In my last post, I posed the question on whether Brewers manager Ron Roenicke should be fired. I said that if the club missed the postseason then some serious soul searching should be done, Well, I think not because today the club announced that he will return for his 5th year. I wonder how much this has to do with money because Roenicke has a year left on his contract and the Brewers are loathe to eat them.
So now we get another year of mismanaging pitchers especially since pitching coach Rick Kranitz was retained. At least he won’t be compelled to use Rickey Weeks in some twisted sense of loyalty
At the beginning of the year I cited four factors on why the club would not go to the postseason. Let’s review.
1. The Ryan Braun distraction.
It wasn’t as bad as predicted but Braun;s production dropped while playing with a chronic thumb injury. When the club needed him most, he, among many others, disappeared leading to the gastly September collapse. Braun seems bored out there, like he would rather be anywhere else than playing ball. The Brewers still owe him a bunch of cash so don’t expect any changes here.
2. Find a first baseman.
This worked out exactly as I predicted as Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay combined were dead last in OBP among all first basemen. While Overbay was an excellent clutch hitter, it was obvious he could not play everyday. Meanwhile Reynolds did not surprise anyone when he once again struck out at a staggering rate while driving in less than 50 runs and hitting below the Mendoza line.That’s two straight seasons now without an answer at an important position.
3. Fix the problem at second base.
Roenicke’s stubborn insistence on platooning Rickie Weeks was exasperating. Scooter Gennett proved he could hit at this level against right handers but he never had a chance to prove he could hit left handers. How is he supposed to play everyday next year if he wasn’t in there against left-handed pitching? Kris Davis played against both. Weeks couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
4. Improve the rotation.
I was skeptical about the Matt Garza signing because he is injury-prone. Garza did very well but missed most of September. Kyle Lohse was steady as she goes, the most consistent starter. Wily Peralta is on the cusp of being an ace. Michael Fiers came up and pitched so impressively that there’s no doubt he’ll remain in the rotation in 2015.That leaves supposed ace Yovanni Gallardo whose option will be picked up for next year. Gallardo has had a strikingly consistent career ERA hovering near 3.70. But after eight years as a starter he is still wildly unpredictable; you never know how he will pitch from start to start. Overall the rotation delivered over the course of the season so I will submit that I missed on this one.
Now what does the future hold for the team? Sadly they are not organized to become winners like the Cardinals who are the role-model of consistent excellency. Starting in 2008, Melvin made what was a brilliant move at the trading line that year by acquiring CC Sabathia whose remarkable record and winning attitude propelled the team into the postseason. But that was for one fleeting moment. The next two years the club fell back to mediocrity going 80-82 and 77-85 under the zombie like manager Ken Macha.
Melvin went all-in prior to the 2011 season picking up Zach Greinke, Francisco Rodriguez and to a lesser degree Shaun Marcum. That was enough to win 96 games and get into the post season,the best record in their history. But at what cost? The three years since then have produced 83-79, 77-83 and 80-82 records.
To get into the playoffs twice in six years, Melvin has bankrupted their minor league system to the extent that there are no top prospects to even use in a trade. Baseball America listed the Top 100 prospects prior to the season and not one Brewer was listed. To get Sabathia, he traded Matt LaPorta who washed out and Michael Brantley who had a breakthrough year in 2014. In 2011, he traded Jed Lawrie straight up for Marcum. To get Greinke, he traded Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorrizi. Cain and Escobar have been key to the Royals success this year and Odorizzi was a member of the Rays rotation with nothing but upside for him.
In addition, in 2010 he traded JJ Hardy already an All-Star for Carlos Gomez straight up. Gomez struggled for three years before finally reaching his potential in 2013 but then receding slightly this year. I only oppose letting Fielder walk because no good replacement has yet to be found. He allowed Corey Hart to walk. At first I thought this was crazy since Hart could’ve played first base this year. In retrospect though, Hart hit only .203 in 68 games. This year he traded Nori Aoki, another key contributor for the Royals for a pitcher who never played a full season before and who wore down when needed most.
I would rather have a team like the Cardinals, Rays, A’s, and soon to be Cubs, Royals,Mariners and Pirates.Why? They’ve built up organizations to be consistent contenders. The Brewers as currently organized will continue to be a team of highs and lows with just enough interest to keep the fans coming back,
So let’s say that none of this had happened. Here’s what the roster might look like today.
c- Jonathan Lucroy
1b – Hunter Morris
2b- Scooter Gennett
ss- JJ Hardy
3b – Jed Lawrie
lf- Ryan Braun
cf- Michael Brantley
rf – Nori Aoki
Reserves – Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Corey Hart
These are all Brewers draftees of which only 8 still remain and arguably the best of this lot is gone,
In the meantime Cubs fans are going to be treated by the team Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have put together. A team of solid proven players with a group of prospects second to none. Once they sign Jon Lester, James Shields or both, we will be looking at them from the bottom up for years to come. What would you prefer, 2 sniffs at the postseason and mediocrity or having a team that can challenge most years?
I know which one I prefer but unfortunately it will not happen before Melvin is finally fired.
On this date on 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers stood at 80-60 and were 5 games behind the front running Chicago Cubs. Manager Ned Yost was firmly entrenched as Brewers manager. But then after running their record to 83-63, they lost six in a row and with Yost wound tighter than a Duncan yo-yo, and the team at 7 ½ games behind, General Manager Doug Melvin did a bizarre thing and fired Yost with only 12 games left in the season. He named bench coach Dale Sveum as interim manager. Sveum went 6-6 which was good enough to be the Wild Card.
Now the team is spiraling down again. After leading the division for almost the entire season, the team has lost eight in a row which now finds the team at 73-66 and three games behind the Cardinals.
As I write this, they are on the verge of losing nine in a row, as monumental a crash as the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies who had a ten game losing streak with twelve games left and finished second. Or the 1969 Cubs who had an 84-58 record on Sept 9 and went 6-13 the rest of the way and handed the league title to the Mets. That was the infamous year that Manager Leo Durocher decided he needed a vacation in August.
So who is to blame for this late season collapse? How about Ryan Braun who has hit less than .230 since the All-Star game? Our tandem first base position, last in the league on OBP? The sophomore slump of shortstop Jean Segura whose rookie year showed so much promise? What about the agonizing inconsistency of our supposed ace, Yovani Gallardo? Yes there’s no denying that this has contributed to the current situation and many talking heads are saying that the team was never this good anyway, something that this writer pointed out at the start of the season.
No matter. It is still quite maddening that this is occurring. Now let’s get to the matter at hand. The Brewers offense has disappeared. Besides almost being no-hit by Jake Peavy on Saturday, the last time the Brewers scored at least 5 runs other than the 15-5 pasting on Sunday was a 9-5 loss to Toronto on August 20th. That was 12 games ago.
When a team falls into an extended slump there usually three factors, hitting goes south, pitching is soft and the breaks that they getting earlier in the season do not occur. So is that Ron Roenicke’s fault? No. But blame is surely on his shoulders for the way he manages. His use of the bullpen is pathetic. He overuses the pen because he is enslaved to the 100 pitch rule, thus Zach Duke and especially Will Smith have nothing left in the tank, this, at the most critical time of the year. Any manager who takes a starter throwing a shutout out with one out left in the ninth deserves to be criticized. On Sunday, July 13th with the Brewers leading 10-2, he puts in Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning!
Then there his stubborn insistence to platoon at 2nd base with Rickie Weeks, whose only reason he is still on the team was that he couldn’t be traded because no one wanted to pick up his $11 million contract. So Scooter Gennett who has been leading the team in BA most of the year, has to sit against left handed hitters. If he is going to play every day next year he has to hit against left handers. So while Kris Davis plays every day, Gennett doesn’t?
Roenicke like most managers, is a slave to “the book” and never deviates from it no matter the situation. Plus a manager needs to motivate by however means. Roenicke seems distant from the players not like, say Joe Maddon. There is no leader in the clubhouse and other than Carlos Gomez no emotion. There is something to be said about team chemistry and the Brewers are far from having the right formula.
So should Roenicke be fired? Not now. Let him ride out the season. But if the club misses the playoffs, there should be much soul searching in the off season.
Oh, by the way, the streak is now at nine as the Cardinals take a four game lead. How did it end? With the tying and winning run on base, he pinch hits rookie Jason Rogers who flies out to end the game.
I should know better. Trying to get something, anything done on “Deadline Day”is impossible. Today I made it to 1:30 before giving in to the e-mail buzz announcing one move after another.
Of course, my attention is on two teams, both in the race in their respective divisions, to see if either made moves to improve their chances. Like a kid breathlessly waiting to open the Christmas gifts, I too anxiously awaited to see if anything would happen.
I wasn’t disappointed as both the Brewers and Yankees made deals but I was disappointed with the deals they made.
So now here’s one observer’s take on the deadline deals and whom stole who from whom.
1. Oakland Goes All In
They had to give up Yoenis Cepedes but if Billy Beane’s club doesn’t make it to the World Series now it will be a massive failure. They are all in having acquired All-Star Jeff Zamardzjia and Jason Hammel before getting Lester. Folks let’s look at the rotation as it currently exists:
Sonny Gray 12-3 2.65
Scott Kazmir 12-3 2.37
Jeff Samardzjia 4-8 2.94
Jason Hammel 8-9 4.19
Jon Lester 10-7 2.52
That’s four starters with ERA’s under 3. It’s true Hammel is struggling big time right now but the veteran right hander is experienced enough to make the necessary adjustments.
Cepedes, signed to a big contract, has not lived up to expectations but will surely love the short dimensions at Fenway Park to find his power stroke. Jonny Gomes comes back to the A’s as a throw in but should provide a decent bat to an already surprising lineup.
2. Detroit Wins The David Price Sweepstakes
It took a three-way to pull it off but the acquisition of Price will bolster another solid rotation even with Justin Verlander having an off year. And what do the Rays get in return? A good young pitcher in Drew Smyly and infielder Nick Franklin from Seattle.
It is shocking that the Rays who have the best record in baseball over the past 20 games would give up the season by parting with Price.
The Tigers had to send Austin Jackson to Seattle to seal the deal but getting Price was worth it. This just cemented the Tigers hold on first place especially since the other teams in this mediocre division did little to nothing.
3. Pitching Rich Cards Get Richer
As a Brewers fan this move is unsettling. First they get former All-Star and still capable Justin Masterson from the Indians for a minor league outfielder. Then they deal Joe Kelly and Allen Craig to the “back up the truck” Red Sox for John Lackey.
Now they can run out Lackey, Masterson, Shelby Miller who as found whatever he lost at the right time, the solid Lance Lynn and perennial Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright who is having another Young-worthy season. These two replace injured Jaime Garcia and last year’s phenom Michael Wacha who both could return in time for the post season now nearly a given after these moves.
These three trades were the most prominent since they will definitely impact the races in their divisions.
All told, eighteen other players with mlb experience switched uniforms in “tweaking” the roster moves:
1. Felix Dubront Red Sox to Cubs
2. Stephen Drew Red Sox to Yankees
3. Andrew Miller Red Sox to Orioles
4. Martin Prado D’backs to Yankees
5. Gerardo Parra D’backs to Brewers
6. Abraham Almonte Mariners to Padres
7. Asdrubel Cabrera Indians to Nationals
8. Tommy Milone A’s to Twins
9. Zach Walters Nationals to Indians
10. Chris Denorfia Padres to Mariners
11. Jeff Russell Cubs to Braves
12. Emilio Bonafacio Cubs to Braves
13. Jared Cosart Astros to Marlins
14. Jake Marisnick Marlins to Astro
15. Kelly Johnson Yankees to Red Sox
16. Sam Fuld Twins to A’s
17. Darwin Barney Cubs to Dodgers
18. Jake Peavy Red Sox to Giants
Surprisingly, the Phillies, loaded with tradable players and in last place stood pat. Apparently, Ruben Amaro, Jr overvalued his aging veterans and no one was willing to pay the asking price.
The Red Sox held a clearance event dealing no less than five of their pitchers, as well as Drew and Gomes.
The Pirates, in the thick of the race in the NL Central stood pat.
Texas, desperate for bodies to fill their depleted roster, conceded the season and will play for next year.
The Astros gave up on a promising pitcher in Cosart for Marisnick whose previous stays in the majors has proven to be less than productive.
Denorfia for Almonte is the classic “so what” deal.
The Puzzling Deals
1. Yankees get Prado and Drew. Having already added to their depleted rotation, Brian Cashman trades for bench players, although Prado should see more time at second now that Brian Roberts has been waived. But Drew? What good is he except to occasionally spell Derek Jeter. With the prospect of getting Troy Tulowitzki next year, this one strains the puzzler.
2. Indians trade Asdrubal Cabrera. Why? I can’t think of one reason unless they are ready to call up top prospect Fernando Lindor.
3. Brewers get Gerardo Parra. Brewers fans better hope that the starting pitching remains robust and that they stay injury free. If the Twins could get Milone a good end of the rotation pitcher why couldn’t the Brewers get him for say Caleb Gindl? It’s always good to have too much pitching than not enough (See A’s, Tigers and Cardinals). Getting Parra makes little sense. By optioning Logan Schafer, Parra is getting the message that he will be no more than a defensive replacement. Having already batted over 440 times this year, Parra is used to being a regular. Since Manager Ron Roenicke rarely uses his bench, this will not go over well with Parra.
So another long deadline day comes to a close. And with it the annual dose of frustration. Not to say that the Brewers have not made deals in the past. But trading away Lorenzo Cain, Michael Brantley. Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Brett Lawrie to gain two post season appearances hardly seems worth it. But that’s a topic for another time.
If David Ortiz doesn’t want his generous backside to become a target for fastballs, perhaps he should quit admiring his home runs. He is widely known as one who does this more often and the way he stands and gazes as the ball leaves the park surely annoys pitchers to no end.
In the wake of the beanball debacle last week in Boston, Ortiz was quite agitated that his pitcher, Brandon Workman got a six-day suspension for retaliation by throwing at Rays third baseman Evan Longoria while Rays pitcher, David Price, got off scot-free after instigating the whole ordeal by throwing one that hit Big Papi’s back. It was said that Price was still quite irritated after Ortiz blasted two home runs off him in last year’s playoffs and took pleasure by standing long enough at the plate that he could’ve recorded them on his I-Phone.
Ortiz has to know that a hitter does not show up a pitcher in this fashion. What if, say, Fernando Rodney walked off the mound and taunted each batter after he struck them out. What self-respecting hitter would take that?
But apparently Ortiz thinks he’s immune to this and that Price had no right in protecting his honor. After Friday’s game, Ortiz declared “war” on Price, calling him a “punk ass sh–“. Then Big Baby said “: “They started everything up and we have to pay for it, basically. That’s the message that I’m getting.”
Aw, too bad. If I’m David Price. who by the way all but admitted throwing at Ortiz, I’d target his back again next time I pitch to him. He said it best when explaining what happened “”Nobody’s bigger than the game of baseball. You ask pitchers from 10-15-20 years ago. That’s normal. Part of the game.” And this:
“For as many people as I quote-unquote lost respect from, I gained respect from a lot more. I know that’s a fact.” which translated means: More people were glad I hit that fat bastard than weren’t.
Having already called Price, via CSNNE.com, “a little girl,” “a little [bleep]” and saying Price “better bring the gloves” next time, should set well the next time these two teams meet on July 25-27.
If anything, Ortiz should be suspended for excessive whining and child-like name calling. Here’s some advice for Big Baby on July 25th wear a flak jacket underneath your jersey because you will become target practice. Don’t think Joe Madden isn’t aware of what’s going to happen. I would start Brad Boxberger, have him drill Ortiz and when both get ejected, bring in David Price.
I can’t wait. This will be a real Battle Galactica and I would love to be there. There’s nothing like a heated rivalry that breaks into all-out fisticuffs. May the best man or baby win.
Back when this blogger was a kid, players from Latin America were described as being “hot-blooded” because of their tendency to typically be in the middle of baseball brawls. Despite the obvious insensitive racial connotation, this belief was overblown. The description was probably derived from the high level intensity Latin players show while on the field.
The most infamous Latin player related brawl occurred in on August 22, 1965 when San Francisco Giants Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal hit Dodgers catcher John Roseboro in the head with his bat while at the plate in the third inning. Earlier, Marichal knocked down Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills and outfielder Ron Fairly. Back then it was common for pitchers to throw at batters without fear of ejection.
Facing the Giants was Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax not one known to retaliate. So Roseboro took matters into his own hands by nearly hitting Marichal in the nose when he returned a pitch. When another return pitch nearly hit Marichal in the ear, he turned and belted Roseboro with the bat, opening a 2 inch gash requiring 14 stitches and instigating an ugly 14 minute brawl which some describe as the worst in baseball history.
A few other famous brawls have included Latin players – the Pedro Martinez/Yankees melee in 2003, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Veritek in 2004, Armando Benitez and Tino Martinez in 1998.
Which brings us to the Easter Day scuffle involving Carlos Gomez and the Pirates. Gomez is well-known as a hard nose player who plays with such a high level of energy, he sometimes does dumb things. As one reader of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described him as a player with “a million dollar player with a ten-dollar brain”.
Gomez had a breakout season last year making the All-Star team and winning the Golden Glove which he richly deserved.
Yet while Gomez has finally matured as a player, he still needs to mature as a person.
The 2014 season has finally begun and on opening day every team is tied for first.
So how will the Brewers fare in what is probably the second toughest division in the major leagues (A.L. East)?
Don’t believe any hype since this team did too little during the off-season to contend. After last season, the Brewers had four main issues to address.
1. The Ryan Braun Distraction
There is little the club can do except sit and observe how Braun will respond to a drug free season and obstreperous fans. The best solution would to have traded him for some much-needed pitching.
The Giants were desperately seeking a power hitting left fielder. Instead they settled for Mike Morse. The Brewers could have probably gotten one of their top end starters, like Madison Bumgarner, for Braun. So what did they do? Move him to right field. Besides Braun, only Melky Cabrera among all the suspended cheats from last year remained with the same club. It was time to cut and move on.
So how would they fill the Braunless lineup gap? That brings us to:
2. Find a first baseman.
When Corey Hart went down for the year the club inexplicably went with multiple players at the position. Juan Francisco, Sean Halton, catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, even shortstops Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt! It was a farce. One would think that this glaring chasm would have gotten intense scrutiny during the off-season. Instead of going after say, Kendry Morales, GM Doug Melvin burdened Manager Ron Roenicke with a platoon of 37-year-old Lyle Overbay and 30-year-old Mark Reynolds. One’s best days are clearly behind him while the other will remind Brewers fans of Rob Deer, Richie Sexson and Greg Vaughn, tremendous power when contact is made combined with copious amounts of strikeouts
Why did Melvin take this route? One can only speculate, but the combined salaries of these two would not equal what Morales would have wanted, so he took the cheap way out. Morales received a qualifying offer of about $11 million from the Mariners which he turned down. (The figure is the average salary of the top 129 paid players and is used for all players receiving qualifying offers). When starting at $11 million it’s easy to see why Melvin chose the alternative. One other possible move would to have Helton and Hunter Morris compete for the job during spring training, winner take all. This would have been even less expensive since either of these two would have gotten the major league minimum and would have gained valuable major league experience. Unlike the Cubs with Anthony Rizzo, the Brewers, for some reason, always seem reluctant to do this. So the Overbay/Reynolds platoon it will be. Good luck with that one.
3. Fix The Problem at Second Base
Scooter Gennett deserves every chance to play regularly but the albatross that is Rickey Weeks stands in the way. Weeks is making over $11 million this year to platoon. Why? Because the team is adamant about not eating contracts whenever possible and no other team wanted an overpaid player with his skill set, not even the Yankees who are desperate for an everyday second baseman to replace Robby Cano. This is Weeks’ eleventh major league season. It would be expected that someone who has played that long would have improved his skills. But Weeks has never really improved, with a horrible TZ of -64, his fielding skills are not at an elite level. His career batting average is .247. In 2005, his first full season, he struck out 23.2% of the time. Last year? 25.3% or once every four times at bat. Clearly it’s time for a change.
4. Improve the Rotation
This seems to be an annual concern. In recent off-seasons, Melvin has acquired Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum, Zach Grienke and Kyle Lohse with varying degrees of success. They won the division in 2011 with the borrowed Greinke and Lohse did a credible job last year. The other three? Wolf was pedestrian until his aging arm finally gave out. The club literally gave away Brett Lawrie and Carlos Villanueva to get Marcum who had regular arm problems and gave the Brewers only one full year. Then there was Suppan. Signed to a 4 year, $42 million contract in 2007, he lasted three and a half years until mercifully the Cardinals took him off their hands in 2010.
Now he is taking another expensive chance wth Matt Garza. Garza has not pitched a full season since 2011 while with the Cubs. When healthy he is just below elite, but he is injury prone and was terrible in spring training. Hopefully, this will not be an expensive four year ($50,000,000) mistake like Suppan.
As you can see, little was done to address the major needs of the club heading into this year. Even worse, he made a puzzling trade with the Royals, sending Norichika Aoki a productive leadoff batter for left-handed reliever Will Smith who has little major league experience.Why? To open a slot for slugger Khris Davis who is no better than 50/50 to last the entire year. So who’s leading off this year? Carlos Gomez!
As you can see, there wasn’t nearly enough done to be a legitimate contender this year. It will take everyone staying healthy and having abnormally good years to stay in the race. Staying healthy is key because the Brewers farm system at the top levels is mostly depleted. Baseball America listed the Brewers in 29th place among all systems, ahead of only the Angels. In addition, three of their editors chose a Top 100 prospect list and not a single Brewer minor league player appeared on any of the lists.
I predict a 74-88 record and fourth place and if that happens, Hank the Wonder Dog will be the main attraction by the end of the season.