ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Drew Olson
Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez went from high-ceiling prospect to all-star during his time in Milwaukee.
By DREW OLSON
Carlos Gomez came to Milwaukee as a twice-traded 23-year-old outfielder with impressive-but-raw baseball skills, a high ceiling and a history of trying the patience of managers, coaches and fans in New York and Minnesota.
The Brewers acquired him in November, 2009, sending popular shortstop J.J. Hardy and $250,000 to the Twins, and watched him blossom into a Gold Glove defender, a two-time all-star and the heart and soul of the clubhouse.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and his boss, principal owner Mark Attansio, admired Gomez’s passion, enthusiasm and the way he capitalized on an opportunity. Gomez’s sprint to home base with the winning run in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series against Arizona represents the pinnacle of their years together.
Gomez loved the Brewers’ organization for believing in him.
Emotion was evident on both sides when the affiliation ended Thursday night at Miller Park. Shortly before taking the field against the Cubs, the Brewers announced they’d traded Gomez to Houston along with Mike Fiers in exchange for prospects Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Adrian Houser and Josh Hader.
“These things are always tough,” said Melvin, who completed the deal less than 24 hours after being thwarted in his attempt to deal Gomez to the New York Mets for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores.
“It was tough with Carlos; it was very emotional to tell him this again after what he went through yesterday. All the excitement he has brought to the organization and all the fun he has brought to the organization made it tough. And Michael Fiers has done a good job, too, coming through our system."
Gomez and Fiers met with reporters in the first inning. Fiers seemed a bit shell-shocked, but it was Gomez – whose wife delivered a baby during the most recent homestand -- who began to tear up.
"I've been six years in this organization. I appreciate the fans and whole Milwaukee Brewers staff,” he said. “We are human. We have feelings. We are not robots. You feel emotional because there are a lot of good things I've been through in this organization."
Melvin said the trade came together after the Mets deal fell apart, and that adding Fiers – a homegrown starter with a cheap contract – was key to landing Phillips, who is considered a premier prospect.
“There were a couple of players in the deal that were not going to be in the deal unless we included Fiers,” he said. “We still feel we have a good, young pitching staff with Taylor Jungmann, Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta.
"We got four young players age 21, 22, 23 that we feel are very talented players.”
The Brewers recalled outfielder Logan Schafer and utility man Elian Herrera to replace Gomez and Fiers on the roster.
KARMA TRAIN: More than one Brewers official expressed pleasure over the result of the Padres-Mets series finale Thursday afternoon at Citi Field.
The Mets, who backed away from the Gomez trade at the last possible moment, were two strikes away from victory when umpires stopped the game due to rain.
When play resumed after a 44-minute delay, closer Jeurys Familia returned to the mound with two out and a two-run lead. He gave up back-to-back singles followed by a three-run homer from Justin Upton.
When Familia retired the side, the rain returned. This time, the delay was 2 hours, 52 minutes. Craig Kimbrel retired the Mets in order to end a brutal day for the home side.
It wasn’t a good day for the Mets (52-50) who blew a 7-1 lead and squandered a solid star from Jonathon Niese.
GET THE BUBBLE WRAP: In years past, Packers fans would spend hours worrying about backup quarterbacks, second-string inside linebackers and young defensive backs relegated to “dime” coverage and special teams.
Can we give that a rest this year?
The Packers return 21 of 22 starters, including the best quarterback on the planet, from a team that was 5 minutes from playing in the Super Bowl six months ago.
They don’t have any major positional battles or pressing questions. Well, there is one pressing question. There is always one pressing question:
Will they stay healthy?
The injury report is really all that matters for this team. Injuries happen, despite the best efforts of coaches, trainers, heart-rate monitors, regeneration periods and Jell-O shots.
If the Packers can avoid injury – as they did for much of last season – they’ll be good. My advice: wrap the key players in bubble wrap until the season opener.
WI SPORTS HALL OF FAME: Although overshadowed the Bucks’ effort to fund and construct a new downtown arena for Bucks, the quest to revive the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame has made impressive strides in recent months.
Brian Lammi, President of Lammie Sports Management and rights owner of the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame, debuted a new logo and announced that a new class will be inducted into the Hall next year. That class, which will mark the 65th anniversary of the Hall, will be the first group of inductees since 2009.
Prompted by a group of local sports historians (and friends of this columnist) including Gregg Hoffmann, Rick Schabowski, Bob Buege and David Bernacchi – Lammi purchased the rights to the Hall after nine months of negotiations.
It was a “full-circle” transaction for Lammi, who got his start in the sports business working with Joe Sweeney, who was president of the Wisconsin Sports Authority in the mid-1990s and helped bring a slew of big names to induction ceremonies.
“The historic Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame features some of the most iconic names in all of sports,” Lammi said. “We are all very excited to help restore this critical piece of our state’s rich athletic history.”
Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame inductees include Vince Lombardi, Hank Aaron, Oscar Robertson, Bonnie Blair, Bud Selig, Bart Starr, Barry Alvarez, Al McGuire and more than 120 other athletic icons. The Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame, located on 4thStreet in downtown Milwaukee, is free and open to the public and contains plaques celebrating each member’s accomplishments.
Hoffmann, who spearheaded a grassroots effort to keep interest in the Hall alive during some dark years, has had an interest in the Hall since meeting the organization’s founder, Joe Krueger, while researching a prject that has turned into “Immortalized in Bronze,” biographies of all the inductees.
Information about the 65th anniversary induction dinner, which will be held at Milwaukee Panther Arena, will be released in the coming months.
Those interested in learning more about the Hall of Fame and its inductees are encouraged to visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wihof/. The official Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame website, www.wihalloffame.com, is currently under construction and will be completed soon.
SUMMER VACATION: I love that Marquette University’s men’s basketball team is spending time in Italy. Sure, the extra practice, game experience and general bonding will help coach Steve Wojciechowski’s club down the road. But, the educational experience from going overseas is invaluable.
I get the feeling that in-season travel for Division I athletes is less than enlightening. This is a trip that the players will remember forever. Hope they enjoy some incredible sights and great food. With all the money flowing into college sports these days, trips like this should be the rule and not the exception.
ESPN Wisconsin's Steve Haywood died Sunday after a lengthy battle with a variety of ailments.
By DREW OLSON
The sports world – at least our little corner of it here at ESPN Wisconsin – got a little quieter and much more somber when Steve Haywood died Sunday morning at St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee.
Haywood, who was 48, had long battled a multitude of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, which claimed both of his legs, cardiomyopathy, gastroparesis and kidney problems.
“He had every right to be bitter, but instead he handled all of his issues with grace and laughter,” said Bill Johnson, who co-hosted “The Game” with Haywood.
"I think he was in a lot more pain than he ever let on to any of us. He went through it with a smile and with laughter. I hope nobody has to go through what Steve did the last 15 years of his life. If you do, and you can do it the way Steve did, I’ll tip my cap to you."
Several times in recent years, Haywood overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and lengthy hospital stays and always emerged with a smile, a few pointed opinions, some questions about the local teams and a plan to return to the airwaves.
“Either I’m too ornery to die, or the man upstairs has something big planned for me,” Haywood would say visits to the Milwaukee studios.
“As soon as I get stronger, I’m going to get back behind a microphone and start writing blogs and stir things up again. That’s what I do.”
Haywood, a Milwaukee Tech graduate who went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was fixture on the Milwaukee sports radio scene since the late 1990s. In addition to “The Game,” he hosted his own show, “That Being Said,” and worked a number of high school football and basketball games, which provided a platform for his beloved City Conference.
He also had a passion for the Milwaukee Bucks, and was one of the more respected voices in the local media.
“Steve distinguished himself with his passion, knowledge and relationships with his beloved Milwaukee Bucks, and the city of Milwaukee,” said Craig Karmazin, the founder and CEO of Good Karma Brands.
“In doing so, he created a partnership between ESPN Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public Schools, which brought attention and advocated for student athletes throughout the city.
“He will be missed.”
Haywood was a beloved teammate, mentor and friend both inside and outside the ESPN Wisconsin family. Throughout his ordeals, he would send texts and e-mails to teammates offering congratulations, encouragement and news tips he gathered through a network of trusted sources.
“Steve went through so many health problems over the years but he always kept fighting and always kept a great attitude,” said Milwaukee Admirals president Jon Greenberg, who was working as media relations director for the Brewers when he met Haywood during the mid-1990s.
“Steve was never afraid to challenge those in the sports world. He knew his stuff and those he interacted with in the press box or the locker room knew they were talking with someone they could trust and respect. I know I respectedhim immensely and I always enjoyed our conversations.”
As a broadcaster, Haywood was known for his pet phrases and love of sports debates, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good argument,” he would say, usually after expressing an out-of-left-field opinion that riled listeners.
“He could be infuriating, but always in an endearing way,” Johnson said. “He brought the best out of me, professionally and personally. I have the fondest possible memories of Steve.
"My natural move on a day like (Sunday) would have been to call Steve and find out what he thought of the Brett Favre Packers Hall of Fame induction last night. It's one of those things where you pick up the phone and you can't make that call any more. I'm going to miss him."
Funeral arrangements are pending. Stay tuned to ESPN Wisconsin for details.
Here is a video of a story Fox 6 Milwaukee did on Steve in 2013: