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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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.


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dear public online computers at libraries and what not

My operating system is out of date so i can no longer visit a number of sites, including wordpress and mlb.com. Until further updates, this makes public computers and libraries my only way to stay electronically informed……….electronically informed?…. God, that sounds weird. I still love a good old fashioned TV documentary or maybe they’re not so old fashioned? I watched one last night about Jane Jacobs versus Robert Moses. Now that was a good old ideological UFC battle that might just inspire me to do some further reading.

Anyway, what I wanted to say in the short time I have on this public computer is that Ned Yost is thankfully still alive and managing the Kansas City Royals the last time I checked though maybe he will be under rebuilding scrutiny as the Royals slip back into the second division. I remember Yost as a back up catcher with the Brewers or I remember one night, one home run, a pinch hit 3 run blast against the Red Sox during the last week of the 1982 season. It gave the Brewers a four game lead over the Orioles. Then they lost the next game and The Orioles won to give the Brewers a three game lead with one last series to go that just so happened to be the Brewers in Baltimore and the Orioles won the first three games to tie the Brewers in the standings and on that final Sunday showdown,  Jim Palmer faced Don Sutton and Yount hit two homers and the Brewers routed the Orioles and wild Bill Hagy…..Wild Bill…I haven’t thought about him in a while.

But what gets me even more excited is reading that Ned Yost built up physical strength in high school by pot scrubbing at Kentucky Fried Chicken. He then walked on and made his high school baseball team. This is gathered from wikipedia so take it or leave it, but the Yost file gets even better. Between his playing and managing days, he returned home to Jackson, Mississippi and enjoyed his second career…taxidermy.

Oh by the way, the Brewers set him free as their manager towards the end of the 2008 season, one in which the Brewers won the wild card….kind of a raw deal for Yost, especially since he hadn’t yet been hired by the Royals and appeared in those two World Series and won one of them. But then again with pot scrubbing and taxidermy, he probably had plenty of ways to express hostility and what not.


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two strikes and you’re out?

There ain’t much worse than booger freeze winds, but there is a solution. Stay inside and watch old Brewers games uploaded onto YouTube.  I stumbled on County Stadium’s last home opener back in 2000. The new Miller Park hovers over it like a giant spider. The Park’s opening was delayed because of a tragic crane accident. This game was the seventh of the young season for the Brewers, the first for Davey Lopes as the skipper.

1:14:23 into this game, a funny thing happened. The Brewer’s Jose Hernandez had just begun his at bat. It was the second pitch, a swinging strike, less than fifteen seconds into the plate appearance when he seemed to mistake his swinging strike as the final one of the at bat.  The announcer said,

“The cold weather can freeze your mind up.”

It was cold that day, something like 38 degrees with a minus 16 windshield, but what the announcer failed to point out was that Jose Hernandez struck out 140 times with the Cubs in 1998 and another 145 times in 1999. Of course, the announcer had no way of knowing that Hernandez would struck out another 125 times with the Brewers in that 2000 year or that he would establish the Brewer’s all- time single season record with 188 k’s two years later.

I’m no logician, but him walking away from the plate at 1:14:23 seems to suggest that either A) He was freezing his ass off and wanted to get back in the dugout or B) He was so used to striking out that he just assumed the second strike was the third or C) All of the above. In fairness to Hernandez, he did hit an outside pitch on the line, for an out to end the inning, but still pretty well struck.


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catching foul balls

i guess you could make an analogy of seats at a stadium to class structures.
box seat bourgeoisie
proletariat grandstand
blue-collar bleachers and so on.
i’m probably messing up the terms.

County Stadium Milwaukee had its red seats and green ones,
upper and lower
box and grandstand
each had a number that matched the ticket.
row-seat-aisle.
like a private property chair,
until the last out anyway.

then there were the bleachers.
there were no private seats there.
i guess you could say it was communism,
all of us sharing space on wood planks,
we could see outfielders up close
and catch home runs too.

one of the first games i ever went to was with my older brother.
it was the Brewers against the Twins,
the year Carew flirted with .400.
we were in the upper grandstand.
a foul ball came there.
it pinballed around and disappeared.
we ran in its general direction, but couldn’t find it.
then this older guy reached down under a red seat and snagged it.
up went his arm.

another time, i was in the lower grandstand with my dad.
i forget who was batting,
but they hit a towering foul ball.
it was coming our way.
i cupped my hands together and watched it ricochet off the mezzanine.
arms went up all around me,
all kinds of arms.
I felt like a midget looking up at a levitating octopus.
the ball somehow eluded those arms and fell into my hands.
it had a black scuff mark on it from the 
mezzanine.
I had caught a foul ball.

i wish i could say i kept score of games or
studied the graceful gazelle like strides of Robin Yount or
clumsy back tracking of Ben Oglivie or
Gorman Thomas’s shaggy hair.
i wish i could describe in microscopic detail how each seat provided a different vantage point,
but where i sat never mattered.

i was just glad to be at the game or because ummmm…..
there was always a chance.