It’s hard to stop loving John Axford. Even after a messy exodus from his perch as Brewers closer and the fact that he has twice pitched for division rivals (though both came as the result of trades), the Ax-Man still holds a special place in Milwaukee’s heart. Despite being unceremoniously dismissed from his ninth-inning duties in 2012 and essentially booed out of town by a sizable group of knee-jerk Brewers “fans” last season, Axford—a Notre Dame film school graduate who is about six months removed from getting 18 of 18 Oscar predictions correct (and 14 of 15 the year before)—still saw fit to donate $20,000 to this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival…despite playing for three other teams since his Brew City departure.
With any luck, Axford will be at the Fest in person to present Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb as part of the Milwaukee Record-sponsored Cinema Hooligante program. However, his status remains uncertain because of the whole “contending for a playoff spot” thing. Axford’s new team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, currently holds a 3.5 game lead over the Brewers for the second National League Wild Card spot. As the Brew Crew heads to Pittsburgh for a three-game set this weekend, both Milwaukee’s postseason hopes AND Axford’s MFF presentation status hang in the balance. Just in case the lovable reliever is stuck at work October 3, we wanted to honor his continued Milwaukee support by likening parts of his bumpy-to-brilliant career to modern-day movies.
2007 (Yankees, A to AAA) — 28 Days
Plucked from relative obscurity, this Canadian cell-phone-kiosk-jockey-turned-pitcher bears some similarity to character actor Viggo Mortensen in a role that very few even noticed. He did a reasonable job in an unheralded gig. Throw in the extra significance of this Sandra Bullock rehab vehicle being about how one can be just a few mistakes from losing everything, and this comparison seems extra fitting.
2008 to 2009 (Brewers, A to MLB) — Paranormal Activity
Not many people could attribute a name to the scary-good stuff happening in middle-relief between single-A Brevard County and the low-budget hurler’s first mainstream job. The pay didn’t reflect his performance, but he’d earned an audition for a prominent role in a Cream City sequel.
Late 2010 to mid-2012 (Brewers) — The Help
As a capable veteran of smaller stages, Axford came on set and showed his capabilities once he was truly given the opportunity. Not unlike Octavia Spencer’s Oscar-winning role in The Help following a fledgling career worth of credits like “waitress” and “unemployment clerk” in lesser works, the Ax-Man quickly transitioned from triple-A depth to Brewers bullpen occupant, then set-up man and finally record-setting closer. Once the typecasting was over, he was given permission to truly shine.
Late 2012 to mid-2013 (Brewers) — Batman Forever
A couple years prior, the iconic role was held by a more famous individual before being passed down to him. Despite the altogether overpaid cast (including Axford, who was making roughly 10 times more than his 2012 salary in 2013), the closer and the rest of the star-studded troupe floundered compared to the performance of its predecessor. Like Val Kilmer post-Forever, the tumultuous relief pitcher seemed on his way from top-billed commodity to unheralded supporting depth. Chasing a 46-save, 1.95 ERA 2011 campaign with a 4.67 ERA and losing his role to incumbent Canadian closer Jim Henderson could also qualify Axford to be the baseball equivalent of Tommy Lee Jones” Two-Face.
Late 2013 (Cardinals) — The Big Lebowski
Once the Brewers had traded their former closer away, he took on lower billing in the accomplished Cardinals cast. As a disrespected Donny in a St. Louis bullpen chock full of Dudes, Axford (like Steve Buscemi) stole scenes. He had just two earned runs in 13 cameos with the Cards (1.74 ERA). In all, he was an important part of a successful vehicle that a lot of people love, but just as many hate.
Early 2014 (Indians) — The first half of Major League
Basically, the Cleveland Indians fucking sucked in the early part of this season, and the resurrected closer was certainly part of it. Unlike whoever the fictitious Tribe relied upon to close out games in Major League, Axford lost his coveted closer’s role and was quickly traded before he could play any part in a miracle turnaround centered around undressing a cardboard cutout of the disgruntled owner.
Late 2014 (Pirates) — Dumb And Dumber To
The version 20 years ago was much better than what’s being trotted out these days. Like Rob Riggle (who is set to play “Travis” in the long-awaited TRUE sequel), the player who has shown his worth in other roles was brought in to add talent to an overrated franchise that’s doomed to fail this fall. At least we hope that’s the case.