St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers - Game Six

Winning ugly: The Cardinals topple the Brewers and win the NL Pennant

81 Comments

Maybe I should say “beating ugly.”  Because while there were all kinds of things in this game that were hard to look at, the Brewers looked way worse in losing 12-6 to the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Three more errors tonight made for seven in Milwaukee’s final two games.  Fourteen more hits allowed means 24 in those two games.  The Brewers’ defense — never a strength — and their pitching suffered a complete meltdown in Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS.

From the moment Shaun Marcum blew up in Game 2 of the series, people were asking whether he’d get to pitch in Game 6.  The response back, however, was who else could Ron Roenicke use? The next arm on the staff was Chris Narveson and he’s no great shakes himself, so Marcum got the call. And he promptly gave up four runs on three hits.  From there it was Narveson, who was even worse, giving up five runs on four hits.  It seemed that either answer was the wrong one.  The Brewers — whose pitching was vastly improved in 2011 — simply didn’t have enough of it as the season came to a close.  A good arm like Marcum’s was simply too tired. And there was no one else to pick up the slack.

As for the Cardinals, it was the same old story:  a starting pitcher didn’t go deep but the bullpen stepped in and disabused the opposition of any notion that it could get itself back into the game.  Edwin Jackson had nothing on his pitches and his command was nonexistent. But then the pen gave Tony La Russa seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball.

And now we have a World Series matchup: Texas vs. St. Louis, beginning on Wednesday.  We’ll have a more in-depth preview of the festivities between now and then, but my knee jerk reaction: the Cardinals have a good bullpen pitching well and a lot of pop up and down that lineup.  But the Rangers have a better bullpen and more pop in theirs.  Although, I suppose someone could totally disrupt the script at this point and, say, leave a starting pitcher in for as many as five or six innings, but why go crazy now?

If we’ve learned anything this fall it’s that predicting baseball is for suckers.  But we still have our opinions, and this man’s opinion is that the Rangers seem like the stronger team.  We have two full baseball-free days in which to consider the matter, however.  For now: congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals: champions of the National League.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
19 Comments

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.