By itself the Brewers’ loss of first baseman Mat Gamel to a torn ACL isn’t all that catastrophic.
Gamel wasn’t exactly taking advantage of his opportunity to play every day (again) after the free agent loss of Prince Fielder. With a slash line of .246/.293/.348, 1 home run and mediocre defense, it shouldn’t be that hard to replace Gamel.
But if you read this piece from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Brewers intend to replace Gamel with veteran journeyman Travis Ishikawa.
Eventually I’m sure that’s the final conclusion they’ll come to.
The Brewers had hoped that their pitching would remain a strong suit. A deep and impressive starting rotation backed up by two legitimate closers should keep any team competitive whether they lose a basher like Fielder or not. They signed Aramis Ramirez to pick up some of the slack, but Ramirez is a notorious slow starter and has gotten out of the gate poorly. When the weather heats up, in general, so does Ramirez.
Ryan Braun has quietly gotten off to a good start with 7 homers and a .942 OPS and quieted the PED controversy from the off-season.
For a mid-market team with a tiny window, the Brewers got to the precipice in 2011 and fell short. They took steps to make another run, but fate has stepped in with a vengeance.
If they don’t get themselves together soon, GM Doug Melvin needs to seriously consider putting the word out that he’s willing to listen to offers on the above-mentioned pending free agents. K-Rod would be an asset to a contender—perhaps back where he began his career with the Angels. Marcum is a solid mid-rotation starter. Greinke is a star whom the Brewers are unlikely to be able to keep.
They gutted their system and made their moves for 2011 and lost in the NLCS. Now it may be time to set a date (around mid-late-June) and make a move in the direction of reality and accept that they need to get what they can for the players they won’t have much longer and look toward 2013 and beyond.
The deals may not have worked out as hoped for the Pirates and they probably could’ve gotten more for than they did for some of the above-listed players, but apart from Bay, most were total disappointments in their new venues in one way or another.
Of course there are the things like non-tendering Matt Capps and declining the option on Paul Maholm, but potholes of idiocy will continue to exist no matter how desperately they’re patched over.
After the Pirates had implied that they’d be willing to listen to offers on McCutchen, the crocodile-cringe became more pronounced.
“Uh oh, the Pirates are about to do something stupid.”
The entire “we’ll listen on anyone including McCutchen” rhetoric was like something out of The Onion. “You can call and we’ll listen. Then we’ll laugh and tell you to take a hike.”
The “stupid” was ever-present, but for now it’s gone.
McCutchen is a foundational star at a hard-to-fill position and only getting better at age 25. He’s exactly the type of player a club either spends their money to keep or gives up the majority of their farm system to get.
With him onboard, the Pirates are turning their attention to signing Pittsburgh native and second baseman Neil Walker to a contract extension.
With the young stars in the fold for the long-term; Clint Hurdle—a manager who doesn’t take crap or “we’re the Pirates” as an excuse for losing; and an improved farm system, the Pirates are capable—you’re reading it here first—of a .500 season in 2012 and finishing as high as third place in their division.
Keeping McCutchen is a great decision and indicative that the Pirates’ front office is no longer content to be the big league talent mill for the bullies and are looking to follow the lead of clubs like the Rays who develop and try to win simultaneously.
The Pirates have an advantage the Rays don’t: a beautiful, fan friendly ballpark.
Believe it or not, the Pirates are on the way to getting much, much better.
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about the Cardinals.
Much is being made of the series of trades the Cardinals made at mid-season to drastically alter the configuration of their roster that “led” them to the World Series.
In a sense, the trades in which they acquired Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Rafael Furcal were upgrades on and off the field; by now it’s clear that Colby Rasmus and his dad, while not being responsible for the Cardinals inconsistency, didn’t fit into the clubhouse profile and it’s better that both sides moved on.
Absent of the deranged, maniacal, head-rolling fallout in Boston, the Braves collapse was just about as bad as that of the Red Sox; without it, the Cardinals wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all.
The Braves lost 20 of their final 30 games to present the Cardinals with the opportunity to make the run back into the picture; the Cardinals also benefited from the Phillies retrospectively ill-fated decision to play all-out in the last three games of the season in Atlanta and kick the door open by sweeping of the Braves.
They couldn’t have known it at the time and the playoffs can turn on one game (as we saw), but the Phillies would’ve been better off playing any of the other teams among the Diamondbacks, Brewers and Braves had they been their opponents instead of the Cardinals.
When Nyjer Morgan (or his sociopathic alter-ego The Real T. Plush) and the Brewers goaded the fading Cardinals with taunts and other foolish temptations of fate, they behaved as a club that thought they were better than they were and had seen the last of the Cardinals.
This had little to do with the Cardinals searing, breakneck month of desperation, but it didn’t help the Brewers cause. They chose to poke the bear and the bear got up, grabbed them by their throats and ripped their heads off.
Along the way, the Cardinals were assisted by practical matters. It’s a nice, neat story to say the Cardinals were spurred on by an act of disrespect from the Brewers—and to some extent they probably were—but circumstances had to fall in a certain way for the classic denouement of a group of warriors led by their stoic hero Albert Pujols and legendary tactician Tony LaRussa putting the arrogant, loud and obnoxious group of upstarts in their collective places.
And it happened perfectly, just like in the movies.
Now we’ll hear other made-for-dramatic-effect nonsense of how this could possibly be Pujols’s final series as a member of the Cardinals; that the fate of manager LaRussa is in question with his contract on a mutual option for 2012.
Here’s are two flashes of Force Lightning to detonate such stupidity: Pujols isn’t leaving; he knows it, the Cardinals know it and baseball knows it. The Cardinals will make a reasonable offer that they can afford and still be competitive; Pujols won’t be embarrassed by receiving a contract far below those of Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder; everyone will remain together and stay as they are.
LaRussa has no desire (nor a landing spot) to go elsewhere at this point in his life and career; the 2012 Cardinals team is pretty much set with manager and star returning in spite of crafted implications of other eventualities.
These are the Cardinals.
They’re in the World Series.
They’re staying together.
As for the Brewers, they’re going home; if they don’t realize why, they’re either remarkably stupid; inexplicably blockheaded; or oblivious to reality.
St. Louis Cardinals (90-72; 2nd place, NL Central; won Wild Card; defeated Philadelphia Phillies in NLDS 3 games to 2) vs Milwaukee Brewers (96-66; 1st place, NL Central; defeated Arizona Diamondbacks in NLDS 3 games to 2).
Keys for the Cardinals: shut the Brewers up early; get depth from their starters; wait for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to make a mistake and capitalize; maintain their composure.
For a team that’s never won anything, the Brewers have an awful lot to say. There are two ways to handle that: don’t respond to it and respond on the field; or retaliate with similar trash-talk and/or by popping someone.
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa is simmering and seething at the way the Brewers are talking about his players, notably Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols, but he’s going to specifically tell his players not to engage and to do their talking with their play. They have to adhere to the mandate.
Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder have hammered Carpenter, but yapping at a fiery competitor and one of the best pitchers in baseball isn’t simply stupid, it’s adding fuel to a fire that didn’t exactly need to be stoked.
Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, Jerry Hairston and Weeks all bash Edwin Jackson; McGehee has 3 career hits off of him and all are home runs; expect to see Hairston at shortstop and McGehee at third in game 2. If anyone’s going to retaliate against the Brewers with a brushback (or one between the shoulder blades), it’ll be Jackson.
Roenicke doesn’t seem to have control of his players—something he should’ve learned from his years working for Mike Scioscia with the Angels—and it could be a big problem; he’s made some bizarre, small-ball calls (similar to Scioscia) with his players this season and LaRussa is smart enough to sit back and wait for the mistake, then strike.
The Cardinals can’t let Morgan and the ridiculous “Beast” nonsense—an arms raised, “GRAAARRRR” thing the Brewers do whenever they get a hit—get to them. It won’t be easy, but if they want to win, they have to do it.
Keys for the Brewers: put their performance where their mouths are; get baserunners in front of Fielder and Ryan Braun; hand the ball from the starters to the set-up man/closer; mitigate Pujols.
The Brewers had better put up or shut up. But they’re the type of group that, even if they lose the first two game and look awful, they’ll talk more.
The problem with taking the personality lead from Morgan is that it’s eventually going to catch up to you if you pull it with the wrong people. The Cardinals are those types of people.
Pujols and Rafael Furcal both kill Yovani Gallardo; we don’t know who the Brewers game 2 starter is for some reason; both Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf were better on the road than they were at home; I’d start Marcum in game 2 because he’s better than Wolf and has less of a history with the Cardinals.
It always comes down to Pujols when playing the Cardinals. He can look terrible for 15 at bats, then wreck the game and series with three straight games of ridiculous lightning shows. And it doesn’t help that the Brewers and “Tony Plush” AKA Morgan chose to denigrate this era’s Joe DiMaggio in terms of performance and, just as importantly, pride.
What will happen.
It’s difficult to tell whether the Brewers bravado is false or if they actually believe it. Probably both.
The Cardinals are old-school; they’re not looking for friends on the field and that starts from their manager all the way through the team. They’re not happy with the way the Brewers disrespected them when the Cardinals looked finished in the playoff race; that September run that led the Cardinals to the playoffs happened in part because the Braves collapsed and in part because they wanted another crack at the Brewers.
They’re getting it.
This is a horrible matchup for the Brewers; in retrospect, they might’ve been better off facing the Phillies and the overwhelming expectations of a team for whom anything short of a World Series win was a failure. The Cardinals are playing with house money, are livid at the Brewers out-of-control mouths and will be determined to shut them up on and off the field.
The Cardinals hold a distinct advantage in managers; have been here—in this exact same position before—and came through.
When they upset the Mets in the 2006 NLCS, the Cardinals made it a point to ridicule the soccer chant that the Mets use(d) to celebrate Jose Reyes; those Mets were perceived as arrogant, but in comparison to these Brewers, they were the most professional, quiet, go-about-their-business group on the history of baseball.
It’s one thing to yap; it’s another thing to yap and disrespect.
The Brewers are writing checks with their mouths that their team’s not going to be able to cash.
And they’re going to be made to pay.
The Cardinals are going to slap a muzzle on them and be doing the Beast in the visiting clubhouse when they bounce the Brewers in 7 games.
Keys for the Diamondbacks: Get into the Brewers middle relief; keep the bases clear in front of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder; get depth from their starters; jump out to a lead early in game 1.
The Brewers strength is their starting rotation and their power. The Diamondbacks have been a more-than-the-sum-of-their-parts club; they don’t have an overt “strength” despite the statistically similar pitching staff in comparison to the Brewers.
The Brewers starting pitching is so deep and so good that the Diamondbacks have to get their pitch counts up and hope the Brewers rookie manager Ron Roenicke jumps the gun either by pinch hitting for his pitchers or pulls them in the middle innings. In the late innings, they’ll have Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford to contend with.
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are both MVP candidates this season; the Brewers offense is top-heavy and limited with Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee occupying two spots in the lineup along with the pitcher; the Diamondbacks have to keep the runners off the bases to either mitigate how much damage Braun and Fielder can do or to pitch around them when necessary.
Ian Kennedy won 21 games and was masterful this season, but in his time with the Yankees he proved to be a pitcher who thought way too much about what he was doing; those types tend to take a pressure situation and use it to formulate ways in which they can make themselves “better” rather than doing what it was that got them to where they are in the first place. If Kennedy gets through the first 3 innings relatively unscathed, he’ll be fine—the Diamondbacks coaching staff has to get it through his over-analytical head that what he’s done all season long has worked and there’s no reason to change it because it’s the playoffs.
Daniel Hudson is still a young pitcher despite winning 16 games and providing over 200 innings in 2011; McGehee is 5 for 5 in his career against Hudson with a double and a homer; Fielder is 2 for 5 with a homer.
Joe Saunders is a control-based lefty who cannot be expected to hold down the Brewers lineup. Braun has 2 homers in 6 at bats vs Saunders. Gibson has to have a quick hook with Saunders.
The Brewers are loud and bullying. They have a lot to say, are overt in their mannerisms and take their cue from Nyjer Morgan and Fielder. They’re not particularly likable and Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson isn’t the type to let his players take a lot of junk. If the Diamondbacks jump to an early lead, that will prevent the Brewers from starting with their nonsense.
Keys for the Brewers: Depth from their starters; get the game to K-Rod and Axford; get runners on base in front of Braun and Fielder; lay down the law early with the Diamondbacks young starters.
This is why the Brewers made those drastic maneuvers last winter in getting Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. They have two of the best pitchers in baseball fronting their rotation with Greinke and Gallardo; a very good one in Marcum; and the veteran Randy Wolf. Greinke has never pitched in the post-season; nor has Marcum. Gallardo pitched 7 solid innings against the Phillies in the 2008 NLDS.
With K-Rod and Axford for the eighth and ninth innings, the Brewers are well-suited to get as many innings as they can from their starters and hand it over to a shutdown bullpen with two quality closers.
Morgan is good at getting on base and wreaking havoc with his legs and his obnoxious personality. With the all-or-nothing spots in their lineup occupied by Yuniesky Betancourt and McGehee, the Brewers have to get production from Braun and Fielder.
The Brewers are frontrunners; if they fall behind the Diamondbacks early, their bullying will be prevented.
Miguel Montero has hammered Greinke, Wolf and Marcum in his career and has to be watched.
What will happen.
The Diamondbacks were not expected to be here and take their cue from their ultra-competitive manager. They have some pop, they don’t strike out as much as they before GM Kevin Towers cleared out some of the wind producers, but they still strike out a lot. They have solid starting pitching, but it’s inexperienced in these types of circumstances; their bullpen isn’t as flashy as the Brewers, but it’s still good.
There will be tension in this series and how that goes might determine the outcome. The Brewers are loud and arrogant. Gibson isn’t going to tolerate that kind of attitude and will tell his players not to let it go by without response. The Brewers will push the Diamondbacks early, the Diamondbacks will push back and tempers will flare.
If Kennedy can get to the middle innings without giving up a crooked number and the Diamondbacks take the first game, they’ll be in great position to win the series. Justin Upton is 3 for 9 in his career vs Gallardo and Lyle Overbay 2 for 3.
If the Diamondbacks are going to win this series, they’ll be better-served to win the first game.
The Brewers infield defense is terrible; it didn’t hurt them during the season, but it will in the playoffs.
Far too impressed with themselves, the Brewers think they’ve accomplished something without actually having accomplished much of anything apart from making angry clubs throughout baseball with their behaviors led by Morgan.
The Diamondbacks functioned under-the-radar all season long and they’ve proven themselves again and again to be a formidable opponent that plays the game the way their manager did—hard.
The Diamondbacks are going to quiet the Brewers quickly and drop them in 4 games.
I bet if the “GENIUS” Jack Z. changed the club’s name to the Seattle Non-Conformists, no one would even notice. Maybe a handful would… care? I dunno.
Look, I can’t blame Zduriencik for the appellation of genius or the “Truly Amazin’ Exec” silliness from the despicable Joel Sherman—he didn’t write this stuff and unlike Billy Beane, he didn’t appear to wallow in it and taking advantage of it to enrich himself and sow the seeds of that image.
You have to consider the sources who are plastering that image on someone who’s trying to do his job. None of them were operating from a baseline of credibility; either they had an agenda or didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with.
As for the Josh Lueke trade; the double-dealing when it came to Cliff Lee to the Yankees, then to the Rangers; and Milton Bradley, there are a lot of problems that had nothing to do with what happened between the lines.
Hypothetically, if Zduriencik is given a clean slate—let the 2009 (good) and 2010 (bad) seasons cancel themselves out—the Mariners still have to perform as if they’re in the right direction on the field and behave appropriately off it. Eric Wedge was a good hire toward that end, but with Bradley, there’s going to be an incident that will sully the organization again.
They have a loyal fan base in Seattle; they spend money; and have a nice ballpark. It’s a good locale to build a team.
The Dodgers have only one lefty and he’s their designated 8th inning guy who can’t throw more than two days in a row?!
I’m not of the mind that a team has to have a lefty specialist just for the sake of having a lefty specialist. You can find a lefty somewhere. Look at Royce Ring—he’s been everywhere; he’s been awful; and teams keep bringing him in because he’s lefty and breathing, not necessarily in that order.
You have to look at the opponents and the circumstances; if the Dodgers were in a division with the Red Sox, then I’d say they have to have a couple of lefties; but they’re in a division with the Padres, Rockies, Giants and Diamondbacks. Is there a group of lefty bats that have to be worried about among that group? Not really. As the season moves along and they need a lefty specialist, they’ll be able to find one.
Regarding Kuo, how many pitchers are asked to throw three days in a row in today’s game? Even the closers aren’t pushed that hard for fear of burning them out. With a dominating lefty with a 100-mph fastball and vicious slider like Kuo, I’d use him judiciously to make sure he’s healthy; he’s had Tommy John surgery twice and if the Dodgers are going to do anything in October, they’re going to need Kuo. Why burn him out now because he’s lefty?
As a Nats fan, I cooled to Nyjer in a game where he made a gallant attempt at a catch at the wall, missed it, and then–instead of keeping his head in the game and following the ball–threw his glove to the ground forcing Willingham to retrieve the rebound too late to thwart an inside-the-park home run. I get the impression that Morgan is just as hard on himself as he is on others and became a bi-polar influence in the clubhouse. As the season ran on, his impatience chilled potential rallies as he was thrown out on steals too early in the game and too early in the situation. If Morgan can temper his overall anger, I do believe he would make a good centerfielder and great base stealer and team personality.
He’s got a temper and as I said in my posting, I think it stems from his hockey experience where you can’t let any transgression go without retaliation.
My issue with Morgan wasn’t the player himself, but the lovelorn worship he received after playing brilliantly for the Nats following the trade from the Pirates.
He is what he is and part of that is getting caught stealing—a lot. Morgan needs to be reined in. Maybe going to the Brewers—the first club he’ll join with any legitimate designs on contention—is what he needs.
Like Elijah Dukes, the Nats had to get Morgan out of there and they got something for him in Cutter Dykstra; Morgan will be playing semi-regularly-to-regularly for the Brewers before long and they’ll be a better club for it.
Pam writes RE the NY Times picture of the Phillies that I posted here:
Yeah, the picture is pretty creepy.
Now if they were holding lightsabers…
They could be the Jedi trying to arrest Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. We know how that turned out.
I’ll be Palpatine.
I am Palpatine.
Joe (DaGodfather on Twitter) writes RE the Phillies pic:
I have a better question. Where’s Blanton? Wasn’t it the Phantastic Phour themselves who said that they would not do things like that if if did not include Blanton?
Because of his on-field brawls, confrontations with fans and suspensions late last season, Nyjer Morgan‘s reputation has become that of an explosive, feisty outfielder who’s ready to fight at the slightest transgression.
This is exactly a year after the Nationals were credited with finding a defensive gem whose speed and glove made him the centerpiece of a trade with the Pirates—as 2009 wound down, the stat guys were suddenly in love with Nyjer Morgan. And he hit .351 in 49 games after joining the Nats.
Neither appellation is accurate.
The Nationals traded Morgan to the Brewers for minor league infielder/outfielder Cutter Dykstra (Lenny Dykstra‘s son) to clear a logjam of mediocrity in their outfield. This wasn’t so much about Rick Ankiel beating out Morgan, but that the Nats wanted to get rid of Morgan and his exponentially multiplying baggage of perceived bellicosity.
Morgan’s not a troublemaker, per se; it has to be remembered that he was a hockey player as a teenager and—a pretty good one—and understanding the culture of players literally fistfighting for playing time, he’s not going to tolerate any infringement on his personal space for fear of others taking similar liberties.
Nor was he this tremendous pickup for the Nats despite his terrific play late in 2009.
Of all the players for whom Morgan has been traded, the one I would want above all is now-Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and his searing fastball.
As for this trade, the Brewers were trapped in between a club built on power and starting pitching with a shaky defense, a questionable bullpen and gaping black holes in their lineup.
Incumbent center fielder Carlos Gomez has more long-term potential than Morgan, but Morgan is a far better player right now with similar defensive skills; the Brewers are built to win now and they have to get off to a good start. To that end, as a known entity, Morgan should be the everyday center fielder to begin the season.
Independent of the bizarre, undefined way in which the Nationals are building their club—they have two cornerstone, franchise players in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper along with some good young talent in Ryan Zimmerman; and they’re paying a deranged amount of money for a good, but not great player in Jayson Werth—Dykstra is a good acquisition; he’s 21, versatile and had a fine year at the plate in A ball in 2010. He’s far from the big leagues, but can be part of the future with Strasburg and Harper.