Kyle Lohse

The Brewers are one awful baseball team right now

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First of all, the Brewers are carrying 13 pitches, even though Ryan Braun can’t play because of a neck injury. That leaves them with a three-man bench that just doesn’t work in National League games.

Second of all, the Brewers are carrying 13 pitchers. Why on earth is John Axford pitching a second inning in a tie game against the Diamondbacks after getting through the first by the skin of his teeth? The first two batters Axford faced in the 10th inning today hit fly balls that were caught at the wall.  This from a guy who had already given up three homers in 1 2/3 innings this season. Yet Roenicke, even with his eight-man bullpen, sent Axford back out to start the 11th.

In the 11th, Cliff Pennington hit a leadoff double, at which point the Diamondbacks sent up pinch-hitter Eric Hinske. The Brewers declined to counter with Michael Gonzalez, and Hinske got into a curve, hitting it way out to center. Only then did Gonzalez come in. He got three outs to keep it an 8-6 game.

That’s when the Brewers had their stroke of luck: Heath Bell was going to enter the game for the Diamondbacks. And if there are two NL relievers throwing worse than Axford right now, well, one is definitely Carlos Marmol. The other is probably Bell.

Sure enough, Bell gave up singles to three of the first four batters he faces. That brought up Rickie Weeks with runners at the corners and the Brewers down 8-7. And who was standing on deck? None other than Braun.

What happened next was incredible. Weeks got ahead 1-0 and then took three fastballs that were called strikes. All three were in good locations, but they were straight, 91-mph fastballs. That Weeks went down without ever taking the bat off his shoulder was disturbing enough. If he knew what was about to transpire afterwards, then he should be truly embarrassed; it may well have been the low point of his career.

For what happened next was that Braun was called back into the dugout and Kyle Lohse was sent up to hit. The Brewers, of course, had already gone through their three-man bench, and Roenicke didn’t see it worth risking Braun’s health even with a victory one good swing of the bat away. Lohse, a career .152 hitter, struck out looking, and Bell recorded what figures to be one of the last saves of his career.

The Brewers are now 1-5. They don’t have a closer. Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart are hurt. Their ace, Yovani Gallardo, hasn’t looked quite right. They’re starting Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt at the infield corners. Also, they’re starting Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt at the infield corners. That light at the end of the tunnel is very dim right now.

Bryce Harper reportedly wants a $400 million extension

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after hitting a single in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports the Nationals are “balking at Bryce Harper’s demands in early talks about a long-term contract extension” and are thus prepared to let him walk when he becomes a free agent following the 2018 season.

What would make the Nationals balk? According to Nightengale’s source it’s a deal that “will exceed 10 years in length and likely pay him in excess of $400 million.”

That might seem crazy given historical norms and given that Harper is coming off a disappointing season, but if Harper returns to anything close to his 2015 form in which he won National League MVP honors while hitting .330/.460/.649 and hit 42 home runs, $400 million is going to seem quite reasonable. That sort of production was not some crazy fluke for a guy with Harper’s talent, after all. And he’ll be 26-years-old when he hits free agency, which is far, far younger than your typical free agent. Indeed, he’ll be entering what have, historically, been the prime years of most superstars’ careers.

The closest comp to star hitting free agency at that age was Alex Rodriguez, who was 25 when he signed his first $250 million deal following the 2000 season. Top big league deals going from $250 million to $400 million in he space of two decades is not really all that crazy when you think about it.

At least one quarter of the Today’s Committee owed Bud Selig a solid

Bud Selig
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The 16-member committee that voted Bud Selig and John Shuerholz into the Hall of Fame — the “Today’s Game” Committee — consisted of the following members: Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Bobby Cox, Andre Dawson, Dennis Eckersley, Pat Gillick, Ozzie Smith, Don Sutton, and Frank Thomas, major league owners/executives Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Phillies) and Kevin Towers (Reds); and media members/historians Bill Center, Steve Hirdt and Tim Kurkjian.

That’s certainly a venerable list of names. A quarter of that electorate, however, could be characterized as having a pretty notable conflict of interest when it comes to Bud Selig. At least if anyone cared about things like conflict of interest when it comes to baseball.

Whatever the case, two of those 16 guys became owners — and even more wealthier as a result — due to his affirmatively choosing or approving them to join sports’ most exclusive club. Two others were personally chosen by Selig to assist him over the years, raising their profile and importance in the game and giving them resume pieces that will one day be part of their own Hall of Fame cases.

  • Royals owner David Glass: Became the Royals CEO and Chairman in 1993, right after Selig became the acting commissioner. Glass was a key ally for Selig’s efforts to impose a salary cap and take a financial hard line in negotiations with the union, which eventually led to the 1994-95 strike. In 1999-2000 he became the full owner of the Royals after Selig personally stepped in to stop a bid for the club by a competing ownership group and is thus widely refereed to as Selig’s handpicked man. Glass is on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, on which Selig served for decades.
  • Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr.: Bought his club in 1995, after Selig had taken over and thus would not be a baseball owner without Selig’s approval. DeWitt was a point man for Selig on a host of his pet projects, including the Wild Card and interleague play. He likewise led the charge for revenue sharing and other potentially divisive financial matters which tended to be in the interest of smaller market clubs, the sort of which Selig himself championed when he was a mere owner. DeWitt chaired the committee to find Selig’s successor, which eventually served to validate Selig’s desire to have his hand-picked choice, Rob Manfred, succeed him.
  • Phillies President Andy MacPhail: Selig’s handpicked choice for the labor negotiating committee in 2002 which, at the time, continued speculation that MacPhail would one day be on the short list to succeed Selig. A few years before that MacPhail was public in saying that Selig would be the right choice to become permanent commissioner at a time when many were concerned that a team owner assuming that role was a conflict of interest.
  • Former President of the Blue Jays, Paul Beeston: In the late 90s, Beeston resigned as president of the Toronto Blue Jays following a successful reign to accepted baseball’s newly created position of president and chief operating officer. The move was widely seen as a means of giving Selig a top lieutenant — a defacto deputy commissioner — which would help him smooth his transition from acting commissioner to permanent commissioner. Many thought at the time that if Beeston was not hired for that gig, Selig may have declined the full-time commissioner’s role. Selig was described in the press at the time as a strong admirer of Beeston’s. In 2014, Beeston reflected glowingly on Selig’s legacy, saying, “I absolutely admire him on this steroid thing.” Beeston is on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, on which Selig served.

Is there anything necessarily wrong with that? No. Baseball is a small world and Bud Selig existed in it for a long, long time, so having a relationship with Selig was pretty unavoidable for almost anyone with any sort of profile in the game. No technical rule or historical baseball norm was violated by virtue of this vote or the composition of the committee itself. Indeed, the old Veterans Committee to the Hall of Fame was widely seen as a group of good old boys voting their old friends. Worth noting, perhaps, that that iteration of the Veterans Committee was abolished precisely for that reason, but I suppose we’ll leave that go for now.

I wonder, however, what the vote totals would have been for some of the other candidates if 25% of their electorate consisted of people who owed personal and professional debts to them the way Selig’s electorate owed him. Maybe Barry Bonds’ agent could get a Hall of Fame vote? Roger Clemens’ mechanic? Mark McGwire’s interior designer?

I suppose we’ll never know.