Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Thank you, San Francisco Giants! Thank you, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. Thank you, Hunter Pence. Thank you, Santiago Casilla. Thank you, Pablo Sandoval. Thank you, Yusmeiro Petit. Thank you (and congrats), Tim Hudson. Thank you even to Buster Posey.
Thank you, Michael Morse for tying that one game.
Thank you, Travis Ishikawa for walking the birds off the field.
I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today without the efforts and success of the San Francisco Giants. You can drop the #EvenYear hashtag on social media. You can thank a blossomed ace in Bumgarner. You can shower praise on Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff. It’s all deserved. It’s all warranted. “THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT!”
And as happy as I am today that the senior circuit representative in this year’s Fall Classic plays its home games outside the state of Missouri, my desire for Giant victories ended when that ball left Ishikawa’s bat.
So why am I rooting against them starting tonight? I like the Giants just fine. I like most of their players. Only Angel Pagan really gets my dander up, and he’ll miss this series with injury anyway. So this isn’t about the Giants.
As far as leagues go, I absolutely prefer the National League game to that of its younger brother. The Designated Hitter should be done away with (though I realize it never will be). The strategy and timing of the NL game makes for a beautiful, and sometimes sickening, dance where decisions feel like they loom larger. You can’t always just pitch a guy until he’s done. Maybe you have to lift a pitcher early because of a key offensive spot. Maybe you try to stretch a guy farther because his spot is due up next half inning. Et cetera. There is so much more that goes into it. It’s more interesting and more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.
I’m a stump for the NL way of life. My team plays in the National League, for what that’s worth.
So, again, I ask: Why am I rooting against the Giants?
Well, to be fair it’s about rooting for Kansas City more than it is about rooting against San Francisco.
Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. All former Brewers. All good guys who I enjoy watching succeed. But pulling for the Royals is deeper than just that connection. Doug Henry and Dale Sveum. Both former Brewers. Both members of KC’s coaching staff. I like that, and personally like Sveum as a coach, but certainly wouldn’t use that as a reason to cheer for one team over another. Ned? Not even a little bit.
So instead of continuing to tell you why I’m not rooting for them, even though they are fine reasons should you choose to use them, here’s why I am.
I look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals and I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s not a perfect 1:1 on the field, of course, but the similarities even at that micro level are interesting. It’s more about how they go about their business on the field, the lights out bullpen, trading away young and controllable talent for a shot at the brass ring, the payoff of a long-term plan. You can take it one step farther and compare to 2008 in Milwaukee where the Brewers faltered down the stretch while trying to hold off other teams for the Wild Card. In 2008 there was only the one Wild Card spot available, but the Brewers held off the Mets to win it by just one game. In 2014, Kansas City got the home game by just one game over Oakland (who held off Seattle by just one game).
Kansas City rode years of awfulness to amass a bunch of young talent in their system. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon (drafted the same year as, and ahead of, Ryan Braun, by the way), Wil Myers, the list goes on. In fact, you could almost mark the 2005 draft which got the Brewers the final “homegrown” piece to their playoff runs in Braun as the start of the Royals turnaround. In that way, they’ve been a few years behind the Brewers’ blueprint. Get a bunch of young, talented guys in the system with a goal to hit the Majors at roughly the same time, supplement with free agents, and when the moment is right, make a big trade (or two) at the big league level by sending out minor leaguers to go for it.
Let’s break that down, in case you aren’t agreeing with me.
Milwaukee: Drafted Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun. Traded away Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley (and more)) for CC Sabathia in 2008. Traded away Cain, Escobar, Jake Odorizzi (and more) for Zack Greinke in 2011. Traded Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum in 2011. Supplemented with veterans: 2011 -Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Takashi Saito. 2008 – Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, (ironically) Counsell.
Kansas City: Drafted Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Greg Holland. They scouted international amateurs like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura. Traded away Zack Greinke to acquire several young pieces. Flipped Odorizzi with Wil Myers to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Supplemented with veterans like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Josh Willingham, and Jason Frasor.
I think I’ve made my point.
Their offensive games differ, to be sure, as the Brewers hit home runs at a great pace in 2011 and the Royals are more about speed and getting hits that raise the ol’ BABIP. But the rotations were similarly solid from top to bottom, but the real crux of what sent me down this comparison exercise are the late inning relievers.
- Closer: John Axford (1.95 ERA / 2.41 FIP / 46 saves / 1.140 WHIP / 10.5 K/9)
- Setup man: Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA / 2.23 FIP / 1.138 WHIP / 10.2 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: LaTroy Hawkins / Takashi Saito (Combined: 2.28 ERA / 1.200 WHIP / 6.1 K/9)
- (the Brewers used two veterans so as to keep them fresh)
- Closer: Greg Holland (1.44 ERA / 1.83 FIP / 46 saves / 0.914 WHIP / 13.0 K/9)
- Setup man: Wade Davis (1.00 ERA / 1.19 FIP / 0.847 WHIP / 13.6 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA / 2.69 FIP / 1.143 WHIP / 7.6 K/9)
Six inning games are easier to win than nine inning games. Both of these teams had/have that game-shortening bullpen that general managers are yearning to cobble together each and every off-season.
I won’t lie to you though. The former Brewers being on the Royals certainly helps me root for them. In fact, it led to a series of tweets (@BrewerNation) with commentary how the team with the most former Brewers on it was winning every series (and even every game for a while) in the 2014 Postseason.
Market size, payroll relative to MLB’s elite, a fan base desperate for a winner after more than 25 years of missing the playoffs, that their last pennant was won in the 1980’s — these are all comparisons between the two franchises that help me see them in such a similar light.
But when it comes down to it, when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, when all the clichés have been dropped…
I’m rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals because I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and what might have been.
The comparisons can stop there, though, because this Kansas City team won the two games which that Milwaukee team didn’t. The Royals won their pennant and now have a chance to win another World Series, while the Brewers still seek their first championship.
But if these Royals can get the job done, it offers renewed hope that my team can one day get back and accomplish the same.
And that’s worth rooting for more than anything.
It’s Tuesday as I type.
It’ll be Friday as I drink liquids and eat a bratwurst…at 10am or so.
Three short days remain until Opening Day. It’s going to be a fun ride this season and I hope you’ll all have ample opportunity to get to Miller Park this year and enjoy that ride.
A man looking to enjoy a full season of Major League Baseball is the subject of today’s profile. He is backup infielder:
2011 began okay for now 32-year-old native of Venezuela, but he was placed on the disabled list on May 18th with an ulnar nerve injury. He returned in early August, but three days later was banged for the rest of the season with a groin strain.
He signed his free agent contract with Milwaukee on December 2, 2011 and was an immediate consideration for the backup utility infielder spot vacated when Jerry Hairston, Jr. signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Craig Counsell retired.
Izturis can perform capably on defense at 2B, 3B and SS, and when he was told he would be added to the 25-man roster at the end of the Spring Training it came as no real surprise. That’s because despite his defensive struggles this spring, he’s the only legitimate MLB-caliber player who could backup at shortstop that the Brewers had in camp. He’s also a switch-hitter which adds value. He can pinch hit for anybody and then double-switch into a number of positions.
Managers appreciate that kind of flexibility.
Now, having said all of that, Izturis isn’t exactly a good player anymore.
Recent track record shows a trend of injury and ineffectiveness. He’d have to overcome a bit of that history in order to stick in a normal situation, but in Milwaukee he’ll get more of a chance then he otherwise might. But if his glove doesn’t come around, he’ll be jettisoned when the team can find a more capable option.
Then again, players who can man shortstop, that come cheap, and can switch-hit aren’t exactly your standard unemployment line fodder. They tend to have jobs.
As far as 2012 is concerned though, it’ll be a success if Izturis can stay healthy, and convert outs into outs when he’s asked to give starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez a breather. He’ll need to contribute in a pinch-hitting role on occasion as well, but he’s on the team primarily because he is physically able to play shortstop. Don’t sell that point short in your mind.
The biggest concern?
If anything, it’s that the elbow nerve issue last year comes on an elbow which underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2005. It’s a minor concern really, but he missed almost three months with that injury and Father Time catches up to all athletes eventually. He hasn’t shown any issues with it so far this spring, but as far as I can tell he didn’t have any issues last spring either.
Just something to keep our collective eyes on.
Again, though, if Izturis can answer the bell and provide the services he is on the team to provide, nobody will be able to complain with much authority throughout the year.
It feels like I’ve only written one of these articles in over a week.
That’s probably because I have only written one article (#33 Eric Farris) in the past eight days. That’s because a significant chunk of the 30’s are consumed by coaches, plus one number is unavailable (thanks for the memories, Mr. Fingers!).
All that said, let’s get right into today’s profile:
Last year the position was manned by stalwart and lightning rod Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt brought relatively ineffective play, a penchant for making the routine seem incredibly difficult at times, but also a knack for coming through when you least expected it.
Yuni B. was shipped out following the 2011 season and Alex Gonzalez (who will be profiled on March 26th) was brought in to be the starter. Despite his inconsistency, the one thing Betancourt could be counted on for was answering the bell.
He started 146 games at shortstop for the Brewers in 2011. Alex Gonzalez won’t be doing that and therefore a capable backup is needed this year more than it was last year.
The thing is, the capable backup options on the 25-man roster all dried up this offseason as well as Jerry Hairston, Jr. followed his wallet to Los Angeles and Craig Counsell retired from the game altogether.
For Maysonet, opportunity is knocking loudly and clearly.
This is not just some organizational guy who continues to play at Triple-A simply because he’s been there for a while and nobody better has come along. Maysonet, 30, has seen big league time with the Houston Astros in parts of two seasons. He has started 17 games at the Major League level.
So how did he come to the Brewers anyway?
After the Astros made him a 19th round draft pick in 2003, Maysonet made his debut just over five years later on September 7, 2008. The Astros designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot in September of 2010. The Brewers, being perilously thin in the upper levels of the minors as the shortstop position scooped Maysonet up on a minor-league free agent contract which was signed in mid-December of that same year.
The Brewers have used Maysonet primarily in the shortstop role, though he is capable is playing second and even third if necessary.
He’s got the arm strength and range to play short (despite a team-high 23 errors last year), but in order to beat out fellow non-roster invitee (though 11-year MLB veteran) Cesar Izturis for the job he’ll have to contribute something offensively.
In 2011 for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Maysonet hit .290/.347/.386, with 111 hits in 383 at-bats. The thing holding Maysonet back though is that his batting average is what’s commonly referred to as an “empty” one. He did have 29 extra-base hits, but only three home runs. He also doesn’t run as evidenced by his two stolen bases in three attempts. As for the run production stats, he only scored 57 and only drove in 39.
In this series of profiles I am focusing on the men that have a chance to make the roster and provide a legitimate contribution either from the 40-man roster or, in this case, as a non-roster invitee. Backup shortstop is the most open competition in camp and therefore anybody in big league camp that can play the position warrants consideration.
All that being said, and while I’m not saying that Izturis is necessarily the answer either, there is a reason that Yuniesky Betancourt was the starter all year and that when they needed a backup middle infielder in July and for the balance of the season in 2011 it wasn’t Maysonet’s number was not called.
Could he change the minds of those in charge and warrant himself a spot on the 25-man roster? Sure. That’s why he’s there. He’ll even earn some points when not playing is Izturis’ poor defense continues much longer. But the problem facing Maysonet is simply an overall lack of impact ability.
Bottom line: He’s a nice piece at Triple-A and in a short-term pinch he probably could man the post for a handful of games, but I honestly feel like it would take a major event for him to beat out yet another mercenary.