Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Braun’

Playing The “Brew Crew”

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Ryan Zimmerman

Down 4-2 to the hard-hitting Phillies in the eighth inning, Adam Dunn hit his first home run of the season and the next batter, Ivan Rodriguez was walked. Ryan Zimmerman then came to the plate as a pinch hitter and put a floater  from Phillies’ reliever Danys Baez into the right field seats. Zimmerman’s clutch pinch hit homer stunned Baez and led the Nationals to a thrilling and much-needed come-from-behind victory in Philadelphia. The win brought the Nats to 3-3 on their road trip to New York and Philadelphia and set up a key series against the Brewers at Nats Park beginning on Friday. Baez took the loss, but was philosophical after the game in explaining how he pitched the Nats’ silver slugger: “I was trying to stay away on him,” he said. “I’ve faced him a lot of times. I always stay in, in, in. He’s coming off the bench and hasn’t played for a couple days, so I was trying to stay on him. He hit the ball and it went out of the ballpark. I didn’t hear good contact. I was surprised [the ball went out], myself.”

The win against the Phillies broke an eight game losing streak for the Nats in Philadelphia.”They are tough no matter where you play them,” Nats manager Jim Riggleman commented after the victory. “They are very comfortable here. They are just hard to beat all the way through the lineup. It was a great challenge for our ballclub, and we met the challenge pretty good.” Dunn’s homer seemed to signal something new for the Nats: a hope that the club can shake off its early season slump and begin hitting the ball. Dunn talked about his at-bat against Baez: “I basically ambushed him,” he said. “I haven’t been swinging at the first pitch. The other day, he walked me on four straight pitches leading off the eighth. I knew he was going to try to get ahead. I just closed my eyes and swung.”

El Siguiente: The Brewers are what they’ve always been — a power hitting team that struggles on the mound. The Brewers tried to change that over the winter, shipping power hitting but disappointing shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Carlos Gomez. The trade of the popular Hardy was a head-scratcher for a lot of Beer Town fans, but the Milwaukee front office was frustrated by Hardy’s inconsistency (he was sent down to Triple-A while suffering through a killer slump in August), and weren’t thrilled to pay him to hit in the low .200s. Most important of all, the Brewers’ brain trust (such as it is) wanted to make room for “El Siguiente” — “The Next One.” Rookie Alcides Escobar has an all-world glove, can steal bases and has a potent Punch-and-Judy bat: he stole 42 bases in Nashville and won the Venezuelan winter league batting title.

The problem is still pitching. While the Brewers signed headline ace Yovani Gallardo to a five year $30 million extension just last week, the second act to the hard-throwing righty is more than a little troublesome. The Brewers’ rotation features a group of knee-knockers, including lefty slinger Manny Parra (a 6.36 ERA last year), former Cardinal also-ran Jeff Suppan (with a knee-buckling four year $42 million contract), aging bad-boy and former Trolley Randy Wolf (who’s always right around .500), and the imposing (6-4, 215) Doug Davis — who sometimes pitches like he’s five-foot-three. That might not be so bad, but bound-for-the-hall closer Trevor Hoffman is obviously on his last legs (he sports a head-spinning 12.60 ERA so far this year) and well-traveled set-up man LeTroy Hawkins hasn’t been able to find the strike zone for the last three years.


The good news, at least for the Brewers, is that opposing pitchers have to face Prince Fielder four times a game. Fielder, one of baseball’s good guys, can hit the ball a ton — and is worth the price of admission. Yeah, well — even so, I’d rather pierce my eyeballs with needles than to watch this guy swing his bat against the Nats. To help Fielder, the Brewers added Jim Edmonds over the winter. Edmonds is a heckler’s paradise: he left his wife to marry a Hooters’ waitress when he was a Red Bird and Cubs fans were all over him (“Hey Jim, where’s my chicken wings?”) — until, that is, he actually became a Cub. Then they thought he was the second coming. With Edmonds, super bopper Ryan Braun and Fielder in the middle of the line-up, this team can hit. Oh yeah, and the Brewers still have all-world nifty-glove-super-sub Craig Counsell sitting on the bench, and pennants just seem to follow him around. The Brewers are doing okay — they’re 4-5 coming into Washington and just in back of the Cardinals, Bakers and Cubs, but ahead of Houston and the Ahoys. Too bad for Brew Crew fans: that’s where they’re likely to stay.

Perception and Reality — In Chicago

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The Nationals roll out of Washington after suffering a signal defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers — another “might-have-been” in a home stand of might-have-beens, with the brewmeisters’ winning a 7-1, a veritable sudzing of the Anacostia Nine at Nats Park on Monday afternoon. In many ways this was a typical outing for Collin Balester: that is to say, it was not good. Balester was only marginally better than during his previous outing (when he couldn’t get out of the second inning versus the Rockies), because last night he actually lasted into the sixth against the Brewers. When headed for the third time throught the crew’s line-up, Balester fell apart — with the scorebook telling the tale (in order): double, home run, single (wild pitch), walk, walk, single (relieved by Bergman), single, single (relieved by Villone), fielder’s choice, strike out, strike out. The butcher’s bill? Six runs, seven hits (including a home run), two walks and a wild pitch.

It was difficult for Jim Riggleman to put flinty light on such an embarrassment, so he didn’t try: “If I had a crystal ball, I would not have sent him out there for the sixth inning,” he said. But the Nats’ bats were also to blame: the team left twenty-one on base over the course of nine (that’s more than two an inning, for those of you who are counting) and couldn’t take advantage of a less-than impressive Yovani Gallardo, who seemed (at times) almost indifferent to his fate. The big blast for the Brewers came off the bat of Ryan Braun, whose soaring 6th inning tumbler landed six rows from the plaza up in the left field stands. Excepting for that up-in-the-zone pitch, the Nats seemed to master the smooth swinging Braun, who registered three strike outs. That Nats are now off to “the city of the big shoulders, the hog butcher of the world,” where they face the other worldly Cubs, owner of an embarrassingly high salary structure to go with their embarrassing won-loss record.


The headline of the Cubs website reads: “Zambrano returns to kick off critical homestand.” Yeah, it’s critical alright. It’s critical for those who want to have a future in Chicago next year. For the rest of us, the question of whether the Cubs will have a place in the post-season has already been answered — and the answer is “no.” When the Cubs have needed to produce the most they have flopped: they are 5-10 over the last fifteen and most recently lost an embarrassing three of four in Los Angeles. To those stinking Dodgers no less. When they most needed to gain ground on the Cardinals (and if not that, to gain ground in the wild card race) the Cubs actually lost ground — with the rest of the league racing away from them. They are eight games behind the Redbirds, and 7.5 behind the Colorado Streaks in the wild card. Their recent road trip was a disaster: they were pathetic against Colorado, horrible against San Diego (as in the San Diego Padres), and outclassed against the Trolleys. It actually looked, in the city of dreams, as if the slugs had thrown in the towel. One Cubbie’s blog notes: they now have as much chance of making the post-season as O.J. Simpson does of being a useful member of society.

After spending the last twenty-four hours pouring over Cubs’ statistics, we here at CFG have come to the following conclusion: the Cubs are just not very good. The problem starts not on the field, but in the dugout: Carlos Zambrano spends most of the time fighting himself, Milton Bradley is a whiner, the front office decided to trade away Mark de Rosa (who was only the key to the team), Rich Harden’s reputation as “the sore armed Harden” is well-earned and the lovable free-swinging Alfonso Soriano is not so lovable when he goes into a pout and hits .194 in 67 games. Fans of the North Side Drama Queens have reacted accordingly: their blogs are filled with stories about new movies, recommendations that the front office participate in the “cash for clunkers” program and they now run tutorials on why Mark Prior is a symbol of why Cubs fans are left to wallow in their own despair. Remember Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance? Well, my friends, it’s time to relive those halcyon days.

This isn’t a ball club, it’s a novel.

So here (“Chicagoland fans”) is whatyaoughtado, but it’s painful: you clear the decks and you start over. Not like the Nats! We weren’t slow and old, but we started over anyway. That’s not true for your team. The Cubs are slow and old and they need to get young and fast. Carlos Zambrano could be a very good pitcher, but he’s worn out his welcome. He has to go. The best pitcher on the Cubs staff is Ted Lilly and he’s a gamer. Sadly, he’s 33. So he stays. But I would trade Harden. In spite of his enormous value, he’s one bad pitch from a blown shoulder and I would also cast a jaundiced eye on Ryan Dempster. He hasn’t proved he can pitch in the big games and he’ll never again be as good as he was last year. Aramis Ramirez must stay, of course, but you have to wonder if the injury he suffered this year will recur with increasing frequency. So you think I’m wrong? Well I’m not. You think you have a pitching staff? Really? Well, you don’t: you have episodes from “As The World Turns.”

Now then, on to the infield. Mike Fontenot is a good second sacker, he really is, but he’s not a .300 hitter and never will be. The Cubs need one, to team with shortstop Ryan Theriot — who’s the heart of the club. The Riot is the Cubs future. Fontenot isn’t and neither is Zambrano. Stop talking about how they teamed up at LSU. This isn’t LSU. It’s the majors. And get rid of Derrick Lee. Derrick Lee is a good hitter, but not a great hitter, no matter what you Cubs fans say, and he’s 33. He’s lost a step. Sooner or later (and probably sooner) he’s on his way to the junior circuit where fans can ooh and ahh about his value as a DH. “Oh Derrick, oh Derrick.” Listen, Derrick would look terrific in an Oriole uniform. They love guys like Derrick in Baltimore. And trading Derrick to Baltimore would clear the way for Micah Hoffpauer at first base — and it’s about time. Aramis Ramirez stays at third, of course, because when he’s hitting the Cubs win. But Aramis needs to stay healthy. Cross your fingers.

Let’s see, that leaves Kosuke Fukudome, who’s a hell of a ballplayer. Of course, when he didn’t turn into Mickey Mantle the Chicago press dumped all over him. But when you compare him with, say, this guy, you realize what you have. And fine, you can keep Soriano, so long as you realize who he is (and who, after all, would take his contract?), but understand that he only has about three holes in his swing (an outside slider, an inside slider, a high fastball). I would trade Bradley (if you can), despite the paltry return he’s likely to bring on the market — because the last thing any team needs is a head case.

And that’s the biggest problem with the Cubs. No fan, anywhere, wants to believe that their team doesn’t give a damn. And certainly that’s not the case with the Cubs. Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano want to win as much as the next guy — maybe even more. But that’s not the perception among a lot of Cubs fans, and it’s not the perception among fans of the game outside of Chicago. The Cubs-as-headcase has come to define the franchise. That’s the truth. And there’s only one way to change that perception. Clear the deck, get rid of the deadwood, the old, the slow, the head cases — and to keep the team’s youngest, toughest and most highly motivated players. No matter what their statistics. That means changing the franchise face from Milton Bradley to Sam Fuld. It means keeping a .283 hitter with no pop and no experience  — and trading a grizzled veteran with a high OBP. Because sometimes perception is reality – the kid who gives a damn is a hell of a lot more valuable than the veteran who doesn’t. And that’s always true. No matter what the stats say.

Sam Fuld

Sam Fuld

Improving By Standing Still?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The Washington Nationals win streak was snapped at four games in Milwaukee last night, as the Anacostia Boys lost to the Brewers 7-5. It looked like the same-old-same-old for the Nats when starter Garrett Mock began to fall apart in the third. The Nationals failed to hold a comfortable 4-0 lead. Even the otherwise steady Tyler Clippard was unable to get the middle of the Brewers’ order out; Clippard gave up two runs in a little over one inning of work. The game was marked by a third inning mini-controversy, when Brewer slugger Ryan Braun powered a ball to centerfield that Nyjer Morgan just missed. The ball was initially ruled a home run but, after review, was adjudged an RBI triple. “It was the fight call,” Morgan said after the game. We’re so used to seeing Morgan’s astounding catches that his miss came almost as a surprise. But Nats fans still can’t say enough about the guy: he’s seven-for-fifteen in the Milwaukee series.

Nationals Brewers Baseball

Pitcher Julian Tavarez and outfielder Corey Patterson cleared waivers on Wednesday. Patterson might be of some interest to the Yankees, where he would be a back-up to centerfielder Brett Gardner, according to the New York Post. Patterson’s career has taken a nose-dive over the last several years. A highly touted prospect with the Cubs, Patterson continues to struggle at the plate. He was given what amounted to a cup of coffee with the Nationals this year, despite his speed and defensive abilities. The Nats’ front office did not view Patterson as the solution in center, and they were right. Tavarez remains confident that another team will sign him, but after nearly seventeen years in the majors, Tavarez is a known quantity — bad news for him. His time might be up.

The NL Least: The lack of trade talk in the NL East (outside of Philadelphia, of course) is astonishing. The Phuzzie’s quest for Roy Halladay — and their eventual trade for former Cy Young and Cleveland mainstay Cliff Lee — has seemingly taken all of the oxygen out of the rest of the division’s desire to compete for the NL East title. While the Chokes continue to search for a lefthanded reliever, the Mets’ front office has said they won’t give up a high prospect to do so. The report of the Mets’ search for another reliever comes as somewhat of a surprise — the New York nine will have to do a lot more than shore up their bullpen to compete with the Phuzzies . . . The silence out of Miami was broken by Peter Gammons, who reported that the Phish are making inquiries about Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell. Nothing seems imminent, but don’t be surprised (knowing the Phish front office), if Dan Uggla and Cody Ross are moved. Asking for a raise in Miami is the same as asking for a ticket out of town . . .

That leave the Chops who (like the Mets) are looking for some help in the bullpen. They’ve made inquiries about Oakland A’s reliever Michael Wuertz, but otherwise seem satisfied with what they have. That would stand to reason: the Braves outfield has been revamped over the last month, with the acquisition of Nate McLouth and Ryan Church. Tommy Hanson is now a part of a solid rotation: of Jair Jurrjens, Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe and Jaiver Vazquez. That’s as impressive a front five as there is in baseball, at least on paper. And that’s the problem — when the Braves study the bottom line they are 12-10 since July 4. That’s simply not good enough to compete with the Phuzzies . . .

Like the Chokes, Chops and Phish, the Nats have also gone silent — under the apparent belief that their most recent run of victories says good things about the future. That’s the view of Jim Riggleman, who says he doesn’t see any big trade coming. The Nats have won six of their last eight and their young pitchers are throwing well. Then too, it’s hard to imagine what the team could get for Josh Willingham that could serve as a replacement for one of the league’s hottest hitters. You have to believe that Mike Rizzo would have to be overwhelmed with an offer to part with Willingham, Dunn or even Nick Johnson. And it’s true. The Nats have been improving by standing still, at least so far. But it’s hard to ignore the obvious: there’s a gaping hole at second base that can’t be filled by what they have.