Outside of the Brewers’ preposterous road struggles, story number one in Milwaukee baseball has to be Casey McGehee’s struggles. Many of us were willing to chalk things up to a slump, but after half a season and the worst hitting performance of any Brewers regular, frustration was apparent from the fan base, from McGehee himself and, at least apparently, from the club.
From MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy’s Saturday story:
They dropped him in the batting order, and now the Brewers are planning to give Casey McGehee a couple of games off. It’s the latest attempt to help the team’s 2010 RBI champ shake his season-long slump.
McGehee, coming off consecutive 0-for-4 games, was 2-for-22 over the previous week. He is batting .221 this season and may have needed the break. He was uncharacteristically intense following Friday’s loss to the Twins, and sat staring into his locker after other teammates had dressed and left…
…”It’s no secret, everybody knows he’s struggling,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “Sometimes these struggles, they take on a larger life. The deeper you get, the harder you try. It’s like a swimmer. What they tell you when you’re drowning is not to panic, to relax. That’s a lot easier said than done.
Seems like a fine approach. Nearly everybody who reported on the Brewers clubhouse over the past few days has mentioned how McGehee didn’t seem like himself, how his head just didn’t seem right. Hitting as a Major League Baseball player is difficult enough; hitting as a Major League Baseball player with doubt and anger and other negative emotions clouding your head is nearly impossible.
Then you can understand my surprise when I see Casey McGehee pinch hitting in the top of the ninth of Sunday’s game, with the Brewers trailing by two and with McGehee representing the winning run. Maybe Ron Roenicke just assumed Prince Fielder was going to hit a walk-off home run. McGehee actually put good swings on the first two pitches against Glen Perkins, but he chased a slider out of the zone for the third strike and the third out.
At that point, McGehee’s frustration — before, mostly limited to media reports — was out there for everybody to see. After the strikeout, McGehee turned and split his bat over his knee with a fire rarely seen from him. He has been playing his worst baseball in arguably the most important season in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history. Everybody knows it, everybody’s talking about it, and here he is, with a chance to at least put it out of the minds of some with a clutch hit, and he failed. Again.
For Monday’s game against the Diamondbacks, McGehee will be thrust right back out there, batting seventh and playing third base behind Shaun Marcum. What happened to “a couple of games off?” What’s changed since Saturday? I don’t pretend to be a sports psychologist, and without access to the Brewers’ locker room, there could be (or likely is) something I’m not privy to which changed Roenicke’s mind on the days off. But from the outside, seeing McGehee’s bat snap — a warranted bat snap, don’t get me wrong — and the clear intensity in his body language, it doesn’t make sense to me that he’s mentally ready to go today but wasn’t on Sunday.