Monday, August 27, 2007


After yet another heart-breaking loss, this time to the Giants, Ned Yost was ready to cry at his post game interview yesterday.

I'm not speaking metaphorically. And I'm not trying to be cute or cruel. But it's true; if Ned had fielded one more question from the reporters, he would have broken down and cried right there in the house that Bonds' steroids built. Now, I'm not sure it was a Dick Vermeil, make me feel really uncomfortable type of wail, but I believe there were tears at the doorstep. And that's why he cut that interview session short.

But I can't really blame the man. Truth is--I'd cry too if I was merely weeks from being fired from a job that I loved so dearly. And Ned really does love the Brewers. And Ned really does desperately want the Brewers to succeed.

The problem, of course, is that Ned has not been succeeding, and so we come to that all important series--the Wrestle at Wrigley, the Showdown in Chi-town--which can in one full swoop turn this whole mess around...or it can end up being a true Yost-Buster.

If you've read my blog in the past, you certainly know that I am a fan of Ned Yost. I don't always agree with his in-game decisions (okay, honestly--they sometimes cause me to curse like a hell-demon with a bad case of Tourette's) and I don't always gel with his post-game assessments, but Ned Yost has been one of my all-time favorite Brewers managers. I suppose that one could argue that naming Yost my favorite manager from a batch that includes the likes of Jerry Royster, Davey Lopes and Jim Lefebvre is about as bold as declaring Gwen Stefani the hottest member of No Doubt...But what can I say? Ned had me at hello...

I'll never forget that first speech he made in spring training about how great baseball could be in Milwaukee and how much people would love the Brewers and treat them like kings if they ever became winners. He lived through the frenzy of 1982, and he believed a winning attitude could be reality. He knew it could. Now, I realize this is going to sound completely egotistical, but in some ways--he reminded me of me. His passion for the Brewers was genuine. Earlier this year, my friend Chad and I attended the preview of the Harvey Wallbangers DVD at the Pabst Theatre. Ned had just suffered a tough loss--coincidentally enough, to the Cubs--and you could tell it was still eating at him hours later. It was only the 5th game of the season, but a super-charged Ned told the audience that he was determined to bring baseball magic back to Milwaukee. And again, he was so impassioned and so genuine, that I wanted it for him almost as much as I wanted it for myself.

And I must say, no other first place manager ever fell under the same kind of scrutiny that Ned Yost suffered through. Every night I've listened to WSSP's post game show on my way home from the ballpark, and if the Brewers lost, you could guarantee that Steve "Sparky" Fifer was going to find a way to pin it on Ned. I'm not even exaggerating about this. Every single time they lost. It was always, always, ALWAYS Ned's fault. Now, I've already said that I question many a Ned Yost move, but at some point some blame belongs to the players. And some of the second-guessing became flat out comical. Well...probably not for Ned.

But on Sunday I finally had to accept that Ned was grasping at straws. His decision to hit Bush in the 7th and send him back out after his struggles in the 6th was dumbfounding. And if I were Catholic, I'd need to go to about 6 years worth of confessions for the things I yelled at my television when Damian Miller lead off the 9th. (This is by far my biggest pet peeve of Ned--his unwillingness to hit for a catcher because he fears that if the back-up gets in and gets hurt, they'll have no more catchers. One problem--if you lose the game, who the hell cares that you still have a healthy back-up catcher!?!?!?). And I was even more angry when Dillon served that 0-2 pitch to center field for the 2 out single. You know, because he should have lead off that inning in the first place...

And I know what the Ned supporters will say (because I am one): Ned can't be blamed for the horrible starting pitching, the lack of clutch hitting, or the mental errors in the field. And you'll remember that I told you the Brewers would be in big trouble if the only trade they made was the acquisition of an arm for the bullpen. But you only have to go back a couple years to remember another Brewers team--the team that was above .500 at the break, only to set the all-time worst record for the second half of a season--that had a collapse as pathetic as the current one. You'll notice that the majority of the players from that team have moved on. The manager, however, has remained the same. And having another collapse after this year's start is simply unacceptable.

After all, when you think about teams having a special season, how many of you think about the Toronto Blue Jays? No one? Well that's who we are now. We're the National League version of the Toronto Blue Jays. A .500 team, with a realistic chance of finishing below .500 if things don't change real, real soon.
And unfortunately, Ned's the fall guy for that turn of events. With just one year left on his contract, there's no way the Brewers can renew it if he manages through two historic collapses. You simply can't bring back a lame duck manager next year to a team with so much talent and promise.

And so, perhaps it's ironic that the last winning Brewers manager got fired the day before Ned's Crew marches into a potential Yost-buster for a series. If they get swept in Wrigley, perhaps Ned won't be able to hold back the tears.

And you know something?

I might not be able to either...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bringing out "The Kid" in Me...

I shared a drink with Robin Yount last night.

Granted, he didn’t know about it. But that’s hardly the point.

I probably need to explain. When I work at Miller Park, there are three different “stations” that I can be assigned. First, there are the Founders suites on the field level. This is my least favorite place to work because you feel completely cut off from the rest of Brewers civilization. Sure, sometimes you meet an occasional leader of the Milwaukee community, like Mayor Barrett, but for the most part it is a long, painfully boring five hours of work. I tend to just turn on my radio and pass the time away with Uek.

Then, there’s the center desk on the Club level. It’s not a bad place to be assigned. You can at least hear the game over the Stadium’s sound system, lots of traffic passes by the desk, and you end up assisting not only the suite guests but anyone who has a ticket to the club level.

But the center desk does not in any way compare to the Gehl Club. Before we report for duty, each concierge member quietly says their own type of prayer, pleading to their God to convince our manager, Patty, to give us this cushiest of assignments. Not only do we stay busy by wrist-banding all of the guests (who are enamored with the new space) and by giving them a run down of what they receive during their stay in the Gehl Club, but we also get to enjoy the 52-inch plasma that faces our desk. It’s simply the nicest place to work, perhaps in the entire stadium.

And it’s especially nice when members of the ’82 Brewers are staying there, as they were last night.

Now, generally I’m not that easily star struck. Terrell Buckley once called me “dude,” I held a lengthy conversation with Mike Maddux, whose daughters were in my First Stage class, and Don Majkowski once winked at me. (Although I later found out that Majik winks at every fan, and is a bit of a wink-whore.) And seeing modern day players up close and personal has almost become second nature for me. We clock in at the stadium right between the Brewers locker room and the visiting locker room, and I frequently pass by players who are heading to the indoor batting cages. So I’ve witnessed first hand how huge Pujols and Carlos Lee really are, and I can attest to the fact that Brady Clark was one of the hardest working Brewers you’ll ever find—he was always in the indoor cages.

But these are the ’82 Brewers, and they will forever have a special place in my heart. So when Craig Coshun popped down into the Gehl Club and asked me how things were going, I answered as honestly I knew how, “Great. I feel like I’m nine years old again.” And as Mr. Coshun scanned across the room and took in all of the players from the ’82 team, he could only agree with me. “Yeah. It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?”

And it was awesome. The entire night. Even finding out that Pete Vukovich was not exactly a cordial gentleman, was rather endearing. It’s exactly how I remembered him, after all. But yes—to call Mr. Vuckovich “a bit surly” would be like calling Mark Chmura “a bit of a womanizer.” And after a warm smile from Audrey Kuenn, Vuckovich’s snarl was completely forgotten.

Ted Simmons, on the other hand, was the friendliest man you’ll ever meet. When other ex-Brewers (like Vukovich) were a bit put off that they had to have a wrist band put on, Simmons wondered aloud if there would be water rides. And when they found out that their wrist band entitled them to free drinks at the bar, most of the others became much more accommodating as well.

I could go on and on about my encounters with the ’82 Crew. Gorman entered with a big smile and began asking me if I had seen Fing-- But alas, that’s as far as he went before spotting Rollie and his handlebar himself, thereby thwarting my opportunity to assist Stormin’ and point him in the right direction.

When Molitor stopped up by my desk to throw something away, he said something to the effect of, “It’s pretty incredible in here.” This was a hall-of-Famer, and it was time for me to provide a hall-of-fame reply. I’m guessing I failed when I nervously nodded and said, “yep.”

So many others stopped by my desk with questions or a cordial “hello.” There was Pete Ladd. Jerry Augustine. Don Sutton. Moose Haas.

And then there was Robin.

I never actually had the chance to interact with Robin, but he and many of the players were in the Gehl Club prior to the autograph signings. And when they called him to go downstairs at 5:30, he left his beer on our concierge desk. That’s right. I spent the next several hours inches from Robin Yount’s beer. And while the autograph signings and the pre-game ceremony took place, it dawned on me that there was no way that Robin was going to come back for this beer. He’s Robin Yount, after all, and I was pretty sure they’d give him a fresh, cold brewskie. So we tucked the beer away from our desk, and I joked with my concierge partner, Kathy, that I need to drink some of that beer. It was a chance of a lifetime, I laughed, and I would never respect myself in the morning if I let the opportunity slip away. And suddenly, what started out as a joke became more and more of a mission. It simply had to be done.

My opportunity arrived when Mike Caldwell was saying his goodbyes to Patty and thanking her for all of the festivities that she had organized. With Patty distracted, I scooped up the beer with the grace of a sure-handed shortstop and took a quick sip. Before Caldwell walked away, I had returned the beer to it’s resting place without anyone knowing any better. It was smoother than a 6-4-3 double play. I didn’t care that I was risking my job by taking a sip of alcohol while on duty. I didn’t care that most people would think I was a bit crazy or, as my wife described it, “a borderline stalker.” I didn’t even care that that the beer had sat there stagnate for almost five hours.

And when Patty gave me the chance to leave early that night, I took her up on it. Not because the Brewers were getting waxed on the field. No, I didn’t care about that either. Because I was nine years old again. And I had just tasted my first sip of beer.

Nothing could have topped the night after that point anyhow--even if the Brewers had come back and erased the 7 run deficit that they were looking at when I left the game. After all, how many people can say they shared a beer with The Kid?

I now know of one.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Roids...They're All the Rage

Okay. So let's review.
In the past four games the Milwaukee Brewers have:
--Blown a five run lead in the 9th inning
--Lost to a guy with a BROKEN LEG
--And given up 19 runs in a game in which their pitchers got hit harder than a white trash mistress on a Jerry Springer show…
Yep. It's safe to say I'm still not ready to discuss the state of the Brewers. So let's turn to something a little more cheerful--
Back when he was frequently hollering about Rickie Weeks (who, by the way, is making his return to the big club with Graffanino's injury), my friend Darren would also fill my ear with rants on why in the world ESPN was even acknowledging the accomplishments of guys like Sosa and our newest home run king, Barry Bonds.
In my intro to the Midseason Forum, I mentioned briefly that I thought keeping the home run hitters of the steroid era out of the Hall of Fame was wrong. Look, I'll be the first to tell you that I think Barry Bonds took steroids. I think Mark McGwire took steroids. I think Sammy Sosa took steroids. And, yes, I think Rafael Palmeiro took steroids. You'll get no argument there from me whatsoever.
But I also think that the use of steroids extended to ALL of major league baseball. Not all players, mind you, but all types of players. I don't understand why the media, Congress, and the baseball loving public in general only focuses on home run hitters. Steroids are not only used for strength. They can be used for speed, for endurance (AKA pitching), and most importantly for muscle recovery. So why aren't we scrutinizing the guys who made a living stealing bases and stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples? After all, one of the first to be busted after the new drug testing went into place was ex-Brewer Alex Sanchez. In case you've forgotten--Alex is not exactly a power hitter. Or what about leading an investigation on all of the middle-relievers who somehow managed to set all kinds of major league appearance records by popping out of the bullpen five or six times a week? You think steroids might have played a role in their ability to throw in games on six consecutive days? Or what about taking a look at the 40-something year-old pitcher who constantly decides that his season can't start until late May or June. Am I really the only one who wonders if this gives him enough time to flush some roids out of the old system? I'm just saying. It's a theory.
As a matter of fact, I thought it was very appropriate that Bonds 755th came off of Clay Hensley, who was suspended for steroid use as a minor leaguer. Does that mean that homer number 755 doesn't have an asterisk? I mean, if one steroid user hits a long ball off another steroid user, that should count for something, right? And I truly believe that (although we'll probably never know for sure) when push comes to shove, more pitchers ended up using steroids than hitters.

And--if you'll allow me to switch sports for a second--I can't help but wonder why Shawn Merriman isn't looked at as cheater after he tested positive for steroids and was suspended for the first four games of last season. No, Merriman is a football god. Bonds, however, is the baseball devil.

And now I'm about to do something very dangerous. I'm going to somewhat make an effort to defend Barry Bonds. Now hold on, hear me out.

First let me start by assuring you that:

1.) I strongly dislike Barry Bonds the person and think he is a big league prick.

2.) We need to all agree that Barry has a big head. No wait. Of course he has a big head, that's how we know he was using. No, I mean he has a big ego. We can agree on this, correct? And yes, he has quite the melon too.

Now onto my dangerous defense of Bonds... (I realize that I could lose four of my six readers forever by doing this.) The thing is--I kind of understand why Bonds took them. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't condone it. So please don't accuse me of advocating the use of steroids and blame me when they show up in local high schools. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. Steroids are bad. Very, very bad. And they do very bad things to your testicles.

BUT--if we take into consideration my two points above--that Barry is a big league prick with a huge ego--I do understand why he took them.

Think about it. It's 1998 and you're Barry Bonds. You're arguably the best baseball player of the past two or three decades (and really, if you look at the numbers, I'm not even sure how you can argue). You were the NL MVP in '90, '92 and '93. You won a gold glove every year since '90 except in '95. Since that same summer of 1990, you have finished no worse than 5th in the league in on-base-percentage, no worse than 6th in the league in slugging-percentage, and no worse than 3rd in the league in OPS. An amazing accomplishment that may not be rivaled by another player in any equal span of 8 seasons. Oh, and you also never finished lower than 4th in the league in Home Runs since '90 either.

Until, of course, the magical summer of 1998. Then you get to sit back and watch as all of America becomes infatuated with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they chase down Roger Maris' single season home run record. And you see them become more and more beloved every single day. There are rumors and jokes that these two guys might be getting a little assistance, but no one seems to care. Not the fans, not the Commish, and surprisingly, not the media. (And yes, I consider every member of the media who calls Bonds a cheater a hypocrite because I know they knew what was going on back in '98. I knew it. And I was just a silly 25 year old fan. There's no way they didn't know too. No way.) But worst of all you have become the forgotten man. Nobody is talking about you. No one. Even though you hit .303 with 37 HRs and 122 RBIs and 28 SBs, you finish 8th in the NL MVP voting. And although those 37 HRs are the 4th most you've ever hit, they're only enough for you to finish 9th in the whole NL. 9th. That's just not acceptable. Not with your ego.

And look, every guy who has ever played a sport can relate to the power of ego. I just had my ass handed to me in a game of horse by my friend Brent tonight, and yes, my ego took a hit. Hell, you don't have to even be playing the sport for ego to take you places you wouldn't normally go. Come sit and listen to some of the arguments between Brewers and Cubs fans. Or stop by our fantasy football chat room sometime. Yep, men who know sports know egos.

But the thing is--I can't even relate to Barry's ego because I have to admit that I am not the best at anything I do. (I am pretty good at tetris on the toilet, but I'm not about to brag.) So I can't relate to the ego of a Barry or a Peyton or a Kobe. But it must be pretty intense. Non-stop ego.

And so Barry made a choice. His ego won out. And in three years he was back on top of the world. winning four more MVPs from 2001-2004.

But the saddest thing in my humble opinion is not how Barry tarnished the game. It's how he tarnished himself. You see, I don't think he needed to take steroids to be the greatest player of my lifetime. Now, don't get me wrong, he wouldn't have won the home run title. But without the muscle mass he gained, he might have kept stealing bases and kept winning gold gloves--two parts of his game that were never the same after that summer of '98. And we'll never know just how great his summer of 2001 really was. Because I will go on the record in saying that we will never again see a player as locked in as Barry was that summer. And I've said it before--I don't think steroids help guys hit a baseball. It's a point that's argued by very intelligent people (Darren included) who say, "well if it doesn't help them, why would they bother taking it?" But I'm not arguing that it helps them. I'm sure it helps them hit farther and stay stronger through the course of a season. I just don't think it helps you stay locked in on pitches for a whole summer. Not like Barry was. He drove every pitch, no matter where it was, with authority to all fields. Opposing managers feared him like no other. Didn't matter how you pitched him, if you even had the courage to, he was hitting it hard somewhere. Would he have hit 73 HRs without the steroids? Probably not. But considering his previous career high was 46, I think 60 was realistic. He was just that locked in. Unfortunately, now we'll never know.

I heard an argument that Ken Griffey Jr. is the biggest loser of the steroid era because, had he taken them, he might have stayed healthy enough to break Hank's record before Barry. I can't argue that fact. It's a shame to think about what Griffey's career might have been without all the injuries. And I hate that people make jokes about him being soft, considering the majority of his injuries were sustained while he was going all out--the only way he knows how to play.

Yep, if Griffey had taken steroids he would have easily been the greatest home run hitter of our day.

And if Barry had not taken them, there would be no debate that he was the greatest overall player of the day. Too bad his ego came around before we could eliminate any doubt.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


I didn't think the Brewers could ever again find a way to lose a game that would leave me feeling as bad as I did after the debacle in St. Louis last Saturday.

I was wrong.

Perhaps the numbness will leave my fingers, and I'll be able to type again...But not yet.

I simply don't have the strength.