When former Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan announced his retirement today, the news probably did not prompt an outpouring of affection from Milwaukee fans. Suppan is more likely to be remembered in the same company as Randy Wolf and Bill Hall – notable misfires in the otherwise agreeable tenure of general manager Doug Melvin. When then-manager Ken Macha took Suppan out of the starting rotation in early 2010, the move was greeted with an almost universal about-damn-time sentiment.
Our memories can play tricks on us and make us think some players were less productive than they actually were, but Suppan’s numbers don’t lie. His ERA as a Brewer was over 5.00, his WHIP was nearly 1.600, and he had a negative WAR during his time in Milwaukee. As an added insult, his numbers as a Cardinal were remarkably better – 3.94 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, and a 4.2 WAR. (I mean…goddammit. If Bill Hall had played for St. Louis he probably would have won an MVP.)
Although Suppan’s Brewers career was largely forgettable, it had its moments. Well, at least one moment, against the insufferable Cardinals and Adam Wainwright no less. On May 16, 2009, the Brewers defeated the Cardinals 1-0 in St. Louis despite only getting two hits off Wainwright. Corey Hart’s solo home run (video highlight here) was all Milwaukee needed, thanks in no small part to Suppan’s seven shutout innings (video highlight here).
It seems rare that the Brewers get one over on the Cardinals, so it’s a pleasure to savor some excerpts from Joe Strauss’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch story from all those years ago:
On a brilliant Saturday afternoon tailored more for October than mid-May, Waino was again bueno, yet it wasn't enough for the team formerly known as the first-place Cardinals. […]
Hart broke a homerless stretch of 107 at-bats by rallying from an 0-2 count to launch an opposite-field drive that carried to the right-center field bleachers. At the time Wainwright's mistake appeared only a minor transgression, but Suppan's bob-and-weave approach made it an unforgivable sin.
"He's a pitcher," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said in praise of Suppan. "He moves the ball around. He gives hitters different looks. He's got his command. He's very effective.
"Some of our young guys, they chase a little bit. He's a good pitcher. We saw it." […]
The Brewers moved into sole possession of first place with their 18th win in 23 games since April 21. The Cardinals fell from first place for the first time since April 9. An offense that steamrolled April is sputtering through May.
As they say, every dog has its day. May 16, 2009 was Suppan’s. On the occasion of his retirement, when bitter memories outnumber the fond, we might as well give Suppan credit for his few accomplishments as a Brewer. He beat Wainwright once, in St. Louis. Good for him.