T. Plush. Gotta go. Plushdamentals. Namesake of this very blog. Tony Tombstone. .304 hitter. NLDS hero. Beast mode. Alberta Pujols. Master of the postgame interview. Gentleman. Tony Plush.
We get it–Nyjer Morgan had one hell of a 2011. But, in all honesty, that was 2011 and should be left as 2012. His profound craziness on and off the field won’t be taking Brewers fans by surprise anymore, though they will still be nonetheless entertaining. Morgan put up career numbers across the board in 2011 and experienced a career resurgence in a city that grew to adore him. But is it realistic to expect the same out of Morgan in 2012?
We’ve seen Morgan draw negative attention to his name for throwing a ball at a heckling fan and charge the mound against Chris Volstad and the Marlins. Both of these instances came in 2010 with Washington, previously his only full season in the Majors until 2011. These were the memorable moments of his season, which finished with forgettable .253/.319/.314 numbers and a league-high 17 times caught stealing. The Brewers took a risk in trading for a talented-yet-troubled outfielder with a past history of nothing but trouble.
But in Milwaukee, Morgan turned his career and reputation around. With clutch hits and “tickling” the ball into the outfield, he became a fan favorite. Insert in the memorable post-game interviews, Tony Plush alter-ego, and Jim Rome correspondent video and you have a national media hit. He finished the season batting .304/.357./.421 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 4 home runs, 37 RBI, and 61 runs. To cement his legacy with the Brewers, he hit the walk off single in Game 5 of the NLDS against Arizona to propel Milwaukee to the NLCS.
Last time Morgan experience this kind of success, however, was in Washington in 2009. After being traded from Pittsburgh, where he hit .277 in 71 games, Morgan batted .351 and stole 24 bases in 49 games. Nothing similar to his 2009 numbers were emulated in 2010, a season in which the Walla Walla Community College product played in 16 more games. We’ve already gone through his statistic drop-off, which was in part due to his inability to keep a level head. He was suspended seven games for throwing a ball at a fan. He missed a fly ball against Baltimore and threw his glove on the ground, giving up on the play. While I don’t see anything of this magnitude happening in Milwaukee, where the environment is “Nyjer-friendly”, there are too many unpredictable things that can go against Morgan that can affect his season.
That being said, Morgan is still expected to be a solid contributor to the Brewers in 2012. He, Carlos Gomez, and Nori Aoki will split time in center field. Each will also get more playing time to begin the season, with Corey Hart expected to begin on the DL. His stellar defense is both center field and right field add to his already-solid value.
Speaking of value, you can’t place one on Morgan’s clubhouse impact. On a team full of eccentric personalities, Morgan, with regular help from the ubiquitous Tony Plush, was the center of the pack. When introducing himself mid-Spring, he ignored the customary greetings of his name and former baseball pit stops. Instead, he screamed, “What up f******!”. His twitter account (@TheRealTPlush–follow him. If you aren’t, what are you doing with your life?) has over 78,000 followers. Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson has just over 1,000.
So Nyjer Morgan is good in the clubhouse. Got it.
By no means should Morgan have the kind of drop-off he did from 2009 to 2010; he’s in a place and on a club where his emotions won’t get the most of him….very much. He’s a player who derives his production on the field from emotion–of which he has plenty. While 2012 may not have the T. Plush magic of 2011, don’t expect him to drop off significantly. His role may be slightly decreased with the addition of Aoki and the health and hopefully rejuvenated play of Gomez, but his Plushdamentals–running over the catcher, laying out in center, and gettin’ dirty on a triple–will still be there.
He’s an intricate part of an intere……….ya’ know what? I gotta go.
*What Can the Brewers Expect from Nyjer Morgan in 2012 is the “sixth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first five posts here.
For the sake of my inability to type words at the moment, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase. It saves you the obligatory feeling of having to read my opening morceau and restrains me from writing some sixth grade level jibberish. So let’s just cut to the chase, you and I.
With Opening Day now a mere 46 days away, there remains large speculation as to which players will fill out the 25-man roster. To spare you the agony of predicting which guys will begin the season in a Brewers jersey, I stepped up to the plate. Heroically, I know.
Short enough of an intro? Good.
Quick key: *=starter, (1)=batting order slot, +=Opening Day pitcher
LF*- (2) Nyjer Morgan– Plush will platoon with Carlos Gomez in center with Ryan Braun in the lineup, but will get the majority of starts in left to begin the year, assuming the MLB hands out a 50 game suspension to Braun.
CF*- (7) Carlos Gomez– To me, the defensive whiz’s key to keeping a regular role in the Brewers outfield rotation is, simply, to hit over .220. For most players, offensive numbers like Gomez’s would find them a spot on the bench, but the 26-year-old’s prowess in center field saves enough runs to put up with his offensive struggles. A place towards the bottom of the order would place much less of an emphasis straining to draw walks, Gomez’s primary struggle, and more toward driving in clutch runs and stealing bases.
RF*- (1) Corey Hart– Not the league-accepted ideal leadoff hitter, the 6’6″ Hart filled the role well for Ron Roenicke in 2011. He posted a .301 average with 15 homers and 36 RBI in his last 62 starts, all coming as the leadoff hitter. Expect him to keep the spot atop the Brewers lineup until Roenicke has to play his hand because of any struggles from Hart.
Norichika Aoki– The off-season transfer from Japan has yet to prove what he can do at a Major League level, but beats out any other competition from youngsters Caleb Gindl and Brock Kjelgaard. Once again, the Brewers won’t have any shortage of left handed bats on the bench.
Logan Schafer– Based on a whopping five plate appearances in 2011, Schafer appears to be the leading candidate to take the fifth outfield spot. He provides speed off the bench (swiped 16 bases in the Minors last season) and could find a spot on the Big League club even with Braun’s return if he outplays Aoki. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, to see the Brewers go with only four outfielders and leave Schafer off the roster to add a right handed bat.
**Each of these outfield predictions is assuming Braun is suspended for the first 50 games.
3B* – (4) Aramis Ramirez– It’s going to take a good month or so to get used to it, but let’s face it: Aramis Ramirez is a Brewer. All I ask in order to forgive him for being a Cub is 100 RBI. Nothing much.
SS*- (6) Alex Gonzalez– Another offseason acquisition by Doug Melvin, Gonzalez is an obvious upgrade at shortstop, both offensively and defensively. He may not possess the pop of Yuniesky Betancourt, but his glove and patience at the plate make up for it. Maybe he can make Brewers fans not cringe as much anymore when JJ Hardy goes yard in Baltimore.
2B*- (5) Rickie Weeks– Coming off back-to-back productive seasons, including an All Star Game start in 2011, Weeks needs to produce even more with RISP in 2012. With no Fielder and, most likely for the first 50 games, Braun, teams will find ways to work around Ramirez in the cleanup spot if Weeks and Gamel don’t produce. Just as he is the pivot man on a double play, Rickie is the pivotal hitter for Milwaukee this year.
1B*- (3) Mat Gamel– Young man, it’s your time. I mean, it’s not like you’re taking over for a three-time All Star, Home Run Derby champ, All Star Game MVP, the youngest player to hit 50 homers in a season, career .282 hitter with 230 homers in six seasons. No pressure.
UTIL- Taylor Green– The youngster impressed in 20 games in 2011, batting .270 and making the Postseason roster. I like him. You like him. Ron Roenicke likes him. This kid better be on the Opening Day roster.
UTIL- Cesar Izturis– He was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, but Izturis’ experience and glove will be beneficial off the bench. Brooks Conrad, a notorious pinch hitter, could pose a challenge for this spot. Conrad has a career 14 home runs while in Atlanta, most of which came off the bench. Izturis, a Gold Glove winner in 2004, provides a more reliable option to back up Gonzalez, Ramirez, or Weeks and is a much better contact hitter (averages one strikeout per 10 at-bats over 11 seasons).
C*- (8) Jonathan Lucroy– With yet another year of experience behind the plate, Lucroy enters 2012 uncontested for the starting catcher role. Pitchers love his improving abilities behind the plate. He’s no slouch at the plate, either. He hit .265 with 12 dingers and 59 RBI in front of the pitcher throughout 2011.
C- George Kottaras– Randy Wolf’s personal catcher was solid as a backup in his second season as a Brewer. He set career highs in average, OBP, SLG, and OPS in 2011. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve both behind and at the plate this year.
1- + Yovani Gallardo
2- Zack Greinke
4- Randy Wolf
5- Chris Narveson
Expect nothing less than a great season from the intact staff from 2011 that was one of the National League’s best. Greinke, barring any setbacks and pick-up basketball games, will have a full season under his belt after striking out over 200 in 28 starts in 2011. Randy Wolf’s ability to pick up the dreaded stat of quality starts and Chris Narveson’s first couple innings are focal points for the season. We know what to expect out of the three studs at the top, but will Wolf and Narveson be as productive as they were last year?
John Axford (closer)
Francisco Rodriguez (set up man)
As much as I would love to see a guy like Wily Peralta or Santo Manzanilla or last year’s extra inning hero in Philadelphia, Brandon Kintzler, make the Opening Day roster, there isn’t the space to fit in all the options. I don’t see Roenicke and Melvin sending Parra down again and, essentially, ending his chances with the Brewers. With a lack of southpaw options for the ‘pen, his job will primarily be to retire possibly multiple left handed hitters in an inning. The Dillard selection, however, can be attributed more to an educated guess. With Estrada and Parra, Roenicke doesn’t need any more inning eaters and The Tim Dillard Experience has a repertoire much more suited to retire one or two batters than Brandon Kintzler. Just ask the Marlins.
* Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster is the “fifth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first four posts here.
Dealing with adversity is something all professional athletes must overcome in order to be successful. The ones that handle it best are ultimately the ones that go on to do big things. This is no different for Brewers outfielder and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun. Braun’s situation, however, has called upon an imperative professionalism to which he has met.
The typical highest point of adversity for a baseball player is to be caught in the doldrums of a slump, whether it be at the plate, in the field, or on the mound. Braun, compared to most, has experience far less of this sort of adversity in his career, yet has trumped nearly them all with the ongoing saga surrounding him this off-season.
In December, ESPN reported that Braun tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was facing an imminent 50 game suspension. Click here for more details on the story. As the lengthy appeal process continues and the jury is still out (literally) on his status for the fast-approaching 2012 season, Braun has handled the personally strenuous situation with class and high regard. Unlike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, former icons who became widely disliked for the way they handled the media during their PED trials, Braun has not crossed any lines, spoken out in portions about the situation, and politely declined any question or comment he deemed unanswerable.
He could have trashed reporters when questioned about his alleged use of synthetic testosterone. He could have created a stir toward the MLB for releasing his test results, which were supposed to be confidential. He could have sued for his private medical information being publicized. He could have gone faded off into a secluded abyss. He could have declined the invitation to attend the BBWAA Awards Dinner, where he gave a brief speech. He could have gone against the Brewers for possibly mal-testing him.
He has maintained a professional mannerism in a situation that has progressively drawn a “Braun+Brewers fans vs. the world” feel. If anybody actually believes that Braun went over-the-top with his initial reaction,telling USA Today the report was “BS”, they need to get a realization of how 98% of people would react. Imagine being one of the game’s elite sluggers and just having won your first MVP award, just for it to be reported you tested positive for PEDs. Who wouldn’t defend themselves in this scenario? Calling a report “BS” in an attempt to instinctively defend yourself is anything but over-the-top, unless your name is Tim Tebow.
At the BBWAA dinner, in his first public appearance since the report surfaced, Braun asserted that challenge is opportunity.
“You know, sometimes in life, we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure…and I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I have always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.”
Throughout, the 28-year-old has been able to voice his opinion on the report respectfully without attacking any group or individual. This video from TMZ found on Bleeding Yankee Blue shows just this.
The final verdict on Braun’s pending suspension has yet to be reached and the star outfielder may have to report to Spring Training without knowledge of whether or not he will be in Ron Roenicke’s Opening Day lineup. I expect him to handle all the media attention in the same way since he was called up in May of 2007. Seeing Braun tear the cover off the ball in Spring action can also be expected at the same elite level we’ve seen since May 2007.
Prolonged slumps have avoided Braun over the course of his five Big League seasons. Ever since Little League, he has been one of the most feared players on any given diamond. From sharing the field little Jonny Olson and TJ Johnson to doing so with the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, Braun has always been the primary focus of opposing pitching. Any notion that Braun only had a MVP-caliber season with 33 homers, 111 RBI, and a .332 average because of alleged PED use is absurd. There was no significant increase in power numbers for Braun in 2011; he blasted 34 in a mere 113 games as a rookie in 2007 and didn’t test positive for PEDs. The lucid fact that he has always been a pure hitter should remain prominent when discussing the situation.
What I’m trying to say in that last paragraph is that, if the report holds true and he is suspended 50 games, Braun didn’t become the National League MVP simply because of taking any performance boosters.
Without Braun, the Brewers don’t win the division for the first time since 1982. Milwaukee would have been absent from the party in October, yet again. They don’t make the franchise’s first National League Championship Series appearance. Miller Park doesn’t draw 3,000,000 fans.
The bat of #8 was invaluable for the Brewers in 2011, which is why he won and has retained, for that matter, the MVP award. If Braun
was really a fraud, he would have failed other postseason drug tests in the past and any random drug tests administered by Major League Baseball throughout the regular season. To our knowledge, however, he never failed any of these.
Rightful MVP, indeed.
The goal here is most definitely not to offer my opinion on whether or not Braun is innocent, but ,as a Brewers die-hard, believing Braun’s words emanates a lining of hope. The kind of hope that the truth will come out and that it will be favorable to Braun and the Brewers. Maybe even hoping that, despite it being merely a rumor, his test was mishandled, as I reported earlier this week on Plushdamentals.
Many of the details surrounding the Ryan Braun saga are currently ambiguous to the public, but I know three things are certain: Braun has handled a beyond-adverse situation professionally, and, because of doing so, has shown he is the deserving MVP and will receive a standing ovation that rattles the Miller Park roof whenever it be that he returns to the Brewers lineup.
*’Ryan Braun: Professional Man, Pure Hitter, Rightful MVP’ is the “fourth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read the first, second, and third posts here.
A harsh, grim reality is finally falling over Brewers fans: the beloved slugger Prince Fielder will not be a mainstay in the cleanup spot for Ron Roenicke and the Brewers anymore. In a well chronicled free agency with no void of wild, circulating rumors surround Prince, the former Brewers first baseman signed with Detroit for nine years and $214 million. The inevitability of the day that Milwaukee attempted to ignore was finally a crashing reality.
Looking back, Fielder provided the Brewers with dozens of memories on the field. He was an everyday shoe-in for the cleanup spot and was adored by the fan base. On behalf of every person to proudly don a navy blue cap emblazoned with a metallic gold ‘M’ underlined in barley, thank you, Prince.
For one last tribute to No. 28, here are his 28 most memorable moments as a Milwaukee Brewer.
28. Cover Boy (2007, ’11)
Fielder was featured on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine in the August 13, 2007 edition and, again, on the August 29, 2011 edition of Sports Illustrated along with Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan. His first appearance on a magazine cover for ESPN marketed his name to the national audience, despite playing in “small town” Milwaukee. You can see the recent SI cover here.
27. Home Run #200 (2011)
In only six seasons with the Crew, Fielder amassed a total of 230 homers, good for second in franchise history. The historic 200th round-tripper came on May 11, 2011 at Miller Park off of Tim Stauffer of the Padres. Trailing 5-3 with two outs in the fifth, Fielder hit a line drive over the fence in right-center to tie the game and reach the 200 homer mark. He was the first Brewers player to reach the plateau since Geoff Jenkins in 2007.
26. Post-NLDS Interview (2011)
I searched long and hard for this one–trust me–and finally found this footage of Fielder’s interview with TBS after the Brewers 3-2 Game Five of the NLDS. For some, this moment may not even be memorable or already may have been forgotten about (probably because of this). But for me, Prince’s reaction after advancing to the NLCS was priceless. He displayed immense shades of T. Plush when TBS reporter Sam Ryan asked him for an interview after the on-field celebration. Caught in the emotion of the moment, Fielder started talking, couldn’t produce any semblance of words, and simply uttered the words of Plush: “I GOTTA GO.” Attaboy, Prince.
On the final day of the 2009 season, with St. Louis already having clinched the division and Milwaukee eliminated from playoff contention, is when Tony LaRussa’s douchiest moment as a manager against the Brewers happened. Fielder entered the game batting .297, needing a 4-6 game to reach the .300 mark for the season. After a single and two homers, Prince was sitting at .299 with one plate appearance left and needing a hit to reach .300. What does LaRussa do at a point when the game meant nothing to either team? He intentionally walked him, and Fielder finished the season at .299.
24. Payback against Pittsburgh (2007)
Pittsburgh may be the most relieved team too see the Prince swap out of the NL Central. The first of many memorable moments against the Pirates (trust me, there’s a lot more to come), Fielder was drilled by a Matt Capps fastball in May of 2007 after a JJ Hardy three-run home run. The pitch was justifiably deemed intentional and Capps received a four game suspension from MLB disciplinary czar Bob Watson. Fielder avenged the hit by pitch the next night by blasting two home runs and scoring the winning run, after which he stared down the Pirates bench, gesturing emotionally, before being shown the way back to the home dugout. Since that series, the Pirates are 4-37 at their house of horrors, Miller Park.
23. Houston, We Have Blast Off (2011)
486 feet. I’ll just let this do all the talking.
22. Third in MVP Voting in 2007, 2011
After becoming the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season and slugging .618, Fielder took third place in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, trailing only the winner Jimmy Rollins of Philadelphia and the Rockies’ Matt Holliday. Again in 2011, Fielder took third, behind Matt Kemp of Los Angeles and teammate and winner Ryan Braun. Fielder hit 38 homers, drove in 120 runs, and batted .299 on the division champion Brewers.
21. Splash Hit in San Fran (2008)
On July 17, 2008, Fielder went yard at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. If that wasn’t already the hardest place to dial 8 in the Bigs, it would still be just incredibly impressive that the ball of his bat landed in McCovey Cove for a “Splash Hit”. Check the blast out here, and see how quickly all those sailboats went scurrying for the Fielder Blast.
20. Salami for Prince (2009)
The once-renowned vegetarian hit his first and only career grand slam on June 15, 2009 against Cleveland. Once down 8-3, Milwaukee
(sitting in first place at 34-29) had managed to cut the lead down to one before Chris Narveson and Mark DiFelice surrendered four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Down 12-7 and facing former Brewers greats Greg Aquino and Luis “Lose the Lead” Vizcaino, the Crew drew within three after RBI from Corey Hart and Ryan Braun. With the bags full and facing erratic lefty Rafael Perez in the eighth, Prince roped a line drive that cleared the right field fence at Progressive to give the Brewers a 13-12 lead they would not relinquish. This was also the moment that made Braun and Fielder’s home run celebration (below) particularly exoteric.
19. Everyday I’m Scufflin’ (2008)
Though more people tend to remember his attempt to reach the LA Dodgers clubhouse and confront Guillermo Mota, his in-game altercation with teammate Manny Parra in 2008, to me, is more important. After surrendering six runs in six innings, Parra was taken out for a pinch hitter and infuriated Fielder by heading toward the clubhouse instead of remaining with the rest of the team in the dugout. Prince shoved Parra twice before being restrained by teammates. This singular moment may have turned the Brewers ’08 season around, precipitating an eight-game win streak that vaulted Milwaukee to the top of the National League Wild Card standings. Unlike the not-so-brawl at Dodger Stadium that was over-hyped by the media, Fielder’s scuffle with Parra was a turning point in their season.
18. Time to Send ‘Em Home (2011)
What remained of a Friday night crowd of 33,361 at Miller Park on May 20, 2011 went home happy after enduring a marathon between the Rockies and the Brewers. A game that featured 14 different pitchers and lasted four hours and 35 minutes ended abruptly with a no-doubter into the right field bleachers to give Milwaukee a 7-6 victory in 14 innings. The Brewers trailed 6-5 with one out when Fielder hit the two-run walk off homer that launched a sweep of Colorado.
17. Move Over, Coop (2009)
On September 19, 2009, with 14 games remaining in the season, Fielder broke Cecil Cooper’s single-season franchise record of 126 RBI with a sacrifice fly against the Cooper-managed Houston Astros. He would go on to drive in 141 runs on the season, tied for the league lead with Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard.
16. First Career Walk Off (2005)
I remember as a 10 year-old boy, listening to Bob Uecker call the Pirates-Brewers game on August 31, 2005, just days after the infamous tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, that new guy called up to the Brewers pinch hit for Derrick Turnbow–I had to refute the temptation to turn his name into the oft-mentioned joke–and added another career first to his mantel. After Pirates closer Jose Mesa, indelible to Brewers fans for giving up Robin Yount’s 3000th hit, walked Lyle Overbay on four pitches, Fielder began his legend as a Brewer by hitting a towering walk off homer to win 6-5 much to the chagrin of Mesa. The Brewers finished 2005 at 81-81 and, much to the credit of Fielder’s walk off blast, ended their 12 year streak of finishing with a losing record. Oh how would the Buccos soon become ever so familiar with big No. 28…..
15. Prince’s Debut Single (2005)
Technically, Prince’s first Big League hit was a double, but please tell me you get the reference. After taking the collar two nights before in his Major League debut, Fielder took care of business and picked up his first of many hits to come with a double down the right field line of Hideo Nomo a frozen rope that would soon become colloquial at Miller Park and stadiums across the country. The double marked the start of Prince’s memorable career as a Brewer.
14. Beast Mode (2011)
Yup. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Aka, shut up, Curt and let the pictures do the talking.
13. Prince Becomes Brewers HR King (2007)
“There’s a new home run champion of all time…and it’s Prince Fielder.”
Okay, I get it. I’m not Milo Hamilton and Hank Aaron didn’t just break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, but on September 15, 2007, Fielder gained sole possession of the Brewers single season home run record. His third inning dinger was number 46 on the season, surpassing Gorman Thomas and Richie Sexson, who were previously tied for the record with 45 homers apiece. He would hit 46 homers again in 2009, only behind his 2007 eventual total of 50.
12. Catcher in the Way (2006)
Prince Fielder, meet Todd Greene. Todd Greene, meet Prince Fielder.
In a type of play Giants fans would soon grow to hate, Fielder completely obliterated San Francisco catcher Todd Greene on a May afternoon in 2006. After an extra base hit to right field, Fielder was waved home and was beaten easily by the throw. He went to his last resort and simply lit up Greene, jarring the ball loose and scoring. The photo beneath shows Greene shaken up by a perfectly fine Fielder as he watches Corey Koskie get tagged out.
11. Snake Bitten (2011)
NLDS. Game One. Brewers 2. D’Backs 0. Ian Kennedy fastball. Prince Fielder blast off. Gave the Brewers a 4-0 lead and clinched their first playoff series lead since 1982.
10. First Career Home Run (2005)
In a well document game, both Prince and Rickie Weeks hit their first career homers against Jesse Crain and two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana of the Twins, respectively. As Darren Sutton said of Fielder’s round-tripper, it was ” career home run number one for the man who is Prince but will soon be king.” Fittingly, Fielder’s three-run homer came with the Brewers trailing 5-4 and would prove to be the winning hit. It was the beginning of great things for both Prince and Rickie.
9. Hunting Cards in October (2011)
Down 5-2 in the fifth inning in Game One of the National League Championship Series, the Brewers bats exploded. Base hits by Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Ryan Braun cut the St. Louis lead down to 5-4. Enter Prince Fielder, stage right. The big fella wasted no time, launching the first pitch from Jaime Garcia into the visitor’s bullpen to give the Brewers a 6-5 lead as Miller Park erupted. The Brewers went on to win 9-6 and take the early series lead over the Cards. A clutch, game changing homer in the NLCS is, without a doubt, an incredible moment.
8. All Star Game MVP (2011)
For many, this would be one of Prince’s most memorable moments as a Brewer, and surely would be higher if Milwaukee had reached the World Series. With the National League going winless in 13 consecutive All Star Games (including the 2002 infamy in Milwaukee), they appeared to be on the same track, down 1-0 in the fourth. That is until Fielder stepped up. Prince connected with a CJ Wilson cutter and drove the ball out of Chase Field in left-center for a three run home run to give the National League the lead. The streak was snapped as the NL ultimately won, 5-1, and Fielder received the Most Valuable Player award for his game-winning homer.
7. One Final Pirate Killing (x3) (2011)
In his second-to-last regular season game as a Brewer, Milwaukee was facing the Pirates. That in itself should say enough. The noted Pirates killer had the best single-game performance of his career. Prince homered not once or twice, but three times. His final moon shot, a 7th inning frozen rope to right off of reliever Jared Hughes, broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Brewers a 6-4 lead. But are we surprised that a homer off the bat of Fielder gave the Crew a late lead? Fielder’s first, a 453 foot shot to Souvenir City in right, was impressive in itself. Add to this another homer in the fifth off the Miller Park scoreboard to give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead and his game-winner in the 7th, and you have the formula for a night when Prince cemented his status as a king of BrewTown.
6a & 6b. Rumble, Prince, Rumble. (2007, ’08)
I’d like to thank the MLB for complaining about copyright infringement and, thus, keeping me from posting YouTube videos for Prince’s two inside-the-park home runs against the Twins and the Blue Jays. BUT, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and Brew Crew Ball for this video of the 2007 one in Minnesota and of this round-tripper against Toronto in 2008. Seeing Prince chug around the bases for a rare inside-the-parker has to be one of the most memorable moments from his career.
5. One Final Hoorah (2011)
Admittedly, this was one of the saddest moments as a Brewers fan. The culmination of an entire career and the brute face of reality finally faced Brewers faithful everywhere. Trailing 12-6 and almost assuredly on the verge of Playoff elimination, Fielder came to the plate for one last time in the eighth inning. Always a gentleman and understanding the emotion (he would sign with the Angels two months later), Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols called time as Fielder stepped to the plate to let the moment soak in. Tough moment, to say the least.
4. Nifty Fifty (2007)
Fielder became the youngest player in MLB history (then 23) to hit 50 homers in a single season when he blasted two out of Miller Park on September 25, 2007 against the Cardinals. The historic home run came in the seventh inning off of Kip Wells on a no-doubter to left field. He received a standing ovation that evoked emotion and created memories to last. Seeing Prince run around the bases after reaching the milestone that is 50 home runs was simply incredible.
3. “He hit that one to the MOON!” (2009)
At Busch Stadium in July of 2009, against hometown favorites Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard, Fielder beat out former Brewer Nelson Cruz in the final round to win the Home Run Derby. In terms of importance to the Brewers, this moment may have been the least important, but it sure made for one fun night. Watching Fielder dominate the competition–including connecting on a 503-foot blast, the longest of the night, that led to Chris Berman squawking the above quote–while his kids and Braun celebrated was one of Prince’s best moments as a Brewer. Behind 23 home runs, he was crowned champion of the night.
T-1. Final Week Heroics (2008)
Trailing the New York Mets by one game in the final week of the 2008 regular season, with the Mets having already won that night, Prince came up with his most clutch moment as a Brewer. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and tied 5-5, Fielder launched a walk-off, two run home run to the Toyota Territory in right-center field off (surprise, surprise) Pirates. Clutch. I remember completely erupting in my basement and waking up the entire house when Fielder hit the homer. It launched a simply unforgettable week. Two nights later with a 13 year-old Curt Hogg in attendance, Braun hit a walk off grand slam to beat the Pirates. On the final day of the season, Braun hit a beyond-dramatic go-ahead homer in the eighth against the Cubs as Milwaukee clinched the NL Wild Card.
T-1. Bowling With the Prince (2009)
In what may have been the greatest celebration after a walk off hit ever, Prince and the Brewers created a long-lasting and hilarious memory. On September 6, 2009, Fielder cracked a walk off home run to beat the San Francisco Giants. The homer wasn’t even the most memorable part, as Fielder majestically jumped on home plate and the rest of the Brewers fell down like bowling pins. The Giants didn’t like the move (but who cares?) and Barry Zito plunked Fielder for redemption the next year in Spring Training. The celebration will forever be associated with Prince and his incredible career with the Brewers.
*Thanks, Prince: No. 28’s 28 Most Memorable Moments as a Brewer is the “third inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read the first and second posts here.
THE SECOND INNING*
-By Curt Hogg-
Humbly, it all began. In front of 37,273 sanguine fans on April 6, 1970 at County Stadium, sporting makeshift jerseys created hastily in under a week from those of the old Seattle Pilots, the Milwaukee Brewers were thrashed at the hands of the California Angels, 12-0. Approximately forty years and four Playoff appearances later, that same franchise that unpretentiously lost to the Angels one April afternoon in 1970 was popping champagne, claiming Tony Plush to be a folk legend, and advancing to its first National League Championship Series. And all the way, the team was backed firmly by the city it called home.
This is where the author, wrapped in sheer pride and basking in reminiscence, brags about the world championships, and the pennants, and the MLB records set, and all the years of winning teams, and how being a fan of the team has always been a breeze.
But this is where an author from Milwaukee, utterly thankful to the baseball gods for giving his Brewers one deep Playoff run in his lifetime, goes on about 1982 and 2011, with minor references to Robin, CC, 1987, 2008, and the “new stadium” thrown in somewhere. This is where we ignore the 12 consecutive losing seasons, the 106-loss embarrassment that was 2002, the lack of a World Series title, the league-worst earned run averages, the horror that was the 1990s, and the ways in which Stormin’ Gorman and Mollie and Sheffield and Prince departed from BrewTown. Wait, did I mention the 12 consecutive losing seasons yet?
The things is, we can’t just forget and ignore any of this. How much appreciation can be drawn from a fan that has only ever seen a winning ballclub? Heading out to County Stadium or, more recently, Miller Park on an unpleasant summer night and cringing helplessly as the Brewers suffered another beating just to, somewhat masochistically, repeat this action time and time again is what has made Milwaukee a baseball city. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder–but in Milwaukee’s case, losing has made the heart grow incredibly fonder.
Where the love saga really began, however, was with the Braves, Milwaukee’s lost treasure of the 50’s and early 60’s. They remain the one Milwaukee team to bring a World Series title home. Led by legends Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Mathews, the Braves led the National League in attendance six times in their 13-year tenure in the Midwest. And when America’s small-town team defeated the mighty Yankees in seven games in the 1957 World Series, the city erupted into a frenzy. That would be just the beginning.
From the days of seat cushion giveaways all the way through the days of Randy Wolf and John Axford bobblehead doll giveaways, Milwaukee has faithfully been behind their Brewers. For the team with the smallest television market in the league to attract over three million fans three of the last four seasons and to rank in the top half in attendance each of the last five seasons shows true dedication on part of the fans. This is a town that threw a celebration at a sold-out County Stadium after losing the World Series–and it made the actual World Series parade in St. Louis look like Brown Deer’s homecoming parade. Robin Yount’s rebellious ride around in warning track in his Harley epitomized the city and its fans; blue collar, loud, and in love with baseball.
Milwaukee’s brightest moment in the 1982 postseason sun was a special one. Close your eyes at an empty County Stadium, and you can still hear the echoes from Cecil Cooper’s ALCS-winning hit. The place nearly collapsed under the weight of all that joy. Ten days later, the city almost collapsed under the weight of that World Series despair, until along came Robin and his Harley and lifted the spirits.
Former Brewers hold special places of endearment in Milwaukee’s heart. When Cooper was managing the division rival Houston Astros in 2009, he received such a loud standing ovation from Brewers fans that his name could not be heard over the PA during lineup introductions. Geoff Jenkins had to step out of the batter’s box and tip his cap to fans during the Phillies’08 NLDS matchup against Milwaukee. Miller Park’s roof is nearly blown off anytime Robin Yount steps foot in the building. Even in the 2011 NLDS against Arizona were fans signaling an ‘O’ when former Brewer Lyle Overbay came to bat.
To say Milwaukee embraced Nyjer Morgan, Tony Plush, and “Beast Mode” in 2011 would be an understatement. The city went all-out, full-throttle, pedal to the metal, and was completely in love with anything involving any of the three. From chucking up the T’s to going Beast Mode, the city
was enamored with these in 2011. Morgan’s spunk and eccentricity won him over with the fan base and vaulted his t-shirt to the top of Brewers Fan Shop sales.
Fast forward through the Brewers history and there are those moments that have forever captivated Brewers fans. Robin Yount’s 3000th hit undoubtedly holds a special place in every Brewer fan’s heart. Close your eyes once again and you can hear legendary Bob Uecker’s nerving, spine-tingling call. Brewers baseball entered the morbid doldrums until one large man named Carsten Charles Sabathia gave Milwaukee the taste of champagne popping again.
If not for the indubitable suffering evoked and etched into the hearts of the faithful, Milwaukee baseball would not be the same. Robin, Rollie, Paulie, Coop, Jenkins, Prince, and Braunie have created the mold for modern-day Brewers baseball. Miller Park may not be blanketed by World Series pennants on the façade, but there is no tangible way to adequately represent all the passion poured into Brewers baseball.
Forget Twilight. This is truly a love saga, and I hope it never ends.
**Milwaukee and Baseball: A Love Saga is the “second inning” of a set of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. You can read the “first inning” here.
The indelible image from a magical 2011 is that of the regularly exuberant Nyjer Morgan, separating from the post NLDS Game 5 celebration, and submerging himself in the splendor, magnitude, and sheer joy of the moment. Following his game-winning hit and the least surprising F-bomb in television history, he took the cross-legged and grinning pose of a joyous kindergartner in a corner of the clubhouse. The celebration, meanwhile, ensued, much like the Brewers season as they advanced to their first NLCS in franchise history.
A bittersweet taste, however, still lingers in the mouths of Brewers players and fans. Sure, the team won a franchise-record 96 games. Yes, they won the division and beat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. And, of course, it was a seven month long party in Milwaukee. But to get so close and to not taste the full effects of winning it all hurts. Add to this the idea that the St. Louis Cardinals, whom the Brewers were a better team than for the entire year minus one roughly mistimed series in October, ended up hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, and you have yourself a recipe for “what if….?” thoughts.
But, as they say, time heals all wounds (unless you tend to hold grudges), and, soon enough, 2011 will bring forth only positive memories from Brewers fans, of which there is a plethora to choose from.
There was the 4 hour 35 minute marathon in May that ended royally with a Prince Fielder walk off blast to right field. Or the 4-6-3-2 triple play turned by the Crew against the Dodgers. There were all the hilarious post-game antics of Morgan-err…. Tony Plush. Braun’s game-winning home run vs. the Marlins as the Brewers clinched the division on September 23. And the vivaciously unforgettable “Beast Mode” celebration that enthralled the entire city of Milwaukee.
Deftly put, 2011 was one incredible dream for all Brewers fans alike. After being confined to futility and mediocrity for 29 years, with a brief 2008 Playoff stint thrown in for kicks, Milwaukee baseball finally returned to prominence.
Ryan Braun brought home the Brewers’ first Most Valuable Player award since Robin Yount won it in 1989. Braun out-slugged the competition, beating out Matt Kemp and teammate Prince Fielder for baseball’s most coveted award. He led the league in slugging and in OPS in addition to batting .332, second to only that of New York’s Jose Reyes, and hit 33 homers while driving in 111 RBI. Braun also led the team with 33 stolen bases while only getting thrown out six times and hit .500 with 4 RBI in the NLDS. Ignore the drama for the time being surrounding the Brewers four-time All Star and Silver Slugger; Milwaukee has found itself a star.
The loss of Prince Fielder to free agency will undoubtedly affect the team’s performance offensively. Without the dynamic 1-2 punch of
Braun and Fielder, the 2011 season would have had a significantly different outcome. Fielder’s .415 OBP, 38 home runs, and 120 RBI provided protection to Braun in the 3-hole in the lineup and provided an elite power bat.
It was not all Fielder and Braun, however. All Star Game starter Rickie Weeks was on pace to have a career year until an injury in July set him back. Corey Hart filled in nicely for Weeks at the leadoff spot, finishing the season hitting .285 with 26 homers. He finished the season hitting .301 as the leadoff batter for the Brewers. Morgan proved to be more than all talk, batting .304 with countless clutch hits and stellar defensive play. Jerry Hairston filled in nicely for the injured Weeks before replacing a struggling Casey McGehee come Playoff time. The team produced more than enough offense to back their stellar starting rotation.
GM Doug Melvin’s off-season acquisitions of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke payed off, with Marcum’s rotation-leading ERA. Greinkem, despite missing 7 starts to begin the season, struck out 201 batters and posted a 16-6 record. Yovani Gallardo proved to be the team’s ace time and time again, and Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson went a combined 24-18 to round out the rotation.
We could go on for days about the key parts to the 2011 Brewers. I just spent four paragraphs discussing the players and didn’t even touch John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez or Jonathan Lucroy or Takashi Saito. This speaks volumes about the depth that the Brewers possessed.
The turnstiles of Miller Park were rushed all year long as the team set a franchise record for attendance with over 3,071,000 million fans. Nothing was magical at all about this influx of Brewers fans to Miller Park. Mix together a great baseball team with a great baseball city and the result is party rockin’ in the house every night. Miller Park was a living nightmare for opposing teams, as the Crew won a franchise-record 57 home games in their friendly confines (Shut up, La Russa, it wasn’t the lighting). Braun, Fielder, Plush & Co. made damn well sure that DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” would be blasted after every game from the same speakers that once chimed “Hell’s Bells” for Trevor Hoffman.
As was Miller Park, homes around Milwaukee were rockin’ on a nightly basis. 96 wins. NL Central champions. National League Championship Series appearance. National League MVP. 3 All Stars. Franchise attendance record. A Prince that blossomed into a King. Nightly lessons of Plushdamentals from T. Plush. Axford’s mustache and saves. Beast mode.
*2011: A Healthy Brew of Magic is the “first inning” of a set of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game.
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