Approximately Just 8 weeks of Shirtless Driving Season Remain

SHIRTLESS-DRIVING

On an extremely hot, humid and sunny mid June 2010 day, I was sitting in the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field. The Oakland Athletics were the Cubs’ opponent that day, and after speaking with A’s Manager Bob Geren, I was patiently waiting to talk with any Athletics with time to kill before the 7:05 first pitch.

And then it happened.

The highlight of the summer.

Former Milwaukee Brewers ace and current A’s hurler Ben Sheets strolled out of the clubhouse and yelled “Sun’s out! GUNS OUT” as he rolled up his shirt-sleeves. I was told by other reporters that behavior such as this is commonplace for Sheets. And “Sun’s out, Guns out,” is nothing more than a gateway drug to shirtless driving season.

Yes, “Shirtless Driving Season” THE #1 activity of white trash. The most favorite season of all for disgusting redneck crackers everywhere. It’s currently in full swing.

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Sheets Faces Former Brewers Teammates as Oakland A

By: Melissa S. Wollering

We’re in Arizona all week, covering Cactus League play. And there’s nothing closer to feeling the prickly cacti stab of Spring Training karma, than having to play the second game of the season as Ben Sheets–against your former team.

As a major but injury-plagued contributor to the Milwaukee Brewers for many years, he sat out of the majors last year, undergoing offseason surgery in 09 to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right pitching arm. He made it no secret that he wished to head back to his beloved Texas and find a cosy spot with the Rangers (formerly Brewers) pitching coach Mike Maddux.  Texas wasn’t havin’ nun of dat.

I actually think Ben can come back and give Oakland 12-14 solid wins this season. But he’ll have to avoid his season average 2 pulled groins, 3 stomach flu episodes, 14 hangnails, 2 sprained thumbs, 3 pinky finger injuries and 8 tightness in the shoulder cop-outs. Oakland will also have to put that nasty tasting nail polish they put on girls’ fingers to force them to stop biting their nails.  Have fun with that one Oakland. [Read more…]

Tom Crean Influences Brewers’ Top Draft Selection

crean-and-sheets
By Melissa S. Wollering

He always reminded me of Ben Sheets: a fair asset to his sport with leadership and command on the court/field, sprinkled with a little self-nullifying whining and a funny drawl. Turns out Tom Crean helped the Milwaukee Brewers’ draft their first college pitcher in the first-round Tuesday since Ben Sheets was selected as such back in 1999.

Down in Indiana, Eric Arnett became known for his hard throwin’, clocking fastballs in the mid-90’s, complementing them with Speedy Gonzales sliders. He’s the Jolly Green Giant—at 6’5”, 225 he basically throws downhill from the mound. In contrast to a Manny Parra, he also averages nearly eight innings per start.

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If you’ve ever questioned Tom Crean’s dedication to Wisconsin sports in general, now is a good time to eat your words. He’s got our back.

Call Crean the Milwaukee Brewers’ unofficial scout with a nose for multi-sport players (Arnett played football, basketball and baseball for his high school in Pataskala, Ohio).  Shortly after Tom Crean left Marquette to take over the Hoosier men’s basketball program, Crean had Eric Arnett work out with the team and travel as a practice player.

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Arnett never suited up for games, but made such an impression on Crean as an athlete that Crean vouched for him, calling Doug Melvin and Bruce Seid once he heard of the Brewers’ interest in Eric.

The Brewers were able to take a good look at Arnett last Saturday while the organization held a workout for several draft-eligible players. As Doug Melvin has stated before, it was important for Milwaukee to select a player with signability in addition to ability.

Bruce Seid says the Brewers didn’t draft for need but rather went with the ‘best player available’ mentality.  Yay for good arms.  Yay again for good Big 10 arms. The fact that Arnett seems keen on getting professional career going fast also helps.

“I’m looking forward to signing as soon as possible,” said Arnett, in an interview with Tom Hardricourt Tuesday. “I’m a fairly ‘signable’ guy. I don’t think it would take too long.”

kids
Which is a good thing.  The Crew’s previously solid farm system pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress was recently demoted from Class AA Huntsville to Class A Brevard County due to a severe lack of command.

As for the rest of the draft, the Milwaukee Brewers picked up a nice mix of high school and college guys. University of Tennessee’s Kentrail Davis is a centerfielder who batted .308 with 9 homers and 30 RBI on a less-than-stellar team last year. He truly was the diamond in their rough, even though he’s only a sophomore.

The Crew also drafted RHP Kyle Heckathorn from Kennesaw (Georgia) State, who looks identical to Arnett.  He dons a fastball in the high 90’s, a hard slider and 6’6”/240 stature. Hmm…Melvy and Seid might have a “type” as narrow as Kate Hudson’s dating prototype. Wait…hers are much more self-absorbed, psychotic and overrated at baseball. 

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For the second of the two CC Sabathia picks, the Brewers’ took a high school outfielder named…wait for it…wait for it….Max Walla.  Arguably the BEST name in the entire draft. Out of Albuquerque (N.M.) Academy, he’s a left-handed-hitter with power, power, power.  51 homers during his junior year and summer ball. A lefty with those numbers probably made Melvin drool into his Total Bran w/Raisins Wednesday morning.

The Brewers also picked up prep catcher Cameron Garfield of Murietta, CA High School. In the third round, they found a Tulane shortstop named Josh Prince. Considering the Milwaukee Brewers’ entire foundation is built upon its farm system, players selected this week could make a huge difference in the organizations’ future.  I, for one, hope to be writing about them in this column in a few years. Walla, Walla, watch-out!

What’s Brewing in ’09: Plate Patience, Pirate Tantrums & Rickie vs. Rourke

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Doth my ears hear correctly?  Exsqueeze me?  Bacon powder? On Wednesday, the Brewers broke .500 for the first time this season. After a horrible start to April, that’s like beating the same odds Ben Linus has of becoming Chief of Staff to Jimmy Carter after getting off the island post-
Dharma Initiative.

 
Your Milwaukee Brewers have won seven out of their last eight to achieve that monumental task. Note 15 wins in a row against Pittsburgh and 18 in a row at Miller Park. Playing the Pirates every other series wouldn’t be so terrible, eh?  Strange enough, many of them have been close games and the Brewers always pull it out. Why can we only win close games against the Pirates?


AAAARRRRRRR, matey. The fans of those losing scoundrels are angry that the Brewers untuck their jerseys after a win. If you haven’t heard by now, the tradition is in honor of Mike Cameron’s father who used to untuck his shirt after a tough day’s work. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogs are chock full of dissenters. Really? One guy wrote that he wanted the Brewers’ Gatorade cooler tainted with swine flu because he’s so mad. Really?


Meantime, Yovani Gallardo went to bed Tuesday and woke up an ace pitcher 12 hours later. Put this into your TI-84’s and crunch it: 8 innings, 2 hits, 1 BB, 0 runs, 11 K’s. Perfect game through two outs into the 5th inning. Then he got ‘er done at the plate by going yard in the 7th on a 0-2 count for the only run of the game.


Did you know that’s two homers in only 12 at bats so far this season for Gallardo? TI-84 says at that pace, collecting 550 at bats this season could hypothetically produce 92 home runs while Gallardo maintains a .333 average. Yeah, and if frogs could fly they wouldn’t bump their ass when they hopped. Oh, Cassandra…


Baseball Musings says it is the first 1-0 game won by a starting pitcher’s home run since August of 2002, when Odalis Perez homered off Rick Helling a Dodgers win over the Diamondbacks. It is only the seventh time that has happened in the last 50 years, with Early Winn, Milt Pappas, Jim Bunning, Juan Pizarro and Bob Welch also completing the feat.

 
Corey Hart is inducing coronary failure ‘round the world as he forms a good habit – TAKING WALKS, THREE IN ONE GAME. I’m going to have the big one. Call an ambulance. On Tuesday, Hart reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances; 3 BB’s contributed to that.

 
Hart’s three were among a season-high NINE for Crew hitters on Tuesday.  BrewerFan.net has Ryan Braun on pace to take more than 100 walks this season. Jeromy Burnitz holds the Crew’s record for walks in a season with 99, so Braun and even Fielder could break that with this type of start.

Last year at this time, the Brewers had worked a mere 60 walks.  They’ve already marked 87 through 21 games this season. Their patience at the plate is so good that the Dalai Lama is channeling it during deep contemplation sessions, where it may silence tribal wars in Africa and achieve world peace.

Ben Sheets was spotted picking his nose in the dugout more times than any other Brewer in history.  Funny – Todd Coffey must have been passed some sort of torch because he was caught searching for an illegal substance to smuggle with him to the mound here. 

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Carlos Corporan has been called up from the minors to replace Mike Rivera, who was placed on the DL. Corporan’s defensive skills are better than Angel Salome’s (if you’re wondering why Corporan).  He’s also batting well right now and Angel needs work at .182 or something pitiful like that.

M’boy minor-leaguer Lorenzo Cain almost had me in tears this week. However, the good news is he did not tear his ACL.  4-6 weeks off. Also, Mark Rogers is not injured.  He missed the last few starts.  Turns out he just ran into a wall while shagging fly balls.  Whew!  Although, which brain response is failing to communicate to your lower limbs that they should stop before running into walls?

No, the Brewers are not interested in signing Pedro Martinez.  Poor Doug Melvin. He despises rumors as much as Peter Christian despises Al Davis’ ignorance in drafts. By the way, Peter, Paul and Mary… No, kidding.  Peter Christian, Paul M. Banks and Rikki Greenberg all get shout outs for understanding my Jackson Pollack – Jorge Julio strike zone reference last week.  Outstanding. We have such a diverse palate of writers, all of whom appreciate the fine arts on thesportsbank.net. 


Trevor Hoffman recorded his 1st-ever save as a Brewer this week, complete with Hells Bells.  Apparently, Hoffman wants it not just playing—but blasting.  In a post-game interview, he told a reporter that it wasn’t loud enough and that he had looked into noise ordinances in the city of Milwaukee and was fairly certain the volume could be increased safely.  Trevor wasn’t afraid to express to Attanasio that he should invest in extra speakers and sub-woofers at Miller Park before the closer’s next appearance. Fiesty, feisty.

Ryan Braun extended the Pirates & Brewers history of scuffling by taking a clearly intentional hit from Jeff Karstens. Both benches were warned and nothing ensued the rest of the game. Still, do you remember Prince Fielder and Matt Capps’ Yosemite Sam episode from the ’07 season? Fire in the hole…


“Friendly Fire with the Cubs,” is short and sweet this week.  Milton Bradley is a head case.  His condemnation to a psych ward would not surprise me in the slightest.  Why, why, why does he open his mouth?

 
The Beer Pen knows how to satisfy Rickie-haters who can’t keep their mouth shut either.  Usually I scowl, but this week, they compare Rickie Weeks to Mickey Rourke.  And that IS funny.

Rourke’s acting career of flops, bombs, straight-to-TV-movies and gonorrhea mirrors “Dick Weeks’ ” career of strikeouts, errors, braided hair and gonorrhea. That’s pretty straightforward, actually. Rourke astonished the world with his performance as Marv in Sin City and then of course, The Wrestler. Rickie magically comes out this year and astonishes Brewer fans with his exceptional play.  Coincidence?  I don’t know, but credit is given Beer Pen.


In “Just a Bit Outside,” Bob Uecker shared dialogue during the bottom of the 1st Wednesday that I must share with you.  He told Cory Provus that he follows blogs, email and facebook but he doesn’t Twitter. Here’s why:

 

And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I’m allowing empirical data and statistical graphs to sit the bench while The Beer Pen illustrates the greatest comic strip of the month. Can we play?

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Infield

By Melissa and Jason Wollering

Don’t start hate-blogging about it now because we can’t handle it this early in the year, but Wickie Reeks will almost certainly be hitting at the top of the order again in ’09. Melvin defends Weeks to Baggot in this article. Bernie’s Crew also crunches Weeks’ average stats, pointing out at least he’s not a detriment to the team.

MW: Brother Jay, these articles bring up some great points about two common perceptions. 1. Why do people think second basemen have to be contact hitters, say, like Jimmy Gantner?

JW: For those who remember watching PBS when the show debuted in 1980, “3-2-1 Contact” this: 90 players struck out at least 100 times in ‘08 and 14 were second basemen.

MW: And it’s a little-known fact, last year Weeks was second in runs scored among NL leadoff hitters. He was also #1 in all of baseball in scoring from second base on a base hit – 23 for 24. Eat your pinstripes Johnny Damon; you went 9 for 22. Onto #2: The leadoff guy must BB a lot.

JW: Big sis’, last week Melvin asked reporters how many players walked more than 100 times last season. Answer = Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Fat Al Pujols and Pat Burrell; none of whom are leadoff guys.

MW: Did I ever tell you I sloot Melvin’s argumentative skills? Speaking of walks though…

Prince may be King after $18M, but his increased platoon split is one of Paul Noonan’s 10 Biggest Brewers’ Fears. Coming into the league, he hit against both lefties and righties with fervor. But with the Crew already lopsided, we don’t need lefties thinking Prince is easy-to-manage at the plate. He’ll need to take his walks in ’09. No more .313 OBP, even if that is your “real weight” buddy.

In , seven Brewers minor leaguers signed contracts for ’09: SS Alcides Escobar; 3B Mat Gamel; 3B Casey McGehee; 1B/OF Brad Nelson, C Angel Salome and relievers Tim Dillard and Mitch Stetter. Stetter has the best shot at making the club in spring training as their lefty relief specialist. Dillard’s not out of the question, either.

As for Escobar, his baby’s mama is causing drama. But Alcides’ potential has implications for the team’s best defensive infielder – James Jerry Hardy. Melvin isn’t afraid to say the reason JJ’s never been offered a long-term contract is Escobar. Melvin doesn’t want to ask the SS to move to third either, even though speculation regarding that increased this off-season. Enjoy ‘09 and expect Hardy to contribute big: over the last two seasons he’s hit .280, averaged 25 get-up-get- up-get-outta-here-gone’s, and 77 RBI’s.

And who’s on third? Bill Hall. But there’s some speculation that position could become 3B by committee. Crazy, but true. Mike Lamb worked several wonders for the Crew off the bench last season and will be used again. My clear choice when needed is none other than Craig Counsell. And since my readers enjoyed last week’s flow chart, here’s a comparison graph on Counsell’s production since 2002, courtesy of Right Field Bleachers.

This season, In-Between Hops (the site markets itself as a full keg of Brewers with a couple pints of generic baseball news) calculates there’s a 30% chance the Crew could be the 12th team in MLB History to have four 30-HR hitters and a 7% chance it could be the first team to ever possess five.

Ken Macha is not Pete Rose– but if he were, he’s told the media he thinks five of his guys can knock out 25+. There’s a small chance that seven Brewers could go 25+ in ’09: Braun, Cammie, Prince, Hall, JJ, Hart and Weeks. The odds of this may be similar to me replacing Jim Powell….but nevertheless it is possible.

Shouse…Shouse…let it all out. He’s the next we’ll have to live without as Tampa Bay picks him up. He got a two-year gig, we were offering one. Ray Durham may not play for anyone in ’09. The MLB Network is starting off its first season by spewing hogwash. No Jon Heyman, the Brewers do NOT have interest in free agent lefty Oliver Perez because that investment would be as worthwhile as the last Citibank bailout. Hardricourt sniffs a Boras marketing ploy and we concur.

Surprise! Ben Sheets’ ratings are higher than General Hospital ’s or Days of Our Lives…cmon’ man, I needs me some guarantees. Like Marquette shining without Tom Crean, take your inflated self-worth Ben and issue a courtesy flush.

Don’t have a coronary, but Cappy could be back before the All-Star Break. Melvin estimates as early as May, and some have already shot the Chris Capuano as “Comeback Player of the Year” phrase out. The lefty is recovering from Tommy John’s.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Hill may fly east to nest with the Orioles. This time we’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” Cubs’ pre-game WGN radio announcer Cory Provus may be the front-runner to replace Jimmy Powell. Here’s Jimmy’s farewell to fans. Timeline = February 25th. Uecker reaction = “Back in the day, I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for $3,000. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn’t have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up. Say new guy, how do you catch a knuckleball?

Wait until it stops rolling, then go to the backstop and pick it up.”

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Bullpen & Prospects

By Melissa S. Wollering

Is it just me or are you as baffled as I to see the Brewers now have 39 players on their 40-man roster?  It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve made that much progress in the off-season.

We’ve previously discussed the starting rotation situation in length. This month, Brian Anderson weighed in on whether the Crew needs another starter in his blog. Either way, Yovani Gallardo may step into the top spot in the rotation. Meantime, here’s a preview of what the Brewers’ bullpen may look like come spring

Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman      RHP Carlos Villanueva       RHP David Riske
RHP Jorge Julio                        RHP Todd Coffey             LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Eduardo Morlan (Rule 5 Pick)

Don’t count out Tim Dillard, Mark DiFelice, R.J. Swindle or Luis Pena.  They’re still in the running.

If you’ve seen the latest edition of Baseball in America , then you know some of the Brewers’ prospects are getting as much attention as the American Idol bikini girl; namely their cover boy Alcides Escobar. Tom Hardricourt is behind the Top 10 Prospects list each year for BA and he’s listing SS Escobar, 3B Mat Gamel and C Brett Lawrie as his top three within the Brewers organization.

Canadian prep player Lawrie was the Crew’s first-round pick in ’08.  He insisted on converting to that position full-time. The last time the Crew nurtured a catcher that made it to the big leagues may have been Mike Matheny…AGES ago.

Personally, I’ll be on the edge of my seat for another year until RHP Jeremy Jeffress is ready (at the earliest). He’s approached the 100 mph mark, but is nowhere near ready for this season.

Someone who may not have to wait that long is OF Lorenzo Cain, 22.  “The Toastman” didn’t start playing baseball until high school, but by age 20 he had won the short-season Arizona League batting crown. The reason “Lo-Cain” has got a shot at the bigs this season: in ‘08 he combined for 11 homers, 61 RBIs and 25 steals in the minors.


In the “Arbitration Update,” RHP Seth McClung avoids it by signing for more than $1.6M. Prince Fielder is King after snagging a two-year $18M deal. It’s no surprise Agent Satan ‘figure-dropped’ Ryan Howard’s $10 million from last winter (this year Howard filed for $18M for one year).

For anyone who’s counting, $18 million buys you approximately 29,032,258 veggie burgers. All 5’11’’ and 270 pounds of Fielder would also equal out to $253,521 per inch or $66,667 per pound. Really, he’s as tall as Michelle Obama and only 270?  Which scale were you using?

Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are still working on coming to terms with Bernie Brewer.  Speaking of, you ever notice Bernie could be anyone one of the following men: Phil Garner, Robin Yount or Doug Melvin?  Rollie Fingers says mustaches are the new black.

The Texas Rangers and New York Mets are still eying free agent Ben Sheets. Signing with either would give the Brewers another second-round pick in June. I wager this with Sheets’ future team now: the man will suffer a hangnail, sore elbow, groin pull, ear infection and come down with the stomach flu before he obtains five wins for you next season.  He’ll be on the DL by the All-Star break. But if you want him, take him.  Read NY Daily News John Harper’s case for signing him.

Meanwhile, Doug Melvin may still have a go of it with Braden Looper, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Craig Counsell is back However, word is wiener-whacker Randall Simon did not impress Melvin at last week’s open tryout. Sausages everywhere are rejoicing.

Former Brewer Eric Gagne may be able to choke on a Twinkie this season. Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal III says the Twins would use him in a setup role. Texas has also been mentioned in association with Gag Me.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Harden’s shoulder joint tear is making Ben Sheets’ bill of health look clean. The Baby Bears also traded OF Felix Pie to B-more for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williamson, probably giving up too soon and, in my opinion, getting a less-than-acceptable return for him. The Cubs also inked So Taguchi to a minor-league deal.  He’s 39, over the hill and TERRIBLE at baseball.  I recommend he take up ping pong, chess or underwater basket weaving.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” farewell to Brewers’ announcer Jim Powell. Since 1996, he’s been bringing Bob Uecker back to the play-by-play at hand and providing much needed Usinger Sausage back-and-forth banter. Powell will announce for the Atlanta Braves who are also trying to bring back former Brewer Don Sutton. This is where I shamelessly plug his wonderful son Darren Sutton, whom I had the pleasure of tabulating stats for in the FSN booth for from 2000-2003.

Also, I sweat our comrades at Right Field Bleachers who outlined the history behind the trade of former Brewer Richie Sexson in flow chart magnificence.  Do not miss this one: