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Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

Cardinals, Thy Day of Reckoning Is Drawing Nigh

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It's not for the faint of heart, this Brewers postseason. A two-game lead evaporated in Arizona, a 2-1 ninth-inning lead vanished in Game 5 before the Miller Park magic prevailed, and Sunday the hated Cardinals took a three-run lead before Beast Mode buried them.

The Packers also toyed with fans' anxiety, falling behind by two touchdowns in Atlanta, but then owning the second half to stand at 5-0. The eight hours of two-sport fretting left one of the Observers frazzled.


Artie
: I need some time in a Franz Kafka sanitarium to recover from this day.

Frank
: I guess you mean things struck you as Kafkaesque, one definition of which is, "Marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity."

Artie
: Bingo! I was so wrung out by the Brewer game it took until the second quarter for me to get focused on the Pack. And then Jermichael "I Want the Ball More" Finley whiffed on a sure touchdown.

Frank
: Well, it all turned out fine.

Artie
: I managed to stay awake for the second half, and I sure enjoyed seeing that defense totally shut the Falcons down. And that "share the wealth" offense! The only guy Aaron Rodgers didn't complete a pass to was himself.

Frank
: The offense at Miller Park wasn't bad either, especially the six-run barrage in the fifth inning that ruined Tony La Russa's day.

Artie
: Verily I say unto thee, the Brewers must sweep the Great Satan out of the playoffs! They must visit the Four Games of the Apocalypse upon Tony and his minions. Who are those Four Horsemen again?

Frank
: When Grantland Rice used them to name Notre Dame's 1924 backfield, he said they were "Death, Destruction, Pestilence and Famine." Sometimes "Conquest" and "War" are used instead of Death and Destruction.

Artie
: OK, Game 1 was War because that inning was a blitzkrieg. The scoring happened so fast that Mr. Over-Manage couldn't keep up. The guy who's always quick with the hook left the dazed Jaime Garcia in to face Prince Fielder—with first base open, yet—after Ryan Braun's two-run double. One pitch later, the Brew Crew led!

Frank
: I guess Tony didn't want to give Prince a free pass with no outs.

Artie
: Didn't he notice that Arizona's "challenge Prince" policy backfired a couple of times? Now the Crew needs a really good pitching performance to inflict Famine on the Redbirds' offense. Only Yovani Gallardo has been an effective starter in the playoffs so far.

Frank
: And how would a third victory be Pestilence?

Artie
: Just have the Crew's leading pest, Nyjer Morgan, play a key role. Ooh, would that be sweet against the arrogant Chris Carpenter in Game 3.

Frank
: One might even call it "Plush-tilence." And a fourth triumph would obviously be Conquest.

Artie
: Boy, if ever a series had the potential for bench-clearing brawls, this is it!

Frank
: And it looked promising, if that's the word, in the first inning when Fielder got plunked after Braun's homer. But Fielder shrugged it off.

Artie
: Not that I wasn't hoping, but a brawl would have completely exhausted me—especially since I had to go right into the Packers. What do they expect from a fan?

Frank
: Especially a fan of such, um, veteran status.

Artie
: I need a nurse standing by to monitor my blood pressure and administer extra medication.

Frank
: The medication is up to you. Especially the size of the dose that goes in the glass.

Artie
: Good point. But when they were down 14 points and Chad Clifton was hurt and they had two neophytes at the tackles...

Frank
: No need to relive it. Speaking of injuries, it seems the Brewers dodged one on the last play when John Axford took a line drive off his pitching arm.

Artie
: For a second I was back in 1982, when the Crew lost the World Series to St. Louis because Rollie Fingers was injured. I guess Axford's OK, but just to be safe let's have the Famine game right away, with a 10-0 lead and no need for the closer.



24 Hours Later...

Frank: Well, the Brewers were on the other end of a blitzkrieg in Game 2. And Shaun Marcum's bad outing put added pressure on Gallardo to out-pitch Carpenter in St. Louis.

Artie: Yeah, Marcum did his best Jeff Suppan imitation. I thought the warnings the umpire issued after Prince got hit applied only to Game 1, but Marcum looked pretty reluctant to pitch inside to Albert Pujols.

Frank: Certainly the pitch that wound up as a first-inning homer wasn't inside enough. Hey, speaking of Carpenter, I imagine you liked the way Zack Greinke criticized him before the series began.

Artie: He was just speaking the righteous truth. A lot of Brewers can't stand Carpenter because he tries to stare down hitters and yells at them. Why should Morgan be the only one who catches heat for the chippy stuff between them?

That Was Then

Frank: I got nostalgic and dug out my ticket stubs from the Brewers' LCS and World Series home games in 1982.

Artie
: Wow, look at those prices!

Frank
: Yeah, that's hard not to notice. Now, I'm not against the players and owners making some dough, and baseball certainly isn't the only sport that can get pricey. Remember back in March of '10...

Artie
: I'll need some help.

Frank
: We went to a Bucks game and our seats, in a corner of the lower level, were priced at $61 apiece. A little later, thanks to a friend who won a raffle, I sat courtside with a ticket that was marked $406.

Artie
: That I remember!

Frank
: I recalled sitting in a fairly comparable spot in 1968, during the Bucks' first season, for $5.25, and I did some research. Between those two games the government's Consumer Price Index had increased about sixfold, which would have meant a 2010 ticket price of about $32—or less than a tenth of what it was.

Artie
: Not in the NBA's world.

Frank
: So I've repeated the research. In '82 my tickets in the upper grandstand cost $12 apiece for the ALCS and $18 for the World Series. In October 1982 the CPI stood at 98.2 and the latest figure, for August, is 226.5. That's a rise of 131%. I have comparable Terrace-reserved seats this time and the prices are $40 apiece for the LCS—an increase of 233% over 1982—and $150 for the World Series, a rise of 733%.

Artie
: That's seven-hundred thirty-three?

Frank
: Yup. In '82 upper-grand seats were $4.50 in the regular season, so the World Series tickets cost four times that. Now the $150 price is 10 times the regular-season Terrace-reserved price. In fairness to MLB, the prices were the same in 2008, the last time the Brewers made the playoffs.

Artie
: Still, these are for some of the cheapest seats. God knows what the folks downstairs are paying.

Frank
: The biggest factor, I think, is the explosion of player salaries in all sports—especially in relation to the general population.

Artie
: What Joe Fan makes.

Frank
: In 1982 the U.S. median household income was about $45,000 and the average major-league salary was $245,000. Now the minimum MLB salary is $414,000 and the average is around $3 million, about a 12-fold increase. And thanks to the economic meltdown, the general income figures have become stagnant.

Artie
: It's not just the players who reap the bonanza. The value of sports franchises just keeps rising, even for the crummy ones. Joe Fan somehow keeps paying up.

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