J. D. Thorne

Many Blessings, Large and Small

This is my first ever Thanksgiving Day column.  There are lots of things to be thankful for in the baseball world.  Although some of the players cheated using Performance Enhancing Drugs (“P.E.D.’s”), baseball players do not seem to be caught up in the scandals involving domestic abuse or child beating so far? 

Although it involves the use of power, speed, and agility, and players face the danger of getting hit in the face with an errantly thrown 100 mph pitch, our game is not so violent that we worry about players getting concussions on every play.  Baseball was even able to change the rule regarding collisions at home plate without effecting too much how the game is played.  For this I am thankful.

I am thankful too that baseball’s play-off system allows a team to get hot at the end, and go far toward winning a World Series Championship.  I am thankful baseball is a game where it is not over until one team wins without having to flip a coin for first possession in an overtime or have to have “shoot-out” like in soccer, hockey or rugby.  It was great to see a team like Kansas City emerge to take it to a game seven!  It gives us hope that the glass is half full, not half empty.  This is especially true when one looks at the Brewer’s chances for 2015.  Maybe it is true that given all those games in first place it really meant something?  Maybe it is true the team is really not that far away from making a real run next season?

Relative to the Brewers, I am thankful it appears the medical procedure relieving the pain in Ryan Braun’s thumb has worked.  Maybe his MVP hitting stats can return for 2015?  How many times was it down the stretch where we couldn’t get lead-off runners on base around the rest of the bases to score in a tight game?

I am also thankful General Manager Melvin shrewdly picked up Parra from the now lowly Diamondbacks and reliever Broxton from the Reds near the end of last season.   Having an outstanding fielding veteran outfielder provides needed depth.  It may give the team more time to bring Davis and his powerful swing along?    Broxton may allow us not to burn out the outstanding arm of Will Smith this season?  Because of Broxton the team also won’t miss the loss of Zak Duke to free agency.  In fact, I am thankful that Duke, after resurrecting himself through the use of a tricky delivery technique, will pitch in the other league and not come back to haunt the Brewers.  However, I also believe the national league hitters where starting to get on to him toward the end of season, and he was not as reliable to get the needed out as he was earlier in the season.

I am glad Rickie Weeks doesn’t have to be paid by the Brewers this season.   It was not only his contract which limited the team’s options, but he took valuable playing time away from the development of Scooter Gennett, especially at bats he needed against left-handed pitching.  It is hard enough to hit lefties, but really hard when you don’t face them on a regular basis.

I am glad shortstop “Sugar” Segura has made it through his “sophomore” jinx year.  He seemed to come around toward the end too.  As good as Escobar looked for Kansas City, I believe a healthy Gennett and Segura will make an outstanding keystone combination.  I am glad we will have a new hitting Coach.  I am thankful LuCroy will still be banging out doubles and being a reliable backstop.  I hope we do not need him at first base.  I am happy the team resigned Gallardo as a starting pitcher.  He is a nice #3 starter who eats up innings in the rotation.  He can bring it on occasion to win tough games too when he has his best stuff.  He can win on the road too, except at St. Louis.

I am happy with Gomez in centerfield.  He covers plenty of ground defensively although his arm is not superior.  As he keeps maturing, with his running speed, he still has an upside that does not make me long for Kansas City’s Cain, once Brewers’ property.  On that score, I am glad that Aoki plays in Kansas City too now.  I could not stand to watch opposing outfielders play him at little league depth when he was batting.  He also could only play the Japanese style of playing very deep in right field, which made him very average defensively so many catchable balls fell in front of him.  Note that it got so bad that even Ned Yost was compelled to bench Aoki during the World Series.  I wish him well, but I am glad he plays for someone else now.  His loss was addition by subtraction in my opinion, although many fans liked him.

I am also most glad, despite the Brewers continuing challenge at 1B, that we have neither Prince Fielder nor Cory Hart to think about.  I liked Cory Hart, but his knees betrayed him.  With Prince, he is overpaid for being so lousy a fielding first baseman no matter how well he can hit.  Fielder’s 2011 season at the plate, when in combination with a super healthy Ryan Braun, may have been his highest playing value?  In this regard, I observe Detroit decided his poor defensive play was too much of a liability too, such that it banished him and his contract to Texas, where he was hurt most of the year.

Lastly, I glad for continuity to have our manager back; and not have Ned Yost.  This may be however only for one last season for both he and General Manager Melvin unless the team makes the play-offs.  The Brewers can beat St. Louis if everything meshes, and hopefully can stay ahead of improving teams in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.  Thankfully, the Cubs still seem a year away.  This means 2015 is our best shot at glory!  I am thankful the opportunity is there to build upon a season that was 10 games better than 2013.  If the Brewers can be another 10 games better again in 2015, it catapults the team to the play-offs!  Thankfully we have a dream.

J. D. Thorne