Tea Leaves

If you have a fantasy league team – or just like to play Closer Roulette – there is nothing more perversely fascinating than to watch an actual big league club suddenly go to Bullpen Plan B, or even Plans C and D, seven weeks into the season.

Such a scenario seems to be playing out in Milwaukee where future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman may have finally taken a curve he can’t handle. Carlos Villanueva was handed the keys and wound up on the sidewalk, too. And suddenly it was rookie John Axford successfully stanching the flow in Minnesota Sunday, with his fellow freshman Zach Braddock setting up.
The key for reading signs in Milwaukee was Tuesday’s game, and with the Brewers up 2-0 on Houston in the seventh it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out what Ken Macha had in mind. Then the Brewers scored four and suddenly there was nothing to be gauged by the exercise innings of Villanueva and Todd Coffey in the 8th and 9th.
Maybe there was. While it was still 2-0, Macha had Villanueva warming up to pitch the 8th, putting the lie to the presumption that Axford had pitched Sunday only because Villanueva was overworked. We will never know who Macha would have used in a save situation, but it clearly wasn’t going to be Carlos.
Brewer management, incidentally, is giddy over the power arms of the two rookies. It is always sad to see the possible end for a class act and nearly unbeatable performer like Hoffman (and make no mistake about it, this could easily be the end), and it seems a little cruel to hear of two guys who combined don’t have a week invested in the pension plan drawing drools, but such is baseball life.
All of which reminds me somehow of one of those rare instances in which Rotisserie can speak volumes about reality. I am in my fourth year with a bunch of actors in an NL-only league. Among the ten of us, and counting 12 guys on our two-man disabled lists, we “own” 262 National League players. Only ten of them are Pittsburgh Pirates and it’s only that high because somebody just took a flier on Neil Walker (the other nine are Doumit, Cedeno, LaRoche, Jones, McCutchen, Milledge; Dotel, Hanrahan, and Meek – we count Holds).

6 Comments

DEJA VU

Good stuff, Keith. It was also “perversely fascinating” to see the Orioles go to Plan C against the Red Sox during a game while Plan B was still on the mound having already replaced Plan A (now the O’s have to go to Plan D because Simon is on the DL– I actually saw his injury trying to cover first against the Nats). But against Boston, Johnson (Plan B) had already replaced Gonzalez (Plan A) earlier in the year, but Johnson was doing so poorly in this inning that Trembley wouldn’t even give him the opportunity to blow the save– he made the long walk out to the mound, brought in Simon (Plan C) and one could tell right away that Simon had the presence and demeanor of a closer. The scary thing about the Yankees is they don’t have one guy other than Mariano who has that look. Joba looks pumped up but not unflappable– not a strike-throwing machine. The Brewers should definitely not make Coffey the closer. Sometimes the youngsters are the best choice, like Corpas for Colorado in late 2007 (though not since then).

As a long time fan & neighbor of Hoffy’s, it kills me to see him sliding. I love that man more for who he is off the field than on it even (and Bullpen Gospels just solidified that feeling).

As a Padres fan, I’m selfishly glad we made the move we did to let him go and elevate Heath Bell last year. I’m thinking it would have been even harder on our manager & front office to make the decision to bench him than it was to outright let him go.

It’s hard to watch heroes fade.

The Cardinals, as you may be aware, have had to resort to Plan B with their starters. With Brad Penny on the 15 day DL and Kyle Lohse iffy at this point, the rotation is bleeding somewhat. Hopefully Penny’s strained lat will not keep him out for more than 15 days (all indications are that is the case). As far I know, as of yesterday, Lohse has not been put on the DL. Rookie P.J Walters will get his first start tomorrow, so we will see what kind of stuff he has. The reports from the minors have been favorable. Carpenter, Wainright, and Garcia have had excellent starts and unless one of them is injured (God forbid) they will be the linchpin for the Cards until Penny comes off the DL. It won’t be easy for the Cards, but as the season is young, the impact will not be felt as much as it would be at the end of the season. Even with all the starters healthy, it appears the NL CD will be more competitive this year. The Reds will be very competitive (as you predicted, and by the way, you are in my baseball doghouse for that one. :>) ) It will be an interesting season, that much is clear.

P.J Walters got his first win today. Looks like the tea leaves went the Cardinals’ way. Lohse is now on the DL (having surgery on his forearm). Cards called up Fernando Salas from the minors. Can’t wait to see what he has to offer.

You may know all of this already but I just like watching myself type (a/k/a listening to myself talk) :>)

Nothing sadder than some rotis geek bitching about his club or the season! C’mon! I thought you were better than that.

As you can tell…I’m not playing this season…and it feels GREAT! Liberating!

Cheers,
Ken

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