Could Marcum Be Dodger Bound?

by Kevin Kimmes

Shaun Marcum’s future with the Brewers seems likely to come to an end in the next 24-48 hours to the surprise of almost no one (Marcum included). Marcum, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, was officially placed on waivers this week, making this a situation of when, not if, he will be dealt.

“I’m sure I would have been traded if I was healthy prior to the [July 31 Trade] Deadline,” Marcum said. Had this indeed been the case, Milwaukee could have avoided waivers, and traded Marcum outright, however at that time he was still rehabbing from elbow stiffness which had him sidelined for two months.

One potential suitor could be the Dodgers. Despite recently completing a monster trade with the Red Sox which included the acquisition of starting pitcher Josh Beckett, LA continues to look for another starter due to the recent loss of Chad Billingsley to the disabled list and setbacks to the rehab of Ted Lilly.

The Sporting News reported Wednesday morning that potential options could include recently demoted Ranger Roy Oswalt and the Marlins’ Mark Buehrle. So, why could Marcum potentially land there instead? Well, there’s a couple of reasons.

1) Of the three, Marcum has the lowest ERA (3.19) and WHIP (1.168) this season.

While Buehrle’s stats are somewhat similar (3.62 ERA and a 1.212 WHIP), Oswalt’s numbers thus far this season are disappointing. His 5.94 ERA and WHIP of 1.560 are both career highs, not the sort of numbers you are looking for when trying to fix holes in your starting rotation.

2) He’s healthy and rested.

The biggest complaint about Marcum last season was that he fell apart down the stretch. That should not be the case this year. This season, he has only logged 87.1 innings, less than half of last seasons 200.1, and he should still have gas in the tank once the playoffs begin.

Additionally, after completing 3 minor league rehab starts and 1 major league outing, Marcum is showing no lingering signs of injury.

According to Brewers’ skipper Ron Roenicke, “If something was going to show up, I think we would have seen it by now. I understand that there’s a little bit [of concern there], but you’re not asking Shaun to do this for the next two years. You’re talking about right now. You’re looking at this small window where you have an opportunity to win.”

3) He’s the youngest of the three at just 30 years old.

While this by itself isn’t much of a reason to make the move, I’m sure it will factor into decision making. So there is that, which is nice.

Cream City Cables will be staying on top of this story and will bring you updates as they develop. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and on Twitter (@kevinkimmes, @NPetrashek, and @ryanhenrysmith2)  for news and smart ass comments as only we can bring you.

Happy Birthday Randy, Here’s Your Pink Slip!

Randy Wolf in happier times.by Kevin Kimmes

I’ve had some really crappy birthdays over the years. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t all bad, but to set up today’s topic, let’s look at one of the bad ones.

The year before I met my wife, I spent my birthday in an Irish pub, by myself, because none of my friends felt like meeting me out to celebrate. I sat there for hours sucking down Jameson and Guinness waiting for anyone I knew to arrive, but no one ever showed. Did it suck celebrating my birthday alone? Yeah, it did. But, how would it compare to getting fired on your birthday? Not even close.

Enter Randy Wolf.

On Wednesday morning, the Brewers starter received his official release from the club after compiling a record of 3-10 in 24 starts. His 5.69 ERA is a career worst, and his WHIP of 1.574 is the highest since his rookie season in 1999, so the release wasn’t exactly surprising. What was surprising was the timing of his release. You see, today is Randy Wolf’s 36th birthday.

While many folks will tell you the move was overdue (just check out the response to the release on the team’s Facebook page), you have to feel for the guy at least a little bit. Think about it, you wake up and maybe have your favorite breakfast, go online and see who’s wished you birthday greetings, take a shower, and feeling refreshed head into work feeling good. But you’re not there long before you notice something feels off with your co-workers, and no sooner do you begin to try and sort this out than the boss calls you into the office and asks you to close the door. Your stomach drops out.

The next thing you know you’re getting the “We’ve decided to go in another direction speech” and all of your stuff, which was kept in your locker, has been haphazardly thrown in a box. Finally to add insult to injury (and as someone with a degree in management, I will never understand this next move), they wish you success in your “future endeavors”. Way to pad the blow, jackass!

To Randy’s credit, he seemed to roll with the punches pretty well:

“It’s pretty bad, but, you know, the way I look at it is that Day 1 of age 36 starts off on a bad note. It can only go up from here.”

We at Cream City Cables would like to wish Randy Wolf all the best in his future endeavors (sorry, couldn’t resist), and hope he was at least able to take some comfort in the fact that his release came with a sizable severance package. Oh yeah, and happy birthday!

Could a Return to Milwaukee be in Zach Greinke’s Future?

by Kevin Kimmes

Since leaving Milwaukee in a trade with the Angels, Zach Greinke has failed to be the second ace that the Halos thought they were acquiring. With a bulbous ERA of 6.19 and a WHIP of 1.593, the former Cy Young winner has crumbled just when his new team needs him the most. At 1-4 in 5 starts, it may not be long before the Angels start crying foul as they watch their playoff hopes disintegrate before their very eyes.

So, Why a Return to Milwaukee?

Well, it’s simple really. Greinke’s stock is plummeting  just as he’s about to enter the free agent market. What previously was going to be a contract that the Brewers’ brass would never be able to touch is coming back down to earth and after such a demoralizing second half of the season, there won’t be as many suitors at the ball this time around. Who, you ask, won’t be there: The large market clubs.

While Greinke had success in both Kansas City (2nd smallest) and Milwaukee (the smallest market), it appears that the pressures of playing big market ball (the Angels and Dodgers are 2nd only to the Mets and Yankees) may just be too much for the young hurler. For those that don’t know (or may have forgotten), Zach struggled early in his career and was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and depression, both of which he overcame on his way to being named the 2009 American League Cy Young award winner. Unfortunately, this move to the big city may possibly have stirred up these old demons, leading to less than stellar performance on the mound, and scaring off potential off season buyers.

LA’s Loss Is Milwaukee’s Gain

For all of those fans that have been calling for Doug Melvin’s head, take a deep breath, and relax, all is not lost. While this year’s campaign is all but finished, the future looks bright for Milwaukee thanks to several key acquisitions, and it gets even brighter if Melvin can make a deal to bring Zach back. But why would he come back? Well I’ll give you 15 reasons.

In 23 starts at Miller Park, Greinke never was tagged for a loss. He carries a 15-0 record with an ERA of 2.93. Add to this the fact that he was well liked by management and left on good terms, and I find it hard to believe that Doug Melvin wouldn’t be chomping at the bit, just biding his time until the season is over and negotiations can begin.

And what a move this would be. For half a season of service, you acquire your new everyday shortstop and two pitching prospects, then get your guy back anyways. That my friends, is pure genius (well, maybe a little luck too).

But Will It Happen?

Only time will tell, but I for one, would be more surprised if Milwaukee didn’t make a run at Greinke this off season. Having a starting 4 of Greinke, Gallardo, Feirs, and Narveson should be enough to warm the hearts of even the most jaded fans who cringe in fear every time they see Randy Wolfe’s name come up as tomorrow’s starter.

Now, to work on this bullpen situation.

Don’t Blame Me, It Was All Zack Cozart’s Fault

by Kevin Kimmes

Baseball fans can sometimes be as superstitious and cowardly of a lot as the average criminal in a Batman comic book. Need proof? Take the case of the perfect game that did not come to be for Mike Fiers last night in Milwaukee.

Around the bottom of the fifth, I had taken to Twitter and Facebook to make folks aware that we had a perfect game in the making. Aside from a few likes on Facebook, no one said anything. Meanwhile, Brewers’ beat writer Tom Haudricourt joked on Twitter about how “I always laugh at those who are outraged when we note that pitchers have perfect games or no-hitters. We are reporters, not concealers.”

And so it would go until Zack Cozart, leading off for the Reds in the top of the 7th, would hit a double and put an end to Fiers’ bid at immortality. Ironically enough, this is the exact same spot where Ben Sheets’ bid for a perfect game ended on 9/13/06 at Pittsburgh when he gave up a hit to Chris Duffy in the 7th.

Then the blame began. My Facebook immediately lit up with “way to go”, “it’s all your fault” and my favorite “Never ever ever mention it while in progress.” So in honor of my superstitious friends and relatives, let’s look at some of my other favorite baseball superstitions:

- Purposely stepping on or avoiding stepping on the foul lines (Mets Turk Wendell and Red Sox Nomar Garciaparra) when entering the field of play

- Wade Boggs only ate chicken before games thus earning him the nickname “Chicken Man”.

- Not showering (or cleaning one’s uniform) after a win. Dusty Baker claimed to have worn the same underwear for 5 years in the minors where he only batted .250, leading to his disbelief in superstitions.

- Justin Verlander’s Taco Bell buffet (three crunchy taco supremes (no tomato), a cheesy gordita crunch and and a Mexican pizza (no tomato) before every start)

- Tapping the plate with the bat prior to taking your stance

- Drawing in the dirt of the batters box. Wade Boggs used to draw a chai, the Hebrew symbol for life, despite not being Jewish.

- Oh, and finally, who can forget Billy Sianis and his pet goat, Murphy. I’ll tell you who can’t, Cubs fans.

So there you have it, the weird, wild and wacky superstitions that fuel baseball lore. And if you need further proof of just how odd things can get, here’s a video of Doc Ellis explaining how he once threw a no hitter while high on LSD.

An Interview With Timber Rattlers 1st Baseman Nick Ramirez

by Kevin Kimmes

At just 23 years old, Timber Rattler’s 1st baseman Nick Ramirez has experienced more in his short baseball career than many players will if they play well into their twilight years. As a member of Team USA, Nick was afforded the opportunity to travel the world doing what he loves, playing baseball.

Yesterday, I sat down and talked to Nick about his time as a 1st baseman/reliever for Cal State Fullerton, Team USA, the injury that left him sidelined earlier this season, and what it means to play for a contender.

CCC: I looked into your back-story a little bit, and discovered that not only are you a power hitting first baseman, but you also have some experience as a reliever and were the closer for Cal State Fullerton.

NR: In college, my freshman year, I was thrown into that later in the season. I think I only had 7 opportunities to save in my freshman year. Ever since that, I liked the adrenalin rush, so my sophomore year I planned on doing it the whole year, so that’s what I did do.

It was fun to play 1st base for 8 innings, then run down to the bullpen, throw like 10 pitches, and then it’s “All right, I’m hot!” I did that my sophomore and junior year.

I really don’t like pitching, but I compete and I wanted to win the game, so if I feel like I give the team the best opportunity to do it, then I’m going to compete to let our team win, and that’s what we were doing. I kind of fell into the roll of, “If you give me the ball, then alright, let’s go!”

It was always fun to hear the guys say: “Alright Nick, let’s go home.” “Alright, let’s go.”

CCC: So, do you think it’s one of those things in the future where you’re going to be up in the big leagues, it’s the late innings, and you’re going to get the call from the bench, “Ok, let’s put it away”?

NR: No, I don’t think so, not any more. That whole thing is in my past and I want to be in the big leagues as a first baseman and not worry about pitching any more.

CCC: Now speaking of first base, you currently lead the team in home runs (13) and RBI (55). As a a power hitting first baseman, and with the void left by the departure of Prince Fielder in the organization, do you feel it presents an opportunity for a player like you to make an advancement to the majors in short order?

NR: I wouldn’t say that because there are guys in the organization already who are capable. I’m just out here every day trying to get better and be a better player everyday. There are plenty of things I need to work on and when the time for me to be in the big leagues is ready, then I guess that’s when I’m going to be there.

CCC: Being a relatively young guy, a lot of guys your age are lucky if they have played across the country. You, on the other hand, have played around the world as part of Team USA. What was that experience like for you?

NR: That was definitely an eye opening experience with how much talent there is around the world, especially with Cuba. Cuba was unbelievable when we played them. We played Chinese Taipei…

CCC: In which you hit a walk off single in the 11th to win the game.

NR: Yeah, that was crazy because every country that we played plays baseball differently. It was definitely fun to see all the different countries and how they play baseball and all that stuff. It was fun to travel around the world and get treated how we did and get taken care of.

CCC: Earlier in the year you had the hamate fracture in your hand, one of the more common baseball injuries. What was it like having to start the season off in the rehab process and then having to come in with the season already underway?

NR: It definitely wasn’t easy and wasn’t something that I had planned on. It was kind of just a freak thing. I’ve asked myself probably 100 times, “If it didn’t break in Spring Training, when would it have broke?”, because they told me if it didn’t do it then, it was destined to happen.

It was just tough going through the rehab and staying mentally tough knowing that I’m in Arizona not doing anything with a cast on my hand when all my buddies are playing. I’m texting my buddies, “Hey, how are you doing, blah, blah, blah…” but their texts back weren’t “How are you doing?” they were “When are you going to swing a bat again?”

Yeah, it was tough to do all of that, but there was no better feeling than once I got cleared and heard “Ok, you’re heading out.”

CCC: So, now that you’re here, you’re playing on a contender. You guys have already punched the ticket into the post season, so, what is that like and how do you keep focused knowing that you are headed to the post season with almost 1/4 of the season left to play?

NR: We have a good group here. No one is really taking anything easy, especially with the playoffs already guaranteed. This is a group of guys who likes to win. No one here likes to lose, no one settles for anything either. We go out there and compete everyday, and most of the time when we compete, we are going to win. So, that’s nice because it’s hard enough to lose. We go out here and try to win every game regardless of the playoffs.

CCC: Final question: I bought a couple of packs of 2011 Topps Pro Debut a few weeks ago, and I got my first Nick Ramirez Wisconsin Timber Rattlers card.

NR: Nice.

CCC: Growing up did you collect cards?

NR: Not really. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t much of a cards kid growing up, I was too busy playing baseball. I’ve never really collected cards, but it’s kind of cool now to see how many cards I have, especially since I just signed (with Milwaukee) last year. I think I’ve already got 3 or 4 cards out.

CCC: Looking online, you’ve got some Team USA stuff, some Bowman, the Pro Debut…

NR: Yeah, it’s cool to have people ask me to sign stuff all the time. It’s pretty cool.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @N_Ram3314.

Ryan Braun, the Dreamer

By Nathan Petrashek

Ryan Braun has a dream.  That dream is to make the playoffs in 2012:

“There’s no reason to give up.  Why are you going to give up, ever? I think until you’re mathematically eliminated, you’re going to continue to believe you have a chance.  There’s a lot of crazy things that have happened throughout the course of the history of this game.”

There is enough truth to Braun’s last point.  Exhibit A is last year’s St. Louis Cardinals, a team both Braun and Doug Melvin like to cite as proof of the impossible.  The Cardinals were 10.5 games out of first place as late as September 5, but managed to win 8 out of their last 12 games en route to a wild card berth and eventual World Series victory.  They were helped by a faltering Atlanta team that lost its last 5 games.

“Hold up guys, we’re not done yet.”

History definitely isn’t on the Brewers’ side, though.  At 15.5 games back, the Brewers will need a comeback of epic proportions.

To my knowledge, no team has ever made the kind of comeback Braun seems to believe in.  The 1914 Boston Braves at one point trailed the front-running New York Giants by 15 games.  That was on July 4, 1914, and the Braves were in last place.  By October 1, the Braves would lead the National League by 11 games.  They would go on to sweep the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series, earning the “Miracle Braves” moniker.

A miracle would be about what the Brewers need right now:  an extraordinary event that surpasses all known powers.  What once rivaled the best rotations in baseball has been left in shambles with the injuries to Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson and the Zack Grienke trade.  The same players that have contributed 26 losses to the 2012 club still haunt the Brewers’ bullpen.  And an offense that lost its starting shortstop and first baseman is still putting it all together.

The odds are made all the worse by the fact that three different teams will need to go on prolonged losing streaks.  St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati all have significantly better records.  The Brewers’ best hope is a wild card berth, but they’re even 11.5 games out of that.

I see where Braun’s optimism comes from.  The Brewers’ will undoubtedly play better baseball in the final months, because they couldn’t get much worse.  He’s trying to motivate a team that looks like it has little left to play for.  But don’t dare hope for a playoff spot. Not yet.  The Brewers need to show me more than a sweep of the lowly Astros to make me believe in miracles.