Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's the first day of the season. I'm not worried yet.

I had so much to say today. Thoughts of what I would write for my opening day post had swirled in my head for months. I could hardly contain my excitement. I had to constantly remind myself that the season is long and I'd hate to burn out by May.


Last year, I was driving to Milwaukee on a Friday night in early April (for the next day's game). We were listening to the Brewers-Cardinals game on the radio. The Brewers led 4-3 going into the top of the ninth. Hoffman came in to Hells Bells--and gave up a two-run home run to Nick Stavinoha. While disappointing, it hardly seemed memorable at the time. It dropped Milwaukee to 2-2. Losing sucked but it was early in the season. (Insert it's a marathon, not a sprint metaphor here.) And then Hoffman blew another save on Sunday.

What I know now, that I didn't know then, is that things would only get worse for Hoffman. At one point, Carlos Villanueva was handed the ball as the team's closer. A team doesn't post a 77-85 record without any number of things going wrong, but blowing a ninth inning lead to a division rival is NEVER a good sign.

You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little rattled, then, after what happened today in Milwaukee's season opener. Yep, the Brewers blew a ninth inning lead to a division rival. Milwaukee built a 6-3 lead against the Reds behind home runs from Rickie Weeks, Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun. And then John Axford came in to pitch the ninth and gave up four runs, including a walk-off, three-run homer to Ramon "Nick Stavinoha" Hernandez.

I may be a little jaded but I'm not worried yet. Really I'm not. I refuse to be one of those people that pretends that she saw a sub-par season coming and prepares for the worst. I have high expectations and, if all else fails, I have a lot of beer.

Reds 7, Brewers 6
Game played 3-31-11

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Training Day Three: Please leave the injuries in the desert

While I ate my first ever In-N-Out burger, Ryan Braun was injuring himself. We were a little late to the ball park for the second day in a row but that was because of road construction on our maiden voyage to the holy land of hamburgers. By the time we arrived in the bottom of the first inning, Braun had been taken out of the game with a strained intercostal muscle. Sort of the story of spring training. The In-N-Out burger did not disappoint. I found it meatier and juicier than a Culver's burger, although Seth said that he preferred Culver's.

Spring training injuries should be left in the desert (to die).
When we did arrive at the ballpark, I had to squeeze into my seat because the guy next to me decided that he needed my leg space more than I did. Initially, I was annoyed and plotted ways to spill my beer on him. Later, after I chatted with him a bit, he said he remembered me (or at least the team that I played on) way back when I played high school basketball in Wisconsin. To be honest, he probably remembered my teammates who were much better players, but this little bit of flattery made me forget about his meaty legs for a while.

Shaun Marcum was the starter against the Diamondbacks and he did not fare well. He gave up four runs in 3.2 innings. He did get down a nice bunt, however, so that made me feel more positive about him.  He also gave up a monster shot to Russell Branyan--which actually made me happy. Maybe that guy sitting next to me had more of an effect on me than I realized.

Is it a bad sign if Marcum's bunting was better than his pitching?

Branyan did not miss the next one.

Prince Fielder got hit by a pitch and went 2-for-2. Fortunately, the pitch didn't seem to dent him. He played on but took a long time walking to first. Casey McGehee followed with a deep shot to left field. I hope to see a lot of this in the coming year--two-run homers that is, not Prince getting hit by pitches.

In all, it was a pretty decent outing for the Brewers. After the game, I wanted to seek out player autographs or at least watch the players interact with fans seeking autographs but Seth said that it would "send him over the edge" so we headed back to the hotel instead.

Brewers 6, Diamondbacks 4
Game played 3-12-11

This passes as a partly cloudy day in Arizona. 

McGehee and Prince head back to the dugout after McGehee's home run. Yuni seems invisible to them.

Spring Training Day Two: Marriage is about compromise

Despite the fact that I tell him that he is all the time, my husband does not think that he is the luckiest man in the world. Many, if not most, men would think that a wife who likes baseball as much as I do would be awesome. Seth struggles with it. It’s not that he doesn’t like baseball. He does. It’s that he doesn’t like it as much as I do. If he were a single man (or married to someone else), he would not spend his vacation in Phoenix watching the Milwaukee Brewers play spring training games. But that’s where he was so he tried to make the most of it.

Taliesin West. I love Frank Lloyd Wright even if he never played an inning of baseball.
On Day Two of the vacation, Seth asked if I wanted to tour Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. I said sure. It was about 10 a.m. and the Brewers game didn’t start until 1 p.m. It took us longer to reach northeast Scottsdale than either of us had anticipated, however, and our tour didn’t start until 11:15. I knew that there was no way that we would be able to get back to Maryvale Stadium in time for the start of the game. But I agreed to the tour and to stop for lunch any way because Seth wanted to (plus, it might keep me from eating another funnel cake.) Things are better when Seth is happy.

We got to the game in the bottom of the second inning. Yovani Gallardo was pitching and I was glad that I had not missed his entire outing. Gallardo looked fairly sharp in his 3+ innings of work. It occurred to me that I should take notes so that I could make informed comments for the blog. But the thing that struck me about spring training is that you have to pay very close attention to all the substitutions or you will be completely lost. The score tells very little about what is transpiring or what might be important for the regular season.

Yovani Gallardo gave up one run on four hits. He struck out four. 

Mark DiFelice pitched a strong ninth inning and I was there to see it.
I was drinking beer (but not eating!!), re-applying sun block every third inning and trying to make sure that Seth didn’t melt in the sun, so I was not able to make any keen observations. I decided that I was on vacation and it would be OK to have fun rather than worry about Brandon Boggs' ability to hit to the opposite field. I will tell you that Erick Almonte made me feel better about Prince’s eminent departure. I will also tell you that Luis Cruz missed a sign for a suicide squeeze forcing Mike Rivera to attempt to steal home. I mean, why wouldn’t you want your third string catcher to steal home? And, I will tell you that Mark DiFelice pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the win. All of my compromises worked out just fine.

Zelous Wheeler. He should have a band called Zelous Wheeler and the Zelous Wheelers. 

Brewers 4, A’s 3
Game played 3-11-11

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And so it begins

My first post of the 2011 season comes to you LIVE from beautiful and sunny Phoenix, Arizona. There are two things that you need to know to understand how I ended up here. First, one of the things that has become clear to me during this off-season is that I am not particularly good at--nor do I really care to engage in--statistical analysis as a mode of player analysis. Others do it better; argue for particular trades or against particular player signings. I read what they have to say and hope like crazy that the Brewers will win a lot of games in the upcoming season. Despite my lack of rational analysis, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the Brewers have put together one of their best rosters in recent memory. If you can’t get excited about the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, you didn’t watch enough Brewer games over the last few years. I’m pretty flippin’ excited.

Second, on the day before Thanksgiving, a meth head (or group of meth heads) broke into our home while we were at work. [This is according to the police, who do not have enough evidence to charge them.] They took a lot of our stuff and most disturbing to me, they took all of my jewelry. Nearly all of the things Seth bought for me, things from my dead grandmother, birthday gifts, items I wore at my wedding, GONE. (Fortunately, I had my wedding and engagement rings on so I still have those.) It was and is devastating. I felt violated. And then I felt bad for feeling bad--I mean, it was not like they took the money I had saved for my cancer treatment. (I don’t have cancer, but this was what came to my mind when I started to feel sorry for myself. Others have it worse.) As the holidays approached, I couldn’t make myself really give a shit. Usually, I love Christmas. This year, I didn’t. After some soul searching, I discovered it was because I thought that all of the Christmas gifts that I would receive would be replacements for the things that had been stolen. And then I felt bad for feeling bad. And I felt bad for feeling mad. I was a mess.

So, on Christmas Eve, my husband handed me a letter sized white envelope, smiled and said, “Merry Christmas.” Right away I knew that it was not replacement jewelry. I opened the envelope and started to cry when I saw the contents. And then I started to jump up and down and yell, “I’m going to spring training, bitches.” [OK, I didn’t yell bitches because I was at my in-laws’ house, but I think it makes for a better story.]

Spring Training Day One: Sunblock, Sweat and Powdered Sugar

Seth and I arrived in Phoenix on Thursday and drove directly from the rental car place to the Maryvale Baseball Complex. We asked two different parking lot attendants if there was somewhere that we could change. (You know, like the Sausage Haus.) There was no where so we ended up changing in the car in the parking lot. After putting on shorts, we slathered on two different types of sun block. One with an SPF of 70 in lotion form and one with an SPF of 100 that we sprayed on. We then walked into the stadium and headed for concessions. It was at this point that we both realized that we had put on so much sun block that we had white lotion residue all over our faces, arms and legs. Strike one.

We then scarfed down multiple brats, beers and pretzels before the game even started. We had good seats, just a few rows behind the Brewers dugout. And we were in the sun. It was awesome. It was 88 degrees. And then it became less awesome. Seth and I estimated that we may have spent as little as 5 hours outside all winter (and that number is only that high because sometimes I do my back-to-run program outside). After two hours in the sun, I was drenched with sweat, which, when combined with all the sun block, left me with that not-so-fresh, slimy skin feeling. So, I did what anyone would do in my position. I went and got a huge beer and a funnel cake with extra powdered sugar topping. Then I was hot AND covered in the dreaded trifecta of sun block, sweat and powdered sugar. And it was only the fourth inning. Strike two. Then my stomach began to revolt. It started to scream, “What did you do???” Strike three. I felt like such a rookie.

I vowed that these same mistakes would not be made in Day Two.

The Ax got roughed up a bit. Man, does he look skinny. 
Oh, right, the Brewers. They lost in extra innings. Braun hit a three-run home run. Ax looked bad giving up two hits and two walks. Apparently he lost around 15 pounds because of the food poisoning. You can tell. I thought Prince looked thinner, too, but Seth thought he looked the same but was maybe wearing less baggy clothing. Chorizo won. Chris Dickerson was impressive. One of the highlights for me was when the “junior announcer” tried to announce Wil Nieves’ name and couldn’t quite get it right. Wil was laughing even as he stepped into the batter’s box and took the first pitch.

Despite my discomfort, the game went into extra innings allowing me a little more time to bake. Ron Roenicke and Jim Tracy made some hand signals to each other at the end of the ninth inning that I interpreted to mean that the game would go just one more inning. I love spring training. [I haven't heard any more about Tracy being sick after he collapsed at the winter meetings. He seemed fine during this game.]

Our new manager, Ron Roenicke, and our new pitcher, Zack Greinke. Hopefully they're still speaking at the end of the season. 

Rockies 9, Brewers 8 (10 innings)
Game played 3-10-11