Axford's note worthy of award
Brewers closer shows wit and perspective in message to media
The players of the past week were Josh Hamilton (American League) and Carlos Beltran (National League). Good for them. They both deserve the recognition. In fact, the way Hamilton is going, he could be the player of the millennium.
But quietly, humbly, I'd like to suggest another category, another award and another winner. It could be Perspective of the Week or, at least, Sense of Humor of the Week. And the hands-down winner would be John Axford, the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The circumstances were diverse in their difficulty for Axford last Friday night. Working against the Cubs, Axford blew a save in the ninth inning. That in itself was news. Going into that appearance, Axford had converted 49 straight opportunities, the fourth-longest streak in the history of the save as a statistic.
But that outcome quickly took a distant back seat. Going back into the clubhouse, Axford was informed by clubhouse manager Tony Migliaccio that Axford's pregnant wife, Nicole, was outside the clubhouse and was having contractions. Nicole Axford was not due to give birth to the couple's second child until June 28.
"My attitude changed immediately," Axford said later. "I realized, obviously, there was more to life than what just happened out on the field."
The contractions eventually stopped at the hospital and Nicole's condition was stabilized. But before Axford hurriedly departed the Miller Park premises, he left a handwritten note for interested members of the media on the chair in front of his locker.
The Brewers and Cubs were still playing, and would be until Milwaukee prevailed in the 13th inning, 8-7. Axford's message was obviously thoughtful, it was gracious and it went beyond the call of duty. And beyond all that, it was humorous, in a nicely self-deprecatory way:
"I put my wife into contractions with my performance tonight! The streak is over so now you can talk about it. The luck I've had in the past didn't show up tonight! All I can do is start another streak and keep my head up!
"Cliché... cliché... cliché... another cliché. Gotta go! Love, Ax."
That is tremendous. It is better than Hallmark as a perfect card for the occasion. It deserves all kinds of credit. It is probably a little too short for a Pulitzer Prize. It might fall between categories in consideration for a Nobel Prize. But it should find a permanent niche in baseball's lore.
This was a perfect note, for its time and place, and for the events involved. No one could have faulted Axford for leaving without comment. In fact, in the circumstances, no one would have expected him to comment, period. But Axford not only had the awareness of what a large deal his save streak was, he had the wit and wisdom to leave a comment.
It was good. It was personal. It was funny. It was even helpful. And, as we say in the business, he got the lead right. The story for the rest of the world would have been the end of the streak. The story for Axford quickly became his wife's contractions. He had those elements in his note, in their proper order, and nicely connected, too. The note was journalistically precise, grammatically sound.
In the end, nobody gives out prizes for these sorts of things. There are no incentive clauses in player contracts for the best notes left for the media, no rewards for the degree of literary difficulty involved.
But here's what I think Axford wins in this case. This is not going to be remembered as the night when he missed a 50th consecutive save. This is going to be remembered as the night he wrote that timely, funny, human note. And that is precisely how this episode -- and Axford's note -- deserve to be remembered.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.