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Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008

Baseball Ramblings

Sports in Real Life

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Every once in a while I get a hankering to look up an ex- Major Leaguer.

Luckily for me, former Brewer pitcher Jerry Augustine still lives in the Milwaukee area and works in the insurance game. Augustine pitched for the Brewers from 1975-84, during which he compiled a won-loss record of 55-59. Afterwards, he spent 11 seasons as head coach of the UW-Milwaukee baseball team.

Last week I spoke with Augustine for probably longer than he wanted, but once I get going, it’s hard to stop. If Augustine charged by the hour I’d be in worse shape than our current economic predicament.

Originally planning to touch base with him regarding a different piece that I was working on, I decided that I wanted to get his take on the past season and coax him into a little prognostication instead. I had just read a book titled Moneyball, and I wanted to get his take on the whole premise of the book. (If you want to know more about the book, read last week’s column.)

When you have a Major League pitcher on the horn, you may as well get a few questions off your chest. Nagging queries you’ve either forgotten to ask another pitcher, or just didn’t have the right opportunity.

I have the attention span of a gnat, so I jumped around the baseball board with a host of tangential questions. How does a guy like Derrick Turnbow throw bullets one minute, have a Bobblehead made in his honor, then check into the reliever retirement home for wayward pitchers? “I think when you’re looking at money and stats, you also have to look at the player’s personality,” Augustine says. My own assessment, after a rough outing a reliever just loses the confidence and his arm becomes impotent. That may be what happened with Derrick."

“If you’re going to look at a Derrick Turnbow, compared to a Jamie Moyer, there are huge differences,” Augustine says. “Moyer is all about consistency, he knows what his body can do. Like many pitchers with longevity, he knows how to work a hitter, how to work the plate.” Augustine further concludes that “Turnbow threw so violently, it was difficult for him to maintain any control–he was a thrower as opposed to a pitcher.”

According to Augustine, the mental part of the game can’t be underestimated. “Everybody throws the ball differently. Everyone reacts to pressure in their own way.”

Playing the Percentages

I asked Augustine if there was a true advantage for a left hand pitcher facing a left handed batter, and the other way around. “There are certain advantages to the way the ball moves,” Augustine says. “That’s the greatest advantage of those match ups.

“When you watch Sabathia, he’s giving all he’s got in his delivery. There’s an explosion from his arm. Augustine thinks the Brewers have a real chance of holding on to Sabathia. I respectfully disagree and think he’d rather watch Dennis Krause’s Roundtable than stay in Milwaukee–a fate worse than death.

“I really think keeping CC here will come down to more than just money. New York is offering a bundle, but I think he’s a baseball guy. He loves every part of baseball. He wants to hit. He wants to hit a home run. Where else can he go and be the face of an organization. New York doesn’t present that. Here he’s the face of the organization and I know he liked it here.”

Augustine says Sabathia could be to the Brewers what Reggie White was to the Packers. A superstar player telling others, ‘hey, it’s not so bad to be here. “He’s not only a Reggie White, he’s Brett Favre too,” Augustine says.

I asked him about Seth McClung:“I like Seth. If you watch him, he has a great mentality. He’s learning, he’s coming on, developing a better language on the mound. He let’s his arm do what it has to do. He keeps his body in position.”

What about Bill Castro being promoted to pitching coach?

“He will do a great job. I’m a big Castro fan and he understands a lot about the game.”

Manny Parra ?

“What makes Manny Parra a question mark is the fact he’s not a consistent pitcher. He can’t locate his fastball.”

What about Ken Macha?

“I think he’s a good choice. They say he’s had some problems in the clubhouse.

He’s going come in with a different attitude.”

Yost?

“I think Ned did a great job. When you’re with a group of young kids as he was, you must have patience. I do think he had a bit too much patience. He should have reacted more like a father does with his kids– some patience, but not too much.” Augustine says Yost built himself as a model of consistency, he did things a certain way. Augustine admitted Yost had a hard time holding players accountable for some of their mistakes

“I think Yost will be remembered for a long time in this town. He had a bad media situation, (understatement). Look how much he put his heart and soul into this team. His legacy will be he turned this organization around.”

What about that poster child for first aid kits, Ben Sheets? ‘I think he’s contingent on the CC situation,” Augustine says. “When you think of Sheets, you think power, breaking ball, a sinking fastball.”

Augustine states thatif Sheets can develop a good change up, he’d be even better. “I think the wear and tear on his arm comes from the repetitive fastball, curve, fastball, curve. He has to buy into it. When I coached at UWM that was the hardest thing for our kids to do, buying into an idea.”

Augustine believes the team will be fun to watch next year. “Doug Melvin and Gord Ash have done an outstanding job with talent. I don’t think there is anyone who wants to win more than those guys.”

Fielder here next year ?“I could see Prince in a Brewer uniform.”

Pitch it to Me.

The Brewers have done the obvious, and the ridiculous. The obvious endeavor, they offered CC Sabathia salary arbitration in the unlikely hope of keeping him in Milwaukee. It’s been said the Angels have an interest in him and the Yankees have a standing offer. At the same time, they offered Ben (Please Don’t Hurt Me) Sheets arbitration as well.

I’ll give you a moment to scoff and tell me how “Big Ben” is an ace, won a bunch of games for the Brewers last year.

…Finished?

Ok. Keep in mind this is a man who spurned the Brewers after they wanted to talk about a deal. I am so sorry it wasn’t on Ben’s timetable, or when he thought it should have been done. Doug Melvin should let it ride, see who picks him up, and get a compensation pick for him next summer.

Ben Sheets is a jag, just like his former manager, Ned Yost. Both possess condescending, holier-than-thou attitudes and are, at best, a skin tag on the bloated and decomposing body of life.