Archive for February, 2010

Strange to See…

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I must admit, it’s strange to see Ben Sheets pitching in another team’s uniform. Then again, it’s strange seeing Ben Sheets actually pitching.

RFB archives will show that I haven’t always been the kindest to Milwaukee’s former ace, but I do wish him the best in 2010. And frankly, Sheets signing with a non-contending team that plays in an equally small market AND in a different league makes it that much easier to root for him.

So for God’s sake, win 20 games, Big Ben! It’ll put the A’s 22-140 on the season… but will still put a smile on my face. Earn that $10 M salary in the — likely — 90 innings you’ll pitch. Teach your “mechanics” to players that will (hopefully) one day be traded to Milwaukee at the deadline.

I’ll hold to the claim that I’m glad Ben Sheets isn’t a part of the Brewers this season. However, seeing him wearing new colors, surprisingly, feels a bit odd to me.

But best of luck Ben… but not the kind of luck that will bring you to an actual contender in 2011, yet luck nonetheless.

And if he happens to take public transit, I hope he doesn’t encounter this guy.

Is Vargas Swiping The Ignitor’s Number?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

In the Brewers.com online store, if you select Claudio Vargas from the players list for authentic personalized jerseys, his jersey number is No. 4.

This is obviously a mistake as Paul Molitor’s No. 4 has been retired for years and Vargas is still listed as No. 46 on his Brewers.com player’s page, but on a slow Wednesday at the start of Spring Training, it’s somewhat interesting nevertheless.

Thanks to commentor Hoffman 51 on JSOnline who pointed out the mistake in JSOnline’s Brewers Blog comments.

Chuck Lofgren Interview

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Life is good right now for Brewers pitcher Chuck Lofgren. Coming off a season in which he took a big step toward re-establishing himself as a prospect, the big lefty had a busy offseason. The former top Cleveland Indians prospect was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Brewers, shared the stage with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood and spent his off time with a bikini model. And now the California native is working in Arizona with a spot on the Brewers Major League team on the line.

Lofgren took some time off his pre-Spring Training work to chat with Right Field Bleachers. Despite an interview performance on my part that was akin to the level of play you’d expect from the 2009 Brewers pitching staff, complete with barely intelligible questions and wreckless disregard for appropriate follow-ups, Lofgren showed the composure that could make him a valuable addition to the Brewers bullpen. He is determined to show the Brewers decision makers that he has what it takes to compete at the big-league level and is willing to contribute in any way the team might need him to, even if it means wielding a bat, which is a talent he was known for in his high school days.

The Brewers are bringing a lot of pitchers to camp and competition will be fierce, but I wouldn’t bet against Lofgren being amongst those left standing after the final cuts. And hopefully Doug Melvin and company have struck gold with this 24-year-old left-handed hurler.

Listen to the interview here (intro and outro song is “Pistol of Fire” by Kings of Leon):

This is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have Chuck Lofgren on the phone, Brewers pitcher, and we’re just going to ask a few questions.

First off, thanks for joining us, Chuck.

Thank you, Jared. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me on here.

I guess to start off, it’s been kind of a crazy offseason for you so far I’m sure.

Yeah, it really has. Being selected in the Rule 5 draft has been a great experience and it’s been one that I’ve loved and I’m really thankful for the position that the Brewers have put me in.

And what was your reaction when you found out that the Brewers selected you and kind of the opportunity you had there?

My reaction was ecstatic. It was beyond words for me. Because to be able to be on a Major League roster and for a team to believe in you enough to select you in that and then take you over and give you a chance to make a team out of spring, that’s a great honor and I feel truly blessed. It’s a great experience and a learning thing for me. I’m just going to move on and hopefully get all of my work done and succeed like I know how to.

Have they talked to you at all about what role they envision for you on the ballclub?

You know, there’s been bits and pieces of what they’ve said. They’ve said things from being another left-handed reliever to a lefty specialist to a spot starter, mid reliever. So, I’ve heard everything. I’m just getting my work done and getting my arm ready to go in camp and whatever role they want me in is what I’m going to get after and do.

You mostly started when you were in Cleveland’s system, but I guess, just from an outside observation, it would look like your best chance to make this team would be out of the bullpen. Are you open to doing that and do you think it’s something you could succeed with?

Yeah, it’s definitely something I’m open to doing. Being with a new team brings new opportunity. And I feel like I can be successful with that. I feel like my numbers were good enough last year where I think I deserve a chance to pitch up there and see what I can do and I’m excited about the opportunity. If they want me to start, I’ll start. And if they want me to relieve, I’ll relieve.

Yeah, and one thing that a lot of writers and people covering the team have mentioned is that it seems like there are going to be a lot of pitchers in this camp and, you know, they recently signed Scott Schoewenweis, who is another lefty, do you welcome that challenge of those guys, or I guess what’s your mentality going into it knowing that you have that spot to earn and there are a lot of guys there to compete against?

Honestly, I’m not really worried about it. I feel like if I come into camp and I take care of my side of things, that I’ll have nothing to worry about. I’m not worried about who’s signed or who’s ahead of me or whatnot. I’m just focused on what I need to do to get myself in the best physical shape, you know, mentally and physically. And from the pitching standpoint, I feel like if my command is good and my pitches are working for me, there’s going to be an opportunity there for me.

And you mentioned before we started the interview that you’re in Arizona working out with the team already. Have you met Rick Peterson? Have you done any work with him?

I have not met Rick yet. I’ve spoken to him on the phone. But I’m sure I’ll meet him here either tomorrow or Friday.

OK, and I guess being down in Arizona, did you know any of the guys on the team going in or all fresh faces for you?

It’s all fresh faces for me. I played against Josh Butler when we were in high school together and a couple of tournaments when we were younger, but that’s about the extent of it.

And can you talk a little bit about the past few years for you? I think last year was kind of a bounce back year for you. You had some control problems previously, but it seemed like you started to get over that last year a little bit.

Yeah, in 2008 I had some circumstances that I couldn’t really deal with. I was dealing with my mother going through cancer and my brother-in-law going through cancer as well and a couple things were weighing heavy on my heart. But I don’t use that as an excuse for a reason why I did bad, but it definitely was in my mind. And I feel like at times I had gotten off key. But I feel like now with a bounce-back year and the year I have this year, I feel like I’m ready to go. I’ve put myself back on the map and I’m ready to go back after it.

Being a Rule 5 draft pick is kind of a unique situation. Is there any part of you that kind of wants to show the Indians that they should have held onto you?

You know, it’s not really about that. The Indians felt like I wasn’t good enough to put on the roster and that was their decision. I’m not going to say whether it was right or wrong. I’m excited about the opportunity that I have ahead of me. And I’m just looking forward now.

Since you haven’t come up through the Brewers system, most Brewers fans won’t be real familiar with what kind of a pitcher you are, can you kind of give us a little bit of a self scouting report?

Well, from scouting reports I’ve read, I’ve read usually a tall, physical pitcher, 6’4”, 220 pounds. I throw a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, curve and slider. My fastball ranges anywhere from 88 to 94 miles an hour. My strong parts are deceptiveness and I’ve got a good change-up that I can throw on any count. I feel like my biggest asset is my ability to attack hitters and to never back down. I feel like, when I’m on the mound, that I don’t want anybody to beat me. I have that burning desire in my heart that I want to get the better of the hitter every time. That’s basically the breakdown. I’m very durable. I haven’t missed a start in five years in the Cleveland Indians organization. I never had an injury. Knock on wood. Yeah, that’s basically the breakdown of the scouting report.

And in some of the scouting reports from when you were in high school that I saw, some of the scouts were saying that you could turn into quite a power hitter in the Majors if you were brought up as a position player. Have you ever had any thoughts of doing a little Rick Ankiel position change?

You know, as of right now, I haven’t. Right now, my focus is on pitching and I’m going to do that until the day someone tells me that I can’t do that anymore. Then, of course, yeah, I’d give hitting a shot. I loved hitting. I played on Team U.S.A. for three years in a row and I was a three-hole hitter and I played right or centerfield and that was a lot of fun for me those days. But I got drafted as a pitcher and since then I’ve been just focused on pitching. But, obviously now in the National League, you get to hit again and hopefully they’ll take notice of that in Spring Training when we get to step in that cage and take some hacks.

Yeah, so you think you might ask Macha to take a few cuts during the season if you make the roster?

You know, I’m going to let him decide that for himself. Obviously, he’s not going to want a pitcher hitting up there. But it never hurts your case as a pitcher if you can hit a little bit. Look at Sabathia and a couple of guys like that who can really put a good swing on the ball. You never know. They can be used in different types of situations like that.

Another thing I saw when I was looking around, doing a little research on you, is I found a YouTube video of you singing with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. What’s the story behind that?

Well, I’ve always loved to sing. And a lot of people have told me that they like to hear me sing and want me to sing for them and it’s a lot of fun for me. I’m involved in this charity, it’s called Teammates for Kids, and every year, Garth flies you and a guest out. This year it was in Nashville, last year it was in Vegas. And, on Friday night, you have a meet and greet with him. This year, we were standing in line, my girlfriend and I, Jen, were standing in line and we got up there and we got to talk to him a little bit. We were saying our favorite songs and kind of talking back and forth and I said, “Hey, don’t be afraid to call me up on stage. I can sing a little bit.” And he started laughing and said, “Yeah, yeah, I hear that all the time, but when you get up there and the lights are on you, it’s a little different.” And I said, “No seriously, you might be surprised. Call me up.”

So, Saturday night comes around and we’re at the Country Music Hall of Fame and we have dinner there and there’s a live auction. Steve Levy and Barry Melrose are the keynote speakers of the night. You know, just talking, having a good time. And we went downstairs to the Ford Theater and Garth came out with his band and his wife. They came out and started singing. And halfway through the concert, Garth goes, “Last night I had a young ballplayer come up to me and tell me he could sing a little bit.” And he starts laughing and he goes, “Is Chuck in the crowd?” And I raised my hand and he goes, “Get on up here, bud, here’s your moment.” And I was really nervous, so at first I scream out, “I was just kidding, Garth.” And everybody starts laughing. And he goes, “Ah, come on, get up here.” And I was like, “Alright.”

So, everybody started clapping and I got down there and I’m thinking I’m going to be in the background and sing back-up vocals with Trisha and the band and he goes, “No, no, no, no. You get up front and  you’re singing the whole song.” I sang “Much Too Young” and it was awesome. He gave me a hug afterward and the band. It was a great experience getting a standing ovation like that.

Yeah, and would you say you were more nervous up there than when you have to take the mound during a game?

Yeah, that was a whole different experience I’ve never felt before. I’ve pitched in front of a lot of fans before and pitching on a mound doesn’t really rattle me, but singing in front people, that really got to me and I absolutely loved it.

Well, is there anything else that you’d like to add, anything you think Brewers fans should know about you going into the season?

Just that I’m determined, a hard worker and I’m a great person. Don’t be afraid to say hello to me at Spring Training or off the field. And it’s going to be a great time. I really have a good feeling about this year. And I can’t wait. I’m excited for the Brewers.

Alright, well, thanks again for joining us and good luck.

Thank you, Jared. I appreciate it.

Seth McClung Interview

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Midway through the season last year, Right Field Bleachers started to make efforts to land a Seth McClung interview. It was a bit of a long shot. Frankly, most MLB players have better things to do with their off time than talk to fan blogs, but it just seemed like Seth was the kind of personality that would be willing to do it. And fans wanted to hear from Seth. It was obvious from the beginning of Big Red’s time in Milwaukee that the fans and him connected.

After some legwork, we got ahold of Seth and lined up an interview. He just had to approve it with the Brewers media folks. Unfortunately, the Brewers media department has an extremely overbearing and dated policy towards blogs. Essentially, blogs get zero access, no exceptions. After pleading my case and being a pest for a week or two, they bent a little and allowed the interview just this one time. And then a day later, Seth was injured and the interview was off again. Bad luck…

Once the offseason hit and it was clear that Seth was no longer going to be a Brewer (and therefore we didn’t have to go through the hassle that is the Brewers media department), we started to effort an interview with him again. After a few weeks, we finally connected.

Seth called us up on Super Bowl Sunday and chatted for about a half hour. And he didn’t disappoint. The newly signed Florida Marlin hit on everything from how much he truly loved Milwaukee and Brewer fans (and how wants to come back at some point), the clubhouse chemistry, his role as the team “janitor,” his rift with Ken Macha, Todd Coffey’s “man boobs” and “sixth inning bathroom visit” and much, much more.

Say what you want about the Seth, but the guy is genuine and he’s a blast. I’m going to miss watching him as a Brewer.

Listen to the interview here (intro and outro song is “Modern Times” by The Black Keys):

This is Jared with Right Field Bleachers and we have former Brewer Seth McClung on the phone. I guess, first off, Seth, congrats on joining the Marlins. How did that deal come to be and what did you like about the opportunity there.

Well, thanks for having me, first off. You guys got in touch with me through the West Virginia Rush program I run and, before I answer your question, one of the reasons I really felt like it was kind of cool to do this through the blogs is I really feel like Milwaukee has a pretty kick ass following through the blogs and the fans really voice their opinions.

But the way the Marlins deal came about is when I became a free agent, pretty much every team in the National League showed interest and a few teams in the American League. We waited around and it boiled down to where the best opportunity for me to get back in the Major Leagues and stay in the Major Leagues seemed to be in Florida. I think we might have waited a little bit too long on a couple of things, but we’re here in Florida and it’s a good opportunity. I turned down more money in a couple of other places because of the opportunity. It’s closer to home for my family. We have a five-month old and it’s going to be an opportunity where Stephanie, my better half, doesn’t have to really quit school. She can still drive now back and forth between the Tampa Bay area, Jupiter is in the Tampa Bay area, and Miami. So, a lot of family decisions came into it.

Obviously, I would’ve loved to come back to Milwaukee. That was my first choice. But that’s not something they really wanted to do.

Photo taken by Nicole at Cute Sports

You mentioned a number of times in interviews and on your Twitter account that you had a really good time in Milwaukee and you loved the fans here. So, needless to say, you were a little disappointed you weren’t able to stay with the team?

Yeah, I was really disappointed. I felt like in 2007, when I got traded, I didn’t really do much, but I saw that it was such a great clubhouse. And then 2008 rolled around and I was blessed with the opportunity to start 13 games and then pitch in September and towards the playoffs. And I felt like I really added a lot to the team. I was praised by our coaching staff and the general manager and everybody for my accomplishments in 2008.

And then 2009 rolls around and, you know, we have a change at the top. And, obviously, if you look at the season, I started out pitching great. And then, you know, circumstances came up that were beyond my control and I tried to appease certain wants and I started to pitch poorly. And I continued to appease certain wants and I got hurt.

So, I had to come back. It was big. I got hurt late in the season and it was an injury that most guys would’ve packed up and not tried to come back from, but I felt like we still had a chance at the playoffs. When I got hurt, we were still in it. And then we basically fell out of it, but I wasn’t going to give up on my teammates and the organization. I tried to come back and just prove that being a Brewer meant a lot to me. It wasn’t about me, it was just about not letting my teammates down. You hate to compare things to war or a fight, but I didn’t want to leave my guys hanging. Our bullpen was beat up and they needed some help. I really wanted to get back for them.

All that hard work, I mean, once I got the initial opportunity to come to Milwaukee, I felt like I did everything I possibly could to make the fans and to make the organization happy. I really loved it there and it’s a shame that it came down to an individual decision. Who knows how long certain people will be there, but I would love to come back to Milwaukee one day.

You talked a little bit about the bullpen and the pitching struggling last year, and most of your time with Milwaukee you kind of bounced between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Did that contribute to some of the difficulties you had at all? Was it hard to keep switching roles?

It is, but it’s hard to pitch in the Major Leagues. I mean, it was my job.

You take a look at my numbers and, if you want to be a Sabermetrics guy or one of those guys who want to just boggle numbers, you can say pretty much that everybody except the superstars suck. And you can manipulate numbers any way you want. But what I did for the team and provided for the team is I came in when we needed a spot starter in 2008. I filled in, I feel, very well. You know, who knows where we would’ve been had I not been able to fill in? And then outside of that, I would come into the game when we were down 2 runs in the fifth or six innings and I would keep us right there or keep us within the games. Sometimes we’d come back and win those games and sometimes we wouldn’t, but by putting me in and eating up two innings at a time, it kept the seventh, eighth and ninth inning guys pitching the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. I felt like I wasn’t really, in 2009, used in that capacity so much.

My role was basically, I think some of the radio guys in Milwaukee called me the janitor. It’s one of those jobs where if you don’t have a good janitor, man, you notice. But if you’ve got a good janitor, you kind of take him for granted. I’m not saying I was taken for granted by the organization because most of the organization was very good to me. But if you want to look at my numbers, you can say whatever you want about them. I don’t mind. It’s just that my role was something that being filled in 2008 allowed us to get to the playoffs and before I got hurt in 2009, we were still in the hunt.

Do you think that you’ll have a similar role on the Marlins? Have you talked with them about that at all?

Uh, I’m not really sure what the Marlins want. I don’t know if they see me more as a late-inning guy. I mean, I’m pretty versatile and if you’re going to confine me to one inning, I can come in and throw as hard as you’d like me to. If you want me to go multiple innings, I have to adjust and then taper down my velocity to be able to go different innings. So, it’s kind of one of those things that I can do both and we’ll just see what they need.

And it’s the same line that I’ve always had in Milwaukee. I want to do what’s best for the team. I’m a team-before-me kind of guy. It’s a shame that sometimes the game of baseball is a business because it’s not what you’re taught growing up. When you’re in the little leagues, you’re always taught that it’s about the team. It’s a family. For the guys who play the game, it’s a family, but sometimes for the coaches and the front office, it’s not really a family. It’s the sad part about baseball. It’s throughout everywhere in baseball. It’s not just localized in Milwaukee. And I’m by no means bitter about it. I loved my time in Milwaukee and everybody was great. But it’s the realization that, as you get older in the game, stuff like that happens.

Yeah, and you’ve hit on this a little bit, but on your Twitter account, you didn’t really hide the fact that you didn’t exactly see eye to eye with Ken Macha at times. Can you talk about your relationship with him and where that fell apart?

I don’t think I ever really had a relationship with Mr. Macha. I tried in the first half to really build a relationship. I don’t think he really got me. You could take what I could say and say, “Oh, he’s just disgruntled” and what not. I am disgruntled, but it’s because our relationship really wasn’t that great and I didn’t agree with a lot of the things he did. People gave Ned Yost a hard time for taking up for his players, but there’s a lot to be said about that. And people give Lou Piniella a hard time for arguing with the umpires, but there’s a lot to be said for that.

Ken Macha, if I had my choice, I wouldn’t play for him again. And I’m not here to throw stones. Good luck for the rest of the year. It’s over. And this is probably the last time I’ll really comment on Ken Macha. But I just really didn’t agree with his philosophy, his coaching style. Let’s just keep it that simple. Some things in house need to stay in house and let’s just say I didn’t agree with it and I really didn’t feel like he treated me fairly or gave me a fair shake at anything.

Would you say that’s a feeling that a lot of players have? Is the team behind him or is it kind of a divided locker room?

You know, I’m no longer there and my answer, whether it could be construed as truthful or anything, there’s no real need. There’s no real need to delve into those things. I understand the want to ask that question, but I’m not really at liberty to speak for anybody else. I can speak for myself. But that’s a question you’ll have to ask those guys. I hate to sound like I’m copping out, but I would never throw teammates or anybody under the bus. I don’t do that kind of thing.

OK, fair enough. We kind of talked about the Twitter account just briefly. I think that was something Brewers fans kind of got a kick out of last year as you started to do that a little bit more and over the offseason too. But recently you deleted the account. Can you talk about why you decided to do that?

I deleted the account because I think it was getting on Stephanie’s nerves. I enjoyed it a lot. The Twitter account was great.

Over the years, maybe the year I did it, I don’t even know if I did it a year, I got all positive responses except for two. The two responses were from toolbags and I just blocked them and it was whatever. But all positive responses. And I enjoyed interacting with the fans. I’m from West Virginia, man, and I’m as blue collar as they come. I’m just like you and just like everybody else. I just happen to play baseball. And I thought it was a pretty cool way to connect with the fans to just kind of show everybody that, “Hey, I’m just a guy that’s very fortunate to play baseball and thank you guys for being supportive.”

And, to tell you the truth, I had decided that, after Milwaukee, that I wasn’t really going to do it anymore because it was a special situation in Milwaukee. That’s no slight to any other fans, but I had such a special bond with a lot of fans in Milwaukee. I felt that it was something that I couldn’t continue because I kind of knew I wasn’t going to come back. And I wanted everybody to know how grateful and honored I was to be a Milwaukee Brewer and play on their favorite team and how supportive they were. It was awesome. And had I not had the Twitter account, I wouldn’t have been able to send my good bye. I mean, they don’t typically give long relievers middle pages in the paper to do the kind of things like that. So, to be able to do that and to say my good byes to the fans and to the organization, it was huge. And I really enjoyed it.

I apologize to whoever Miller Park Drunk is about my misspelling things on there. I’m sorry that you don’t understand that 140 characters is usually 140 characters and I don’t really have a great spell check on my phone, but I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did and I enjoyed the fans. It was just my way of connecting.

I think part of that bond that Brewers fans had with you is they could tell you were basically just one of us. You were a regular guy. On the field, after the Wild Card Championship, pouring beer on yourself, all that kind of stuff. I guess, did you get that feeling too where you were one of the guys sort of?

(Link: Video of McClung celebrating Braun’s go-ahead home run in Wild-Card-clinching game against Cubs in 2008)

I definitely felt I connected with the Milwaukee fans. I mean, I didn’t go out much. My days when I played in Tampa, dude, you could find me in any bar in town. But when I came to Milwaukee, I kind of settled down in my ways and I was pretty serious, in a serious relationship. And now I’m a father. So, I mean, those kind of days for me, I didn’t get to do much in Milwaukee.

But when I did get to go out, my cousin Brad works at McGillycuddy’s. I would have to say that McGillycuddy’s is probably the most blue-collar bar on Water Street and I fit in perfect there. I mean, it was just like, “These are my people. This is who I grew up with in West Virginia.” I understood the philosophy. My father was a hard-working guy. My father built high-rise buildings. We lived in West Virginia and he would live in Boston for six months or live in Atlanta for six months and he would come back on the weekends. He’d drive eight hours to spend 16 hours with us and then drive back another eight hours to go back to work. So, I mean, I knew what sacrifice was growing up and my family taught me some values. I was able to connect with the fans on a certain level because I never thought I was any better than anybody just because of my job. I mean, I understand that sometimes you’ve kind of got to separate yourself because it does get crazy sometimes, but you knew that it came from a good place. And I could always connect with that.

There’s always stories coming out about practical jokes or superstitions in the bullpens. Can you give us any good stories about the Brewers bullpen?

Well, first of all, Todd Coffey and I are actually two different people. A lot of people yell at me calling me Coffey. Coffey is about 475 pounds with man boobs. And I am not 475 pounds. I love Todd. Don’t get me wrong. I say this jokingly. He’s a great guy.

Some of the things that we’ve done in the bullpen that are really of note, I think, the Bullpen Olympics of 2008 got a lot of pub. And I would just like to acknowledge that was 100 percent my idea. I got the games together and I put the rules down and then I did purchase medals for first, second and third in each event and then overall trophies for everyone. So, that was all mine and that was a lot of fun.

I think David Riske won it. Shousey came in second. I was proud to announce that I took home the overall bronze medal. That was a lot of fun. We did that for about six weeks, sorry, three weeks and it took a lot of time. I think we caught a little bit of flack for it and, during that time, I think we had something like a 2 ERA as a bullpen and we kind of said, “Seriously, we’re not the problem. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be ready to pitch when it comes our time.” We take our job serious, but when you’re in the bullpen things go a little different.

Another thing I did, when I got hurt this year, we’ve got a rather large bathroom in the bullpen and I decided once the team went to the West Coast trip that I was going to go and redecorate the bullpen. And I made sure I put posters in the bullpen. I put some rugs down, magazines down. I put a refrigerator in there so we could have drinks. I bought candles because Coffey’s sixth inning bathroom visit was terrible so we had to make sure we had some candles.

I had something in there that represented everybody so I went through the bios and I was reading like it said that Mitch Stetter loved ping pong, table tennis, so I put a ping pong paddle and a ping pong ball on the table in there. And then Coffey loved Star Trek so I went out and bought season DVDs of Star Trek movies or whatever and I put those in there. And then I put a big picture of Trevor Hoffman framed with a big skull in the front to represent “Hells Bells.” And DiFelice is Italian so I put the Italian Sausage in there. And then, myself, I put a Chuckie doll in there. I did something for everybody. And then I put one of those Miller Park or Brewers miniature home plates on there and I had candles all on the edge meaning the bullpen lives on the edge. It was just kind of fun and we did that and I think the guys got a really big kick out of that.

It’s just things like that that you do throughout the year to really break up the monotony of everything and just be a team player. I mean, I feel like anything you can add off the field as well to be a good team player is important to the chemistry of the team. To talk about the Milwaukee Brewers, the most important thing is that everybody loved each other there. I don’t know the chemistry now because guys are gone and a lot of key guys who brought a lot to the clubhouse are gone, so who knows how it’s going to be? But it was the best three years of my Major League career was playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse, on the road trips. I loved every single guy.

I don’t keep up with really a single Tampa Bay Devil Ray that I played with. That’s from 1999 to 2007. And let me tell you, I’ve already talked to almost everyone on the Milwaukee Brewers team just through text messages or sending cards back and forth and just being in touch. My best friend in baseball is Corey Hart and he’s an awesome guy, an awesome family guy. Just being able to text him, see how he’s doing, or text Trevor, or text Coffey. Villanueva and I will e-mail jokes back and forth to each other. Like I went to a Mexican restaurant and I ordered some food and I took a picture of it and I sent it to Villanueva and sent it to Yo and I said, “I miss you guys. That’s why I’m having this burrito.” So, it was just funny stuff back and forth. This is a great situation.

And going back to Coffey a little bit, at one point last year, you wore a shirt in the bullpen that said “Not Coffey,” right?

Right, right. I had been called Coffey a few times. And, again, I kind of take exception to it. When I was in high school, I lettered in seven sports and I was an All-American baseball player. I played shortstop and centerfield and pitched. I played basketball. I was the point guard on offense, not really point guard, we had a point guard, but I’d bring the ball up. I played in AAU tournaments in basketball. I did the high jump. I did a lot of athletic things.

And then Coffey is like a big guy. He’s just kind of like a big ol’ guy that pitches. You know? You love him. He’s just a big ol’ teddy bear. And I still kind of fancy myself as an athlete and when I get called Coffey, I think, “Golly, how could you not know I’m not Todd Coffey?” And, so, I would say “Not Coffey” all the time. “Not Coffey.” I’d just yell out “Not Coffey.” So, finally one day, the guys on the team were kind of getting a joke on it so I went to our head clubbie, Tony, and I said, “Hey, can you get me one of those pullovers and put on the back ‘Not Coffey’?” And, so, we did that and it was a big joke. I wore it the first day out and I think we got our asses handed to us, I mean, just absolutely kicked, so I could only wear it one day. I couldn’t wear it anymore after that so I had to get my fill out of it one day, so one batting practice and one game. But after that, we couldn’t wear it anymore so I sent it home as a reminder of how good of a time we had.

It’s just funny stuff like that, man, that’s really kind of where the chemistry comes involved. And other guys did some things that were funny. It’s enjoyable. It makes the season enjoyable and memorable.

So, are you saying that you could beat Todd in a race?

Are you serious, man? Todd Coffey in a race? You know what? I thought about doing something funny like putting on YouTube me training to beat Todd Coffey in a race, like a video montage would be funny. But I never did it. But, yes, I could beat Todd in a race. You know, he’s the redheaded bullet out of the pen, but I got him in a race. Don’t worry about that. I’m not going to lose to Todd Coffey.

Alright, well, I guess for Brewers fans, the Cubs have probably been the biggest rival since the team moved to the NL Central, but it seems like, in your time as a Brewer, the rivalry against the Cardinals really picked up and there were some heated moments and comments in the media over the years. How much do you think that rivalry escalated while you were around?

I felt like it was a little, it was chippy. Had it been a basketball game, there probably would’ve been elbows thrown, you know? But I don’t think it was ever personal. It was personal on certain levels, but it wasn’t something we were constantly thinking about. It was only really when we played them. But you could see it escalate from 2007 to 2008 to 2009. It was one of those things that we knew about. We didn’t live our lives hating the Cardinals. You don’t really hate them, but you acknowledge kind of what they’re saying. And I’m sure they acknowledged what we did. That’s why they said what they said. They didn’t like that we untucked our pants and they didn’t like that we had the Atomic Walkoff. But it’s kind of that we were a young, fun team and that gets back to the chemistry. I never had more fun doing some of the things that we did. And if Trevor Hoffman and David Weathers are OK with it, then anybody should be OK with it because those guys have been around long enough to know what’s right and wrong in a game. Everything we ever did was all done in good fun. It wasn’t done in any disrespect to the game or to any individual. If anybody has got a problem with all of that stuff, it’s overblown because they’re taking offense when they shouldn’t be taking offense.

OK, you had an interesting moment against the Cardinals yourself in September of 2007. So, you’re no longer a Brewer. Yost is gone. I think the Statute of Limitations is up on this. You hit Pujols on purpose, right?

The Statute of Limitations is definitely not up on that. And all I have to say is “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” and I got freed of all charges.

Alright, alright. Last season, Ryan Braun made some comments about the team’s pitching that some people took as a shot at you or Mike Burns. What was your reaction to the comments and did you talk to Ryan about that?

It was a direct shot at Burnsy and myself, and Ryan spoke with me actually. I wasn’t going to go to him. He spoke with me and he apologized.

You could look at it as a turning point in the season. It kind of really hurt us. It kind of really hurt our pitching staff. One thing that Ryan has to understand is that, I know he understands he’s a superstar, but he has to understand that you can’t, and I think he has, I mean, he’s really kind of tapered off, but you’ve always got to remember you’ve got to put your team first. And I think I read a comment he said he’s not the GM and he doesn’t get into that anymore. And he’s not and I think he’s realizing that.

And another thing people don’t realize is reporters talk to him constantly so he’s got to be on his A-game not to say something stupid. I didn’t like what he said, but I’m sure he learned from it. I have no hard feelings, none at all. To tell you the truth, Ryan is a pretty decent guy. So, I don’t have any hard feelings. It sucked getting thrown under the bus, but I understand where he was coming from. I understand he wanted to win and I wanted to win. So, I think he learned from it.

You know, I’ve made mistakes too. You can go back and look at some of my quotes when I was in Tampa and they’re pretty bad. So, everybody makes mistakes. So, it sucked, but I understood and I forgave him. Ryan and I were pretty decent friends when we were on the team so I didn’t like it, but no hard feelings. And I think he’s learned from it and I think he’s going to be a better teammate from it, I think, in the end. And it’s a good thing that he was able to learn from it and we’re all able to move on.

And speaking of Braun, I saw that before you deleted your Twitter account, you talked a little bit about entering into a similar business venture as he has with a t-shirt line. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I got a little creative bone in my body. I don’t really know how to draw or do any of the art stuff, but I’m a real big ideas guy and I think I’ve got some pretty nifty kind of ideas. I don’t want to get into it too much because I believe in the idea so much that if I told it, I think somebody would steal it. So, I don’t want to get into it too much, but once it gets out there, and gets put out there, I’ll let everybody know.

Alright, sounds good. Anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t hit on yet?

I’d really just like to say to everybody that’s a Milwaukee Brewers fan and has followed the team from 2007 to 2009 that I will always remember it as really a great time. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm that you guys brought to the stadium and to the park every single game against every team no matter what. And I know I’m putting on a different uniform and I’m going to be entering Miller Park again and, you know, I hope I don’t get booed, but I know you’re not going to be cheering for me outloud because you want your team to win and I understand. And hopefully one day I can come back and be a Brewer, but I just really want the fanbase to know that I loved it. And I just really want the organization to know that aside from a singular individual, this was the single most greatest time in my athletic career from amateur to professional. And I’m really grateful and blessed. I thank God every day for the ability to play in the Major Leagues and for the life I have. And playing for you guys has been one of the best times of my life and I’m really grateful.

Well, thank you very much for doing the interview with us and good luck down in Miami. Try to go easy on the Brewers when you face them this year.

Hey, well, why don’t  you tell the Brewers to try to go easy on me? You guys take care. Thanks for having me.

A Milwaukee Bucks Post

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Since basketball is the only thing on, let’s talk Bucks basketball…once…

  • There should be some people eating crow on Jerry Stackhouse. Since his first game after being signed, a move which was much maligned, the Bucks have gone 7-3.
  • Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour were underrated acquisitions.
  • If the Bucks can get Redd off their salary (I believe he has an option for next year), the Bucks should put together their entire financial fury into getting Dwayne Wade this offseason (Kohl’s has done well during the recession…let’s go Herbie). Think about it. The Bucks are instantly relevant with D-Wade. Imagine D-Wade at SG, Brandon Jennings at Point, Bogut at C and fill the rest with Delfino, Bell, Ilyslova, and Mbah a Moute.
  • Andrew Bogut has improved a ton from even a year ago. He isn’t a bust
  • Speaking of bust, Joe Alexander never got a fair shake in Milwaukee yet and I hope he does.
  • Squad 6 is the best thing to happen to the Bradley Center in a long time.

10 Things to Look Forward to Before Opening Day

Monday, February 8th, 2010

This week is possibly one of the most boring in sports. There’s no more football, no baseball, no Olympics…just basketball. To get you over the hump, I’m going to try to post something new each day this week and open up some discussions.

Let’s start the week of on a positive note:

Here’s a list of 10 Brewer-related things I’m excited for before opening day

10) Brewers Winter Tailgate - What started off as nutjobs freezing for baseball tickets has been embraced by the team and the fans.

9) Pitchers and Catchers report - The four magical words in the middle of winter that make you feel like digging out of your hole. Anyone else start working out again once these words are said? Anyone else just have a good day on PaCR day? Yeah, didn’t think it was just me.

8) Promotional Schedule released - This isn’t a big deal, but it’s always fun to see who their going to make into a bobblehead this year. We already know there’s a Bernie Brewer one…perhaps a Prince as the HR Derby Champion bobble? Doug Melvin was a hit last year, how about a Mark Attanasio bobblehead?

7) This Year’s Breakout at Spring Training - Two years ago, it was Gabe Kapler. Last year, it was Casey McGehee. Who’s it going to be this year?

6) Ryan Braun’s Tavern and Grill - I know I’m lame, but I’m so close to Lake Geneva that it’s probably more exciting to me than others. And it can’t be any worse than Remitee, right?

5) Fantasy Baseball Draft - I love having all the guys get together for the draft, talk baseball, and speculate about players and teams.

4) Getting out the Grill and getting it ready for the season - This usually happens once most of the snow has left and it usually starts out as wanting to clean the grill and it usually ends up making burgers and brats…you know…to warm it up before the season.

3) Watching the pitching staff come together - Will the Crew have three lefty starters or will Manny and his fragile psyche get sent to AAA? Will the Narv-Dog be a reliever, long reliever, or AAA starter? Will Riske be ready? Will the relievers from last year still be worn out (already lost DiFelice for the year)? Will Jeff Suppan start? If so, it will because of two reasons; he will either have rocked in spring or there will be laugh-worthy reasoning from the managerial staff.

2) Spring Training Games - I love getting updates during the day about the team, not to mention seeing how prospects are doing this year. Plus, this year’s team has been through the biggest overhaul since 2006. It’s going to be interesting to see how all the new pieces work.

1) The night before Opening Day - The excitement has been bubbling for a long time and comes to a climax the night before.

Peterson Vows to Keep Pitchers Healthy

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Last week, I wrote about the high expectations new pitching coach Rick Peterson brings with him and the fact that he doesn’t seem interested in tempering those expectations at all. Well, the enthusiasm continues to build.

Mike Silva of Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest, a Mets blogger who wrote that he wishes Peterson was still in New York, says the veteran pitching coach should be a nice fit for the Brewers:

“I predict the Brewers will see many arms overachieve with Peterson as their pitching coach. Their young hurlers, like Yovani Gallardo, will become better because of the experience of working with him.”

And perhaps the improvements on the mound won’t be as important as another part of Peterson’s program — keeping those pitchers on the mound. In August, Silva interviewed Peterson, who was not with an MLB team and was working on building 3P Sports at the time (download here). And Peterson left little doubt that he believes in the system he developed with Dr. James Andrews. In fact, he all but promised pitchers will stay healthy if they stick with it:

“In 11 years, six years with Oakland and five years with the New York Mets, if there’s one thing in my career that I’m most proud of it is the fact that we kept healthy arms healthy during the tenure of those times coaching at the Major League level. And that is a real tribute to the research and implementation of Dr. Andrews’ program of the biomechanical analysis and then how to train pitchers deliveries to keep them healthy.”

AND

“Without question, what I  can say from being a Major League pitching coach and hopefully getting back in the Major Leagues next year, is this is absolutely the best program that’s out there.”

Again, it’s hard to not be enthusiastic about what this guy is promising to deliver. Hopefully it translates to the results on the mound this season.

Video: Brewers Clinch First Playoff Berth

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

There was some video posted today on YouTube from the second to last Brewers game of the regular season in 1981. The video, which is from the Tigers telecast, is significant because it was the game in which the Brewers clinched their first ever playoff appearance.

Reliever Rollie Fingers, who won the AL Cy Young and MVP awards in 1981, struck out Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker to clinch the Brewers’ second half AL East title. The 1981 season was divided because of a players’ strike so the Brewers played the Yankees, the first half AL East winners, in a best-of-five series. They lost the series 3-2.

It’s great to watch the Brewers celebrate as the fans rush onto the field at County Stadium. That’s some classic video and I’m glad someone deemed it worthy of unearthing for us.

Insomniac Ink