Milwaukee Brewers Team Picture 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for December 18, 2017

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I love the name “Brewers” for the team in Milwaukee. It is great on so many levels. First of all, it is my favorite type of team name. It ties directly into the history and culture of the city they play for. I prefer a name like that to a generic “Tigers” or “Eagles.”

It also has a tie to the history of baseball in Milwaukee. The team that is now the Baltimore Orioles and once were the St. Louis Browns once played in the Western and then American League as the “Milwaukee Brewers.”

The American Association had a Milwaukee Brewers at the beginning of the 20th century. They were the team of the city until the mid 1950’s when the Braves moved from Boston and Milwaukee became a big league city.

Now truth be told, I would rather have seen the Braves stay in Milwaukee and another team find its way to Atlanta. The Braves had a great glory period in the 1950’s, winning the 1957 World Series title, back to back pennants and nearly making in 3 straight.

But those titles are lost to history in a way because the team moved to Atlanta and they are now intertwined with the South. Henry Aaron had his best seasons in Milwaukee. Warren Spahn starred there as well. So did Eddie Mathews. And yet their deeds, like the titles won by the Philadelphia A’s and the pennants from the Washington Senators and New York Giants, have somewhat faded.

I can not put the toothpaste back into the tube. The Braves did indeed move. And despite overtures to move the White Sox to Milwaukee in the late 1960’s, no MLB team played in County Stadium until 1970.

We may never know exactly how corrupt the deal was that dragged the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee just before the 1970 season. It involved Bud Selig, so you know it wasn’t on the up and up.

Again, toothpaste, meet tube.

But when the Majors returned to Milwaukee, there was no way they were going to be the Milwaukee Pilots. Selig and his conspirators dubbed them the Brewers and here we are.

This picture shows the 1977 squad. It was the last year their hat was the simple “M” and before they adopted the amazing M-B glove design. It was also the year before the arrival of GM Harry Dalton and manager George Bamberger, two people who were instrumental in the rebuilding of the team.

Some players who would eventual play in the 1982 World Series were already on the 1977 roster. Future Hall of Famer Robin Yount was already the starting shortstop. Charlie Moore and Cecil Cooper were in the lineup. Mike Caldwell and Moose Haas were already pitching there.

The 1977 team, helmed by Alex Grammas, was a 95 loss team. The 1978 team was a 93 WIN club. Nobody noticed because they shared a Division with the Yankees and Red Sox. But they were becoming contenders.

Oh yeah, one more toothpaste and tube scenario. I wish the Brewers could be an American League team.

But Brewers remains a great name. And a great detail of the old stadium is in the background of this picture. I love the giant barrel of beer in the back that existed in centerfield.

No better tribute to the city of Milwaukee.

2011 NL Runs Batted In Leader 2012 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 7, 2017

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It is hard to believe that something from this decade can make me nostalgic and make me think “Man, that was a different time” but this card does.

There is Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. Back then they were considered to be elite players. Now Fielder is out of baseball, Howard is trying to make a comeback and Matt Kemp is doing well, if not great, with Atlanta.

In 2011, they were the trio of RBI leaders. Back then that was considered to be a solid metric on the value of a player. At least I did. And most people had not caught up with how unreliable it is as a way to evaluate an individual player’s performance.

Now, as I have stated on the podcast many times, it is a wonderful metric to tell the story of the game. “How did the runs get knocked in?” For a lot of people, THAT is what they care about. They care about the narrative. What HAPPENED? RBIs are essential to telling that.

When I talk to my parents or a friend about a game, recapping it, I don’t talk about the win probability. I don’t get analytical. What was the score? How did it get that way?

Pretty straight forward.

And for many years, THAT is how we evaluated players. If they drove in more runs, they were doing their job. And in many ways, that is true.

The difference is now we understand it has almost zero predictive powers. RBI rely on runners being on base in front of a hitter. A double into the gap with nobody on drives in fewer runs than getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

I think the reason for the switch in perception has more to do with fantasy baseball than anything else. People assembling teams are more interested in what a player will do moving forward than what they accomplished in the past. With more and more makeshift GMs out there assembling teams, new metrics demonstrating the offensive value of a player have become more common.

For those of us without a fantasy team, the narrative still works fine. But any GM acquiring players in reality using RBI as a measure should be fired on the spot.

Big burly sluggers like Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard may never be considered MVP candidates ever again mainly because metrics tend to value more well rounded players. (By well rounded I mean offensive, defensive and speed, not the shape of Fielder’s belly.)

For that reason, this 2012 card makes me feel oddly nostalgic.

Tom Trebelhorn 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 14, 2017

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Tom Trebelhorn is, in my recollection, a generic place holder manager. I remember he was a manager for the Brewers and briefly the Cubs. He was a minor league manager and a big league coach.

Baseball is filled with Trebelhorns, guys with tons of baseball wisdom and the misfortune of never being the manager of a team when all the pieces are in place.

And along the way, Trebelhorn coached and managed many players and imparted wisdom and guidance.

How do I know that?

Rickey Henderson mentioned him in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

Trebelhorn coached Rickey in the instructional league about the basics of base stealing. He must have known SOMETHING as his student became the greatest base stealer of them all.

The playing career of Trebelhorn, a native of Oregon, was not on par with Rickey Henderson. He played 5 years in the minor leagues but never got to the show. Instead he became a lifelong coach and manager.

He bounced between the minor league systems of the Pirates, A’s and Indians. He managed in Boise in 1975 and 1976, where he was Henderson’s manager.

In 1977, he managed in Modesto where he had Henderson again along with future Giants pitcher Ernie Camacho.

In 1979, he managed at Batvia in the Indians system. Future big leaguer Carmello Castillo was on that team.

In 1982, he went home to Portland to manage the Pirates farm team there. He managed a combination of young future big leaguers, like Brian Harper, Junior Ortiz and Jose DeLeon, as well as veterans hanging on, like Odell Jones, Willie Horton and Paul Dade.

When the Pirates moved their Triple A team from Portland to Hawaii, Trebelhorn went with them in 1983. Once again he had a mix of older and younger players including Don Stanhouse and Joe Orsulak.

After managing in Vancouver for the Brewers in 1985, he was promoted to manage the major league squad to finish the 1986 season.

In 1987, things looked like they might be going Tom Trebelhorn’s way. The Brewers started the season by winning their first 13 games and they stayed in contention for the AL East for much of the season.

They finished with 91 wins but far behind the AL East champion Tigers and the runner up Blue Jays. But his first season in the bigs as a manager was quite an accomplishment.

He would never come close to duplicating it. He would have a few more winning seasons but he was let go after the 1991 season.

Trebelhorn’s final big league managerial job was during the 1994 strike year with the Cubs. The team did not fare well and Trebelhorn’s lone highlight was following through on a dare that he would take questions from fans after the game at a firestation if the Cubs lost.

He spent years in the Orioles system, both in the front office and as a third base coach and bench coach. Eventually, he would return to managing in the Pacific Northwest, managing the Salem Volcanoes in Oregon.

The Giants affiliate had Trebelhorn manage such players as Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Gary Brown, Joe Panik and Matt Duffy. All of them won World Series titles and played in those Octobers for San Francisco.

The manager, like Bruce Bochy, gets the lionshare of the credit for developing those players. But they all had managers who molded them before they got to the bigs.

Sometimes it is the Tom Trebelhorns of the world who help turn minor leaguers into Major Leaguers.

Just ask Rickey Henderson.