Sunday, May 3, 2009
HAVE MUSCLE, WILL TRAVEL
Last Season, after 45 games in the minors with the Brewers AAA affiliate, the Nashville Sounds, Russell Branyan, the every day third baseman there was absolutely raking the ball, hitting over .340 with a pile of homers and RBI. With the Crew's regular 3B Billy Hall and his backup, Craig Counsell, lacking offensive punch, the GM Doug Melvin made the call up.
Prior to last year, Melvin signed Branyan off the scrap heap to Nashville, because Branyan wanted to play close to home, and the Sounds needed a corner infielder. Match made in heaven. After just over a month into the season, voila, he was needed.
After several starts and stops from the minors to the show over the years prior to Nashville, Russell "the Muscle" Branyan was back in the big leagues. I rooted for Branyan big time. I always loved that comeback story, that against all odds kind of deal. Hey, I loved "The Rookie"!
Up to the point where my Milwaukee Brewers called him up, Branyan had served stints with Cleveland, Milwaukee (once prior), Cincinatti, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Inarguably, a fantastic amount of stops in a career of a 32 year old. Why so many opportunities?
Raw friggin' power.
Russell Branyan is one of those guys that just comes around so often. Not a particularly huge dude, doesn't take giant lumberjackesque haymaker swings. Just a relaxed stroke and the ball absolutely JUMPS off his bat. No team can take just one look, they always do that double take. Yeah, he strikes out a lot, but DAMN, the pop! Rany Jazayerli, a writer for the Baseball Prospectus has more or less declared him todays best representative of the TTO, or "Three True Outcomes" philosophy of baseball. You either strike out, walk, or drill one into the cheaps. Branyans HR per At bats statistics are off the charts, always have been. So you factor his massive launching pad of a bat, more than passable skills as a hot corner man, his versatility in being able to play corner outfield positions as well as first, add that to a change in his stance down at Nashville which had caused his battng average to skyrocket, and you've got a pretty safe callup.
All he did upon being called up was hit around .260 with 12 homers and 25 RBI in 132 at bats before his back started bothering him just as the season was tailing down. In December, free agency struck, and Seattle picked Branyan up for a middling amount.
Sad to see him go anyway, that feeling is elevated now as I watch the bench of the current Brewers doing not a lot more than striking out and seeing Russell Branyan hitting .344 with 6 homers and 14 RBI on the young season. I think we might have missed the boat on this one.
Still, I wish "The Muscle" luck. It's been a long road, and his persistence is pretty amazing in this day and age. They say he works pretty hard, too. It's a refreshing spin in today's baseball environment. I just wish he was still swinging the bat here for Milwaukee.