Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Odds and Ends

All photos of the Brewers' final 2010 home game available on Flickr.
As the regular season draws to a close, it's time to tie up some loose ends and cover all of the stories I didn't get a chance to write about this year.
- One night when watching the news at my girlfriend's house in Madison this summer, I saw scores for the "Home Talent League" scrolling across the bottom during the sports report. The teams were all playing in small towns in the south-central Wisconsin area, primarily in Dane County. Was this an independent league I'd never heard of? I did some research and discovered it was an adult amateur baseball league founded in 1929. From what I can tell, it's almost akin to a softball or bowling league. Players pay league dues rather than receive any salary and there are tryouts annually for the now 44-team league. Since teams seem to play at local ballfields and county parks it might not be worth "ranking" these fields on this blog but I sure do hope to get to one of these games next season to see some old guys duke it out for the love of the game.
- There were no first-ballot Hall-of-Famers in this year's class, as Andre Dawson was the lone inductee. That might not be the case in upcoming years as there are many big names approaching their eligibility. The next 5 years alone could see Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, and Ken Griffey Jr all welcomed into Coooperstown. The big year to keep an eye on is 2015, because there is a lot of talk that Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux will intentionally not be voted in in '14 so that they could go in together with John Smoltz the following year. All 3 were long-time, Cy Young award winning members of the great Braves teams of the '90s. An induction ceremony is definitely on our list and that would certainly be an awesome year to go. Although it dates myself, it's great to start seeing players I grew up watching getting inducted into the Hall, starting with Ripken and Gwynn 3 years ago.
- In July, there was a vendor inspection report released by ESPN. In it, it very simply lists every team in the 4 major sports and how they faired on their most recent health inspections. The results were given as a percentage of vendors with "critical violations" and listed some of the most heinous for each team. The results were staggering to me, as only the Cubs and White Sox reported no health code violations - this probably speaks to a stricter health code in Chicago. Back home, Miller Park reported that 33% of its vendors had a "critical violation" and that "mold was growing near ice machines in 6 locations." All 3 of the Tampa area's sports venues had at least 75% of its vendors having violations, with the Trop astonishingly having all 100% of its vendors reporting a violation. It's worth noting that Angel Stadium, where Erik and I were told not to eat certain foods in 2007 because of rat infestation, showed an improvement to 12% violations in this study. It's also worth noting that all 30 MLB stadiums passed basic health inspections and standard levels of cleanliness which allowed them to operate despite having violations. I personally don't want to know what is in most of my food as long as it tastes good, let alone ballpark fare, but it's just something interesting to think about.
- A couple notable stories off of Ballpark Digest. The Phillies are now making it possible to order food using an app on your iPhone and having delivered to your seat in 30 minutes or less. Also, the Rays and Athletics ballpark proposals have gone nowhere for another season. The Rays have been drawing very poorly despite having a very good, young team, and the A's are trying to get rights in the San Jose area (Giants territory) to build a stadium there. On a side note, I encourage anyone who wants to read more about these and other ballpark stories to go to Ballpark Digest's website, as it is a fantastic source of information and is very well written and organized. However, I discourage anyone and everyone from become a fan on Facebook. The guy who writes on that fan page is the most pompus and arrogant jerk I have ever come across in my entire life and it is not worth your time.
- I wrote earlier this month about Trevor Hoffman's 600th career save, and I mentioned how Ken Macha getting ejected in the 2nd paved the way for the opportunity. What I did not mention in that post was how the umpire had also tossed 3 other people that game, including an apparently rowdy fan in sitting in the front row by the Brewers dugout. Just one other thing to make Trevor's milestone even more memorable - the first fan ejected by an umpire in Miller Park history. Apparently, Yadier Molina was complaining about some of the comments he was making and asked the ump to do something about it. This was not too long after Molina had started a fight with Brandon Phillips of the Reds which led to a bench-clearing brawl. Looks like the Cards finally having an off year has gotten the best of Yadi.
- Ending on a lighter note, there was a pretty funny story released a few weeks ago - around the same time as the aforementioned umpire-fan story - about Arizona's Ryan Roberts sleeping in the Aces' clubhouse when he was at AAA Reno this summer. He spent most of the 2009 season with the Diamondbacks and figured to be on the club in 2010. But after buying a new car and signing a lease in Phoenix, he ended up getting beat out by Rusty Ryal for the 25th spot on the roster. After a brief callup in May, his family decided it wasn't worth the hassle of moving back to Reno again. So, with the help of the cleaning crew, he proceded to live for most of the season at the ballpark while his wife and daughter were back in Phoenix.
PS - Cincinnati can clinch the NL Central today with a win over the Astros or a Cardinals loss to Pittsburgh - go Redlegs!

Brewers 73-82, -13.5 (4 @ Mets, 3 @ Reds)
Reds 87-69, +6.0 (3 v. Astros, 3 v. Brewers)
Twins 92-64,
AL Central Champs, -1.0 AL Best Record (3 @ Royals, 4 v. Blue Jays)

Erik - 20
Peter - 52

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

600 for Trevor

Congratulations to Trevor Hoffman, who became the first pitcher in Major League history to collect his 600th save in a 4-2 win against the Cardinals last night. The Brewers grabbed the lead in the 5th off of Kyle Lohse, and manager Ken Macha's ejection in the 2nd all but sealed the deal that Trevor would get his 14th save opportunity, as he did not have the chance to blow the game with middle relief as he always does. Instead, bench coach Willie Randolph allowed Chris Narveson to twirl a 9-strikeout, 7-inning gem. John Axford was the setup man in the 8th, and Trevor got his 3 outs in the 9th on a double play ball to second, and a harmless grounder to the sure-handed Craig Counsell at short. The crowd stuck around for a standing ovation, his family embraced him on the field, and he was eventually carried off by team leaders Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. He never wanted any of the pomp and circumstance associated with his quest for 600, but there could not be a more deserving man of all the adoration in all of baseball than Trevor Hoffman. As humble as he is, he even addressed the team with a motivational speech about the value of hard work following his monumental acheivement, in lieu of a celebration.
The save has only been a major league statistic for about 40 years, and Trevor Hoffman has dominated the closer's role for over half of those years throughout his Hall of Fame career. He got 552 of his 600 saves with the San Diego Padres, 1 with the Marlins early in his career, and the remainder with the Brewers, including 9 this season. Although he lost his closer's role early in May to Axford, he was always the consumate professional, and handled his new undefined role with dignity and determination. After amassing a sub-3 ERA following his demotion from the closers role, Hoffman slowly started getting more save opportunities to achieve the unthinkable milestone of 600. I was lucky enough to see save #599 on the Brewers' previous homestand, and hopefully now with the Brewers out of playoff contention, maybe Trevor will get a few more save opportunities and I can see #601 on Friday against the reeling Cubs.
Brewers 65-74, -14.0 (3 v. Cubs, 3 @ Astros, 3 @ Giants)
Reds 79-60, +6.0 (3 v. Pirates, 4 v. Diamondbacks, 3 @ Astros)
Twins 83-57,
+5.5 (3 @ Indians, 3 @ White Sox, 3 v. Athletics)

Erik - 20
Peter - 49

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chapmania in Cincinnati

With all of the hype and excitement surrounding Steven Strasburg, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman's callup to the Reds yesterday met with little fanfare outside of Cincinnati. After an easy 1-2-3 inning against the Brewers on only 8 pitches in his Major League debut last night, and with Strasburg done for this year and probably next with Tommy John surgery, all eyes are now on Chapman. I've been keeping track of him on various Reds blogs as best I can this season, but the few Team Cuba and AAA highlights I've seen hardly do his stuff justice. If you were to create a pitcher from scratch, he would have Chapman's long body type, fluid mechanics, and dynamic stuff. He has a fastball that consistently sits around 100 mph with pretty decent command, a filthy slider in the low 90s, and once in awhile mixes in a changeup that still probably averages a higher speed than half the league's fastballs. Last night he topped out at 103, and just a couple days ago it was reported by several scouts that he hit 105 on the gun in his last appearance for the Louisville Bats. Discounting Bob Feller's famously wild assertions that he was once clocked at 109, Chapman's has got to be the hardest pitch ever legitimately recorded. In a previous blog entry, I discussed how the show Sports Science calculated that it was physically impossible to throw more than 110 without your arm tendons shattering, so that makes his feat even more amazing.
The Reds were smart to call Aroldis up a day before the rosters expanded in order to make him eligible for the postseason roster. There is no doubt he will have an impact on Cincinnati's burned-out middle relief corps, but they're not paying him $30 million to pitch the 7th inning. At some point next season he is going to be stretched out as a starter again, where he struggled mightily in AAA, and the true test will be if he can consistently get major league hitters out or if he will become the next Joel Zumaya. The hardest part is over for Chapman - defecting from Cuba and being dumped in Kentucky for 5 months. I think Chapman will do very well for the Reds this September and hopefully October in a situational role, but his next challenge will be developing a good 3rd pitch in the offseason. You can throw 105 mph fastballs all day, but if they're not located well and the hitter knows it's coming, any big leaguer can turn one around. He may only be 22, but he has over 5 years of experience logging many innings for the Cuban National Team so he will not have to be coddled as so many rookies are. He can and will make an immediate impact on next year's club if he can develop his offspeed pitches, and if his arm doesn't explode.

Brewers 62-70, -15.0 (3 @ Reds, 3 @ Phillies, 3 v. Cardinals)
Reds 77-55, +7.5 (3 v. Brewers, 3 @ Cardinals, 4 @ Rockies)
Twins 76-56,
+3.5 (3 v. Tigers, 3 v. Rangers, 3 v. Royals)

Erik - 20
Peter - 48