NEW YORK, NY: Francisco Rodriguez of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the New York Mets at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Brewers defeated the Mets 6-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Well, harrumph. And Wednesday, when asked about his comments by the Milwaukee writers, didn't exactly back down.
"I wasn't lying," he said. "There’s been plenty of save opportunities, and I’ve pitched once in the ninth inning and it wasn’t a save. I’m not happy. That’s the bottom line for me. They told me one thing; they haven’t done it. And I stand by what I said.
"I’m not lying. I’m not creating something out of nowhere. I’m just saying the facts, and that’s pretty much it."
Rodriguez then continued.
"That’s something I should not be discussing with any of you guys," he said. "That I should be discussing with the manager in his office."
Rodriguez was asked if he has.
"No, I haven’t," he said. "(Ron Roenicke) hasn’t approached me, and I haven’t approached him, either. That’s something I should go over there and talk to him about.
Welcome, friends, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Home of Dysfunctional Relationships.
Unless of course we evaluate the effectiveness of the relationship by the effectiveness of the player. Since joining the Brewers, Rodríguez has pitched roughly as well as he's always pitched, which is pretty good.
What I can't quite understand is why Ron Roenicke -- who by all accounts has done a bang-up job in his first season -- has let this situation come up at all.
John Axford has been brilliant as the Brewers' closer. On Opening Day, he gave up a three-run homer and lost to the Reds. A few weeks later, he blew another save. Since then Axford's been perfect: 39 for 39, which of course is a franchise record for consecutive saves. There was some talk, when the Brewers acquired Rodríguez, of demoting Axford to the set-up role, but of course that would have been foolish because he's probably the better pitcher. Not to mention that he'd been doing the job and doing it exceptionally well.
At the same time, there does seem to have been some suggestion, at the time, that Rodríguez would occasionally get the chance to close out games. If only to maintain a happy relationship, why wouldn't Roenicke give Axford the night off every three or four weeks?
Of course, there's also something to be said for keeping your doing your job, depositing your gargantuan paychecks and keeping your mouth shut, at least around the baseball writers.
Rodríguez is making $11.5 million this season. When he got traded, he brought along with him that salary, plus a 2012 option for $17.5 million that would automatically vest if Rodríguez finished 54 games this season. He would have done that, as the Brewers' closer. As John Axford's setup man, he would not.
This got into his head -- and Scott Boras's head, presumably -- but all seemed happy when Rodríguez was assured that he would occasionally get a save opportunity and his 2012 buyout was bumped from $3.5 million to $4 million.
That's right, friends: half a million dollars for not whining. Seems like good work if you can get it, right? I've never gone two months without whining, but if you give me five hundred grand (granted, that's pre-tax) I'll give it the old college try. Promise.
My sympathies do rest with Roenicke, for a variety of reasons.
Still, what about the 15th of August? Axford had pitched an inning on the 13th, another on the 14th. On the 15th, the Brewers took a 3-0 lead into the ninth. Why not use Rodríguez to close that one out?
What about the 28th of August? Axford had tossed an inning on the 26th, another on the 27th. On the 28th, Rodríguez entered with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and gave up a run-scoring double before escaping the jam, having thrown eight pitches. The score was 3-1. Why not let Rodriguez start the ninth, see if he can finish the job?
In both cases, Roenicke instead summoned Axford to pitch the ninth.
Of course, he's there and we're not. Perhaps he believes, with good reason, that if he'd given Rodríguez two save opportunities, he would want four. Perhaps if he got four, he would want six. Perhaps Roenicke believes, with good reason, that Axford has thrived because he knows exactly his role, which is to pitch in ninth-inning save situations unless he's pitched in the last three games.
Roenicke's done a fantastic job this season. If it weren't for the Miracle Snakes, Roenicke would be the runaway choice for Manager of the Year. But one of the manager's jobs is to limit the distractions. However small compared to some, this has become a distraction. And it's not clear why it had to happen.