Friday, July 29, 2011


As long as I hear this and see John Axford strolling in from the bullpen, all will be well in the world tonight! Let's make it four in a row gentlemen, and welcome back for round two Felipe Lopez.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

This turned out to be quite a weekend that for unfortunate reasons, I will never forget. First off on Thursday morning, I get an unpleasant call from my mom that my grandma is not doing well and that "all the family should be gathered." We all knew what that meant. In the past, she's had her troubles, but always seemed to have pulled out of them even stronger. We all hoped this would be the case once again. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be this time. It's been a good 5 years since someone I've cared about this much has passed away, so I forgot what that empty feeling inside of me was like. This one was even tougher since I was actually sitting next to my grandma holding her hand when she decided to stop fighting. Can't say I've had that experience before. Definitely can say I hope to never have that experience again.

I've been having a hard time trying to process everything that's happened for several personal reasons. Part of me was grieving while part of me was very angry. Those that know me really shouldn't be surprised w/either reaction. I wasn't sure what to do.

I decided to follow through on my plans to head up to the Twin Cities to visit a couple friends of mine. I think it was the best time to ever do so. It really helped to get away from everything back home and just spend some time with people who genuinely care about you.

I headed up Saturday morning, arriving 5 1/2 hours later in Bloomington, MN - home to the Mall of America. My friends ended up inviting a few others over and had a small cookout at their new home they moved into in February. The food was awesome - beer can chicken on the grill. No need to explain more! We had 2 TV's set up in the family room in order to watch both the Brewers game and the NBA playoff game. It reminded me of college. I will absolutely have to do this w/my living room soon, no doubt.

On Sunday, my old roommate and I played golf at Troy Burne in Hudson, WI. The course was a Tom Lehman design and was one of the top 5 course layouts that I've had the pleasure of playing. The only problem was the greens were just airated, so putting was very troublesome. My buddy is a very good golfer, consistently shooting in the 70's, while I'm happy to break triple digits each time out. He pointed out to me that the last three rounds we've played together, I've hit the best shot of the day each time. First time was at Erin Hills where I hit a blind approach shot on a par-5 to with 4 inches from 175 yards out to birdie the hole. Yeah, this Erin Hills. The next round was a scramble when we were paired together. I ended up chipping in from a hill w/a downhill lie, no green to work with, and water behind the green in case I caught it too thin. Very difficult, but got lucky. Then yesterday, I had the two best shots of the day on the same hole no less. A 600 yard par-5, I ended up hitting a drive 350 yards straight center of the fairway. Yeah, it hit the cart path, but so what! Miss-hit my second & third shots, leaving me with about 75 yard left. Approach shot was blind, with an intimidating bunker looming in front. Could not see the pin at all. Pulled out the lob wedge, hit it perfectly, asking for it to go in the hole before it even landed. Obviously couldn't see it, but it was 2 inches from the cup. Life was good on that hole!

After the round of golf, we headed to the Metrodome to catch the last game ever there between the Brewers and Twins. It was the first & last game I've seen in person there. Let me say, thank God the Twins are getting a new stadium next year! That place made it seem like we were at a Double-A game. That place is just so outdated... it really made me appreciate the amenities of Miller Park. Especially since the Brewers don't get swept in Miller Park too often!

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Another Home Town Story

Besides having the pleasure of playing high school baseball with the Brewers' Vinny Rottino, I also was a teammate of Ben May. Ben and his brother Bill were in the class behind me and were great teammates. Here's another hometown piece from the Racine Journal Times about Ben and his path to becoming a hopeful Major League umpire.

Major dreams

May umpiring his way through the minors

By Peter Jackel

Sunday, May 10, 2009 11:38 PM CDT

The headlights of his Honda Accord have illuminated road signs during so many nights during the last two years, from Williamsport, Pa. to Batavia, N.Y., from Kissimmee, Fla. to Mahoning Valley, Ohio and from Midland, Mich., to Clinton, Iowa.

Like any baseball umpire working the lower reaches of the minor leagues, Ben May has put countless miles of twisting country roads behind him. And maintenance issues are starting to crop up with his trusted set of wheels, which should pile up another 12,000 miles or so within the next four months.

“She doesn’t start up like a Honda should, but I deal with it,” said May, a 2000 St. Catherine’s High School graduate.

Nevertheless, May always manages to reach his destination for another game as he tries to climb the ladder of a career that has so little room at the top. And that’s just something any prospective major-league umpire must deal with as he tries to distinguish himself in a workforce of numerous others who harbor the same aspirations.

The reality is that there are no road signs that direct you to the top in this profession. You had just better be exceptionally talented, patient and lucky — with luck competing with talent as the biggest prerequisite.

“By the numbers, it’s actually tougher to get to the big leagues as an umpire than it is as a player,” said Bill Topp, vice president of Racine-based Referee Magazine. “There are only 68 Major League Baseball umpire positions and, historically, there’s not much turnover.

“An average year might only have one or two openings. Some years there aren’t any. It may take a decade or more of minor-league work before an umpire is even considered by the majors. But umpires like Ben generally do it for the love of the game and honing life skills that they’ll carry forever.

“They have to be strong mentally and physically to make it and get lots of support along the way.”

So May continues from city to city in the Class A Midwest League, making a couple thousand dollars a month, with $28 per diem meal money and the federal mileage rate of 55 cents a mile thrown into the deal. How far this road takes him won’t be revealed for perhaps five or 10 years and, in the meantime, about all he will be promised is this:

Wearing cumbersome umpire gear during the doubleheaders that are still common at the minor-league level, even when the mercury soars into the 90s.

Being the recipient of some cheap shot from an anonymous voice in the dugout or stands and just having to take it.

Having to block out the sting of a foul tip and refocus on calling balls and strikes.

Having to deal with some manager with the disposition of an Earl Weaver or Billy Martin who screams into his face not necessarily because May made the wrong call, but because this manager wants to energize his sluggish players with passion.

And all along, May will be fighting for his livelihood in this most competitive of occupations. If he wants the men at the top to even know he exists, let alone excels at what he does, he can’t afford to relax one second or allow anger to impede focus.

“It can be hard to work the plate in the dog days of summer in mid-August and know you have another game right after it,” May said. “But that is what characterizes the good umpires from the great ones.

“You can never afford to look lazy in this job, no matter what the perception of umpires is. If you look bored or are not hustling, your job is at risk.”

As much as impassioned fans may beg to differ, umpires are almost always correct with their calls. They wouldn’t last in the minor leagues if they didn’t.

Yet, they are branded with stamps of incompetence just because it’s convenient. Ah, if only fans knew the whole story.

“When I worked in the New York-Penn League (in 2007), I had a manager come out and argue a play at the plate,” May said. “He was the home-team manager whose team was on defense. I called the runner out on a close tag play for the third out of the inning.

“The manager runs out of the dugout and passes all his players, who are coming off the field. He asks me, ‘How could you call him safe? There’s no way! Come on, Ben! He tagged him right there!’ I replied, ‘Hold on. I called him out! There’s three outs!’

“He sheepishly responded with a smile on his face, ‘Well then, why am I out here?’ ‘I have no idea,’ was my response.”

Occasionally, his job provides him with a sense of power that he finds ironic.

“The thing that makes me smile about this job is a guy can come to the plate who just signed a $6 million-dollar contract and can take a called third strike by a guy who makes in a month what this guy makes in an inning and he has to take it,” May said.

On any given day this summer, May will pack his gear into his car from another unglamorous destination — say, Clinton, Iowa.

“It is no treat to get to Clinton,” he said. “There is a Purina Dog Chow company that makes half the city smell like cooked puppy chow,” he said.

And May will keep traveling and traveling until there are ultimately no more miles to travel.

“If I can get to Triple A in about five years, that will put me at age 33, which I can deal with,” he said. “There is such an unpredictability of turnover in the minor leagues that it doesn’t make sense to worry about it.

“If I did worry about my performance, it would probably be affected – adversely, of course – and no umpire can afford that.”

The Ben May File

NAME: Benjamin Joseph May

BORN: Jan. 23, 1982 in Racine

HIGH SCHOOL: St. Catherine’s ’00.

LAST BOOK I’VE READ: “Cannery Row”

favorite movie: “The Big Lebowski”

favorite tv show: “The Simpsons”

greatest influence: My dad, because he taught me the importance of attention to detail.

greatest pleasure in life: Jumping out of an airplane.

what scares me more than anything: Jumping out of an airplane.

biggest goal: Becoming a major-league umpire.

UMPIRING EXPERIENCE: Gulf Coast League (2007), New York-Penn League (2007), Midwest League (2008-09)

WHY AN UMPIRE?: “I used to umpire our neighborhood pick-up games at Kaiser Field in Elmwood Park. And sometimes I would play and nobody would umpire. This caused some really drawn-out arguments sometimes. That might have annoyed me enough to want to do it more. But I hate to think I was annoyed into becoming an umpire. I just think I enjoy order and I like to be the one who brings it, on the field, at least.”

Labels: ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fan's Choice T-Rats bobblehead Day

Vote early and often for a Brewers farmhand - Brett Lawrie or Cutter Dykstra - to be immortalized with a bobblehead on Thursday, September 3rd during the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game. The key that the press release is failing to mention is that it's "Thirsty Thursdays", which means beers are a buck! Can't beat that with a stick!

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Brewers Charities 5K Race

I had the pleasure of doing this the first couple of years before it became too popular. Here were the results of that debacle. I wasn't exactly racing in the event, so to speak.... more or less there to enjoy the day!!

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 02, 2009

My night working

After the regular 8 to 5 job on Friday, I immediately headed over to my second job delivering pizzas for Toppers in Waukesha. I've come to the conclusion I'm not a big fan of working from 8am to 4am the next morning. We'll see how long that continues. But anyway, it got interesting around 2am.

The shift manager answered the phone and was asked if he'd deliver to 'such-and-such address' which was way too far out of our delivery zone. The customer proceeded to beg and plead his case to have his food delivered, but Justin wasn't having it. He just assumed it was some drunken idiot trying to get some food, nothing more. He told the customer the only way they'd get food was if they were to come in and pick it up at the store. After the customers decide to pick up the food, Justin asks around if any of us in the store knew who some guy named 'Manny' or 'Harder' who apparently plays for the Brewers. To which I immediately replied, "HELL YA!!!" I can't blame the guy for not knowing who they are, Justin just isn't a baseball fan, that's all. So I go to my car and search around for something for these guys to sign. I knew I had a pair of cleats that I didn't wear anymore that were still in good shape, so I dug those out. The hard part was finding something to write with. In a pure stroke of luck, my work bag also happened to double as my autograph bag while I was in Arizona for spring training this year. And since I came straight from my office job, I somehow managed to have a silver sharpie in my car! I wiped a little dust and dirt off the shoes and told the other big Brewers fan working at the time, AJ, that Manny Parra and J.J. Hardy were picking up food. He gave me his Brewers hat for them to sign too. When they came in, I was talking to each of them - and Brad Nelson too - and tried to explain to them that had anyone other than the person who answered the phone would have taken food to them in a heart beat. He just didn't know anything about baseball or the Brewers for that matter. I asked them if they'd sign a few things since another driver took off w/their order for some inexplicible reason. I gave them my spikes and Hardy says, "wow, these are nicer than mine!" and then proceeded to ask me who I played for. He was serious about that too. I told him I use 'em for softball now, but I did use to play w/one of his old teammates, Vinny Rottino in high school. I always find it a little shocking when I have the chance to stand right up next to a player and realize just how much bigger I am than the majority of them. Even Brad Nelson wasn't anywhere as close to as big as he seems on tv. And it always angers me when I notice this and think back to the high school days where I didn't lift a single weight to try and get stronger or end up blowing my back out. Otherwise, what could have been... a 6'4" left-handed pitcher!

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Daily memorabilia addition

I received in the mail today a signed Rawlings Official Major League baseball signed by Brewers prospect Jonathan Lucroy. I started a new tactic in obtaining autographs instead of just flat out buying them through auctions and online sites. I decided to take a stab and send a blank ball to the Huntsville Stars c/o Mr. Lucroy. After a couple of weeks, I was pleased to see that my ball was returned to me w/his signature on it!

Lucroy is probably the best all around catching prospect in the Brewers minor league system at this point and rec'd extensive playing time during Spring Training this year since Mike Rivera and the other notable catching prospect, Angel Salome, were both sidelined with injuries. Lucroy was rated as the 10th best prospect in the organization heading into the 2009 season.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No No for Brewers Prospect

Manatee RHP Evan Anundsen Tosses No-Hitter
Posted on: 04/28/09
by: Jim Goulart

The very first nine-inning no-hitter in all of minor league baseball for 2009 belongs to Brevard County RHP Evan Anundsen, who struck out ten and walked only one in a 1-0 Manatee victory over the Daytona Cubs Tuesday morning in Daytona Beach.

Anundsen, who will turn 21 years old in May, was drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft out of Columbine High School in Colorado. He has progressed through the system very effectively, spending a full year in Maryvale, Helena, and West Virginia, a near-perfect progression path for a young highly regarded high school draft pick. Anundsen has always used the sink on his ball to induce groundouts at an organizational-leading level, although as noted above, also K'd ten today, mixing in a slow curveball.

Labels: , ,

Fan of Average Joe?

Then visit this brand spankin' new blog where some schmoe talks about anything and everything! Actually, it's quite entertaining!


Monday, April 27, 2009

Latest addition...

to the collection is......... an Enos Slaughter signed Official National League baseball! Enos was a Hall of Famer and I feel ashamed for not knowing that he played with the Milwaukee Braves back in the day. Granted, he only played the last 11 games of his fine career in Milwaukee, but he was part of the tradition nonetheless! Here are his stats courtesy of

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Latest addition...

I was finally able to track down an old Milwaukee Braves hat that was signed by Hank Aaron on the brim. There just isn't as much memorabilia for The Hammer w/Milwaukee than there is from his time in Atlanta. I had been looking for this for quite some time, so this made my day!

Labels: ,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Stan the Man

I've always been a fan of Stan Musial. He never did anything flashy, or had a dominating feat as a ball player. I was never old enough to actually see him play, but from all accounts on what I've read of the guy, he seemed to be the consummate professional. He'd just go about his business and try his darnedest. So, I bring to you an article by one of the best sports writers out there, Joe Posnanski.


Stan Musial never got thrown out of a game. Never. Think about this for a moment. Musial played in 3,026 games in his career, or about as many as his contemporaries Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky played combined. He played across different American eras — he played in the big leagues before bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, and he retired a few weeks before Kennedy was shot. He played when Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller ruled the Top 40 charts, and he played when Elvis was thin, and he played when Chubby Checker twisted. He played before television, and after John Glenn orbited the earth. And he never once got thrown out of a baseball game.

There was this game, in ‘52, that year the Today Show came to television and the Diary of Anne Frank was published, and the Musial’s Cardinals trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by two runs in the ninth. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. Musial faced pitcher Ben Wade. The two battled briefly, and then Musial connected — a long home run to right field. Grand slam. Everyone in the stadium stood and cheered wildly — what could be bigger, a grand slam in the ninth to beat the hated Dodgers — and Musial started to run around the bases in his own inimitable way, not too fast, not too slow, all class. And it wasn’t until he rounded first and was closing in on second when everyone seemed to notice at once that the third base umpire was holding up his arms. A ball had rolled on the field just before the pitch. The umpire had called timeout.

Home plate umpire Tom Gorman realized he had no choice. He disallowed the home run. The stadium went black. The fans went mad. St. Louis manager Solly Hemus raced out the dugout, got into Gorman’s face and called him every name he could think of — finally Gorman had no choice and threw him out of the game. Peanuts Lowrey came in like a tag-team wrestler and picked up where Solly left off — Gorman tossed him too. Before it was done, Gorman threw out six Cardinals. He felt like a cowboy in one of those old Westerns clearing out the saloon, throwing out people through plate glass windows.

And then Musial, who in the confusion had not been told anything, walked over to Gorman. He calmly asked, “What happened Tom? It didn’t count, huh?” Gorman nodded sadly and said the third base umpire had called timeout.

“Well, Tom,” Musial said, “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Stan Musial stepped back in the box while fists shook and boos and threats echoed around him. He promptly tripled off the top of the center field wall to score three runs and give the Cardinals the victory anyway.

“Stan,” Tom Gorman said after the game ended, “is in a class by himself.”

* * *

Stan Musial grew up in Donora, Pa., during the Depression. They were a family of eight in a five-room house. In Donora, the smoke and fumes from the zinc factory mushroomed so thick and poisonous that no vegetation could grow on the hill. That barren, brown hillside was a constant reminder that the air was killing them. Stan’s father, a Polish immigrant, worked in that factory and, not too many years after Stan started playing ball, died from the fumes.

Not that a tough childhood explains everything. Still, there was something about Stan Musial that did not let him forget Donora, did not allow him to change — “I’m so lucky,” he used to say every day, more than once every day, so many times that people would roll their eyes. But that seems to be how he felt, every day, lucky.

Harry Caray, who of course first gained his fame calling Cardinals games on KMOX, would tell the story of a beaten down Musial going hitless in a Sunday doubleheader. The heat was unbearable that day — hell could not be much hotter than a St. Louis summer day — and after the game Musial walked gingerly to his car. He looked beaten down. He looked beat up. Musial never seemed to think of baseball as a job, but a daytime doubleheader in St. Louis might be the closest thing.

“Watch this,” Caray said to a friend as they watched the scene, and sure enough when Musial got to the car, there were a hundred kids waiting for him and an autograph. Stan leaned against his hot car and signed every one.

Musial. People like to say that people have changed. I don’t see that exactly. The world has changed. Technology has changed. Movie and ticket prices have changed. Gas prices have changed,. Many of the rules have changed — the reserve clause is gone, Title IX is in place, they let people swear on cable TV, airplanes and restaurants won’t let you smoke and you can no longer hold your infant in your lap in the front seat of your car. But people? I don’t know. I get a little queasy when I hear old time ballplayers talk about how none of them would have used performance enhancing drugs, and a little queasier when I hear old-time politicians talk about how they always reached across the aisle. You will still hear a lot of people romanticizing America in the 1950s. Those people tend to look a lot alike.

Still, it’s probably fair to say that there was something unique about the time that produced Stan Musial. Maybe in those days people treasured that thing they used to call class. Maybe they expected their singers to be dressed in tuxedoes, maybe they admired strong and silent types, maybe they liked football players who did not celebrate their own touchdowns or boxers who spoke quietly, maybe they wanted their children to believe in a world where baseball players drank milk and said “golly” and married their high school sweetheart. It seems to me that the quintessential hero today is Josh Hamilton, left-handed power, supremely gifted, fallen from grace, back from the depths, crushing home runs and driving in runners while covered in tattoos that represent a time he regrets. That’s a story for our time, a story about a lost soul redeemed, and it touches our 21st Century hearts.

Musial is from his time. He smoked under stairwells to be certain that no kid saw him doing it. Friends say he drank privately, and very little, Stan the Man could not allow anyone to see him at less than his best. He often said his biggest regret was that he did not go to college. And, yes, he married Lil, his high school sweetheart, on his 19th birthday, almost 70 years ago.

He wanted to be a role model. He seemed to need to feel like he was giving kids someone to respect. That, as much as anything, drove him. Teammates had a standing wager on how many times he would use the word “Wonderful” in any given day. They usually guessed low. He was terrified of making speeches (this, friends say, is why he started playing the harmonica in public) and yet he almost never turned down a speaking engagement. He played in great pain, but nobody ever caught him running half-speed. When he felt like his skills had diminished, he asked for and received a pay cut.

Joe Black used to tell a story — he was pitching against the Cardinals, and as usual the taunts were racial. “Don’t worry Stan,” someone in the Cardinals dugout shouted, “with that dark background on the mound you shouldn’t have any problem hitting the ball.” Musial kicked at the dirt, spat, and faced Black like he had not heard anything. But after the game, Black was in the clubhouse, and suddenly he looked up and there was Stan Musial. “I’m sorry that happened,” Musial whispered. “But don’t you worry about it. You’re a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games.”

Chuck Connors, the Rifleman, used to tell a story — he was a struggling hitter for the Chicago Cubs in 1951. He asked teammates what he should do. They all told him the same thing: The only guy who can save you is Musial. So Connors went to Musial and asked for his help. Musial spent 30 minutes at the cage with an opposing player. “I was a bum of a hitter just not cut out for the majors,” Connors said. “But I will never forget Stan’s kindness. When he was finished watching me cut away at the ball, Stan slapped me on the back and told me to keep swinging.”

Ed Mickelson only got 37 at-bats in the Big Leagues, but he has a story too. Musial invited him to dinner — he was always doing that stuff — and there Mickelson explained that he felt so nervous playing ball, that he could hardly perform. Musial leaned over and said quietly, “Me too, kid. Me too. When you stop feeling nervous, it’s time to quit.”

Well, there are countless stories like that, stories about Musial’s common decency and the way he could make anyone around him feel like he was worth a million bucks.

“Musial treated me like I was the Pope,” Mickelson said, and he was still in awe more than 50 years later.

* * *

Those were the emotions Musial inspired in his time. He was so beloved in New York, that the Mets held a “Stan Musial Day.” In Chicago, he once finished first in a “favorite player” poll among Cubs fans, edging out Ernie Banks. Bill Clinton and Brooks Robinson, growing up about an hour apart in Arkansas, were inspired by him.

Of course, it was mostly the playing. Stan Musial banged out 3,630 hits even though he missed a year for the war. He hit .331 for his career, cracked 1,377 extra base hits (only Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds have hit more), stretched out more than 900 doubles and triples (only Tris Speaker has more) and played in 24 All-Star Games. He had that quirky and unforgettable swing, that peek-a-boo stance, and he probably inspired more famous quotes by pitchers than any other hitter.

Preacher Roe (on how to pitch Musial): “I throw him four wide ones and try to pick him off first base.”

Carl Erskine (on how to pitch Musial): “I’ve had pretty good success with Stan by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third.”

Warren Spahn: “Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy.”

Don Newcombe: “I could have rolled the ball up there to Musial, and he would have pulled out a golf club and hit it out.”

And so on. Maybe pitchers felt helpless because there seemed no way to pitch him, no weaknesses in swing — fastballs up, curveballs away, forkballs in the dirt, he hit them all. In 1948, he had his most famous season, his season for the ages, .376 average, 46 doubles, 18 triples, 39 home runs, 135 runs, 131 RBIs. And yet, the thing about Musial, is that for more than 20 years he was pretty much always like that. Four other times he hit better than .350. Four other times he hit more than 46 doubles. He hit double digit triples eight times in all, he hit 30-plus homers five times, he walked more than twice as often as he struck out.

I suspect Musial can never be reflected in numbers because his resume is so diverse and elaborate — it’s like Bob Costas said, he never did just one awesome thing, he never hit in 56 straight games, and he did not hit 500 home runs (never hit 40 in a season), and he did not get 4,000 hits, and he did not hit .400 in any year. He was, instead, present, always, seventeen times in the Top 5 in batting average, sixteen times in the Top 5 in on-base percentage, thirteen times in the Top 5 in slugging percentage, nine times the league leader in runs created. To me, the best description of Musial through his stats is to say that 16 times in his career Musial hit 30 or more doubles. It might not make for a great movie. But it tells you that all his baseball life, Stan Musial hit baseballs into gaps and he ran hard out of the box.

* * *

Here’s the thing: A lot of baseball fans have forgotten Stan Musial. Anyway, it seems like that. His name is rarely mentioned when people talk about the greatest living players. He’s never had a best selling book written about him. A few years ago, when baseball was picking its All Century team, Stan Musial did not even received enough votes to be listed among the Top 10 outfielders. The Top 10.

True, he did not play in New York like the baseball icons, like Ruth and DiMaggio and Mantle and Koufax and Mays. True, he did not break the home run record like Aaron, he did not get banished from the game like Rose, he did not break barriers like Jackie, he did not swear colorfully like Ted, he did not hit three homers in a World Series game like Reggie, he did not glare like Gibson, he did not throw like Clemente and he did not say funny and wise things like Yogi.

No, Musial just played hard and lived decently. He hit five home runs in a doubleheader, and had five hits on five swings in a game. He hit line drives right back at pitchers and then would go to the dugout after the game to make sure those pitchers were all right. He wasn’t perfect, of course, but he didn’t see the harm in letting people believe in something.

And maybe that sort of understated greatness isn’t meant to be shouted from the rooftops. Maybe Musial is just meant to be quietly appreciated. Every so often, even now, you can read an obituary somewhere in American’s heartland, and you will read about someone who “loved Stan Musial.” Everyone so often you will meet someone about 55 years old named Stan, and you will know why.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sabathia deal makes dollars and sense

from The Business Journal of Milwaukee:

The Milwaukee Brewers' acquisition of star pitcher CC Sabathia means the team won't make a profit this year. But the Major League Baseball team stands to reap a substantial financial gain long term in corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and more if the Brewers make the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.

That's the business reason behind the team's investment in the American League Cy Young winner, who won his first game pitching as a Brewer July 8. In acquiring Sabathia in a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians this week, the team will have to pick up an estimated $5 million in salary he is owed for the remainder of the season. Principal owner Mark Attanasio said the additional salary, which increased the team's payroll to an all-time high of $90 million, will mean the Brewers will not make a profit this year as the team has for the first three seasons under Attanasio's ownership.

"In this case we'll probably lose money by doing what's right for the team," Attanasio said. "If you have that opportunity, you have to take it."

Team officials are expecting a jump in attendance over the remainder of the season, along with a corresponding increase in parking, concession and merchandise revenue. The team's goal of 3 million in attendance seems attainable with the buzz created by the Sabathia trade and the recent strong play on the field.

"There is great excitement in the community and that should translate into packed houses for the rest of the season," said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers' executive vice president of business operations.

The best example would be Sabathia's Milwaukee debut. The game drew more than 42,500 fans, a rare sellout on a Tuesday evening. Prior to the trade, Brewers officials expected about 34,000 fans.

In the past, Brewers officials have said fans spend an average of $28 per game on tickets, parking and concessions. For that Tuesday night game alone, that translates into an additional $238,000 in revenue.

A source close to the Brewers said the team already was expected to record a financial loss this season before the trade because of an estimated $2 million signing bonus paid to outfielder Ryan Braun as part of the eight-year, $45 million contract he signed in May, along with the $10 million being paid to reliever Eric Gagne, who was signed in the off season.

Schlesinger confirmed it is likely that adding in Sabathia's salary will make it difficult for the team to make enough to turn a profit. However, he said, the team is looking to the 2009 season for a big jump in revenue, especially if the Brewers finally make the playoffs this year.

For example, the team drew 1.9 million fans in 1982 when it made the playoffs and went to the World Series. In 1983, attendance jumped to almost 2.4 million, even though the team didn't make it to the post season.

"There is no doubt that if we make the playoffs, it would set us up extremely well for 2009," Schlesinger said. "It would have major implications for every aspect of our business."

Brewers officials already are talking with some existing corporate sponsors and potential new sponsors to capitalize on the higher level of excitement over the team. They also are developing ticket packages and other initiatives to pick up more revenue from an expected playoff push.

"It is really easy to get meetings right now and then walk in and spend the first 15 minutes talking about the success on the field," Schlesinger said. "We are working to elevate the brand and find partnerships that make sense for the team and the business." Payoff

Marty Greenberg, a Milwaukee sports attorney, said Attanasio made the right decision in taking a short-term financial hit for a long-term financial gain.

"This city is so starved for a winner on the baseball field," Greenberg said. "This will pay off for the team in more hot dogs being sold, more T-shirts and higher prices for their sponsorships. It will all trace back to the bottom line."

Greenberg said the key financial driver for the Brewers is attendance, which produces concession, parking and retail revenue.

Attanasio has taken a business approach to running the team, as opposed to other owners in all sports who view running the team as a hobby, Greenberg said.

"He quickly figured out that this city really wants a winner and will support a winner in record numbers," Greenberg said. "That support translates into money for his bottom line." Moving quickly

The team moved quickly to take advantage of the Sabathia trade from a business standpoint. Within a day of the trade being announced, the Brewers and its retail supplier, Majestic Athletic of Bangor, Pa., had 750 Sabathia T-shirts, priced at $35 each, and about 50 jerseys, priced at $210 each, in the team's retail stores at Miller Park. Most sold quickly.

Schlesinger said team officials did not contact Majestic until the trade was announced at about 8 a.m. July 7.

"We had to be very careful because I did not want any of our conversations to leak out before the trade," he said. "But we were able to move very quickly after the trade to get product here. There is an expectation from the fans that product will be here and we had to meet that."

Ticket sales skyrocketed in the days after the trade. In the first 48 hours, the team sold 40,000 tickets for the rest of the season. On an average day, about 3,000 tickets are sold.

Schlesinger said it was not group sales, but people buying two or four tickets.

"We're really seeing a spike," he said. "If we keep playing well, it is going to be hard to get tickets come August and September."

Brewers' owner tops list of non-playing heroes from first half

Here's an article about owner Mark Attanasio by John Heyman of Sports Illustrated:

When Brewers owner Mark Attanasio's car got stuck in traffic on I-94 on the way to a game the other day (yes, there is heavy traffic in Milwaukee on game days now), he hopped out of his vehicle and scaled a four-foot fence in hopes of seeing every last pitch. Luckily, a security guard recognized the Los Angeles interloper who's done everything he can to become beloved in down-to-Earth Milwaukee. So the guard approved Attanasio's illegal fence-hopping and ushered him in to see his team, the best Brewers team in decades.

Of course, it doesn't hurt Attanasio's local profile that within four years of taking over ownership, the Bronx native and Brentwood, Calif., resident who frequently sits and mingles among the masses at Miller Park has authorized eye-catching expenditures for the small-market club. The latest example is the recent blockbuster trade for pitching ace CC Sabathia, which established the Brewers as a potential National League playoff force and took their payroll from a baseball-low $28 million four years ago all the way into the $90-million range now.

Attanasio credits accomplished, risk-taking general manager Doug Melvin, the team's savant of a scouting director Jack Zduriencik and many other club employees for the turnaround that has the pennant-starved city dreaming of its first playoff appearance since 1982. That was the year Stormin' Gorman and the rest took the Brewers to Game 7 of the World Series before losing to the Cardinals (the Brewers didn't join the National League until the 1998 season). But Attanasio is the one bankrolling that dream that he says will all but guarantee red ink.

"If we win the World Series,'' Attanasio says, "we may break even.'' And Attanasio, who bought the Brewers in 2004 from the family of baseball commissioner Bud Selig for an estimated $220 million, says that with glee. Tricky bookkeeping may allow some owners to claim bottom-line losses, but considering Milwaukee ranks 30th out of 30 franchises as a media market, Attanasio's claim is more than believable.

You can take this investment banker's promise to the bank, too. "If there's something to do, we'll do it,'' Attanasio says. "We're going for it.''

Attanasio can hardly contain his joy at having made beer town a baseball town again. On Sunday, the Brewers' 3-2 victory over the Reds was seen by their fourth straight sellout, and 20th of the season. The Brewers set a club record with 2.86 million fans last year and are expected to hit the 3-million mark for the first time this year. Meantime, Attanasio will be doing whatever he can to get to the games. He estimates that he sees 40 a year, 20 at Miller Park and 20 on the road. "I am a baseball fan,'' he says. "I feel like one of them. I am one of them.''

Now, he isn't viewed as any sort of California carpetbagger. In fact, he's imbedded in the community. He and star Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, who's been selected to start the All-Star Game, are part-owners of the Milwaukee Admirals hockey team. His son Dan played at Milwaukee's Summerfest celebration with his band Pan Am.

At one point in our conversation, Attanasio excused himself so he could witness the clubhouse beer dousing (apropos for the Brewers) to celebrate the latest Brewers All-Star, Corey Hart, who had just won the final roster spot on a fan vote. That vote tally where Hart beat New York Mets icon David Wright was the latest affirmation of Milwaukee's love affair with baseball, and Attanasio sounded as excited as if he were celebrating the achievement of one of his own children. For his unadulterated glee, and his unlimited bankroll, Attanasio is my No. 1 behind-the-scenes hero of the first half (more heroes are listed below).

For Attanasio to be truly gleeful, the Brewers will have to still be playing on October. Melvin, the GM, actually started the ball rolling several weeks before he eventually landed Sabathia for top slugging prospect Matt LaPorta and three more minor leaguers. Sometime back around June 1, Melvin told Attanasio he thought they'd have a shot at the 2007 American League Cy Young winner if the Indians didn't turn it around. About a month later, Melvin made it happen with a bold approach that included offering LaPorta right away. "He didn't play games,'' Attanasio says. "He got right to the heart of the matter.''

Attanasio is a similarly straight shooter. His early pledge to do what he can to bring a winner to Milwaukee turns out to be anything but idle chatter. While many other owners remain cost-conscious, including the Dodgers' Frank McCourt of Attanasio's adopted hometown team who is reported to have nixed a trade proposal for Sabathia, Attanasio pledges to allow his GM to do what he can to improve their team and pennant hopes.

The 52-43 Brewers are among the more talented teams in the National League. But not every move has worked. The Brewers have $16 million tied up in three floundering relief pitchers (Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota and Derrick Turnbow, who's in the minors).

Attanasio is a professional money man who puts wins ahead of bucks. If there's a relief pitcher who can aid the cause, Attanasio pledges to approve the deal. If there's a lefthanded hitter who can help, Attanasio pledges to add one of those, as well. He says, "Barring injury, we think we have a shot. And you don't know when you'll have a shot again.''

Thanks to some hellacious drafts, the Brewers may actually have more shots than a local neighborhood South Side bar. Melvin wisely kept Zduriencik, a holdover from the previous regime, and the result is 10 All-Stars at Double-A Huntsville in addition to maybe the best young nucleus in the bigs (All Stars Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, plus Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and Yovani Gallardo were all Zduriencik draft picks). Those drafts have positioned the Brewers to have a chance to become a perennial power, which was actually pledge No. 1 on Attanasio's list when he arrived in 2004. At the time, it seemed like a long shot. Now, not necessarily.

The Brewers actually signaled their arrival last year when they took the NL Central race into the last week but succumbed to the archrival Cubs, who probably benefited by having the more experienced Lou Piniella managing them. The bad finish made some folks forget it was still Milwaukee's first winning season in 15 years. But now, with the arrival of Sabathia, the expectations are through the Miller Park roof. Regarding a possible World Series appearance, which shouldn't be out of range, Attanasio says, "I think it would be presumptuous to say we have to get to the World Series. We have to make the playoffs first.''

But Attanasio well understands that Sabathia has put them in the mix. "A lot of people think we have a very strong 1-2 [pitching tandem, with Sheets], and that could get us deep into the playoffs,'' Attanasio says. "But we don't want to take anything for granted. We have to get there first.''

And if Attanasio has to scale fences to get there to see his team, so be it. His Brewers are scaling their own heights.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

All Star Break

Thoughts on where the Crew is currently at entering the All Star Break in New York City. These are the things that I see as a positive:

1. Nine games over .500 at the break, and only a half game from the Wild Card-leading Cardinals.

2. Front office brass willing to trade away vital parts of the future in an all out attempt to not only make the playoffs, but in my mind, make a push for the World Series with the addition of CC Sabathia and whatever else might be added in the next couple weeks.

3. The team defense appears to the naked eye to be much improved from last year thanks to Braun showing he can handle LF and just as importantly, Kendall behind the plate. Both have more than lived up to defensive expectations. In fact, they've surpassed them.

4. Bench play has proven to be very resourceful. When I say resourceful, I really mean gritty. Nobody expected Kapler to contribute as he has so far considering he was coaching a year ago. All he does is come up with the big play when he's called upon. Counsell has served well as a defensive replacement and made clutch & gritty AB's. Even the little used Mike Rivera has performed well at the plate in his limited duty.

5. Even Ned Yost seems to have made less head-scratching decisions than at this point last year. Granted, it's easy to second guess him when a move backfires, but I feel as if he's been able to really get a better handle on this year's pitching staff.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gabe Kapler piece

Welcome Back Gabe Kapler
Monday, April 14, 2008, 7:42:10 AM | by Dave Cameron

Hey all. My name is David Cameron, and I’m thrilled to have been invited by David Appelman to join in the great work he’s been doing here at FanGraphs. You may have read some things I’ve written elsewhere, either at USSMariner, The Hardball Times, or Baseball Prospectus. I’m excited to be here, not only because the data that David has made available has been a huge asset to fans and researchers alike, but also because I look forward to seeing how we can explore the information available here, create some unique commentary, and build a community that rivals the quality of the knowledge found on this site. I’ll be hanging out in the comment threads regularly, so feel free to ask any questions or make comments there, and we’ll get the discussion started.

For my first post here, I wanted to take a look at what has to be the most exceptional story 2008 has brought us so far - the unbelievable return of Gabe Kapler. A year ago, Kapler was the manager of the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox affiliate in the Class A South Atlantic League. At 31-years-old, he had retired from his playing career and was beginning a coaching career in the lowest rung of full season minor league baseball. He’d spent the previous few years bouncing between reserve roles and playing in Japan, and after a torn Achilles in 2006, it looked like he would never get a chance to fulfill the promise he showed as a prospect with the Tigers in the 90s.

However, unwilling to let his on field career end prematurely, he declared himself a free agent this winter and landed a contract from the Milwaukee Brewers. With a hole in center field while Mike Cameron serves out his suspension, Kapler has… well, to say he’s made the most of his opportunity would be the understatement of the year. After going 3 for 4 with a couple of doubles and a home run last night, he is now 11 for 26 with two doubles, four home runs, two walks, and a stolen base just for good measure. He leads the majors in batting average and slugging percentage (at .423 and .962 respectively), and his 0.71 WPA/LI ties him with Casey Kotchman, and just behind Albert Pujols, as the fourth best hitter per plate appearance in baseball. Kapler has been the Brewers savior as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder struggle to start the season, and one of the main reasons the Brewers are 8-4 in their first dozen games.

In all likelyhood, this will go down as the best two week stretch of Kapler’s playing career, but it’s two weeks he wouldn’t have experienced had he stayed retired.

Labels: , ,

Brian Shouse Analysis

Shouse the Strand-Master
by Eric Seidman - April 18, 2008

Brewers reliever Brian Shouse is a late bloomer. Graduating from Bradley University in 1990 he debuted in the big leagues with the Pirates in 1993 albeit for just six mostly ineffective games. For the better part of the 1993 season up until 2002, Shouse shuffled around farm systems, playing for minor league affiliates of the Pirates, Orioles, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Mets, Astros, and Royals. His only other major league experience came with the Red Sox in 1998 as he struggled in only seven appearances prior to a demotion to Pawtucket.

In 2002, nearly ten years after his major league debut, Shouse found himself appearing in 23 games for the Kansas City Royals. While the numbers were subpar–15 hits, 10 runs, and 9 walks in 14.1 innings—he has been on a major league roster ever since.

He was terrific out of the bullpen for the Rangers in 2003 and 2004, going for 105.1 IP in 115 games; he struck out 74 while walking 32 as well as posting a 3.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. After a shaky 2005 and just six games in 2006, Shouse was sent to the Brewers for Enrique Cruz and cash. Since arriving in Milwaukee he has been stellar and consistent out of the bullpen. In 2006 he stranded 42 of 56 inherited runners and allowed his own runs in just 10 of his 59 appearances. His ERA of 3.97 may not come off as flashy but specialist relievers can have their numbers vastly changed with one or two bad appearances; since they are usually only in for one out, giving up one run looks much worse in 0.1 IP as opposed to 1.0 IP. In fact, take away an August 29th outing against the Astros, wherein he surrendered four runs, and Shouse finishes 2006 with a 2.91 ERA for the Brewers, allowing just 25 percent of inherited runners to score.

In 2007, Shouse built on his success the previous season by posting this line: 73 G, 47.2 IP, 46 H, 16 ER, 14 BB, 32 K, 3.02 ERA, 1.26 WHIP. On top of that he he allowed just 18 of 78 inherited runners to score. Those numbers are a little skewed as well because eight of those 18 scored in Shouse’s final five appearances. Up until September 16th Shouse had stranded 58 of the 68 runners he inherited.

This year, Shouse has made eight appearances, allowing just one run and five baserunners in 6.1 innings. He has stranded all 11 inherited baserunners, with a .159 BABIP. Shouse truly makes the best of what he has to work with as he primarily throws a 79-80 mph fastball and a 72 mph slider.

His WPA of 0.34 comes down to a WPA/LI of 0.28 due to his appearances largely coinciding with baserunners allowed by other pitchers. Despite this, Shouse has allowed just 32 of 145 inherited runners to score throughout his Brewers tenure, just 22 percent. In fact, of non-closer relievers with at least 120 games in the span of 2006-2008, Shouse ranks tied for seventh in percentage of inherited runners scored. Not too shabby for a near 40-year old with just about 14 years of minor league experience.

Whether or not this will continue is left to be seen but this 39-yr old lefty who failed to find a secure major league home until the age of 35 is definitely doing all he can to show why he belongs.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Booze Problems in the fine city of San Diego

I remembered reading about an article about beer prices continuing to rise for San Diego Padres games. While I wasn't overly shocked by it - San Diego has quite the expensive lifestyle compared to Milwaukee - I was a little upset by the fact that they're distributing water-down beer!!

I'll post three articles in succession. The first regards the beer prices in San Diego. The second is only a few days old where tests were done showing the beer isn't as strong as it should be. The third is in response to it by the Journal Sentinel.

Ballpark suds'll soak you
Padres' beer prices up 4th straight year, as high as $9

By Michael Stetz

March 29, 2008

The San Diego Padres have some kind of streak going. And it's got nothing to do with playing ball.

The team's organization has raised most beer prices every year since moving downtown to Petco Park in 2004. Opening Day is Monday and guess what: The streak lives on.

Pat Morris of Hillcrest carried a beer and a hot dog to her seat last night at the Padres game at Petco Park. The lowest-priced ballpark beer has risen to $6.50 for a 16-ounce domestic draft.

This season, prices will increase on all beer sold at the stadium, with the most expensive being $9 for premium brands. Last season, they were 50 cents less. The cheapest beer is now $6.50 for a 16-ounce domestic draft, up 75 cents.

All major league ball clubs charge a lot for beer, and all keep a close lid on how much they're making from it. The Padres are no exception, but we did some math of our own.

Information on beer pricing is available through the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Local beer distributors post the prices they charge area retailers. The Padres' vendor doesn't receive a discount for buying in bulk. That's against the law.

According to ABC records, a keg of Bud Light costs $76. That keg holds about 1,984 ounces, which produces about 99 20-ounce cups. The Padres charge $8.50 for a 20-ounce cup of Bud Light, meaning a single keg produces as much as $842 in sales.

The local distributor charges about 93 cents for a 12-ounce bottle of Heineken. That bottle, considered a premium brand, sells for $9 at Petco.

Even though Petco Park is partly owned by the city of San Diego, the city receives nothing from concession sales during games. Still, the Padres don't keep all the beer dollars.

The team must pay taxes and the vendor's cut, which the Padres wouldn't disclose. Sports retail experts say teams typically get between 40 cents and 50 cents per dollar on beer sales.

Why do the Padres – who have the final say on prices – charge so much for a simple beer?

The Padres say they're vastly different from a neighborhood bar, given their overhead and the limited dates they're open for business. The team also wants to discourage excessive drinking through higher prices, an executive said.

Not everyone buys that. Spectators in today's ballparks are treated like “captive prisoners,” said Bill Sutton, associate director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida.

“They're locked up and can't get out,” he said, which gives teams leverage when it comes to pricing their concessions. “It's a crazy mentality.”

Beer prices at Petco are even higher than at the trendy Gaslamp nightclub Stingaree two blocks away.

A pint of beer costs $6 there and beer prices haven't been raised since the club's opening in 2005, said Ali Pouladin, lead bartender. A bottle of domestic beer costs $5.

“That's a lot for a beer,” he said of Petco's prices.

Out of control

Up the road, in Anaheim, the most amazing thing happened five years ago. The Angels actually lowered beer prices. The new owner, Arturo Moreno, thought prices had spun out of control and cut some by up to 20 percent. The Angels still haven't increased the price of a 14-ounce beer at Angel Stadium. It remains $4.50 this season.

The move by the Angels hasn't exactly caught on league-wide, which might seem surprising. Fans loved it. And the Angels say the lower prices haven't resulted in more booze-fueled boorishness.

But the Padres say higher beer prices help maintain a family-friendly environment, which is one of the reasons they're more aggressive in raising those prices instead of others, said Richard Andersen, executive vice president in charge of ballpark management.

“We don't want to do anything to encourage excessive alcohol consumption,” Andersen said. “We want people to have a beer or two if they like. We're not interested in attracting people who want six or eight beers.”

Most concession prices at Petco aren't rising this year, he said. Of the 98 items offered, 57 remain unchanged. Peanuts are still $4.50 a bag. Popcorn is still $4.

The Friar hot dog will cost $4, up 50 cents from last year.

Andersen declined to say how much beer is sold during a Padres season, though the Boston Red Sox reported selling 3.1 million beers in 2004, with an attendance of about 2.8 million. Last year, the Padres attracted about 2.7 million.

Andersen did say the volume has remained pretty much consistent year-to-year, despite the annual cost increases.

The economics of beer works like the economics of everything else, experts say. A price can be set too high, discouraging consumption. Price beer at $30 a bottle and see what happens.

But sports concessions are free of one key element that exists in the open market: competition.

If a number of enterprises were allowed to set up shop and fight for the beer dollar, costs would drop. But the chance of that happening is about as likely as the Padres getting Alex Rodriguez.

Sutton questions the business approach many sports teams take with pricing, particularly in these tough economic times. If the customer believes he is being gouged, he'll begin to harbor negative feelings toward the franchise, he said. If the team performs badly, where's the incentive to hang with the club?

“That's not good long-term thinking,” he said.

Bitter taste

Beer has always been a big part of baseball. Breweries once owned teams. Today, a number of beer companies – Miller, Coors and Busch – pay to have their names on ballparks.

Years ago, fans could actually bring their own beer into some stadiums. That was the case until 1984 for the Padres, who played at Jack Murphy Stadium, now Qualcomm. Then the team complained that alcohol-related problems were increasing.

Other baseball teams banned carry-in beer, saying the change was needed to create a better ballpark environment. But there was another reason: money.

Paul Fordem, a San Diego County supervisor at the time, complained that the new ban granted the Padres “an absolute monopoly” on stadium concessionaires.

Talk about vision.

Another supervisor, Paul Eckert, wondered why, if the Padres organization really wanted to solve the alcohol problem, it wasn't banning all beer-drinking at games.

Today, fans keep forking over the money for beer, even though the prices can leave a bitter taste in their mouths. At an exhibition game last night at Petco Park against the Angels, the new beer prices were in place.

And even though fans said they've grown accustomed to higher prices, nobody was exactly applauding another increase.

“You come here expecting to pay a lot,” said Geoff Longenecker of La Jolla, who was sipping a Stone beer, which set him back $9.

He called the prices, “extraordinarily high,” yet was happy that at least the variety was broad.

Christina Curtin of Mission Valley said she should could buy a six-pack for what she paid for a single beer, a premium draft for $9. But she said she expected it, given that she was at a baseball game.

Marc and Jodi Stein of El Cajon said having a beer or two is part of the baseball experience, so they forked over $16.50 for two beers.

The guy behind the counter forewarned them that the price was going to be ugly, Marc Stein said. “He said, 'Believe it or not, it's $16.50, and you don't get a TV set with it.' ”

Staff writer James P. Sweeney and staff researcher Erin Hobbs contributed to this report.


For it's 1, 2, 3.2 at the old ballgame

Beer is high on price, low on alcohol content
By Michael Stetz

April 18, 2008

SEAN M. HAFFEY / Union-Tribune

Kevin Kimball, of San Diego, enjoyed a Bud Light last night at Petco Park. More bucks, less bang.

Padres fans already know beer sold at Petco Park has a higher price tag than the same thing elsewhere. But they might be surprised to learn some of the beer also has lower alcohol content.

Three of the downtown ballpark's domestic draft brands – Budweiser Select, Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft – contain 3.2 percent alcohol by weight.

Go to a bar and most regular domestic draft beer will have about 4 percent alcohol by weight. Most light beers run about 3.4 percent.

In other words, it's not just the Padres' batting lineup – producers of only six home runs so far this season – that's weak.

“It's kind of upsetting,” said Randall Brooks of Ventura, who was unknowingly drinking a 3.2 percent beer, a 20-ounce cup that set him back $8.50 at Wednesday's Padres game. “I should get what I'd get anywhere else.”

Padres fans at Petco Park might be surprised to learn some of the beer sold there has a reduced alcohol content.

By the numbers

There are two ways to measure alcohol content in beer: by weight and by volume. For lower-alcohol beer, the 3.2 percentage refers to alcohol by weight. The strength of various beers, in comparison:

4.0% Budweiser
3.4% Budweiser Select
4.0% Coors
3.4% Coors Light
4.3% Stone Pale Ale
4.0% Heineken
3.7% Corona
3.7% Miller Genuine Draft
3.4% Miller Lite
Online: For a March 29 story about rising beer prices at Padres games, go to

The Padres aren't required to divulge the alcohol content of the beer they sell. There's no mention at the concessions, which are run by a vendor called Sportservice, that the three brands are any different.

Padres officials say lower-alcohol beer, like higher prices, is part of an “alcohol management plan,” meant to keep fans from overindulging. They also say it's common practice in the sports industry and hardly limited to Petco.

It's unknown how many professional teams' vendors sell 3.2 percent beer at stadiums. Sportservice, a subsidiary of Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North, runs concessions in as many as a dozen professional sports venues. Company officials didn't return phone calls.

Centerplate, which runs the concessions for the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium, didn't return calls, either.

“The Padres aren't alone,” said Chris Bigelow, president of the Bigelow Companies, a consultant to sporting and entertainment venues on food service management.

He said the difference in the quality of the beer is difficult to tell, “especially after the first one.”

The decision on what kind of beer to buy rests with Sportservice, said Richard Andersen, executive vice president in charge of ballpark management for the Padres. The difference in alcohol isn't that dramatic, he said.

The difference in cost is 32 percent. A keg of Budweiser Select goes for $76, according to California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control records. The 3.2 percent version of Bud Select runs $52.

“Wow, $8.50 for low-octane beer,” said Michael Shames, a consumer advocate who heads the Utility Consumers' Action Network in San Diego. He compared the move to that of oil companies, which have been accused of reducing octane in gas.

Bars don't peddle the lower-alcohol stuff, said Greg Anderson, owner of McGregor's Grill and Ale House near Qualcomm Stadium. “It's not a practice in the bar industry, as far as I know,” he said.

Stephen Zolezzi, executive vice president of the Food and Beverage Association of San Diego, said that to his knowledge, distributors don't offer such beer to local bars.

Zolezzi said he thought sports venues were required by law to sell lower-alcohol beer, but the ABC said no such law exists.

Petco's premium draft brands, such as Sam Adams, which contains 3.9 percent alcohol, are not lower-alcohol versions. The bottled beer is also the same you'd find anywhere.

Lower-alcohol beer has been sold at Padres games for years, according to the Padres organization. When the team moved from Qualcomm Stadium, the 3.2 beer – called “stadium beer” among some in the industry – made the ride to the downtown digs as well.

But today's higher beer prices could make the lower alcohol content harder to swallow. In 1988, a beer at a Padres game was $2. When adjusted for inflation, that $2 beer would be $3.61 today. The cheapest beer at Petco now is a 16-ounce domestic draft for $6.50.

“It's just another example of companies fleecing the public,” said Mark Reback, of Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog. Consumers are facing higher prices not only for necessities such as gasoline and food, but also while enjoying a simple baseball game, he said.

“Where does it end?” asked Reback, who recommended fans lodge complaints with any teams that sell weaker beer.

The 3.2 percent beer dates to Prohibition. Just before the booze ban was repealed in 1933, Congress allowed for 3.2 beer in an effort to jump-start the economy during the Depression and appease those clamoring for the right to imbibe.

After the repeal, beer makers started producing stronger beers, but several states kept the 3.2 standard. Today, six – Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah – continue to require that some retailers, such as grocery stores, sell the lower-content product.

Beer lovers in those states routinely complain about the quality of the beer.

Brewers basically add water to lower the alcohol content. Some critics maintain that brewers bring the content lower than 3.2, to make certain the beer passes muster in those states.

Anheuser-Busch – maker of Budweiser Select, among other brands – did not return calls.

Kathy and David Pence from Montrose, Colo., who were at the Wednesday Padres game, said they try to avoid 3.2 percent beer at home.

“We go to liquor stores to buy our beer,” said David Pence, because those outlets are allowed to sell the full-strength stuff.

The Pences weren't aware that Petco sold 3.2 percent beer, and they didn't understand the reasoning offered by the Padres. “If people want to get drunk, they're going to get drunk,” Kathy Pence said.

Not everyone minds the less powerful beer.

“To me, it's a minor thing,” said Rick Atwood, who was at the game drinking Miller Lite. “If they were doing so to a microbrew, that's a different story.”


Your beer, your stadium
By Don Walker

Tuesday, Apr 22 2008, 09:41 AM

First the good news. Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee BREWERS, for crying out loud, does not serve beer with 3.2% alcohol by weight.

But they do at Petco Park in San Diego, according to this story. And the fans didn't know it.

Here's the key phrase in the story: "The San Diego Padres aren't required to divulge the alcohol content of the beer they sell. There's no mention at the concessions, which are run by a vendor called Sportservice, that the three brands are any different.

"Padres officials say lower-alcohol beer, like higher prices, is part of an 'alcohol management plan,' meant to keep fans from overindulging. They also say it's common practice in the sports industry and hardly limited to Petco."

Scary stuff if you're a beer drinker. Sportservice, by the way, has the concessions contract at Miller Park. And, as mentioned, officials there told me you get the real deal in the beer lines. No 3.2% beer for Brewers fans.

Sportservice is a huge company and has concessions deals with dozens of sports stadiums and arenas around the country. Naturally, we wondered if there were other stadiums that did the same thing.

A Sportservice spokesman said the practice at Petco was the exception, rather than the rule.

"The type of draft beer being served at Petco Park in San Diego is consistent with draft beer being served at many stadiums and large public gathering places in the state of California. This practice began at Qualcomm stadium under another concessionaire, and was carried through to the new ballpark," the spokesman said in a prepared statement.

In San Diego, opinion appears to be divided on the practice. Some cared, some didn't.

In the meantime, we'll keep you apprised whether this practice goes on at other stadiums around the country.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 21, 2008

JS Beat Writer chat

Okay, here's the plan. I like answering the questions people write in on my own instead of the usual negativity of the JS writers. In all fairness to Witrado, he doesn't seem to be as much of a downer as the "Prince of Darkness." So away we go...

April 21 mailbag

Q: Jason of Milwaukee - Did Dave Bush help his cause in St. Louis?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Probably. And now, with the Ben Sheets situation, Bush will probably get another start this week.

More importantly, he didn't do anything to lose his spot, albeit temporary.


Q: Steve Schmidt of Marshfield, WI - IF the Brewers were to make a managerial move, would they promote from within or look outside of the organization?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Why, are you expecting a managerial move? I'm not.

Simmons, Ted.


Q: Josh of Minneapolis - How is Gabe Kapler doing, can he play again this week?

A: Brewers Mailbag - I think Kapler is probably ready to play again.

If the opposing starting pitcher threw with his left hand, he'd have been playing. He's pinch hit several times now already. Yost is playing the platoon splits.


Q: Jeff of Spring Valley - Is there concern over the lack of righty/lefty balance in the Brewers order?? I see very few teams with 7 out of 8 regulars hitting right handed. Seems like an easy bullpen matchup for other teams to plan around getting Fielder out. Can the Brewers be successful with only one regular leftie in the lineup??

A: Brewers Mailbag - I expect righties to be much tougher on the Brewers than lefties. At present, I believe they are 5-0 against left-handed starters and 6-7 vs. righties.

Didn't really answer the question. Yes, the Brewers do well against lefties. But I think if the righties can start to take more pitches via better pitch selection, they'll be in better position to succeed versus righties.


Q: Josh of Minneapolis - Assuming Gwynn and Kapler have returned to health two weeks from now when Cameron comes back, how confident are you the Gross is the odd man out? Do you think there is any chance Gross gets waived when Gallardo comes back so the club can buy more time to make a pitching decision?

A: Brewers Mailbag - When Cameron joins the team, you'd have to assume that either Gross or Gwynn are headed out. Gwynn has an option. Gross does not. So, it comes down to whether the Brewers want to chance Gross clearing waivers.

I'll guarantee Gross doesn't clear waivers. Savvy teams like the A's & Red Sox have already kicked the tires on him this winter. Gross has not been hitting into much luck lately, and with Gwynn having an option, it's a no brainer.


Q: Harry Balczak of Stevens Point - I've always wondered what the Brewers do with the roof at Miller Park when they are on a road trip. Do they open it and let the rainfall water the grass and let the sun in when it is nice? In the winter is it closed all the time? And how soon will they just save time and money and put in Field Turf?

A: Brewers Mailbag - The Miller Park roof is left open when the team is on the road to allow for sun, rain, etc. Many times over the winter, it's also left open. I haven't heard any talk of Field Turf but you never knmow.

Field turf within five years. I don't like the idea of it, but with the hassle of getting the field ready to begin each season, the idea has to atleast be considered.


Q: Pat of Brookfield - Is there a golden rule that only the pitcher can bunt in the first 6 or 7 innings of a game? With runners on first and second with no one out, why not sacrifice an out to move the runners up. The first game at St. Louis Bill Hall grounded into 2 double playes and struckout once with runners on first and second with no one out. Now our road record last year was horrendous and we are on the road playing the team leading the division. If Billy Hall bunts we have Corey Hart up, our hottest hitter at the time with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Bruan wasn't in the lineup that night, and lets get some runs on the board especially on the road. To me its a no brainer!! I can see not bunting Braun and Fielder but anyone other than that should be sacrificing? What do you think of Yost's philosophy on this. Thanks

A: Brewers Mailbag - It depends on what kind of a bunter the player is. Bill Hall had only one sacrifice bunt all of last season.

Why give away outs? Sacrafices give away outs. Never a good idea.


Q: Keith Niemuth of Neenah - Why not bat Hart second instead of Gross who bats like Sheets this year?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Hart bats fifth to protect Fielder and be there for RBI chances. He batted fifth much of last season and did quite well there.

Hardy's a good choice, too.


Q: Dane Gabrielson of Black River Falls - Will Derrick turnbow finish the season with the brewers or will he be sent down to the minors. Also will this be his last year in milwaukee.

A: Brewers Mailbag - Turnbow isn't being used now with games on the line. I don't know how much longer the Brewers can carry a pitcher they don't trust.

Not sure, but they've had room for Chris Spurling, Greg Aquino, Matt Wise last year. Turnbow won't clear waivers, so he won't be sent down. He'll either be released (very unlikely) or traded for pennies on the dollar (50/50 chance).


Q: Vince of Oak Forest - With the season being so early, it's probably hard for both of you to understand why some Brewers fans are upset with some of the losses the Brewers experience. The point is that Brewers have been living under "Murphy's Laws" since 1983, so when bad things happen, not making the playoffs again really does seem inevitable. My question (finally) is are there areas of the team that clearly seem better than last year?

A: Brewers Mailbag - The Brewers made one error on their just-completed nine-game trip. They rank near the top of the NL in defense. Believe me, that's a huge improvement.

Not to mention leading the league in "hitting with RISP."


Q: Joel of Chicago (5 blocks from Wrigley...) - Hi Tom, Do you see us trying to move one of our extra outfielders before Cameron comes back? If so, what do you see as our needs? Thanks, and Go Brewers, Joel

A: Brewers Mailbag - When Cameron joins the club, I don't see the need for Kapler, Gwynn and Gross on the club. It'll be interesting to see who goes.

Gwynn goes to minors for depth purposes. Not too much else in the cupboard in AAA. Nix isn't much to write home about. Irribaren is still learing on the job in CF.


Q: Michael of Shorewood,WI - Is there any justification at all for taking either Manny Parra or Carlos Villanueva out of the rotation in favor of keeping Dave Bush in it? Bush may have had a few seasons with a .500 record (albeit an ERA above 4) but it's as simple as this... Brewers are 8-6 overall. 0-3 when Bush pitches. The Brewers can't afford to pencil in a loss every 5th day because Bush has "history on his side" as Ned says.

A: Brewers Mailbag - Yost and Maddux like Bush, therefore he gets a longer leash. He did win 12 games in 2006 and 2007 in the back of the rotation.

Pitchers that can log 200+ innings are valuable. You don't just banish them to the bullpen after 3 mediocre starts. You can't also plan on having Parra & CV go over 200+ innings this season either. You need to monitor their innings & pitch counts more than you do Booshy.


Q: Paul Johnson of Dubuque - How long before the Brewers fire New Yost? This season is looking like a repeat of the previous seasons-----time for a change.

A: Brewers Mailbag - Yeah, the manager is doing a terrible job. The team is 11-7 despite most of the key hitters struggling, and some of the starting pitchers as well. Got to be the manager's fault. Sheesh.

He hasn't done that horrible. He's made a few questionable moves with the bullpen of late w/Gagne going 4 games in a row and warming for a 5th, plus using Turnbow in a high leverage situation when he hasn't pitched in a meaningful game all year while on a 14 man staff. But he's done well with lineup construction so far.


Q: Mark of Kimberly - Is Gabe Gross the worst major leaguer you have ever seen?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Perhaps you have forgotten Enrique Cruz. Or Chris Barnwell. Or... Let's just say this: no.

Chad Moeller? Raul Casanova? Mark, you are not a wise person. Hey, Matt Wise?!


Q: badgermitt of Mequon - It is early and we should not panic. It is a long season. ok, I said it 5 times fast. It seems like the same ol' Brewers, starters not getting 6 innings and no timely hitting.

A: Brewers Mailbag - And yet the team is 11-7. Not too shabby.

The starters ARE going 6-7 innings. And the team is getting timely hitting. Leading the league in "avg w/risp."


Q: Zachary of Chicago - Will you please tell Yost to get a clue and get GABE GROSS OUT OF THE LINEUP?!?!?! Why isn't Kapler starting and why has he all of a sudden decided to make all these minor adjustments to the starters that aren't paying off?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Kapler has been injured. That's why he hasn't been starting.

I think Zachary would like see Kapler swing the bat w/one hand over Gross at this point.


Q: Fearful of Janesville - It seems to me these guys need a kick on the pants to get going. It seems Ned Yost either won't or doesn't know how to energize this team. I get this awful feeling that he's becoming a "Players Coach". Also, when pitching is such a scarce commodity, how is it that the Brewers felt they should release Claudio Vargas(23-16 last two years) and retain the likes of Turnbow and McClung? Your thoughts.

A: Brewers Mailbag - The Brewers liked the starters they kept more than Vargas, who had a $3.6 million contract. If he was such a great pitcher, why wasn't he immediately snapped up by a big-league team. Instead, it took him two weeks to get a minor-league deal with the Mets.

Good answer. W/L stat is the end all/be all stat to judge talent on: note to self...


Q: Andy of Chicago - Tom/Anthony, I've heard that Ned Yost is quite the fan of coffee. As a coffee connoisseur myself, I'm curious as to the type of coffee he drinks, and how many cups per day he usually downs. Thanks guys and keep up the good work!

A: Brewers Mailbag - I know he frequents Starbucks quite often. Not sure what he's got in the pot in his office. I'd say he drinks around 12 cups a day. And that might be a conservative estimate.

3 dozen cups, my guess. And that's on an off day.


Q: T. Jones of Oconomowoc - Did Tony Gwynn Jr. sleep with Yost's daughter? Why are we not giving this kid a fair shake? I understand he got hurt this year. Last year he was hitting over .300 and was sent down and this year he comes off the DL to be sent down again. Coming back cold can't be any worse than Gross.

A: Brewers Mailbag - Perhaps you didn't hear the news that he injured his hamstring.

Yost has a daughter? Is he supposed to play over Cameron next week too? The kid has absolutely no power to speak of, that's why he doesn't get a fair shake.


Q: Walt Kaufmann of Mequon - For Tom: Why has nothing been said over the years about Gary Sheffield's time with The Brewers. As a Brewer; he admitted purposly booting balls during actual games just so he could rid himself of being in Milwaukee. Isn't that the same as cheating or as bad as gambling or taking a banned substance? Nobody says boo about that situation and his play actually could have affected the outcome of those games. It really steams me off. Where are his ethics and why hasn't Major League Baseball done anything?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Gary Sheffield hasn't played with the Brewers since 1991, so I wouldn't call it a timely subject. Plus, he later recanted and said he didn't make errors on purpose. You have to realize that Sheffield says a lot of stuff. A lot.

Seriously?!?! Wow... Walt, it was **17** years ago! Let it go buddy.



A: Brewers Mailbag - I'd make the trade, merely because Roberts is productive now and Weeks has yet to be consistent. That's assuming you want to win right now. Weeks would have the higher ceiling in the long-term.

Jesus... these are your beat writers hard at work. So, how much salary does Brian Roberts make? Oh, right. The only thing Roberts does better than Weeks is play defense. Weeks has more power by far. They both get on base. They both steal bases.


Q: Jeff Reseburg of Sheboygan - My wife thinks the Brewers should shell out big money for Ben Sheets to stick around. Given his mediocre win/loss record, and his being prone to injury, how could she feel that way?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Sometimes, it's hard to figure out wives. And they'll say the same about husbands. That's why divorce lawyers do such good business.

Heh, good one. The Crew are damned if they sign him, and damned if they don't. They can't win on this one.


Q: Wil of Las Vegas from Kenosha - Hi! Thanks for adding this feature! My question is: Why doesn't Corey Hart bat leadoff with Weeks dropping to 6th or 7th in the order? Didn't Corey bat lead-off for awhile last year and do well? With Corey's baserunning acumen and better on-base %, it would seem like a no-brainer and maybe jump-start the offense. Your thoughts?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Hart is a nice run-producer in the No. 5 spot. He was very successful there last year.

Too bad the entire lineup couldn't be made up of Corey Harts... sigh.


Q: Maurice of Milwaukee - Hi i'm a african American who is a big Brewers fan? So here my question With six picks in the first two rouds what positions/Pitchers you think they will look at ?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Wow, it's way to early to project that stuff right now. They don't even get their first pick until No. 16, I believe. The draft board doesn't firm up until the final days before the draft. Check back then.

Hooked on Phonics worked for me. Me no understand Ebonics. Yeesh. They'll hopefully go w/the 'best player available' route as long as they are deemed signable.


Q: Greg of Racine - The disparity between the Brewers home & road records last year was ridiculous. Did they play over their heads at home? Was there a reason for being sluggish on the road? Are the Brewers changing anything in their road regimine to improve this year?

A: Brewers Mailbag - There's no rhyme or reason to any of that. They did acquire some veteran players, who perhaps can be a stabilizing influence. They're off to a better start on the road this year.

I will crap my pants when they sweep a team on the road this year. Haven't done so since 2004.


Q: Trevor Smith of La Crosse, WI - Hi Tom, A few times I have heard both the radio and tv crews comment on Jason Kendall and his overall better handling of pitchers, than they were last year. Are these comments referring to Johnny Estrada or Damian Miller? Thank you!

A: Brewers Mailbag - Estrada did most of the catching, so I'll let you figure that one out.


Q: Joe of Combined Locks - The Brewers homegrown players seem to be poor at bunting. How much emphasis does bunting (especially for pitchers) get in our minor and major league system?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Everybody works on bunting about the same. I don't think many players are proficient at it, for whatever reason. You'd think the pitchers would be way better at it than they are.

Well, pitchers don't start to hit in games until they reach AA, for starters. Also, bunting is a lost art because when you're in the minors, you really aren't there to bunt. Every single one of these major leagures were run producers in the minors and weren't really looked to for bunting.


Q: Ardena Sering of Wisconsin Rapids - Did Gabe Kapler receive any good natured ribbing for stupidly running in the outfield wall during B.P. ? I sure hope that he did.

A: Brewers Mailbag - I'm sure he heard about it. You don't see many guys get injured in that fashion.


Q: rick smith of lynchburg va. - among these starters ; which is most likely not to be the opening day starter in 2009 hardy weeks hall hart and why do you think your choice will happen thanks

A: Brewers Mailbag - I would think all of those players would be starters in 2009. But Weeks needs to get going.


Q: Brewer Fever of Hartford - Has anyone in the Brewers organization raised the idea to Rickie Weeks that he scrap that bat waggle timing mechanism and go back to the swing he used in college where he won the NCAA batting title? It wouldn't hurt his eye at the plate, and he might even sprinkle in a few more base hits. It just seems odd to abandon what worked and stick so long with an approach that has him below the mendoza line.

A: Brewers Mailbag - I haven't heard anybody mention that he stop it. But he needs to figure out something that makes him more consistent.


Q: Keith of Tampa - It's obvious that Gagne is a $10 million mistake...and Weeks is gonna see .100 before he sees .200. How 'bout they both go to Music City for awhile and see if they can achieve success at the AAA level, as it is obvious they can't at the MLB level

A: Brewers Mailbag - Do you really think the Brewers would try to send Gagne to the minors?

I want you as the GM, Keith.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Carlos Villanueva article by John Sickels

Not a Rookie: Carlos Villanueva
by John Sickels on Apr 17, 2008 1:30 PM EDT

Carlos Villanueva was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2002. He made his pro debut with the AZL Giants that year at age 18, posting an 0.59 ERA and a 23/3 K/BB ratio in 30.1 innings. His command was obviously outstanding, but his mediocre stuff kept him off most prospect lists, including mine, pending higher level data. I would have given him a Grade C.

Villanueva returned to the Arizona Rookie League in 2003 and became a starter, going 3-6, 3.97 with a 67/13 K/BB in 59 innings with 64 hits allowed. Again the strong K/BB stood out, but as a league-repeater he needed to prove out at higher levels to move past Grade C.

The Giants traded him to the Brewers in March, 2004. Milwaukee sent him to Beloit in the Midwest League where he had a solid season in the rotation, making 21 starts with a 3.77 ERA and a 113/30 K/BB in 115 innings. HIs only negative stat was 20 homers allowed. By this time he'd boosted his velocity a bit into the 88-92 range. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2005 book, pointing him out as a sleeper if he could get the home run tendency under control.

The Brewers sent him to the Florida State League to begin 2005. He did great, posting a 2.32 ERA in 21 starts with a 124/32 K/BB in 112 innings. A late promotion to Double-A resulted in a 7.40 ERA in four starts with a 14/9 K/BB in 21 innings with 21 hits allowed. His fastball was back to the 87-88 range at the end of the year, and scouts indicated that Double-A hitters weren't as easily fooled by his arsenal, granted the sample was small. I lowered him to Grade C in the '06 book, noting however that he deserved more chances and that he still had some sleeper potential.

Villanueva opened 2006 in Double-A and pitched well; he continued pitching well in Triple-A, then ended the season with 53.2 strong innings for the Brewers. Last year he pitched 114 innings for Milwaukee with a 3.94 ERA. In 168 career innings entering 2008, Villanueva has a 138/64 K/BB with 144 hits allowed and a 3.86 ERA.

What does the future hold?

PECOTA seems to hate him, giving him a collapse rate of 60% entering 2008. His comparables list includes scary comps like Todd Van Poppel and Ken Cloude, but also a few more successful guys like Mudcat Grant and Moe Drabowsky. Although in the rotation right now, my personal belief is that he is best utilized in the long relief/spot starter role, and that as a full-time starter he would be more likely to get overexposed and fail.

Villanueva is a Grade C/C+ prospect made good, and I tend to root for guys like this. If he stays healthy I think he will have a mixture of good and bad seasons, the kind of guy who will post a 6.00 ERA in a bad year, drift to another team, then turn things around quickly and post a 3.00 mark in a limited role, before being overexposed and struggling again. In the end I think Villanueva balances out as an average major league pitcher overall, but that's not an insult, and he gives hope to every guy in Double-A who has average stuff and is looking for a break.

I tend to agree w/Sickels for the most part on this one. I think Carlos is more of a pitcher than a thrower. He seems to have some polish and knows what he's doing out on the mound. Being a little smaller in stature than an ideal sized pitcher, he tends to wear down much more over the course of a season. I don't think it helped him last year either that he was yo-yo'd around as a long reliever, setup man, spot starter, and then starting pitcher. He may not have actually pitched a career high in innings, but his arm took more abuse due to being warmed up, sat down, etc. in the bullpen when he had never pitched in relief before.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Memorabilia Pic

Here's a picture of some recent bobbleheads I've obtained. From left to right...

- 2008 Prince Fielder Milwaukee Brewers SGA retro version (1 / 5,000) - 2008 Ryan Braun Forever Collectibles ROY version (487 / 504) - 2007 Don Sutton Milwaukee Brewers SGA regular version (1/40,000) - Bernie Mac Mr. 3,000 movie promo - Rickie Weeks Forever Collectibles 'On Field' version (355 / 2,008)

Labels: ,

Article on former Brewers draft pick & brother of Rickie, Jemile Weeks

With Weeks in the lineup, Miami is once again a CWS contender

By Heather Dinich

March 18, 2008

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Three years ago, Jemile Weeks walked slowly across campus at the University of Miami, prolonging his arrival at his first class as a freshman. The small but speedy second baseman couldn't quite cross the threshold into the classroom -- not yet.

His father, Richard, was in the midst of negotiating Jemile's value with the Milwaukee Brewers. Once his son actually stepped into class, all deals were off.

Jemile Weeks shined during his first trip to the NCAA tournament in 2006.

Weeks' cell phone rang. It was his dad, with an update.

"I said, 'Well, Jemile, they went from 850 [thousand] to 855,'" Richard Weeks recalled. "It's not moving where we want.'"

"Well, should I go to class?" Jemile asked.

"No, not yet, not yet," Richard said. "We're still at the table. I'll call you back."

Jemile Weeks, who was drafted out of high school by Milwaukee in the eighth round, likely would have gone had the Brewers upped the ante to $1 million.

Instead, he went to class.

At 18, Jemile turned down mega money and the opportunity to join his older brother, Rickie Weeks, who is currently the Brewers' second baseman. Skipping college for a lucrative baseball contract is a decision many elite high school baseball players make, but for Weeks, the favorable odds of winning a College World Series at Miami and time to further develop as a player outweighed Milwaukee's offer and the chance to play with his brother.

"My family, they knew I was going to make the right decision, whichever decision I made," Weeks said. "My brother told me I've got two great choices in front of me. Do what you feel is best."

Now, with Weeks in the lineup as a junior, the No. 6-ranked Hurricanes (13-2, 5-1 ACC) have a legitimate shot to return to Omaha and win it all. For Weeks, who intends to pursue his major league dream again after this season, it's probably his last chance at the title.

"This year, the way we started off, if we can stay consistent, I think this team can go real far and maybe win a national championship," Weeks said. "I want to be a part of that. That was one of the biggest things that influenced me to come here. … I wanted to be a part of a great team, and I thought Miami was that place."


By choosing Miami, Jemile wound up where his brother wanted to go.

Rickie Weeks had hoped to play for the Hurricanes, but wasn't recruited by Miami. Coach Jim Morris admitted he "made a mistake," but wasn't about to make it twice.

"The first time I met Jemile, I told his dad, 'We're not messing this up again,'" Morris said with a smile. "'Let's sign this one.'"

Jemile Weeks had the chance to follow his brother Rickie into the Brewers' organization.

Weeks' teammates wondered, though, if he would ever show up.

"Before I even knew him, we came to school a couple days early, and Jemile wasn't here yet," outfielder Blake Tekotte said. "We were like, 'Hopefully he comes.'"

Weeks was still weighing his options. He was a scrappy 155 pounds coming out of Lake Brantley High School - a factor that probably caused the Brewers to pause during negotiations. But Weeks also knew he had room to grow. He turned to his brother, who played at Southern University and was drafted in 2003, for advice.

"You try to give him the pros and cons of it," said Rickie Weeks, who was in the minors at the time. "I told him if you were to come out, you'd have some money in your pocket and you'd be able to start your career off early, being a young guy, try to work your way up. Then again, going to college, you have some experience under your belt, getting older, mature, stronger, which is only going to help you out in the long run."

After a few prayers (his mother, Valeria, is a pastor at a church in Orlando) and some more thinking, Jemile arrived at Miami. Milwaukee's unwillingness to budge financially made the decision final.

"The day before school started I see him rolling up at night," Tekotte said. "I was like, 'Oh, thank God.'"

They've been roommates ever since.


Weeks wasted no time showcasing why more pro scouts were looking at him than college recruiters. As a freshman in the College World Series, Weeks had a .308 average and scored three runs. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Lincoln Regional for hitting .583 (7-for-120) with eight runs, four doubles, three walks and four RBIs. And in the Oxford Super Regional, Weeks hit .500 with three home runs, eight RBIs, five runs and two intentional walks.

"He lit it up when it counted," Morris said. "He's shown us what he can do."

Weeks' career was derailed last season, though, with a hamstring/groin injury that kept him out for 11 games. The Hurricanes missed the quickest bat in their lineup.

Draft eligible this year, this season could be Jemile Weeks' last chance to win a CWS title.

"It's hard to replace a guy like that in the 2-hole," outfielder/pitcher Dennis Raben said. "He's got speed, power, he gets on base. He plays great defense. It's hard to replace anyone like that, but especially him. He's like a sparkplug in the lineup."

Weeks took off the whole summer and turned down a spot on the U.S. National team to rehab.

"It built my desire back so much to come out here and just give it all this season, give it all I got," he said. "You never know when it's done."

According to Morris, it might just be the beginning for Weeks, who is batting .345 and already has 10 hits, seven RBIs and two home runs in seven games.

"We're expecting him, to be honest, to be even better than his freshman year," Morris said. "It's two years later, he matured, is getting stronger. I'm expecting really good things."

So are his teammates.

"He's fast and he's got some explosiveness for being a little guy," Tekotte said. "It's huge having him healthy and having his legs healthy under him. He's going to be a huge part of our success early this season."


No doubt his entire family will be watching -- and listening.

The elderly blind man who sits in the stands next to Richard Weeks at Mark Light Stadium is the patriarch of baseball in the Weeks family. Victor Weeks, Jemile's grandfather, was an outfielder for the Negro League's Newark Eagles in the late 1940s. Last Christmas, Jemile and his brother unwrapped books on the history of the Negro League.

"He's a real inspiration to me," Jemile said. "Just having that in your background, and understanding and listening to the stories, it inspires you even more."

For more than 30 years, Jemile's grandfather has been able to see only shadows because of his severe glaucoma, but that hasn't stopped him from following every pitch. Even when Victor can't make it to the games, Richard gives him the play-by-play from his cell phone.

"Strike 3," he said while on the phone during the series opener against Florida. "Changeup, inside corner."

Richard Weeks played, too, as an outfielder at Seton Hall and Stetson. He taught his sons the game early, and would throw them batting practice in their house with a balled-up sock.

"Baseball has been around me all my life," Jemile said.

"He was born for it," his father said.

There's always still the possibility he winds up playing with his brother again.

"I hope one day we do," Rickie Weeks said.

It's just not time to leave the classroom -- yet.

Labels: ,