There Was Still A Chance.



The chance was still there and it was in their hands. But as the manager made the decision to insert a rookie in his first Major League start, brought up in the September call-up from Huntsville in AA ball, to play first, it seems as though it was not in their hands. On one of the easiest 5-4-3 double play opportunities, the newbie could not catch the very catchable throw from second. Error on the 1st baseman for dropping the ball. It was discovered that his glove did not work. Thus the reason he is called a minor leaguer. The door opened for the Cincinnati Reds to pull ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth-to-last game of the season and they took a 3-2 lead which they never relinquished.

This was an important game.

In fact, it was one of the most important games of the year.

The manager again did something that has eluded him from past mistakes. When this team has more veteran first basemen than any other team, why start someone who isn’t even #5 on the depth chart? The manager continues to make moves to lose, not to win. But it isn’t just the manager and his coaching staff that are less than adequate.

The veteran second baseman committed yet another fielding error when he failed to field a pop up.

Again, the veteran second baseman committed his second error, and the team’s third in the game, by making a wild throw to second.

The second year shortstop who brought us so much hope before this year, stayed on the ground rather than rush to the ball to control the game. A mental error.

The season ended at Great American ballpark on the banks of the Ohio River.

The catcher was left in the game to see if he could hit some sort of record double, again leaving the backup catcher sitting on the bench. The catcher, who has been attempting to get this double for a week, would break an existing record of a catcher leading his league in doubles. Hasn’t been done for quite a while. Let’s go after some records rather than try to win a game that could keep you in the hunt.

The right fielder looked tired. For the first time in his career, his bat looked too long…too big for him to catch up to a 95+ mph heater. In a season which greeted him with catcalls throughout the games wherever the team went, he progressively broke down physically at first with a hand injury and a hammy, a this or that which a season is made of. But this season, in an effort to blow all of the negative thoughts out of his head, it became clear to his loyal fans, he no longer was the player he used to be. The center fielder, playing with more heart and soul than anyone on the team gave his all, that Go Go spirit, played hurt down the stretch, and just hit pop ups, no more slashing singles turning into doubles as he had early in the season to bring him All-Star status. Scooter just hit shallow pop flys. Rickie, at bat, hit. In the field, he was not such a hit.

Why all the concern over a baseball team? When one follows a team and a home town with a team for most of their lives, an attachment grows. It boils in the blood. It reaches the heart. It possesses the soul. There is a bond of escape filled with moments of joy and wonder that are the adrenaline of the spot. But if you are a Milwaukee Brewers fan, if you are one of the faithful of the Cream City Nine, it has been 57 years since the City was presented with a World Champion in baseball from its team. Two owners. Fifty-Seven years. In dog years, that’s more than four dog lifetimes. It is almost incomprehensible that a team, outside of those hapless loveable Northsiders of Chicago, can go through such a drought with players like Joe Torre, Tony Cloninger, Roy McMillan of the old Braves and Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Don Money, Robin Yount, Ben Oglivie, Teddy Higuera, Gorman Thomas, Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers, Ken Sanders, Jerry Augustine, Sal Bando, Dante Bichette, Chris Bosio, Jeremy Burnitz, Mike Caldwell, Jeff Cirillo, Craig Counsell, Rob Deer, Billy Hall, Darryl Hamilton, JJ Hardy, Tommy Harper, Cory Hart, Mike Hegan, Larry Hisle, Trevor Hoffman, Geoff Jenkins, Sixto Lezcano, Mike Methany, Davey May, Bob McClure, Charlie Moore, Jaime Navarro, Juan Nieves, Lyle Overbay, Dan Plesac, Darrell Porter, Francisco Rodriguez, George Scott, Richie Sexson, Gary Sheffield, BJ Surhoff, Fernando Vina, Pete Vuckovich, Greg Vaughn, Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, Aarmis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Zach Greinke, Ryan Braun, Jonathon Lucroy and a host of other fine players. Perhaps Fred Haney was the only real manager this City ever had. Most of the rest were losers. OK. Even if Bambi and Harvey didn’t bring us the World Championship, they did bring us near the pinnacle once. Once! That’s it. One League Pennant which was brought home when Coop did a Jeter.

There can only be one conclusion. And it is one that rips at the heart of everyone who cherishes Cream City.

It’s the water.

To many that is a sacrilege. ‘Go to the confessional immediately.’ they say. ‘Blastphemer’, they can be heard yelling. ‘Step on his face and twist’, they shouted. ‘Don’t say that. You’re making our city look bad’, others murmured under their breath honoring the guiding word of Sister Ramegia.

But consider this. When the Milwaukee Braves won the World Championship in 1957, Schlitz was the #1 beer. Enough said.

At one time the water in Milwaukee was great. Grandma would say, ‘Just drink from the tap. Its that good.’ City fathers would point with pride to their many beers brewed with the great water. There was Fox Head 400, Blatz, the city’s favorite (‘Blatz is Milwaukee’s finest beer.’), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Gettelman, Miller and many, many more.

But one should not forget what the native Potowatami’s called this special place, remembering that the Milwaukee area was originally inhabited by the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) native American tribes. The name “Milwaukee” comes from an Algonquian word ‘Millioke’, meaning “Good”, “Beautiful” and “Pleasant Land”. That’s what many natives believe and they all follow the Chamber of Commerce pledge: ‘Never give St. Louis the opportunity to hold one over on us. They make rice beer…pretend beer.’

Yet there is a rumor, buried along side of Jacob Best in the Forest Home Cemetery that there is a piece of paper which says that when he talked to a native in Juneautown when he began to brew his first frothy drink, that the name ‘Millioke’ meant: land of stinking water.

Come on. Monks made beer because the water was bad. Boiled water with some wheat, barley and hops purified the drink. Have no idea what rice does to it. Never drank that stuff from the Mississippi River.

So kids, take heart. The former Brewers who make up a good number of the Kansas City Royals, escaped the plight of Cream City and are now in the playoffs. Congratulations to Nori Aoki, one of the best right fielders we ever had is tied for the second best hitter on the Royals. Congratulations to Alcides Escobar, one of the best young shortstops we ever had, is tied for the second best hitter on the Royals. Congratulations to Lorenzo Cain, one of the best outfield prospects we every had and is the best hitter on the Royals and the third best base stealer on the Royals. Congratulations to Dale Sveum, the Royals hitting coach, former Brewer and the best manager the Brewers ever had. Congratulations to Nedly Yost, a former player and manager of the Crew who almost did it, guiding the Crew to two winning seasons, their first in 11 years, before being relieved of his duties 16 games above .500. Sixteen games ABOVE .500. Oh, Mike Jirschele, the Royals third base coach, is from Clintonville. Doug Henry, the Royals bullpen coach, a former Brewer, lives in Hartland. They no longer have to drink the water. They are in the playoffs. The Brewers aren’t.

Play Ball.

But not in Milwaukee this post-season.

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!