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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008

Playoffs or Layoffs?

The Fairly Detached Observers

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The Brewers, in a must-win situation every day, did local fans a double favor Sunday. They finally won in Cincinnati, and did it so easily that folks could switch channels and enjoy watching the Chicago Bears lose in overtime.

Artie: So, Frank, it’s our first official get-together since the Brewers’ managerial regime change. How’s that working out?

Frank: “Regime change.” Sounds like part of the Bush Doctrine; Sarah Palin would know for sure. With a 2-4 start under Dale Sveum, it doesn’t seem to be working. But if they win their final six games and get the playoff wild card, it’ll validate the Attanasio Doctrine: “Gotta do something!” And why not make the move? If they didn’t reach the playoffs with Ned Yost, he’d be gone anyway— along with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets.

Artie: The September tally so far: 3-11 under Yost, 2-4 under Sveum. I’m no mathematician, but that’s not enough improvement.

Frank: Heading into the final six games, against Pittsburgh and the Cubs, they’re one game behind the Mets and three-and-a-half behind the Phillies. The Mets are equally shaky, but even a 4-2 finish might not do it for the Brewers. They need to win all six.

Artie: Here’s a thought: Every time I’ve gone to Miller Park this year and last, they’ve  won. So how about season tickets—with comfortable seating—for me, and I’ll bring you along. It can’t hurt!

Frank: Too bad I’m leaving for the East again before the series against their pals the Cubs—whom they need help from this week when Chicago plays four against the Mets.

Artie: You’d think the Cubs have no incentive because they’ve clinched. But they do: They want to face those same Mets in the first round of the playoffs.

Which wild-card team would you rather play, the Mets with Johan Santana and no other pitching or the Phillies with Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers and lights-out Brad Lidge in the bullpen?

Frank: Or would they rather have the Brewers as the wild card, which would have them playing the Dodgers in the first round?

Artie: No, I think the Cubs want the Mets. But in order to play the Mets, they can’t let the Mets win four games because that might drop the Phillies into the wild card.

Frank: So you’re saying...

Artie: A split, I guess. You know, I think my head is starting to hurt.

Frank: Back to the Brewers then, and especially the pitching. They used Sabathia on only three days’ rest Saturday and he pitched OK but they lost. With Sheets saying his elbow won’t let him pitch until the weekend, if then, I think they have to bring CC back on short rest Wednesday against Pittsburgh and yet again Sunday against the Cubs.

Artie: Gotta do it. And let’s see how he throws with his right hand to boot. As we said when they got him, he’s only here for a couple of months so they might as well ride that big hoss. One thing I know: They cannot put Suppan out there again this season.

Frank: I think his $10 million salary will send him out there.

Artie: I’d start Villanueva instead.

Frank: The Mets finish up with three against Florida this weekend, at home. The Phillies seem to have the best schedule, with three against Atlanta and three against Washington, all at home.

Artie: Wow, in that bandbox ballpark.

And the Phillies have the hitters to send it flying out of there.

Frank: As for the Brew Crew, I haven’t noticed a lot of changes from Yost to Sveum. But one big one is that Sveum apparently thinks Mike Cameron is a lead-off hitter.

Artie: The first game, when I saw Cameron was leading off I said, “We’re not going to get that wild card.”

Frank: He just strikes out too much— twice Saturday and three times Sunday before having a productive at-bat by getting hit. His on-base percentage is only .326 heading into the last two series. Rickie Weeks, who’s been in the doghouse, has a crummy batting average but his OBP is more than 100 points higher at 341. And the other option as a leadoff man, Corey Hart, has an OBP of only .306.

Artie: There’s also been some “Twilight Zone” third-base coaching. I think newcoach Garth Iorg was in the minor-league system, so how much time did he have to study opposing outfielders’ arms and the speed of the Brewers’ own players?

Frank: But all can still be well: Stomp the Pirates, get some help from the Cubs in New York, then roll over those same Cubs this weekend.

Artie: What does the Raiders’ Al Davis say? Just win, baby.

Frank: Of course this means the Cubs have to lay down for the Brewers in front of zillions of their own fans at Miller Park.

Artie: Hey, they owe us for letting them set up shop in our ballpark against the Astros.

The day didn’t end happily for Wisconsin fans as the Dallas Cowboys wore the Packers down at Lambeau Field and handed them their first loss of the season, 27-16.

Frank: Well, we figured the Pack wouldn’t go 16-0. This was an old-fashioned whuppin’, especially in the second half. Terrell Owens hardly did anything, but it didn’t matter. Dallas got more than 200 rushing yards, a 60-yard TD run and a 52-yard TD catch. Aaron Rodgers again avoided big mistakes but was sacked five times and seemed to be running for his life most of the night. There’s work to do before the Packers play this Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Artie: How ‘bout if CC isn’t scheduled to pitch the Brewers’ final game, he flies down there and helps out on the defensive line?

Frank: Meanwhile, I heard an interesting quote from that former Green Bay quarterback—what’s his name? When the Packers were 2-0 some ESPN guy asked Mr. Favre something about how that made him feel. He replied that he had 16 good years for Green Bay and, “When they have 16 good ones they can call me.” I guess he hasn’t quite made it to “forgive and forget.”

Artie: Since when does a 4-12 season, which they had in 2005, qualify as a good year anywhere but Detroit? And hey, Brett didn’t look so good as his Jets got drilled in San Diego.

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 can empathize with any ballplayer thrown out at home.

The Observers Declare Themselves Managerial Candidates for 2009 | Photo by Jill Trapp

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