Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
Time to get it off my chest.
The date: June 7. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher John Axford sports a 3.22 earned run average. It’s his lowest ERA of the season. He’s got a 1-2 record this year with 10 saves and only one blown save. In fact, dating back to the 2011 campaign, he’s got one blown save vs. 53 successful ones.
He is, quite simply, considered among the best closers in baseball, and he’s got the numbers to back it up.
The next day: June 8. I conduct a one-on-one interview with him for Milwaukee Magazine’s monthly Point of View feature. It’s a Q&A piece that runs on the last page of every issue. He’s very cooperative and his usual personable, intelligent, gregarious self, even goofing around with a series of fake mustaches for the accompanying photo shoot. We call the story “A Dash of ’Stache,” and it runs in the August issue, which is online and on newsstands now.
The result: I’m sorry.
Really, truly, genuinely, grovelingly sorry.
I apologize to Mr. Axford. I apologize to his teammates and the entire Brewers organization. And, of course, I beg forgiveness from the vaunted Brewers Nation, lest I be tarred and feathered with materials left over from Jim Caple’s turn.
Because here are Axford’s numbers after our June 8 meeting.
An 8.57 ERA. A 1-4 record. Five home runs allowed in 14 2/3 innings pitched. Five more blown saves. Only six successful ones. All capped by Monday’s disaster and Tuesday’s announcement that the reliever was hereby relieved of closer’s duties.
So to recap. Before interview: Elite closer. After interview: Nuke LaLoosh before Annie’s garter belt.
I promise, during the interview, I presented Ax with no black cats or shards of broken mirrors or Chicago-bred billy goats. I did not secretly snip some facial hair for a line of voodoo bobblehead dolls. And I definitely didn’t do the notorious no-no of asking him about any streaks.
I did, however, ask about the team’s bad luck this season, a nod to the rash of Brewers injuries. He answered it by referencing, yes, the Brewers injuries. It all seemed so innocent. And fortunately, he’s not injured.
But his stats clearly are, so note to self: Never utter the words “bad luck” within a marathon of Miller Park.
Yes, I can’t help but feel at least partially, perhaps entirely, responsible. It’s weighed heavily on my conscience, and may this mark the start of my absolution.
I want to make it up to Ax. I want to make it up to everyone. Maybe throw a bucket of salt over my shoulder or walk backwards under a legion of ladders, carry a clump of four-leaf clovers or wrestle a ranch of rabbits for all of their feet? Something needs to break the jinx, and I want to find it.
So long as it doesn’t involve garter belts.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet as howiemag. And listen to me chat sports with Mitch Teich monthly on WUWM's "Lake Effect."