brewers baseball and things


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Do we have to do the splits?

Last Friday, I bumped into a guy from work at the bottom of a subway escalator.  I didn’t know his name, but his hat, oh his hat; unmistakable;  it had the C and R for Colorado Rockies. I had never seen one in Montreal.  It proved to be a better conversation starter than a dog. I asked the obvious,

“So you’re a Rockies fan?”

He opened up right away, told me he loved the National League West. Then he reeled off the division’s teams. I said something about Coors Field being a real bomb. He said,

“Yeh, I’d like to go there some day.”

I countered with Diamondbacks being so good at the beginning this season, then so bad, and now leveling off, good again, still in first place.

“You know baseball…..” he said; as in nothing lasts forever.

“Yeh” I answered and with that he went through the turnstiles. I had to buy a ticket and by the time I had, he was gone. But I got to thinking of the Seattle Mariners winning 100 however many games back in 2001 and on the flip side, what team in recent memory lost the most games, maybe an expansion team or maybe one of the Astros or Royals teams that suffered three consecutive 100 loss seasons? I wasn’t sure so I waited patiently till I got back home and looked it up. Turns out the Tigers are the team. In 2003, they suffered a winning percentage under .300, going 43-119.

What’s remarkable to me is how close 119 losses is to 90 losses. If the Tigers would have simply won one more game per week or four per month, that would’ve been 24 for the season..easier said than done, but it would have brought their loss total to 95, barely better than the one year bankrupt Seattle Pilots who went 64-98.

Anyway, a team always offers intrigue, regardless of its place in the standings. Those 2003 Tigers had four guys hit double digit HR’s and well, if you prefer to visit funerals (like Harold in the movie Harold and Maude), there were three pitchers on that team flirting with 20 losses and one pitcher – Mike Maroth who did.

And so the Brewers beat the Cards two in a row, Thursday and Friday. Then they lost on Saturday and to make matters worse, Lorenzo Cain (grimace) left the game with hamstring cramps, same diagnosis that brought him out of Thursday’s game. He wasn’t in the lineup on Sunday and the Brewers didn’t win. Travis Shaw also left the game due to a wrist injury in the middle of his at bat. The Brewers were winning at the time 2-1, but went on to lose 8-2 as the Cardinals earned a split of the four game series and around dinner time. late Sunday afternoon, I heard an echo…”You know baseball.”

 

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stepping up and sitting down

Steve Sax had one named after him; so did Steve Blass, of curse, yes curse, this has nothing to do with their first name being Steve or I sure hope not anyway. It’s too small sample size to start attributing reasons especially not as silly and unsabermetric as a name. By the way, I often use the expression unsabermetric. I do not intend this as a dis or an insult. I find the science and math to better evaluate player performance as very fascinating. I simply don’t grasp most of the metrics, but I’m working on it, one at a time.

OK so on to the syndrome. Sax’s was an inability to throw the ball to first base, kind of important for a second baseman. Blass’s was an inability to throw strikes and get batters out. The syndrome hit Blass so hard that his career was cut short. Sax went on to have a few good seasons, both offensively and defensively.

What about career minor leaguers who don’t too well when they get a chance and their opposite…. mediocre minor leaguers who star in the show. I have no idea how to conduct the research for this so I’ll revert to what’s on the top of my head. In terms of career minor leaguers, I give the nod to Kilakila Kaʻaihue, born in Hawaii, an on base machine with power in the minors. But it never translated into much in the majors. He spent a few seasons with the Royals and A’s, then Japan. He’s now coaching a high school team somewhere.

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle was a big name in our house growing up. My dad made reference to him anytime anybody got on a roll doing something. He had OK stats rising the ranks of the Braves minor league system. In the year that he was called up, 1957, to give you an example, he hit .279 for AAA Wichita with 12 home runs in a little over 300 at bats, certainly good, but not out of this world. He saved that for the show where in 41 games (to replace the injured Billy Bruton), he hit  over .400 in 134 at bats, had a .477 OB%, slugged .649, and hit 7 home runs. The Braves went on to win their first ever National League and ultimately, the World Series that season.

Hazle was out of baseball in a few years. He finished with a .310 career average.

PS…yes the fences are closer to home plate, the ball seems juiced resulting in weaker hitters blasting opposite field home runs, but Jesus Aguilar barely made the team out of spring training and last night he broke up the Cardinal’s Jack Flaherty’s no-hitter in the 6th with a home run and then hit a walk off blast in the 9th off Bud Norris. He now has a team leading 16 home runs. I believe in Jesus. The Brewers believe in him. He is certainly making the most of his opportunity.

The Brewers have beaten the Cardinals in back to back games and once again sit atop the NL Central and maybe most revealing, have a winning record against division rivals.


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sort of a prayer

So Tony Horton gets traded from the Red Sox to the Indians for Gary Bell and he’s probably wondering why since Ted Williams had called him a natural in 1963 at Spring Training. Or maybe he didn’t wonder why. Maybe he witnessed George C. Scott (yes the Boomer’s middle name was Charles) on defense and knew he wouldn’t get a chance at first with the Red Sox. Sure, Scott could hit home runs, but he could also play great D. He even won a few gold gloves according to baseball reference. He musta been a big part of the Brewers. I don’t remember that far back, but a friend of mine from Milwaukee who now lives in Vancouver, Washington was in the south, in Mississippi, and he stumbled on George C. Scott, yes the baseball player and he took some pictures. He was manning a Hickory Smoked Pig House. This was before he passed away or at least I think he passed away?

I did get to witness the guy we traded Scott for….Cecil Cooper and he well, we impersonated his stance all the time, Carew like without the continuous alterations, just a consistent crouch that Cooooooooooop. That’s formative baseball years substance, comes back to mind when I catch a spring summer smell. The nose is a powerful organ, wonderful at times remembering pleasantries, but wicked other times when the opposite is true.

So there Horton goes to Cleveland in exchange for Gary Bell. Maybe Horton got bummed out about the Red Sox being so good the year they traded him? That was 1967, a couple of years before divisions were born. There was some last day significance between the Sox, Tigers, and Twins that season and the Sox finished tops and Horton in Cleveland? I don’t know where the Indians finished in the standings, but it wasn’t first. Still, I doubt that bothered Horton too much. I mean he went on to have some pretty decent years. He hit 10 home runs with Cleveland the year of the trade, slumped a bit the next season, but then bounced back in 1969 with a Charboneau year…. 27 home runs and I think that was the pitcher’s year, no? The year they lowered the mounds to give batters a chance against Bob Gibson.

Come to think of it, after doing some minimal research I discovered that he had a decent swan song season too, 17 homers and oh forget it. What good are stats! I think his method of termination was slit the wrists, but he failed and sort of lives on in mystery, but so do most suicides and almost suicides unless they are very good at vocalizing things or writing things down, but even then, as Lori Anderson sang……”Language is a virus.” I guess she meant to say it’s limited at best and doesn’t get to the eye of the storm. There is a Police Song that cites the limits of language too. It’s about love……”de dooo dooo doooo de daaa daaa daaa.”

Today’s billboard – Let Your Inner Self Scream Out.

I sometimes sit on my sofa and stare into space and wish players like Tony Horton had given themselves a break more often and then I realize I’m wishing the same for myself and everyone else.

Sun Ra would sell these types of singles out of the back of a car at shows. Often times they had homemade art work on the cover. Many of them had no record label. This one happens to be on Saturn Records. I believe that’s June Tyson who opens the chant with “Lightning, darkness” and then Sun Ra kicks in with the chant and the Arkestra follows like a caravan….on and on and on.


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a little bit on death

It’s almost the end of June and the Brewers are tied for first with the Cubs, like last year when they played meaningful baseball until the second to last day of the season. Wait a second. I don’t like that word meaningful. It’s as if a non-playoff related game doesn’t matter. Tell that to players who hit 4 homers in a game, strike out 20 batters, or simply get a chance to play.

Anyway, I figure if we get the death talk out of the way, the Brewers will stay alive. That’s a horrible pun or not even a pun, it’s downright disco stupid, but my baseball fever can be just that simple minded at times. Stay alive says my poster. I’ll be seating behind the Brewers dugout or not behind the dugout, but on that side, down in the corner, in right field.

So, onto death, some as predictable as old age and a heart attack; others not so, like being drunk and ornery, getting kicked off a train and then falling into a river and drowning or whichever Ed Delahanty legend you prefer.

All deaths are delved into great detail on the website The Deadball Era  a place maybe overlooked by internet surfers because there is another far more familiar dead ball era, the one that came BBR (Before Babe Ruth.) Some say that era never existed but most people do.

But that’s not the point of this post, death is and more specifically, suicides. I don’t know how many there have been. (The Deadball Era lists them all. Feel free to count yourself) But lift my beer stein lid open and the first name that pops out is Doug Ault. Maybe it’s because I live in Canada and for now, the Blue Jays are the only major league team here? Ault hit the first two home runs in Blue Jays history, both on a snowy, opening day in April of 1977 in Toronto. The Blue Jays won the game and Pete Vukovich earned the save, future Brewer Vuke. But Ault. His career didn’t last long, four years, and he only hit 17 home runs, amazing that two of them came on that one day. He died of a self inflicted gun shot wound at the age of 54.

Danny Thomas. He was called the sundown kid because after joining the World Wide Church of God, he refused to pitch from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. He was charged with rape and hung himself in prison.

There’s no transcript revealing either one of their last breath thoughts.

Tony Horton played seven years in the majors, three and a half with Boston, three and a half with Cleveland. He could have played a lot longer had it not been for an emotional disorder. He was apparently booed heavily and as a partial result, tried to commit suicide. That was in Cleveland. Thankfully, he failed in his attempt. Apparently his psychiatrist encouraged him to cut ties with baseball. There’s not much more info about him.

According to his SABR Bio, he became a bit of a recluse.


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walking on his toes

Spring training came way before Billy Hamilton’s mid June .187 average. It was great being there, not only because of the Arizona sun, but because I wasn’t a slave to the camera man and his angle or the words the radio man decided to use. My eyes were the camera. I could focus on whatever part of the panorama I wanted and think whatever and so I chose Billy Hamilton hopping around. God, he looked happy, talking to opponents, to teammates, old coaches, carrying his bag of bats over his shoulder, but not lugging them in labor pain, more like a woodsman with ax on his back, energetic, glad to be at the diamond.
Watching him was better than anti-anxiety medication,
a reason for being,
to play baseball.


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i believe in jesus

Sun god or son of god…I believe in Jesus, Aguilar that is.

Since the Brewers first baseman took over for the injured Eric Thames, he’s hit….well there’s a lot of percentages, equations, factors and what not, but one stat I can rap my head around is 10 home runs in 149 at bats, one of those a 13 pitch walk off bomb.

If I worked in a bumper sticker manufacturing plant, I’d suggest to the foreman that we engineer some “I BELIEVE IN JESUS” stickers with Aguilar’s head as the punctuation mark, an exclamation and then, if that took off, we could present our case to the Brewers marketing department and suggest bobble heads with Aguilar dressed up in an old Nazareth robe.


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beautiful nuts

That’s what this game will do to ya, baseball, make ya feel…nuts, but in the end it’s beautiful, not ping-pong or on-line poker nuts though those probably reap havoc their own way. Take this afternoon, I’m tuned to mlb.com audio, enjoying my Brewers, a 1-0 lead over the lowly last place White Sox through five or six innings, the lone run coming on catcher Erik Kratz’s home run, his second since coming over from the Yankees says Bob Uecker. Brewers then get runners on first and third, no outs, can’t score. And the next inning, a runner on third, no outs, can’t score again. You know what’s coming. You feel it in your unsabermetric gut. The White Sox will score two runs and win the game. Where’s my faith in this first place team! Jonathan Villar who saved the tying run from scoring the previous inning with a great play at second came to bat in the top half of the seventh and launched a solo blast. 2-0 Brewers. Lorenzo Cain then hit a solo homer the next inning and a few batters later Jesus Aguilar hit a 2-run bomb. 5-0 Brewers, top of the ninth. White Sox still to bat, It’s only 4:38 in the afternoon. I’m outside sitting in the sun, some unknown purple flower invading my nostrils, but who cares! There’s many more games to be played tonight and I have the 19.99 subscription. Uecker talks about the White Sox future being bright.

Thought I’d wait before posting this and what d’ya know. The White Sox put runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth and Uecker said, “The bullpen getting ready.” That means Corey Knebel to possibly replace Taylor Williams, so many names in a bullpen, so many great arms Josh Hader this year for the Crew. Hader has already pitched today, his customary one and two thirds, four strikeouts. Can they finish another one off? Tim Anderson up there. He’s got 11 home runs this year, third most among American League shortstops, part of the White Sox supposed bright future. He pops up to his counterpart at short. One out. The catcher coming up, can’t spell his name. Pops up to first. Two outs. Adam Engle the next batter is called back. The pinch hitter is announced…Daniel Palka, not sure about the spelling of his last name, but I like it, rhymes with polka which reminds me of the Brewers theme song Roll Out the Barrel. Strike three. Game over. Great job by Taylor Williams. Second and third no outs and the Sox can’t score. Sound familiar? Good thing this game didn’t continue or the Sox mighta started going yard.