Lorenzo Cain hasn’t signed the papers to make it official, but after enjoying a summer of mowing the grass, watching his sons play T-ball and road tripping through Texas, it’s obvious he’s retired.
Now that fantasy football season is here, Cain is reuniting with his former Brewers teammates. They’re having a draft party on Monday night in Denver, and he was planning to be there.
"Rowdy [Tellez], Big Woo [Brandon Woodruff], Jace [Peterson], [equipment manager Jason] Shawger, all of them, and they wanted to know what I was doing, if I would fly on out,” Cain said in a telephone chat. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll fly out and see the boys.’ I miss those faces. I’ll get me some hugs and hang out a little bit and defend my title.”
He just had to slip that last part in there. Cain rode former Wisconsin Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor to a championship in the Brewers’ 12-team clubhouse fantasy league last year, and he will begin his defense when they hold their draft following Monday’s series opener vs. the Rockies.
“I’m going to have to wear the gold chain,” Cain said, referring to the bling he showed off in Spring Training. “Just to remind them of who’s the champ. I’ll be in full display with my slippers and my robe and my gold chain on. I’ll be ready to go.”
Cain has been watching the Brewers regularly since being designated for assignment on June 18, the same day he reached 10 years of Major League service. He didn’t use the word “retired” that day, and said the following days brought interest from a couple of teams. But he opted to stay home after asking for input from his three young sons.
“I asked my boys, ‘Do y’all want daddy to continue to play?’” Cain said. “And within a second, all three of them said, ‘No.’ They screamed no.
“So I haven’t officially announced it yet, but it’s looking more and more like I am, yeah.”
Does he miss baseball?
“I have my days now and then, but for the most part, not really,” he said. “I’ve been keeping up with the team from afar and I see they’re struggling a little bit. I wouldn’t say I saw that coming, but I feel like when you mess around with the chemistry of the team, things like this can happen.
“Analytics doesn’t judge or measure the heart of a person or the chemistry of a team. Certain guys need a certain comfort level, and playing together, they complement each other. You go into the locker room saying, ‘I’m comfortable today. I can talk to my buddies about anything, hang out and relax.’ When you move guys around, especially when you started with a certain group, you slowly start to lose that. It can definitely affect the win and loss column, for sure.”
The Brewers have been fighting to get back on track for a while now. After getting off to the best 50-game start in franchise history at 32-18, they've gone 38-45 since then. They DFA’d Cain about three weeks into that slide, with team officials making every effort to make the separation as respectful as possible given Cain’s fabulous career and contribution to the Brewers.
“I mean, it is what it is,” Cain said. “That’s one of the reasons we kind of parted ways; I honestly feel like I never got that respect as a veteran, as a leader on this team, from certain coaches and certain upper management. That’s mostly why we parted ways when we did.”
Was he referring to his decreased playing time in his waning weeks with the Brewers?
“It wasn’t [about] playing every day, because I know I was struggling a little bit,” said Cain, who was hitting .179 with a .465 OPS through 156 plate appearances at the time he was cut. “This goes back to not only this year, but years and years. It’s been three years where I’ve felt this way. I think when you mess around with that, when you’re supposed to be the leader of the team, the veteran in the clubhouse, and you don’t get that respect that you feel you should get as a leader and a veteran, I think that makes it harder for me to lead and for certain guys to also lead. Ultimately, it shows up in a big way when you go out there and play on the field.
“I definitely think the boys can turn it around, but yeah, when you go through rough times, you need certain guys to keep guys going. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s been a struggle to get guys out of the funk. When you get rid of certain guys, when you start messing with the chemistry of the clubhouse, it affects everybody. It’s happening right now. Hopefully they can turn it around, because you can see it’s been weird. Something’s off, for sure.”
All that said, he was looking forward to reconnecting with his former teammates. Peterson said Cain didn’t need any arm-twisting beyond one text inviting him to the team’s draft in Denver.
Cain’s response, according to Peterson, was, “Done. I’ll be there.”
Peterson expects a lot of noise when Cain walks in the draft room.
Woodruff agreed, recalling the way in which Cain helped him in 2018 when Woodruff was bouncing up and down between the Majors and Minors, and pitching in different roles. Cain, who’d played in a pair of World Series and won a ring in 2015, “was a superstar to me,” Woodruff said, but he never treated the young pitcher as anything but an equal.
Woodruff has a bone to pick, however. The Brewers do a redraft league in fantasy football, starting rosters from scratch each season and setting the draft order by picking names out of a hat. Cain, after winning the league last year with a big assist from co-GM Mike Vassallo (the Brewers’ senior director of media relations), scored the first overall pick this year. Peterson will draft second and Woodruff third.
When the order came out, Woodruff got Cain on FaceTime.
“You’re not even here and you get the first pick?” Woodruff said. “I mean, are you kidding me?”
Cain even shared his plans for that pick.
“I’ve been going back and forth between Taylor and Christian McCaffrey,” Cain said. “I had Jonathan Taylor last year and I think I’m going to ride back again with him this year.”
Keston Hiura’s walk-off home run against the Pirates last Monday was already the third of his Brewers career, tying him with the likes of Gorman Thomas, Geoff Jenkins and Corey Hart. Who has hit the most walk-off homers in franchise history?
A.) Ryan Braun
B.) Jeromy Burnitz
C.) Ben Oglivie
D.) Robin Yount
DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS?
What better way to get to know a new teammate than sharing a hotel room? That’s how Brewers outfield prospects Garrett Mitchell (No. 5 prospect) and Esteury Ruiz (No. 8) got to know each other in early August, after Milwaukee acquired Ruiz from the Padres in the Josh Hader trade and sent him to Norfolk, Va., to join Mitchell and the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.
Now, they’re both in the big leagues. Mitchell made a splash after joining the Brewers on their last homestand, and Ruiz was promoted when rosters expanded for September.
“When I got traded over, he was the one who introduced me to our organization,” Ruiz said. “I admire him a lot. He’s a great player and also a great person.”
But is Mitchell a good roommate? Ruiz laughed and nodded yes.
“No mess,” he said in English.
Mitchell returned the compliment.
“He was good,” Mitchell said. “But let’s be honest, how clean can a room really be when we’re traveling and doing stuff? He was a great roommate. I would take him any time.”
It helps that Mitchell speaks a bit of Spanish and Ruiz continues to get more comfortable in English. What did Mitchell do to show Ruiz the organizational ropes?
“Nothing really crazy,” Mitchell said. “Just kind of telling him how we are as an organization, giving him the ins and outs, but also just showing him based on the type of person I am, how I like to do things. … We were hanging out late at night and talking. It was cool.
“It was nice for me, being new to Triple-A at the time, and him just coming in [to the Brewers], I got to tell him about my experience so far in pro ball and got talk to him about his experience being in the big leagues with the Padres. He’s a great guy on the field and off the field.”
D.) Robin Yount
Yount hit six walk-off home runs in his 20-year Hall of Fame career, which was no small feat considering that all came at a ballpark -- County Stadium -- that could be hard on hitters. Braun, Burnitz, Prince Fielder and Oglivie are all tied for second place in franchise history with four walk-off homers.
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