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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Big Deal, Problem Solved

The Fairly Detached Observers

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All was bliss in Brewer Land when the Observers got together on the afternoon of June 6, and they knew exactly whom to thank for the 8-1 homestand.

Frank: Well, Artie, I think this first cold one should be a toast to ourselves. It’s clear that we provided the impetus for those sweeps of the Astros and D-Backs.

Artie: You betcha, my friend. Um, exactly how did we do that? Not that I’m opposed to toasting us.

Frank: Think about it. When the Brewers were drifting aimlessly before the last homestand, all the usual hot air was being expended on the radio, in print and blogs about their problems. But once the homestand began, what was the new factor? The brand-new hot air being belched out by the Fairly Detached Observers. After the last game against Arizona, I saw that Tim Dillard, the relief pitcher, said, “It looks like the guys are playing mad. There’s a little edge to them.”

Artie: I get it. Who could they have been mad at but us?

Frank: Exactly. Our critique was just the right added touch. You questioned their hitting, I questioned their pitching, we both figured Ned might not last the season—and voila, they score in double digits twice in four days, McClung and Bush turn in good starts and Ned’s a genius again.

Artie: I was writing them off and they knew it, and it rubbed them the wrong way.

Frank: If they didn’t know it, they sensed it. “If we’ve lost Kumbalek, we’ve lost everybody. And we’re not going to let Artie and this other guy look smart.”

Artie: Seems pretty clear. God bless responsible sports journalism, ain’a?

Frank: It’s an offshoot of the George Steinbrenner method of management. Any amount of whining and gas-bagging is good. If the team turns around, obviously you lit a fire under them. If the team doesn’t turn it around, just as obviously you were right to bury them in the first place.

Artie: Sounds like you and I are pulling the strings. Ned just doesn’t know it.

Frank: Of course, we are not to be held responsible for anything bad that happens from now on. And we reserve the right to lay it on the Brewers again if we see fit. We can only do what we can do. As many a manager says every year, “Hey, I can’t pitch for them or swing the bat for them.”

Artie: And speaking of swinging the bat, someone who hasn’t been doing much of it lately is Bill Hall. Then again, it’s not advisable to swing the lumber when you’re riding the bench. Someone could lose an eye, and I’m guessing that someone would have to be Ben Sheets—a true ace when it comes to the oddball malady.

Frank: As for his agent’s “we want a trade” talk, I doubt the Brewers are inclined at this point to do that. So much can happen during a season, I think he’ll get his shot again.

Artie: I don’t know what they could get for him because of the size of his contract versus his production. But you never know when the starting pitching will need help again. Sheets is due any day now for a 15-day DL arm fart. So sometime around the All-Star break, how about sending Bill Hall, some kid in single-A ball, maybe toss in a Joe Dillon and one of the sausages, to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum, that young fire-baller who’s been lights out. And maybe Barry Bonds’ locker—I heard it’s huge, so give it to Prince as part of a longterm deal. Hey, one trade can turn everything around, as we know from the Boston Celtics and Kevin Garnett.

Frank: You know, they were so good this season I forgot it was just a year ago that they had that huge losing streak.

Artie: You bet, the Celtics went down like a dunk-tank clown to secure that No. 1 draft pick, except those lottery ping-pong balls had other ideas.

Frank: And so, the big deal. Make that two, counting Ray Allen. Meanwhile, we just had another draft, and the Brewers’ top pick is a Canadian catcher, Brett Lawrie.

Artie: Well, he’s a high school kid and I guess he’s also played infield, outfield, but they want to make him a catcher. And they see him coming up quickly. All reports say this kid can really hit.

Frank: Well, Jason Kendall is doing just fine now, but you can’t expect him to catch 140 games for too many more years.

Artie: So the Brewer brass want to give the kid a crash course in catching, but you don’t just slap on a mask and a cup and now you’re the next Johnny Bench. Cripes, there’s knowing the hitters, calling the games, dealing with pitchers’ egos—you don’t learn all that overnight.

Frank: Well, the Brewers have had lots of success in the draft in recent years. You think back to when Sal Bando was the GM and all the talk was about small markets and “we can’t compete with the big boys,” but when did the franchise start turning around? When the draft choices started panning out. And I guess that means when their scouting improved. You draft Rickie and Prince and J.J. and Ryan Braun, and your organization looks a whole lot better.

Artie: The baseball draft doesn’t get anywhere near the royal treatment from the media like the NFL draft or the NBA’s. Maybe they need to draft more 7-footers or 350-pound guys with character issues.

Frank: And speaking of the NFL—and Barry Bonds’ locker, for that matter— how about the Packers deciding to ship Brett Favre’s locker down to Mississippi so he can, what, change his clothes there every day?

Artie: The guy needs more closet space?

Frank: It’s depicted as a token of thanks for his 16 seasons. I think they thanked him millions of times over, didn’t they?

Artie: Yeah, this seems more like “Hey Brett, here’s your locker, what’s your hurry?” Goodbye, and don’t even think about coming back.

Frank: No matter what David Letterman says. There was also the idea that Aaron Rodgers was getting bothered by questions about how he felt that Favre’s locker was still there.

Artie: I also heard that, like it would be too intimidating for young Aaron. Well sir, if that’s true, maybe a little reverse psychology could work. How ’bout install a locker next to Rodgers’ that’s name-tagged “Jerry Tagge” or “Randy Wright”? Talk about a confidence booster. Better yet, Aaron Rodgers dresses next to the T.J. Rubley Memorial Locker and I guarantee the Packers go undefeated for the next 10 years.

Frank: Excellent! See, once again we are part of the solution, not the problem.

Frank Clines labored almost 20 years in the sports department at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and covered the Brewers part-time for most of those years.

Art Kumbalek remains in the race for the presidency of the United States.

Photo by Kate Engbring

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