Monday, May 19, 2008

Playing On The Road

This is a personal story. A true story. October 2006. The Brewers had just completed their 14th consecutive non- winning season at 75-87. I was in northern Wisconsin a couple of days in advance of my musky fishing buddies. An early snowstorm gave me time to kill and a reason to stop in a sports apparel store to shop for another layer of clothing. It was the kind of store you find on Main Street in so many small towns. I picked out a retro looking Brewers zip-up hoodie and brought it to the counter. The gentleman at the register was a 70-something, short, thin, talkative guy. The kind of guy you find in these types of stores on Main Street in so many small towns. He struck up a conversation with me about baseball. I have no recollection of what his name was, but for the sake of drawing a visual image, I'll call him Billy Martin.

Billy told me that he played minor league ball back in the 50's. Second base. From his stature, cockiness, story telling abilities, and apparent blood alcohol level you would have had no reason to doubt him. It was already 2:00 p.m. after all. We talked for two hours about America's pastime. The grand ol' game. Interrupted only by two or three other hardy souls who ventured out on such a miserable day. Every topic imaginable came up from Ben Oglivie, to the fundamentals of fielding, to Bowie Kuhn, to Barry Bonds, to electronic video scoreboards, to how much players drank in the clubhouse. Billy talked a lot about how much players drank in the clubhouse.

Billy was no more a fan of Ned Yost than I am, so that topic consumed its fair share of time. In his ranting about Yost, he said a couple things that made me stop and think. Made me go hmmm... I don't remember many of Billy's exact quotes so I need to paraphrase. I was in northern Wisconsin and it was already 2:00 p.m. after all.

"You know what Ned Yost's problem is?", Billy snapped in a manner that made it clear I wouldn't get a chance to answer. "He doesn't know how to control a young ball club.

"I was in San Diego last year when the Brewers was out there. I was in a joint having a couple of cocktails and and in walk some of the guys (Brewers). They sat there and drank and had a good ol' time. You know what time they left? Three-thirty in the morning. Three-thirty! And they had a game the next day. An you know what else? I went to the the park for batting practice and every one of them guys was moping around like a bunch of zombies. And you know what else? They was all red as a baboon's ass. Every one of them. You know why? Sunburn. They was out golfing all day. In a joint until 3:30 and then out golfing all day in the hot sun. And then they think they gonna come to the ball park ready to play baseball? Ain't no one can do that. You can't go out swinging a golf club all day and getting all sunburn and then think you're gonna come be able to swing a ball bat. It's two totally different things. You can't do it. Especially not after you been out all night.

"And I blame Ned Yost for that. He lets these guys get away with murder. They're just a bunch of kids after all. If you don't lay down the law, they ain't gonna come to the ball park ready to play - especially when they're on the road. That's a party for them, you know? They're all alone. They got no girlfriends nagging on them. It's a party and they're just a bunch of kids. He can't let them be out drinking and playing golf on a day they got to play ball. He's got to take control of those kids and he just ain't doing it."

* * *

In Ned Yost's first season with the Brewers they actually had a better record on the road (37-44) than at home (31-50). In 2004, they were 5 games worse on the road. In 2005, 11 games worse; 2006, 21 games worse, and last year 19 games worse. The pattern coincides nicely with the emergence of the current group of young players.

The 2008 Brewers have lost their last nine consecutive road games.


Kyle Lobner said...

This story doesn't happen to take place in Minocqua, does it?

Scott Segrin said...

As a matter of fact, it does! Do you know the guy I'm talking about?

Kyle Lobner said...

I don't, but I know the sports store. I grew up in Minocqua. I think it's a taco place now.

Kyle Lobner said...

I'm reaching around to some contacts to see if I can find out his name. I know the people who own a few of the places around it.

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