Jaime Cocanower – 1986 Topps

July 7, 2011

Back & Gone Again…

I’m now off to a wedding in Da Region (the area of Indiana near Chicago – they claim not to be Hoosiers but they are…they definitely are). So whilst I do read and comment on occassion (without pissing off my girlfriend, that’s why it’s on occassion) another post won’t happen until next week.

And I’m on pins and needles about some job interviews. But hey, that’s the way it goes.

And yes, Mr. Owl, my Manifesto can stretch to include non-players as base cards for sets I want to collect. What’s the use of a manifesto if it can’t bend to whims?

So with that, enjoy Jaime Cocanower, a vestige of a time when the Brewers were trying, in vain, to recapture 1982 on the backs of power, eschewing defense and pitching. But they also tried to use the same players from 1982, and they got old in a hurry.

Case in point, the 1985 Brewers. Mr. Cocanower wasn’t awful (6-8, 4.33).  That was a serviceable #5 starter. The top 4 were Danny Darwin (2.7 WAR despite a bad luck 8-18 record), Ted Higuera (15 wins and a 3.2 WAR – so much for W/L record, eh Joe Morgan? Higuera wasn’t seven wins better than Darwin), Moose Haas (8-8, 3.84 and a 1.6 WAR) and the grizzled vet Ray Burris (9-13, 4.81 but with decent peripherals and a 1.4 WAR).

Unfortunately, Pete Vuckovich got 22 starts to show that he was really, truly, done. Rollie Fingers saved 17 games but also showed that he was really, truly, done. Bob Gibson saved 11 games but allowed 44% of his inherited runners to score. Pete Ladd was done. Ray Searage wasn’t up to the task (as noted here…). Bob McClure was as meh as he always was. And don’t talk to me about Rick Waits.

The starting five (allowing that Cocanower could have been the fifth instead of Vuckovich) with a better pen could have carried the team. But the Brewers weren’t built for that. They were allegedly built to thump the ball.

Of the Top 11 hitters based on ABs in 1985, nine were vets of the 1982 team. Of those nine, only Molitor, Yount and Ed Romero were under 30. (And yes, Ed Romero doesn’t really count).

The other five were Charlie Moore (STILL HERE?), Jim Gantner (who seemed to be barely hanging on in 1986 at age 32 – he made a career out of hanging on), Cecil Cooper (just 16 HRs as a 1B / DH), Rick Manning (SERIOUSLY?), Ben Oglivie and Ted Simmons. The ‘kids’ waiting to replace them were also old – Marc Brouhard, Doug Loman, and Bobby Rose were on the wrong side of 27.

The other regulars were Paul Householder, a failed phenom (much in the Clint Hurdle mode) whose season looks OK until you remember that he hit .321 with eight home runs and an OPS of 998 in September, and he compilde a 595 OPS the five previous months and Ernie Riles, an overvalued player who hit enough singles to finish third in the ROY voting but was an bad shortstop and useless when he slumped to .260.

That was a team that was supposed to reclaim the Harvey Wallbanger’s mystique?

The next year, the Brewers decided to clean house and revamped their pitching staff and younger players like Rob Deer, Glenn Braggs and Dale Sveum began peppering their lineup cards.

Why do I write this? Well, this great article by Rany Jazayerli points out that the 2011 Brewers are similar to Harvey’s Wallbangers. With free agency, the free fall could take longer than four seasons for the Brewers to bottom out, but signs are there for another collapse after a glorious season.

But in baseball, you take those risks. If you feel you have one chance to win due to happenstance and circumstance, you take the chance. I don’t like destroying the future of a club to win now in many circumstances, but sometimes you gotta.

And the 2011 Brewers gotta.

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