Some Thoughts On Day 10 Of The 2011 MLB Playoffs

There's every reason for me to be all about the Milwaukee Brewers right now. Maybe not every reason - they do have Yuniesky Betancourt, after all, and they're not the Seattle Mariners - but there are a lot of reasons. They're an exciting team. They can hit the crap out of the ball, and they can throw the crap out of the ball. They're new, because even though they made the playoffs in 2008 (remember that?), they disappeared quickly, and before that they hadn't been in the playoffs since 1982. They have one of, if not the loudest atmosphere in baseball, with dedicated fans who're always standing and roaring and waving their towels. They have Zack Greinke, who's one of the most interesting and unusual athletes out of all athletes. And other reasons. The Brewers should be my bandwagon team. They're an obvious bandwagon team.

And yet...for whatever reason, I just can't do it. I've tried. I can't. Things'll change if the Brewers go on to face the Rangers in the World Series, since, oh god, no, not the Rangers, but for now I can't bring myself to hop on. When I see Yuni on camera, I sneer. When I see Francisco Rodriguez on camera, I sneer. Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez, sneering. I don't like their cockiness either, which is weird since I normally like when a baseball team shows some personality, but the Brewers' attitude rubs me the wrong way. I don't know why it does, but it does. Maybe I'm 56 years old.

There are more reasons for me to like the Brewers than there are for me to not like the Brewers. As a graph:

Brewerslike_medium

If I break it down rationally, the Brewers should be my favorite team left. But, ultimately, these things don't work rationally. Liking a sports team isn't a rational process. I don't think liking anything is a rational process.

Given anything - a team, a restaurant, a person, a squirrel - it seems to me that something will click in your mind pretty quickly, and the decision will be made whether you like that thing or not. I don't know how this decision is made, but it's made, and the rest of the time is spent finding reasons to justify it. With anything, there are reasons to like it and reasons not to like it, and depending on how that inner switch clicks, you'll either end up focusing more on the former or the latter.

I guess my mind pretty quickly decided it wasn't going to bandwagon the Brewers. I don't understand why it did that, but it did, and now I'm just looking for reasons to root against them. It's out of my hands. My brain made a choice, and I'm living with that choice. It's weird, but it is what it is, and I guess I shouldn't expect my brain to work rationally when thinking about sports given that the whole exercise of liking sports in the first place is irrational. There's no good reason for us to give a shit, but we give a shit, and given an irrational foundation, it only makes sense that one would construct an irrational building of irrational parts.

Liking players, liking teams, liking sports, liking anything: it's irrational. I think. I'm pretty sure. Sometimes the mind can be changed, but most of the time it cannot. I'm wondering now if one can learn to become more open-minded, or if everybody has a certain open-mindedness level around which they hover for the bulk of their life. This is really straying off-topic. Baseball! The Brewers are neat, but I'm not into them right now! All right.

  • Go back to the bottom of the first inning today. After the Cardinals gave him a slim early lead, Jaime Garcia immediately gave it away. He fell behind Corey Hart, but got him out. He walked Jerry Hairston Jr. He gave up a home run to Ryan Braun on a first-pitch fastball over the middle. His next pitch hit Prince Fielder in the side. Then he walked Rickie Weeks on four pitches.

    Dave Duncan came out for a mound meeting, because Garcia was all over the place. When the meeting concluded, Garcia prepared to face Yuniesky Betancourt, and he threw him a first-pitch ball up high.

    If you're the hitter, what do you do in that situation? Right - you look dead-red. You look to jump on a fastball down the heart, and if you don't get a fastball down the heart, you let the next pitch go. You force the pitcher to throw a good strike, while preparing to take advantage if he throws a bad one.

    Here's how the rest of the at bat played out:

    Yunigarcia_medium
    After taking ball one - Garcia's sixth ball in a row in what had, to that point, been a horrible inning - Yuni chased a fastball off the plate. Then he chased a fastball off the plate. Then he had to protect and swung at a fastball down and in. Then he swung at a fastball down and in. Then he chased a fastball off the plate and struck out.

    Jaime Garcia began Yuni's at bat having thrown five straight balls. He threw a sixth. Then he got a strikeout, arguably without having thrown a single strike.

    The point here is that Yuniesky Betancourt has a shitty, shitty, shitty approach. It's a point that probably isn't worth making, because it's a point that everybody understands. We've all understood from the start. But I just couldn't let this go. Look at that at bat. Look at that at bat. That was an at bat that Yuniesky Betancourt had in an important game with the pitcher on the ropes.

    It's awful. It's an awful at bat by an awful player. Yuniesky Betancourt could win a World Series ring this year. And he's awful. I don't wish ill things on Yuni because I don't know what he's like as a person, but he is among the very last professional baseball players who deserve this opportunity. You're the worst, baseball.

  • Jaime Garcia's first inning:

    Out
    Walk
    Home run
    HBP
    Walk
    (mound visit)
    Strikeout
    Strikeout

    That mound visit came after Garcia finished facing the Brewers' good hitters, and before Garcia faced Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Gomez. Dave Duncan isn't only a genius; he knows how to make himself look like a genius.

  • In case you aren't aware, the Brewers and the Cardinals have something of a history. They've had a few heated moments this year, including one where Tony La Russa complained about Miller Park, and another where Nyjer Morgan threw a wad of tobacco at Chris Carpenter. Just Saturday, Zack Greinke of all people referred to Carpenter as a phony, so it's safe to say that, coming into the series, fire danger was high.

    So after Garcia hit Fielder in the side with a pitch in the first inning, home plate umpire Gary Darling thought it'd be a good idea to warn both benches. In Darling's mind, it was the right thing to do - as an umpire, you have to nip these things in the bud.

    But while I don't really understand when an umpire decides to warn, and when an umpire decides not to warn, it seems to me that a warning should only be issued if you have some inkling that a HBP was deliberate. And Garcia's HBP of Fielder was very obviously not deliberate. Garcia was wild, and it would do him no good to try to make a point in that situation, in that game.

    It was an accident - it was almost certainly an accident - but because Darling issued warnings, both sides had to be careful about coming inside. I don't know if that had something to do with the fact that there were 15 total runs scored, or if that fact is independent, but I can't imagine that the warning was completely irrelevant. Issuing a warning changes things, even if only a little, and things shouldn't be changed unless you're damn sure they ought to be.

    I really can't see these teams doing anything violent or aggressive. Not now, not in the playoffs. If there's still a score to be settled, it'll probably be settled next season, if not just in this series on the scoreboard. This isn't hockey. Baseball isn't a game you play seeing red. Baseball is a game best played when cool and composed. But I guess these are athletes and athletes don't always act the way they ought to act, so, whatever, maybe. Nyjer's kind of a tool.

  • The game turned during the Brewers' six-run fifth inning, and during the Brewers' six-run fifth inning, Prince Fielder put the Brewers in the lead with a two-run homer. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Fielder's homer left the bat at 119.2 miles per hour, which would make it the hardest-hit home run of the season. Now, this information was delivered very quickly so I'm going to go ahead and consider it preliminary, but considering the hardest-hit home run of the season before today belonged to Sean Rodriguez, I'm going to hope it's true, because, no, that can't be.

  • In the fourth inning, David Freese hit a Zack Greinke curveball the other way, and the ball just kept on carrying and carrying and carrying until it cleared the right-center fence for a three-run homer. The ball must have gotten caught in some kind of jet stream because it looked like a routine out off the bat. That homer caused me to go to StatCorner, and from StatCorner, I learned that Miller Park is one of the more home run-friendly ballparks for left-handed hitters in the league.

    Freese is right-handed, so this doesn't apply directly, but most left-handed home runs are hit to right field, where Freese sent his. And Miller Park is as hitter-friendly in that regard as Fenway. Its home run factor of 118 for lefties is just behind Texas' 119, and that's crazy to me. I guess I didn't really have reason to know much about Miller Park before this month.

  • This guy knew that Yuni hit a home run before everybody else:

    Yuniguy_medium
    The guy standing in the aisle had already resigned himself to something embarrassing. Boy was there egg on the second guy's face, this time.

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