sort of watered down coffee

28 Jul

There’s a great divide in the early morning sky; ditto for early evening. Dawn and dusk. American League and National League and a moment in early October-The World Series when the sky turns a rosy cheek and sometimes purple and never before seen blues;  a ray of light beaming a line of clouds like a tornado following a specific path. The ABC intro music was goose bumps.

In 1969, those two leagues splintered into divisions; four of em; with each league having an east and west. But in one very specific way, the leagues became even more distinct. The DH was born in 1973. A huge change for sure and for all the criticism it endured, no one denied the ring splitting even further; into two camps; the pure, old school National where pitchers still bat and the bastard junior circuit-the American League of motor cities and muscle cars; of designated hitters.

Even after the leagues split, there were still only four division winners; followed by a short best of 5 league championship series with the winner gaining access to the coveted zone….that fall classic. Then in 1995, a wild card was added and last year a second wild card. The playoffs feel more like a pot luck dinner these days with five teams in both leagues reaching the promise land. All are welcome.

There’s still euphoria in reaching the playoffs, but a noticeable “yeh, but” lingers, a yeh, but it could all end in one day if we’re a wild card or in a week if that wild card team we have to face as division winners suddenly gets hot or we get cold.

Back in the day, winning the division was worthy of a ticker tape parade and in many ways, more than enough. The season was considered a success and sure, the ultimate goal was advancing further and claiming the WS trophy, but being one of four was way more than one of 10.

Throw in interleague play and October is not the clash of two separate galaxies. It’s a repeat of the regular season. Maybe it’s for the better of the game. Turnstiles spin more frequently. Bud Selig gets a statue. Competitive balance rules. But that early morning/evening sky makes for some strange firework residue. I miss it. Pittsburgh versus Baltimore sounded so strange and exciting.

On the other hand, all this intermingling  turns a regular Sunday afternoon game at Miller Park into maybe  what it’s supposed to be anyway… 106 of the season; an end in itself with nothing outside its 9 inning parentheses. No sneaking a peek at the scoreboard to see if the Cardinals or Pirates won. No calculating magic numbers to division or wild card crowns because the playoffs these days are way more than a different season, For better or worse, it’s a  church bingo and anyone can win.

Rookies Jacob deGrom and Jimmy Nelson made it easy to focus on Sunday and Sunday only, deGrom scattered four hits over six and a third innings; Nelson 5 hits over 7 innings, but one of those hits was Lucas Duda’s 18th home run of the year. The Mets won 2-0.

The Brewers are 59-47.

not really in the shadows anymore

27 Jul

pitchbackFrom zygote to curled up embryonic snail to pop tart outta the womb to crawling to homo erectus and standing on the edge of boat….every kid a discovery captain. “Dad, I wanna a pitch back toy.” The request  is never rejected. The hours of fantasy to a young baseball fan are better than a TV baby sitter.

The pitch back usually comes before the batting tee. It comes in a Toys R Us box easily destroyed; requiring very little assembly. The fable on the label says; “designed to improve a player’s fielding, throwing, and pitching.”

The fielding takes a back seat. The boy or girl walks backwards 60 feeet six inches or some such equivalent and simulates game 7 of the World Series, 2 strikes on Ichiro, crowd on their feet, the wind up and pitch and the kid is carried off the field on his teammates shoulders. The king stroller days wear a new face.

Was the kid John Wetteland in the 1996 World Series recording his fourth save in only 4.1 innings? Or was he Sandy Koufax completing his second shutout of the 1965 Series; his arm ready to fall off? Or maybe he was Darold Knowles from the 1973 Series and making his 7th appearance in 7 games. Yeh, probably he was Knowles.

Relievers are a strange species. No kid dreams of being one or if they do it’s the Hollywood closer; the last man standing on the mound when the media lights shine and agents swarm like ants to honey. But no one longs to be a mop up-long reliever, a set up man or a LOOGY.

Most teams piece together bullpens in spring training; year to year.  Of course, there are teams with closers and/or supporting staff who serve 5 or 6 years with the same team, but for the most part, relievers are like traveling insurance salesman; always on the move selling their wares to new buyers.

The closer’s been getting the glory since Bruce Sutter or Goose Gossage and the days of Rolaids Relief Man Award; the save; that visible digit pitchers wear like rosary beads around their karate belt necks, the stat fans drool over or used to anyway.

The principles of baseball faith have changed. Fans love it when batters work a 12 pitch at bat in the 9th inning of a 10-2 game. Fans love contemplating what that at bat might mean going forward. And fans love games saved in the 6th or 7th inning. And so do negotiators and arbitrationers in the contract room. A lawyer’s twisted tongue has less sway these days. It’s all numbers.

Honor the set up man; even the long reliever and reward him because the concept of a pitching staff being a chain gang is no longer communist rhetoric. It’s real. The weakest link in that chain is as essential as the Hollywood reliever. There is no weak link anymore. The grunt and grind boiler room is an octopus.

The Brewers put up a 3 spot in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday evening; took a 3-2 lead against the Mets; turned the 6th inning into the appreciation frame. Would Wily Peralta respond to the offensive gift with a shut down inning? He didn’t have to. Zach Duke was summoned from the bullpen and he struck out pinch hitter Eric Campbell to end the inning. The runner on third base-Chris Young who had doubled, remained stranded. Duke credited with a hold.

Duke sticks around and strikes out the first two batters in the seventh inning and then walks Daniel Murphy. Bring on Jermemy Jeffress who gets David Wright to ground out to third and end the inning. It’s the only batter Jeffress faces, but he’s also credited with a hold. Will Smith summoned for the 8th inning. He gives up Chris Young’s second double of the game, but strikes out the side and gets a hold as well.  K-Rod pitches a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

Three holds, a save and a win for Wily Peralta who is now 12-6. Chain gang with Will Smith’s 24th hold a memorable one; striking out the side, improving his K to IP ratio; 65 punch outs in 48 innings pitched.

A relief corps is plural; something for a kid to dream about. Final score; Brewers 5, Mets 2.

The Brewers are 59-46.


that something out there

26 Jul

Look at that moon. Yeh, look at it. Look at the big aspirin in the sky; so big we can almost reach out and touch it, but we don’t. We crawl back into our mind instead; into our own reason and other than an occasional sensational story about full moon antics, the Luna is nothing but decoration in our shared bedroom; overlooked, mocked, under appreciated after so many years of being there.

Is there no civil war between moon junkies and data collectors? Should there be? Has the obsession with needing proof turned flirting with the moon and planets and their effect into cracker jack fantasy? A million perceptions, but one reality?

Former catcher Darrin Daulton wrote a book about occultism and numerology-If They Only Knew and he was conveniently labeled quack; another opportunity wasted to bridge the gap between known and unknown.

Yet, there’s no denying the effect moon cycles have on tides and to some ancient tradition, it’s the moon, not the sun that tells time and determines the calendar of festivals; the blues felt in waning periods, special prayers-chants inserted into liturgy with new moon first sightings.

The baseball world is a statistical paradise. Always has been. The radical research devoted to uncovering what might be happening in a baseball game was forced underground for decades, but it never died. And these days, there’s an orgy of shared information-data-statistical research. Reason, logic and rational proof….numbers, data, equations revealing patterns in player performance trump speculations based on the position of the moon. 

But all the moon data is available stretching back to 1930; every day, every month. Link the coming of a full moon with player performance? those cluster days before and after big pill rules? when hot streaks reign? Ryan Braun is maybe the wrong spokesperson. The evidence is way too consistent.

Since 2007 and over 4,000 at bats, he has produced a batting average over .300 in all six months of a baseball season; from April to September hitting over 30 home runs in each month and driving in 100 runs. Maybe a closer look at each month would reveal more slugging, a higher average during the wax of a full moon or maybe not…probably not.

Too many factors, too many astrological/personality factors. Too many different pitchers, right lefty splits, strained oblique muscle factors, defensive shift factors. All of them influencing performance. Luck, random, chaos? Murphy’s law? God, moon, destiny, predestined?

French psychologist and statistician  Michel Gauquelin set out in the mid 1960’s to disprove the effect planetary positions have on human pursuits He was surprised by his findings.

Gauquelin used Mars and its association with athletic achievement as evidence. Gauquelin was blown away by the disproportionate number of athletes born with Mars ascending and for bankers-Jupiter, for doctors-Saturn and for writers-Mercury.

Hogwash? Superstition? Well, the data is right there in black and white and maybe there’s a reason the research is not so readily available; a Roswell reason.

The Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico was onto something. The report was called ‘Intriguing Accident Patterns Plotted against a Background of Natural Environmental Features’;  how on-the-job accidents of government employees paralleled various natural cycles over 20 years.

The first batch of findings were not conclusive, but the trend was towards accidents peaking during sun spot cycles and during the same or opposite moon phase when individuals were born. Hog wash? superstition? Well, Time magazine mocked the finding and Congress cancelled the research. The scientists weren’t jumping up and down, but they wanted to continue the research. No can do.

Friday night was a waning crescent moon. The Brewers took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Yovani Gallardo held the Mets to four hits for 7 and two-thirds. Will Smith recorded the last out in the 8th inning. Francisco Rodriguez time. Close the door.

The Mets equaled their hit total of the previous 8 innings in five minutes; scoring three runs; two on a Lucas Duda sweet spot 2-run homer. Final score Mets 3, Brewers 2. It was what it was or maybe it was more.

The Brewers are 58-46. New moon Sunday.

game 103

25 Jul

It was already the 6th inning last night, the Brewers shutting out the Mets at Miller Park 6-0. I shut the game off, hoping to fall asleep before my upstairs neighbor’s air conditioner turned on. I didn’t. I never do. I prefer winter.

Temperatures have been September like mild the last few days. I don’t get why an air conditioner is necessary, but then again this is an apartment complex, not an apartment simple, so no finger pointing simple solutions to complicated problems. Back to the ear plugs and rhythmic breathing.

The final score was 9-1 Brewers. In that 6th inning, Davis hit his team leading 17th home run. He’s also hit the third most home runs in all of baseball since July 24th of last season. He also appeared to drop his one flap down during the 6th inning home run trot at least it looked that way on the morning high light reel.

Davis is smaller than the original one flap down Jeffrey Leonard. They were born in different months and in different states. This will hopefully be determined at the next Khris Davis home run event.

Braun also hit a home run, padding the already big enough lead. It seems like Matt Garza has turned into an ace. Or maybe July is always his best month. Lucky guess. A quick look up at baseball reference under Garza career splits and his ERA and WHIP are indeed by far better in the month of July.

And August for Garza ain’t bad either, but September is a huge drop off with the ERA spiking to 4.87, but these numbers are like horror scopes, are to be hurdled; a cross to do more than bear; to turn into a flying t and soar through a portal into momentum; a never before enjoyed momentum; the good kind. 

Jonathan Lucroy hit another home run. The Brewers win when they hit home runs. Four on Wednesday and three more on Thursday. Sends Bernie Brewer down the chute and fans another excuse to pop up a top on a Pabst.

The Brewers are 58-45.

other season now

24 Jul

begin to dabble
in astrology of course
that hobo smell no longer missing.
sewer water runs free
so does wind through the trees
see the real face of cinderella spring.
the game outside the world now.
fans look up and out at the stars or roof.

The Brewer’s Mark Reynolds was tucked into a 3 for 38 slump. Musta felt like seat belts, locked doors, and closed garages. Nothing new for Reynolds. He hit .198 in 2010 with 32 home runs and 211 strikeouts, but this 3 for 38 was the longest dry spell of his career.

Seemed to reflect the Brewer’s gonna win every day feeling; that 19 games over .500 in June splat comes a 3-12 record in July.

Reynolds hit two home runs Wednesday afternoon to back Kyle Lohse and lead the Brewers to a sweep of the Reds at Miller Park in game 102 of the just now beginning to grey season. And just like that, back in the saddle or at least a transient feeling of being there anyway.

The non waiver trade deadline nears-July 31st and no triggers have been pulled; no one more starter, no bolster the bullpen, no power left-handed bat off the bench, no utility infielder/outfielder.

Only Jeremey Jeffress called up from AAA making his first appearance in a Brewers uniform in over four years. What a downward spiral and then back up journey for the Brewers former first round draft pick in 2006.

Jeffress pitched a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday; a 1-2-3 ninth inning, a no walks allowed ninth inning, a three lazy ground balls ninth inning. He didn’t factor in the decision, but maybe-probably-hopefully Jeffress earned some gold stars in Brewer management minds; to be trusted and called on in tighter situations going forward.

The bases are still 90 feet apart. There is still no air conditioning at Miller Park. Sun still sets in the west, but something feels different on this Brewer’s team; again. Finals score; Brewers 5, Reds 1.

The Brewers are 57-45

home run the cure

23 Jul

As easy as clap your hands 1 2 3 4 times just like the Chinese lady does every morning. I see her in route to work. I looked it up on google; some ancient practice I forget the name; to activate acupuncture points in the palms; lightning bolts through the body; energy flow; enhanced immune system.

A clap, a cheer, a little bit of fanaticism. She’s more than a painting in a dentist office waiting room. She hears trumpet blasts and joins in; her hands hitting the sweet spot of her palms just about every clap. The echo travels; beats the lazy excuse ridden part of my brain into oblivion.

The umpire becomes a scarecrow; so does the scoreboard; both beyond my control, but I can will a change anyway. Get champagne drunk from the paradox and swim in the sane river. 

As easy as clap your hands 1 2 3 4 times; Tuesday night anyway. The Brewers hit two home runs in the 1st inning. Jonathan Lucroy added another in the 6th inning and then another in the ninth inning; a  line drive down the left field line off Sam LeCure to end the game. All four Brewer home runs were solo blasts.

The Brewers win when they hit home runs. Final score; Brewer 4, Reds 3. 

The Brewers are 56-45.


maybe there is a chorus, but it sounds mauled

22 Jul

The clothes line resembles an abacus to a cat that just woke up from a 2,000 year nap or a colorful candy necklace stretched out of its circle to a kid with nothing to do but eat. Birds dart over or under the clothes line like private school kids shedding their blazers, ties and backpacks for the sake of the unknown i guess.

It’s a finish line, a choke hold, or a starting gun and a million and one other things a mind forces its way to think and pretend and pose long enough so the good feeling becomes real again. I flip the computer on for the first time in a few days to discover that Jeremy Jeffress has been called up by the Brewers. “You can only live by what you do in the future, what’s to come,” says Jeffress.

Milwaukee’s former first round pick in 2006 endured three suspensions for marijuana use, a trade to Kansas City, another to Toronto, a new medication to eliminate seizures, and six months ago the birth of his daughter.

The baseball world never apologized for the suspensions; but they did acknowledge Jeremy’s marijuana use was an attempt to control the seizures. It’s all backseat now with marijuana no longer demonized and in Colorado, as available as a stick of butter.

It’s still too early to call this a Jamaican fairy tale come true, but major league baseball does not test for marijuana with players on 40 man rosters and that seems to be a step in a parallel direction with american society; an organic step, a right step, a let people practice whatever religion they want step.

Rob Wooten gave up a game winning home run against the Nationals in the 10th inning Sunday afternoon and that marked the end of a chapter. He was demoted to AAA and so goes the taste in every Brewer mouth. No more squinting on every one of his pitches. No more 38 hits allowed in 33 innings and .295 batting average against him.

Is this the bolster the bullpen for the stretch run we’ve been hearing about? Sure beats trading four prospects for Huston Street. Rabbi Nachman encouraged anything to be happy. Dance, do silly things, sing. A good recipe when leaves don’t shimmer and dangle like fish lure earrings anymore. I feel like a ghost in my life.

Jeffress has yet to pitch, but maybe tonight. He still throws 100 mph and dominated for over a month at AAA Nashville; acquiring a control he has never enjoyed at the professional level; only 18 walks in 41.2 innings along with 45 strikeouts and a 1.51. ERA. He’s only 26 years young    

The almost empty carcass appears suddenly, but there musta been signs. Scavengers don’t just show up and chew the last of tendons loitering stubborn on bones. Patient bastards sit in the shadows of lush and trounce when meaning slips away like a child’s hand in a supermarket.

The Cardinals are only a half game out of first, but Jeffress sounds the gong; that mynah bird from the Huxley book Island; “here and now boys. here and now boys” is the future. Empty and uncertain, cloudy, but still something and maybe we’ll be there for the first time.

Ryan Braun has passed Jonathan Lucroy in batting average. Jean Segura is back from bereavement for his suddenly mortal 9 month old child. He hit a triple Monday night. The Brewers are running the base paths aggressive like Ron Roenicke wants them too; messing with predictable.

On Sunday, Braun scored from second base on a ground ball and last night, Segura legged out that triple and the throw from the outfielder hit his leg and went elsewhere. Segura scored. Final score; Brewer 5, Reds 2.

The Brewers are 55-45.


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