brewers baseball and things


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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.


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diamond therapy

It became kind of clear they didn’t want us there. The little darts came zooming in from every direction and they were loaded with some sort of sedative; knocked us on our ass, out cold. Lucky we weren’t carrying gold in our teeth or we’d be hubcaps in east St. Louis, gone and forgotten.

We woke up in an alley atop mattresses with springs jetting out, stray newspapers everywhere. Bottle caps galore, broken glass too, smell of a cat urine,  a little like Eucalyptus. We all rolled around a while, still recooping from the darts, fell back to sleep, cut my hand on a stray sardine can or maybe it was a dream? Sucked the blood for breakfast. It was real. Everyone else was hungry. It was way past sunrise. We were way behind schedule. Actually, we had no schedule. We had quit our jobs and settled on a life of nothing. This was day one.

Ghetto criteria came into full zoom and bloom…..the trifecta of a check cashing institution, a liquor store, and a holy site, church or otherwise, in this case, Luigi’s Mosque which happened…go figure, to be a former church. The front door had a ram for a knocker; made a loud thump sound. We let it loose five times before someone came to the door. There were three of us. We held out our hands, hoping for a falafel ball or silver coin, something, anything, but all we got was the pork-o-meter, a simple device, much like a metal detector. They x-rayed our ass or rather, read our entrails. We had no chance. The pork rinds and strips of bacon we had eaten lit up like bolts of lightning. The mosque master handed us each a bag of coins and flung us to freedom. 

We spoke with fake Arabic accents, but it was no use. We lacked the royal family gene so we sucked up some air and remembered the rumors about pay phones; how a few still existed at the bottom of Silendro’s shopping mall, and if you tapped the cap with a paper clip, you could win a dial tone, free of charge. I stepped into the booth first and liked the sit down position much more than the walk around, look important cell phone routine.

called the suicide hotline.

“Press one if you’re feeling like an overdose with Valium washed down with Whisky.
Press two if you prefer carbon monoxide poisoning.
Press three if you have a rope and are near a chin up bar or some other horizontal pole.
Press four if you have a bridge to jump from not too far away.”

This went on and on and if I hadn’t thought about suicide before calling, I sure did now, all the recordings and no actual human, but fittingly the reel of spiels ended on the ninth option. Nine…. like nine players on a diamond. I smashed the phone down, not out of disgust or hatred at the world. I did it for the sudden synchronicity over the number nine. I put my arm around my buddy’s shoulders and we walked to the liquor depot. We pooled our bags of coins together and bought a bottle of rot gut wine, Carlo Rossi, so big we needed a wheel barrow to lug it along.

Instead, we cruised by the junkyard and snatched up an abandoned stroller and then…..well….we strolled, a family of four…..the three of us and our baby bottle red tucked nicely in the stroller throne, a cherry king.  We drank and drank and we were lit up when we entered the diamond. I forget who was playing….high school or little league, maybe an Indy league team? It didn’t matter. It was relaxing.

We lived another day.


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and happy birthday Harold!!

The sleeping pill-mood stabilizer-tranquilizer-five mile run around the block-glue sniffing distractions to snooze through the Jake Arietta daze are finally over sweet Jesus brotherly love Philadelphia for signing the former Cy Young award winner for three years at 75 million dollars….75 million?

I remember as a  kid trying to count to a million. I quit after a thousand and assumed it wasn’t possible to do in a single lifetime, but apparently it is…..

“If you count every minute of every hour of every day, you would reach 1,000,000 in 6 days, 22 hours, and 40 minutes, almost 1 week.”

But still 75 million is a lot of money. I don’t know where all of it comes from or how it’s distributed to keep everyone happy, from the big free agents to the grounds crew to the peanut vendors, but it happens, one season after another. Baseball isn’t quite the age of an empire, but it’s older than 100 years and that’s something.

Hail hail the chief, a.k.a. Mr. David Stearns (DS), Milwaukee’s General Manager for not biting the bullet and signing big free agent pitchers to dreaded four-year deals. In pre (DS) days we screwed ourselves by signing Jeff Suppan and Matt Garza for way too long. This year we went under the radar and signed Jhouyls Chacyn to a humble two-year contract for 15 million, still a lot, but he apparently has one of the deadliest sliders in baseball. We also invited former Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo to camp along with Wade Miley to duke it out in an old gun slinging wild west shoot out. May the most effective March hurler win a trip to the 25 man roster. I prefer spring training battles rather than short cut free agent signings.

All the experts had the Brewers in the mix for Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn (recently signed with the Twins) They said the Brewers needed to muscle up their staff after losing ace Jimmy Nelson last year in a freakish pitcher injury. Aren’t all pitcher injuries freakish? No, he didn’t trip over a sprinkler or stub his thumb painting a gutter, but he did mush his shoulder sliding back into first base. Freaky enough, especially for Milwaukee, an American League city for its first 27 years, a place where DH’s ruled the roost. Larry Hisle comes to mind. There were others. I can’t remember them right now, maybe Von Joshua, Dick Davis, Thad Bosley, Joey Meyer, Billy Joe Robidoux, Jeffrey Leonard. What a job; that toiling away all alone, pacing between the dugout and clubhouse…… I did a quick search of all time greatest DH’s and Paul Molitor popped up. I don’t remember if he DH’d for the Brewers, but what a career, so great that….

“He is one of only four players to have 3,000 hits, a .300 career average and 500 stolen bases. The others are Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins.”

Some argue “but he was a DH.” Others argue “AND he was a DH,” the difference being that a DH is not awarded the distraction of going to the field and forgetting about the previous inning’s K with the bases loaded. It takes a special mind to be a DH.

Harold Baines…he too served time as a DH, a border line Hall of Famer, a hitter with a front leg kick. I’m biased. He’s may all time favorite player; takes me back to my baseball formative years when it – baseball was everything, the only thing. It’s his birthday today….March 15th. Happy Birthday Harold!

In other news, Edwin Jackson pitched OK for the Nationals on Monday – three innings, three hits, two walks, two k’s, one earned run, It doesn’t look like he’ll crack their starting staff, but he could very well make it as a spot starter/long man. He says it’s not about the money. It’s about still having more in the tank. More in the tank…..more in the tank…..more in the tank…….my new every day mantra.

 


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a one year deal will do

There are no records of crows launching from roof tops when Edwin Jackson came into this world. I imagine his birth certificate to be like any other —year, city, eye color, weight, mother and father’s name. What sticks out is Neu-Ulm, Germany as his place of birth. He was born in 1983 (Before the wall came down) so I assume this was in West Germany, his father most likely a military man.

I scrolled the list of German born players, counted them too (spring training is long). There have been 41 players born in Weimar land, most of whom I’ve never heard, but the names, known or not, have a delicious ring – Skel Roach, Pep Deininger, and Reggie Richter and so why not play a little Chris “Ethel Merman” Berman and make it Reggie Richter “scale.” Then I continued to gaze at the names during my mid-march lunch break and a few were familiar – Glenn “mother” Hubbard, Craig Lefferts, Ron Gardenhire, Mike Blowers, Will Ohman, Jeff Baker and then fifth from the bottom, there he is – born September 9, 1983, Edwin Jackson…followed by bats right, throws right and further down the page, that Johnny Cash  ….I’ve been everywhere…….kicks in….

…..starts with the Dodgers in 2003 and then bumps all over everywhere, from L.A. to Tampa Bay, Detroit, Arizona, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis, Washington D.C., Chicago Cubs, Atlanta, Miami, San Diego, Baltimore, and last year, back to the D.C.. That makes 12 teams or one shy of the all time lux vagabond baseball record set by  Octavio Dotel. He stands alone as the all time leader with 13, but Dotel is retired. Jackson isn’t.  He received an invite to Nationals spring training. He’s only 34 and two pit stops away from dubious distinction or milestone? Hard to believe he pitched a no-hitter for the D-backs in 2010. His numbers look like vital signs, up and down and all over like his meanderings. Maybe he’s best suited as a middle reliever or a one pitch batter? Whatever it is, he’s like Steve McQueen in the movie Papillon….at the end, the last scene, after making it past the waves, sitting on his make shift raft, looking up at the sky, he screams, “Hey you bastards, I’m still here!”

Today is a special day for Edwin. He’s on the hill…starting…still fighting for a roster spot. He’s pitched six innings this spring, struck out six, and allowed two runs.

 

 


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dear sammy the saber toothed metric…

I don’t regret backs of baseball cards being my bible. But I sometimes wish I had studied nuclear physics and/or gotten a better grip on advanced metrics or come to think of it, maybe not; maybe I’m lucky to be so green, so wet behind the ears when it comes to formulas used to evaluate player performance. It allows me to experience all the newness of what must seem so rudimentary to a seasoned sabermetric.

I’ve heard arguments against metrics; that they are the root of all baseball evil; that the real game exists between the chalked lines –  the smell of grass, the dirt in between one’s toes, the chatter of an infield to support his pitcher, the lack of a time clock though this seems in jeopardy too, a topic for another today. But one quick point about the proposed mound visit limitations, pitcher’s clock, and batters not being allowed to step outside the batter’s box.

UGHHHHHHHHH!

All of this speed up the damn game because games were longer last year than ever before. Didn’t commercials have something to do with it?

Back to my post. Don’t we live in the best of both worlds, the back alley baseball eternity coupled with studying a stadium’s dimensions and how they impact a player’s performance? Why can’t the two be a dynamic duo?

I love the walk…..not just a walk, but so many kinds of walks? I know of the intentional walk or sort of since the pitcher is no longer required to actually throw four balls in another effort to speed up the damn game. There is also the unintentional intentional walk when a pitcher pitches around a batter. And on the other extreme, there are 13 pitch at bats when the batter fouls off one after another of the pitcher’s best stuff, presumably wearing him down which may or may not weaken him in the next inning or even against the next batter. And then there are so many shades in between these two extremes…..and with that

I bow to Sammy the saber toothed metric.