Casey McGehee, We Hardly Knew Ye
As many of you know, I like to say goodbye to our departed friends. Not all of them receive this treatment, only my personal favorites. This is part of my grieving process. While this person was never my favorite, he is certainly a man that I enjoyed watching over the past 3 seasons. Today we “officially” lost a friend, Casey McGehee.
I know that his trade went through weeks ago, but today he signed his first contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This season McGehee will make the shockingly precise amount of $2.5375 million, in 2012. This deal was reached just moments before McGehee and the Buccos were set to start their arbitration hearing. Thus, Casey is now officially a Pirate.
The Brewers have never really been known for their waiver wire intel. That all changed in March of 2009 when they picked up a utility infielder from the Cubs, Casey McGehee. After a strong spring, McGehee found himself on the Brewers roster. Which was probably a surprise in and of itself.
Then Ryan Braun suffered a leg injury, which moved Bill Hall into left field and the Brewers gave McGehee a chance to play a little 3rd base with Mat Gamel. Before much time had passed, it was obvious to fans and team managers that this kid was the real deal. Casey ended up playing in 116 games that season and finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year balloting. His 16 home runs and 66 RBI’s was enough to earn him the starting job heading into 2010.
There is no doubt in my mind that 2010 was, and will always be, McGehee’s finest season. Casey hit 23 bombs and drove in 104 RBI’s. He was one of 3 Brewers to drive in 100 runs that season (Braun and Hart). Then he was voted the team MVP, which was quite an achievement for a guy who was nothing more than scrap heap guy 18 month earlier.
Even though the team as a whole floundered to a 77-85 record in 2010, fans felt good knowing that with Hart, Weeks, Fielder, Braun , and now McGehee the Brewers would have no problem winning games in 2011. Which was mostly true…
While the 2011 season was one of the best in franchise history, it marked one of the most horrific falls from grace baseball had seen since…Brady Anderson maybe. Let’s not sugar coat it, His batting average was .223, he only managed to hit 13 homers (3 of which happened in one game), and lead the NL in errors by a 3rd baseman. Casey fell, hard.
There came a point where I could not believe that Roenicke was continuing to let McGehee take the field. I assume it was because they lacked any real long-term options. Then Jerry Hairston Jr. came to Milwaukee via trade. JHJ marked the end of the Casey McGehee era in Milwaukee. In the final month of the 2011 season, the two men split time at 3rd base. When playoff time rolled around, Ron Roenicke made it very clear that JHJ would be the everyday 3rd baseman in the postseason. That was when I knew that he was not going to be around for much longer.
As the off-season rolled around, we all wondered what the future would hold for McGehee. Possibly a move to first, since we all were hoping the team would sign Aramis Ramirez to fill our clean-up spot and play 3rd base. The team had another idea. Just hours after signing Ramirez on December 12th, McGehee was traded to the Pirates for Jose Veras. Bringing to an end, three educational years.
Last season I really laid into McGehee, not because I disliked him, but because he lead all of us to believe that he could be one of the premier sluggers in the game. I likened him to former Brewer burn-outs John Jaha and Pat Listach, but out of spite, but out of frustration. These things happen in baseball. To consistently play at a high level in the major leagues is really hard and sometimes I forget that.
You could never give him grief for his effort or love of the Milwaukee fan base. The guy loved being a Brewer and that is what I will always remember about Casey. In this day and age guys so rarely embrace the town they play in, even as he left Milwaukee he had nothing but great things to say about us. That goes a long way. It certainly won’t hurt when he returns to Miller Park next season. I can’t wait for his first game in Milwaukee as a Pirate, I hope that we give him the ovation he deserves.
The true Brewers fan inside of me knows that he is going to go out and hit 30 dingers this season and make us look like chumps, but the realist in me know that he was nothing more than a mirage. Not many teams had a book on Casey and so they did not know how to pitch too him. Turns out, any pitch with movement on it would do the trick. You could never throw a fastball by him, but you hang a curve-ball at him and he falls to one knee swinging (which happened on more than one occasion).
According to my Pirates source, McGehee has lost a ton of weight and has packed on the muscle. I hope, for his sake, that this works out for the best. Generally Pittsburgh is where players go to die…slowly. That aside, I wish him the best of luck in all of his plunders and pillages. I just hope we do not regret this in a year or two, you guys remember when we had Nelson Cruz…
Casey McGehee, we hardly knew ye.