Tag Archives: milwaukee

Friday Fun

Nyjer Morgan plays center field for the Brewers. He’s also quite the character. This is how he greets Bob Uecker in the clubhouse:

It started in an empty clubhouse in Chicago, where a few repeated whispers of “Bob” had the announcer wondering where the sound was coming from. Uecker kept hearing his name and after walking through the clubhouse, he eventually realized that it was coming from Morgan’s locker. He looked inside and found the player hiding behind all of his clothing with a huge grin on his face.

Meanwhile, Steve Rushin has penned a lovely paeon to the city of Milwaukee and its baseball team.


Opening Day Is Here

Baseball is back! Here’s hoping my Brewers end their season the same way the Packers ended theirs — with a Super Bowl victory.

The most entertaining part of following the Brewers is Bob Uecker, their radio announcer. He had two heart surgeries last year and missed a large chunk of the season. But he’s feeling much better now, and is still cracking jokes.

The Wall Street Journal profiled him today. It’s worth a read. Note that the article describes his partner in the booth, Cory Provus, as his straight man; one hears a lot more than baseball when Uecker calls a game.

Brewers Land Star Pitcher in Trade

Zack Greinke (pronounced grain-key), who won a Cy Young a few years ago, is moving from Kansas City to Milwaukee. The Brewers gave the Royals most of their farm system in return.

This is a win-now move by the Brewers. They are routinely among the league’s best offensive teams. But poor pitching has done them in the last two years.

Not this year. Before getting Greinke, they already traded for former Blue Jay Shaun Marcum this offseason. Adding those two to a rotation already featuring Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf means that 4 of the 5 starting pitcher slots will be filled by above-average players. There are teams with twice Milwaukee’s payroll that can’t boast that.

The defense will be downgraded a bit, since slick-fielding shortstop Alcides Escobar is now Royal. The Royals were kind enough to include his replacement, Yuniesky Betancourt, in the trade. But since he fields and hits poorly by big-league standards, the Royals were probably glad to be rid of him. Still, on net, the Brewers will probably give up far fewer runs than in recent years.

There is a price to paid for what should be a good year. The Brewers rosy 2011 prospects come at the expense of 2012 and beyond.

Prince Fielder’s contract expires at season’s end, and he’ll sign with a big-market team for big-market money. Second baseman Rickie Weeks may also leave for wealthier pastures. The farm system doesn’t look capable of replacing them. But for now, those big bats are here, and they’re entering their prime years.

Milwaukee’s window of contention will probably close after this season, so if they are going to earn any pennants to hang from Miller Park’s rafters, it has to be now. This is better than never.

12 Ridiculous Regulations

Business Insider has a list of 12 of America’s most ridiculous regulations. Many of them have been covered on this site. But some of them haven’t, including:

-In Texas, computer repair technicians are required to get a private investigator’s license.

-In Milwaukee, it is illegal to close a business without a license. Closing businesses must also pay a tax of $2 for every $1,000 of inventory intended to be sold in a going out of business sale.

Brewers Hire New Manager

This got lost in the election hysteria, but the Brewers hired Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke as their new manager. He replaces the fired Ken Macha.

Managers have little impact on wins and losses as strategists; everyone at the major league level knows the game well enough to make the right moves most of the time. A manager’s real impact is in dealing with the egos and personalities in the clubhouse, and keeping morale high in hard times. Early indications are that Roenicke will be a good hire in that regard:

He is even-keeled and can come off as the quiet type. He is never too high and never too low and will give honest assessments of his team and players.

That sounds a lot like Ken Macha, the Milwaukee Brewers manager for the last two seasons who was not brought back when the team declined to pick up his option for next year.

However, there is a distinct strength for the new Brewers manager that wasn’t always present with Macha: Roenicke is great at player relations. Macha was criticized for not always relating well to some players, particularly stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and admitted to a communication gap.

Roenicke, the Los Angeles Angels bench coach for the last five years and a third-base coach during the previous six, became a favorite sounding board for some Angels, especially centerfielder Torii Hunter, who spent the last three seasons playing for Roenicke.

Time will tell how Roenicke pans out. But at this point, he looks like a smart hire.

Cubs Watch, 10/1

Brewers 9, Mets 2.

Cubs 1, Padres 0.

The Brewers’ magic number is 1. The next Brewer win or Cub loss guarantees the Brewers a better record than the Cubs.

Milwaukee wraps up the season with three games against Cincinnati. The Reds have already clinched a division title, so they’re resting their starters. That improves Milwaukee’s chances.

Both teams have 3 games remaining.

Tea Parties and Corporations

Milwaukee’s alternative weekly, the Shepherd Express, recently ran a thought-provoking article by Lisa Kaiser criticizing the tea party movement. I haven’t written a whole lot about the tea party movement. But my reaction has been mixed.

The positive is that a large and vocal constituency is agitating for lower spending and lower taxes. That’s been missing from the protest scene since at least Vietnam.

The negative was summed up almost perfectly by Koch Industries VP Richard Fink: “Some of their worries are… more thoughtful, some of them are less thoughtful.”

If you think about it, tea partiers are the right-wing analogue of Bush-era Iraq war protesters. Both of their main causes are true and just. War against a country that never attacked us is wrong. So is the Bush-Obama spending spree.

But both movements attracted a fringe. A loud fringe. A fringe that, because of their volume, their kookiness, their entertainment value – attracted disproportionate press coverage. Tea partiers have their birthers and John Birchers and so on. The anti-war movement has its Code Pink, truthers, and other strange, fascinating, creatures.

Now suppose you’re a journalist covering one of these protests. You’re on a deadline, and you don’t know a whole lot about what you’re covering.

You could write a story about the ordinary people in jeans and t-shirts, kids in tow, holding up their signs with quiet dignity.

Or you could talk to outlandish – and outlandishly quotable! – nutjobs from Code Pink or the John Birch Society. It’s pretty obvious which tactic gets you the more entertaining story in less time.

An economist would point this out as a classic example of the law of demand. If something costs less, people consume more of it. If it costs more, then less. Since writing a story about colorful kooks costs less time and effort than interviewing ordinary people, no wonder so many newspaper stories are of the cheaper-effort variety.

Which brings us to the article in question.

The words “corporate,” “corporations,” and variations of the same appear nine times. And it is not a long article. Each time, the epithet is unsubtly used as shorthand for “I disagree with this.”

This is a mental shortcut — evidence that Kaiser did not give the issue deep thought. If your gut feeling is that you don’t like something, you can research it to find out for sure. But that is very costly in terms of time and effort. It’s mentally cheaper to just blame “the corporations.”

This is not a rigorous line of thought. Arguments are either right or wrong. The presence or absence of corporate funding has nothing to do with whether an argument is right or wrong.

Take the pull quote from the print edition:

“Americans for Prosperity is a corporate-funded front group that is trying to extract as much of our public dollars as they can and then put it (sic) in the hands of the corporations that fund it.”

That isn’t actually true. AFP is against corporate bailouts. Against corporate subsidies. AFP thinks that corporations should compete in the marketplace. Not in Washington. Public dollars should be kept as far away from corporations as possible. The source who Kaiser quotes is factually inaccurate. And she doesn’t correct him. She agrees with him.

He uses the same mental shortcut that Kaiser does. Just use the word “corporate” to stand for that which he disagrees with. Then he attributes those views to AFP, blissfully unaware of AFP’s actual stances on taxpayer-to-corporation wealth transfers.

This is intellectually lazy. If Kaiser and the activist are against government funding of corporations, they actually have a lot in common with AFP.

Kaiser quotes another activist:

“It’s no coincidence that profits from giant corporations are being pumped into front groups like AFP to further those corporate interests.”

This guy doesn’t get it either. Dollars tend to flow to causes that the donors already agree with. The arrow of causality is pointing in the opposite direction that he thinks.

For example, I favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Suppose that I’m planning to donate money to an organization to advance my view on that issue. Will I get better results by giving to a group that already agrees with me, or by giving to Focus on the Family in hopes of changing their mind?

Koch Industries in particular comes under fire for its longtime support of free-market organizations. And they have much to gain from the crony capitalism they are accused of promoting.

But they aren’t actually promoting crony capitalism. If their political giving actually was made in the name of corporate self-interest, they’d be giving to groups like the Center for American Progress, which openly favors giving billions of taxpayers’ dollars to corporations.

Instead, Koch-funded groups believe, across the board, that corporate welfare is wrong. The Koch brothers are free-market ideologues, and it shows in their philanthropy.

Kaiser’s Shepherd Express article is an interesting read. But not for what it says about tea parties and corporations. It’s interesting because of what it says about her, and about how the law of demand partially explains the poor quality of most journalism.

Why Prince Fielder Will Never Be a Yankee

A junior high school in Wisconsin is holding a bratwurst fry today. They’re raising money to fund a school-wide trip to a Milwaukee Brewers game next month. Sounds like a lot of fun.

This, of course, would be illegal in New York City, where food-based fundraisers are de facto banned. Administrators worry that they contribute to child obesity.

Super Sunday

The Super Bowl starts in about four hours. I’m wearing my Aaron Rodgers jersey since I wish the Packers were playing, but I’ll be rooting for the Saints. In 43 seasons as a franchise, this is their first Super Bowl trip. As someone who grew up rooting for perpetually losing teams, I feel Saints fans’ pain. It would be good to see them win. Peyton Manning and the Colts got their rings a few years ago. I was rooting for them that day, not least because they played against the Bears.

After the game is over, an excruciatingly long 13 day wait begins. On that glorious day of February 20,  pitchers and catchers report for spring training. And my Brewers are looking pretty good this year. Their offense still looks top-notch. And they’ve done about as much as they could to improve their league-worst pitching staff. New pitching coach, lots of roster turnover. Can’t wait to see if the moves do any good.

Prince Fielder Wins Home Run Derby

Congratulations to Prince Fielder, the first Brewer to win baseball’s annual home run derby. His longest hit traveled an estimated 503 feet(!). He hit the four longest home runs of the evening, and eight of the top ten.

I remain more impressed that Fielder, who weighs 270 pounds, has two career inside-the-park home runs.