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.

Varsity Brew Crew

With apologies to James Van Der Beek:

SCENE: RON ROENICKE’s office, one hour before Game 4 of the NLCS. The door is slightly ajar. MARK KOTSAY, in obvious discomfort, sits hunched over in one of the chairs in front of the manager’s desk, applying ice to his knees, back, and neck, while picking dirt out of his teeth. JERRY NARRON — who, for some reason, isn’t wearing pants — stands to the side of RON ROENICKE’s desk, twirling a calligraphy pen above a blank lineup card.

RUNNIN’ RON ROENICKE: You’re a gamer, Kots. Let’s do this, you’ll be good to go.

RYAN BRAUN suddenly pushes the door the manager’s office open. PRINCE FIELDER, NYJER MORGAN, and RICKIE WEEKS flank him and peer quizzically into the manager’s office.

RYAN BRAUN: What are you doing?

RRR: He’s getting back in the game. Jerry was just about to pencil — er, calligraph — him into the two-hole, playing center field.

RYAN BRAUN: Mark, don’t do this.

MARK KOTSAY: I heard a pop, Skip. Actually, I heard, like, eight pops. I think every joint in my body exploded last night. I’m pretty sure I ruptured my ear drum, too, and I’ve got no fucking clue how I managed to do that.

RICKIE WEEKS: I think he’s hurt pretty bad, Skip. And he’s, y’know, terrible.

RRR: You know nothing about grit. This man’s a gamer. A grinder. He’d pitch if I asked him to, and don’t think I’m not crazy enough to ask him to do that.

RYAN BRAUN (looking at MARK KOTSAY): Don’t do it, Mark. It’s not worth it. You’re the laughingstock of baseball this morning.

RRR (gesturing wildly at RYAN BRAUN): He wants us to lose! He doesn’t know your numbers against Kyle Lohse! He thinks defense matters!

MARK KOTSAY (looking forlorn): Maybe I shouldn’t do it.

RRR (standing up behind his desk and pointing angrily at RYAN BRAUN): Get out, before I lose my temper.

PRINCE FIELDER (stepping in front of RYAN BRAUN and raising his arms menacingly): If that calligraphy pen goes near that lineup card, I’ll rip Narron’s arms off and beat you both to death with them. Motherfuckin’ BEAST MODE this place right up.

RRR (red-faced, screaming): This has nothing to do with you!

RYAN BRAUN: This has to do with all of us. We’re professional fucking baseball players. Year round, we play hurt, we play sick … We’re scared you’ll bench one of us because a little bird tells you to start a 36-year-old designated hitter in center field. All you care about is putting your stamp on the game, making sure people know that RON ROENICKE WAS HERE. Well, fuck that. Let US win the goddamn game.

RRR (coming unhinged): WRITE HIS NAME DOWN, JERRY, AND MAKE THE “A”S IN HIS NAME INTO LITTLE HEARTS, JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT!

RYAN BRAUN: If you do, find yourself another MVP left fielder.

RRR: You ready for me to start Josh Wilson in left field? ‘Cuz I’ll do it! I’ve got grinders coming out my ass just waiting to get into the game!

RYAN BRAUN: If it keeps Kots out of center field, you bet I am.

RON ROENICKE nods to JERRY NARRON, who inches the calligraphy pen towards the paper.

RYAN BRAUN (throwing his hands up in the air): Fuck it. I’m out.

RRR: That’s good! That’s real good! Finally! Nyjer, you’re in left field. And you’re hitting third, because I’m physically incapable of constructing a lineup that doesn’t have the left fielder hitting third.

NYJER MORGAN (softly): No, I won’t. Plush is out, Skip.

RRR (voice rising): What did you say?

NYJER MORGAN (more softly): Ahhh. Gotta go.

RYAN BRAUN (smirking): The only way we’re going back out on that field is without you.

RON ROENICKE charges at RYAN BRAUN, who executes a perfect drop toe-hold and takes RON ROENICKE to the clubhouse floor. RON ROENICKE, stunned, hops to his feet, only to discover that the everyone in the clubhouse — even YUNI BETANCOURT — has circled around him, with arms crossed.

RON ROENICKE (in a panic, begins clapping maniacally): Get your helmets on and take the field. Let’s go. Let’s go now! Let’s go, goddammit!

No one moves.

RRR: I’m walking out that door. I’m going to hit some fungoes and talk to Craig Sager. I want you all to trust me. We won 96 games this year, and I was the manager, so that leads to the inescapable conclusion that I know what the fuck I’m doing. That’s just science.

No one moves.

RRR (delirious): Follow me out there, men. Let’s go. Let’s go… Let’s go after that title. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.

RON ROENICKE leaves the clubhouse.

RYAN BRAUN: Roenicke said nine innings for the next nine years of our lives. I say, fuck that. Let’s go out there, play the next nine innings for the next nine innings, and try to win tonight’s baseball game instead of playing for tomorrow.

We have the opportunity to play like gods for the next three hours.

Let’s be heroes.

When “TAYLOR BUNTS!” Moments Go Hideously Wrong: Casey McGehee and the Double Steal of Doom

On Saturday night, Brewer fans were witness to a spectacle so bizarre that, two days later, I’m still shaking my head as I write the words: with Casey McGehee on third base and Yuni Betancourt on first with two down in the fourth inning of a game against San Francisco, Brewer manager Ron Roenicke ordered a double steal.

[Pause for effect.]

As Betancourt approached second base, Giants catcher Chris Stewart bluffed a throw and then ran at McGehee, who, by this time, was more than halfway down the line. McGehee, the slowest runner on the team and arguably the worst baserunner,* was a dead duck, of course, and Stewart tagged him to record the third out of the inning.

The attempted double steal — which, for brevity’s sake, I’m going to refer to as That Play for the remainder of the post — was so incredibly ill-conceived that many people, quite logically, concluded that it hadn’t been a double steal at all — that McGehee had simply brainfarted at an inopportune time, getting caught with his pants down as he watched Yuni steal second base.

But Roenicke confirmed in the post-game that one can never safely assume that he (Runnin’ Ron) isn’t the mastermind behind the insanity, telling reporters that, yes, That Play was, indeed, a double steal, and that McGehee had, in fact, executed the play correctly: because he’s so slow, McGehee had to move down the line before a throw was made to second base:

“We’re trying to do something with two outs and two strikes,” said Roenicke. “If you wait until he throws the ball, you’re not going to be safe. We were trying to get a run somewhere and they didn’t go for it.”

And so Casey McGehee and the Double Steal of Doom became the latest and, perhaps, the greatest clipping in Runnin’ Ron’s 2011 Brewers yearbook, which has a working title of: “Forcing the Issue In All the Wrong Places.”  For my money, anyway, CMcG&tDSoD (an abbreviation which, not coincidentally, serves as an excellent written BLEEP in the style of f#@%$! and c#&$!%#$!) is the worst of Runnin’ Ron’s attempts to re-create “TAYLOR BUNTS!” moments, low-percentage plays that can only succeed because the opposition figures: “No way they’re dumb enough to try something like that.

That Play was the worst offender this season, I think, because it had no chance of success: not a 15% chance of success or a 5% chance or even a 0.8% chance, a zero percent chance.  Mickey Mouse plays like That Play that work in two settings: (1) in Little League, when three-quarters of the catchers can barely get the ball back to the pitcher’s mound; and (2) in films. Conversely: in professional baseball, plays like that almost invariably fail because of the self-evident fact that it’s fucking professional baseball being played by fucking professional players.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a sports analogy to describe just how dumb That Play was, primarily because, in a sport without a clock, outs are almost incomparably valuable. Still, imperfect as this analogy is, I think it works on some level: attempting a double steal of home with your slowest runner in the fourth inning of a baseball game is similar to a basketball player grabbing a defensive rebound, taking two dribbles, and launching a shot from the opponent’s free throw line … with 6 minutes left to go in the first half.  Could it work, theoretically?  Sure.  Is it about the least efficient way of using one of your possessions?  You bet.

This is your manager, Brewers fans.

* There’s actually a three-man race for Worst Baserunner on the 2011 Brewers. At last check, McGehee led Corey Hart and Jon Lucroy by a nose.

On Irresistible Forces and Immovable Objects: Kirk Gibson vs. Ron Roenicke

In my advancing age, I was unable to stay conscious for the entirety of the Brewers game against the Diamondbacks last night. This disappointed me greatly, because by retiring before the end of the game, I missed the coda of the epic battle of “wits” between D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson and our man Runnin’ Ron Roenicke, who are probably the two dumbest managers in the Show not named Mike Quade.

I know that there were some mildly curious decisions earlier in the game — like when RRR pulled Chris Narveson from the game after seven innings and 87 pitches and when NarvDog had dispatched the last 10 Arizona hitters — but I want to focus on the glorious cacophony of clusterfucks in the 9th and 10th innings, when Gibson and Runnin’ Ron behaved like two guys pushing each other out of the way to be the first to step on a rake.

First: in the D-backs’ two-run, eighth-inning rally, Gibson pinch hit Geoff Blum for pitcher Bryan Shaw, and then inserted Geraldo Gerardo Parra as a pinch runner when Blum drew a two-out walk from Frankie Rodriguez. The move worked splendidly when Parra came around to score on Willie Bloomquist’s double, but the rally died when Brandon Allen grounded out to first base.

It was at this point that Gibson decided to make a double-switch, leaving Parra in the game to play left field and inserting closer David Hernandez for Xavier Nady, who was due up fifth in the ninth inning.  Had Gibson left Nady in the game, the pitcher’s spot in the order would’ve come up seventh in the ninth inning.

In fairness: moving the pitcher’s spot up two spots in the batting order probably isn’t ordinarily that significant of a move, and, granted, Nady is no great shakes in left field and was only out there because Bloomquist had to play shortstop after Stephen Drew’s ankle decided it wanted a divorce from the rest of his leg (an aside: ouch), but I submit this in rebuttal:

(1) If Nady is that bad in left field, and you really wanted to get Parra into the game, why not just pinch hit Parra for Nady in the eighth inning? NarvDog was out, so the lefty-lefty thing wasn’t an issue.

(2) Hernandez put the Brewers to bed in the ninth inning on 16 pitches. He hadn’t pitched the night before, and he only threw 10 pitches in Monday’s game. Point is: dude was probably good for another inning, but that became impossible when …

(3) The pitcher’s spot came up in the Diamondbacks’ half of the ninth inning. With two on and two down, Gibson had to use Sean Burroughs to hit for Hernandez, and when Burroughs flied out, Gibson had to turn to the recently-summoned Ryan Cook to keep the game tied.

That didn’t work out so well, even though RRR did his best to hand the D-backs an out or two in the tenth.  I present, without commercial interruption, my line of thinking upon reading the play-by-play of the top of the tenth on MLB.com this morning:

Mark Kotsay singles on a sharp ground ball to left fielder Gerardo Parra.

Neat — though, upon seeing that Corey Hart is due up next, I’m slightly concerned that we’re going to ask the guy with the .465 slugging percentage to attempt to bunt a slow runner over to second ba …

With Corey Hart batting, wild pitch by Ryan Cook, Mark Kotsay to 2nd.

Well! That takes care of that! Now we’ve got three chances, with three good-to-great hitters, to br …

Pitch 2    Fastball (four seam)   Foul Bunt

Mild brain aneurism.

Alright, well: hopefully that was a one-time thing, and Corey will realize this poor kid on the mound is in the midst of a meltdown and he (Corey) just needs to clear out of his way. Ah:

Corey Hart walks.

Now, I’m figuring things will get interesting: this Cook fella has turned into a puddle out there, and I’m expecting Gibson’s going to go get him before he can do anymore dama …

With Nyjer Morgan batting, Mark Kotsay advances to 3rd on a balk. Corey Hart advances to 2nd on a balk.

Seriously?

Well, surely, Gibson will hook the kid now.

Nyjer Morgan singles on a line drive to right fielder Justin Upton. Mark Kotsay scores. Corey Hart to 3rd.

You don’t need to tell me. He left him in to face Braun, right?

Ryan Braun singles on a line drive to right fielder Justin Upton. Corey Hart scores. Nyjer Morgan to 2nd.

Well done, Kirk. This round goes to you.