Milwaukee So Stephen Strasburg wasn’t available as a gate attraction Sunday. It wasn’t as if they could fit any more people into Miller Park, where a merciful break in the weather and a Robin Yount bobblehead giveaway trumps baseball’s fourth-most marketable player pretty much any day of the week.
In case you were wondering, only Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer sell more tickets and trinkets and such than the Washington whiz kid. Considering that the top three on the list will earn somewhere around three-quarters of a billion combined by the time Pujols re-ups with St. Louis, it’s comforting to know that something in our nation’s capital returns a really nice bang for the buck.
But the Milwaukee Brewers don’t, to play on that memorable double-negative from the Bogart flick, need no stinkin’ rookie to draw. The fact that they remain one of the game’s leading curiosities — a small-market, sub-.500 performer that attracts like a contender from a place where the living isn’t so easy — is right up there on the wond-o-meter with Strasburg’s mass appeal.
Well, that and the undeniable lure of free stuff in this town. But since the attendance angle has been beaten into the ground like a Nyjer Morgan chopper, let’s move in a different direction today.
Maybe it was because of the 75-degree afternoon after what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights of monsoons and tropical heat. Maybe it was because the Nationals offered up another rookie pitcher, this one straight off the farm on getaway day, so Strasburg could put the cash in the home register. Or maybe it was because those worthy successors to the Senators couldn’t catch or throw the ball.
Whatever the reason, it was much easier to see the Brewers in a better light Sunday. It’s interesting what the combination of a gorgeous day, a visit from the Nationals and a four-game winning streak can do for perspective.
“I’m not sure what our record is the last couple of weeks, but it seems like we’re playing better,” said Dave Bush, who, in getting through that problematic sixth inning, was the good Dave Bush with no walks in the 8-3 victory against the Nationals.
For the record, the Brewers are 10-4 during the fortnight of which Bush spoke. However realistic the long-term forecast might be, there is a little different vibe in the clubhouse.
At least for a day, it had something to do with Ken Macha making the right call by staying with Bush through the troublesome sixth.
It was Rickie Weeks hitting his 20th homer after a two-out error.
“We’ve been on the other side of that,” Macha said. “That’s what happens.”
It was Casey McGehee doing the Earl Weaver special with a three-run homer in the seventh.
It was Prince Fielder and the resurgent rookie, Alcides Escobar, making absolutely sparkling defensive plays to end the eighth.
Most of all, it was Trevor Hoffman effectively finishing, even if it was a non-save situation. That big center-field sign with the agonizing countdown to 600 cannot be comfortable for him, but it’s not as though the Brewers can take it down. For the sake of a good man, the hope is that he eventually gets there.
So, if only for one lovely afternoon, there was no mention of the trading deadline, planes to catch or bills to pay. It was just a time to enjoy the moment for what it was before the arrival of the (Almost-) Big Red Machine revival.
And about that attendance thing:
Truthfully, all people really demand around here is to be entertained by something approaching a .500 team. The Brewers are getting closer.