selves.

There aren’t many people like that in this world.

Death and the Miami Marlins

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Folks, before I begin this post, I figured I’d explain where I’ve been the past four-five days. (No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor did my in-progress novel CHANGING FACES swallow me up.) It’s a simple explanation — my computer adapter fried — but it’s the third or possibly the fourth time in the past year my adapter has done this. I have a new adapter now, thankfully, and am back online…and will be looking for a way to purchase a backup adapter soon. (Can’t yet, but it’s at the very top of my priority list.)

Now, to the blog.

When the news broke on Sunday that Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez had died in a boating accident, I was stunned. Fernandez was only twenty-four years old, and was having an outstanding year…his personal story of escaping from Cuba (he had to try multiple times before he successfully got out), his infectious joy, and his youth all touched my heart.

For several hours on Sunday, I had a hard time thinking about much else, other than Fernandez’s early death. Bad enough to die at twenty-four, but worse yet when your girlfriend was pregnant with your child.

It was a devastating loss on every level, that Fernandez was gone, suddenly and without warning. And the Marlins clearly felt it, postponing Sunday’s game.

After that, on Monday evening, the entire team wore Fernandez’s jersey number (16) as a tribute. Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon stepped into the opposite side of the batter’s box to honor Fernandez, and took a ball. (Opposing team New York must’ve known something like that was likely, I’m guessing.) Then, after stepping into the batter’s box  the usual way, Gordon did something he hadn’t done all year long.

He hit a home run.

The Marlins romped to a win, but that wasn’t why Gordon’s HR was so meaningful. It was the way he did it. He made it clear from the get-go that Fernandez was on his mind, and so did the rest of the Marlins, including all the coaches (manager Don Mattingly was particularly teary-eyed) and front office personnel.

And the classiness didn’t end there.  Even the Mets’ players cried after Gordon hit the homer, and during the seventh-inning stretch (where a trumpet played a solitary version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in a muted, moody tone). And they, along with many other teams around major league baseball, hung Fernandez’s jersey up as a show of support.

The Marlins win on Monday night was cathartic for fans, players, the management, and around baseball. It helped ease the pain a little, and helped honor Fernandez the best way the Marlins had to offer — by winning, and talking about their lost teammate, and wishing he were back with them.

All that said, I want to say a few words about the two others who died during that tragic accident, Emilio Macias and Eddy Rivero (both twenty-five). They had gone to Fernandez’s boat late at night because according to this article from Fox News Latino, Fernandez and his girlfriend had argued that evening. No one’s talking much about Macias and Rivero, but they were doing what good friends are supposed to do during a time of crisis — they were supporting their buddy, and they were trying to calm him down.

Their friendship mattered, and I honor them.

I do not understand why these three young men died that evening. I wish I could do something, anything, to bring them back. But it’s good that people are remembering Fernandez’s life and career.

Now, my hope is that people will also remember Macias and Rivero.They both have GoFundMe pages (go here for Macias and here for Rivero), as their families need help with burial expenses. If you can help them, please do it — and if you can’t, say a prayer for them, and for the loved ones they left behind.

Because that helps, too. Even if it’s not nearly enough.

Brewers Trade K-Rod for Prospect — and I’m Not Happy About It

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Folks, when I read about the Milwaukee Brewers latest trade of closing pitcher Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers for single-A prospect Javier Betancourt — the first trade under new General Manager David Stearns’ tenure — I was not happy.

Why?

Well, one of the few bright spots I had as a Brewers fan, last year, was to watch K-Rod come out to save games. He was one of the few players to remain positive despite Milwaukee’s dismal season, and he had one of his best seasons, to boot.

As Tom Haudricourt wrote at JSOnline.com (aka the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“K-Rod” had a tremendous season for the Brewers in 2015, converting 38 of 40 save opportunities with a 2.21 earned run average in 60 appearances. But the club is in the midst of a significant rebuilding program, and Stearns decided it made more sense to acquire young talent rather than keep an aging closer.

And K-Rod is still only 33 years old, plus was signed at a low price for an elite athlete, too…less than $10 million, including a 2017 contract buyout.

What did the Brewers actually get? Haudricourt has that covered, too:

Betancourt, 20, is primarily a second baseman but has seen limited action at shortstop and third base. Rated the No. 11 prospect in Detroit’s system, he played in 2015 at high Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League, batting .263 with a .304 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage, with 17 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 48 RBI.

Betancourt had 29 walks and 44 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances. He played all 116 games in the field at second base, a position manned mostly by Scooter Gennett for the Brewers over the last two years.

In other words, Betancourt is a step under Double-A ball. He’s a prospect, and somewhat unproven; he is known, apparently, as a good and solid defender, but has no power potential whatsoever.

Granted, the Brewers are full of free-swingers right now. Only Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, among the regulars, seem to know how to take a walk now and again.

That said, it’s extremely frustrating to me, as a long-time Brewers fan, that our new GM has traded one of the achingly few bright spots on the team for someone like Javier Betancourt. And, quite possibly, a player to be named later — though this trade, also according to Haudricourt, also has a player to be named later on Detroit’s side, too!

(How is it possible for Detroit to get another player, considering they’ve just garnered one of the best closers in the game in K-Rod? Your guess is as good as mine. But I digress.)

At any rate, I know the Brewers are in a major rebuilding mode. I accept that; I’ve seen it before.

What I don’t accept, as a fan, is the contention that anyone else could do as well as K-Rod on the 2016 roster. Nor that it’s not a salary-dump of some sort — despite Stearns’ assertion to the contrary. (Why Stearns would think any real fan who’s ever followed this team would believe that kind of baloney is beyond me. But again, I digress.)

Look, folks: What I want, as a fan, is for the Brewers to put an entertaining team on the field that at least tries to win every night. Having players who are happy to play in Milwaukee, despite the fact that they’re not likely to get one whiff of the playoffs for another three or four years, minimum, is a huge part of how the Brewers, as a team, can get there.

I fail to see how trading K-Rod away will promote team victories in 2016. Especially as the two most likely choices on the current roster to become closer — Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress — have zero closing experience. (Smith is a brilliant set-up man until July; after July, he’s competent or worse. And Jeffress, while I like him a lot, does not seem to be closing material, either.)

Maybe K-Rod will enjoy being in Detroit, because Detroit, on paper at least, is a better team than Milwaukee. (But as I’m also aware that K-Rod took less money last year to re-sign with Milwaukee because he liked it so much despite all the nonsense, I have to wonder about that assertion, too.)

Bottom line: The Brewers did not get nearly enough for K-Rod. And unless Javier Betancourt turns out to be the steal of the century, those folks in Detroit have to be laughing their butts off at the hicks in Milwaukee over this one.

Three Days, Three Quotes, and Three Bloggers Challenge

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Folks, the lovely and talented N.N. Light (also known as Mrs. N.), challenged me on her blog last week with the latest blog-hop called “Three Days, Three Quotes, and Three Bloggers.” You’re supposed to give a quote every day from something in pop culture — at least, I’m going to assume this, as Mrs. N.’s quotes were all in that realm — and challenge three other bloggers a day to do the same thing.

Now, I’m not sure I know nine bloggers who might be willing to take part in this challenge. But I do know at least six. And I have a few favorite quotes to try out…so, here goes!

Major League (1989) PosterMy quote is from possibly the best baseball comedy ever, the original Major League.

Bob Uecker, as radio announcer Harry Doyle, says:

“Ball four. Ball eight. Low, and he walks the bases loaded on twelve straight pitches.

“How can they lay off pitches that close?”

Now, why does this quote amuse me so much? It’s simple. Any baseball fan knows that if someone’s just walked the bases loaded, no pitches were actually that close. (So, Uecker is taking part in an old baseball tradition — sarcasm. Love it.)

As for why I picked this quote first? It’s probably my favorite quote ever — partly because it’s really funny, and partly because there’s actually somewhat of a moral in there if you dig deep enough.

See, part of the story of Major League is that of Ricky Vaughn, a pitcher who comes up with the nickname “Wild Thing” because he seemingly can’t find the strike zone — but he’s kept on the team because he throws hard and the manager believes Ricky will learn. (Plus, when the year starts, there really aren’t that many good players on his team that can outplay him. Keep that in mind.)

Usually, it’s only the talented guys who are left out on the mound to walk the bases loaded. The manager who does that makes the calculation that the pitcher needs to learn how to get out of trouble — including trouble of his own making. And the only way to do that is to put your pitcher in pressure situations.

Like pitching with the bases loaded. (Talk about a pressure-filled situation!)

So, Ricky’s walked the bases loaded. The pressure is on. What’s he going to do next?

All of that is summed up, laconically, by Bob Uecker’s character Harry Doyle in the quote I referenced above.

That’s why I love this quote.

Now, as for today’s three victims — er, bloggers? How about Jason Cordova, Chris Nuttall, and Dora Machado?

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 2, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Milwaukee Brewers Chatter: Will Smith Gets an 8-Game Suspension

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Folks, I’ve been head-down in my final edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, so I am a bit behind-hand in discussing what’s going on with the Milwaukee Brewers lately.

Let’s rectify that.

A few days ago (on Thursday, May 21, 2015), Brewers reliever Will Smith came into a game against the Atlanta Braves and had something shiny on his forearm. This substance was something to help him better grip the ball on a cold and somewhat windy day, and many pitchers use it for exactly that. But they don’t put it openly on their arm; they attempt to conceal it.

Smith, because he did not conceal this substance, got thrown out of the baseball game after Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez complained. And Smith was irate.

After the game, Smith answered some questions from reporters (this was shown on Fox Sports Wisconsin’s postgame show). Smith said he’d put that substance (identified as a mix of sunscreen and rosin) on his arm in the bullpen to help with his grip. He said he wanted to wipe it off, but forgot…and then he got thrown out. Smith pointed out that many pitchers do this, and they do not get thrown out.

On Friday, Smith was suspended by Major League Baseball for eight games for using this illegal substance.

Of course Smith is appealing the suspension, because both Smith and the Brewers management think that eight games is too long, considering the cold weather and the fact that Smith is a relief pitcher. (Why does the last part matter? Well, a starter who’s suspended for 10 games misses two starts. But a reliever who misses eight games misses eight potential opportunities to pitch.)

Smith is allowed to keep pitching until his appeal is heard (probably sometime early next week).

What do I think of all this as a Brewers fan? I think Smith was at best absentminded, at worst incredibly foolish, to have that substance openly on his arm. But I don’t blame him for wanting to get a better grip on the ball considering the conditions, especially as the Brewers have had several players hit in the head this year — most notably Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura.

(Of course, Smith hit a batter anyway. So I don’t know what good that substance actually did him. But I digress.)

Ultimately, I think the suspension is likely to be reduced on appeal. It’s possible MLB could reduce it by a couple of games, maybe even three…which will leave Smith with a five- or six-game suspension rather than the current length of eight games.

Let’s hope that Smith can use his impending time off wisely. (Maybe he’ll study up on just how to properly conceal the same substance so he’ll not get thrown out of the game next time. Or am I being too cynical?)

Alex Rodriguez Hits HR 661, Passes Willie Mays on All-Time List

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Folks, Alex Rodriguez has returned to his hitting ways with a vengeance.

After sitting out all of the 2014 season with an unprecedented 162-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez has come back to the New York Yankees revitalized. And it’s allowed him to first hit his 660th home run — tying Willie Mays on the all-time HR list — then his 661st last night.

Apparently, being away from baseball and able to heal completely from a number of nagging injuries has allowed Rodriguez (also known as A-Rod) to partially sip from the fountain of youth. And that’s why he’s hitting so much better than he has in years.

OK, OK. I’m being a bit fanciful. (Then again, I am a science fiction and fantasy writer by trade. Can you blame me?)

Truthfully, I don’t know why A-Rod is hitting so much better than he has in years. I do suspect that having to take time off and fully heal up has helped him. He’s also known as a “workout warrior,” much like Kobe Bryant — or before him, Nolan Ryan; sometimes being in such excellent physical condition allows a premiere athlete like A-Rod additional time in the sun.

(Doesn’t that explain such feats as Julio Franco’s extraordinary longevity in baseball? But I digress.)

Rodriguez has also been much different with regards to how he behaves in front of the media and how he behaves with the fans. A-Rod seems to have learned some humility in his year away from baseball, too. (Or perhaps a brilliant public relations person has whispered into his ear, and the message stuck.)

Now, all of a sudden, A-Rod seems to understand that being a baseball player is a privilege. Not a right.

Or at least that while he has enormous gifts for baseball (which should be celebrated), that doesn’t make him the best thing since sliced bread.

Look. I am on record as saying I don’t care about PEDs that much. I don’t think PEDs help you hit a baseball; I don’t think they make you that much better of a fielder; the only thing PEDs are proven to affect, as far as I can tell, are the skinny pitchers who can’t gain weight. (On PEDs, that scrawny guy can gain weight, which will allow him to have a higher MPH fastball, which might get him entrance to the majors. Maybe even keep him there.)

I’ve seen that with the Milwaukee Brewers, my own team, mind. Derrick Turnbow was an excellent closer for the Brewers, for a while. But he apparently was one of the Brewers “outed” by the Mitchell Report…when he had to start passing drug tests, all of a sudden he lost his effectiveness. Then he was out of baseball not too long after that.

I still don’t know for certain if Turnbow actually gained that much with PEDs. But I do know that for an elite athlete, confidence is everything. If he thinks that he’s taking something that’ll help, it will help…psychologically, anyway.

Whether it actually does anything physiologically is another story entirely.

And closers are particularly friable. They lose their confidence for whatever reason, and they aren’t able to regain it sometimes. It may be years, or never, before they regain their top form.

Baseball is funny that way.

At any rate, premiere hitters like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds do not need PEDs to hit homers. They might need PEDs to stay on the field a few years longer, to somehow help with their physical conditioning.

But they were HR hitters before they took PEDs (if Bonds actually took anything; nothing was ever proven). That doesn’t change after you stop taking PEDs, as A-Rod is showing right now.

All I can say to Rodriguez is this: Good for you, Alex.

I’m glad you came back to the Yankees, and I’m glad you’re hitting homers again. You make baseball a more exciting game to watch.

Thank you for understanding that, and for being willing to work so hard to regain your top hitting form without the use of PEDs.

Milwaukee Brewers Fire Manager Ron Roenicke, Successor Not Yet Named…

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Folks, as anyone who follows my blog knows, I’ve wanted the Milwaukee Brewers to fire manager Ron Roenicke for at least nine months. (Take a look at my most recent blog on the subject, dated April 20, 2015, for example.)

Tonight, it actually happened. Roenicke has been relieved of his managerial duties despite the Brewers finally winning a series against the Chicago Cubs…and winning two games in a row for the first time all season.

Granted, the team is still only 7-18. Many of the hitters, such as Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, aren’t doing well. Many of the pitchers have been inconsistent at best, downright awful at worst.

But the team was finally starting to look up. Which is why the timing of Roenicke’s firing looks so very, very odd.

All fans know thus far is that Roenicke is out, the coaching staff has apparently been asked to stay in place, and a new manager is on his way to Milwaukee right now. That person, whoever he may be, will be announced at 10:30 a.m. CDT on Monday.

Because I’ve listened to all of the various reports and studied what’s available online thus far, I can at least give you an idea of the candidates’ names who’ve been mentioned, and a few who haven’t been but seem like obvious choices.

Because this hiring appears to have been in the works for a while, it argues against any current Brewers coaches, much less anyone currently working in the front office (such as Craig Counsell). Any of them could’ve been named back when the Brewers were still 2-13, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that any of them would be named tomorrow morning.

Yet naming a new manager mid-season is often fraught with peril, which is why it’s likely that once a new manager has been named (with the caveat that all the current coaches are still in place), he will have some ties to the Brewers already.

Note that this list is purely speculative. I have no inside information whatsoever. All I know is what the rest of you know; I’ve read Tom Haudricourt’s article, Adam McCalvy’s article, and have heard various radio and TV reports in the Milwaukee area.

So, here we go — here are my seven most likely suspects for the Brewers managerial job:

  1. Ron Gardenhire, who formerly managed the Minnesota Twins, is currently on the unemployment line. He has a lifetime record of 1068-1039, is known as a manager who works well with young talent…but has past issues with three current Brewers players: Kyle Lohse, Carlos Gomez and Matt Garza. (But if Gardenhire is the pick, why wouldn’t he bring an entirely new bunch of coaches with him?)
  2. Former Brewer infielder Don Money managed at all levels of the Brewers minor league farm system and, perhaps more famously in Milwaukee, was an All-Star for the Brewers. Money is known as a player’s manager, like Roenicke, but has a bit more fire to him than Roenicke. Currently Money is a special instructor of player development for the Brewers, and may like that job better as he’s now 67 years of age. Could the Brewers have coaxed him to help them out as their manager for the big club?
  3. Former Brewer Cecil Cooper managed a few seasons with the Houston Astros and has a winning record. Like Money, Cooper was an All-Star and a member of the best team to ever play in Milwaukee, the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (winners of the American League pennant). Cooper is now 65 and has been out of baseball for a while…could the Brewers have coaxed him out of retirement?
  4. Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount has never managed. However, as perhaps the best player Milwaukee has ever had, Yount has always carried enormous clout with current-day players. Yount also was briefly a bench coach for the Brewers back in 2008 after Ned Yost was fired during the Brewers Wild Card playoff run…could the Brewers have talked Yount into managing, at long last?
  5. Former Brewer Ted Simmons was known in his time as a volatile competitor. He also was the Brewers bench coach during much of the 2010 season under Ken Macha. (Simmons, like Cooper, Yount, and Money, was a member of the 1982 Brewers squad.) Simmons is a viable “old-timer Hall of Fame” candidate as he has the hitting numbers to someday make the Hall. Lately, he’s been a special advisor to General Manager Jack Zduriencik of the Seattle Mariners, so perhaps it would’ve taken a bit of time to get everything contractually straightened out to hire the 65-year-old Simmons.
  6. Former Brewer infielder Dale Sveum has lately been the hitting coach at Kansas City, but once upon a time he was asked by the Brewers to finish up the 2008 season after Ned Yost was fired. Sveum has some big-league managerial experience beyond that as he managed the Chicago Cubs during 2012 and 2013. Sveum also managed in the Brewers minor-league system and is popular with the current players on the Brewers roster. Could the Brewers have managed to pry Sveum loose from the Royals?
  7. Mike Maddux is currently the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. Word is, he wants to manage, and was under consideration for a few jobs last year. Maddux has ties to the Brewers as he was their pitching coach for six seasons. Could the Brewers have managed to pry Maddux loose from the Rangers?

So that’s it — those are my top seven speculative picks for the Brewers vacant managerial job.

My hunch is that the Brewers may have hired Ted Simmons. I am not quite sure why I think this as his name has not been mentioned once by any member of the Milwaukee media, whereas Craig Counsell’s name has been floated a great deal.

But as I said before, if Counsell is the pick, the Brewers could’ve hired him when they were 2-13.

Anyway, we will all know tomorrow as of 10:30 a.m. who the next manager of the Milwaukee Brewers is. Stay tuned.

* * * * * * Edited to Add:

Multiple sources are saying now that Craig Counsell is the new manager of the Milwaukee Brewers (as of about 1:20 AM CDT). However, Greg Matzek of WTMJ-AM 620 radio in Milwaukee (the Brewers’ flagship station), has said there’s no official comment; the only thing he knows right now is that the new manager, whoever he may be, has been hired with a multi-year deal and will not be an interim manager.

Again, if the pick is Counsell, the Brewers could’ve hired him weeks ago without all this sturm und drang. It seems very unlikely to me that the Brewers would hire Counsell at this particular time, too, considering the man already works in the front office and that Roenicke had just managed the Brewers to their first winning series and first two-game winning streak all season long.

But I guess we will see what the Brewers will do later this morning.

You can be assured that if Counsell is the pick, though, I will not be happy about it, even though I do like Counsell. (I just do not think he can fix this team. Whereas any of the seven men I mentioned can.)

Milwaukee Brewers 2015 Season Starts at 2-11…When Will Changes Be Made?

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Folks, I’ve been waiting for the Milwaukee Brewers to actually win a few games before writing this blog. But as they only have two wins all season thus far, and eleven losses, I can’t delay this post any longer.

How long is it going to take for Brewers owner Mark Attanasio to realize that manager Ron Roenicke is not the answer?

I know, I know. Roenicke was given a quiet one-year contract extension in Spring Training. That will make it quite difficult to fire him.

But something has to be done. Whether it’s a new bench coach — is Robin Yount available? — or a new pitching coach (as Rick Kranitz doesn’t seem to be doing much), or better yet, getting rid of most of the coaches, something has to be done.

Last year, I wrote a blog about how ridiculous it was for the Brewers to get rid of first base coach Garth Iorg and hitting coach Johnny Narron when Roenicke still had a job. Here’s a few words from that post:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Which is why I find the Milwaukee Brewers’ refusal to fire manager Ron Roenicke after the Brewers’ historic collapse in September 2014 so troubling.

…firing Iorg made very little sense, as Iorg wasn’t to blame for Milwaukee’s players’ brain freezes on the basepaths or Mark Reynolds’ failure to remember how many outs there were in an inning or Carlos Gomez’s inability to lay off bad pitches or even Ryan Braun’s thumb injury.

While Roenicke wasn’t directly to blame for any of those things, either, someone has to be held accountable.

I mean, really. The Brewers were in first place for 150 days of the season. Then they went 9-22 over the last 31 games to miss the playoffs and finish 82-80.

And the person who usually is held accountable is — wait for it — the manager. Not the piddly first base coach.

I stand by my assessment that Roenicke should be fired for the team’s poor play since last July.

Why?

Roenicke is the wrong man to be leading this team. He’s not a bad guy, and he does know baseball. But he can’t motivate this team. They aren’t playing well in any aspect of the game right now — not hitting, where the team has a woeful .217 batting average according to ESPN’s stats page as of 4/20/2015; not pitching, where the Brewers have a combined ERA of 4.76; and while their combined fielding percentage of .973 is not abhorrent, it should be much better than it is.

That’s why Roenicke should go.

Here’s the main reason people are already talking about putting paper bags over their heads when they go out to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play:

Team Leaders as of 4/20/15

  • Home runs: Ryan Braun (1), Jean Segura (1), Carlos Gomez (1), Adam Lind (1)
  • Batting average: Adam Lind, .302
  • RBI: Carlos Gomez, 6
  • Hits: Jean Segura, 14

The only bright spot there is Segura, who appears to have regained his hitting form from his rookie year. He’s currently batting .292, and actually has hit one homer along with four RBI.

However, our RBI leader is Gomez, a man who is currently on the disabled list (DL) with a partial hamstring tear. The second-most RBIs on the team belong to Lind, with five; Braun has three.

As usual, Aramis Ramirez is not hitting this early. (It’s rare when Ramirez does hit in April, as he did last year. His entire career, he’s been a slow starter.) So I’m not worried about him, especially as Ramirez is playing excellent defense.

Scooter Gennett has not been hitting well, either, though his fielding hasn’t been abysmal. But Gennett is out right now, too, as he had an accident while showering in Pittsburgh after yesterday’s game; he had to have stitches in his left hand, and may be placed on the DL soon.

The guy I was most worried about — until tonight’s broken toe injury — was catcher Jonathan Lucroy. He has looked dreadful behind home plate; he’s made a couple of throwing errors, he’s had a passed ball, and he just hasn’t looked comfortable. (He was injured going into Spring Training, and my guess is that he tried hard to play too early.) Lucroy also hasn’t been hitting, batting only .156 with two RBI.

But now, he has joined Carlos Gomez on the DL. And the guy coming up to replace him, Juan Centeno, is not exactly a robust hitter…Centeno was hitting less than .200 at Triple-A in Colorado Springs (a place that’s notoriously hitter-friendly). He is, however, an excellent fielder with a strong arm, so the Brewers will at least have some stronger defense coming with Centeno spelling Martin Maldonado (also an excellent defensive catcher) now and again.

As for the pitching, we have a few guys with positive stats:

Team Leaders, Pitching, as of 4/20/2015

  • Jimmy Nelson has a win, 12 strikeouts (Ks), and a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings pitched (IP).
  • Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has one save and a 2.25 ERA in limited appearances (mostly because the Brewers have only had two winning efforts thus far; you don’t need a closer when you can’t get close enough to win a game). K-Rod has also taken one loss and has one blown save. (Three good games, and one bad thus far.)
  • Neal Cotts — a guy I didn’t even think should make the team, as he did so poorly in Spring Training — has seven Ks in 6 2/3 IP with a 1.59 ERA.
  • And Will Smith thus far has given up nothing in 4 1/3 IP and has six Ks.

(I don’t see much of a silver lining here, though I’ve tried mightily to find one.)

The Milwaukee Brewers are trying hard. They have pride in themselves and they assuredly don’t want to lose games in the same fashion as tonight’s 6-1 loss against the Reds. (The game was tied, 0-0, until the top of the 6th. Wily Peralta got rattled due to a number of factors, and gave up four runs. Then, for some reason, Roenicke trotted Peralta back out in the 7th and Peralta gave up two more runs.)

I see good defensive plays being made by guys like Lind, Ramirez, Braun, Segura and Gerardo Parra. I see better baserunning, for the most part, than last year, which means Roenicke has addressed that properly. I see true effort on the part of the Brewers — they aren’t just phoning it in.

But the team, as a whole, isn’t hitting, and almost no one is pitching well.

That is not a recipe for a winning season, much less a playoff contender.

Unless things turn around in this next homestand, I firmly believe Roenicke and the vast majority of his coaching staff should be fired. Because that way, at least the fans will know the owner holds himself accountable.

And don’t be surprised to see Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin on the chopping block, either. (As well he should be, if they cannot turn this mess around. Fast.)

Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,” dies at 83

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Ernie Banks died last night at the age of 83.

Banks played his entire career for the Chicago Cubs. He was their first-ever African-American player, was an All-Star 14 times, won a Gold Glove as a shortstop in 1960, won two MVP awards in 1958 and 1959, and won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1967. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 on the first ballot. And he also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Banks had a remarkable career (check out this article from Yahoo Sports’ “Big League Stew” blog if you don’t believe me). He was a trailblazer, both as a player and as a coach.

But it’s not because of any of those things that I felt so terrible when I heard the news that Ernie Banks had died.

Banks was a quality individual, you see. He was one of those people who made you smile, simply by being around him. And he was the best ambassador for his beloved Cubs they’d ever had — hence his nickname, “Mr. Cub” — much less Major League Baseball as a whole.

Banks never went to the playoffs with his Cubs, but he always believed he would go — and nearly did in 1969, the year of the Cubs’ epic collapse. Because of his positive attitude, people loved being around him. And he enjoyed talking to the media, mostly because he saw it as a privilege rather than an obstacle. (Check out these great quotes as listed by the Chicago Tribune.)

Ernie Banks, quite simply, was a hero. He didn’t see himself that way, of course, but heroes never do.

I mourn his passing deeply.

Fines Handed Down for Brewers-Pirates Brawl — Brewers Not Happy

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Well, it’s official. Several suspensions and fines were leveled today against most of the players involved in the recent brawl between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates — and the Brewers as a whole are not happy.

Why?

Well, the guy who actually started the ruckus, Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, wasn’t given either a suspension or a fine. Cole lied when he said he didn’t swear (as I said in my previous blog, it’s obvious he dropped a few f-bombs), and that makes me think whatever he said was more than has been reported . . . because if you lie about one thing, what’s to say you didn’t lie about something else?

Not that what Gomez did was right, but why wasn’t Cole at least given a slap on the wrist?

That being said, the other strange part about it was that Pirates OF Travis Snider, the first guy who came off the bench to mix it up with Gomez, was given a lesser fine (two games) than Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado (five games). Granted, Maldonado punched Snider and everyone knows it — Snider is sporting a black eye, and perhaps that’s why Major League Baseball didn’t give him the same five game suspension.

But it still seems odd.

Next, Pirates catcher Russell Martin, who also appeared to have landed a punch or two, was only given one game, while Carlos Gomez — who didn’t land any punches as far as I could tell in my copious review of all available replay angles — got three games.

For the record, I think this is a fair assessment of Martin and Gomez’s actions. The suspensions seem reasonable.

However, the Brewers definitely do not think Gomez’s suspension is fair, and they don’t seem to believe Maldonado was punished fairly, either. Here’s what Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, as quoted by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel baseball beat writer Todd Rosiak, said earlier this afternoon:

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, like Gomez, didn’t agree with the suspensions and thought the Pirates got off too lightly.

“No, I don’t,” he said when asked if they were fair. “The guy who started it all got nothing, and I don’t understand that. So, no I’m not happy with it. Doug (Melvin) isn’t happy with it. I know they’re tough decisions, I know they have a lot to think of, they’ve got precedent, they’ve got a lot of things that go into this, but I don’t think it’s fair.”

Again, here is how the brawl went down (summarized excellently by Rosiak):

The incident began during the third inning of the Brewers’ 3-2, 14-inning victory over the Pirates. After Gomez tripled off Cole, the two exchanged words, leading to both dugouts emptying. Gomez was eventually tackled by Snider, who wasn’t even playing in the game, and Maldonado punched Snider in the face in the ensuing melee.

Martin was also involved in the scrum with Gomez, Snider and Maldonado.

Snider, Martin, and Gomez are all appealing their suspensions, while Maldonado accepted his (note that Maldonado is the only player involved in that brawl who’s actually apologized, this via his Twitter account). The only fine that anyone has actually discussed (which is officially unconfirmed, but was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney and discussed by Yahoo’s Big League Stew blog here) was Maldonado’s $2500 fine — this may seem shockingly low, but Maldonado makes the major-league minimum (or not much above that), and $2500 is a big bite out of his paycheck.

Mind, I was concerned that Maldonado might get hit with a really bad fine — something like $25,000 or even $50,000. That would hurt him disproportionately hard, as the major-league minimum is $500,000 — when you compare that to Gomez, who’s making $7 million, you can see where a $50,000 fine would hurt Maldonado much more than Gomez, or Martin (who’s making $8.5 million), or even Snider (who’s making $1.2 million — all salaries courtesy of http://www.baseballplayersalaries.com).

At any rate, my own personal belief is that Martin’s suspension is fair, Snider’s is too low, Cole should’ve been fined but not suspended, Gomez’s suspension is fair, and Maldonado’s is too long but the fine — if accurately reported and they’re not leaving a zero off the end of it — is acceptable.

Anyway, as Gomez, Martin and Snider are all appealing their suspensions and fines, it’s impossible to know what’ll happen next. It’s possible that Gomez’s suspension may be cut a game, or they might even add two for him not accepting it immediately. Snider — to my mind, he didn’t get a long enough suspension as it was, so I think his appeal is baseless, especially as he was the first guy off the bench for either team. And Martin, as a long-time catcher in MLB, certainly knew better than to do what he did . . . so to my mind, Martin’s suspension and fine will get upheld.

Why Cole did not get fined, though, is beyond me. Even a token fine would’ve been acceptable ($500 to his favorite charity, perhaps) . . . but not giving him one sets a very bad precedent.

Aside from that, I’d still like to know why Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron was thrown out of the Brewers-Pirates game, because obviously MLB did not feel he deserved either a suspension or a fine — and if he did something so egregiously wrong that he deserved to be ejected, why wasn’t he fined and/or suspended as well?

What do you think of the fines and suspensions? Let me know in the comments. (Surely this blog, of all blogs, will draw a few of those?)