Monday, August 11, 2008

My Team: The Milwaukee Brewers

Everybody has their favorite baseball team. Well, not everybody, but any self-respecting fan of the game. Usually it's the local team. Now, I like the Giants well enough, but I can't say they are necessarily the team whose box scores I immediately rush to read whenever I get home. No, ladies and gentlemen. The team whose every loss and win means life or death to me:

The Milwaukee Brewers.

The Milwaukee Brewers. Just the sound of it can send my fluttering soul into melodious rapture. The sheer sight of a Ryan Braun home run clearing the outfield wall of Miller Park can brighten the drearest of my foggy evenings. The thrill of grumpy Ned Yost sauntering out to the mound to pull a flustered Eric Gagne can warm my cold, lifeless blood. Thoughts of the 6th inning sausage race, or of Bernie Brewer waving his flag and sliding onto his podium after every home run, haunt my dreams.

Then there are the players. Their names almost represent some Midwest, freckle-faced boy's adolescent fantasy of baseball player names: Ryan Braun. Prince Fielder. Corey Hart. J.J. Hardy. Rickie Weeks. Ben Sheets. Russell Branyan. Gabe Kapler. You couldn't make these up if you tried. Their manager's first name is Ned, for crying out loud.

Why the Brewers? Why the Brewers? Because, in a sea of underdogs, they are the underdogs of the underdogs. They are the nothings who have waited for twenty years to finally be somethings. They are the forgotten men, the unsung heroes, the last icons of all that is noble and true. Their dramas are my dramas, their victories, my victories.

For years the Brewers were a joke. Who remembered that Milwaukee even had a baseball franchise? Surely not me. Until last season, that is, when the Brew Crew came storming out of the gate and took an impressive lead in the National League Central. All of a sudden it was like they had a whole slew of young players who'd seemingly come out of nowhere to rescue the team from irrelevance. Of course, with some exceptions, you can't just turn your team around in one season flat, and naturally the Brewers choked it pretty good down the stretch, ultimately finishing second place in the division to the Cubs.

The Cubs. The Cubs. Is there a more pathetic sports franchise in the entire universe than the Chicago Cubs? Oh, how they'd like to think that they are the true underdogs of the NL Central, that they are the most deserving recipients of your undying sympathy in this situation. But the Cubs will only toss your hopes and dreams into the toilet, leaving you soggy and crusty as you sink your way to the bottom of the bowl like so many used tampons. Yes, it's hard to root against the Cubs. But I do.

You see, the Cubs frittered away that playoff berth to the Arizona Diamondbacks in three quick, easy games. They did not deserve that playoff spot last year. They do not deserve it this year.

The Brewers, on the other hand, have gone twenty-six years without even making a playoff appearance (as "Harvey's Wallbangers," they reached the 1982 World Series, but lost in seven games). Cubs fans have no sympathy from me. Brewers fans are the ones who could truly savor a division title or a wild card berth. If the Cubs could win the World Series? Then fine. But otherwise it's a waste. A bloody waste.

Most of all, the Cubs have no personality. As far as I'm concerned, they're a collection of empty rent-a-players. The Brewers are like the gang of eager little youngsters with a serious inferiority complex. They'll go on a five-game winning streak, only to slide right into a five-game losing streak. They'll jump up and down when they're winning, and then pout and sulk when they're losing. They are the very personification of every man who ever wanted to turn his life around but feared he could not.

Even though the Schlubs took the division last year, The Brew Crew did manage (by four games) to claim their first winning season since 1992. No, it wasn't the World Series, but after eons of mediocrity, it was...progress. It was progress, God damn it. You see, in Major League Baseball, a fan does not expect his or her team to win the World Series or even necessarily make the playoffs. What he or she simply asks is that the team, until the end of the season, at the very least, stays in it. And for the first time in years, the Brewers stayed in it.

Now it is 2008, and not only are the Brewers still in it, they're lodging themselves up other teams' asses. They're eating National League squads for breakfast. They're making the other clubs wish they'd never even heard of Ned Yost. Forget the question of a "winning record"; the question now is "by how much?" Oh, they could still blow it, all right. But the point is...they're freaking in it. They swept the Cardinals on the road (incredible) only to be swept by the Cubs at home (embarrassing). Apparently Cubs fans call Miller Park "Wrigley North." Sick. Truly sick. As for the Cardinals, well, as one FoxSports message board poster once put it, "The only thing Tony LaRussa knows how to manage is the clubhouse bar."

Besides, it's not whether or not you win, but how you play. The player who provides at least half the entertainment, as far as I'm concerned, is 24-year-old first baseman Prince Fielder (pictured above). Prince Fielder is...fat. I mean fat. It's amazing the guy can even get out of his car, let alone run to first base. Kirby Puckett could fit inside him.

Fielder's weight has become a favorite source of humor for the Onion, which, having formerly been based in Wisconsin, must hold a special affection for the Brewers. When Fielder hit an inside-the-park home run in Minnesota last year (footage that must be seen to be believed), the Onion published the headline "Prince Fielder dies of inside-the-park home run."

Although one might assume that Fielder pounds it down like a hippopotamus, apparently he is shying away from the steaks these days; he shocked the entire baseball world when he announced at the beginning of the 2008 season that he was becoming a vegetarian. Now, I am no expert in the category, but Prince Fielder has to be the fattest vegetarian I have ever seen. I mean lay off the tofu burgers buddy.

His father, Cecil Fielder, also a rather portly slugger, once hit 51 home runs in a season for the Tigers, and then proceeded to squander all his earnings and accrue massive gambling debts. Prince and Cecil are no longer on speaking terms. When Prince hit his 50th home run last season (becoming the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to ever do so), a reporter asked him if he was pleased. He replied that he'd have been more pleased if he'd hit 52 home runs in a season - one more than his father ever did. Easy there, doughboy!

Fielder's temper once again revealed itself last Monday, when pitcher Manny Parra, after imploding on the mound after six perfect innings, decided to walk into the clubhouse instead of back into the dugout to sit and sulk with the rest of the team. When Parra finally did come back into the dugout, Fielder busted a gasket and flew at him in a rage, eventually having to be restrained by about twelve other players (here's the video). I mean, that's a lot of Brewer coming at you right there. The fans on the FoxSports message boards got quite creative with this one. Some favorites:

That will teach Parra not to eat the last Hostess cake in the dugout.

Yep, too many fresh veggies. Flavinoid rage.

He was just pizzed off cause he lost his bet on the Brat winning the race... it cost him his 7th inning lunch break.

Anger does NOT = passion and intesity. Eat a burger and calm down chubs.

Who knew veggie heads got into fights?Speaking of heads,look at the size of ol prince's noggin. The skull to ear ratio is way outta wack.

Someone said Fielder is a vegetarian, that can't be possible, you don't get that FAT eating carrots, that s got to be a joke. He looks like he puts away a dozen Hot dogs between innings.

Fielder is just Pissed off because the Brewers didn't give him a fat contract in the spring which is what he thought he deserved for playing a couple descent years, He needs more money for food, he probably spends most of his salary on it.

the brewers should go to the doctor. i think they have a yost infection. thank you. i'll be here all week.

sounds like they have the experience it takes to blow another season

Maybe if the fat ---- Fielder dropped 30 pounds he could actually reach a grounder that was more than six inches away. Maybe the pitchers could sprinkle some chocolate chips closer to the second baseman as incentive.

You see, this is why I love this team.

The incredible thing is, though, that as of July, Fielder is possibly no longer the heaviest member of the Brewers; that honor might now go to starting pitcher CC Sabathia. Sabathia, the reigning Cy Young Award winner (read: best pitcher in one of the two leagues), pitched the Cleveland Indians into the playoffs last year, but once the Indians began tanking early in 2008, the club decided to trade CC mid-season while they could still receive some players in return (otherwise he would have left at the end of the year as a free agent). Baseball reporters were gearing up for at least a week's worth of trade rumor banter: will it be the Yankees? Red Sox? Dodgers? Within about a day it was announced that CC had been traded to...the Brewers. The Brewers? Cha-ching! Why? Because the Brewers had the prospects in their farm system and the other teams had squat. Sabathia has now proceeded to post five wins and three complete games. He's like an automatic break for the bullpen. Quite why he is so good, I have no idea. But who cares? There's no way in hell he'll be coming back next year (the Brewers won't be able to afford to sign him), but hey, let's enjoy it while it lasts. And how much do you want to bet that as soon as he's on the Yankees or Red Sox he'll choke under the weight of his own monstrous salary?

At any rate, Fielder and Sabathia have become fast buddies. "I'm like his mini-me," Fielder commented three days ago after another complete game from CC. "When he's out there, I just get excited." The Onion has promptly issued another piece entitled, "CC Sabathia, Prince Fielder Keep Imagining Each Other As Giant Talking Hot Dog, Hamburger." Some choice excerpts:

Team insiders say the problem has become a serious disruption, with numerous incidences of each player tying a bib around his neck, holding a knife and fork in their outstretched hands, and chasing the other around the ballpark.

"I was using the hot tub to ease some soreness the other day with Prince, who had nodded off, when C.C. came in carrying these grocery bags," said third baseman Bill Hall. "I had just noticed that something smelled really good when I realized that C.C. was cutting up vegetables and throwing them in the hot tub with Prince, alongside plenty of noodles and spices, to make some sort of hamburger casserole." Luckily, Fielder woke up before the mixture thickened and retaliated by attempting to trap Sabathia in the steam room along with a bag of mesquite-flavored grilling charcoal.

Oh, but this is more than a two-man team, my friends. You've also got reigning NL Rookie of the Year winner and 2008 All-Star Ryan Braun (a.k.a. the Hebrew Hammer), who hit 34 homers in his rookie season - and he hadn't even started playing until late May! He also has weird creepy bug eyes (and he's currently out with back spasms). Then there's (soon-to-be teen heartthrob) shortstop J.J. Hardy, sporting the classic square-jawed look we haven't seen the likes of since Giants legend Will Clark. He can hit home runs too - and he's a shortstop! You've got Corey Hart in right field, who probably should be playing in an Orange County ska-punk band but is instead batting .284 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs (and is actually from Kentucky). Journeyman catcher Jason Kendall, surprise closer Salomon Torres, perennially disgruntled veteran Bill Hall...the list goes on.

Oh, and you like home runs? The Brewers can hit some home runs. Already they have eight players who've hit more than 10. To put that in perspective, the Giants currently players who've hit more than 10. The Brew Crew can't field so well, but any runs they give up on errors they gain back just as quickly on offense. In essence.

Maybe they'll come up short. Maybe they'll implode. But God damn it, win or lose, they are my team. Every pudgy pound.

Bonus: A charmingly goofy interview with Sabathia, in which the interviewer brings up the Onion story and asks a nearby J.J. Hardy what the deal is with everybody's abbreviated first names. (Q: When you look at Ryan Braun, what food comes to mind? CC: Food-wise [laughs]. Gosh. Braun, probably, a steak. He's got a lot of ribbies — ribeyes, RBIs [178 in his first 217 career games] — so, I guess, a medium-rare steak.)


Herr Zrbo said...

Too much text, I'll get back to you in a few days when I'm finished reading it to tell you what I think.

Little Earl said...

That's because...there's TOO MUCH AWESOMENESS to write about!

Besides, I don't see you posting anything.

Herr Zrbo said...

Sorry, between a weeks vacation and moving this past weekend I've been pretty busy. I'm working on something though, might be up later today.