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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

They Like Us! They Really, Really Like Us!

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Last year when the Brewers reportedly offered Prince Fielder a five-year, $100 million contract, Fielder and his agent, Scott Boras, stayed committed to pursuing free agency after the 2011 season. But last week the Brewers found a taker, or rather they found each other. Ryan Braun, who had underpriced himself with an eight-year, $45 million contract in 2008, committed to an additional five years at $105 million—which amazingly will be a bargain for a top-level player when the deal begins in 2016. Nice work if you can get it.

Frank:
A nine-figure Brewers contract. Who'd-a thunk it?

Artie:
I'm glad Mark Attanasio found someone to take his dough. "Hey, anyone want $100 million? Yes, the young man in left field..."

Frank:
The thought of anyone making $20 million to play a game is insane. But that's what the owners have overbid themselves into, and it'll only get more insane as long as fans buy the product.

Artie:
It's incredible enough that Braun is making a mere $4 million this year and will "only" be at $12 million in 2015. When this next deal starts, his $19 million for ’16 through ’18 will look paltry.

Frank:
Plus Braun agreed to defer a good chunk of the money to help the team keep other key players. He does, after all, want to win.

Artie:
Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki just signed for 10 years and $157.5 million. How does Braun compare over the 10-year span?

Frank:
Let's see… a $10 million signing bonus, $91 million in salary from 2016-’20 and at least a $4 million buyout in 2021. His current deal pays about $40.5 million from this year through ’15, which makes the grand total $145.5 million.

Artie:
Wow, $12 mil below Tulo! And god knows how far below what the superstar price tag will become.

Frank:
Let's not get too misty-eyed. Braun won't have to clip grocery coupons. But it's rare when a pro athlete says, "I don't need to grab every possible penny."

Artie:
Only thing rarer would be a Republican saying rich people should pay taxes.

Frank:
And it's impressive that Braun initiated his second commitment to this small-market franchise.

Artie: He could have been like almost everyone else and said, "I passed up big arbitration money the first time, but in a few years I'll really cash in." And in 2016 the Yankees or Red Sox or Angels or Cubs would have backed up the Brink’s truck for him.

Frank: Kind of like what Fielder is planning on in a few months.

Artie: Not that Prince is a bad guy, but stuff he said last September—"I just go where they tell me"—sure didn't sound like what Braun says about wanting to be here.

Frank:
On Friday the Associated Press quoted Prince as saying this about staying: "If they have this much to spend, you never know."

Artie:
But that's the point. They have that much money to spend only once.

Frank:
But if Prince and the team have a great year, I'm sure Attanasio and Doug Melvin will say, "Thanks, Prince, best of luck, it worked out for all of us."

Artie:
With Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Yovani Gallardo locked in for several more years, Braun will still be part of a solid "core." Plus Zack Greinke is under contract through 2012 and Shaun Marcum doesn't hit free agency until 2013, so with Braun's status set and Prince's $15.5 million salary for this year off the books, the Brewers can try to lock in more guys.

Frank:
Of course the value of Braun's commitment depends on how he plays, and avoiding major injuries. But there's no reason to think he won't stay highly productive; he'll only be 32 when the new deal starts.

Artie:
Milwaukee is used to getting left behind for better weather, brighter nightlife, whatever. But Braun, who's a Southern California guy, wants to be a big part of this place.

Frank:
He's like another California guy who loved it here—Robin Yount. With Yount, who's so low-key, the lack of big-market attention was ideal. Braun seems more outgoing, enjoys the limelight with his restaurant and clothing line, and has a swagger on the field.

Artie: You'd think he'd be a prime candidate to abandon Beertown. But he's underpriced himself twice to make his name here.

Frank: And because of the explosion of baseball media since Yount's time—tons of national games, endless chatter on ESPN and the MLB Network, all the Internet stuff—Braun can mostly avoid the big-city media mobs but still get gobs of national face time.

Artie:
Best of both worlds!

Frank:
There's another California guy, by way of the Bronx, who's making a big commitment. Attanasio had no ties to Milwaukee before he bought the team, but the money he's spent shows he really wants to succeed for this city and state.

Artie:
He could have wrapped himself in the small-market, "woe is us" mantra that Bud Selig wailed while the team floundered. But he's doing things! I think he genuinely likes us Cheeseheads, ain'a?

Frank:
You sound like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar in ’85. Remember? "I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now you like me!"

Artie:
A little gushy, but I guess it fits.

On Board With More Progress

Frank: Once more, the Observers get results!

Artie:
You betcha we do! Um, how'd we do it this time?

Frank:
I quote from our visit to Miller Park two weeks ago: "The out-of-town scores on the left-field wall are clearer... But if they can show men on base, why not show the outs too?"

Artie:
So?

Frank:
I was at the ballpark Sunday and behold! The other scores now include the outs.

Artie:
It's just barely possible that a few other people shared our feelings.

Frank:
Nah, it's gotta be us. Thanks, Mr. Attanasio.

Only 2 Months to Go

Frank: Gee, the NBA and NHL playoffs are finally here. My policy is this: Wake me up when there are four teams left. A league that sends 16 teams to the postseason—more than half of the NHL and NBA—doesn't deserve attention before the conference finals.

Artie:
Kinda makes the regular season much ado about not much.

Frank:
Is there anything more unimportant than a regular-season NBA game? Only a regular-season NHL game—and of course this royal wedding in England.

Artie:
I'm with you on all the upper-class twits playing dress-up. But the NBA is worth watching when the games finally mean something. And I'd love to wake you up for my dream final, Oklahoma City vs. the Bulls.

Frank:
David Stern would faint. No Kobe? No Celtics? NO LeBRON?

Artie:
It'd be fantastic, with the two best young players in the league, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. Not just in terms of talent, but in their sense of team and their heart. These guys play like they have no contract and could be cut anytime.

Frank:
I think we can agree on two teams we'd love to not see in the final.

Artie:
Gotta be the Heat and Lakers.

Frank:
Amen. I'm tired of Phil Jackson's "genius" and I was tired of the Three Amigos in Miami from the start. And I'll throw in Kevin Garnett and his "I'm the baddest of the badasses" scowl.

Artie:
This NBA postseason might be the last for a couple of years. If there's a lockout, it could go on for a long, long time. Almost NHL-ish.

Frank:
The pucksters missed a whole season in 2004-’05. The last NBA lockout produced what I think was a proper NBA season—50 games starting in February 1999.

Artie:
I'd let it go 60, but that's my cutoff.

Frank:
An even better deal might be like what's been proposed for Wisconsin high-school football—just seven regular-season games and then everyone goes to the playoffs.

Artie:
Maybe 20 games to determine seeding, then best-of-seven series ad nauseam. And the Bucks would never miss the playoffs again!

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