Welcome to Round 3. For those of you following along at home, you know that we already have 4 nominees in the bank. If you have found yourself reading this and have no idea what I am talking about here are nominees 1 and 2, 3 and 4. Go check them out and get yourself up to speed.
But, as always, here is what we are doing:
This is a 5 week project, in which 5 select individuals will nominate two former Brewers as candidates for “The Hall”. At the end of those 5 weeks, RtB will put up a poll in order to induct 2 players in to the first ever class of the “Hall of Brewers We Won’t Miss”.
This week I asked RtB staffer and cultural attache of Guinea-Bissau, Steve Alstadt, to throw two more nominees our way. All I asked him for was two nominees, a grade, and some closing thoughts. But Steve said, “No way. I got this Olsen.” Who am I to argue with a political diplomat.
What you are about to read was written entirely by our resident cheese, wine, and Guinea Bissau cultural references expert. If you like Steve’s work, be sure and check out some of his other Brewers work on our site as well as his other site Brewers! Brewers! Keep Turning Up The Heat!
Glendon Rusch - Perhaps no poor soul epitomizes the total futility of the early 2000s Milwaukee Brewers than Glendon Rusch. Those teams were dreadful—in 2002 they lost 106(!) games. Rusch was the anti-ace of the staff. In Milwaukee for two years, the only thing he made headlines for was losing games at an alarming rate. Making matters worse was the fact he went to the Cubs in 2004 and put together a good season as a reliever and fill-in starter.
**Lou’s Side Note: Rusch went to High School right down the street from where I live in the Seattle, WA area**
Steve’s Overall Grade: D
As head of that historically bad 2002 team, Glendon Rusch lost 16 games. He gave up over a hit per inning and had an ERA of 4.7. Yet, because the team was so bad, he racked up 210 innings—simply because they had nobody better!
How did he follow it up in 2003? With a much, much worse season, that’s how. How does a 1-12 record with a 6.42 ERA (!!!) and 12.5 hits per nine innings sound?
During his tenure as a Brewer, his ERA+ was 78. League average is 100. Oof.
This is one of the reasons I only went down to a D for Rusch. I have been unable to find his salary, but it couldn’t have been that much. The team had a payroll of $50 million in 2002 and $40 in 2003, so they almost didn’t have room for bad contracts.
I don’t remember much about Rusch as a person, other than he had that blood clot scare after he left the Brewers. I remember people honestly feeling sorry for him because of all the losses, though.
Steve’s Closing Thoughts:
I only went with a D because Rusch truly wasn’t as bad as his true numbers indicate. He wasn’t even the worst pitcher on that 2003 team; Fangraphs has Wayne Franklin as the worst pitcher in baseball that year. Rusch being here is almost a team award for the Brewers of 2002 and 2003. He was the poster boy, because he had all those losses. A closer look at his numbers reveals something fascinating. His ERA was an amazingly bad 6.42, but his fielding independent pitching (FIP) in 2003 was 3.87! That implies that the defense behind Rusch was terrible and artificially deflated his numbers. Plus, the losses were often a result of poor run support from a heinous offense. So, really, this honor should go to Glendon Rusch/The 2003 Milwaukee Brewers.
Kevin Mench - This may be a personal one more than the numbers back up, but I despise Kevin Mench as a baseball player. Actually, that isn’t a strong enough word. I loathe Kevin Mench the baseball player. If you recall, Mench was in Milwaukee for about a year and a half. He came to Milwaukee with Francisco Cordero in the underwhelming deal that sent Carlos Lee (and Nelson Cruz, doh) to Texas. He’s probably remembered for two dumb stories. First, he has a large head. People liked to joke about it. Secondly, he had that infamous shoe thing in Texas. Right after he switched to a larger shoe size, he had a stretch in which he hit some home runs and it became a story.
Also, mainly because I didn’t like him, I used to enjoy pointing out his resemblance to Voldemort.
Steve’s Overall Grade: D-
2006: .230/.248/.317, for a cool .566 OPS in 133 plate appearances. He drew four walks.
2007: .267/.305/.441 in 308 plate appearances.
Plus, he was an awful outfielder.
Mench is the perfect example of why strikeouts are a horrible measuring tool for offensive players. For his career, Mench’s strikeout rate is just 12.9%. A player people like to rip on for strikeouts, say, Rickie Weeks, is at 23.1%. Yet, Weeks is a much better offensive player, because he gets on base so much more often than Mench ever did. 2007 is a good comparison for those two, actually. Weeks was 14th in MLB in pitches per plate appearance, at 4.45. Mench was 11th-worst among all players with at least 300 plate appearances—just 3.31. Mench was a hacker, plain and simple, and hackers are my least favorite of all baseball players.
Aside: The worst in pitches/PA that year was Johnny Estrada, who I could have just as easily chosen for this segment. My God, and watching him “run” the bases… I have to stop now before I delete this entire thing and start all over using Estrada instead of Mench.
Mench didn’t make an exorbitant amount while he was here—somewhere around $4 million a year, if I remember correctly. That makes this all the more impressive in my eyes. My hatred was fixated purely on Mench as a baseball player, and had nothing to do with his contract.
It seemed like his teammates liked him, or whatever, but I will never forget what cemented him forever in my HoF. I can’t find the exact quote now, unfortunately, but once he was asked about his lack of walks, and he said (paraphrasing) “They don’t pay me to walk. I’m not a mailman,” and he laughed. He laughed at the notion of walking. UGH.
Steve’s Final Thoughts:
There is one memory of Mench that stands out to me more than any other. The Brewers’ were in the midst of their epic 2007 collapse in which they blew a substantial division lead to the Cubs. The day was August 30, 2007 (not because I remember it this clearly, but because I looked it up). The Brewers were down two runs against the Cubs in the ninth inning. The closer at the time, Ryan Dempster, had just walked in a run. Mench was in the lineup that day, and he spot in the order came up. With three lefties on the bench in Geoff Jenkins, Craig Counsell, and Johnny Estrada, Ned Yost elected to let Kevin Mench, he of the .309 career OBP against righties, hit. And what does Mench do? After Dempster had just walked in a run? He lazily grounded out to shortstop on the first pitch. Game over. Commence rage.