This might come as a surprise to you, but I like baseball. I like watching baseball, I like playing baseball video games, I like talking about baseball and I like reading about baseball. One of my favorite baseball books of all time is Earl Weaver's Weaver on Strategy.
For those of you that haven't read it (read it) or don't know much about Earl Weaver let me tell you a little bit about him. He managed the Baltimore Orioles for seventeen seasons carrying a .583 winning percentage and only finishing with a losing record once. His Orioles team won six division championships, four American League pennants and one World Series. He was also ejected from over 90 games and is 5'6" tall. (That last thing doesn't really have anything to do with anything, I just like to point out when famous people are shorter than me.) He did all this in the pre-Wild Card era in the AL East. He was really great and I don't understand why every manager isn't forced to study his book like 1999 Vince studied Sable's issue of Playboy.
Watching Ron Roenicke manage it is clear that nobody ever forced him to study it and he's probably never even read it. (In Ron's defense it's not like his brother had the best years of his career playing under Weaver or anything. Oh wait...) This is strange because I've always had the feeling that the way Earl Weaver managed a team and the way Doug Melvin built are a team are nearly identical. Weaver's managerial philosophy was "pitching, defense and the three-run homer" and if that doesn't sound like a team Doug Melvin would like to build I don't know what does. (I say would like to build because the scars of Yuniesky Betancourt are still fresh.) Unfortunately for Doug somewhere along the way things got crossed up and he hired (another) manager who doesn't follow Weaver's 10 Laws. Instead he employs someone who breaks at least five of them on a daily basis. This is not good, but the good news is that the answers are RIGHT THERE ON AMAZON.COM and all Roenicke has to do to better himself as a manager is to read this book.
But when I think of where I was and what happened on 10/9/2011 in Game 1 of the 2011 NLCS I will think of only one person and that person is Yuniesky Betancourt. MY MAIN MAN YUNIESKY BETANCOURT. YUNI YUNI YUNI YUNIIIIIEEEEE.
Yuni has gotten a lot of crap from people throughout the season and rightfully so, but one thing we should never discount is that when he swings the bat at a (good) pitch and makes (good) contact he can do very good things. He has power in that bat of his which is probably why he swings it so damn much. We can argue the merits of Yuniesky Betancourt as a major league shortstop until we are blue in the face, but the fact remains that Yuni can hit a lot better than a lot of shortstops out there. Yes, other people have higher batting averages and higher OPS, but Yuni is always among the top half of ISO because he just hits the ball harder than most people. Yuni isn't the best, but he is not without value. He is a valuable member of this team. 0.5 Wins Above Replacement is still above replacement and we shouldn't forget that.
If game 1 was the game that everything went right for the Brewers then game 2 was the game that everything didn't. Zack Greinke alternated between being a good pitcher and throwing batting practice for Diamondbacks hitters. Once up 4-1 the scoreboard read 4-4 after Justin Upton's homerun to tie the game. The mood was quiet in Miller Park when the Brewers came to bat in their half of the inning and to say the crowd was nervous at this point would be an understatement as few seemed to realize the Brewers were in the middle of a tie game. The anxiety was magnified in the 6th inning when Roenicke decided he'd had enough and turned to the bullpen. The message was clear to those looking for a reason to panic: Zack Greinke, the former Cy Young winner who was supposed to save our pitching staff, couldn't make it through the sixth inning. Takashi Saito came in and did a good job keeping the game tied, but the crowd remained reserved. When Rickie Weeks led off the following inning with a groundout it did nothing to help stir the sleeping crowd. It was a tie game that felt like a 6-4 game. Then this happened:
Jerry Hairston doubled.
For the first time in recorded history a reliever was brought in to face Yuniesky Betancourt.
Brad Ziegler BALKED Hairston to third.
Yuni WALKED. (!)
Jonathan Lucroy did the sweetest squeeze bunt ever and the Brewers took the lead.
The Brewers would go on to add five more runs in the inning, but this sequence right here is what sealed it. This sequence turned the crowd from lethargic to "Miller Park is shaking right now. Should we be worried?" mode. Just like Braun throwing out Bloomquist the night before, this was the moment that you KNEW the Brewers were going to win.
There have been only two games thus far, but the numbers look so good it's hard not to mention them. Ryan Braun is hitting .750 in the playoffs. Seven fifty. The Brewers bullpen hasn't allowed a run in five innings. Jerry Hairston is the starting third baseman all of the sudden and he's hitting .500. Yuniesky Betancourt drew a walk. Everything is looking good for this team. Everything. If the playoffs are all about luck (and I'm inclined to believe that they are) then the Brewers have got to be the favorite from here on out because at this moment every single thing is going their way.
I am going to try and not get too excited. I'm going to try and not let these two games cloud my vision. I know there is a long way to go. I know these are only two games, but wow... just wow. What a weekend.
To say that Brewers nation is fed up with Yuniesky Betancourt would be like saying drugs made Lindsay Lohan less attractive. It's a gross understatement and it doesn't even tap the surface of what's really going on and what people are thinking. People are tired of Yuni and his bad throws and his one pitch at-bats and everything else he can't seem to do right. There are people who'd prefer to see Josh Wilson and Craig Counsell out there everyday instead of Yuni and it's hard to blame them for it. People want change.
Of course, Josh Wilson and Craig Counsell are not the answer. As nice as they have been as fill-ins they are still just that. Take away Josh Wilson's two early homeruns and his numbers don't look so good. Also, he doesn't wear sunglasses. Craig Counsell, as great as he is, cannot play everyday. The Brewers need a starting shortstop that can start every game and be a positive contributor to the team. Let's try and figure out what the options are and see what (if anything) the Brewers can do about the Yuni situation. Continue reading »
Hey, look the Brewers made number one on The Juice! What did they say!?
Was this the weekend when the Milwaukee Brewers made their big move in the NL Central? Time will tell, but a sweep-sealing 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday put winning pitcher Chris Narveson right) and the Crew in command of a division race that has been neck and neck for most of the year.
Combined with the St. Louis Cardinals getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays, the domination at Miller Park gave the Brewers a three-game lead in the Central and some more hope that they can win the team's first division title since 1982.
The Brewers just put together a complete three game series. The pitchers pitched, the hitters hit and even Yuniesky Betancourt joined in on the fun. It's a weird feeling today, the Brewers have an off day and it's the most disappointing thing to happen all week. I don't want them to have an off day. I want to see them win some more. I want to see Yuni hit some more. I want to see how far Braun and Prince doing their thing can go. I'm ready for Casey McGehee's redemption and for the ongoing one-upping between the starters to continue. For the first time in a long time I just want more. More Brewers please. Continue reading »