Watching Attanasio

Baseball is never ending. There is a rhythm and flow that predates rock and roll. It is part of past, present and future. It is there for us, on demand, as regular as running water. We know it is there and when we want it, it comes out. It is, after all, our heritage. It is an American legacy.

The temples where the game is played of green grass has a look all its own. There, the gods of the sport, now and before, play the game. Their ghosts are everywhere. Aaron and Banks. Williams and Mantle. Spahn and Mathews, Musial and Koufax. Jackie and Robin. Through the turnstiles, past the concession stands, into the venue itself, the opening is there and passing through, there it is…it is the place where magic will happen today.

Hope for the season ahead is ever present. This is the season when the heavens will open up and victory in the form of a World Series pennant will be ours.

For many of us, it is a way of life, passed down to us from our grandparents, parents or relatives. It is our legacy. When remembering the past, it is the time we spent with our grandfather and grandmother, Mom and Dad at the ballpark. For those who grew up in Wisconsin, the home team, our home team is the Milwaukee Brewers. So much had been seen there; the great players like Roger … ‘The Rocket’, perhaps the greatest pitcher the game has ever seen, or Reggie and Yaz, Cal and Randy Johnson, as well as Griffey, Jr. and Ichiro, the greatest hitter the game has seen in our lifetime. ‘The Brewers Win The Pennant’ with Simba, Robin, Pauly, Gimby, Stormin, Rollie, Vuch, Coop, Benji and the Harvey were all witnessed with family and friends, Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. CC and Sheets, Prince and Braun, Greinke, Weeks and Nyjer, K-Rod and AxMan, brought the feeling back but fell ever so short.

This was a team that was brought to Wisconsin after the first great heartbreak of our sporting life, on a loan from the Schlitz Brewing Co. family to a car dealer’s son who would become the Commissioner of Baseball (after he was involved and found guilty in the collusion between the owners to keep players from earning their fair share through free agency) to fill the void left by the carpetbagger who moved the beloved Braves to that city down south.

We live in a world of globalization. We live in a world where the game is played by athletes everywhere. Milwaukee is a community that has diversified over the past half century as well. Today 39% of Milwaukee County is made up of Black Americans, 13% Latinos, 5% Asian Americans. It became a majority minority dominated city in 2000.

Today’s baseball team in the Cream City no longer reflects that diversity. Of the 40 man roster, there are only two Black Americans, one an aging Weeks nearing the end of his career and Davis, a young man just beginning his career. The Latino contingent is well represented, with some sixteen team members. There is one Asian, a Taiwanese pitcher who is yet to make it to the Bigs.

We no longer live in a Jim Crow era. Yet the team that is in Milwaukee has just two Black Americans. When they made a run for the pennant, the starting first baseman, second baseman and center fielder were black. Prince was beloved since he came up through the minors and would, fans thought, forever be an All-Star Brewer. Rickie was the college educated, All-Star second baseman. Nyjer was the center of joy. And he did get THE HIT. Together with Braun, Hart, Lucroy, Grienke, Vonnie, K-Rod and Axford they made their run which would be only the first of many to come. Today there is no Prince, no Nyjer, no Grienke, no K-Rod nor Axford. And there is no Hart. Rickie is waning, Vonnie is struggling and Braun is coming back from the unknown.

The team has no minority manager or coaches with the single exception of John Shelby who begins his third season on the coaching staff after joining the organization as outfield coach/eye in the sky, whatever that is; no upper management who are minority. Yet this is the governing body of the team that represents a majority minority city in the great Midwest. ‘A team is a reflection of the community it represents.’

The owner is from Los Angeles. There is little that is the same on Wilshire Boulevard or Pacific Palisades as compared to Pigsville or Lincoln at Kinnikinnick. In the City of Angels, Brats (with Secret Stadium Sauce) and beer are as foreign as sushi and wine are in Bayview. Brookfield is not Beverly Hills and Racine has kringle. Try finding that at Gilsons. This is a town where there are bubblers and kids wear rubbers on their feet when it rains. There is a separation here. It is not just distance, but a cultural misunderstanding that Milwaukee is the same as it was or the same as everywhere else. It is not. The Packers and Brewers, Badgers,  Bucks and Marquette belong to Wisconsinites, not Californians. Curley, Uecker, Crazylegs and Chones are our guys. Spencer Tracy, Fred MacMurray and Gene Wilder are our guys. They all, uncommon individuals and brilliant in their craft, who have all played at one time or another in California, are Wisconsinites through and through. The Brewers, every last one of them who ever played in the Cream City, belong to us.

If there is one thing a person from Los Angeles knows, it is star-power. They know that if you have a star for your program or movie or team, people will come and fans will pay in record numbers to see them. It is as eternal as Cary Grant, Bob Hope or Babe Ruth. They don’t call Yankee Stadium ‘The House That Ruth Built’ for nothing. Mark Attanasio lives and works in Los Angeles. He occasionally shows up in Milwaukee as the owner. He should know more than most what a star does to propel a team and make money. The present team looks like a fragment of their former self. Yes, the payroll is manageable and the team will make money…a lot of money. What is our VORP? Who gives a crap. Enough with Keith Wollner. We want a PENNANT. We want to be competitive. We want it NOW.

A former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers in the old American Association, Bill Veeck, said, “Baseball must be a great game because the owners haven’t been able to kill it.” The fans will fill the stands. And records will be broken. But we need a Prince or a Price, a Tanaka or, hell, a first baseman who can play first base. It is time for change. It is time for an owner to get in touch with the city his team represents and a management who represents a constant path to victory. We are watching Attanasio.

We will be heading to Maryvale in February and again the gates will open and warm, brilliant sunshine will illuminate the field. The lines will be chalked and fans will press for autographs. The smell of brats and beer will fill the air and the boys from the team representing Milwaukee will take the field. Will this team have a chance to win the pennant or will this owner be like so many before him, make money on a fan base who will support them regardless of the outcome. He will earn it on the millions who will go through Miller Park. He will earn it from broadcast and telecast, mobile and digital rights. He will earn it from the advertising in the stands and on merchandise that is sold. He will make it from those over the limit teams who will spend monies to try to win the pennant and pay the  tax. He will earn it by paying for mediocrity on the field, in the dugout and in upper management. Can you spell Masahiro? David? Or, even Prince?

It is time to …

Play Ball!

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GM Needs New Glasses

Texas Rangers trade for Prince Fielder, one of the great hitters in the game. Ken Sanders once said, ‘He has the fastest hands with the bat I have ever seen. It doesn’t matter how big he gets.”

Seattle Mariners sign Robinson Cano for $240 million, a ten year contract, lifetime subscription to the Nintendo News and a good chunk of Jim C’s ad budget. Sorry, Big Mariner.

Curtis Granderson signs with the cross town rival, New York Mets. He gets $60 million.

Boston Red Sox sign A.J. Pierzynski, an aging catcher but fans feel he looks like Carlton Fisk.

Yankees, in anticipation of losing probable PED offender, Alex Rodriguez, signed Jacoby Ellsbury for $153 million to play centerfield from the hated Red Sox. Yankees hope to save approximately $14 million this year, but not on under the counter drugs. They also signed Brian McCann from Atlanta for $85 million. Yet, they still have no third baseman.

St. Louis signs Jhonny Peraltta, a former suspended PED offender. Unusual move by this squeaky clean franchise with a holier-than-thou image. Of course, this is the home of the ‘Gashouse Gang’.

Detroit signed Joe Nathan, pitcher for the Texas Ranger, for $20 million over 2 years. Now they have the best reliever in baseball to go along with the major’s best starting pitching staff.

Baltimore is thinking about signing John Axford.

Miami signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for $21 million over three years from the World Champion Boston Red Sox. The team also signed Rafael Furcal, shortstop from the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals for $3 million.

Houston signs Scot Feldman, a right handed pitcher for 3 years and $30 million.

Washington got a new manager, Matt Williams, perhaps the best third base coach in the game.

The Angels got Don Baylor as their batting coach, perhaps the best batting coach in the game.

The D’Backs lost both Williams and Baylor. They are stuck with one of the best managers in the game, the overwhelming talented first baseman and a solid starting pitcher and a gold glove right fielder.

The Rockies got Justin Morneau for 2 years for a total of $13 million.

Kansas City got the best left handed hitter of left handed pitching in baseball in Nori Aoki. Gives them a tremendous leadoff man who wears opposing pitchers out, often taking them 8-12 pitches into the count and rarely striking out, only 40 times in 2013 out of some 600+ at bats.

Milwaukee got a … pitching reject. Oh, they also are thinking about re-signing Cory Hart who has not played in a year and one-half.

Yet they still have the worst third base coach in the major leagues, a so-so starting rotation, a non-improved bullpen, an aging third baseman, poor throwing catcher, a hopeful prospect in left field, a center fielder who probably had the best season of his career, a GM who inherited a waffle full of young talent when he came into his job (Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Braun, Hart and Vonnie) but has seen the team fade into another dream sequence of Brewer seasons past, and an owner who allows all of this to happen.

The fans in Milwaukee and Wisconsin are resilient and beyond loyal. They bleed Green & Gold, Cardinal Red & White, Green & Growing and True Blue Brew Crew. They drink beer, eat bratwursts and cheese, send their kids to school and provide plenty of milk, work hard at their jobs, go to Church on Sunday and root for the home teams like no one else. They hate the Bears, White Sox, Cardinals, the carpetbagging Braves, Ohio State and dislike those lovable Cubs. They also dislike Thanksgiving in Detroit. That’s why St. Vincent Lombardi stopped playing the Lions on that day decades ago.

These fans have heroes like few others. Johnny Blood, Don Hutson, Curly Lambeau, Bart Starr, Paul Horning, Jim Taylor, Jerry Kramer, Willie Davis, St. Vincent Lombardi, Reggie White, Bret Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Alan Ameche, Elroy Crazylegs Hirsch, Pat Richter, Barry Alveraz and Ron Dayne in football; Jon McGlocklin, Oscar Robinson, Karem Adbul Jabbar, Larry Costello, Al McGuire, Dean the Dream, Doc Rivers and Bo Ryan in basketball; Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Billy Bruton, Johnny Logan,Del Crandall, Henry Aaron, Ken Sanders, Augie Doggie, Bernie Brewer, Jim Gaintner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Vuch, Stormin Gorman, Sixto, Benji, Coop, Ben Sheets, Prince, Nori,  Rickie, Vonnie, Braunschweiger, Jean and Go-Go in baseball.

Just 50 guys who the burgers of Cream City adored in sports, 20 of whom are part of yesterday and today’s Brew Crew. Yet only the last four mentioned are hopefully at the top of their game out of a line-up of 25. Another, Nori Aoki, who only played two years in Milwaukee after years in Japan, became a fan favorite, not because he hit home runs, but because he could hit and stay in the lineup with gripping plays and excitement that reminded more than a few that he was like the ‘Igniter’ of days gone by. He was the best left handed hitter of left handed pitching in baseball. And, he wore opposing pitchers out at the plate. He was just let go for some guy who the GM has had his eye on for a couple of years.

The GM needs a new set of glasses.

Play Ball!

Can’t You See I’m Crying? Can’t You See the Tears?

It is not the cloth that we have to worry about. It is the thread that makes up the cloth. The fabric is critical. If just one strand is of poor quality it makes the entire piece cheaper. In baseball, this equates to each player who makes up a team. Often, this magic ingredient is called “chemistry”. The chemistry of the Milwaukee Nine is based on the ball and glove logo of old, strong, true blue, built through a farm system that has made every effort to make a small market team viable with good quality people and players that these fans can believe in. After all, they have lived and breathed with these young men’s progress ever since they were signed. That is what a small market team community does. It is always in search of hope and dreams to come. Ryan Braun was once believed to be the strongest thread in the entire Brewer cloth. His deterioration has not happened because he cheated. Cheats are cheats. We know how to handle them. But what has made our cloth, the fabric of what we believe in as the True Blue Brew Crew, crafted by legends like Yount, strong and rich is the belief that all is as good as the people who have made the beer, cheese and sausage that has made our land famous. To the good people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, that is as important as life itself. Nietzsche said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” You ask why?

“This is all B.S. I am completely innocent.’ Braun, Dec 2011

“I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point.” Braun, Feb 2012

“There are a lot of haters-a lot of people who doubted me and lot of people who continue to doubt me.” Braun, Feb 2012

“When you know you’re innocent of something, it’s extremely difficult to have to prove it when you’re in a process where you’re 100% guilty until proven innocent.” Braun, Feb 2012

“We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.” Braun, Feb 2012

“I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide.” Braun, Feb 2012

“I have always taken tremendous pride in my image and my reputation in being a role model and handling myself the right way and doing things the right way.” Braun, Feb 2012

“I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch.” Braun, Feb 2013

“The truth still hasn’t changed.” Braun, July 9, 2013

“I have tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that’s  who I am and that’s how I’ve always lived my life.” Braun, Feb 2012

“Lies were never innocent. Their purpose was to escape punishment, or work, or responsibility, and they were used for profit.” John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden

The improbable happened when performance enhancing drugs removed this icon in our minds. A terrible battle emerges between loyalty for the team and the loyalty for the individual. That is…team loyalty remains while loyalty for the icon diminishes until our next close encounter…at a ballpark whether the icon is still in the uniform that is familiar to us all.

The real problem remains because it wasn’t about PEDs at all. It was about this former icon’s ruthless use of fabricated truths that made so many…that made us lose faith in truth itself. What to do?

In business, we fire cheaters. Contract or not, cheaters are dealt with severely and sent packing. As for liars, we fire them. No matter what we do to them we can never trust them again. They have planted the seed of doubt. They have no more authority. They have nothing more we can trust them with.

Now, as the season is ebbing and after the season has ended, our disgust continues because of the reminders…because Braun brought into his sleeve of lies another stalwart hero of this land, Aaron Rodgers.

He Braunschweigered Aaron to profess his innocence.

How could you? How could you lie to others to get them to profess your alleged innocence?

“Lies are never innocent.”

Go away. I am hurt. Can’t you see I am hurt? You lied to me. You lied to all of us. I don’t want to see you at Maryvale this coming Spring. It would mean that the Season of Braunschweiger, the Lost Season of Lie, will become the Spring of Doubt. We want to see Nori in right; Cory at first; GoGo in center; Jean at short. We want to see Luc behind the plate and Aramis at third and Rickie at second. We want to see Khris or Logan or anybody in left. We don’t want to see you. We don’t want to see you at all.

Spring is about hope, not doubt and dope. Get out. Get out before all of the disdain of your lies come heaping down on the team I love, we all love. These are the hopes brought about by Bambi’s Bombers, Harvey’s Wallbangers…legends of our youth and of our dreams. These are the guys Cooper made the hit for. These are the guys Rollie came in and saved. These are guys Augie, Mollie, Simba and Sanders fought to bring the dream. Guys like Gimby, Vuch and Stormin, Juan and Sixto created and allowed the dream to grow and what Oglivie made the catch in Baltimore for. Get out. Go to where all liars go to live…in a castle of themselves surrounded by a moat of never-ending lies.

All of this was revisited this past week when the Cardinals came to town and the TV announcing crew from the St. Louis side brought up the issue again. None of the other PEDboys were mentioned. They just centered upon our former left fielder and how it will burden the team with his long-term contract strangling a small market team.

Welcome to our new world. Welcome to our new life. Thanks for the joy you are bringing to all of us. I am hurting now. We are all hurting. We can no longer see the pennant in our future. We now are on food stamps to get free food at the ballpark because management, who also believed and trusted in you, doesn’t want us to abandon the team like you have done to our City…our team.

We haven’t. We won’t.

Get out. Can’t you see I’m crying? Can’t you see my tears? Can you not see that we can no longer see the dreams of our future? We need freedom…freedom away from you. We need space where you do not exist. We just need to have the guys we believe in to just….

Play Ball!