Posts Tagged ‘‘Rillo on RFB’

The Underdog Came Out On Top

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Great to see the Brewers get it done. It really wouldn’t have been too exciting if they would have just rolled into the playoffs. That is why sports is so compelling. It cannot be scripted.

You had all kinds of drama this past weekend, but in the end, the good guys won. It reminded me of the finish to the movie “Hoosiers.” The small high school defying the odds to outlast the Amazin’ Mets. The quotes coming out of New York were of a team that felt their team overachieved. Disappointed, yes, but from a team that will be moving into a state-of-the-art facility and vast amounts of revenue the Brewers cannot match. If the Brewers came up short, the fallout would have been severe. The underdog won…

Respect for the Pitching

I really gained a ton of respect for five pitchers this past weekend for the Crew.

1. CC Sabathia — Looking at the biggest contract for a pitcher in the history of the game. He pitches another complete game, in the biggest game of the season. Tough pitches all the way through as the playoffs are usually max-effort-type pitches. Third start in a row on three days rest, now looking at possibly as many as seven more starts on an already taxed workload. Anyone who ever thinks that players are all about the money haven’t been paying attention to what this guy is putting on the line. Don’t you think CC’s agent, the Yankees, Mets, Angels Dodgers and the MLB Players Association cringes every time they hear CC is going again on three days’ rest? What he has done for this team has put his own personal issues to the side for the good of the Crew. Trust me when I tell you that every player in the Majors has taken notice of what CC has done. The respect he has gained from his peers will be talked about for a long, long time.

2. Ben Sheets – The free agent to be showed his true character by trying to take the ball on Saturday against the Cubs. He knew his arm was worn down and sore, but still put his own personal issues to the side and tried to step up one more time in possibly his last start as a Brewer. He had so many great games, but saved his best performance as a pro for the game on Saturday.

3. Manny Parra — He rebounded nicely in relief on Saturday. Pitching in a meaningful spot, Manny put aside some of his struggles in the last six weeks to step up and pitch like a seasoned veteran.

4. David Bush — This guy has pitched out of relief, back in the minors, started, pitched on a swinging fifth man rotation and for the last two months has been one of the top ten pitchers in baseball. So he gets asked to piggyback Ben Sheets, doesn’t gripe about again being bumped and goes out and throws three no-hit innings to give the team a chance to win.

5. Yovani Gallardo — First Playoff game since 1982 goes to this young stud. What poise he has to come back in the pennant race to not only pitch but have very little rust or psychological hangover from his injury. The Brewers may lose two star pitchers at the end of this unbelievable season, but Gallardo and Parra have established themselves as two that can continue this run into ’09.

Playoff Matchup

The Brewers were ripe for the picking three weeks ago after a 3-7 homestand. Both teams start from scratch again. If anything, CC’s performance could give the Crew a slight advantage in momentum going in. When teams slump their isn’t much you can do except ride it out. Like a cold, it is going to last seven days and there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

That being said, the Brewers still are not swinging the bats very well as a whole. Prince has been absolutely carrying this squad on his back. Look for the Phillies, even with Hamels and especially Moyer, to pitch around Fielder and test his discipline. The same goes for Howard on the other side.

It will be interesting to see Gallardo attack a good offensive team in a smaller ballpark. He is a strikeout, flyball pitcher. Love his poise. Nothing seems to faze this kid. He misses all of spring training, throws a gem against the Reds in Cincy. Look for the Phillies to test Yo’s durability and nerves on the grand stage.

The batters for the Crew have been in another funk at the plate. They looked like they had gotten out of it the last two series on the road. But guys like Maholm, Duke and Lilly really gave the hitters fits at the plate. Not good considering they will face Hamels twice and Moyer once in this best of five. With Hamels they have to attack the fastball early in the count as to not let him get to his changeup, which is one of the best. The Brewers have seen him twice this season and really had some great at bats against him in that Saturday game in Philly.

Moyer, is a tougher matchup than Hamels because of his ability to change speeds with a still unreal changeup. Hopefully the Brewers hitters will realize that Moyer is only throwing 81 mph and move up in the box and stand on top of the plate. Take away his bread-and-butter changeup that fades off the outside corner of the plate. Hart, Hall, Cameron and Braun all need to dare him to throw inside to get them out. If nothing else, Moyer, who is a great study of hitters’ tendencies, will have to learn on the fly as the hitters will look different to what he has seen from them on video. The problem is young hitters are stubborn and don’t want to get out of their comfort spots in the batters box.

Brett Myers has pitched very well this second half, think Dave Bush. Myers pitched a complete game against the Crew last time out. But that is a bit deceiving. The Crew had nothing left in the tank the fourth game of the series. It didn’t matter who was pitching for the Brewers (Suppan) or who was pitching against the Crew (Myers). If you know anything about momentum, you realized that the Brewers had no chance in that one.

I think Gallardo, CC and Bush can get it done this series. The bats need to come alive though. I think the pitching will be fine.

The bullpen edge goes to the Phillies only because of Lidge. He is a strikeout pitcher who has the best slider in the game. Only guys like Pujols can get him, or Braun also has.

I think that the Phillies have the edge on the bench too. They have Dobbs, who has become the best pinch hitter in the National League. The Brewers have Durham, who has really had some big hits down the stretch.

Nostalgia anyone?

Geoff Jenkins will be on the active roster for the Phillies in this series. Jenks, a fan favorite in Milwaukee, is beyond happy for the community and the guys on the team. He is also going to get himself off a dubious list — most games played without appearing in a playoff game for active Major Leaguers. I know this one well as I was ahead of him last year. The fans of Milwaukee probably won’t be as warm this time around, but for only this little bitty series.

Send in Your Rants!

I will be covering the games on FSN postgame Brewers Live with Craig Coshun. We will do a complete breakdown of Game 1 and have interviews and manager comments following the game. The show will start after the last pitch and run for an hour. Please help me with some comments for a Rant. Leave your comments on this post and I will choose one that I like.

Nostalgia Two

It is ironic that the guy the fans booed so much would end up being so loved. Thanks, Wes Helms!

Yost Gave His Heart, Soul to Brewers

Monday, September 15th, 2008

You don’t know what you got till its gone!

We shall see how this works out. Sometimes players respond to these situations with a rallying cry for their manager. You get reflective and put it on yourself to try and play harder. What does that really mean though? Play Harder? They get to the field early, watch video, lift weights, take extra bp. These guys are a very close group, especially the hitters who genuinely get along and care for each others’ well being. The Dodgers went to Washington and got swept three weeks ago. The seperation in talent from team to team is very small. Let me repeat, small seperations in talent.

Ned Yost was and is a very passionate baseball manager. He gave his heart and soul to managing the Milwaukee Brewers. He would wake up at 5:30 in the morning to get ready for that night’s ballgame. Matchups, lineups, strategies, injuries, dealing with the media, personalities of his own players, ownership, the GM. I realize that those are all part of the job requirements, but his passion and commitment never waned. As you can see, I am a huge Ned Yost fan. It is with a skewed perspective as Doug and Ned both gave me the opportunity to revive my career. So I will be loyal to him. Sorry, but loyalty is what our society needs a bit more of.

There is another side to this though. That is the fans that pay the salaries for all the players/managers who get the opportunity to have the greatest job in America. Sometimes I think it would be nice for players to see a visual of a family of four going to the game. With the salary of the family going to the game and then to see what he paid to go to the game with his family. The reason I say that is because 3,000,000 fans will spin the turnstile this season. Mark Antanasio is trying everything he can do to get this team to the playoffs. This is his last bullet for this season to accomplish the feat of the first playoff appearance since ‘82. Bringing in Robin Yount wont hurt! I hope for everybody this move works for the Crew and they secure the playoff spot.

I was glad to see they didn’t go outside the organization and Dale has been waiting for this opportunity. He has a World Series ring and the players like him. He was my coach back in ‘06 and he will let you know exactly what he feels about any given situation. It is funny that a guy who doesn’t get any interviews to be a big league manager in the winter has the reigns to one of the eight best baseball teams in baseball and best 1, 2 combo for the playoffs, hopefully.

Here is a slight issue! Does Garth Iorg know the signs? Usually a third base coach has to practice them to get them to memory. How about signs from the dugout? Pickoffs called by the manager to the catcher,  or signs from manager to thirdbaseman for bunts or signs from manager to Garth. For the most part, everything will run itself and if the Brewers can rediscover their swagger, these other issues will be sideshows. This is still the same group that went into St. Louis and won four straight, played the Dodgers straight up at Dodger Stadium and have the third best record in the National League.

As I have told the media throughout my career, “At the end of the year, there are no secrets.” The Brewers are as good as any team in baseball and can be a force in the playoffs with CC and Sheets. All the other teams know this, but there is only one team that needs to believe this and that is The CREW.

The Biggest Series in 15 Years

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Editor’s Note: I like to think I’m a pretty level-headed guy when it comes to the Brewers. I’ll get a little grumpy after a tough loss, but I can usually put it behind me after a few minutes. It’s a long season and you can’t live and die with every game. Even when the Brewers started stringing together losses after the calendar flipped to September, I kept telling friends and co-workers that the team still had a nice lead and it wasn’t time to panic. However, as the cushion continued to shrink, the losses mounted and the Brewers looked nothing like a playoff contender, worry started to creep in. After two crushing losses to the Reds this week, I felt for the first time since the Brewers took a nice lead in the Wild Card race last month that there was a real chance this team could blow it down the stretch. I was on the verge of slamming that panic button myself. So, what better way to calm myself than to shoot an e-mail tirade to a player that is as familiar with what’s going on in Milwaukee right now as anyone who’s not sporting a Brewers uni on game days?

And Jeff Cirillo came through with some thoughtful responses.

Me: It seems like every time this team plays meaningful games, especially late in the season, they go into a full collapse. Now the Brewers are losing in every way possible at a time when they absolutely need to win. Why do they have these struggles? Is this team mentally weak? Is this just a case of a team full of young players going through growing pains? How long is that excuse viable?

‘Rillo: You have to remember that every team in the majors will win 60 and lose 60. The other 42 seperates the teams. The Brewers have done a great job of beating up the teams they have to beat up. The Dodgers got swept two weeks ago in Washington, the worst team in the Majors. Yes, they have had their struggles, but what about the ride they were on from late May, when they were under .500, to August 31? When you look at a season you cannot judge your team on one series, week or even month. Two teams come to mind when I think of this: The (2005) Houston Astros, who were 10 games under .500 in late May, World Series. The (2007) Colorado Rockies, under .500 late August, World Series. Every team is beat up, tired and looking forward to the season being over.

The players are not young when it comes to Major League Baseball years of service. What happens is teams find ways to lose instead of playing to win. It is hard to put into words, it is more of a feel for the attitude of the team at that time. When they played that series in St Louis, you could see the swagger of a ballclulb that expected to win. Unfortunately, that gate can swing the other way. You get caught on your heals and instead of playing your game, you play not to lose. In the big leagues the seperation in talent is pretty equal. It is this mental swagger that seperates that last 42 games. Today was a must win. They showed great competitiveness today in coming back in CC’s game. You lose today with CC, it shows a vulnerability even when the best pitcher in baseball gets beat. Now you roll into the next stop, realize that this is a playoff series against Philadelphia. I can’t think of a bigger series the Brewers have played in the last 15 years, since ‘93.

I’ve defended Yost for the entire time he’s been here. I think he has weaknesses (managing a bullpen, dealing with the media, being very stubborn with struggling players, etc.), but I also believe he’s a player’s manager that helps keep the clubhouse tight and does everything he can to put a winning team on the field. That said, it’s beginning to seem like he just has no answers when his team is in a stretch like this. I believe one of the main jobs of a manager is to make sure his team stays out of funks like this (especially late in the season) and if they do begin to struggle, the manager should make sure the team gets out of it, and fast. Do you think part of these struggles can be put on Yost? If so, what could he do differently?

Ned Yost, if you look at the stats compared to their rankings in hitting, fielding and pitching. The team should be about 10 games over .500 so if a manager w/l record is a plus/minus 5.  The Brewers are probably 10 games over what their record should be. It is an objective formula, but the manager is not a magician. Ned always protects his players, whether he wants to or not! That type of loyalty goes over well in a clubhouse. Players have tons of pressures to perform on a nightly basis and there is enough arm chair managers that are very quick to doll out criticism to the players. It is a nice luxury to have when you know the manager doesn’t show you up on the field or throw you under the bus in the media.  

Players like Bill Hall and Eric Gagne, who have struggled all season, remain in prominent roles on the team despite the fact that there are other players on the roster that could certainly contribute as much, if not significantly more, if given the chance. I understand having loyalty to players that have been grinding all year and have made sacrifices for the team in the past, but this team is in the heat of a playoff chase and it’s all about winning now. Shouldn’t Yost be plugging holes in the line-up instead of allowing the team to continue to sink?

You play manager! The Brewers play in Philly this next series. Go to Fox Sports or another Web page. Go to batter vs. pitcher and left/right splits. The lineup you come up with will probably not waver much from what Ned’s lineup would be. We also don’t have the information from the trainers. Cameron’s knee, Durham’s shoulder, Weeks’ wrist. They have team meetings and for the most part they are for a fire-up type approach. I am sure they probably had one last night, usually they are planned around who is pitching that night’s starter, i.e. CC. You can only have so many meetings though, because they lose their affect.

P.S. I just heard on a show, Lou Pinella said, “We are playing not to get beat.” Sound familiar?

Gagne had a horrible first month of the season. For a reliever, who is a one-inning guy, it takes a long time to get your ERA down. You have to judge him on when he came back from the DL and make your decision. He throws strikes and can strike people out. That is what you need late in the ballgame. Unfortunately, when his strikes get hit, they are leaving the ballpark.

Billy Hall has a great energy about him. Every day he comes with a great attitude, works hard and plays all out. His struggles come from power right-handed pitchers, who run the ball under his hands or elevate the ball with above-average fastballs. Keep in mind, the Brewers hitters are all very streaky. But, when two or three are streaking (hot), they can carry your team. During the season, Braun, Fielder, Hart, Cameron and especially Hardy have carried this team on their backs.

Yost is very loyal to his players and defends them to the media even when they are clearly not getting the job done. He says things like ‘He’s throwing well. They just hit a good pitch’ or ‘We just ran into a good pitcher today.’ On one hand, I think that’s admirable, but on the other, I think the manager should hold these guys accountable for not getting it done. Maybe he does that behind closed doors, but I think the perception that he pats his players on the back and tells them they’re great even when they are playing horribly is part of the reason a lot of fans have soured on Yost. I don’t think it takes the criticism off of the player. It just makes Yost look foolish. Why does he continue to do this? And do players appreciate it? 

Look back to 1.

Publically, the players back Yost all of the time, which is understandable, but this year and at times last year it has seemed like there are some tensions. There have also been rumors that some players will not talk about extensions while Yost is manager. (Editor’s Note: The “rumors” are very much hearsay and from no sources that I would even consider close to reliable. It’s just a “guy at the bar” kind of rumor. So, I wouldn’t put much faith in it, but it makes for interesting fan conversation). Is Yost well liked in the locker room? Why or why not?

Players, if they are paid according to the other players in the league, will sign long-term deals. Agents have all the comparisons to the other players in the league and what they are paid. Ryan Howard won his arbitration and got $10 million in his first year of arbitration. Some agents want their players to go year to year. Guys like Hardy, Fielder and Hart, if they go year to year, will be free agents at 27, 27 and 28, I think. For general managers in baseball they know that those years are the prime years for great players.

A week ago, you felt very good about the Brewers chances of making the playoffs and about how they’d play once they got there. Do you still think this team will make some noise in October? What can you tell us fans to make us feel better?

Fans are panicking right now, but what would be the feeling if the Brewers had won every game on their homestand to get to within 3 1/2 games of the Wild Card? Who is in a better position? The Cardinals and a beat-up starting rotation? The Astros with a questionable rotation, offense?

The thing I get pissed at is the national attention the Brewers don’t get! The Brewers have lost seven of 10, but all you hear about is the Rays, Red Sox, Toronto and the Cubs. I think that is a joke. The Brewers have all the ingredients to get to the World Series and hopefully their snag is right now instead of going into the final week.

Playoffs, First Round: CC, Sheets for four of the five games. Is there another team in baseball that can match that twosome? The only snag for the Brewers would be if teams pitched tons of righties against them, but the Mets’ and Phillies’ top pitchers are lefties and Perez and Moyer are also lefties. So, these next four games should be very fun to watch. Have fun watching and realize that these are all playoff games…


Between Jeff’s responses, a nice come-from-behind victory for the Crew this afternoon and a Phillies’ loss today, I feel a little more at peace going into this big Phillies series. How about everyone else?

‘Rillo on RFB

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Editor’s Note: Brewer legend Jeff Cirillo is now a contributor to the Right Field Bleachers blog. We’re absolutely thrilled to have him and look forward to his insight as the season amps up towards the playoffs. Jeff’s first post is below and might help cheer you up following the second consecutive heartbreak loss to the Mets, who the Brewers could face in the playoffs.

First-Round Preview?

Santana/ Sabathia Game 1 — You have to like this matchup for the Crew. Santana was great yesterday, but don’t be fooled, the shadows in September are horrendous at Miller for a day game. The problem that people don’t understand is the shadow to light on top of the pitchers mound creates an effect where you are only seeing half the ball and it usually is the top part of it. Therefore Santana, whose changeup is among the best, was throwing more changeups and offspeed yesterday than I can ever remember seeing.

Delgado’s home run was a pitch up, but not a bad pitch, as the scouting report is to pitch him up to get away from his uppercut swing.

The other factor in the Brewers chances of beating the Mets would be Jason Kendall. The Mets with Reyes, Wright and Beltran will be less agressive because of Kendall throwing out 40 percent of would-be base stealers.

The Brewers also have feasted on left-handed pitching this season. Other than an older Pedro Martinez, the Mets rely on Oliver Perez and Santana in a short series. The Brewers can get two starts out of Sabathia and would need to win only one other game with Sheets or Suppan. The bullpens also favor the Brewers with Shouse, Riske, Mota, Gagne and Torres. Billy Wagner coming back, maybe, would still have some rust and some thoughts about his health concerns.

The only advantage is most of the nucleus of this Mets team is the same that was a game from the World Series. By the way, they lost to Jeff Suppan and the Cardinals in New York. I think that playoff experience is a bit overrated because once the umpire says play ball, it becomes another game. Granted it is a bit more magnified, but these guys have played over 192 games, counting spring training.

The other intangible for the Brewers is the overwhelming momentum from their fan base. Players like to do special things, records, awards, historic stuff. All Brewers players know about 1982 and in some ways are motivated to be better than that squad. The fans there have really become a great, hometown team. People have pride in this team and the players realize what is at stake. You win the National League and the players on this team will always be remembered the way they talk about Charlie Moore.

I will be doing Brewers Live in Chicago and am really looking forward to seeing this series. The team, I am sure, will be energized by a semi-split crowd. Always fun to play games where the crowd is split because your play impacts either way and you will hear about it. Plus there is a bit of unfinished business after the last game at Miller between the two clubs. We will also be doing the pre/post for the playoffs on Brewers Live! It would be nice to do it on site, but for now I think it will be in the studio.

P.S. Sabbathia should have gotten the no hitter. It is no good now because the effect is for everyone to rejoice and swim in the event. What should have happend is MLB should have been notified by someone either watching the game or who had seen a highlight of the play. During the game it should have been changed by either Bob Watson or Jimmy Lee Solomon. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday day game in Pittsburgh, who are rebuilding. If it was against the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs, this would have been addressed earlier. It is too bad for baseball, like Ned said. Because of what CC has done from a historical standpoint, it would have been nice to see and hopefully the accolades will keep coming through October. If you are a free agent pitcher why would you ever want to pitch in the American League? Network Member

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