Saturday, June 30, 2007
Those four stars, of course, are: Fielder, Sheets, Cordero and Hardy. I think it's safe to say that this is more exciting than The Young and the Restless...
When I was a kid, there were few things I looked forward to more than the all-star game. I watched every all-star game played in the 80's. I remember the Fred Lynn Grand slam in '83 and the boring game in '88 when Terry Steinbach became the MVP for homering and hitting a sac fly and accounting for the A.L.'s only two runs. I sat in our rec room and scored along with every all-star game that was played between the '84 and '89 seasons. Admittedly, the previous sentence might very well be an indictment of the tiny town I grew up in and the fact that there wasn't a whole lot to do. Nonetheless, I really, really loved the all-star game. (As a matter of fact, the only other tv shows I remember getting that excited for--you know, like "I'm going to throw a temper tantrum if I miss this show" kind of excited-- were The Dukes of Hazard, The A-Team and that Saturday morning preview show. Remember that show? It would be on a Friday night in early fall, and it would highlight the new season of Saturday morning cartoons. And each network had their own preview show, but my favorite was on ABC because they carried the Superfriends, Captain Caveman, Godzilla and Scooby Doo. I wonder if they still do a show like that today. Probably not. Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network have spoiled today's children so much that they don't even realize the simplistic beauty of a Saturday morning cartoon and a heaping bowl of nutritious Lucky Charms...)
Anyhow, what I loved the most about the all-star game wasn't necessarily even the game itself. I loved the introductions. I loved seeing the Brewers' representative standing in line with the likes of Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken and Don Mattingly. And I loved waiting for that moment when the Brewer would enter the game--and cursing like no eleven year old ever should when the Brewer never saw the field. On the rarest of occasions, I even got to rejoice when our Brewers representative would contribute to the win. I still remember watching Higuera in the '86 game retire Gwynn, Sandberg, and Keith Hernandez in order and thinking he should have started the game instead of that Clemmens kid.
And, of course, there were seasons when you'd feel a little ashamed of the Brewers representative. Those were years when you knew that the only reason that player was going was because of the rule requiring one all-star per team (Sundberg in '84, Bones in '94 and Seitzer in '95 come first to mind).
But all of those thoughts seem to be a thing of the distant past. This year, all four players belong in the game and all four should contribute before it's all said and done. So like old times, I'm grabbing my score book for this year's all-star game, and I'll be scoring along. That's the thing about these Brewers--they're making me feel like a kid again. And I'm all full of hope at the half way point...
I do think it's a little uncanny how similar this weekend's match-up with the Cubs was to the Mets series a few months ago. Both series were highly anticipated and both saw the Brewers blow a lead on Friday, throttle the opponent on Saturday and then get shut down on Sunday. And after both series, the Brewers headed to Pennsylvania. Let's hope their trip to Pittsburgh is better than that trip to Philadelphia. But considering the house of horrors PNC Park has been for the Crew over the years--let's just say, I'm nervous.
The coolest thing about the thrashing on Saturday has to be the Zambrano at bat. To see all of those Zany Cubs fans stand up in anticipation of something big from Zambrano was comical. But not as comical as the two hacks he took at Sheets' curve ball. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he never even saw the fastball.
I'm starting to wonder if Billy Hall is reading my blog. Not only does he get hot immediately after I predict it, but now he refers to Corey as "Hee Haw" in his introductions on FOX before the game Saturday. In case you missed it, here's the complete list...
Finally, my brother posted a message asking me my thoughts on the Yi Hi-Yi that the Bucks delivered. Now that I'm up to 8 readers, I know the importance of responding to the comments, so here we go...
When I first received the news that the Bucks had drafted Yi Jianlian with the 6th pick in this year's draft, I felt a little like Evander Holyfield must have felt when Tyson bit his ear--I wanted to be pissed, but I wasn't even sure what the hell just happened.
I kept waiting for the news that the Bucks were going to trade the pick, and I have to say...I'm still waiting.
Look, I have no idea how good this kid is going to be. Maybe he even ends up as a legitimate all-star (and not a population-of-China-voted-me-in type all-star), but drafting a player that doesn't want to play for you, never ever, ever works out. Especially when the player is still officially under contract with another team in another league in another country. He doesn't have to come here. And that should be a bigger concern to Harris than the fact that Stephen A. Smith claimed he never saw him play. (And please, did Harris really let himself get sucked into Stephen A's child-like playground teasing? And does he really think he proved his point when he argued, "I may have not seen him play, but my daddy did"? I was totally expecting Smith to come back with a "Did not," so Larry could say, "Did too." That could go on for hours...) For the sake of argument, let's say that Harris can sign Yi to a rookie contract. What do you suppose the chances are that he stays in Milwaukee after that? And even if he plays as well as some scouts claim, even his biggest proponents say he'll be a liability on defense...so...welcome to the Bucks.
And if he's a bust...oh, Nelly...it will go down as a bigger flop the Tractor Traylor/Nowitski...because if you believe the rumors...
Philly was offering their two first rounders plus (?)
Golden state was offering Biedrins the 18th pick and another player...
Phoenix made several offers...
And no matter what, Corey Brewer was still on the board...
And you know how I like my Brewers. I give 'em four stars...
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I was five or six years old, and I was the victim of frequent pummelings, which consisted of being sat on, farted on, punched in the shoulder, punched in the leg, or all of the above. Before too long, however, I learned that if I grabbed my older brothers' pointer finger and thumb and stretch them in opposite directions, they were quick to end the beatings. I called my move the Hi-yi (pronounced High-Yigh), and it quickly became a part of Rosenthal family folklore for many years to come.
I never administered the Hi-yi without the accompanying battle cry, which was simply yelling "Hi-Yi!" at the top of my lungs with a prepubescent energy that would scare a warlock. It got to the point that all I had to do was yell, "Hi-yi!" anytime I was being messed with, and in a Pavlovian-induced sweat, they'd automatically let go of me and leave me alone. But even though they were the victims of the Hi-Yi, both my older brothers and older sister loved it. They'd frequently encourage me to deliver a "Hi-Yi" to one of the other siblings, my parents or random strangers that passed by our driveway. It was my calling card. And it showed the world that little Tommy was not to be messed with anymore...
The reason I bring up this story is because the Milwaukee Brewers just delivered one massive Hi-yi to the Houston Astros. Since the Brewers joined the National League in 1998, the Astros have been like their bullying older siblings--beating them up without hesitation and reminding them who was in charge of the division. As a matter of fact, as a division rival, the Brewers have NEVER won the season series against the Astros. The closest they came was in 2003, when the Brewers won eight of seventeen. Since then, the Brewers have gone 6-13; 5-10 and 5-10 in the head-to-head series between the two teams.
And when they look across the dugout, you can't help but think that some of the Brewers are seeing their big brothers. Loretta was certainly a brother of sorts to Jenkins for many years, Fielder credits much of his current success to the big brother-like guidance Carlos Lee provided last year, and Ned Yost might feel like he's living in the shadow of a big brother, considering that Garner was the last manager to lead the Crew to a winning season.
Now it's true--the Brewers haven't secured the season series yet (they're 7-2 against the Astros, with 9 more games to play), but they've certainly sent a message to the other dugout. They're not afraid of you anymore, Astros. And if you try to push them around; you'll get a couple more Hi-yis before this season is done...
I was honored to read a plug for my blog at the following link:
I'm not sure who this gentleman is, but he may be even more insane for the Badgers than I am for the Crew. (I've been so consumed in Brewers buzz, that I almost forgot that we could have a top 10 (5?) football team, especially if the kid from Kansas State lives up to his reputation...) Whoever this guy is, I certainly appreciate any traffic he may have directed my way...
Speaking of which, last Sunday I added a hit counter to my blog. I was basically curious if anyone besides my friends Chad and Brent (and my wife, who I force to proof read) was actually reading this babble. I was pleasantly surprised to see that in 10 days I had well over 160 hits. (Truth be told, had it only been 10 or 20, I was going to just keep popping on the site myself and pad my stats.)
Also, I keep forgetting to highlight a cool article on the triple (the 8th most exciting play in baseball, you might recall) that Chad, known by our fantasy football league as the owner of the Manziers, sent to me...well, a couple of weeks ago. Despite my tardiness, it's pretty interesting stuff, and it makes me man crush on Curtis Granderson, just a tad...
Finally, one of the best things about today's walk-off win was that it was Lacrosse Day at Miller Park. I'm hoping lots of these Lacrosse folks took part in what I think is the Brewers coolest promotion--Walk-off Wednesday. On these days, if you buy a t-shirt of a player at the store and he has a walk-off hit, you also receive an autographed bat from the player.
The dumbest promotion? Has to be the one they do on the radio (I forget who sponsors it) where you win $5,000 and a car if the Brewers turn a triple play. Yeah...that's right--a TRIPLE play. So not only do you have to hope that the Brewers complete one of the rarest feats in baseball during the game, but you have to have it happen during a particular INNING! Please tell me people didn't really sign up for this. You have a better chance of getting Paris Hilton into Yale Law than you do of getting a triple play turned in a specific inning. The Brewers haven't even turned a triple play since 1999 (against the CUBS, mind you). And what kind of promotion has you cheering for the opposition's first two batters to get on base! I swear to God, I can hear the eyes rolling in Jim Powell's head every time the triple play inning comes up...
Okay, I'm done rambling for the night, but before you go, make sure you vote for Prince!
Otherwise, I'll have to give you a Hi-yi...
Monday, June 25, 2007
And I only had one stipulation.
The Bucks could draft anyone, and I'd be happy…except T.J. Ford.
I remember secretly wishing that Wade would drop to 8, or that the Bucks would make the move to trade up to get him. When Miami grabbed him at #5, I turned my attention to Hinrich. He had destroyed Marquette in the Final Four, after all, and despite the fact that he looked like the world’s largest Keebler Elf, I liked the intensity that he brought to the floor. I knew the Bucks were looking point guard, and I just hoped that the Bulls were not. But when Hinrich’s name was announced at #7, I knew T.J. Ford was ours…and so I placed myself in the fetal position and rocked myself to sleep...
Truth be told, there came a time when I actually had to admit I was wrong about T.J. Ford. Before he got injured, he actually played some pretty impressive point guard for your Milwaukee Bucks. And normally I’m all for a point guard who’s a pass first type player and can even overlook his obvious limitations when it comes to shooting the ball. But here’s the problem: somewhere along the line, T.J. started thinking he was a scoring point guard. Inexplicably, he started heaving up 3 for 12 and 2 for 14 shooting performances. But what I could really never understand about T.J. was why he was so ineffective on defense. I mean, obviously his size is an issue, I get that. Guys are going to post him up. By why didn’t he create more havoc on the ball handler and get himself more steals (which he actually started to do more of with Toronto last year….go figure)? So when the Bucks dealt him for Charlie V, I was all for it. (And truth be told, I still am. I still believe that when all is said an done, this trade will work out for the Bucks.)
Anyhow, here we are in 2007, and the Bucks are in a similar position. It’s a top heavy draft, and there’s no certainty of who is going to fall to them at number 6. According to the "experts" the Bucks are going to draft...
--Jeff Green (if you listen to Chad Ford of ESPN.com)
--Brandan Wright (if you listen to DraftExpress.com)
--Yi Jianlian (if you listen to Gary Parrish of CBSSportsline)
--Joakim Noah (if you listen to Jeff Reynolds of the Sports Exchange)
Which just goes to show, that it's still pretty much any one's guess, and it will be anyone's guess up until the moment the Bucks pick arrives at the podium Thursday night.
Before I reveal my own wish list for the Bucks, I should explain that I believe that...
A. Noah and Yi have made it very clear that they have no interest in playing for the Bucks. So if we draft either guy, you can assume we'd be moving them elsewhere.
B. There are two superstars in this draft. They are going one and two. There are others who will be very solid NBA players and key contributors, but if you're talking about guys that you can build a franchise around--it ends with Durant.
C. The Bucks need to think about ways to improve their defense.
With that in mind, here's my 2007 Bucks Draft Wish List, in inverse order:
5. Al Horford. I mentioned in my last blog my biggest concern: He's Tito's son. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...He has proven to be a very solid defender, however, and by getting two blocks per game, the Bucks would increase their team total to...well...two blocks per game...
CHANCE OF BEING AROUND AT #6: 12%
4. Brandan Wright. If I was a betting man, this is the guy I'd say Larry is going to take. A project, to be sure, but if anyone has the skills to prove my point B (above) wrong, it's Wright. My biggest fear is that by the time his rookie contract expires, the Bucks have to make a difficult decision on him. Therefore, if he does become a superstar, it happens with team #2, similar to Jermaine O'Neal...and if they decide to pay him the big bucks, well, can you say, "Darius Miles?"
CHANCE OF BEING AROUND AT #6: 60%
3. Mike Conley, Jr. Don't get me wrong, I like Mo and do hope the Bucks resign him. But Conley is everything the Bucks wished that T.J. was...a pass first point guard who needs to work on his shot. The difference is that Conley doesn't feel the need to take a lot of shots, but still has the confidence to take it, if necessary, at crunch time. (All of us Badgers fans certainly remember the runner in the game at Ohio State.) And his pass-first mentality would be perfect for a line-up with Redd, Simmons, Charlie V and Bogut. Plus he knows how to use his speed to his advantage on the defensive side of the ball. It would hurt to lose Mo to the Grizzlies without any compensation, but Conley would take away the sting.
CHANCE OF BEING AROUND AT 6: 20%
2. Corey Brewer. If you read the comments following my last blog, Matt likes Brewer because he's been compared to Pippen, and Eric doesn't think Brewer is the choice because where would Pippen have been without M.J....Look, there's nobody that feels more strongly than I do that Scottie Pippen is one of the most overrated players of all-time,
(As a matter of fact, just off the top of my head, here's 5 guys from my lifetime that I'd have put on the NBA's 50 greatest, before even considering Pippen: Dominique Wilkens, Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Bernard King and Sidney Moncrief. Hell, I'll even show you three Johnsons that I'd put ahead of Pippen: Dennis, Marques and Kevin...)
but if Corey Brewer has a Pippen-like career for the Bucks, I would think they'd be okay with that. And to be honest, I don't compare Brewer to Pippen as much as I'd compare him to Tayshaun Prince. Brewer's an inch shorter than Prince, with far less wing span, but he plays the same hard-nose defense with the same type of athleticism. Tayshaun may never make an all-star game, but where would the Pistons have been the last few years without him? Brewer would step in immediately at the SF, and move Bobby Simmons back to the 6th man role that he was originally signed to fulfill.
CHANCE OF BEING AROUND AT #6: 50%
1. Trade the pick. There are a lot of teams currently itching to scratch their way into the top 10 (especially Phoenix and Seattle). That makes this a serious seller's market, and I think the Bucks should consider selling high. I could sit here and daydream about using the pick as part of a package to bring in one of the rumored available stars (Lewis, Marion, Pierce), but I'd only be setting myself up for disappointment. But if Phoenix were to say offer their two late picks (24 and 29) and next year's one, I'd make the move and take a chance on sleepers at the end of round one...
By the way, here's
TOM'S TOP 5 SLEEPERS...
5. Alondo Tucker, G/SF; Wisconsin. Ok, totally biased, I realize. And I know the knock on Tuck is that he can't shoot. But, you watch, Alondo's going to be taken at the end of the 1st round, end up on a good team (perhaps Phoenix) and contribute off the bench immediately. Say what you want, but this guy has an uncanny ability to score in traffic, and I'm very interested to see what he can do when he's not the focus of the opposition's defense. After a poor showing in the tourney, the rest of the country has no idea how good he can be...
4. Zabian Dowdell, G, Virginia Tech. First off, it's a kick-ass name, so I'd draft him on that alone. I don't think he handles the rock well enough to be a point guard at the next level, but I see him as an undersized 2-guard, with lights-out range. Think Vernon Maxwell, without the scary temper tantrums. He should be around when the Bucks pick near the end of round two.
3. Aaron Afflalo, G, UCLA. Here's another similarity to the 2003 draft, as another UCLA stud will go early in the second round, similar to Kapono. Afflalo doesn't shoot as consistently as Kapono, but he's probably the second best on the ball defender after Brewer, and that should keep him in the league for many years.
2. Herbert Hill, PF, Providence. Needs to bulk up a ton. As a matter of fact, he's so skinny, he makes Brandan Wright look like David Wright. But he was pretty unstoppable at times in the post for Providence, displaying good footwork and a soft touch. If he's around when the Bucks select in round two, it should be a no-brainer.
1. Derrick Byars, SF, Vanderbilt. Take everything you already know about Alondo Tucker and add a better shot and better on the ball defense. Not as big as a sleeper as others on the list because he's projected to go in the late 1st round, but if he ends up in a Bucks uniform, I'm thrilled.
The Bucks certainly have a lot of decisions to make--from signing Mo to waiting to see if they'll have to match any offers on Charlie Bell--and Larry Harris will certainly be under the microscope with every move he makes.
And it all starts Thursday night, where I'm already preparing myself...to assume the fetal position...
Thursday, June 21, 2007
SO once again, if you don't mind (and hell, even if you do), I'm going to take this opportunity to ramble...
--I want to start by apologizing for some really poor writing on my part. Two blogs ago, I mentioned that at times Brewers strike outs can pile up faster than Shawn Kemp's paternity suits. That was a horribly dated line, and I sincerely apologize. Shawn Kemp hasn't even made the slightest blip on the sports radar scene for any of his last 3,476 cheeseburgers. Perhaps in 1994, that would have been a timely line. So forgive me. What I meant to say was "Brewers strike outs can pile up faster than Elijah Duke's paternity suits." Thank you. I feel much better and much more contemporary now.
--One of my responsibilities as a concierge at Miller Park is to go on the peanut run. At the top of the third inning, we fill up the carts and deliver complimentary peanuts to all of the regular suite holders. Most of the time, it's actually kind of fun. The way some of these people respond to the peanuts, you'd think I was handing them a blank check from the Brewers. "Whoa! Peanuts! Awesome. Thanks, man!" But I like that. It makes me feel good, and on occasion we even share a celebratory peanut-induced high-five. Which is nice. BUT then there's times when people actually get a bit snotty about the peanuts. For instance, one gentleman on Tuesday night said, "Wow, peanuts. I pay $530 on food and I get a whole two free bags of peanuts. Just what I wanted."
If you expect me to feel bad that you can sit in the suites and afford $530 worth of food, well, then...you're pretty much a dumbass. No, not even pretty much. You're 100%, Grade A, dumbass. Plain and simple. I'm here after my regular job, trying to earn an extra buck or two so my soon-to-be-born child can enjoy a quality infant daycare--preferably, one that will completely quell my concerns and eliminate any urges I might have to hide a nanny cam in her nostrils. But I bet you don't care much about that either, right? No, of course not, and I don't blame you. So please just take the peanuts. Please. Take the peanuts.
(I will say that I have learned a valuable lesson on the importance of over-articulating that final "t" when I walk into the suites announcing, "Complimentary peanuts." Without that last "t," you WILL get some incredulous looks.)
--I would be remiss to bask in the joys of the recently-resurrected Brewers offense without at least mentioning one Corey Hart. How incredible has he been this past week? I still think he looks like something out of the Hee-Haw cornfields (and there's no way I'd ever enroll my daughter-to-be at the Corey Hart Daycare Center), but the kid can flat out rake. For those of you Tony Gwynn fans that are miffed about his recent demotion to Triple A, just remember that Corey was sent down about this time last year for the same reason--to get more at bats. Quite frankly, I'd say that move has turned out ok.
--Because I've been so Brewers gung-ho of late, I've been completely neglecting to talk about the Bucks up and coming draft pick. But truth be told, I'm still not sure what I want Larry to do with the 6th pick. Every mock draft I look at has the Bucks taking someone different, largely because they all have different picks going at #3. I do plan on talking draft strategy in a blog article next week, so I don't want to say too much right now...but, I have to mention that everyone seems to be in agreement that if Horford would still be on the board, the Bucks will get him. Am I the only one that's scared by this? I mean, are we seriously going to draft Tito's son? Wasn't one Horford acquisition painful enough for this franchise? Anyone who's watched college basketball has certainly seen the younger Horford play effective minutes on both sides of the ball in crucial moments of crucial games, but...I'm just not sure we should go down that Tito-like path again. It's kind of like when the Packers drafted Aaron Rogers and the Rich Campbell flashbacks caused me to dry heave. Oh and, I'm still not sold on the Rogers kid either. (And for anyone who argues that Rogers hasn't had a chance to prove himself yet, I'll just remind you that by this point in their careers, we knew we had talent with Brunell, Brooks and Hasselbeck.)
--So it's only been 7 of the last 8, but I'm starting to get those giddy daydreams again. I try telling myself, "It's only June, Tom. There's lots of baseball to be played." But I can't help but think this 25th anniversary makes it destined to be. And I even started thinking again about the whole "Pee Your Pants for the Brewers" thing. And now I'm starting to think it's just not enough of a commitment. I mean, like so many other Brewers fans I too signed up to wet myself in the event that they make the play-offs, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is probably bound to happen anyhow...involuntarily. I can just see myself in front of the t.v. watching Billy squeeze the final out of the clinching game and looking down and thinking, "Aw, crap. I just peed." It's been twenty-five years, folks. There's really no telling how my body's going to respond to that kind of shock. But I'm ready to find out. So let's not have a let down against the Royals this weekend. And let's take another big step...to wetness.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
On Sunday afternoon, with the Brewers trailing 9-4, I went off and organized an intense game of kickball with my nephews and nieces. And I do mean intense--a one run game, with me as all-time pitcher and all-time base coach and frequently having to remind the youngest kids where third base was. At one point the two youngest boys started walking off the field, mid-inning. When I asked the youngest, Sam, where he was going, he simply said, "I'm tired now." (Apparently, the pressure had gotten to him. Oh, and apparently there IS crying in kickball, or at least in the first and third innings.)
By the time the game ended, my kickball ERA was at a lofty 7.75 (I'm calling all three of the runs in the top of the third unearned; sure Missy is like 6 years old, but she's got to stretch for that throw) and the Brewers had miraculously tied the Twins at 9. Lesson learned. Don't give up on these Brewers--they're young, they're hungry, and they're relentless.
And perhaps they are, indeed, a little restless too. Prince Fielder certainly is. He was restless the moment Lew Ford lost the ball in the glare of the dome, sprinting around the bases with the grace of a hungry, and perhaps somewhat drunken, grizzly bear. After seeing the replay, I couldn't help but wonder if they shouldn't attach a parachute pack to his back, so in the slim chance that this ever happens again he can pull the rip cord and assure no teammates are placed on the DL due to a dug-out roll-over.
(I should mention that even if I hadn't gone to play kickball with the kids, I still wouldn't have seen this play live. My dad's cable company in the booming metropolis of LeRoy offers him like 13 channels, and none of them are Fox Sports Net. I knew I grew up in the boonies, but it was only as an adult that I became concerned that I might actually have grown up Amish.)
Geoff Jenkins may not be young, but he too seems restless. Just asked Prince Fielder's family jewels, who became the victim of a bank shot into the corner pocket when Jenkin's throw from left eluded Prince's glove last night. Ever the player's coach, Yost came out and chatted with Sheets until Fielder's voice was somewhere in the range of a second alto.
Bill Hall has certainly been restless, probably because he didn't want to bat in the 7th or 8th hole anymore. After my prediction that he was going to get hot, Hall managed to win a couple games with his bat the last week and saved, by my count, at least 7 runs over the same stretch with some amazing glove work in center field.
So maybe, just maybe, this was the perfect soap opera for the Brewers to appear on this afternoon. When the announcement came out back in April that Cappy, JJ, Hall and Suppan were going to appear on The Young and the Restless, I was annoyed. It seemed like a distraction that they didn't need, and I was afraid it would take away from their focus on an important west coast trip...thank goodness that didn't...uhm...anyhow...
I asked my wife to set the DVR to the show, and we had a chance to watch it this evening. Unlike me on Sunday afternoon, if you didn't tune in, you really didn't miss much.
I do fancy myself a bit of an actor, however, so I thought I'd provide my review of each Brewers performance, so here it is from the best to the worst...
#1 Chris Capuano:
At least as good as--Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore. Mostly relaxed, but a few of the lines felt a little forced. If you read the story on the Brewers website, however, during the airing this morning, his teammates caught him delivering lines to the lead actress' chest, rather than her face. Just like Bob used to do with his beauties. According to Cappy, it was a very pretty blue shirt.
Toughest line to deliver--"Oh yeah, we brought you this autographed ball too."
#2 Billy Hall:
At least as good as--Bubba Smith in Police Academy (#s 1 through 47). Billy was pretty smooth out there, but I wondered if he was improvising every time he said, "Tell you what." If that was scripted, he definitely made it his own and sounded natural.
Toughest line to deliver--After JJ delivers his God-awful line about the lead actress, you actually hear Billy holler "JJ!" It kind of sounds like he's about to ground him, without desert.
#3 Jeff Suppan:
At least as good as--Brett Favre in Something About Mary. Sup seemed to be enjoying himself the least. As you're about to read, the lines they wrote him didn't help matters...
Toughest line to deliver--"You just keep the fingers firm. Wrists flexible. Just don't be stiff." (Yeah, he was teaching the politician guy how to PITCH, but later he actually said, "I'll even throw in a personal training session." And they say soap operas lack quality writing?)
#4 J.J. Hardy:
At least as good as--Dan Marino in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Perhaps a better comparison would be Dustin Diamond in any Saved by the Bell episode because they seemed to load him up with all the cheesy lines they could muster. I actually felt sorry for JJ because you know his teammates are going to be playing catch with him and saying things like, "This ball is going to bring you good luck in the election" for the rest of the season.
Toughest line to deliver--Is there any question? Has to be "She can warm up with me anytime. I'm going to need her name and number."
It wasn't exactly must-see-tv, but I'm not turning my back on this team again...no batter how bad they might be looking...or in this case, sounding...
Sunday, June 17, 2007
It looks as if for the first time since they acquired Don Sutton in exchange for Kevin Bass in 1982, the Milwaukee Brewers will be BUYERS rather than SELLERS when the trade deadline rolls around this July. Although he's already gone over his projected salary budget, Mr. Antanassio has already stated that he will give Doug Melvin the green light to improve the team, if the opportunity presents itself. Most members of the Brewers media are pretty much in agreement that the Brewers will probably go out and get another lefty specialist for the pen. Definitely a necessity, but if that's the only move the Brewers make, I think you'll find that the Brewers nation will be, to say the least, up in arms.
And I think the Brewers will need to make a move. The Cubs are certainly showing a feistyness of late, and with their seemingly endless pocketbook, imagine if they add a Buehrle-type starter to Zambrano, Hill, and Lilly. With that offense, they're still very much a threat in this division. The Cardinals are expected to get Carpenter back in July, and if he comes back to form, there's no better pitcher in the National League. The Astros seem to have had horrible first halfs and dynamic second halfs for the past three seasons; so the Brewers would be foolish to think they're not going to make a surge as well. Granted, there will be no Roger Clemmens this year, but if Lance Berkman starts swinging the bat, their heart of the order is as good as anyone's.
Although adding a pitcher or two is always important for a playoff push, I believe that the Brewers need to pick up one more bat to push them over the top. The problem, of course, is where to put that bat in the Brewers line-up. You're certainly not going to replace any of the young infielders; there aren't too many catchers who hit better than Estrada; and I'm sure you've noticed that there's already a bit of a log jam in the outfield. Nonetheless, the Brewers current line-up seems to have an abundance of the same type of hitter. Guys who swing out of their shoes, and can really drive the ball when they're on their game. When their not so on, however, it can get ugly at times, with strike-outs piling up faster than Shawn Kemp's paternity suits. For that reason, adding a bat like Adam Dunn would not make any sense...we don't need more home runs and strike outs; we need someone who can hit for average--someone who make contacts on a regular basis, and rarely strikes out. And since that's the type of hitter the line-up currently misses (Estrada and Fielder currently rank 24th and 25th in league's batting average race, Braun doesn't qualify) I say we go for the best...
Now hold your laughs and hear me out, but...
I think the Brewers should trade Geoff Jenkins, Dave Bush and Tony Gwynn Jr.
Two things you need to know before you post the comment about me being off my gourd...
1. I know the Mariners would be foolish to trade Ichiro and have said they are going to do everything in their power to keep him. But remember, the Brewers said the same thing abot Carlos Lee. They negotiated as long as they could, but they eventually had to get something back for him. And so will the Mariners. After blowing far too much money of the likes of Weaver and Beltre, this Mariner team simply may not be able to afford a contract that is certain to rival Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano. Ichiro and the Mariners said all the right things about getting a contract done back in February, but it's mid-June now and there's still no sign of a new contract. Ichiro has said that, although he would like to stay in Seattle, he's sick of the losing and wants to wait and see if the Mariners can stay in the thick of things (they're currently 6 games behind the Angels). I don't believe they're going to be able to, and that means the Brewers should pounce while the chance is there.
2. I realize that the Brewers are never going to keep Ichiro after the season. This is purely a move to rent a player for the rest of the '07 season in order to give both Ichiro and the Brewers a chance at a ring.
And now here's the craziest statement I'm going to make--I think this trade actually makes the Mariners better, both for the long term and for this year:
--One of the Mariners biggest problems is power, especially from the left side of the plate. They're currently 10th in HRs in the AL. If Jenkins were to join the team today, his 12 HRs would lead the club. Not to mention that they could bat him behind his good buddy Richie Sexson, which would benefit the pitch selection of both hitters.
--The Mariners desperately need a starter (or two) to mix in with King Felix and Washburn and replace the struggling Weaver. Bush steps into their rotation immediately and the Mariners have control of his contract for a couple more years.
--Given a chance to play every day, I think Gwynn establishes himself as a more than adequate lead-off hitter, and a staple at the top of the Mariners order for years to come. He certainly doesn't hit like Ichiro, but he's a pretty good replacement, especially if they get nothing for him when he leaves for free agency this off-season.
Okay, so my daydream is just about over. And I realize Melvin would probably not give up Bush (because you can never have enough pitching) and Gwynn for a player that he would have for four months. BUT, he does have Gallardo and/or Villanueva to plug into that 5th slot of the rotation. And although no official announcement has come down yet, I'm just assuming that Gwynn will be the odd man out when Rickie gets moved from the DL. The kid deserves a shot to play somewhere.
As for Jenkins, it pains me to include a guy with that much service to the team, when the Brewers finally have a chance to do something special. But there's no way you could take on the pro-rated portion of Ichiro's $12.5 million salary, without including Jenkins $7.33 million.
It would be a gamble, but there's just no telling if the Brewers will be in this position again next year. And I like gambles...
Even if you don't like this move, Doug, just promise me you'll make a move, because this opportunity is too good to waste...
So let's make a deal!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Tuesday night, I warned you that the fall-out from the no-no was going to be ugly. I had no idea it would be THAT ugly. There were more people calling for Yost's head than I had ever expected. Quite frankly, I didn't even know there were that many Brewers fans out there.
This morning, I stumbled upon yesterday's JSonline chat with Tom Haudricourt
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=619565, in which more than half of the "chatters" were calling for Yost's dismissal. I'm not sure how many times or in how many different ways Mr. Haudricourt can say, "Managers in first place do not get fired," but I give him credit for keeping with it. At some point, I would have just started to delete those questions as they arrived. Seriously. Enough is enough.
I just have one question for those fans calling for Yost's dismissal--did you give him half as much credit for the 24-10 start as you blame him for the 10-20 stretch? 'Cause if so, you must have thought he was a frickin' genius. You do understand that those first 34 games count towards the standings too, right? (Okay, that's two questions, but I'm really, really baffled by this Yost hatred.)
Look, I was as miffed about Counsell and Grafanino batting one and two and I've already talked ad nausea about the Gabe Gross/DH-extraordinaire decision, but Yost has done some good things for this ball club too. Really. He has. I read a lot of comments that Yost is supportive of his players--to a fault. And that philosophy makes me laugh harder than the first time I saw Will Ferrel get plugged by the tranquilizer dart in Old School.
Ned Yost's faith in his players is the biggest reason the Brewers started 24-10 this year.
If you don't believe me, look no further than at our SS position. Remember his rookie year, when the entire Brewers' nations was calling for J.J. to be shipped back to the minors as he struggled to get close to the .200 mark? After the fact, Melvin admitted that he considered making that move, but Nedly didn't want him to do it. That support paid off to the tune of JJ hitting over .300 in the second half of the season. Fast forward to this off-season, and after a JJ injury, I once again hear the Brewers nation spew mad, obnoxious venom towards the organization for even thinking of moving Billy Hall from SS. This our MVP, they cried. What has JJ done so far?
I don't need to explain my point any further, do I? (Interesting how now those same fans are getting on Billy for his power struggles. I'm really not very good with the "what have you done for me lately" attitude.)
Anyhow, that's Ned Yost in a nut shell. He believes in the guys in his dug out, and he'll tell you that every single day, after every single game, no matter what the outcome.
I didn't play basketball in high school (for good reason, trust me), but two of my good friends, Eric and Darren did. And these two hot-headed knuckleheads might still be in the WIAA record book under the statistic for "most technicals received." (Eric had the amazing ability to take the Lord's name, "Christ," and turn it into a seven syllable word when he directed at refs.) One time, I was razzing Darren about a technical he received and the subsequent benching, and in a rare serious moment, he looked and me and said, "Yeah, but Tom, sometimes it would just be nice to know that the coach was on my side."
Every player wants to know that their coach is in their corner. And every Brewer knows that Yost is in his. Given the youth on the club and the fact that they are going to make their fair share of mistakes, that faith from their coach is crucial to these kids' development. How many times have you ever heard Ned Yost call out a player in the press Alla George Karl? On the other hand, anytime a Brewers player has a beef with an ump, Yost flies out of the dug-out and backs him, even when that player is dead wrong. For that reason, Yost deserves support. You might not like that he keeps trotting Graffanino out there or that Turnbow gets the ball every 8th inning, but his players do. And when those guys chip in on a win, the Brewers are better because of it.
Look, I realize that the Brewers can't continue to play at a 10-20 clip and still hope to make the play-offs. No team is going to the play-offs playing at a .333 pace--no matter how bad their division is. But you might be surprised to see how many teams go through extended stretches (two weeks or more) playing at .333--I did a little research, and although the majority of these don't cover a full 30 games, consider this:
In 2003, the Florida Marlins went 7-18 (under a .333 clip) from April 25 until May 22. With a little help from a cat named Bartman, they went on to win the World Series.
(Speaking of Bartman, wouldn't it be awesome if the Brewers made a statue of the guy and put it down in the left field corner, with his arms extended towards the third base foul line? It would cost us a front row seat on the third base corner, but if we're going to allow it to be Wrigley North, why not pay homage to the defining Cubs moment of the past thirty years? Better yet. Next year, instead of Take Back Miller Park campaigns, we should all dress like Bartman, complete with headphones and balding cap, and stand with our hands in the air for the entire game in this position:
Win or lose, those Cubs fans are going home to nightmares.)
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox went 6-12 (a .333 clip) from June 15 until July 4. Despite that stretch, the curse still came to an end.
In 2005, the Chicago White Sox went 6-12 (a .333 clip) from August 12 until August 31. In October, they too claimed the prize.
In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals went 8-16 (a .333 clip) from September 2 until September 28. You know the rest.
Of course, you're probably saying that the Cardinals run was a fluke, so let's look at their opponents, the Tigers.
Last year, the Detroit Tigers went 11-23 (less than a .333 clip) from August 8 until September 13. They played that kind of baseball just weeks before the play-offs started and still managed to make a World Series appearance.
Now, I'm not claiming that the Brewers are World Series bound. There's far too much baseball to be played to even think about that. But there's also too much season left to get so chop-block happy towards Ned. After all, Yovanni's on his way!
And he'll help us settle things down...
I have to mention that my wife thought it was unfair of me to talk about her going to bed during the no-no without any mention of the fact that she is currently 5 months pregnant with our first child. And I have to admit, she's extremely supportive of my constant, must-see-every-inning Brewers obsession. And every once-in-a-while she will say something that makes me completely fall in love with her all over again. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was zoning out on the couch when she came back into the room and said,
"Oh, did they do a double switch?"
"No," I said, "they just brought Turnbow in for Villanueva."
"But that's Gwynn in centerfield now."
My wife pointed out a double switch to me, fellas. I was so turned on, it wasn't even funny.
I also was pleased that I received three comments on my last blog. And I have to say, I have no idea who submitted the comment with the Cubs slant and the blatant enjoyment of my misery, but I don't think I've ever been trash-talked so eloquently before in my life...
The sentence, "as the brewers nosedive, you seem to be grasping at the unreachable hope of the playoffs, almost as if the sweet fruit that your palate suckled on w/the great start of the season has, little by little, been pulled away from your lips," made me feel abused, dirty, and for some reason, a tad bit hungry. Very nice job.
Anyhow, although I respect the anonymous blog, everyone should feel free to drop a hyphen and a name so I know who's actually reading my babble...
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
You're going to hear a lot of chatter and overall negativity on the radio tomorrow concerning the Brewers getting no-hit tonight. They're going to complain that Graffanino was in the line-up instead of Braun. They're going to complain that Gross was the designated hitter and that Counsel was batting lead-off. The dooms-day speakers are going to say that the Crew has finally hit rock bottom and that we should all prepare for the continuing free fall--right into last place. Some are going to call for Yost's head. Others are just going to call him an idiot.
But you know something? None of it matters.
Because Justin Verlander was flat out filthy tonight. And there was nothing Ryan Braun, Ned Yost or Tony Gwynn Jr, could have done about it.
(Although, it would have been nice to see Gwynn start this game. I'm still baffled by the Gross as DH decision, and can't understand why Yost is so reluctant to get Gwynn's bat at the top of the order, especially in Rickie's absence. He's the guy with the best chance to beat out the infield single after all...)
Verlander was getting his no-no no matter what. And you could feel that it was going to be the case as early as the fourth inning. He was electric. And he was changing speeds as well as any pitcher that can throw the ball 101 mph ever has. He was locating his curve, his changeup and the fastball, which never registered lower than 96 all night. And he craftily used sea gulls to his all advantage all night long.
I'm not claiming that I predicted this no hitter ahead of time, but let me walk you through my night so you can see why I became sure that it was on it's way. After all, the Brewers have been no hit through four or five innings half a dozen times this season--even a couple times during the 24-10 start. But this night was different, here's my take on the series of "lowlights"
5:45 p.m.--I'm at the Ford dealer, getting some work done to my brakes (Or at least I went in for brakes; turns out I needed these tie rod thingy-ma-bobs replaced too. Apparently they're pretty important to the front end of your car or the tires fall right off the axle. Who knew? I sang a lot in high school.)
I'm told the car isn't going to be ready until 7, so I call Sonia and she picks me up. During the ride home, I panic that I haven't changed my fantasy baseball line-up for the night. I get home just before the 6 p.m. deadline and insert one Justin Verlander into the starting pitcher slot for my team, Harvey's Wallbangers. Hope that move works out...
Brewers 1st--After a Counsell strike-out Grafanino puts together the worst Brewer at-bat, since Chuckie Carr hacked 3-0. When Hardy lines out to center, I actually stand up and clap, yelling "Way to put it in play, J.J." I probably should have taken that as an omen.
Brewers 2nd--I warmed up some food in the microwave. I swear I ran it for 1 minute and 11 seconds (I'm lazy, so I always press "1, 1, 1" or "2, 2, 2" whenever I use the microwave.), but somehow, by the time I get back to the couch, the Brewers are already out. What the--?
Brewers 3rd--Billy Hall draws a walk. The perfect game has ended. Eat that, Tigers.
Bottom of the third--We're in route to pick up my car, which still isn't done when I arrive. By the time I make it to the waiting room and get their tv turned on to the game, the Tigers have a run. These Brewers really need me.
Brewers 4th--After another Graffanino strike out, JJ draws a walk. Verlander then delivers the filthiest curveball I have seen, at least since Sheets 18 strike-outs versus the Braves, to Prince Fielder. I don't have proof, but it may have broke a full 6 feet. On the next pitch Verlander throws another nasty curve, but instead of making it bite into the dirt, he paints the corner. Nothing Prince could have done. I swear on all things Brewers that at this moment, I realize the no-hitter is more than just a possibility...Hart strikes out to end the inning. But there's good news, Brewers fans; if my count is right, we forced Verlander to throw 20 pitches that inning (turns out it was 19).
Bottom of the 6th--I get home with my car just in time to see Curtis Granderson's triple. (I have to say, the triple is a pretty exciting play.) When he scores on a sac fly, I look to my wife and inform her that the Brewers just lost and she might want to stick around and see a little history...she goes to the bedroom and falls asleep. 'Cause that's the kind of pull I have around the house.
Brewers 7th--Prince Fielder hits one back through the box, but Verlander grabs it and throws him out at first. Hart then sends a line drive to right field that Magglio makes a nice diving catch on...I immediately flash back to the unnecessary dive Robin made on the final out of Nieves no-no in '87. It takes the pain away, but only momentarily...
Brewers 8th--Bill Hall walks for the third time in the game. (Here's my chance to find a bright side to being no-hit. Bill Hall showed patience at the plate and didn't flail at pitches off the corner. Mark this down: Billy is about to get hot. And remember you read it here first.) Gross hits a ball up the middle that Neifi Perez turns into a nice 6-4-3 double play. He was a Cub last year. Enough said.
Brewers 9th--The ump calls a pitch that was obviously a ball a strike and Counsell pouts...
I'm sorry, I have to interrupt my own typing a second to comment on the NBA game tonight. With 11 seconds left, Varejao just threw up some God-awful spin move on Duncan. That was the ugliest crunch time play the NBA Finals has ever seen. I really wish I had completely tuned out of this tournament as soon as Golden State was eliminated...
Anyhow, as Counsell pouts, you can actually see the third base ump laughing in the background. The Brewers fan in me wants to believe that the ump is laughing because he realizes it was a bad call and that the home plate ump has gotten carried away in the moment. Truth is, he's laughing at Counsell for not understanding that the home plate ump is going to give Verlander that call as he gets carried away in the moment.
Next, Graffanino accomplishes the rare feat of striking out for the fourth time, all swinging. Well, kind of swinging. If, that is, you consider a half-ass check swing strike an actual swing. Actually, someone should call Elias, he may have just set a record for check-swing strikes in a game. Of the 12 strikes, at least 9 are check-swing half-assers...
Finally, JJ send a soft liner to right. The Tigers celebrate, and all I can do...
...is tip my hat.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
--During the midst of my tantrum, I did look up to the tv in time to notice that Sheets was the first to greet Cordero and give him a quick pat on the backside. Through the cloud of anger and disgust that encompasses me, I feel like that classy act is a sign of why the Brewers will eventually pull out of this funk. In the wake of the Zambrano/Barrett confrontation, it's becoming more and more evident that this Brewers clubhouse is a tight group. How many times have you seen the starter bolt from the dugout and into the clubhouse, the moment the save is officially blown? Sheets knows he'll need CoCo many more times before the season is done and had to realize that his string of perfection was bound to end sooner or later (it's just tough to accept that it ended in the manner that it did). I often hear Sheets criticized for being a bit of a nut job, but that move demonstrates that he is truly a leader in the clubhouse.
--I listen to WSSP's Brewers post game show frequently when I'm driving home from the stadium, and usually I get really bothered by all the negative callers after a loss. For the most part, I believe in Yost and Melvin and don't put nearly as much blame on Yost when the Brewers lose, instead putting the "blame" on the youth of the ball club with the knowledge that a young team is bound to go through month-long tough stretches like this one. I do not understand, however, the logic of batting Gabe Gross in the 2 hole. I'm not all that thrilled with him being the chosen DH in the first place, but to bat him second really makes me scratch my head. With Hart's success at the top of the order, I'd leave him there and bat Gwynn second. And if you really feel the need to move Corey, why not use Counsell of Graffanino in the two slot? Despite their poor averages, they both are smart enough to move guys over and set he table for your heart of the order.
--With Melvin in Texas, I have to believe that a trade will come out of this visit to his old stomping grounds. I'm not saying it will happen as soon as the Brewers leave town, but considering these two teams recent trade history, I'm sure several names have been discussed, thereby planting the seeds for a future trade down the road. (Gross and Capellan for Gagne, anyone?)
--In case you've missed it, here's Yovanni Gallardo's stats at triple AAA:
8-2 record, with a 2.89 ERA; he's walked 27 and struck out 98 in 71.2 innings.
I think it's about time we add this arm to the bullpen and see how he fares against big league hitting, don't you? After all, the Twin used Santana out of the bullpen for over a year before he finally cracked their rotation...
--After seeing the previews for Hostel 2 on tv, Sonia and I grabbed Hostel from Netflix and watched it after the game last night. I highly recommend it. Even if you don't enjoy the plot, it receives my 4-star nudity rating (I'd give it 5, but you do have do endure several moonings from the tall Icelander.) No, seriously, even without the nudity, it's a fun flick, although I would say the 9th inning last night was far gorier....
--Let me switch my focus, if I may, and a share a brief story.
Back in high school, one of our good friends, who for secrecy sake I will merely refer to as "Joel"...no, that might be too obvious to people who know him, so let's just call him "Kams." Anyhow, one day Joel, I mean Kams, showed up to school sporting the first white Afro that the Mayville High School hallways had witnessed since 1977. To this day, I'm not sure what possessed Joel, I mean Kams, to sit down in the chair where his perm was being conjured. I have no idea why he woke up one day thinking that a perm was just the look he needed. But let me assure you that from the first moment he walked through the doors of the school, we, as his good friends, razzed him unmercilessly. Because, quite frankly, that's what good friends do. If someone looks silly bobbing up and down the hallways, looking like one of those old Ronald McDonald Cookies, a true friend let's him know about. Sure, we got a good laugh about it at his expense; and truth be told the majority of us laughing were probably sporting a little look I refer to as the Mayville mullet, but we were not about to let our good friend look ridiculous (Remember when they would flashback to high school on Friends and show Ross? Very similar hair-do.)
The reason I bring this story up is because I strongly believe that Drew Gooden's Cavaliers teammates have dropped the ball when it comes to that God-awful patch of hair on the back of his head. Call it a duck tail or a baby rat tail or whatever you like, but I just call it ridiculous. So many people criticized LeBron for passing up the shot in game one of the Pistons series, but I blame him for not talking to Gooden about that hair patch. Why didn't he pull him aside and say, "look Drew, this doo might have been ok in Kansas, but we're in the NBA Finals now. Against the Spurs. And quite frankly, Duncan's going to make you look silly enough." Because those are things that leaders and friend do...
After all, had we not let Joel, I mean Kams, really have it back it in high school, he might still be sporting that perm today. Which would have meant that he would have never been able to start his good looking family...so in many ways, I guess he owes us...
And you owe it to the Crew to stick with them, so don't give up on them yet....
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
You see, normally I really enjoy my part time job at Miller Park. After all, chances are pretty good that if my lazy butt was at home, I'd probably just be sitting around watching the Crew anyhow. So why not spend some time at the old ball yard and earn an easy buck or two, right?
But sometimes I have to wonder if it's really worth it. You see, one of my jobs is to wish the fans well after the game. After all, if the Crew puts on a pathetic display of baseball, the Brewers front office expects me to do my part to make sure the fans' night wasn't a total crapper. So when they lose, I put on a smile and assure them that we'll get 'em next time. Even in a tough loss, the smile comes pretty easy.
But not Monday.
Not when the Cubs are in town, and especially not when those Cubs throttle my Brewers..
But yet I'm a professional. So as the drunken Cubs fans pass me at my desk and tell me how the Brewers suck, I hold back what I really want to say. And it tears me apart. Sure, I make little jokes about the standings, and how "we'll get ya tomorrow," but it doesn't suffice. I might as well be stretched out on the rack, poked with a cattle prod in my nether regions and forced to watch a month's worth of episodes of REGIS AND KELLY. It would be so much easier than having to put on that smile...
A lot has been made about the Brewers taking back Miller Park. The Brewers ticket office tried to encourage the purchase of Cubs tickets in 9 packs, radio stations planned marches, and their callers vowed to make life miserable for Cubs fans all series long.
Memo to Milwaukee--Cubs fans are not going away. There is no getting rid of them, so just be glad that the last Miller Park Cubs series of the '07 season wrapped up today. There is a big misnomer out there that all of these Cubs fans are making the trip up from Chicago, and to be sure, some of them are. But most of these fans are coming from right here in this state. They are Cheeseheads, my friends. Cubs-cheering Cheeseheads, and they walk amongst us.
They've actually been here since the Braves left town, but nobody noticed. When the Brewers arrived, it wasn't a conflict of interest for them to cheer for both teams. But when the Brewers joined the national league; they had a choice to make. And like so many Republicans, they chose incorrectly. Because they chose the Cubs.
And it shouldn't be surprising when they show up in droves to see their lovable losers--you see, we have 81 games to choose from; they have 6. And that's why the Brewers/Cubs rivalry has made the old Brewers/White Sox rivalry seem about as fierce as Screech versus Horshack in Celebrity boxing.
So look around you my friends because there are Cubs fans lurking. Like the old V tv series, at any moment, your neighbor, your co-worker, or God forbid, even your spouse might rip off their face and reveal their lizard-like Cubs exterior. Some of them will even try to trick you by saying that they do cheer for the Brewers, just as long as they're not playing the Cubs. But it's just a trap. So stand clear and be wary. But at the same time, you need to accept that they are not going away and that any idea of taking back Miller Park is pointless.
The ticket office can't take it back.
A radio station can't take it back.
And neither you nor I can take it back.
The only ones who can are the nine guys in the home uniform. (Yes, they still allow the Brewers to suit up as the home team.) Force a Carlos Zambrano meltdown and you've taken a step towards taking back Miller Park. Sweep a series and you're getting closer to taking back Miller Park. Beat the Cubbies so bad that their fans start to boo them, and you've definitely taken back Miller Park.
And then, when the game ends and it's time to don my best post-game smile, I can actually mean it...
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Kelly had another request in the same email, which read:
"Discuss why the triple is the most exciting play in all of sports. You are a sports genius, so I know you agree with me on this "
Well, let me just say, Kelly is right: I do fancy myself a bit of a sports genius. And I certainly have heard the adage that the triple is the most exciting play in sports. Unfortunatle, however, I just can't agree with it. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't even consider the triple to be the most exciting play in baseball.
Now, I love the triple. The triple has been very good to me in my softball career. And as fun as it is to watch the real burners like Rickie, or Reyes of Devon White in his prime motor around the bases, what I really enjoy watching is when the guys carrying a plow rumble into third. There's nothing sweeter than watching a right fielder misjudge his dive at a blall and, as the ball slowly rolls to the outfield fence, watching Joey Meyer roll himself into third. That, my friends, is entertainment.
But since the ultimate goal of this game is to touch home plate, then how can something that finishes at third be the most exciting play in the game? After all, I find it just as exciting (maybe more) to see Rickie Weeks score from first to home on a J.J. Hardy double. Just as many bases are touched, you still get to see Rickie fly, and the end result is more rewarding. Perhaps this perspective has something to do with the fact that I've witnessed far too many Brewers' triples left stranded at third when the final batter is retired. So here is my list of the top 7 most exciting baseball plays, leaving the triple to finish at #8...
#7-- The inside-the-park homerun.
This just seems logical to me. It's an extra base and it results in a score. Unfortunatley, with the modern day tiny ballparks, you see inside the parks less and less these days. But I used to love watching Molitor tear around all four, and the rarity of the event makes it all the more exciting. The last Brewer to produce an inside the parker was EY in '03.
#6--Strike three with the bases loaded.
I'm referring, of course, to when your team is in the field. A lot of my love for this moment has to do with the Brewers as well--after all, for years our pitchers always seemed to be in bases loaded situations. The other part of the excitement factor is listening to Uecker. My adrenaline still takes off the moment you hear Uek yell "Heeeeeee struck him out swinging!" It's a rush. I hear a lot of people talk about how tough it will be for Aaron Rodgers or whoever ends up replacing Favre. Personally, I feel a lot more sorry for the sap who attempts to replace The Ueck.
#5--The suicide squeeze.
Why isn't this done more? Seriously. If you're struggling to score runs, such as the Brewers were for the past two weeks, why not do it? If you get the bunt down, it's a run. And in many ways it's easier than trying to drive the ball deep enough for a sac fly. If the opposition recognizes that it's coming, throw the bat at the ball. I'd also include the straight steal of home in this category as well. Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays just did it this week. Incredibly tough to do. Pretty much impossible on a right hander, Hill picked on the lefty Pettite:
Here's another play Molitor mastered on several occassions.
#4--The home run denied.
There are so many variations of great web-gem plays: the third baseman that dives and throws from his knees, the second baseman who starts the double play with a behind-the-back flip, etc, but none of them are as artistic or as meaningful as the leap at the wall to bring back an opponent's long ball. Some of todays ballparks have such short fences that Vern Troyer could reach up and pull shots back, so let's emphasize the stipulation that the outfielder has to leave his feet for it to count. Tori Hunter, Otis Nixon, Robin Yount, Devon White, Kirby Puckett were some of the masters at this play. Billy will get there eventually...
Preferrably the home run variety, but any game winning hit has to be considered more exciting than your standard triple. There's nothing better than coming through in the clutch, and the frenzy it creates is the equivalent to a buzzer beater in basketball. I also enjoy watching the hero's teammates beat the snot out of him when he arrives at home plate. Now that's fun.
#2--The play at the plate.
The exception is if the bases are loaded and it's merely a force play. That's not as fun. But seeing a guy motor around third with the ball coming in is baseball adrenaline at it's finest. A fancy slide to avoid a tag is nice, but add bonus points if the play ends with a Prince Fielder forearm sending the catcher into the on-deck circle. Who says baseball isn't a contact sport?
#1--When two Cubs fight each other in the dug out.
Seriously, how can any die-hard Brewers fan not watch this over and over again?
It's easily as entertaining as Uma and Vivica's fight in Kill Bill vol. 1. The only thing better would be if Piniella had gone after Zambrano the way he did with Rob Dibble back in the early 90s.
The fact is, America loves baseball fights and brawls. When I told my wife what my topic of my blog was going to be and asked her what her favorite play was in baseball, you know what she said? "When they fight."
I know there's a segment of the population that questions why baseball fans have no problem with brawls while NBA players are constantly called "thugs" anytime they mix it up a little. There probably is a race issue there that should be looked at, but it might also have something to do with the proximity of the fans at the two venues. And don't get me wrong, there's a limit to what I want to see in my baseball brawl. I don't want to see a baseball flung into the stands that knocks out a second grade teacher, I don't want to see Rangers relievers tossing chairs, and I don't want to see drunken Milwaukeeans leaving their seat to tackle Billy Speirs. That's going too far.
But I still belive that a little brawling is good for the game. I think the fight the '82 Brewrs got in with the Twins was a turning point in their season. And I'll never forget the brawl between the Brewers and Indians that started with a Albert Bell blow to Vina's head and errupted further when Matheny took on Tavarez. Brawls fuel rivalries. And I think they're pretty damn exciting.
And man am I hoping the Cubs hold off on any punishment to Zambrano. Because his next scheduled start would be Wednesday at Milwaukee...
...and that could be really, really exciting.