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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dice Tumble

The Fairly Detached Observers

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As the Observers took theirpatriotic spirit to Miller Park for the Fourth of July, the Brewers were hoping to recover from a hideous loss at Arizona by sending Ben Sheets to the mound against Pittsburgh.Meanwhile, they were nailing down a trade for Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia, a blockbuster that became official three days later.

Frank: This’ll be a great day at the ol’ ball yard if our pal Sheetsie does his job. We’ll be out the door in way under three hours.

Artie: A nice fast pace and he goes at least eight.

Frank: If he can’t go eight against the Pirates, I don’t think we want to be around for three hours of mayhem. And keep your eyes peeled, Artie. If you see someone shagging flies in batting prac tice who’s as wide as Prince but taller, that’ll be Mr. Sabathia, the final piece of the playoff puzzle.

Artie: Getting him takes a Sheets trade off the table and means they’re rolling the dice and going for it all this year.

Frank: Can you argue with that, the way things line up? They’ve got to figure they can’t afford Sabathia’s next contract and they’re just renting him for a few months, but their first playoff spot in 26 years would be worth it.

Artie: Absolutely. Now’s the time. And with Sheets, if they can’t re-sign him next year, maybe it’ll be back to, “Well, we’ll make the playoffs in a year or two.” But if they hope to re-sign Sheets, getting Sabathia and making the playoffs may make Sheets think, “We can keep win ning with this team. I’m comfortable here, I like the guys, so maybe I won’t ask for top dollar.”

Sheets wasn’t sharp but stranded plenty of Pirates on base. And the struggling Bill Hall gave him a 2-0 lead when he homered in the second inning—a few seconds after Frank said, “Here’s where it all starts to turn around for Billy.”

Artie: Way to light a fire under Hall! See, this is the kind of thing that’ll keep Sheets here.

Frank: If he stays healthy, there’ll be plenty of money elsewhere to tempt him. Everybody says, “It’s not about the money, I want to win,” but very few seem to decide that way. Take Coco Cordero, the beloved closer of last year. Did he really think he had a better chance to win in Cincinnati than he had here? But off he went, and the difference in offers was only about 4 million bucks.

Artie: Before the season a few writers picked the Reds as their sleeper team in the NL Central. Well, they were right: The Reds are sleeping.

The Brewers took command in the fifth inning with five runs—the first of them scored by the non-hitting Sheets, who some how drew a leadoff walk. His 10th victory was secure, even though he needed 120 pitches to get through only 5 2/3 innings.

Frank: Ben wasn’t really Ben today, but he’s had lots of strong games when he didn’t get enough runs. So back to his future: You’re saying Sheets, in whom they’ve invested eight years of love and money...

Artie: And ointment and doctor visits.

Frank: So maybe Sheets does a Ken Griffey Jr. and takes less money to be where he’s comfortable. Or now it would be doing a Gilbert Arenas, who passed up a chance at $127 million and stayed with the Wizards for a mere $111 million. As he put it, “What can I do for my family for $127 million that I can’t do for $111 million?”

Artie: For $127 million I guess he could have upgraded the security at his estate. Something like a missile defense system.

Frank: He actually sounded sensible, unlike Milwaukee’s own Latrell Sprewell. Remember a few years ago, he turned down $21 million over three years from the Timberwolves with the immor tal words, “I’ve got my family to feed.” Haven’t heard much about him since then except for legal problems.

Artie: “I’ve gotta put food on the table.” What, you’re flying to Paris for dinner every night? That’s where the table is?

Frank: As for Sheets, you’ve described a best-case scenario. But really, can the Brewers afford not to roll the dice this year under any circumstances? Unless there’s a total disaster, they’ve got to believe they can go all the way.

Artie: There’s never a guarantee for next year, even with all the good young players. They’ve got to go for it. The 9-1 game dragged to a finish in 2 hours 48 minutes—not bad by major-league standards but hardly what the Observers expected from a Sheets start. He got a “W” in the box score but the Observers gave him an “L,” for lengthy, as they took the bus Downtown.

Frank: Speaking of rolling the dice, the Packers’ fans probably feel the same way about doing whatever it takes next sea son. So does that mean the man from Mississippi returns?

Artie: Hey, it’s a business. I’d bring Favre back, trade Aaron Rodgers to Miami for Jason Taylor, and voila! You’ve got the quarterback and added a premier pass rusher. Hello, Super Bowl.

Frank: Once again, you’re the man with a plan.

Artie: I’ve been getting my resume together for the Packers’ GM job, just in case. It pays pretty well, I hear.

Frank: And there’ll be an opening if Favre says he wants to come back and Ted Thompson says, “Enjoy your time in Vikings purple.”

Artie: It’ll be “Ted Thompson, rest in peace.”

Frank: But I think if Favre does want to come back, it’s with the Packers for one big reason: He probably doesn’t want to go through a training camp learning a new system. The Packers wouldn’t be happy, but he could string them along and miss most of camp. It worked for Michael Strahan. He skipped the Giants’ whole camp and wound up a Super Bowl champ.

Artie: And going to another team, the question is if Favre’s royally pissed off at Thompson, that he feels he was pushed out the door.

Frank: If he doesn’t have that much animosity, his mother appears to. There’s something weird about your mom scolding the GM for you.

Artie: The last two years the Packers have been relatively injury-free, but it can change so quickly. Hey, how’s this for a worst-case scenario: The Packers rein state Favre, trade Rodgers, get Jason Taylor and the first game, pow, Favre blows out a knee and breaks both hips. And now he is done.

Frank: You better hope Bonita doesn’t read that.

Artie: Swell. Now I’ve put some kind of Southern juju voodoo thing on him. I guess Mama Favre won’t be inviting me over for gumbo down there in Bumfock, Ole Miss, anytime soon, ain’a?

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. These days, Art Kumbalek rarely travels south of National Avenue.

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