Reporting from the Milwaukee Brewers
Randy Wolf is in his 12th season in the major
leagues, and the first of three-year deal he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Speaking before a recent game in Milwaukee, I quizzed him on
some of his experiences pitching in three divisions for five teams and eight
managers during his career.
On the differences between the divisions:
“…the Western Division is dominated by pitching – you have
more pitchers’ parks, you have some dominant numbers out of the starting
This is an accepted truth throughout baseball. San Diego and
Los Angeles in particular have parks of above-average dimensions, meaning home
runs are harder to hit, and San Francisco’s waterfront stadium frequently has
cool breezes blowing in, which also keeps the home run numbers down.
“The Central, obviously, it’s a tough division because it
has the most teams of any division in baseball [i.e. six]…”
Most of us experience baseball from the couch, rather than
living and breathing it, and Wolf’s “obviously” in this comment is far from
obvious to most of us. Fact is, the more hitters and pitchers get to know
eachother, the more the advantage tends to go to the hitter as he gets to know
what each pitcher likes to throw, and how much their pitches move.
“Eastern Division…more teams that go more for the home run”.
He picked out the Phillies in particular as being dangerous for their
combination of power (to hit the home run) and speed (to steal bases).
Wolf has a strong connection with the Phillies, having been
in the organization for 10 years until 2007. While in Philadelphia he played
for three different managers: Terry Francona (who now manages the Red Sox),
Larry Bowa (who also coached Wolf in Los Angeles) and Charlie Manuel – the
current Phillies Manager who guided them to victory in the 2008 World Series.
Wolf’s take on Bowa was that, “…[he’s] a very, very good
baseball man. The part of pitching with him is that it’s a necessary evil; he
may not like pitchers, or the fact that they may be inconsistent, or the fact
that it’s not always that easy to throw the ball where you want to…he’s a very
intense person…doesn’t like to lose at all – he’s just very emotional”.
Bowa, as an ex-shortstop, may not have the greatest affinity
with pitchers. The Phillies’ current manager is similarly hitting-oriented, and
yet when he took over from Bowa, “it was a very big difference. Charlie’s very
laid back. Kinda lets guys play; he has very few rules”, and yet as Wolf went on
to point out, when one of those few rules are broken he has no hesitation in
punishing the player, as star shortstop Jimmy Rollins found out twice last
As we concluded our conversation, Wolf went onto the field
for batting practice while the hitters stood around and watched. The hitters,
of course, never take pitching practice. Perhaps Bowa had it the wrong way
around – maybe it’s hitters that are the necessary evil.