Tipping Pitches: Trying to be a Reasonably Emotional Brewers Fan


Friday, April 16, 2010

Trying to be a Reasonably Emotional Brewers Fan

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I am a Brewers fan. By definition, I have endured years of torment. Things were pretty good in the early years of my fandom, followed by more years of bottom dwelling than any one fan should ever endure.

I'm generally a pretty passionate dude. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I root hard for my teams, and I take it way too personally when things don't go well.

But I'm also getting older, more reflective, and more realistic. Now that the Brewers come into each season with some sense of optimism, I still don't demand a World Series or even the playoffs. I hope for it, but I realize much needs to go their way.

But the passionate side of me wants to break something about now. After 10 games, the Brewers have won four games and lost six. It's not even that they've lost six games that bothers me. This is nothing. It's how they lost them.

Two of the losses came to the Cardinals when the game was in the Brewers' back pocket. A lead in the ninth, Trevor Hoffman just has to shut the door. Once a one run lead with two outs, the other a three run lead. Both times, losses. Painfully.

Two more losses came when the Brewers had leads in the eighth. The previously reliable LaTroy Hawkins, each time, melted down to allow multiple runs and cough up the game. Each time, he was singled to death. One time against the hated Cubs.

Before today's heart-breaking loss, I had a talk with my eight year-old son that there's nothing to worry about. Anything can happen. They could start out 10-0 or 0-10, but that doesn't mean anything.

It's true, but I don't know how a fan can continue to endure losses on this painful scale so close together. You can be reasonable for just so long before worry sets in.

My biggest concern with this team isn't even the bullpen. It's not the offense, the one positive in an otherwise rough start.

It would be easy to say it's the bullpen, but that's too easy and obvious. Yes, they've coughed up leads repeatedly, but you can make a very reasonable argument that the bullpen will eventually be a strength of this team. No, there is something else here.

The offense won't always be perfect. The pitching won't always be great. But there are two constants with good teams: Solid defense and fundamentals. This team lacks both. As a result, it puts them in a position like they were in tonight where the game was close enough to blow a lead in the first place.

There should have been a large lead in the eighth. The Brewers reached base 12 times. In seven at bats with runners in scoring position, they managed a hit only once.

Carlos Gomez failed to put down a bunt four times. He also was doubled up -- stupidly -- off of second to end a rally in the eighth.

So they couldn't get the big hit and they couldn't execute fundamentally. But even then, this game could have been won. With a one run lead, Hawkins gave up an infield single on a weakly hit ball to third before hitting Josh Willingham. After a successfully executed bunt, Adam Kennedy drove in two runs on a single under the glove of Prince Fielder.

The thing is, it's called a "single" in the box score, but good first basemen make that play. He makes it, and there are two outs and still a one run lead. Granted, Will Nieves fallowed with a weak single of his own, but it's a different situation that could have ended with a different result.

And maybe the Brewers still lose that game, but it underscores the problem: This team can hit, but the lack of fundamentals and defense give the pitching little room for error. They may be fine if the pitching is average, but anywhere below average (or way below average, as they've been so far), and this team is in trouble.

I want to be clear that when I say "fundamentals" I am not suggesting the Brewers need to bunt or steal more often (many interpret such a word this way). I'm simply suggesting smart, sound baseball. It doesn't mean getting cute with unnecessary strategy. It just means not making repeated mistakes.

The offense will be up and down throughout the season, as will the pitching. But defense and fundamentals will carry you through rough times when hitting or pitching are not so strong.

I fear that these are two qualities that this team cannot improve. Which means they will rely on three things: 1) An exceptional offense, 2) an average pitching staff, and 3) luck.

Now, I'm a bit emotional after this loss, and I generally brush off a bad game or bad stretch of games while others claim the sky is falling. But I don't like that formula. The sky may not be falling, but it sure ain't sturdy.


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