Better Ask A Lawyer: WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE Edition

We write this post with heavy hearts.

Yesterday, you see, we lost a great friend. After an all-too-brief existence, the defamation lawsuit filed against Ryan Braun by intrepid online law student (and RRSMB commenter) Ralph Sasson was unceremoniously kicked to the curb. We gleefully covered the suit’s filing in this space last year, we closely followed its twists and turns over the last 10 months (read: we totally forgot it was still alive until like 36 hours ago), and now, with its passing, Paul and I slap on our lawyer hats once again for our latest and greatest edition of BETTER ASK A LAWYER.

So what happened yesterday?

The long and short of it: Ralph Sasson’s case against Ryan Braun and Ryan Braun’s agent and Ryan Braun’s agent’s agency and Ryan Braun’s hair got thrown out of court. That result, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising.

Yeah. Didn’t you guys tell us last summer that was going to happen? What took so long?

We did. And we were wrong about how quickly it would happen — we figured the case wouldn’t survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which is legalese for: “Even assuming everything you say is true, you don’t have a case.” Sasson got past that stage of the game, which allowed him to begin what we call the discovery process: requesting documents from Braun and Braun’s agent, asking them to admit to certain things, and, most importantly, taking depositions of some of the defendants. And that was ultimately Sasson’s undoing: the judge found yesterday (among other things) that Sasson was being such an unrepentant shithead (my words, not the judge’s) during discovery that his case had to be dismissed.

Oh. What was he doing?

Lots of stuff. You might remember that, right at the beginning of the case, we noted how Sasson’s first set of discovery requests to Braun were completely ridiculous and irrelevant; he asked Braun to admit he cheated on tests and his girlfriend and his ex-girlfriends and Aaron Rodgers and didn’t actually like Remetees and so on. None of that, of course, matters when the issue in the lawsuit is whether Braun said something factually untrue about Sasson that caused people to think less of Sasson.

Probably not surprisingly, things, um, escalated from there: because Sasson was making these puzzling requests and, apparently, seeking to depose people who had nothing to do with his case, the judge did a couple of very unusual things earlier this year: one was to conduct the depositions in the judge’s chambers so he could immediately rule on objections, which any lawyer will tell you is practically unheard of. (This is what depositions, conducted without judges, usually look like.) The other was to order that filings had to be made under seal — which means that documents, depositions, etc, were only to be seen by the judge, lawyers, and parties, and not made available or disclosed to the public.

Ralph Sasson, the judge found, wasn’t very good at following that order.

Why did the judge put all of this under seal in the first place?

You will be shocked to learn that Sasson appeared more interested in fishing for embarrassing facts about Braun than he was about actually proving his case. The court was worried that all of these weird and totally irrelevant allegations would prejudice a jury against Braun and so he ordered everything — including the deposition of Braun’s agent, Nez Balelo — under seal. In its order, the court found that Sasson not only revealed the content of that sealed deposition to the General Counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, but he also lied about what Balelo actually said (more on that later).*

* This is, ironically, defamation.

The judge also says that Sasson was making bizarre objections to discovery requests from Braun’s lawyers. Just out of curiosity: did Sasson attempt at any point to assert the attorney-client privilege even though that privilege covers communications between an attorney and his/her client, and Sasson is a non-lawyer representing himself?

You bet he did.

What did the court think of that?

“…they are for the most part, nonsensical, and without a valid legal basis.”

How does objecting to discovery work, anyway?

In litigation, both sides serve requests on each other seeking documents that will help them prove their case. The evidence sought must be non-privileged (meaning it’s not something you told your lawyer or your pastor or your wife), and either relevant to that party’s claim or defense, or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. In short, you can’t just go asking for everything that anyone has ever said or written. Both sides are allowed to make objections and those objections usually have to do with the breadth of the request (i.e., you’re asking for too much stuff), the availability of the evidence (i.e., we don’t have this and can’t get it, or you have just as much access to this as we do), or the privileged nature of that evidence (i.e., this is something my lawyer wrote to me). In almost every case, there is usually some minor battling over discovery, but by and large judges hate to get involved in discovery disputes and both sides usually come to some sort of agreement on the subject.

What they do not do is write the following, which Sasson submitted in his responses to the requests from Braun’s lawyers:

“Plaintiff’s responses shall not be deemed to constitute admissions that any statement or characterization in Interrogatories/Requests for Production/Request for Admission is accurate or complete.”

I know when people see legalese their eyes tend to glaze over, but that’s not legalese. That’s barely English. That’s just nonsense. Doesn’t mean a damn thing. I’m not sure what book he copied it out of but he should take it out back and burn it as soon as possible. The court had this to say:

“The verbiage of General Objection No. 3 is incoherent and lacks any apparent legal foundation.”

But Sasson’s single biggest issue wasn’t his nonsensical writing. In his complaint, he claimed he had evidence that Braun defamed him in writing. (We call this libel. We call defamatory statements that are made orally slander.) When Braun’s side asked him for these documents in discovery, Sasson objected to turning them over. You … you can’t, you know, do that.

Braun’s side filed a motion to compel (which is what you file when you think someone is impermissibly holding something back) and Sasson provided a printout of a Facebook page containing a private conversation with one of his friends (and nothing from Braun). Finally, Sasson admitted he had nothing else.

So all he had to show that Ryan Braun had defamed him in writing was a Facebook message from someone who’s NOT Ryan Braun?

Yep. And because that’s all he had, he then tried to change track and use a legal theory called “compelled self-publication,” which is used sometimes (and not with very much success) when, say, a former employee wants to sue an employer for defamation. You’ll recall, young padawans, that when you want to sue someone for defamation, one of the things you have to prove is that the defendant published (that is, made public to one or more people) the false information. So if, for example, your former employer fired you because another employee accused you of trying to have sex with the toaster in the break room, and you claimed it wasn’t true (because, honestly, who tries to put his hoo-hoo-dilly in a toaster?), you might try to sue your former employer under a theory of “compelled self-publication,” which gets you around the issue of your employer not publishing the information. In other words, you’re saying: When I’m now applying for jobs, and I list you as a former employer, I have to tell prospective employers that I got fired because someone said I was trying to boink the toaster. I’m COMPELLED to make your false accusations public.

Sasson, it seems, was trying to argue that the defamatory writing from Braun was (deep breath) Sasson’s own lawsuit, which contained Braun’s alleged defamatory (oral) statements.

Did that fly?

About as well as that toaster you were lubing up with KY.

What’s the worst thing Sasson did during the case, in your opinion?

Legally speaking, all of this stuff is pretty bad, but my favorite (keeping in mind Ryan Braun’s Jewish background) is probably this statement from the court’s order:

“Sasson’s habit of making Jewish jokes and references to the Jewish attorneys involved in this case is particularly inappropriate.”

Sasson also sought sanctions against one of Braun’s attorneys for saying “shit” in the hallway following a hearing while simultaneously swearing like a sailor throughout the duration of this case, including during his own deposition.

Bronze medal: the court also notes that Sasson made this “threat” to opposing counsel in a voicemail:

“I’m a reasonable cat, but don’t come at me with unreasonable shit. “Cause when you start acting unreasonable, I’m going to act unreasonable, too. And just like I told Jeremiah, when I get unreasonable I start to discriminate indiscriminately.” As FJM’s Ken Tremendous once wrote, phrases like “I start to discriminate indiscriminately” are poetry for the half-wit.

Man, this seems really out there. Nothing involved with the case could be crazier than this. Could it?

Make no mistake: Sasson’s shenanigans are totally nuts, and my face was reacquainted with my palm at several points while reading the judge’s recitation of what Sasson’s been up to for the last few months. But none of that stuff is the wackiest thing to happen in the case. Nope: it was footnote 2 of the judge’s order that left my jaw on the floor, where the judge mentioned that during his deposition, Nez Balelo acknowledged that he’d hired (and had the approval of the head of the MLBPA to hire) Sasson to help with Braun’s appeal.

Yeah.

Last summer, we were scratching our heads when we wrote: “The high-powered agent for very, very rich baseball players reaches out to a dude living in Milwaukee with no apparent training as a private investigator who describes himself as a law student … to do recon on one of those very, very rich baseball players, and (1) dude doesn’t immediately realize that it’s Braun?, and (2) for emphasis’ sake, what the hell?”

And yet: it sounds like that’s exactly what happened.

Again, and for the sake of emphasis: WHAT IN THE BLUE FUCK.

The judge said at the end of the order that he’s dismissing the case “with prejudice.” That seems bad.

That is bad. When a case gets dismissed, the judge has two options: one is to give the person who filed the case an opportunity for a do-over, to correct the mistakes he’d made and re-start the case. We call that a dismissal without prejudice. The other option, and the one that’s reserved for the cases involving the most egregious conduct, is a dismissal with prejudice, which means: you’re done. Your case is gone, and you can’t file it again.

It’s a very severe penalty, and, generally speaking, you only see it in cases where the plaintiff has gone really out of bounds — by withholding evidence that the other side is absolutely entitled to see, by willfully and repeatedly disobeying the court’s orders, by pursuing litigation for vexatious (taken from the Latin word for: just to annoy the piss out of) purposes.

Leaving voicemails for the defense lawyers referring to them as “cupcake”?

Yeah, that too.

Listen: lawyers — and especially highly-paid civil litigation lawyers — are not the most pleasant people in the world. We’re generally (1) aggressive Type A personalities who aren’t very good at listening and (2) miserable, not only because of our massive student loan debt, long hours, and difficult clients, but also because we spend most of our time dealing with aggressive Type A personalities who aren’t very good at listening. Ask any lawyer who’s been around for a few years and you’ll probably hear that there’s been a marked increase in incivility between opposing counsel (and, hell, between judges and counsel, and even judges and other judges) recently. Lawyers are just kind of dicks to each other, is what I’m saying.

All of that said: I’ve never heard someone call opposing counsel “cupcake” before. As Lawrence once said in Office Space: “I believe you’d get your ass kicked sayin’ some shit like that, man.”

Suffice it to say: based on all of this, the judge found that what Ralph Sasson was doing was way, way out of line, so he invoked what amounts to the nuclear option.

What does that mean for Sasson, going forward? He can try to pursue an appeal of the judge’s decision, but that’s generally a tall task. The better option, in my mind, would be to accept our standing invitation to join RRSMB as our senior legal and cupcake correspondent.

Until then, though, we say: good night, Sweet Prince. Thanks for the memories.

BETTER ASK A LAWYER-TYPE: Defamation Edition!

Because the absurdity engulfing Ryan Braun needed another level of preposterousness, we learned this week that Braun’s being sued in Milwaukee County court by a fella who claims to be a (former) lifelong friend.

Because Paul and I have nothing better to do with our law degrees, we’ve endeavored to answer all your questions about the ins and outs of a defamation lawsuit, and this defamation lawsuit in particular, in our latest and greatest edition of BETTER ASK A LAWYER-TYPE.

OK, let’s get down to the basics. What’s a defamation lawsuit?

“Defamation” is our legal term for the concept of “you said something nasty and untrue about me to somebody else, and now people think less of me as a result.” (It’s taken from the Latin term “defamo,” meaning “to talk shit about.”) If somebody says something that’s not true and damages your reputation, you can ask a court to make that person give you money. Neat, right?

This sounds like a fun idea. Who can I sue? Can I sue the kids in elementary school who called me skunk-boy?

The most fun thing about the legal system is that you can sue anyone for anything! But you probably won’t have much luck suing your boyhood chums. For one thing, opinions are not actionable. “I saw Rubie having sex with a skunk” is actionable, because that’s a statement of fact. “I think Rubie smells like a skunk” probably isn’t, because that’s, like, your opinion, man.

So what’s this Ralph Sasson guy saying that Braun did to defame him, then? I read something that said he’s claiming that Braun’s people hired him to dig up dirt on the dude who kept Braun’s pee in his basement for two days, and then Braun tried to stiff him on the tab.

That’s in the lawsuit, but it’s apparently provided by way of background, because Sasson isn’t suing Braun for breach of contract — and, by the by, re: that background: Sasson says, back in 2011, he gets a call from Braun’s agent asking him to look into the background of an unspecified player who’d tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, only he didn’t know it was Braun at the time and only found that out later, and let’s stop right there for a second because

WHAT THE FUCK?

This high-powered agent for very, very rich baseball players reaches out to a dude living in Milwaukee with no apparent training as a private investigator who describes himself as a law student (more on that later) to do recon on one of those very, very rich baseball players, and (1) dude doesn’t realize immediately it’s Braun?, and (2) for emphasis’ sake, what the hell?

Anyway, back to the point — Sasson isn’t suing Braun for not paying up on those background checks, because, according to Sasson, Braun ultimately (and begrudgingly) did, but because after that, Braun was allegedly telling people that he and Sasson weren’t friends anymore because Sasson was rude to staff at Miller Park and was, and I quote, “crazy.” Those comments, says Sasson, weren’t true, and his reputation has suffered as a result.

His reputation with whom, exactly?

Well, that’s one of the delightful parts of this utterly delightful suit: Sasson says Braun’s allegedly untrue statements were made not only to Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and Packers demigod Aaron Rodgers (two people who, I suspect, couldn’t pick Ralph Sasson out of a lineup and probably didn’t have an opinion about his reputation in the first place, but that’s a separate issue), but also to members of Braun’s family — his mom and dad, and his brother — and Braun’s fiance.

Hold up: he’s suing Braun because Braun told Braun’s mom that he was crazy?

Yep. In a nutshell, part of the damage Sasson is claiming is that Ryan Braun’s mom now thinks he’s a nutbag who acts like a dick to people at a baseball stadium.

But …

I know. Don’t think too hard about it. Let’s move on to something else.

Alright. So Sasson’s made his allegations in the complaint. What are his prospects for success? How hard is it to win a defamation suit?

About the same as getting through the Quickman stage in Megaman 2 on the first try without stopping time. (Related: telling someone “Rubie’s nickname in college was Quickman” is most definitely grounds for a defamation lawsuit.)

Whoa. That’s hard.

And it’s potentially harder than that. In your standard-issue defamation case, the plaintiff — the defamed — has to prove only a couple things: that the defendant — the defamer — made the statement in question, and that the plaintiff’s reputation suffered as a result, because the law gives the plaintiff a couple of assists. For one, it’s presumed that the statement that was made is false. (You’ve heard the saying: “The truth is an absolute defense”? This is where that saying comes from: if the defendant can show that his statement was true, the plaintiff can’t recover.) For another, the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove that the defendant knew what he was saying wasn’t true. It’s enough that the defendant made the statement, it wasn’t true, and the plaintiff’s reputation was harmed.

Now, that’s the standard-issue case. There’s a whole ‘nother — and wholly more onerous — set of rules for matters involving statements about public officials or subjects of public interest, but you’re probably not that interested in reading about that and I’m not altogether keen on rehashing the Supreme Court’s (probably ill-fated) decision to wade into this particular area of law. Suffice it to say: if the statement in question is about a public figure or a subject of public interest, the plaintiff also has to prove (1) that the statement was false, and (2) that the defendant knew the statement was false or made the statement in reckless disregard of the truth.

Would those rules apply to Sasson’s case? He certainly doesn’t qualify as a public figure, and while Braun’s PED imbroglio has certainly been in the spotlight for months, the statements being complained about — that Sasson was a jerk to staff at Miller Park, or is crazy — are only related tangentially to all that drama. Still: it’s a long, hard road in a defamation case, whether the statement concerns a matter of public interest or not.

So, wait. Let me make sure I understand this. Braun can win the case if he proves that Sasson was rude to the vendors at Miller Park? Like, will that be part of any trial?

One of the fun — and by “fun” we mean “crap-your-pants-level terrifying” — parts of any defamation case is that you have to be willing to expose all of your dirty laundry. It’s sort of a catch-22 in that the defamed often ends up making the situation much worse. In this instance it’s entirely possible that, should this case go to trial (and it won’t), Ryan Braun could find some vendor who thought the guy was rude and Sasson might end up with the story of how he ordered three Lites when you can only order two at a time, and only tipped a quarter, and told the vendor he had an ugly hat and stupid shoes. This is one of my favorite parts of any defamation trial. (I’d also say that “rude” is a matter of opinion. Like crazy.)

But what about “crazy”?

Well, “crazy” is an interesting word. 99% of the time something like that is going to fall into the realm of “opinion” and an opinion, not being a statement of fact, is not actionable. Crazy is mostly used in the hyperbolic sense. If Braun had told his dad that Sasson was, like, clinically crazy and Braun’s dad was a psychiatrist and they drugged Sasson and committed him and he ended up lobotomized like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (spoilers! Also: Chief is a boss) he might have a defamation case. But a standard, every day “you so crazy” isn’t really what we’re looking for here.

What’s the deal with these “requests to admit” that Sasson submitted with his lawsuit?

In a civil case, when you don’t have to worry as much about someone’s pesky constitutional rights, courts try to encourage the parties to get down to the nub of the dispute as best they can. So, in civil cases, you have things like requests to admit, where you try to eliminate areas where there aren’t dispute so you can focus on the areas where there are. For example, in a hypothetical car accident case, you might ask the other party to admit to the road conditions, or what time of day the accident happened, or that your medical bills are reasonable.

The requests to admit that Sasson sent to Braun are … well, they’re a little unusual. According to the Journal Sentinel, Sasson has asked Braun to admit that he was ‘roided up as far back as his days at the U, that he cheated academically at Miami, that he lied to Rodgers about using PEDs, and, perhaps most entertainingly, that Braun’s been humpin’ around on his fiance and that he’s been humpin’ around on each and every one of lady friends dating back to high school. What, exactly, that has to do with Braun allegedly telling people that Sasson is wacko I’m not sure, and I’d bet Braun’s attorneys will point that out.

And while we’re talking about attorneys: you’ll see repeated references in the lawsuit that Sasson’s proceeding pro se, that is, without the assistance of legal counsel. In general, unless you’re filing a case in small claims court, this is a very bad idea. Pro se litigants are obligated to follow the same court rules, rules of evidence, etc., that attorneys are bound to follow, and when you don’t have an attorney on a case like this, you end up doing things like issuing requests to admit that ask Braun to acknowledge he tested positive for “steroids,” or using vague, undefined words like “amorous relationships,” or making reference over and over to a non-disclosure agreement (that Sasson was allegedly forced to sign) without attaching a copy of that non-disclosure agreement to the complaint.

What’s the most unintentionally hysterical line in the Journal Sentinel article about Sasson’s lawsuit?

I’m so glad you asked this. Near the end of the article is this line:

“Sasson, who says he is a law student…”

How great is that? Most of the time, when a reporter includes that parenthetical explanation of what a person does for a living, they’ll go: “Rubie, a cumquat farmer and amateur blogger, ate twelve tacos…” But the furthest the Journal Sentinel is willing to go with this cat is that he says he’s a law student, like they’re not even going to bother to take the two minutes to confirm with the Taft Law School (which is apparently a thing) that Sasson is studying there. Instead, they’re all: “That’s what dude says. I dunno, you figure it out.”

Huh. This almost seems like a bit of convenient piling-on by a dude whose gravy train left the station.

That’s certainly one way to read this filing. But at the same time, given everything that’s happened in the last few months, having everything that’s alleged in this suit turn out to be true would be like the fourth-most shocking event in this neverending whirlwind of nonsense.

The Grindiest Grinder Who Ever Grinded: Chapter 1

A long time ago, Badger Noonan and I created a children’s book about Juan Pierre. (Before you ask: I don’t know why. I couldn’t begin to explain why. Ours is not to ask why.)

Paul meticulously crafted (read: wrote in one lunch break) twelve heartbreakingly beautiful limericks about the Grindiest Grinder Who Ever Grinded. My job was to make the illustrations. Some shit came up, but 18 months later, I finally got around to it.

With no ado whatsoever, we happily present Chapter 1: The Ceremonial Leadoff Bunt:

Pierre-Book-Chapter-1 Pierre-Book-Chapter-1A

The Yuni-pocalypse Is Nigh: Sports Talk Radio Edition

It is May 9.

To date, the Milwaukee Brewers have played 32 baseball games.

In those 32 baseball games, Yuniesky Betancourt, the most stubbornly irremovable piece of flotsam that ever drifted into Major League Baseball, he of the career OPS+ of 83 and cumulative WAR of 0.0 and UZR of (roughly) negative-a-billion, who somehow bluffed his way into 57 games last season on the Royals’ glorified AA roster and then gacked up an OBP of .256 (TWO-FUCKING-FIFTY-SIX!), has hit eight home runs. He has driven in 24 runs. His OPS+ is a knee-buckling 121.

Naturally, given those circumstances: shit’s getting weird.

Witness the extended discussion of Betancourt’s place on the roster that took place during yesterday morning’s edition of the “Chuck & Wickett” program on Milwaukee’s least not-favorite* sports talk radio station, 1250 WSSP.

* At least that’s how I’m interpreting the Arbitron numbers, which show WSSP with like a 1.1 something or other number, which … you know what? Let’s not pretend either of us cares enough to figure out what that number means.

I’ll do my best to keep my editorial comments to a minimum.

(NICKELBACK INTRO, BECAUSE SPORTS RADIO)

WICKETT: There’s a lot of questions coming out of that ballgame yesterday, Chuck, and one of them that you and I are talking about: what do you do with Yuniesky Betancourt? I mean, the guy leads the team in home runs, he’s performing much better at the plate than I think anybody would have guessed, considering what we all know Yuniesky Betancourt to be. You know, Corey Hart’s going to come back, we assume, at the end of this month … But when Corey comes back, and we’ve heard Doug Melvin say “he’s our first baseman”; well, hell, what if Yuni B’s got 15 homers by that point? He’s got 8 already.

I’ll say this: if Yuni has 15 home runs by the end of May, I’m not wearing pants to work for a week. I’ll eat mustard — like, just mustard — for dinner for a week. I’ll start a blog that’s strictly Yuni fan fiction, about Yuni and his pet jaguar running a successful bed and breakfast and moonlighting as the crime-fighting duo of “Yuni and Spots” in their free time.

This has been a long way of saying: I’m relatively confident Yuni will not hit 7 more homers in the next three weeks.

CHUCK: Well, look at the first base job. It was supposed to be Mat Gamel’s, OK? Mat Gamel got hurt and never could answer the bell. Coming out of spring training, when you realized Corey Hart wasn’t going to be able to make opening day and he was going to be out for two months, it was going to be Alex Gonzalez at first base. He reluctantly decided, “OK, I’ll play first base,” he did a nice job there in spring training, but couldn’t hit his weight coming out of spring training and he still can’t. So he’s been reduced to kind of the role coming off the bench, and Yuni Betancourt, who they picked up late in spring training coming off the Phillies’ roster, he’s been the man.

WICKETT: I don’t see Alex Gonzalez lasting 162 games with this Brewer club. I really don’t. I don’t see “A-Gone” on this roster. I know that he’s pretty cheap, he can play a couple of positions, but Chuck: I mean, if you’re getting this out of Yuniesky Betancourt, and they throw Jeff Bianchi in there at third as a defensive replacement, and they’ve got these other guys they’re shuffling around – Lalli and Prince and all of that. … Do you need Alex Gonzalez? Because he came in yesterday and had one of the meekest swings I’ve ever seen a major league baseball player have that isn’t a pitcher. He flew out to right and that was it.

I fully recognize that Wickett was talking about Sea Bass here, but if ever there was a biography or a 30 for 30 on Yuni Betancourt, it would be called: “He Flew Out To Right And That Was It: The Yuniesky Betancourt Story.”

CHUCK: I brought this up a couple of weeks ago, and this is when Yuni wasn’t hitting as well as he’s hitting right now; he was OK, but he’s just on a major tear right now. I think this was after week 2; I asked this to Adam McCalvy, I said: “Is Yuni or Alex Gonzalez going to be designated for assignment?” And of course, every time Yuni hits a home run, I hear about it on Twitter. Because everybody thought Yuni was going to be this good. … Nobody saw this coming from Yuni, so don’t kid yourself. But Gonzalez, Mike; Bianchi played third last night, Gonzalez does not have any range anymore, coming off that knee surgery, mid-30s. They really like Bianchi, he’s back again, he filled in for Aramis Ramirez at third base. Made a nice play behind the bag … I don’t know if Gonzalez makes that play.

WICKETT: I don’t think he does. Well, let me take that back. I don’t know if he does or doesn’t. I don’t want to make this a “bash on Alex Gonzalez.” … He looks slow, when you’re 36, 37, it’s different than when you’re 25 coming off ACL surgery. But the bigger question, and we’d love to hear from Brewers fans … when Corey Hart comes back, what do you do with Yuniesky Betancourt? I’m not gonna lie, five weeks ago, I didn’t think we’d be having this conversation. But he’s got 8 homers, assuming he stays warm – I don’t expect him to ever stay this hot – but what can you do with him? Let’s say he’s got 10 home runs, 12 home runs by the end of May; what do you do with him? Does Corey automatically get his job back at first?

Yes.

We’ve heard Doug Melvin say that before. Is that still the policy?

Yes.

Cuz you can’t take that bat out of the lineup.

You can. And you should.

But there is a bat you can take out of the lineup, if you like: if Rickie Weeks is still struggling, can you move Yuniesky Betancourt to second to keep his bat in the lineup, if Corey gets his job back at first? Does Corey get Wally Pipp’d? Does Corey get dealt? What do you do? Can’t believe we’re saying this, but can you do without Yuniesky Betancourt’s bat in the lineup?

CHUCK: You’d have never thought you’d say those two words in the same sentence, Mike, or those two phrases, but no, you’re right: you almost have to keep him in. And when you picked him up, you didn’t expect to have to use him in the everyday part of the lineup. But you ended up having to do it anyway. And sometimes he’s batting in the cleanup spot, when Ramirez isn’t in there. He’s been excelling. He’s been great. I don’t know how you take him out of the lineup, but still, I’m not the biggest Corey Hart fan in the world, but the guy who’s gonna hit 25 home runs and hit .270 and be as good defensively as he is at first base, it’s hard not to put him back into the lineup.

WICKETT: Do you think Betancourt can play second base?

He can, for sure. It’s much the same way that, say, Martin Maldonado can play second base, in that: it would be a terrible, terrible fucking idea and anyone who thought that it was a viable long-term option at second base should be immediately and irrevocably sterilized, but yeah: he’s got two arms, a head, and legs. He can play second.

CHUCK: I don’t know.

Gratuitous, but whatever: there’s a goddamn Google machine right there, champ.

WICKETT: Can he be any worse than Rickie? I mean, since Willie Randolph took over years ago as the instructor for Rickie Weeks as a bench coach, Rickie Weeks became a better second baseman.

CHUCK: Are you talking defensively? Rickie’s still a better second baseman defensively, but hitting-wise, Betancourt is on a different level than Rickie. He had a hit last night, but he hasn’t been very good.

WICKETT: I don’t even know if Rickie’s that much of a better defensive second baseman than Yuni B at this point.

CHUCK: We don’t know about Betancourt playing second base, that’s the thing.

We do.

WICKETT: I don’t know if he’s ever done it.

Oh, for God’s sake.

CHUCK: I think he did for a little bit in Kansas City last year.

WICKETT: Betancourt is hitting .276 but he’s got 8 home runs. And here we are in the first week of May, second week of May. Meanwhile, Rickie Weeks is batting almost a hundred points lower, at .193.

CHUCK: If it wasn’t for Betancourt, he’s one of the big reasons why they’ve hung around the .500 mark, with some of those injuries. And when they picked him up and they put him in the starting lineup and they had to put him in there, you didn’t want him to be bad. You didn’t want him batting .150. Well, he’s not hitting .150. He’s actually been a major contributor, he’s held his own and been better than he’s ever been.

WICKETT: What do you do when Corey Hart comes back, Brewer fans? Can you move Yuni B?

CHUCK: Well, when they picked him up, Mike, you know there was a groan among Brewer fans. “Oh no.”

WICKETT: I laughed. I didn’t groan. … Your calls coming up next.

(AD FOR BUTCHER’S SHOP, BECAUSE WISCONSIN)

WICKETT: Nobody expected Yuni B to be this good. Leads the Brewers in home runs. He and Braun are tied in the National League for seventh, with 24 RBI. His home runs: 8 on the year, he’s tied for fifth. So the question is on the table right now: what do you want to do with Corey Hart when he comes back at the end of the month? This all, by the way, it just might be way too early to be talking about this, because if we know anything about Yuniesky Betancourt, he could go 1 for his next 25.

CHUCK: Yeah. Do you believe this guy could actually ride it out, keep this thing going for an extended period of time? It’s a hot streak for him: eight home runs, great, but he’s hitting .276. It’s not like he’s hitting .340. It’s not like he’s putting up GoGo numbers right now, .364. … But our expectations for Betancourt aren’t very high. He’s a scrap heap guy, you know, 30-year-old, 33, whatever it is. You didn’t expect him to do anything but he’s going beyond what we expected this far.

WICKETT: But if he stays this hot, how do you take his bat out of the lineup in favor of a guy coming off of the injury like Corey Hart? Do you think about moving him to second? Rickie’s been warm as of late. I just don’t know what you do. Rickie’s average has gone up about 30 points, 25 points in the last 10 games. And people still want to bag on him, because he’s not hitting .285, he’s hitting .193.

Oh no. I see where this discussion is going.

CHUCK: One-ninety-three. But if you get a hit every eight at-bats or so, your average is going to go up.

Math is not my strong suit, but I believe if you get a hit once every eight at-bats, you’ll be hitting .125.

WICKETT: He has been playing better, there’s no doubt. He has been seeing the ball better. Rickie’s walked in, what, seven of the last eight games? I didn’t think I’d say that ever. Ever since that 3-strikeout game against the Pirates, he’s been getting on base.

CHUCK: I still think, though, when Corey Hart comes back, the job is his. I don’t know if you want to trade him. At that point, you’re putting all your cards in Betancourt. You just want a bigger sample size of what Yuni can do. It’s only been six weeks of the season. Almost have to check back to see where we are Memorial Day weekend, when Hart’s gonna come back. It’s interesting, though: Betancourt’s ridden it out this far, and he’s been good, he’s been consistent out there, hitting the home runs, you mentioned the RBI, home run totals are up there among the major league leaders. You can’t take him out.

WICKETT: If he cools off, it’s a different story.

When (not if) he cools off, it will be the same story that we’ve seen each of the last eight years with Yuni. In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence it’s already the same story, and Yuni’s just inexplicably squaring up the ball like he’s never done before and, in all likelihood, never will again.

But let’s try to stay positive. You hope that Yuni B does stay this warm. Over on Facebook, I’ll give you one guess what the overwhelming reaction is when we asked this question, what to do with Yuni B: Yuni to second, Yuni to second, Yuni to second, Weeks needs to sit for a long time, trade Weeks start Yuni at second, Yuni to second, and I can go on and on and on and on. Again, people aren’t really looking at what Rickie’s done in the last week-and-a-half. Rickie’s been pretty good getting on base. He’s not tearing the cover off the ball. …

WICKETT: Let’s talk to Zack, on the North Side. Good morning, Zack, you’re on 1250 WSSP.

Buckle up.

ZACK: Hey, what’s going on?

WICKETT: Not much.

ZACK (talking very loudly, with his mouth apparently pressed against the phone’s microphone): This shouldn’t even be a topic. HOW YOU CAN YOU JUSTIFY SITTING YUNI B, AND STARTING RICKIE WEEKS? Yuni B has been the spark. (Pause for effect.) Rickie has been the flameout.

Zack is upset.

WICKETT: Do you know what Rickie’s done in the last 10 days?

ZACK (still very upset): WHERE WOULD THE BREWERS BE RIGHT NOW WITHOUT YUNI B?

Zack will not be distracted by your data.

CHUCK: You got some numbers on Rickie in the last 10 games?

WICKETT: In the last 10 games, he’s raised his batting average 27 points.

CHUCK: That doesn’t take much at .150.

ZACK (not letting go): WHERE WOULD THE BREWERS RECORD BE RIGHT NOW WITHOUT YUNI B IN THE LINEUP?

Zack is persistent.

WICKETT: Probably not 15-16.

ZACK: They’d be well under .500 and probably at least 8 games back.

Zack hasn’t looked at the standings this morning.

CHUCK: Raising your average from .170 to .193 doesn’t take much.

WICKETT: It does if you’re Rickie Weeks.

CHUCK: When you’re hitting that low, .193 is still .193.

WICKETT: I’m just throwing things out there. Zack, we appreciate you telling us what to have as topics and what not to have as topics. That’s really great. The other question I have for you is: how do you know Yuniesky Betancourt can play second base?

Maybe he has a computer.

ZACK: I thought he could play any position in the infield.

Zack is befuddled.

WICKETT: I don’t know that.

Now Wickett is befuddled.

ZACK: He’s multi-talented in the infield, I don’t know what positions he’s played in his career, I know shortstop and first, but I’m assuming he’s spent some time at second and third.

Maybe Zack doesn’t have a computer.

CHUCK: Yeah, I think they brought him in to be a corner infielder, fill-in, at this point.

WICKETT: I mean, he’s 31. He didn’t exactly have the greatest range at shortstop two years ago.

ZACK (emboldened): Can I just make one more point, guys?

Zack has one more point to make, guys.

WICKETT: I love this phone call so far, so let’s knock it out of the park here, Zack.

ZACK (exasperated): How much is enough from Rickie Weeks? I mean, wouldn’t you call it quits on this guy?

Zack is at the end of his rope.

WICKETT: No.

ZACK (forging ahead): I mean, I think what he needs is a fresh start somewhere else. I think they just need to pull the plug, and I think what’s good for Rickie is just a fresh start with someone else.

Zack likes to swap a dollar for a quarter and two dimes and three pennies.

WICKETT: What frustrates you the most about Rickie Weeks?

ZACK: He’s never lived up to his potential. He’s never even gotten close to his potential. His inconsistency. His, just … the guy can tear the cover off the ball one game, and then the next four games, he can’t … he swings right through it!

CHUCK: Mike, have you turned a corner on Weeks, because I thought a couple of weeks ago you were done with him.

WICKETT: I mean, where he was a week-and-a-half ago, sure, but what he’s done … he’s warmed up. He’s getting on base, which we didn’t see a lot. Rickie Weeks has walked. He’s gotten on base via walk seven of the last eight games. Got a hit last night, so he was on base twice last night. Is that Hall of Fame material? Is that All-Star material? No. But I don’t know what people want out of Rickie Weeks.

At several points during this discussion, I found myself nodding in agreement with Wickett, which at first confused me because, as a sports radio host, he is a professional troll who isn’t prone to making arguments based on logic and data, and instead looks to stoke “debate” by taking contrarian positions. And then I got sad, because I realized: Rickie Weeks is apparently so unpopular amongst Brewer fans that it’s a contrarian position to defend him.

CHUCK: Well, better than .193. Although it doesn’t, some of these numbers you’re throwing out there are below expectations for a guy who’s a starting second baseman.

WICKETT: I got a tweet here from Jeff Rogers, @82Brew, writes at Mike Wickett: “Over the last 10 games, guys, he’s hitting .265, with a .390 on-base and slugging .412.” I mean, that’s Rickie’s numbers. There you go.

CHUCK: OK, it’s not .350. It’s .260.

With a .390 OBP. Please don’t lose that number. It’s very valuable (small sample size, obvi).

WICKETT: But it’s also not .089.

CHUCK: But I mean, still, that’s not good. Two-sixty over 10 games is not great. You can’t brag about that one at all.

You lost the OBP, didn’t you?

WICKETT: See, that’s the thing: this pisses me off what people do sometimes with this kind of stuff. Guys can be in a terrible slump the first 6 weeks of the season. Does anybody remember what Rickie Weeks did the last two months of the year last year? His overall numbers last year were terrible, but he hit .285 the last two months of the year. It’s like a football team that’s .500 through the first 12 games of the year, they’re 6-6, and then all of a sudden they get hot. Yeah, their overall record doesn’t look great, but damn, they got hot when they got into the post-season.

CHUCK: Ok, Mike, when you’re talking about a guy who hit .285 over the last two months of the season, it’s not like I’m like: “Oh, really? .285?” Now, .385, or .330.

WICKETT: Two-eighty-five is pretty damn good!

CHUCK: Over two months? Shouldn’t that be expected from Rickie Weeks?

No, because: (1) batting average is dumb, and (2) Weeks’ value has never been tied to his batting average.

WICKETT: That’s too high for an expectation for Rickie.

CHUCK: Well then, he shouldn’t be an everyday second baseman in baseball if .285 is too high for somebody. I mean, if you’re saying .285, shouldn’t that be the norm for a guy who’s playing second base for a team that we think is going to be a contender?

This is the list of second basemen who hit over .285 last season: Robbie Cano, Aaron Hill, Marco Scutaro, Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Altuve.

WICKETT: I think it’s a bit high to expect that, but alright, I’m not going to argue about that.

CHUCK: What should you expect from a starting second baseman on a team that’s a contender? On this team, a guy that’s going to be a leadoff hitter, a 1-2 hitter, what’s the bar?

WICKETT: Just slightly below that, .270 or .275. Are we nitpicking five, ten batting average points? Sure.

CHUCK: OK, .270, then he better hit 20 or 25 home runs.

This is the list of second basemen who hit over 20 home runs last season: Robbie Cano, Aaron Hill, Rickie Weeks. (Also Ben Zobrist fits in there somewhere.)

WICKETT: OK, we gotta get more on this coming up. I think people have to take a look at the way things are trending. I mean, guys go through slumps. Braunie’s average was done to two-fifty-something the other day, people weren’t talking about … and I know the bar is set pretty high for him, I get that. But I can’t believe I’m sitting here having to defend Rickie Weeks.

CHUCK: Yeah, it sounds like you are.

WICKETT: What the hell is wrong with me?

CHUCK: It sounds like you are. So I don’t know where you are, because a couple weeks ago, with Weeks, it seemed like you were done with him.

WICKETT: Well, because a couple of weeks ago he was done.

A couple weeks ago it was April 20.

CHUCK: You were saying, “A .240 career, has he really been all that good?” Outside of one season?

WICKETT: Half a season.

CHUCK: 2010?

WICKETT: Yep. When he was the All-Star. That’s it.

That’s not it, but whatever.

It’s Chuck and Wickett. How the hell we got onto this side … we were talking about Yuni B and what to do with it.

CHUCK: Rickie plays a factor in it because people want Yuni to replace Rickie Weeks at second base. I don’t want to go that far. I’m riding Rickie out. I’m still on the Rickie train.

WICKETT: But you’re fighting me on Rickie Weeks!

CHUCK: I’m fighting you because I don’t know where you stand.

Sports talk radio, as summarized in 10 words.

My head hurts. I’m going to take all the Advil now.

 

Summer of Rickie: The Resurrection

A long time ago*, on a blog far far away**, I ruined Rickie Weeks’ 2009 season by prematurely dubbing it The Summer of Rickie Weeks. Rickie was rakin’ in the early days of the ’09 campaign (.272/.340/.517 through 37 games), but his wrist was unable to bear the brunt of his awesomeness and snapped like a rubber band trying to restrain Superman’s bicep.

In the interest of not tempting fate, I’ve backed off the Summer of Rickie talk during the last two seasons. But with Rickie scuffling to start the year in 2012, and on the heels of (1) Rickie getting drilled on the hand by a pitch and somehow not suffering a season-ending fracture; and (2) Rickie jacking one to the Bronx in last night’s game against the Mets (the Bronx is north of Queens, right? Stupid New York with its stupid boroughs), I ain’t much concerned about tempting fate right now.

Come getcha some, Fate.

* 2009.

** This was back when I had my fastball, before two infants turned me into a Jamie Moyer-level junkballer.

A Primer On How To Use Cesar Izturis and Travis Ishikawa

At some point, I have to believe that Doug Melvin is going to realize that he can’t have players like Travis Ishikawa and Cesar Izturis on the Major League roster, since Ron Roenicke apparently has little (if any) idea how to use bench players correctly. (See, e.g., Kotsay, Mark, 2011 NLCS Game 3).

Until that time comes, though, we’ll do our part to help RRR figure things out.

I know that, because they’re on the Major League roster, it might appear that TravIsh and Izturis are functional hitters. This is not true, especially in Cesar’s case.

Moreover: I realize that, when you look at your lineup card, Izturis is listed as a switch hitter, which — technically speaking — makes him your only right-handed option off the bench. Keep in mind, though: Cesar Izturis is a switch hitter in the same way that I’m bilingual: because I have vocal chords, I’m physically capable of speaking Italian. That doesn’t mean I can actually do it, of course.

(Actually, that’s a bad analogy, and not just because I know how to say “wine” and “beer” in Italian: while I have some ability to speak and write English, Izturis suxxxx from both sides of the plate.)

Errors, Retractions, Apologies and Omissions: April 7 Edition

Here at Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball, we’re committed to the highest level of journalistic(ish) integrity. Accordingly, when we miss something, we’re duty-bound to correct it.

In the sixth inning of yesterday’s 11-5 Opening Day seal-clubbing at the hands of the Artists Formerly Known as the Uptight Citizens Brigade, with two on and none out and the pitcher’s spot up in the order, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke tabbed everyone’s favorite glass-batted backup infielder, Cesar Izturis, to hit for Manny Parra. Izturis’ Brewer debut was exceedingly short-lived, though, as the Cardinals brought in right-hander Mitchell Boggs and Runnin’ Ron responded by pinch-hitting Nyjer Morgan for Izturis.

The decision to pinch-hit Izturis in the first place was not only curious because Cesar’s lifetime OPS+ is 64 (and in his last full season — 2010 — was 51) but because Izturis is the Brewers’ only backup second baseman. And shortstop. And third baseman. And probably catcher.

This is exactly the kind of curious managing that we promised to document when we started RRSMB, and yet, we said nothing yesterday. We let you all down. We let ourselves down. We let our country down.

The editorial staff of RRSMB regrets the error and apologizes for this omission.