Outfielder Dick Davis could never find a home in the Brewers outfield, so he was dealt to the Phillies for Lerch. Will Randy make an impact in 1982?
ANAHEIM — Today’s game between the Brewers and Angels was nationally televised. The entire country was able to see for themselves just how flawed these Brewers are.
A blown 4-1 lead in the seventh, the second consecutive three-run lead lost. Fourteen hits, but 10 runners left on base. A blown save by the league’s pre-eminent closer. A Reggie Jackson home run in the bottom of the 10th to end the game. Only one win in six extra inning games. Two straight losses and six losses in the last seven games. Two games under .500 and fifth place for the first time since the Brewers were 4-6 on April 21.
And, of course, the controversy that follows losing. Manager Buck Rodgers and several Brewers are rumored to be fighting for their jobs. Today, All-Star closer Rollie Fingers made his dissatisfaction known.
Fingers relieved Randy Lerch in the seventh with runners on second and third and no outs, nursing a 4-1 lead. In eight previous starts, Lerch had lasted seven innings only once. So it should have been no surprise when he was unable to retire a batter to open the seventh.
Fingers felt the same, and wondered out loud why he hadn’t been brought in to start the inning rather than try to clean up Lerch’s mess. Bob Boone singled in two to make it a 4-3 game. With two down in the ninth, Fingers allowed an RBI single by Bobby Grich to send the game to extra innings.
Then, of course, came the shot the whole world saw. The booming drive by Reggie Jackson to left center field. Jackson swung mightily and posed, admiring his shot while he kissed his biceps and shouted to all who would listen: “That was me! I did it! Reggie Jackson! Me! Look at me!” Easterly put his head down in shame and scuffled back to the dugout.
The game may have ended dramatically to some, but it was no surprise to anyone who has been following this team closely. Drama implies the unexpected. We’ve seen this happen before.
The question all Brewers fans want answered: How many times do we need to see the same game end in the same painful way before changes are made?
Game Notes: Centerfielder Gorman Thomas injured his shoulder making a diving catch in yesterday’s game and did not play. He is considered day-to-day.
In his second year with the Crew since coming over from Philadelphia, Lerch is still trying to find his role. Will the 27-year-old be a prominent starter in 1982?
In 1981, the Brewers were a loose, professional and happy bunch. They also won, and whether the former bred the latter or vice versa, the personality of the team and the results were starkly different last season than through May 23 of this season.
Far too much is going wrong:
- Two players have demanded a trade already at some point in 1982. Charlie Moore started the trend in spring training and only agreed to stay once he was assured playing time in right field. Roy Howell requested his trade during the spring as well and continues to be unhappy about his role as the third third baseman. Yet there are no takers of his paltry batting average.
- Rollie Fingers, who won both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 1981, has been less than perfect in 1982. He has lost five times when entering tied games. He’s also shown his displeasure with the way that he has been used.
- Pete Vuckovich injured his ankle either when sliding down a slick hill behind Royals Stadium in a rain storm prior to the game or when a video game fell on it. Either way, his absence caused immediate problems on the staff (Jerry Augustine started that game in Kansas City and allowed 12 earned runs in five innings) and Vuke threatened to take legal action when rumors surfaced that he was less than forthcoming about the source of his injury.
- Bob McClure was hit on the elbow by a line drive and missed time as well. The Brewers’ brass made a serious miscalculation when neither pitcher was replaced on the roster and the Brewers instead went with an eight-man staff while they awaited their return.
- While there are some offensive players performing well (Paul Molitor is hitting .301, Robin Yount .291 and Cecil Cooper .340), others are downright offensive. Gorman Thomas went the entire month of April without a home run and is hitting .228. Ben Oglivie is hitting .224 and catcher Ted Simmons is hitting .203 and continues to look like his best days are behind him.
- The Brewers aren’t getting consistent pitching. The staff is led by Moose Haas with a 3.22 ERA, but Mike Caldwell‘s is 4.45, Bob McClure’s is 5.14 and Randy Lerch‘s is 5.36, all pitchers who have made several starts. Pete Vuckovich may have a 3.79 ERA, but he hasn’t pitched since May 6.
The biggest problem, though, is a lack of leadership. Whether Buck Rodgers is a poor leader or simply a bad fit for this team, his players do not have his back. They routinely call him out in the press and refuse to sugarcoat their feelings about the man in charge.
And that, along with the swirling rumors that former team captain Sal Bando is ready to take over, are the main reasons that it is time to make a change. Even when they win, the team isn’t happy. They aren’t loose. And they aren’t professional.
It is time that the Brewers find a leader, as Bud Lea of the Milwaukee Sentinel said, who is more of a den mother than a major league manager. They need a leader who will stroke egos and let his players play instead of micromanaging with strategies that many of his players aren’t comfortable carrying out.
The Brewers need a player’s manager, and they need him now.
MILWAUKEE — For two consecutive, glorious games, everything went right for the Brewers. Magnificent pitching, timely hitting and solid defense. Today, debt was paid to the baseball gods.
Very little went right. Starter Randy Lerch was knocked around for seven runs on six hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. But that didn’t fall entirely on Lerch.
With two down in the third, the Mariners had scored three runs. A grounder was hit to short and Robin Yount mishandled it for an error, loading the bases. Jim Maler then hit a grand slam to make it 7-0.
Four unearned runs.
All of the Mariners runs were scored in that one inning. The Brewers’ defense did what they could to help them score more with two more errors, but the bullpen kept Seattle at bay.
On a day in which the inconsistent Brewers offense managed only a run on four hits, the bullpen was the one collective shining star. Jim Slaton, Jerry Augustine and Jamie Easterly combined to allow only a single baserunner through 4 1/3 innings in relief of Lerch.
Of course, that’s yet another case of too little, too late when you give up seven runs in an inning and your lineup can’t muster more than a single hit in an inning. The only Brewers run scored as a gift when starter Gene Nelson walked the bases loaded in the first and Gorman Thomas scored on a groundout. A run without a hit, apparently one of the few ways this team can score right now.
That’s six straight games in which the Brewers have scored four or fewer runs and eight of the last nine. Not going to cut it with this average pitching staff.
Game Notes: Paul Molitor, who has been nursing a sore shoulder, sat out today’s game. Don Money started at third base and hit cleanup while second baseman Jim Gantner hit in Molitor’s customary leadoff spot.
Sure, they had 11 hits. Molitor and Jim Gantner each had three hits. But they were awful when it counted. The Brewers left 10 men on base and went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
I guess another positive was that Randy Lerch was reasonably effective. He didn’t allow a run until the sixth inning, when the White Sox scored two. But as we know, the offense failed miserably. When Randy Lerch is on the mound, you know you need to score runs.
Sure, Lerch was pretty good today. But he’s not the kind of guy who goes deep into games. And when that happens, the Brewers’ shaky bullpen is often exposed. It was again today.
At least Jerry Augustine pitched a scoreless ninth to get his ERA down to 7.47. That thing is going to be inflated for a while after his surprise start against the Royals.
It was a disappointing game. Not a heartbreaker. You looked at this one on the schedule and figured it would be tough to win. But when Lerch pitches well and your offense collects 11 hits, you’d think you would have a chance.
Not on this day.
The Brewers have a day off tomorrow before opening an eight game homestand against the Angels.
Game Notes: Ted Simmons is now hitting just .208 on the season … Cecil Cooper had his first game off of the season … A rumor is swirling that Pete Vuckovich‘s ankle was not injured in a fall behind Royals Stadium, but instead due to a video game mishap. He is not happy. “I’m having my lawyer look at it. I don’t appreciate being called a liar.” Vuckovich has missed two scheduled starts and will likely miss a third.