There have been quite a few people calling for Craig Counsell’s head throughout July and August. They call for his release from the upper decks, all the way down to the box seats. Even smart people like this guy , and this guy , are calling for his head. I appreciate where everyone is coming from, with Counsell having an atrocious slash line of .151/.250/.183. Now that his bobblehead day has passed, it is time to take a serious look at his production. However, I think it would be a tremendous error of judgment to release the Whitefish Bay legend and I also think he has some upside and benefits overlooked by some fans.  Let’s take a look at why I believe Craig Counsell can be a tangible asset moving forward.

My guy JP over at BrewCrewBall came to Counsell’s defense for criticism about the standing ovation he received on Sunday. I happen to agree 100% with JP and also with Michael Hunt who described witnessing the ovation in person. These guys do a good job of discussing what extra benefits Counsell brings to the game other than a .151 average.

If the Brewers were not looking forward to a thrilling September and October, I would be the first person to suggest giving the young guys a chance to play. Not only should Counsell have gotten that ovation, but he also should be assured that he won’t be going anywhere for the rest of the season for a number of reasons related to the playoffs. As we all know, playoff baseball requires:

1)  Good at bats.  The entire purpose of a lineup in the playoffs is to get to the bullpen. If a team can get into the bullpen, they often will find a soft underbelly begging to be exposed. Counsell will provide productive at bats that will tax a starter throughout the game as a left handed hitter.

2)  Good defense.   The Brewers are constructed to get a lead and then usher in a wicked foursome of relievers from out of the bullpen.  A lead has rarely escaped the team during this recent run of success, and it can be directly attributed to having a lights out bullpen.  Counsell’s above average defense means he’s a realistic option at either SS or 3B defensively. In particular once a lead had been attained and a double switch needs to be made.

3)  Experience.   I know many people will disregard this as a non factor, but it must have some validity if every manager of a playoff team since the beginning of time wants a veteran laden bench.  That experience often pays off in high leverage moments, as the San Francisco Giants proved last year.  Greinke, Marcum, and Axford could be best served seeing how Counsell operates in a playoff atmosphere.  After all, the Milwaukee roster isn’t exactly brimming with guys that have been a World Series hero in two different cities.

4)  Youth with tremendous upside to replace experience.   What are we looking to accomplish by replacing Counsell? Exactly what upside does a potential playoff team have in replacing Counsell with a minor leaguer? Remember, Milwaukee doesn’t exactly have a top 25 prospect ready to come up and cause havoc.  I guess Taylor Green could be better offensively, but better off of the bench? That’s hard to do. Also, Green isn’t going to be a better defensive player than Counsell at three positions either.  Truly, there isn’t much upside in releasing Counsell and bringing up someone who may, or may not, be as bad as Counsell.  This move would truly do more harm than good as playoff baseball inches closer.

In summary, Craig Counsell is indeed having a rough year. I’m of the opinion that the Brewers don’t have Counsell on the team for games played in May. They have him on the team for games played in October. Assets such as above average defense, the ability to work a count, World Series experience, and a limited upside with a potential replacement are all good reasons to keep the veteran around. Much like Yuni Betancourt, Craig Counsell has plenty of time to change the minds of detractors as the season reaches a climax in the next six weeks.

 

Random Excerpts from the Book of Unwritten Rules

 

“Never bunt for a hit when the opposing pitcher has a no- hitter going.”

 

As I said last week in the inaugural edition of this feature, baseball is a game that has a foundation built on respect. Respect for the game, respect for the opposition, and respect for your own team are all principles instilled upon baseball players since the mid 1800s . When these basic principles are violated, there are often repercussions. I suppose a certain correlation could be made between baseball’s unwritten rules and the Japanese Samurai culture:  It’s all about respect.

The biggest criticism of this unwritten rule is that people make the mistake of concerning themselves with what inning this rule takes effect. Listen, you can bunt in the first inning, you can even bunt in the sixth inning. Worrying about WHEN you can bunt takes away from what the focus should be on, WHY you shouldn’t bunt. Respect is the simple answer.

If a pitcher is dominating a team to the point where they have very little chance of getting a hit, that team owes it to the game, the opposition, and themselves to put forth the best effort possible to prevent a no- hitter. A no- hitter is such a rare event that it needs to be validated with an honest effort. If the pitcher is able to retire everyone without surrendering a hit, protocol dictates that you simple tip your cap to him and come back to get them tomorrow.

What you don’t do is drop down a bunt. In my opinion, it’s a low class move reserved only for only teams like the St. Louis Cardinals. When a guy is cruising towards a rare event like a no- hitter, as a team, it is your responsibility to do everything possible to break it up without resorting to cheap, lowly bunts that die along the 3 rd base line. That’s the absolute worst way possible to lose a no- hitter. The offending team didn’t earn it, which is often perceived as disrespect towards the game and the opposition. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances to any example and I believe the Tigers/ Angels brawl recently during Jason Verlander’s attempt at a third no- hitter is a shining example of this.

The Detroit Tigers had hit two home runs off of Jared Weaver that day for three runs in total and the manner in which both Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen hit the home runs was the issue. Both hitters did a little too much strutting and not enough running around the bases with their head down.  In particular, the Guillen home run was done in a disrespectful manner , in a poor attempt to respond to Weaver yelling at Ordonez during his trot. The last thing Guillen should have done was strut and show up Weaver because his own pitcher had a no- hitter going! Guillen disrespected the game for not running with his head down around the bases during a no- hitter. He disrespected his opposition by showboating during a no- hitter. Finally, he disrespected his team by taking the focus away from winning the game and helping Verlander achieve a third no -hitter.

You don’t ever want to get caught up in a situation where the opposing team chooses to respond to a lack of class by punishing Verlander. Of course, Erick Aybar dropped down a bunt the next inning (it was ruled an error but the damage was done), essentially giving Detroit the biggest ‘FU’ possible. Verlander was justifiably upset, but he should have been upset at Carlos Guillen for making the game about himself, and not about Verlander’s third no-no. In short, I don’t blame Erick Aybar for dropping down a bunt in this situation. Carlos Guillen’s antics essentially gave him no choice.

 

In Case You Missed It

This past weekend marked a transition point for many bandwagon riding Wisconsin sports fans. Now that the Packers have started up festivities with four sessions of practice games, many crappy fans will leave the Milwaukee Brewers in the dust. I’m sure you all know a few fans that support the Brewers all season, then cut bait at the first sign of trouble, or at the first sign of a pigskin being thrown.

The Brewers are going to sell 3 million seats again this year. If fortunate enough to make the playoffs, they appear primed to play more than two games at Miller Park.   look forward to the obsessed news coverage and TV reports focusing on a hoarder living in West Allis that has collected every Brewer knickknack since 1970 in her living room.

In truth, I really look forward to more people writing articles such as the one written by Steve Rushin from Sports illustrated.  He wrote a terrific piece about the city of Milwaukee itself.  I loved the article, in particular at the end when describing the ’87 Easter Sunday game.  Even today, I still get a bit stirred when reading about probably one of the most iconic games of my lifetime.  One of the best parts about living in a city and supporting a team is the way in which a playoff qualifier can galvanize a community.  A rare event such as a NLCS or a World Series often can help eliminate the divisions in society that tend to define us.  I look forward to the prospect of having this community come together as one collective unit this Fall.

 

Dates Appearing Closer n the Horizon

August 22, 2011.   The Brewers are in Pittsburgh for four games in three days.  Easy pickings!

August 31, 2011.   The real trade deadline.

September 8, 2011.   The start of a 4 game home series against the Phillies should provide plenty of opportunity for folks to make this series the obligatory postseason preview.   Many things can change in a month, so I’ll just say that it’s a good opportunity to let everyone in the National League know that it is going to be tough to squeak out a victory at Miller Park in another month.

 

Shameless Self Promotion

Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan and my Google+ account at + A Simple Kind of Fan. If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this .  

Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game because of a MLB black- out?  No worries, the PocketDoppler is here for you.  Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers.  It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when the social calendar fills up in the summer.

 

 

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