brewers baseball and things


Greinke’s Riddle

The winter of 2010 was probably one of the warmest in Milwaukee Brewers history. The memory of 2008 was still there – acquiring Sabbathia in a mid-season trade and enjoying a run to the wild card followed by two consecutive sub .500 seasons. We felt teased by the rise and fall.

Then Christmas came early. On December 19, 2010, the Royals did what Zack Greinke asked them to do. They traded him….to Milwaukee!!! And we nearly jumped out of our skin, too excited to care about the fine print details. The Royals were heading into the 2011 season with Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odirizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress. And these were more than names to us. We had watched Cain roam Miller Park’s center field the previous September. We knew about Escobar’s range and the 100 mph plus fastball of Jeffress and Odorizzi was the Brewers first round pick in the 2006 draft, but we didn’t care because we had Zack Greinke. 

And even when former Brewers catcher and manager Ned Yost took over the Royals and predicted he would one day win the World Series with them, we still didn’t care because we had Zack Greinke.

We said the name a few times….. Zack Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers and it felt really good, so we said it again. It was like singing a song’s chorus over and over and over, Zack Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers. As the initial gush wore off and the front office began to focus on more ways to bolster the staff, it made sense, this Greinke acquisition, with Milwaukee being such a small market team, free from the spotlight, less likely to irritate Greinke’s struggle with social anxiety disorder and depression, no big city lights and constant questioning from reporters.

Greinke was well liked in Milwaukee and garnered a sort of cult-like following. Fans praised his standoffish-ness and sarcastic, cold responses to the media. They liked his unpredictability, how he never said the same thing twice, never used worn-out clichés.  But Brewers fans didn’t seem to grasp the difference between Greinke’s social phobia and what they maybe considered to be a fashionable insouciance. The new Brewer was still struggling with a very real and dangerous illness that made quitting baseball a distinct possibility for him, back in 2006.

Fans glorified what they referred to as brutal honesty, and related a little to what they perceived to be a misanthropic edge. But Greinke was not enjoying some juvenile rebel, hateful stance toward 99% of the world. This was about Greinke’s survival and was the furthest thing from glamorous or cool. And when the phobias became too much, Greinke became quiet. He ran for cover.

The fact that Greinke requested the Milwaukee media to leave him alone except on specific days reflected his incredible intelligence and will to survive. He had paid his dues, learned his limitations and designed a strategy to combat what previously sent him spiraling downward.

Milwaukee was not the peak of Greinke’s pitching career, but we sure enjoyed his contributions, especially at home – Miller Park where he was 11-0 during 2011, the year we won the NL Central, but lost to those damn Cardinals in the NL Championship.

We didn’t expect Greinke to stay in Milwaukee and we were right. He didn’t. Anaheim was next on his free agent tour and that also made sense. He was born in warm climate Florida and the Angels were certainly the smaller of the Los Angeles teams in terms of media attention.

But when Greinke signed with the other Los Angeles, I was pleasantly shocked. What a triumph for a fellow human saddled with such obstacles to now be pitching on one of baseball’s biggest stages, Chavez Ravine, home of Kershaw and Koufax, Valenzuela and Drysdale, Vin Scully. The Dodgers! I had to say it again. It sounded so great. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers. How did he do it! 

“It wasn’t that hard after I got the medicine,” Greinke said. “The medicine was the greatest thing ever. I may have gotten lucky and found the right one. The only problem I have with it is that it makes me a little tired, but not real tired. That’s the only complaint I have. I know it’s not always that easy, but for me it was. I was lucky with that.” (from this ESPN article)

And now Greinke stands on the brink of becoming baseball’s highest paid pitcher, ever, and I know school teachers should make more money and life’s not fair, but I’m happy for you Greinke.


Cuba Libres all around

To turn a single into a double disrupts outfield harmony. There is no more plucking blades of grass from mother earth; no more slipping ’em between tongue and teeth and trying  to whistle. There’s a hot rod on the bases and he’s high on pop rocks, dancing with himself. There’s no telling what he might do, sling shot distance from the pitcher’s mound. Neither the clock or sun show any change, but there’s definitely friction in the air.

The manager digs a hand deeper in his back pocket and the side-saddle coach scoops a wad from a Red Man pouch. The first baseman rubs his right foot softly across the ivory bag and swivels slowly, 180 degrees, a back and forth pendulum. The second sacker tucks his mitt under his arm pit, spits in his bare hands and claps a few times. The third baseman does nothing. The shortstop stares at the catcher who smells up the batter in this dog sniff dog world. Did the baserunner and the threat of scoring arouse all this ritual?

The suspense of rounding bases can do that, so much so that the act became synonymous with sexual foreplay and climax, love-making and maybe Meatloaf`s 1977 ”Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” brought the double entendre to a cultural peak. Even Yankee legend Phil Rizutto hopped on board or into the studio, to record his play-by-play of no one in particular legging a single into a double, followed by a steal of third and a suicide squeeze and HOLY COW I THINK HE’S GONNA MAKE IT when singer Ellen Foley screams, ”STOP RIGHT THERE!”

That small ball brand of baseball, station to station, to run, steal, bunt, stretch a single into a double, sacrifice, suicide, so often linked to the Dead ball era forever linked to our sexual appetites and questions of lust versus love, Meatloaf.

Makes me wonder about Cuba and how many baseball expressions-double entendres or meanings they`ve added to the Spanish language. Cuba is the only country whose revolutionary heroes also played baseball. Some say baseball landed there thanks to American sailors and/or college students returning home with bats and balls and excitement over a new game. Others link the indigenous game of Batos played by the Taíno people to baseball developing into the country’s most popular sport..

Regardless of origins, baseball arrived like a getaway raft during Cuba’s War of Independence, to drift away from Spain’s colonial rule, to carve out a new identity. The Bullfight was apparently too macho and violent. And baseball was supposedly modern and more democratic with its nine positions and opportunities. This upset Spain. Baseball was banned. Cubans were imprisoned.

Emilio Sabourin played second base. He was also a Cuban league organizer, club manager and known to have funneled funds made from baseball games to the Cuban revolution and Jose Marti. He paid a price. Sabourin was eventually exiled to Ceuta, Spain where he died in prison.

The Spanish word for on deck circle is círculo de espera. Its roots stretch to maybe Mexico or perhaps Puerto Rico? It literally means circle of wait and regardless of where you are in the Spanish speaking world, espera is linked to the verb esperar and its double meaning – to wait for and to hope for.

Waiting does not necesarily imply hoping. I guess that’s why in English we have two separate verbs. Maybe on deck circle is nothing more than waiting one`s turn to bat, but I can’t help wondering about Cuba and the struggle of teenagers and younger siblings and anyone emerging from underneath someone else`s colonizing shadow; on deck, waiting, hoping for one more chance, to help the team, to drive in that runner dancing around second base, looking like a stray, in need of a raft.


news about Dreaming .400

skinnyThe bars have been removed, from the cover of Dreaming .400 that is. And there is a brighter, bluer air. I apologize to anyone who expected to see the older version (on left) and hope you won’t be upset when you rip open the Amazon package or scroll hand-held devices and see what’s now on the right in the sidebar. The words inside remain the same.

The thinking was that the image was too dark and that the bars caused a compartmentalization resulting in a separation of field from title. The orange bars were like prison bars locking up “The Joe” on the bottom half of the page. And when removed, “The Joe” was free to float up and merge with the title – Dreaming .400.

The painting and title were no longer stand alone situations. They were together. This was important to me. All that was missing were some stars, maybe a moon to hint of night and an endless, beautiful black sky, infinity. We didn’t take it that far, but I did add a “Dear Readers” section and well, Dreaming .400 became more than a title. It became a hammer, a soft one, to my head, a reminder, to carry on no matter what, to keep dreaming .400, each in our own way (s).

The book is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle and next week, the print version will be ready for shipment. In the interim, the peek inside feature on Amazon lets you read the first story as a sort of sneak preview. Here’s the link


when a world series is delayed

I don’t remember when I first learned about haiku poems, maybe in high school? It must have seemed delicious in a reading and writing sort of way because it was so damn small and that meant homework could be completed quickly and without much effort.

I played the solitary game of pegs and holes – Hi Q way before I knew about a haiku, but somewhere along the way- probably on wikipedia, I learned that a haiku is a short poem invented in Japan with a traditional syllable sequence of 5-7-5, so the names

Rico Petrocelli – 6
Biff Pocoroba – 5
Tony Conigliaro – 7

would not qualify as a haiku, but Pocoroba and Conigliaro could be stored for future use since they meet the criteria of 5 and 7 syllables. With just one more 5 syllable name, we’d have at least, all the syllable ingredients for a baseball name haiku. It’s that easy, but sounds so prison like, being forced to follow such strict syllable rules.

In baseball score keeping, this 5-7-5 could also cause lots of confusion. The third baseman says the hell with all the bitching about games being too slow and gobbles up a grounder, pivots around 180 degrees and throws the ball not to first base, but to the left fielder who catches it and throws it back to the third baseman while the rest of the team says what the funk and the manager removes his cap and wishes the season would end soon so he could go back home, down south and do some fishing. The runner is safe on first.

And if this 5-7-5 haiku became a book of 5-7-5 haikus, one after another, it would be like Stevie Wonder at third playing catch with Ray Charles in left, back and forth, with neither one of them ever dropping the ball, 5-7-5, page after page after page like a bar at the outskirts of town with Christmas tree lights lining the entrance way 365 days a year, back again at 9 pm every night, the tender sliding a beer and a shot glass to regulars, very close to paradise, maybe it is.

In other news, the Seattle Pilots played their last game of the 1969 season on Thursday, October 2. A home game against Oakland. They lost 3-1. Miguel Fuentes struck out rookie Reggie Jackson to end the top of the ninth. Turned out to be the last out ever recorded by a Seattle Pilots pitcher and the last out ever recorded by Fuentes too.

The Pilots moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers the following season and Fuentes? He was shot and killed a few months later, on January 29th, 1970, in his hometown of Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico.

Apparently, there were some plumbing issues at a bar, so Fuentes slipped outside to take a leak and pissed a little too close to someone’s car. Tempers flared, shots fired, blah blah blah, and so on. Happens every night. Better to sometimes drink at home I guess and be your own DJ, listen to old records, sort through baseball cards and make up haikus?

One of the big superstars or masters of the Haiku was also a baseball player. He went by the name Masaoka Shiki, late 19th century Japan. He’s the guy who apparently changed the name from Hokke to Haiku. I don’t know why he did that, but he wrote a few, maybe more than a few haikus with baseball included. And well, it’s almost winter here in Montreal and it feels like it already is with people eating and sleeping more, talking about whisky with greater frequency. Scotty, beam me up a bar coaster so I can doodle and try to make the sound of a cold wind with words.

summer’s surrender
Fuente’s tragic gun shot wound
Masaoka Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

* There was Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, delayed for two consecutive days I think. Musta been a lot of kids staring into puddles. There was also 1911, game 4, Giants versus Athletics in Philadelphia when rain fell for 6 days. But the longest WS delay of all came 78 years later in 1989 on the west coast and well, go figure, the same two teams, in new cities, were playing or not playing because an earthquake postponed game 3, Giants and Athletics in San Francisco for 12 days.

This post had no particular meaning.


nature’s blues

There’s a leaf on a tree.
i see one every year.
some seasons it’s by the sewage treatment plant on bridge street,
other seasons it’s along the lake.
one time i saw it down in the valley beside the bingo hall
and then i was in the upper deck of this baseball stadium,
just sitting there between innings and
this kid beside me wasn’t keeping score.
he was making a paper airplane with the scorecard and
he held it up in the air,
not to show off or anything.
it was more of a sniper situation,
he was aiming his paper plane,
and his arm was stiff like a branch and
that airplane was like the lone leaf on a tree.

He took a deep breath and
set that plane free.
I watched it leave his finger and thumb
swerving back and forth
at first like a rock-a-bye-baby in its cradle,
but then some wind hijacked its destiny
and swerved it every which way.
gravity took care of the rest,
sending that paper plane on a downward spiral,
but then it slowed up and
waltzed a bit,
back and forth,
so quiet and anonymous,
eventually settling near first base,
just laying there
like a tired hobo,
wearing all of summer’s dreams in his salvation army blazer.
no one seemed to notice when
the grounds crew scooped up that paper air plane.
we just surrendered to
another ninth inning of a god damn game 162 and
the scoreboard played shock absorber
with its opening day 2016 announcement,
but that didn’t help.
fans with hidden flasks took swigs and the rest of us
looked at cracks in the cement.


I love pre-season trades. The winter league or hot stove league it is called. Not sure of the origins of the term, but seems potent as an antidote to cabin fever. Both a microscope of the present and a telescope of the future, a teams’s trajectory.

On December 12, 1980, the Brewers sent top prospect David Greene and fan favorite Sixto Lezcano along with pitchers Dave LaPoint and Lary Sorenson to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers and Pete Vukovich.

At the time of the trade, cabin fever telescopes were probably not seeing a future World Series between the two teams, but scratch my back-scratch your back, heavens to Petunias in 1982, the Suds Series between St. Louis and Milwaukee happened. Vukovich won the Cy Young that year.

On November 13, 1985, the Boston Red Sox sent effective starter Bob Ojeda, Tom McCarthy, John Mitchel and minor leaguer Chris Bayer to the New York Mets in exchange for John Christensen, Wes Gardner, Calvin Shiraldi, and La Schelle Tarver.

Flash forward one year later and the Mets were still celebrating their World Series victory over the Red Sox. I can still see Calvin Shiraldi sitting on the edge of the Red Sox dugout, rubbing his head. Ojeda won two games in the 1986 post season including game three of that World Series. He also won 18 games in the regular season.

On December 17, 2012, a different New York Mets team with the same name traded the previous year’s Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey along with his catcher Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and minor leaguer Wuilmer Becerra.

Last night, Syndergaard pitched a scoreless seventh inning, earned a hold in his team’s decisive win over the Dodgers. The catcher for the Mets was d’Arnaud. And two nights ago, R. A. Dickey ran around the Rogers Centre in Toronto, spraying champagne at Blue Jays fans.

Both Syndergaard and Dickey will be pitching in their league’s respective championship series and even if the Mets and Blue Jays don’t meet….there are  the Cubs and Royals and endless story line possibilities, a for a little while longer, before the east and midwest get all freeze poppish and we all turn blue.


A roughned odor and the monster flip

How to distinguish Cole Hamels from Cliff Lee? Hmmmm, place of birth? height and weight, hobbies, pitch selection, frequent flier miles, high score on centipede?  Left-handed pitchers look right no matter what. Dave LaRoche playing marbles would be beauty to me. Southpaws were born to change speeds, be efficient and come inside with set up pitches. Paint that outside corner with back door sliders. Strike three.

I kept thinking it was Cliff Lee on the mound last night, but the back of his shirt said Hamels? My confusion coming from Cliff Lee as a Ranger, on the mound in the playoffs and getting busted for pine tar on his hands, a few years ago, wasn’t it?

There was no pine tar last night, just more left-handed mastery. It was Hamels as a Ranger, but the Blue Jay’s Marcus Stroman was super hero – 24 years young. He slipped in spring training on a come backer to the mound and was written off until 2016 by everyone except Stroman who predicted his comeback  would be “legendary.” That’s what he said. Who says these things?! And as sure as Walt Disney Babe Ruth, he – Stroman,  not only rehabilitated his knee, but earned a sociology degree from Duke, went 4-0 down the stretch and was handed the ball for Toronto’s biggest moment in 23 years by manager John Gibbons – the bullpen catcher for the Mets in 1986….1986……1986.

The game was yawn yawn, a 2-1 sort of pitcher’s duel through five innings, Hamels painting corners ho hum until Edwin Encarnacion hit a massive bomb off him in the 6th inning. Woke up the Toronto crowd. Score tied 2-2. And then the 7th inning happened.

There are defining games in a fan’s life. Everyone has one and I’m happy for last night’s kids and for me, this game chiseled into their-our consciousness forever.

Roughned Odor stood on third base with two outs in the top of that 7th when Russel Martin decided to play charades, impersonating a top model tanning all casual on a lounge chair, sipping a cocktail while simultaneously tossing the ball back to the pitcher like he had done a thousand times before when splat ricochet, the ball hits Shin-Soo Choo’s bat and bounces towards third base. Odor got in on the act and looked east and west like a looter and then scampered home with the go ahead run.

The umpire’s hands went up as if to say “Dead Ball,” but after a meeting with fellow umpires, the run was allowed. Rule such and such point 06 if batter doesn’t intentionally prevent yaddya yaddya, runner scores. Toronto fans then suffered a gush of empathy for Canadian born Russel Martin and collectively suffered an out-of-body experience. They lost the niceness in their demeanor and reverted to hockey goon nature. The night of flying objects ensued. Beer bottles tossed from the upper deck. And so went the AM.

In the PM of the inning, three errors kicked off the encore, all of ’em by shortstop Elvis Andrus. The newspaper may say first baseman Mitch Moreland committed one of them, but on a sunny day in Arlington, Andrus makes that scoop at second base, but he didn’t and I felt bad for him, but the show must go on. 1993 was a long time ago in Toronto.

There was a force out at home with a trip and tangle and mild controversy, but suddenly one out and a double play could end the inning. A blooper over second base then became a force out, but the tying run scored and Jose Bautista stepped to the plate. Cole Hamels staring frozen now from the Rangers bench. Samuel Dyson on in relief and there was a bang, a three run home run and the most obnoxious bat flip of all time as Bautista or Joey Bats as he’s called in Toronto, stood and stared at Dysoon, the ball, the TV camera and then he didn’t really flip the bat, he heaved it like a pile of firewood into the air and towards the Ranger’s dugout. There were a few bench clearings, mostly words and a lot of wows.

The ball and attention then turned to Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna – youngest player in baseball, born in 1995, called on to close out the 8th and 9th and the name Don Gullet and 1970 mentioned.

Bautista’s home run now “the shot heard round the provinces” in Canada as Joe Carter is gently placed inside a top shelf shoe box. And Harold Reynolds promised that Roughned Odor would one day hit 25 home runs and hit .320 and real soon.

There was fun to be had by all last night in Toronto and oh yeh, the Royals beat the Astros. It was 20 years ago, 1985, when the Royals beat the Blue Jays in the ALCS, 4 games to 3.


Dear post season…..

Is this really happening? Are the Royals and Astros really in the playoffs? And facing each other? The two biggest losers in recent memory having both enjoyed three consecutive 100 loss seasons, on prime time TV, in October! Who to hug? Bud Selig or the sewer? Both, dammit!

Where did Chris Young come from? I had no idea he was a Royal or still pitching for that 6 feet 10 inches matter and facing Jose Altuve at 5 feet 7 and the announcer says it’s the largest height disparity in playoff history and so what’s the largest in regular season history Mr. know it all announcer? Some 8 foot giant we all missed? with a stand in Eddie Gaedel stunt man at the plate?

This is the same Chris Young who pitched for the Padres I think, like 15 years ago or so it seems. He’s the guy who went to Harvard or Yale or something and he cupped the ball and did something strange with his body, a contort or gyration of some sort and 45 years before any of this happened, Sandy Denny joined Robert Plant and sang vocals for  Zeppelins Battle of Evermore.

And so up to the plate walks Jose Altuve who is listed as 5′ 6″ which makes him one inch taller than Freddi Patek and well, I can’t think of anyone smaller that ever played major league baseball, except that Veeckian Vaudevillian Eddie Gaedel and except  maybe Yogi Berra, may he never rest. But lo and behold, the same place where I took the other measurements- Baseball Reference – lists Berra at 5′ 7″. They also list Berra’s first game as September 22, 1946 and well, Berra passed away on September 22nd this year and I don’t believe in coincidences because it makes everything so dull and sober.

I think it was the 6th inning. Altuve hit a single to center field off Young.

Josh Lewin is hands down or in my case hands up with praise, my all time favorite announcer. I think he does Mets games on the radio now, but he did Rangers games for TV for close to 10 years.He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at a young age and well, his mind is a bit like a conveyor belt or a massive buffet with metaphors and anecdotes galore and he speaks so fast with a great cadence and a laugh that puts a smile on my face. I was upset when the Rangers fired him in 2010 and happy when the Rangers lost in the World Series that very same year and then again in 2011. In all my sabermetric wisdom, I blamed their failure to win big games on the firing of Lewin.

Speaking of not winning big games, will Clayton Kershaw join the Pirates and A’s and Rangers in a separate Hall of Fame wing called – can’t get over the hump?

As great as Kershaw is with that lollipop curve and Craig Counsell batting stance equivalent while pitching from the stretch, arms way up high-touching the sky, changing speeds, introducing new pitches throughout the game, ERA and WHIP titles, CY Youngs and Kershaw’s  post season record now sits at 1-7 after last night’s loss to the Mets and Jacob deGrom.

There are probably still some people who don’t like it when boys wear their hair long, so maybe they don’t like Jacob deGrom. What I like about him is that he offers fans another way to like him. How about a name that begins with a small letter and includes a big one in the third slot? And if that doesn’t warm your toenails, then maybe his 13 strikeouts last night will, in his first ever post season performance, a 3-1 win over the Dodgers and  yes, Krrrrrshaw, Kshaw, Kshaw, Kshaw…..a broken record.

There are so many baseball teams playing in the post season. I remember when there were two leagues, four divisions and that’s it, that’s all. Now we have 10 teams out of 30 that make it and I don’t need a chart on my wall or maybe I do?

The Blue Jays lost the first two games of their series against the Rangers and this is real bad for Canada because if the Blue Jays don’t win a World Series real soon, we will be forced to watch highlights of the 1992 and 1993 World Series all winter long again. I wish I was in Chicago because there was no TV when the Cubs last won a World Series.

I hope there is a hidden vault of soon to be released Yogi Berra-isms.


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