Friday, November 8, 2013

August 7- Milwaukee Brewers

If you can’t tell by the expression on my face in the picture above, my head is getting squeezed by the 7 1/8 Milwaukee Brewers cap barely gripping the top of my skull. Someone (@NotYasielPuig) had pointed out a few months ago that I am one of the most awkward people to ever pose in front of a camera based on the intro photos that I have at the top of each post. I’ll be the first to admit that’s true; however, in most cases there is a reason for these this. Photos are a vital piece to a story, especially when the subject matter is completely non-fictional. Fictional stories don’t necessarily need photos because the entire fantasy of what you’re reading is all based on how your imagination works. When something is based on factual evidence it’s usually a smart move to throw a few pictures in to give the reader a frame of reference. After all, what good would it be for me to talk cap baseball caps when you don’t know what they look like? As far as my facial expressions go, I do my best to prepare the reader for the journey they’re about to embark upon. Sometimes the story is happy, sometimes they’re depressing and sometimes it’s me going on a rant. Other times I try to incorporate something in the background to set the mood, kind of like when I spent late night hours in bed trying to hammer a post out. No matter the case there is always a method to my madness at play, and today is one of those posts where it all comes into play.

I should probably start by saying that, unless you’re a New Era cap collector or a Brewers fan, you might not remember this cap. It’s ok, not very many people in Milwaukee even remember this cap existing, but even crazier is that it’s next to impossible to track down. Much like the Brewers cap I wrote about on April 9th, it falls under the category of “What the f--- were they thinking?” but not because of the uniforms. To be honest, I actually really like this cap. I just hate the history surrounding it. See, back in 1994 is when it all started when the Brewers introduced these uniforms

Bring an end to arguably one of the greatest uniform sets and caps in Major League Baseball history. But that’s not all. 1994 was the year that MLB decided to expand their playoff format by adding the Wild Card series to the mix. Some of you are probably thinking, “Now Ben, the Wild Card wasn’t added until 1995.” This is true; however, it was supposed to be used in 1994 but the players strike kind of put a halt on things until the end of April the following year. In order to make the Wild Card system work MLB broke up the original two divisions (East and West) and added a third (Central) to each side, moving the Brewers out of the East and into the Central and in turn giving the West four teams each between the American and National Leagues. Originally this should not have worked out, but luckily the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies were added in 1993 to balance the leagues out. So, everything is perfect, right? Nope! MLB had other plans which entailed even more expansion despite the fact that the strike was still in effect in March of 1995. Back then two new franchises (Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays) were awarded by MLB to begin play in 1998. It was decided to add one new team to each league. At the time, however, MLB did not want to have an odd number of teams per league because they would either have to give teams many more off-days than in the past, or interleague play would have to be extended year-round, or both (14 years later however, another realignment would cause there to be an odd number of teams in each league with year round interleague play). In order for MLB officials to continue the existing schedule, where teams play almost every day and where interleague play is limited to a few days per year, both leagues would need to carry an even number of teams. The decision was made to have one existing club switch leagues. This is the moment when MLB went full-retard. The problem that MLB had put them selves in was as a result of their poor planning when they allowed the Marlins and Rockies into the Majors in an attempt to even everything out. The real problem of their addition of the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays is that they made the mistake of adding one too many teams to the wrong division (Devil Rays to the AL East.) How did this happen? MLB made the mistake of keeping the Detroit Tigers in the AL East when the new divisions were set up in 1994. So now there were going to be 15 teams in each league with the NL having five teams per division while in the AL there was one division with four teams and another with six.

It’s funny to look at all of this now because even a group of third graders could have figured out the problem much faster than the owners and executives were able to. In my opinion (which would have been the correct move) MLB should have moved the Kansas City Royals out of their new place in the AL Central and BACK to the AL West where they have had all of their success including a World Series title in 1985. This move would have given each division five teams apiece and an even 15 teams per league. Yes, I understand that MLB was afraid of an odd number of teams in each league; however, look at what we’re dealing with today and how long it took for everyone to realize that 15 teams per league in even divisions is actually a blessing. More important, the shit that actually went down would have never put a dent in baseball’s legacy: REALIGNMENT.

That’s right; one team had to be moved from one league to another to form a balance, something that had NEVER occurred in MLB history. Teams had obviously moved from state-to-state or city-to-city, but nothing like this. The realignment was widely considered to have great financial benefit to the club moving; however, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Commissioner (then-Brewers owner) Bud Selig decided another team should have the first chance to switch leagues. The Royals were asked first, but they decided against it. The choice then fell to the Brewers, who, on November 6, 1997, elected to move to the NL Central Division. At the same time, the Tigers agreed to move from the AL East to the AL Central (to replace Milwaukee). The Devil Rays joined the AL East and the Diamondbacks joined the NL West. Had the Brewers elected not to move to the NL, the Minnesota Twins would have been offered the opportunity next. Even reading my own words absolutely blows my mind that this happened. But what does any of this have to do with the cap? Well…

’97: The Brewers got a lot of flack for the uniforms they introduced in 1994 and wore through the end of the 1996 season. So they decided to correct their mistake and come up with something more appealing to the fans. In the offseason the Brewers introduced these uniforms to be worn for the 1997 season.

From then until the end of the 1999 season the Brewers wore this cap for all of their home game and a similar model with a gold “M” (which I can’t find for sale anywhere) for all of their road games. It is still the only time in MLB history that a cap/uniform has been used in multiple leagues. The cap on my head was purchased while the team was still a member of the AL and in my mind the team will always be an AL team. When time came for realignment once again at the end of the 2012 season MLB could have done the smart thing and looked at my original proposal by moving the Royals to the AL West and moving the Brewers back to the AL Central to even things out, but they once again decided that going full-retard was the most fiscally sound option by moving the Houston Astros to the AL West. Because trying to fix the past is just silly and make too many people happy.

These are obviously not new stories. I’ve touched base on a few of these issues before, but they still drive me crazy. How it’s possible for an old man like Selig to take “something he loves” (baseball) and completely blow it off kilter and be satisfied with himself is beyond me. It’s shit like this why I made the conscious decision to have Bernie Brewer added to the AL side of my body. I figured one baseball-loving person had to have some sense.

As to who the girl is, that’s a gem for another post.

#5: If there was ever a player over the last 25 years or so who made a quiet, yet definite impact for the throughout his entire career, it has to be Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins was a three-sport varsity athlete at Cordova High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California, but elected to pursue baseball full-time after receiving a scholarship from USC. From 1993-1995 he played ball for the Trojans. In his final season, he batted .399 with 78 RBI and a .748 slugging percentage in 70 games, also scoring 75 runs to tie the school record held by Rich Dauer and Mark McGwire; his 23 home runs and 193 total bases ranked second in school history behind McGwire's 1984 totals of 32 and 216. He led the Trojans to the College World Series, where they reached the championship game; Jenkins was named to the all-CWS team, and also earned team co-MVP honors and was named a consensus All-American. In 1996, the year of the CWS' 50th tournament, Jenkins was named to the all-decade team for the 1990s. He finished his USC career with a .369 batting average, 45 home runs (second only to McGwire's 54), a .652 slugging percentage, 180 runs, and school records for runs batted in (175) and total bases (444). Yah, he was kind of a big deal, but he fell to the Brewers in the ninth round of the 1995 amateur draft and didn’t make his MLB debut until 1998.

 Not pictured- Brett Favre

Jenkins played 10 years with the Brewers at the MLB level and was consistently the team’s best player. Twice he led the team in batting average, the first of which came in 1999 when he hit .313 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI. In 2000, he was the Brewers' team MVP. He led the Brewers in batting average (.303) and home runs (34). His 2002 season was cut short when on June 17 in a game against the Astros he suffered a horrific-looking dislocated ankle when sliding into third base feet first during a game. He was safe on the play. He was selected to the NL All-Star team in 2003 via the MLB's All-Star Final Vote contest where a player is selected from both leagues by fans to join their respective team after the initial roster is announced.

Jenkins hit a bit streak of offensive woes starting in the 2006 season and was eventually replaced in his spot in the outfield for Corey Hart. At the end of the 2007 season Jenkins was not re-signed, thus ending his Brewer career with a .275 average, 221 home runs and 733 RBI. But, his baseball career wasn’t over. On December 20, 2007, he signed a two-year, $13 million deal with a vesting option for 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jenkins returned to Miller Park in a Phillies uniform on April 23, 2008, to a crowd of just over 30,000. He was welcomed back with a tribute video, highlighting his ten-year career with the Brewers, and the standing ovation that followed. He received a second ovation while leading off the second inning. Philadelphia would go on to lose the game, 5-4. He went 0 for 3, with a walk and a stolen base. In the postseason, his only hit came on a leadoff double in the bottom of the 6th in Game 5 of the World Series. His hit set the tone for the finale of the World Series as the Phillies won the World Series and earned Jenkins his first World Series ring of his 10 year career. The Phillies ultimately released him at the end of Spring Training in 2009 and in July he was signed by the Brewers on a one-day contract so he could officially retire with the team.

#20: Jeromy Burnitz played his collegiate ball at Oklahoma State University and played minor league ball with the Welsh Waves and the Buffalo Bisons. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. He first came up with the New York Mets and exhibited both power and speed, but was traded by them to the Cleveland Indians. Burnitz never really cracked the Cleveland lineup and it was only after his trade to Milwaukee in 1996 that he emerged as an everyday player.

From 1996-2001 Burnitz was an absolute stud for the Brewers. In his first full season, 1997, Burnitz hit .281 with 27 home runs, 85 RBI and even stole 20 bases. His efforts gave him a top-30 finish for the AL MVP. The next season he hit a modest .263 but pounded a career-high 38 home runs and a career-high 125 RBI which ultimately improved his stock with a top-20 finish for the NL MVP. Clearly hitting in the NL improved his power game in just one season. In 1999 he made his first All-Star Game and even started in place of the injured Tony Gwynn, thus becoming the first Brewer to start an All-Star Game since Paul Molitor. In the six years he played in Milwaukee he hit .258 with 165 home runs and 525 RBI.

Burnitz played until the end of the 2006 season with the Mets for a second time (2002-2003), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2003), the Rockies (2004), the Chicago Cubs (2005) and then finally with Pittsburgh Pirates (2006).

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