He’s been dogged by every type of injury: bulging discs in the lower back, inner ear infections, shoulder tendinitis, strained hamstring.
At the start of every season, Brewers fans have their fingers crossed that Sheets will stay healthy this year. Because when he is, and he gets in his groove, watch out. He shows batters some true, Southern hospitality.
“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”
With all that time on the DL, Sheets has still managed to establish himself as one of the MLB’s most feared pitchers. He’s a Gold Medalist. Four-time All-Star. The 35th pitcher in history to strikeout 3 batters in 9 pitches. The most recent pitcher to strikeout 18 in a game in ’04. A perennial double-digit winner. I mean, it goes on and on.
“Mama says they was magic shoes. They could take me anywhere.”
Born in Louisiana-today is his 30th birthday-in the bayou, Sheets and his southern drawl would probably be right at home at Maxie’s Southern Comfort restaurant. He went to UL-Monroe and once struck out 20 against Louisiana Tech. Big Ben got drafted in 1999 by the Crew, but he wasn’t in the minors for long because he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings. In 2000, he represented Uncle Sam in the Sydney Olympics and pitched 22 innings, struck out 11, and gave up 11 hits the entire tournament. He pitched the Gold Medal game and chalked up a complete game shutout in a 4-0 win for the gold.
“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze.”
In 2001, Sheeter got the call to go to Milwaukee’s starting rotation. He went 11-10 that year with a 4.76 ERA and an All-Star selection. The years that followed made it seem like he was just an ordinary pitcher. Then in 2004, Ben Sheets became Big Ben. He finished ’04 with 264 Ks finishing third in the category behind the Big Unit and Johan Santana. With a dominant 2.70 ERA and a 8:1 strikeout over walk ratio, Sheets earned himself another All-Star appearance and finished 8th in the Cy Young voting. The 2005 and ’06 seasons were filled with disappointment on the DL for Sheets who pitched in only 39 games and had 16 wins between the two seasons.
“We was like peas and carrots.”
Big Ben came back though. The 2007 Opening Day resulted in a complete game shutout for Sheets. Despite fighting off even more injuries, Ben managed to go 12-5 with a 3.82 ERA and yet another All-Star Selection. Even with three stints on the DL, Sheets played an key role in the “Return to Relevance” as Wiki calls it. The rise of the young talents of Fielder, Braun, Hart, etc. set the Crew up for a heated pennant race without Sheets for the remainder of the ’07 season. The loss of that pennant race, however, has ignited a fire in Milwaukee to take down the North Siders.
“It’s funny Lt. Dan said that. ‘Cause right then, God showed up.”
Sheets started 2008 kicking ass and taking names. He pitched the season opener at Wrigley and notched a 4-3 win over the Cubbies. His second game of the season he threw another complete game shutout against the Bondsless Giants. On July 9th, I witnessed Sheets kick ass with 11 Ks against the Rockies with his first six outs coming off of strikeouts. Brewers Nation knew Sheets would get his 4th All-Star selection, but the pending question was ‘Who would get the start for the NL?’ I watched ESPN like a mad-man until I received the answer that I wanted. Buster Olney’s pick for the NL starter was Sheets and for this reason: “This AL lineup is really powerful, and the NL wants to get as many strikeouts early on as possible.” On the 14th, Sheets was named the NL starter for the 2008 All-Star game; the first Brewer to receive such an honor. In his very first time at Yankee Stadium, Sheets pitched two scoreless innings, gave up one hit, walked two, and struck out three. While I was watching, all I could think was “Miltown represent!”
“What’s my destiny, Mama?”
The second-half of the 2008 season starts today. Sheets is 10-3 and on pace to shatter his previous best of a 12-win season. As of now, Sheets has the 6th most wins in the NL, the 6th best ERA with a kick ass 2.85, he’s 10th in strikeouts with 108, 13th in innings pitched, and he’s numero uno in complete games with 3. Coming off a great outing in New York, Sheets pitches tomorrow in San Fran. The Crew are 5 games back. They’ve got the Sheets-Sabathia 1-2 punch. They’ve got the potential. His absolute smoking fastball, knee-buckling, big breaking curve, and his wily change-up leaves hitters absolutely clueless. I expect the 7-year veteran, the good ol’ Southern pitching ace to lead the Beermakers to something big. And it’s his birthday. Feliz cumpleaños, Big Ben.
“But that’s all I have to say about that.”