Alas, We Saw the Errors of Their Ways
But what was inevitable about the Brewers' collapse on the mound? Their earned-run average of 3.63 in the regular season, seventh-best in the N.L., ballooned to 5.81, next-to-worst among the eight playoff teams.
In truth, any baseball game is hundreds of instantaneous efforts and decisions—pitchers' choices and batters' guesses, fielders' positioning, managers' tactics, umpires' judgments. And there are the whims of the baseball gods, otherwise known as luck. At another time the ingredients over six games could have blended in the Brewers' favor. This time they didn't.
Artie: Well, all I can say is that for this series, the better team won. But I'll sure be rooting for Texas in the World Series.
Frank: Wow, I thought your first comment would be one of disgust at losing to Tony La Russa.
Artie: Nah, I don't have the energy. It'll be painful to root for anything out of Texas, but I like Nolan Ryan, Josh Hamilton and, of course, our former Brewers prospect, Nelson Cruz. I guess the Rangers still like that 2006 trade that got them Cruz and, briefly, Carlos Lee, in exchange for Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.
Frank: All of whom are long gone from Milwaukee.
Artie: They say that in the playoffs it's pitching and defense that wins, and the Cardinals sure had more of both this time.
Frank: Seven errors by the Brewers in the last two games sure left a lasting impression. But it wasn't just that; Sunday night there were several non-errors that were still bad plays. Throws that missed the cutoff man by Nyjer Morgan and Corey Hart, allowing two runners to advance who eventually scored. A poor throw by Jonathan Lucroy that should have cut down a base stealer who became the first St. Louis run.
Artie: Don't make me remember anymore.
Frank: And there were plays that were near-misses for Milwaukee but catches for the Cardinals. Mark Kotsay missed a sinking liner by inches in Game 3, but Lance Berkman snared one in Game 6. Hart and Morgan both missed balls at the wall in earlier games, but Jon Jay made a great catch-and-crash Sunday night.
Artie: But there was nothing "near-miss" about the Brewers' starting pitching. Only Randy Wolf in Game 4 had a "quality start," and Shaun Marcum was a disaster Sunday night. And in the series against Arizona, only Yovani Gallardo had good starts.
Frank: The Cardinals' starters were nothing much either, but La Russa's bullpen saved the series. The St. Louis relievers actually pitched more innings than the starters. During the regular season they gagged on a bunch of late-inning leads, helping dig the deep hole the Cardinals somehow fought out of, but they sure did the job this time. La Russa made 28 pitching changes, a record for an LCS.
Artie: They ought to get him one of those two-wheel Segway jobbies so he can get to the mound quicker. And he may really need it in the World Series, the way the Rangers can pound the ball.
Frank: The Brewers did some pounding in this series, out-homering St. Louis 9-8. But over the last two games Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks were a combined 2 for 24.
Artie: Not a good way to end—presumably—the Princely Era in Milwaukee.
Frank: We'll have a lot more to say about the Brewers' future as we head into the off-season. But for now I'd like to make one more comment: I thought Brian Anderson, the Brewers' regular TV play-by-play guy, did a terrific job of being even-handed on the TBS broadcasts—thoroughly professional and enthusiastic for both teams' efforts.
Artie: Agreed. Now here's my final comment: I hope it doesn't take another 29 years for the Brew Crew to get to another LCS. Let's see, 1982, 2011...and 2040? We'll need a little help getting to our seats.
Don't Rush on Our Account
Frank: This week apparently is crucial to the resolution of the NBA lockout.
Artie: The what?
Frank: The NBA lockout, which already has wiped out the first two weeks of the season.
Artie: Oh yeah, I did hear something about that. But who could get interested, especially with baseball and football being so exciting in these parts?
Frank: Commissioner David Stern said that if a new labor deal isn't reached this week, his "gut" tells him the league won't be playing on Christmas Day.
Artie: Well, my gut tells me I couldn't care less about the NBA until long after Christmas. Sure, it performs a great national service by giving Americans a reason to slouch on the couch all holiday long. But there's nothing more meaningless than an NBA regular-season game before, say, February.
Frank: Unless it's an NHL regular-season game.
Artie: The last time the NBA owners locked out the players, the season didn't begin until Feb. 5, 1999, and lasted just 50 games. I don't remember any nationwide howls of protest.
Frank: Normally the NBA strings 82 games over more than five months, and then eliminates fewer than half the teams—14 out of 30—from the playoffs. Then it strings four rounds of playoffs over another two-plus months. And all along the prices for anyone who wants to get anywhere near the live action are outrageous.
Artie: No wonder a bunch of franchises are in financial trouble, including our own Milwaukee Bucks. But Stern's solution here is to hint that unless someone finances a new arena—that someone presumably being John Q. Public—the franchise is doomed.
Frank: And what's the purpose of a new arena? To cram in more luxury seats and suites and eateries to pamper the fat cats and separate Mr. Public from a few more of his hard-earned dollars.
Artie: Assuming Mr. Public has any dollars left.
Frank: Michael Wilbon wrote on ESPN.com that in this scary economy, the NBA owners and players "can't agree on how to split up $4.3 billion" in revenue. He continued, "It's difficult to imagine that folks who live in constant fear of losing their jobs, of not being able to make their mortgage payments or pay their kids' tuition or do anything with their money beyond what is absolutely necessary, have the stomach for this self-indulgent behavior. The country is in no mood for the NBA's stupid dispute."
Artie: Just like it was in no mood for the NFL lockout, but those two sides were smart enough to get back to work before any regular-season games were lost.
Frank: The NBA's biggest problem is that it isn't the NFL. There's nowhere near the national fan mania that football enjoys, which makes the public's "millionaires vs. billionaires" view of the NBA dispute even stronger.
Artie: Even in a normal year, until the Super Bowl is over there's just not that much interest in the NBA.
Frank: College hoops, yes, because even the best teams play only 40-ish games and they're done by early April. But an NBA season lasts eight stinkin' months!
Artie: Cut three months off that, start in February and play 50 games and the fans will be into it because the games will really mean something. But until then, for me NBA stands for "Not Bothering Anyone" with this shutdown.