In an effort of gigantic proportion, the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club in an attempt to sign every single minor league player in the universe, traded one of their remaining veterans, Aaron Hill to the Boston Red Sox this week for two minor leaguers they did not have, one a 27 year old rehab pitcher and the other a poor hitting infielder. We do not give names in this column for fear we will never hear of them…again.
Thus the tale. There are a couple of veterans remaining. They are all trade bait to find out if a community will come out to a stadium to watch players they have no attachment to. One of the remaining veterans is Mr. Chris Carter who on Friday hit his 21st and 22nd home run this season to put him in position to be the first player to hit 40 home runs in a season since the days of Ryan Braun when he was using…the stuff that reduces pain which nobody ever takes. Ah…those were the days. For Mr Carter, he is now a marked man for one, Mr. Stearns, the neophyte general manager of the Cream City Nine, to showcase in his talks with the clubs who have the few remaining non-Brewer minor leaguers available. In a most unusual method of rebuilding a team, it is the ‘If I own them all, I can control them all’ newbie philosophy of baseball rebuild, this first year General Manager is attempting to make his mark and reshape the entire way baseball thinks about rebuilding teams. Amazingly, in the Hill trade, they still will have to pay the remainder of Mr. Hill’s salary along with an added $1 million bonus Mr. Hill earned when traded. But, the GM did get two more minor leaguers for his trophy case.
Besides Mr. Carter, he has ‘Scooter Gannett, Ryan Braun and the ever popular Jonathan Lucroy to trade yet this season to make it a complete rebuild of names of major leaguers. For Milwaukee fans come August, you really won’t be able to tell who is on the team without a program, which the Brewers will begin to charge for seeing a new way of revenue generation for this new generation of Brewer fans who will follow anything on the field of play as long as the beer and brats availability don’t run out.
As for the owner, he is usually relaxing in his Southern California home running his other business and phoning it in. But he was sighted in his box next to the Crew’s dugout on Saturday. He isn’t worrying. He is about to make a ton of money once the MLABAM deal with Disney closes later this year.
Yup. Quite a year in Pigsville. They have a team with no names…with many more to come up because of the bulging numbers in the minors…and an always smiling happy owner who doesn’t have to live in the Potawatomi ‘Gathering Place By The Water’ and hear the discontent populace quietly complain on talk radio about the shambles he has put on the field under the guise of ‘rebuilding’ yet again.
Besides, he is getting fabulously rich. The MLBAM deal is massive and will give him more than he paid for the franchise and then some. But fans you don’t mind our very own Trump-ian making all that money. After all, he bought the team from the original owners family and kept them in Milwaukee.
Besides, he does give to charity. And he does own a house/condo in Milwaukee.
As for Mr Carter, all off those home runs you have been hitting this season just puts a mark on your back. You are about to be shifted out of here for players to be named later.
That’s what it appears Mr. Stearns does best. He is a collector of minor leaguers. And in his way of thinking, if he owns and controls them all, other teams will eventually have to come to him to get their players in the future.
Only one problem.
Does anyone want the bunch of unproven, over-the-hill has-beens he has collected?
The design of life, leads to death. This is caused by the body when it stops breathing. No oxygen. No life. The body is made up of Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Chlorine, Sodium, Magnesium with fractions of Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium and Florine. Then there is the next step.
In baseball, teams are born and designed with chemistry. They are dependent up young, dynamic players who are eager to prove themselves in The Show and older players who are eager to win one last time. For many, it would be the first time to reach the top of the mountain. The team is made of rookies, journeymen and stars. It is usually put together by a general manager who molds the team for just the right moment to explode upon the scene and win. The team is led by an experienced baseball man who understands the nuisances of the game and who has majored in psychology of life. This last part is critical. As it is up to him to bring a team to peak performance, each and every day, by making sure the right words are said to the right players at the right time. For instance, as Orel Hershiser recently commented during a Dodger telecast, Tommy Lasorda made sure his players did everything possible to win the big game. And to Lasorda, every game was THE big game.
If any part of this preparatory does not work, the team will fail to reach its full potential and win a Pennant.
The next step is in the simplest of terms, Purgatory…a place where old teams go to become ready for their next life. It is a place for cleansing and a time of emptiness as many of the fans who once went to the stadium no longer fill the seats as they are fully aware that this team has no present. And, in a society that is bent on making it happen now, patience is not a virtue. Thus the dichotomy. Purgatory is not a good place for a baseball owner. That is why he is reluctant to make changes.
The Milwaukee Brewers are headed for Purgatory, not in Utah, but metaphorically. When the last great class graduated from AAA (that’s Triple A baseball) and headed to Cream City, fellows like Hart and Weeks, Fielder, Gallardo and Braun made Miller Park one of the most exciting places on the planet. They had All-Star talent with a spirit of success in every stage of their baseball developmental lives. They won where ever they went. They invented new ways to celebrate home runs (see above) and made the faithful believers. They made runs at the top, several times, but never finishing higher than the final game of the National League playoff. So close. So painfully ghostly.
Today the team is faced with the errors of the past, the sins of gluttony. They mortgaged their farm system talent to make one last run at a playoff berth over the past few years. Last year, as three of the last of the Great Quintet came back for the ring, hope turned into absolute horror as two were in their finals days in a Brewer uniform and the other coming back from banishment, seeking absolution for his sins. That dream faded like a discarded ice cube left outside on the pavement of an Arizona summer’s day. Now it is time for Purgatory. It is time to rebuild. But that will not be easy to accomplish because they lack both quality prospects down on the farm (not Stanford but the minor leagues) and tradeable veterans. Their cupboard is bare. While the fans are hungry for victory, there are no brats on the grills with Secret Stadium Sauce nor beer on tap. That is what Purgatory is like for the Pigsville Phaithful.
The A’s have Billy who can pull magic from a dry fountain and relieve the thirst of defeat. The Cubs have Theo who brought the searchers out of the near hundred-old-desert of defeats in Beantown. The Brewers need minds like these to move out of Purgatory in our time. They need new leadership to have the insight of Rickey (Branch, not Weeks) and the dugout tenacity of McGraw (John not Tug) whom Connie Mack once stated, ‘There has been only one manager – and his name is McGraw’.
Where do we find them…those people who are winners in their design and execution of baseball management? How do we rebuild with such a poor hand that is delt? How long will it take to turn it around, if that is even a certainty in a land so barren of pennants? And, perhaps even more important considering its market size, can Milwaukee compete ever again? This is a town where half of the television signal goes to the fishes to the East and cows to the North and West. What kind of TV deal can it negotiate? All it has going for it right now is a face of the team sitting on the DL and nearly 3 million fans who will show up in a snow storm. And the guy in right field who is trying to play ball under a constant ring of ‘Mea Culpa’.
We are now entering the next phase of a team’s baseball life. And the chants are clear…’Mea Culpa’…they are silently praying for someone with Devine intervention to hear. We are all #watchingattanasio. ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’. It is time for cleansing. It is bead-time in this council grounds of the Potawatomi, this gathering land the Algonquian called beautiful land. All we want is a hope to win and…
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.