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Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009

Mr. Fielder, Meet Mr. McMahon

The Fairly Detached Observers

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On the field, the highlight of the Brewers’ 4-5 road trip was winning the series against Los Angeles, the National League’s top team. Off the field, the highlight was the Squall in the Hall. At the end of a 17-4 loss, Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch, clearly in retaliation for an HBP of the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez. After the game the normally placid Fielder stormed toward the Dodgers’ clubhouse looking for pitcher Guillermo Mota. Teammates restrained him but video of the incident had everyone buzzing.

Frank: Major League Baseball didn’t suspend Prince, and rightly so. He shouldn’t even have been fined. Nothing he did on the field was aggressive, and in the corridor he didn’t touch the clubhouse attendant and sort of allowed himself to be steered away.

Artie: If he’d really wanted to, he could have tossed ‘em all aside. Looking at the tape, I thought, “If Prince ever has an impasse over his contract, Vince McMahon can swoop in and make him a wrestler.” That Brewer’s brouhaha was so WWE! It almost looked staged, like all of McMahon’s fake-reality stuff.

Frank: Of course it was genuine, but it seemed to parody the wrestlers’ lousy backstage skits.

Artie: Prince already has his wrestling persona. He can march into the arena wearing some kind of snazzy royal outfit. He’s a natural!

Frank: On the field, he just looked bemused. He was asking the umpire and the catcher, “What’s that?”

Artie: I think some Dodger said something Prince didn’t like, but that he stewed over it for a while.

Frank: Maybe someone said something in his own locker room that got him fuming. But what confused me is that he’d be puzzled by the HBP in the first place.

Artie: You mean the fact that it was retaliation for Manny getting his uniform brushed, ain’a?

rank: Right. The Brewer broadcasters were bemoaning how the Dodgers could do that with a 13-run lead. Yes, it was blatant, since a guy was throwing in the bullpen with two out in the ninth, ready for Mota to be ejected. But the drilling itself was just part of the protocol.

Artie: You hit our big man, we hit yours.

Frank: I’m not saying Chris Smith tried to hit Manny. And I’m not saying I agree with the tit-for-tat code. But it’s the way things are done.

Artie: And have been done for, well, forever.

Frank: Plus, the Dodgers had some recent history involved. Last year in the playoffs Brett Myers of Philadelphia threw at Manny but the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley didn’t retaliate. And that was supposedly a sign of wimpiness.

Artie: Not that Guillermo was a pillar of machismo. Talk about “getcha Mota running...” He got to the dugout quick.

Frank: But he did follow the protocol in another way, hitting Prince in his ample thigh instead of going up top. The broadcasters questioned why the Dodgers would do it so late in a blowout, but why not? The HBP couldn’t change the game, so do it now and start fresh tomorrow.

Artie: And that’s what happened. It didn’t carry over to the next game.

Frank: If the situation had been reversed— the Brewers way ahead, Fielder hit first and then Manny—I believe the Brewer broadcasters would have said, “Well, that’s baseball. You’ve got to protect your top players. Call it even and move on.”

Artie: It all depends on whom you’re rooting for.

Frank: Two years ago, the Brewers and Cardinals got into an HBP exchange over a couple of days and Prince was one of those hit. Eventually, Ned Yost got suspended after what was deemed a retaliatory strike and Prince said, “It’s great to know your manager is behind you.”

Artie: Sounds like something Manny might be thinking.

Frank: The bigger question is whether this code of retaliation should be a part of baseball.

Artie: When boys play their games, there’ll always be some macho posturing.

Frank: It’s eerie that this happened on Aug. 4. Exactly one year earlier, Prince got angry with Manny Parra and shoved him in the dugout in Cincinnati.

Artie: Hey, hand me the Brewer media guide... Prince’s birthday is May 9, so he’s a Taurus, the Bull. Pretty fitting. The stars ain’t aligned very peacefully for him on Aug. 4, I guess.

Frank: What’s more, almost exactly two years ago, on Aug. 2, 2007, Yost and catcher Johnny Estrada had a scuffle in the dugout at Miller Park.

Artie: Hey, is that the “Twilight Zone” theme I hear?

Surf’s Up Again

Frank: The Wave is dead, long live the Wave! Artie: Say what?

Frank: Milwaukee’s indoor soccer team, on the brink of oblivion after its league folded and its owner opted out, will live for a 26th year. There’s a new owner, Jim Lindenberg, and an agreement with another league.

Artie: I hope this one has more than four teams, which was what the Wave was part of last season.

Frank: Right now the Wave will make it six teams in the National Indoor Soccer League.

Artie: And everyone will make the playoffs?

Frank: To be determined, I think. Anyway, it really is good news for Milwaukee’s soccer community. Especially the kids, who again have something fun to watch in the cold months and who benefit from the many camps and clinics the Wave operates.

Artie: And it can’t hurt restaurants near the U.S. Cellular Arena and the Bradley Center.

Frank: This leaves two Milwaukee sports traditions still on life support—auto racing at State Fair Park and the city’s now-sponsorless PGA tournament.

The Pack Fumbles

Frank: Here’s a sentence you don’t hear often. The Packers got rained out Saturday night.

Artie: More like lightning-ed out. No Family Night scrimmage, thanks to storms that hit Lambeau Field as the players were getting ready to knock heads.

Frank: Lightning will sack a scrimmage every time, especially with more than 50,000 people in the stands.

Artie: I always watch Family Night, but very nervously. I’m just waiting for some guy to tear up his Achilles’ running off the field.

Frank: So why watch?

Artie: I’m too nervous not to watch.

Frank: So this time you could see about three hours of Channel 6 people saying what a great team this is going to be.

Artie: Well, it would be if all those injuries weren’t waiting to strike.

Frank: Always Mr. Cheerful. At least some lucky fans got autographed jerseys and there still was a fireworks display.

Artie: Besides the lightning, you mean?

Frank: Yup. And there’s this, from the Packers’ Web site: “Through the end of August, fans with a ticket stub from Saturday’s Family Night scrimmage can receive free admission to the Packer Hall of Fame with the purchase of a Lambeau Field stadium tour.”

Artie: Hold on, let’s analyze this. Tickets for the scrimmage cost what?

Frank: Ten dollars, I believe.

Artie: And the price of a Lambeau Field tour is what?

Frank: The team’s Web site says $11 for adults, $10 for seniors, military, college students and teens, $8 for smaller kids.

Artie: And the Hall of Fame costs what?

Frank: Ten bucks for adults, $8 for seniors and those other groups, $5 for smaller kids. 

Attie: So if you already paid for the scrimmage that wasn’t held, the Packers will let you in the Hall of Fame for free, but only if you spend more money for a tour of the stadium.

Frank: The stadium you saw plenty of—at least away from the field—while you waited for the storms to end.

Artie: And this fabulous offer lasts only for the rest of this month. Doesn’t sound so fabulous after all.

Frank: Why not just let folks use the scrimmage tickets for the Hall of Fame any ol’ time? I’ll bet most of those die-hard fans already have seen the Hall. They could give the tickets to visiting relatives at Christmastime or whatever.

Artie: Otherwise, the team sounds like one of those fast-talking guys at the end of radio commercials: “Validonlywith...notvalidafter...voidwhereprohibited.”

Prince, you could be a part of this.