Playing Favorites


I don’t normally allow myself to get too riled up on here about whatever sports media personalities are prattling on about (I save that for here [SHAMELESS PLUG]), but every now and then I hear something that forces my inner cynic to burst out of my chest and question what I consider to be unnecessary story-mongering. This article will probably bleed its fair share of Blue and Gold, but to be honest sites like this may be the only ones who still think the Brewers have a chance.

Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan wrote quite a few articles about the Brewers playoff run so far, including this biting gem posted on Tuesday morning. The article is titled “Pujols the King Puts Morgan the Clown in His Place.” It’s a catchy title, I’ll give him that. It’s also a thinly veiled show of subjective opinions with a game recap in the middle. What it also seems to be is a half-finished story written shortly after the September 8th incident when benches cleared on behalf of Morgan’s outburst, which was followed by the usual Twitter gloating by Tony Plush. Passan himself even writes that –

"“…whether it was this year or next, Morgan set in motion a certainty: Pujols, baseball royalty, would sharpen the guillotine and do what monarchs do.”"

Yes, yes he would. Of course, it was Nyjer – media scapegoat du jour of Milwaukee – who emboldened Pujols. It wasn’t the fact that the Brewers shied away from their effective strategy against Pujols and opted to put ball after ball inexplicably in his wheelhouse. It was 140 characters from nigh onto a month that made Pujols – baseball royalty – step up on a big stage in a big game. Using that argument is almost insulting to the talents of Albert Pujols. The idea that this man, this perennial Triple Crown contender and future Hall-of-Famer would need the antics of Morgan in order to play up to his potential. Can you imagine Pujols sitting in the clubhouse on September 9th, alone and sulking, talking to himself, “Why doesn’t Nyjer like me? Some day, I’ll go for 4-4 with five runs batted in, that will show them. It’ll show all of them!” I’ll concede that Nyjer can be immature, but the idea that his comments sparked the Cardinals’ dominating game 2 win is downright ridiculous.

He would continue to say that Morgan was a “pest”, a “jester” and tried to “piggyback on [Pujols’s] name.”

Anyone who followed Morgan’s careers, struggles, peaks and valleys knows that Nyjer needs no coattails to ride.

He’s an individual, and a hell of a ballplayer. He’s a man, though boisterous, who’s only batted under .280 for a season once in his career and brings speed, energy and unbridled thankfulness and enthusiasm to his game and his team.

This article is part of a trend I’m noticing in the sports media when it comes to Milwaukee. The trend being one of the constant battle between “old-school” and “new-school”, and how no one will come right out and say it, but if the Brewers would kindly take their energy and personality and fade into the ether the baseball and baseball writing elite would be ever so grateful. Why can’t this “new-school” ballclub just go away and let one of the more traditional (Gentlemanly? Gentrified?) teams play in the World Series?

I admire Passan’s writing and style, but I must admit (possibly because I’m a Homer) that his words about Milwaukee this season seem deep-fried in disdain and served with a side of speciousness. And he’s not alone.

Many have gone so far as to lament how the Brewers (obviously led in this case by Morgan) embody all that is new and different (read:wrong) with sports in general and baseball in specific, and how the Cardinals embody the wholesome, good-natured and God fearing principles that made baseball great. You know, great values like smug remarks, constant muckraking from managers and standing down pitchers. “Beast Mode” began as Fielder’s personal homage to his children and has grown to embody the youthful energy of the team. I’m sure it might be disrespectful to some, but if you don’t want to see “Beast Mode” then don’t hang a pitch – simple as that. Was Morgan’s prurient outburst on TBS gregarious and offensive? Definitely. Then don’t stick a mic in his face forty seconds after he cemented his legacy in Brewers history with a walk-off hit to send Milwaukee to its second-ever NLCS.

The media still called St. Louis a division contender to beat the Brewers up until September. The experts at ESPN and TBS said the D-Backs would beat Milwaukee in the fifth game. Now they’re saying that this “new-school” vs. “old-school” match-up has swung to the Red Birds’ favor for game three and beyond. I won’t speak to how much momentum can come from a 1-1 tie or the fact that Milwaukee has beaten St. Louis three times in Busch Stadium this year. I will only speak to the fact that the Brewers have been treated like an entertaining child all season; fun to watch, but not to be taken seriously. It’s an attitude that puts a dark cloud behind the enthusiastic and fun-loving behavior of the Brew Crew. But it’s also an attitude that may have helped fuel Milwaukee’s success.

This argument against Milwaukee’s attitude – and the attitude of young players everywhere – needs to stop. The baseball writers who love to type endless reams about ‘tradition’ and ‘respect for the game’ need to remember that this isn’t some poison leaking onto America’s Pastime, it’s a natural cause of the endless media cycle and the constant need to immortalize every performance and player by those same writers. These people who argue against the Beast Mode Brew Crew are the same that are needlessly arguing against Sabermetrics, Twitter, flashy modern stadiums and the fact that no one wears suits to ballgames anymore. If all of that is new and scary to you, I’m sure we can try to bring back whites-only dead ball day games in baggy wool uniforms. Somehow, I don’t think that will go over well.

Why is it that in this era of baseball emotion is the enemy? Why is personality the problem? I like being able to talk to Axford and Morgan on Twitter. If my dad could’ve gotten a shout-out from Ernie Banks I’m sure he would have peed his pants. I say, if Berkman wants to dismiss “swagger” as “hip-hop stuff” and “disrespectful” of the game, let him. I want my players to look excited when they win. I want my players to smile, laugh, and celebrate when they do something well. I want them to usher in a new era of baseball where it’s alright to be a kid playing a kid’s game. Because that’s exactly what I would do if I could only play as well as them.