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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Now to Find the Road to the Playoffs

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The last two weeks saw Frank back East, immersed in the supercilious, super-silly world of New York baseball, where every Yankee or Met loss is Doomsday and every unsuccessful move is denounced on the gassiest of gasbag radio. Meanwhile, Artie was enjoying the no-worries world of the Brewers' resurgence with an 8-1 homestand.

When the Observers conferred Sunday night, Milwaukee had the best home record in the National League (21-7)—but also was tied for the worst N.L. road record (8-17). And only half the season is played at Miller Park.

Frank: Well, the Brewers sure turned the month around from an 0-6 start.

Artie
: And as usual, we provided the inspiration by noting that May historically has been one of their worst months. They obviously decided to show us up.

Frank
: As always, no thanks are necessary. It's what we do. I know you were on hand for Yovani Gallardo's gem in the finale against San Francisco; the ballyard must have been rockin'.

Artie
: Just my luck, I caught some kind of creeping crud and couldn't make it. And what happens? A nice, tight, 2-hour 25-minute shutout.

Frank
: Gallardo has been fabulous in winning his last five starts. Over 35 innings his ERA has been 1.29, and for the season he's dropped it from 6.10 to 3.89.

Artie
: And in those 35 innings he's given up only 20 hits. And why? Because he's picked up his pace on the mound.

Frank
: Just as you recommended a few weeks back, and he talked about a couple of days later.

Artie
: I really ought to go on the payroll as associate pitching coach.

Frank
: Speaking of numbers, how about Zack Greinke? In his first five starts of the season he had an astounding 13-to-1 ratio of strikeouts (39) to walks (3).

Artie
: Hard to believe that at the same time his ERA was 5.79.

Frank
: Goes to show how stats can be misleading. Greinke's WHIP—walks and hits per inning—was a sparkling 1.14. But even better at week's end was Shaun Marcum, at 1.05.

Artie
: If that San Fran rookie shortstop hadn't grand-slammed Marcum on Saturday night, the Brew Crew would have had a 9-0 homestand and 12 straight wins at Miller Park.

Frank
: He sure guessed right that Marcum's first pitch would be a breaking ball.

Artie
: Not a bad pitch, though. He just timed it right.

Frank
: So now the Brewers are playing .750 baseball at home. Unfortunately, they head to Cincinnati playing .320 on the road. Project those figures over the full season and it comes to 87 wins—maybe enough to make the postseason, but maybe not.

Artie
: You've gotta figure the .320 won't hold. But maybe the .750 won't either.

Frank
: Some of that Miller Park magic has to travel with 'em. If they go 2-5 at Cincy and Florida, they'll hand back most of their above-.500 margin. And things won't get easier as June progresses. They have to play all three A.L. East powers, including Boston and the Yankees on the road.

Artie
: And readers, we'll have a man at that series in the Bronx.

Frank
: Wouldn't miss it!

Noo Yawk, New Squawk

Frank: Meanwhile, I'm sure you've been worried about the turmoil the last two weeks surrounding the Yankees, then the Mets.

Artie
: It couldn't happen to two worthier teams.

Frank
: When I got to Long Island on the 17th, the Yankees were reeling from a sweep by the Red Sox, but more so from the great Jorge Posada rebellion.

Artie
: A guy who wasn't hitting a lick got hissy because he was being dropped to ninth in the batting order, so he essentially told manager Joe Girardi, "Count me out tonight."

Frank
: Of course there were apologies and "all is well" assurances, but the Posada thing echoed the controversy that's been running for a year—the apparent decline of Derek Jeter, even as he approaches the glory of 3,000 hits. Jeter spoke in support of Posada and got a talking-to from management.

Artie
: Two guys who have been major factors in five World Series titles but ain't gonna beat Father Time. How long does a star hang on? The Brewers contended with that in Robin Yount's last few years when his production fell off after the MVP year of 1989. But Yount was smart enough to retire after the '93 season, when he was 38.

Frank
: Jeter, whose re-signing saga got nasty last winter, is 37 and his deal potentially takes him to 40. The debate is starting over whether he can or should stay at shortstop that long.

Artie
: If not there, where? He might be as unhappy about DH-ing as Posada has been since they took his catcher's job away.

Frank
: Of course the cure for any of these crises is a winning stretch. And the Yankees rebounded against Baltimore, the Mets and Toronto to quiet things down for a while.

Artie
: Just in time for the Mets to fill the crisis void.

Frank
: George Steinbrenner is gone, but Mets owner Fred Wilpon did his best to channel The Boss. Last week began with a New Yorker article in which Wilpon spoke, um, unfavorably about the three top names on his roster.

Artie
: What he said was true, ain'a?

Frank
: Jose Reyes has had tons of injuries and won't get "Carl Crawford money" as a free agent; Carlos Beltran hasn't played up to his $119 million deal; David Wright hasn't reached superstar status—all accurate.

Artie
: So where's the controversy?

Frank
: Bruised egos make great copy, and the media pit bulls—to say nothing of the crazed radio callers and tweeters—always need a new bone to gnaw on.

Artie
: Wilpon won't be giving anyone a big contract for a while. He's got no dough because he was pals with Bernie Madoff and a big investor in that humongous fraud.

Frank
: And now he's a target of the bankruptcy trustee who's trying to recoup some of Madoff's spoils. Wilpon says he was bilked like everyone else—he says the Mets probably will lose $70 million this year—but if the trustee prevails, he'll no doubt lose the team.

Artie
: Enter a new guy who's willing to sink $200 million into the Mets—and maybe take control in a year or two.

Frank
: Yup. David Einhorn, who's made his fortune through hedge funds, which sounds Madoff-ish. And he's a big-time poker player, one of those guys you see on ESPN with his baseball cap turned backward.

Artie:
Sounds like real trustworthy, level-headed financial leadership there. They sure need fans; maybe the new guy can introduce the "Racing Mafiosi," guys in suits representing the Five Families.

The End's in Sight

Frank: Your dream matchup in the NBA Finals, Chicago vs. Oklahoma City, didn't pan out. Got a preference between the Heat and Mavericks?

Artie:
I really don't. I totally dig Dwyane Wade, but not enough to be rooting for LeBron James and the rest. Whoever wins, fine.

Frank:
I'd like to see Dallas win because they never have, but it would make the owner, Mark Cuban, an even bigger blowhard.

Artie:
The only thing worse than his constant whining about officiating would be his crowing as an NBA champ. But it would be sweet to see David Stern have to hand him the trophy.

Frank:
Like Al Davis and Pete Rozelle way back when. And how about the Stanley Cup Finals between Boston and Vancouver?

Artie
: I'm glad the Bruins beat Tampa Bay; what's hockey doing in Florida anyway? But I'm pulling for Vancouver. When's the last time a Canadian team took the Cup?

Frank
: Montreal in 1993.

Artie
: That's as if Stern took the NBA international and an American team didn't win for 18 years. I know how I'd feel.

Frank
: So it's time those shivering Canadians had a little fun.

Artie
: Just one thing. I thought the term "Canucks" was a slur.

Frank
: According to Wikipedia, "its usage varies from affectionate to derogatory."

Artie
: Win the Cup and it'll be a term of endearment, eh?

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