Monday, March 31, 2008

That's How You Start a Season

It's one thing to come home and write a few thoughts about a Spring Training game that I didn't get the chance to watch. It's another thing to sit through five hours of a rollercoaster Opening Day game and try to turn those thoughts into a sensible blog posting. I like it much better the second way.

What a game this was today. And it's going to be like this with the Brewers and Cubs all year. That last series of the season is going to decide something, whether its the NL Central or a Wild Card birth remains to be seen. But the race between these two clubs is going to be back and forth like today's game all year, and hopefully like today, the Brewers will come out on top.

First off, I headed out to a sports bar with a few friends around 1pm and thought for certain the game was going to be called off. From what I saw of the forecast and the pictures on FSN, I thought this one was going to have to wait until tomorrow. But when the skies cleared up and the first pitch was thrown, I was just as relieved as anyone that Opening Day would truly be that for fans of Milwaukee and Chicago.

In between a few rain delays (if you watched the FSN feed, we'll never know who the top best damn dynamic duo was), a terrific baseball game was played. A pitchers duel until the 9th inning, when the offenses of both teams took over. So much that this game wouldn't be enough for nine innings. I have a lot of thoughts about the game today, so I'm going to break them up player by player. Posts won't always be like this, and won't always be this long. But when I'm lucky enough to sit down and watch an entire game, they're going to take a few minutes to read. Let's go through some performances today.

Rickie Weeks - 0 for 3 - Tough day for our lead off hitter. Played decent defensively however. Thought he might kill Howry when he got hit.

Tony Gwynn Jr. - 2 for 3 - You're not going to see more shakier 2 for 3 performances than the one Tony Gwynn Jr. put forth today. Nevertheless, he did get two hits, the game winning RBI, and the game clinching (great) catch in center. If we can't have Cameron for 25 games, I will gladly take performances like this out of Gwynn. Bucky Channel's obvious player of the game.

Prince Fielder - 1 for 4 - Finally got going near the end with a big hit. Had a questionable call at first when he was fielding, but he needs to touch the bad instead of going for the jersey. Whether he was safe or out, the baserunner is normally going to get that call when you field it like that.

Ryan Braun - 1 for 5 - Scored a big run at the end of the 9th, and I loved how jacked he was about it. Earlier I wondered if it would be J.J. Hardy that would eventually get with Brewers sideline girl Trenni Kusnierek, but her and Braun seemed to have some chemistry doing their postgame interview tonight.

Bill Hall - 1 for 4 - Modest performance. Looked very comfortable back at 3rd.

Corey Hart - 1 for 4 - Was busy in right field today, did well. Two run double should have sealed the game, but didn't.

J.J. Hardy - 0 for 4 - Uninspiring performance at the plate.

Gabe Gross - 0 for 1 - I love Gabe.

Craig Counsell - 1 for 1 - I wasn't thrilled when I saw Jason Kendall batting ninth in the lineup today after Ben Sheets, but I guess the experiment was a success today, because of Craig Counsell. He pinch hit a double in the 8th spot in the top of the 10th, where Kendall normally would be. Had Kendall batted eight, and Craig pinched in the 9th spot, the result would have likely been different. The problem I have with this move is that even though it may have worked today, there will be days it completely backfires. And I feel the circumstances will be about even. If that's the case, why not just stick to the traditional lineup? I still just think its Ned Yost overthinking here, but so far, he's right. By the way, that double in the 10th from Craig was clutch.

Gabe Kapler - 0 for 0 - Defensive subsitution for Braun, not a bad idea. Gets him in the box score.

Ben Sheets - Another strong Opening Day peformance out of Sheets. 6 1/3 innings pitched with 2 hits and 7 strikeouts. This is what we need out of our ace, and today was a key example of why. Everyone enjoy Ben's final year as a Brewer! (maybe not, but likely enough)

Solomon Torres - Solid outing from our new relief staff (mostly).

Guillermo Mota - I could not have been more impressed with his performance today, I really couldn't have been.

Eric Gagne - Alright. Let's not jump to conclusion too quickly on Gagne. For as bad as the first few batters went, he did compose himself and close out the inning, and looked good doing it. However, giving up that 3 run homer to Fukudome reminded every Brewer fan of bullpen issues of the past, and it wasn't the best way to make your debut. That said, he did get the cheapest win in Brewers history, but let's not cast Gagne away too quickly (although my text message box is filled with messages like "we paid 10 million for this?")

David Riske - I love deep fantasy drafts. Started Riske for WHIP, end up with a save.

Bear - The man that helps me write this blog was able to attend the game today down in Wrigley. The Wrigely experience is something in its own, I can't imagine the atmosphere on Opening Day, especially if you sit behind Bonnie Hunt as Bear did. Here are some thoughts from him when talking to him earlier tonight:

"Wow, Cubs fans are delusional.... seriously, that town was just devisated after the game... holding their "ITS GONNA HAPPEN" signs. People were talking about the Cubs winning 100 games, we were all like you gotta be kidding me. One of the guys to my right was like, ive been watching games for a long time here and this is the best lineup weve ever had. Oh really... its better than Sandberg, Dawson, and Grace? Come on. 99 years since they're last WS and they think that because of that and every analyst loving the Cubs that they are are a sure bet.

Then after the game, people giving us shit saying Wisconsin lost to a mid major, and others yelled Favre blows and the Packers were 0-2 versus the Bears last year. I hate Cubs fans"

I gotta say, Bear is right in that aspect. Everytime I've been around Cubs fans after a loss they start bringing up other sports. Why do you guys do that? Why can't you just accept the loss and realize there are 161 MORE GAMES LEFT! Going 0-2 to the Bears means nothing to a team that was one win away from the Super Bowl, and talking smack about Wisconsin, after they beat Illinois in the Big Ten Tourney Finals, makes no sense. But we digress...

It wasn't the prettiest of wins, and it was hard to deal with the Cub fan I was watching the game with (although a dear friend, and not nearly as obnoxious as the fans Bear ran into), it was a very satisfying Opening Day win. From the game Sunday night between the Nationals and Braves, to the continuous flow of games on television today, how can you not love Opening Day. Even though there was a time in my life where I wasn't the biggest fan of baseball (as I've stated in a December post), I couldn't have been more happy to have it return in full today. And a Brewers win was icing on the cake.

Box Score.

TBC's Player of the Game: Tony Gwynn Jr. (1)


Bear said...

I will say this about Wrigley... The stadium itself is in shambles. But the energy of the crowd, the field itself, ernie banks, opening day, the pre-game festivities... It was a surreal experience. I definately appreciate the field for what the history and what it means, but honestly; nets holding up concrete, obstructed views, seats on top of roof tops that can't even see the infield, even part of the Cubs front office is in an old donut shop. There is gotta be something they can do.

It was clear that Cubs fans are passionate, because most of the crowd stood for a good 2 innings of the game when added up, the crowd was loud, and it didn't seem like a social event this time as it has in the past. But like I told Bart, the general crowd after the game was just completely devistated. You could really tell though that these fans feel like they are invincible. When they lost, it was like the whole crowd was just told that their seemingly loyal wife of 25 years is actually a drug peddling whore with a slew of boyfriends. Just disbelief. Believe me when I say the group I was with didn't cock off or anything, we gave each other the obligitory high fives and knuckle bashes and headed toward the aisles... then came the volley of Badger, Packer, and Favre insults. It really wasn't unexpected. I know a bunch of people from the Chicago area and they are all the same, when a team gets beat they shift there focus elsewhere, even if to mock the Bucks and tell us how great Jordan and the Bulls are. Nice, 80's and 90's sports, thanks ESPN classic.

Jessie said...

I've had food thrown at me for clapping for my Brewers at Wrigley Field. Applause, people.

Tony said...

I admit it...I'm a jack-ass of a Cubs fan, but I'm not as bad as most. I'm really happy when the Cubs win because I've gotten used to them losing all the time. I don't like losing...but you get used to it.

Anonymous said...

I don't like losing...but you get used to it

sounds like a red sox fan. whoa is me my team always loses. cubs fans feed off this curse crap just like sox fans before they lost. the brewers havent been to the playoffs in 25 years, but fans dont talk about it because they dont take a secret pleasure in their misery look unbearable sox and cubs fans.

Anonymous said...

before the sox won the series i meant to say. to them it was probably like losing.

Anonymous said...

Recently moved to Chicago...I've noticed white sox fans absolutely hate the cubs more than anyone but it just seems like cub fans really could care less about the sox. Many cub fans even cheer for both teams. You will never find a true sox fan not rooting Against the cubs.

Anyone want to explain this for me?

Winks said...

I wanted to chime in here. I think the reader that talked about how Cubs fans take a secret displeasure in their misery couldn't be more spot on. I think the Bartman instance was proof of that, which to me was the most misguided overblown thing that has ever happened in sports (and that includes Barbaro's injury).

As far as the Sox / Cubs rivarly, all I've ever heard is that Sox fans hate the Cubs because of the whole North Side / South Side divide. Cubs fans probably root for the Sox just because they haven't had a winning baseball team in 100 years. I really can't explain it though.

Keep the good thoughts coming.

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