Splitsville: Rattlers and Chiefs Split Double Header To Even Series At Two Games A Piece

by Kevin Kimmes
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Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you do both in the same day. Welcome to the joys of the double header.

After Friday’s game was cancelled due to the never ending icy grip of Mother Nature, the Rattlers announced that the game would be made up on Sunday afternoon as part of pair of 7 inning contests. After the Rattlers evened the series at a game a piece on Saturday, the stage was set for a showdown that was anything but Minor League.

You see, Sundays in Appleton are “Brewer Sundays”, a celebration of the team’s Major League affiliation, and what better way to kick off the first one of the season than with a visit from Hall of Famer, Rollie Fingers. Yes, the man, the myth, the mustache was in the house to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and didn’t disappoint, throwing a strike right across the plate.

The Chiefs, still stinging from Saturday’s loss, wasted no time going after Rattler starter Anthony Banda. After a throwing error by shortstop Angel Ortega allowed Chiefs’ leadoff hitter C.J. McElroy, Jr. to reach base, second baseman Mason Katz crushed a ball over the wall and gave the Chiefs an early 2-0 lead. They would never look back.

Adding an additional run in the 5th, 3 runs would be all it would take to maintain control of Game 1. The Rattlers would not go down without a fight though tallying 2 runs in the 6th as both Ortega and Johnny Davis scored off of a Francisco Castillo single. Your final in Game 1: 3-2 Peoria Chiefs.

After a brief intermission, the Rattlers were ready for Game 2 and this time they would strike first blood. The bottom of the 2nd opened up with Rattlers’ 3rd baseman Taylor Brennan working the count full before unleashing a solo homer that gave Wisconsin an early 1-0 lead.

Peoria would answer back with a solo homer of their own from Katz in the top of the 6th, knotting the score at 1 run a piece. Realizing that time was of the essense, the Rattlers fired back in the bottom half of the inning with both Davis and Chris McFarland crossing the plate to regain the lead for Wisconsin. Rattlers’ reliever Harvey Martin’s spotless 1-2-3 7th would seal the deal in Game 2.

Rattlers win Game 2 3-1.

Today’s outcomes bring the 4 game opening series to an end, resulting in a 2-2 record for both teams. The Rattlers now hit the road for a 6 game road trip beginning with 3 games against the West Michigan Whitecaps and concluding with 3 games against the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Rattlers return home on Monday, April 14th as they kick off a 3 game series against the Lansing Lugnuts.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Pre-Game Notes 4/6/14

by Kevin Kimmes
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It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Hey Bernie, let’s play two!

Brewer Sunday, double-header, Rollie Fingers…if you’re not on your way to Fox Cities Stadium, WHY NOT? Here’s some quick news and notes leading into today’s contest:

- Streak Complete: The Rattlers broke a 7 game losing streak which dated back to the end of the 2013 season yesterday with their 8-4 win over Peoria.

- Rattle On: Taylor Brennan found himself on base 4 times yesterday with 2 singles (in the 1st and 3rd) and 2 walks (in the 4th and 7th).

- Deja Vu: Speaking of Taylor Brennan; he, along with Michael Ratterree and Clint Coulter each scored runs in back to back innings (the 4th and 5th). That’s 6 runs, 3 players, 2 innings. Impressive!

- Saving the Day: Tristan Archer picked up the 1st Rattler save of the season completing 4 innings of work on Saturday. His tandem partner, Barrett Astin, picked up the Rattlers’ 1st win.

Can’t make it out to the games today? You can still catch all the action on 1280 WNAM.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Timber Rattlers Pre-Game Notes for 4/5/2014

by Kevin Kimmes
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Heading out to the ballpark this afternoon? Here’s a few notes to make you the smartest guy in your section.

- It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: For the 2nd consecutive season Timber Rattlers’ catcher Clint Coulter went yard on Opening Day. Coulter’s homer came in his final at bat of the night during the 9th inning on Thursday night.

- A Strong Start: Despite the loss on Thursday night (Peoria won 8-4), Timber Rattlers’ starter Taylor Williams had a solid first outing of the season. In five shoutout innings, Williams struck out seven while only walking one. The 7 strikeouts set a new professional single game record for Williams.

- Hazy Shade of Winter: Mother Nature just wouldn’t cooperate on Friday night leading to cancellation of Game 2 of this 4 game homestand. The cancelled game will be made up as part of a double-header scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

- Playing Both Sides: Rattlers’ lead off hitter Omar Garcia showed skills on both sides of the ball on Thursday night recording 3 hits and laying out for an amazing diving catch in the 3rd inning.

Can’t make it out to the game today? You can still catch all the action on 1280 WNAM.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Rattled: Peoria Brutalizes Wisconsin on Opening Day Despite Dazzling Effort by Williams

by Kevin Kimmes
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33 degrees. It’s not exactly what most folks would consider to be ideal baseball weather, but when you are playing spring ball in the Midwest League these things can pretty much be expected.

Today is Opening Day for the MiLB (Minor League Baseball for the uninitiated) and in Appleton, WI the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are facing the Peoria Chiefs to start the season for the 6th time since 1995. While the brave souls in the seats are sparse, I’m told that the club level overhead is packed to near capacity. As I said before, it is 33 degrees at game time.

Most of the players on the Opening Day roster have never faced these kinds of conditions before, a fact that Clint Coulter expounded upon:

“…we have a lot of guys who hadn’t played in anything like this and then also this is their first full season, first time they’ve really played in front of a crowd like we’ve got here.”

The Rattlers manage to strike first blood in the 3rd inning after Rafael Neda singles and is driven home on a triple by Omar Garcia. Garcia, who made a spectacular diving grab in the top half of the inning, brought his A-game with him showing skills on both offense and defense.

Wisconsin starter Taylor Williams was dazzling on the mound for the Rattlers striking out 7 in 5 innings of work. “I just tried to go out there and command my fastball, command my zone, and give the defense behind me a chance to make plays,” Taylor said post game.

“Dominant,” was how Rattlers skipper Matt Erickson described Williams performance. “He was pounding the zone early and obviously he was putting away people too. He gave us a great chance early in that ballgame to win that game.”

However, the tides began to turn when the ball was turned over to Williams’ tandem partner, Tyler Alexander.

In the 6th Alexander would yield a run, tying the game at 1. The Rattlers would take the lead back in the bottom of the inning (2-1), but that lead would be short lived.

The top of the 7th would become what can only be described as a massacre. Alexander would load the bases with only 1 out leading to his removal. His replacement, Chris Razo, would fair no better. By the time the dust cleared the Chiefs had batted around and the Rattlers found themselves on the losing end of a 7-2 score.

Wisconsin would battle back in the bottom of the 7th when a Michael Ratterree triple would be driven home on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Taylor Brennan. It would be the only run for the Rattlers in the inning, it’s relevance erased when the Chiefs would tally yet another run in the top of the 8th bringing the score to 8-3.

A Clint Coulter homerun in the bottom of the 9th would bring the score to 8-4, however it would be all the offense the Rattlers could muster.

The Rattlers return to action Friday night at 6:35 PM for game 2 of this 4 game Opening Week matchup.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Quick Notes From Timber Rattlers’ Media Day

by Kevin Kimmes
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Here are some quick notes from today’s media day:

- The 2014 Timber Rattlers are shaping up to be one of the youngest teams in the Matt Erickson era. The youngest player, David Denson, was born 1/17/95 (19 years old). The elder statesman of the group is 25 year old Lance Roenicke (born 6/8/1988), son of Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke.

- While on the topic of Lance Roenicke, this year Lance will be taking on the role of player/coach with a focus on coaching 1st base. However, if you ask him, it sounds like it will be 100% coaching as his playing days are most likely a thing of the past:

“…it’ll be pretty much entirely coaching unless, I mean, we have guys dropping down with the flu or something like that. Hopefully I’ll just be staying out there at 1st base and working with guys as far as leads and all that goes. As far as my playing career goes, that’s behind me right now.”

- Rattlers’ skipper Matt Erickson announced that Taylor Williams will be the Rattlers’ Opening Day starter when they kick off the season on Thursday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Williams, a 4th round selection for the Brewers in the 2013 draft, spent his 2013 season with Milwaukee’s Rookie League affiliate Helena. When asked about his feelings regarding the forecast for Thursday night’s opener, Williams had the following to say:

“…I’m pretty used to the cold weather. I’m from the northwest. I played a little bit of college ball in Ohio so the cold weather, I don’t think it’s going to effect me too much. I’m not too worried about it.”

- One 2014 Rattler made a name for himself this past weekend in Milwaukee’s scrimmage against the Kansas City Royals. That player is Michael Ratterree.

In Saturday’s Spring Training finale, Ratterree was given an opportunity to bat in the 7th and took full advantage, homering to center.

“It felt amazing. Honestly, when I was running around the bases it felt like a dream, it didn’t feel real. It was just awesome, running into the dugout, getting high fives from everybody. It was just an unreal experience for me.”

- Returning to the Rattlers this season is catcher Clint Coulter. Coulter, who began the season in Appleton in 2013 before being moved down to Rookie level Helena, is taking it all in stride:

“You know, you never want to get demoted, but I didn’t take it as a demotion. I was really privileged to be up here. There’s not a lot of high school catchers that get a chance at full season ball their 1st year.”

The Timber Rattlers kick off the 2014 season this Thursday evening when they take on the Peoria Chiefs at 6:35 pm in game 1 of a 4 game home stand. Home stand highlights will include bobble head give aways on both Thursday and Saturday as well as a special appearance by Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

2014 Position Preview: Jean Segura, Shortstop

by Kevin Kimmes

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, center field, left field, and right field.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

If Jean Segura’s 2013 season can be summed up as a Charles Dickens’ novel, it would be “A Tale of Two Halves”. A quick glance at the numbers and you’ll see what I mean:

1st Half: .325/.363/.487, 121 H, 54 R, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 27 SB

2nd Half: .241/.268/.315, 52 H, 20 R, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 17 SB

Now before I get accused of trying to cook the books regarding Segura’s numbers, I fully realize that injuries in the 2nd half of the season limited the number of games that he appeared in (92 in the 1st half compared to 54 in the 2nd). That said, here are how some of the above stats adjust accordingly on a per game basis:

1st Half (per game): 1.315 H, 0.587 R, 0.120 HR, 0.391 RBI, 0.293 SB

2nd Half (per game): 0.963 H, 0.370 R, 0.018 HR, 0.241 RBI, 0.315 SB

Across the board, Segura’s production is markedly depleted in the 2nd half with the exception of a slight increase in stolen base numbers. Some of this can be attributed to a young player playing in his first 162 game season. As time goes on, the body becomes fatigued and production begins to slow. This seems to be the situation with Segura.

Heading into 2014, many have wondered if Segura would be healthy enough to go when the Brewers take on the Braves in the season opener at Miller Park tomorrow. Lingering pain in his throwing shoulder has limited his spring, however that pain seems to be subsiding in recent days. As of right now, expect Segura to appear as the Opening Day shortstop.

So, which version of Segura can we expect to see this season? I’m going to go with neither. I believe what we will see is a more balanced Segura and the experts seem to agree:

2013 Recap

623 PA, 74 R, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 44 SB, 4.0 BB%, 13.5 K%, .294/.329/.423, 107 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 611 PA, 71 R, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 33 SB, 5.1 BB%, 12.8 K%, .278/.320/.404, 98 wRC+

ZiPs: 580 PA, 70 R, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 35 SB, 4.7 BB%, 14.1 K%, .284/.322/.422, 103 wRC+

Contact Status

2014-15: Pre-arb. Eligible, 2016-18: Arb. Eligible, 2019: Free Agent

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

2014 Position Preview: Ryan Braun, Right Field

by Kevin Kimmes

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, center field, and left field.

From the first official game of Spring Training, one thing has been apparent: where Ryan Braun goes, the boo-birds follow. For those of us that have followed the ups and downs of the “Braun Saga” we know why. An MVP season, accusations of cheating, “redemption” when those accusations didn’t stick, an MLB “witch hunt”, and a crushing finale in which we found out that all of our darkest suspicions where true. These have been the highlights and lowlights of Braun’s recent career.

With that said, the 2014 season is a new start for Braun. His suspension now completed, he finds himself in new territory: right field. Filling the gap left by the recently departed Corey Hart, Braun now tends the field out where “the dandelions grow“. Sometimes a change of scenery such as this requires a period of adjustment, but this time, that just doesn’t appear to be the case.

In 12 Spring Training appearances, Braun has 0 errors as a right fielder. As if this wasn’t reassuring enough, the bat appears to be back in a big way too. Sporting a robust .440/.548/.800 in Cactus League play, Braun also has a pair of longballs to his credit. The first of these, recorded in his first at bat of his first Spring Training game, had a cinematic quality to it.

Walking to the plate to a chorus of boos, Braun tomahawked an 0-1 offering from A’s starter Tommy Malone over the left field fence stunning the jeering crowd into silence and sending out a resounding roar from the Brewers’ faithful. Fans saw this as a return to form for the beleaguered slugger while detractors just drew more suspicion from the performance.

Believe what you may, Braun appears to be putting the whole thing in the rear view mirror and moving on, and that’s good news for Milwaukee as they look to take a run at another year of stout competition in the NL Central. Sporting a franchise high payroll (the first ever to exceed $100 million), the Brewers appear to be “all in” this season. Nowhere may this be more apparent than in Braun’s move to right field.

The move allows Kris Davis, who filled in out in left during Braun’s suspension and collected 11 homers for Milwaukee, to continue on in an everyday role for the Brewers. That kind of power will be needed to help balance out the loss of Corey Hart’s bat and to possibly stoke the fires of an explosive offense like the one Milwaukee fielded in 2011 when they led the NL in homeruns.

Look for Braun to have a bounce back season as he looks to move on from his recent turmoils.

2013 Recap

253 PA, 30 R, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB, 10.7 BB%, 22.1 K%, .298/.372/.498, 135 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 576 PA, 79 R, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 9.5 BB%, 19.1 K%, .291/.363/.514, 139 wRC+

ZiPs: 664 PA, 99 R, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 22 SB, 8.9 BB%, 17.6 K%, .300/.367/.540, 148 wRC+

Contract Status

Signed thru 2020, 8 yrs/$45M (08-15), 5 yrs/$105M (16-20) & 21 mutual option

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

Is Ryan Braun Public Enemy Number 2?

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by Kevin Kimmes

Is Ryan Braun really the second biggest villain in all of baseball? If you believe the results of a recent New England Sports Network (NESN) article, he is.

A few days ago, the network posed a question online: Who are Major League Baseball’s Biggest Villians? The outcome, not surprisingly weighs heavily on the Yankees. After all, for those that don’t know, NESN is THE network for Red Sox baseball.

The names that you might expect are here: Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman (10), former Yankee slugger Robinson Cano (8), former Red Sock Carl Crawford (7), young lightning rods Bryce Harper (5) and Yasiel Puig (4), super agent Scott Boras (3) and MLB pariah Alex Rodriguez (1). Grant Balfour (9) and Brandon Phillips (6) find themselves included for recent indiscretions. Then, there’s Braun.

Coming in as the second biggest villain in the entire MLB, the fallout from Braun’s suspension is being felt across the league. NESN’s justification for the high seeding? It’s a combination of escaping his 2012 suspension on a technicality and throwing an innocent man to the wolves. That man being sample collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr.

While Milwaukee tries to move on, it seems that many around the league are not as quick to forgive. Is a number two ranking justified? That remains to be seen. If the power numbers are absent from Braun’s game this season, expect there to be more than a few pundits calling for an asterisk to be added to his 2011 MVP award.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Sometimes, In An Arguement, Nobody Is Right: Dissecting The Braves/Brewers Dustup

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by Kevin Kimmes

I decided to sleep on last night’s game before writing about it at length. It seemed like the sensible thing to do in the wake of an altercation that escalated extremely quickly. Frankly, there was a lot to mull over and digest for something that lasted less than five minutes in total duration, and letting it all settle in, I now think I can discuss it sensibly.

Neither side was without fault in what happened on Wednesday night.

There, I said it. Despite what Atlanta’s fanbase wants to say (and boy were their fans ever speaking their minds on social media Wednesday), their boys are not some universal gate keepers who’ve been anointed with policing all that is right and good about the game of baseball (that’s St. Louis’ job, just ask them). Now, before I get bombarded with hundreds of expletive riddled comments and emails, let me also point out that Gomez’s handling of the situation was not without fault either. I think it’s best to break this down piece by piece.

June 23rd, 2013 (Miller Park) Bottom of the 1st, 2 outs, Braves lead 4-0

The origins of last night’s kerfuffle seem to stem from an incident that happened just over 3 months ago. With two men retired in the bottom of the 1st, Gomez steps to the plate to face Paul Maholm and gets hit by a pitch to the knee. Gomez takes his base and Lucroy steps to the plate.

Whether this is intentional or not appears unclear, however one has to wonder due to Maholm’s history of being with Pittsburgh during a period of time in which Milwaukee absolutely owned them. In his defense, pitching Gomez outside is a huge mistake as he has the power to turn on pitches that don’t make it far enough outside. Your safest bet as a pitcher? Pitch him inside, which this may just have been an off target attempt at.

Now on 1st, Gomez steals 2nd beating out a throw from Braves’ catcher Brian McCann. The reasoning for the steal is two fold: 1) move the runner into scoring postion and 2) test McCann’s ailing arm. At this point in the season, McCann (who had surgery on his throwing shoulder in October of 2012) was suffering from soreness which was impeding his ability to throw out runners at 2nd. The stolen base would be a moot point as Jonathan Lucroy would record the third out and we would move on to the top of the 2nd inning.

Breaking Down The Incident

Carlos’ major infraction in Wednesday’s game was what is commonly referred to as an “unwritten rule” of baseball, in this case spending too much time watching your ball leave the yard. The general feeling is that when you are at the dish, if you crush one, act like you’ve been there before, because if you don’t then it appears that you are trying to show up the pitcher.

In Jason Turbow and Michael Duca’s book The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, & Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime the authors frame up the violation as follows:

“Several code violations, however, are universally abhorred. At or near the top of any pitcher’s peeves is the home-run pimp, a hitter who lingers in the batter’s box as the ball soars over the wall.”

Normally the cause for retaliation, Gomez spun convention on it’s ear and used it as retaliation for getting plunked back in June. This, of course just threw gas on a fire that had been smoldering since the teams had last met, and sent Maholm into a tizzy.

“F@#king run, God d$%nit!”, Maholm screamed at Gomez as he lazily rounded the bases. His outrage, now growing as both McCann and Freddie Freeman joined in, was met by a chorus of boos from the sparse crowd in attendance. Not to be outdone, Gomez began chirping back. But it wasn’t over, McCann was about to light the fuse and blow this thing sky high.

Blocking the plate down the 3rd base line, McCann now stood between Gomez and homeplate making it impossible for him to touch the home and score the run. One can only assume that McCann was still thinking about Gomez stealing against him in the June contest and since the gauntlet had already been thrown down, he was going to get his vengeance as well.

Now nose to nose the tension became palpable and the benches cleared. Somewhere out of all this chaos, Reed Johnson found his way to the center of the scrum and threw a haymaker which hit Gomez in the face before he retreating back into the mob.

Johnson’s role in this seems random until you realize that teams commonly have a player that they will use as a dummy in situations such as this for this exact purpose. Johnson’s job, attack the opposition so that they get the message and no starters get served with a suspension or get injured in the process. In this case, Johnson delivered on his orders and got suspended along with Gomez for a game each earlier today.

Repercusions

In the course of the “unwritten rules” this matter should now be closed. So, if you were expecting to see more fireworks come the 2014 season opener, sorry my friend, but you are most likely out of luck. For one thing, McCann, who seemed to take the most offense to Gomez’s actions, is a free agent this offseason meaning he will most likely not be a Brave at the start of 2014 and thus no longer part of the equation.

Additionally, Milwaukee has historically not been a retaliatory organization. Don’t believe me? In 2012, Milwaukee batters were hit more times (90) than any other team in the major leagues. By comparison, Milwaukee pitchers hit the least number of batters (31), thus proving that they don’t believe in retaliation on the whole.

If I am the Braves management, I would be lighting up Maholm, Freeman and McCann for inciting a dangerous situation in a meaningless game. With the playoffs set to start in less than a week, teams have begun resting starters to protect them from accidentally getting injured and potentially damaging a teams run towards the World Series. What Maholm, Freeman and McCann did was selfishly put themselves right in harms way in a game that meant nothing.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

The Number 34: Is There More To Axford’s Number Than Meets The Eye?

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by Kevin Kimmes

“The circle is now complete.” – Darth Vader

In December of 1980, a deal was made between the San Diego Padres and the St. Louis Cardinals, a deal that would see future Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers join the Cardinals’ organization. Wait you say, “Rollie never played for the Cards.” Well, right you are, so let me explain what happened.

On December 8th 1980, the San Diego Padres worked out an eleven player trade with the Cardinals. This deal would see Fingers, Bob Shirley, Gene Tenace and a player to be named later (Bob Geren) traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Al Olmsted, Mike Phillips, Kim Seaman, Steve Swisher and John Urrea. Fingers’ time in St. Louis would be brief, four days to be exact. You see, the very next day (December 9th) the Cards would acquire future Hall-of-Fame closer, Bruce Sutter from the Cubs.

On December 12th 1980, Fingers was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich to the Milwaukee Brewers for David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen. Milwaukee now held the contract for “Number 34″, a number that would be retired by Milwaukee in 1992, the same year he was inducted into the Professional Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

Flash forward to 2010 when a young reliever would join the Brewers ranks and immediately began drawing comparisons to Fingers. Some would say it was because of the way he pitched, others would say it was his domination in the closers role, but most would say it was his mustache. That man was John Axford.

“The Ax-Man” would set the Brewers bullpen on fire in 2010, setting a new franchise rookie saves mark of 24 saves which shattered the previous mark of 15 set by Doug Henry in 1991. 2011 would see more franchise records fall as he converted 46 of 48 possible save opportunities, including 43 in a row to end the season. His 2011 accomplishments included the following:

– Named Brewers Most Valuable Player by members of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America
- Named National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year (an accolade Fingers won as a Brewer in 1981 while playing in the AL)
- Co-winner (with the Reds’ Joey Votto) of the Tip O’Neill Award presented by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
- Tied for the National League saves lead with the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel
- Set a new single season franchise record with 46 saves (previous record was 44 set by Francisco Cordero in 2007)
- Set a new single season franchise record by converting 43 consecutive saves (previous record was 25 set by Doug Jones in 1997)

Despite these momentous accomplishments, struggles in 2012 (a season in which he led the MLB in blown saves with 9) and a 2013 campaign in which his closers role would be handed over to Jim Henderson would leave Axford exposed at the trade deadline. On August 30th 2013, the Brewers would say goodbye to “Number 59″ as Axford would say goodbye to the number as well.

In a deal with the division rival Cardinals, Axford’s services would be acquired for a player to be named later (that player would be revealed as Michael Blazek on September 1st). With his number 59 already on the back of new teammate Fernando Salas, Axford was in line to make a change whose significance seems to have been overlooked by most.

His new number? 34, Rollie’s number at the time of the 1980 deals that saw him traded from the Padres to the Cards and then the Cards to the Brewers in the course of 4 days.

Was this intentional or just a convenient coincidence? That is yet to be clear. What is clear, however, is that the Cards now has a mustachioed “Number 34″ on the roster 33 years after they dealt Fingers and Axford has seen a renaissance in St. Louis.

Since joining the Cards, Axford has posted a 1.93 ERA over 9.1 innings across 12 games. While he has yet to record a save, he does have a 1-0 win/loss record since the move.

Cream City Cables reached out to John Axford who could not be reached for comment regarding the origin of his new number at the time of publication.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.