World Series Preview: Bush vs Busch

Even though it’s not the Hatfield’s vs. the McCoy’s, this 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers does promise to be really really exciting for at least two isolated parts of the United States. For those living on either coast, I’m hearing really good things about Homeland on Showtime.

But seriously, all jokes aside, just because this Cardinals/Rangers series threatens to be the lowest rated World Series in television history does not mean that some people aren’t super jazzed up for this epic clash in America’s heartland. Take for example my friend Connor from St. Louis. Connor was 7 in 1982 when his Redbirds beat the Brewers to win the World Series. Flash forward 19 years and a liter of kids later and he’s sitting on the couch Sunday night with his 7 year old son watching as STL disposed of Milwaukee again, this time clinching the NL pennant.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Connor has a good friend who in early September, when the Cardinals were 9 games out in the Wild Card, travelled down to Las Vegas and laid $250 on St. Louis to win the NL Championship at 500:1 odds. He won $125K Sunday night. While in Sin City, he also put another $250 on the Cards to win the World Series at 1000:1. Amazingly, he now sits 4 wins away from another $250K. There must be countless other stories out there similar to this, and maybe even a few that don’t involve high stakes sports betting.

And just to show you that there are multiple people who care about this World Series, I asked my buddy Dan, a diehard Cardinals fan, if he would rather win a World Series this season or re-sign Albert Pujols to a longterm deal in the offseason. Being the loyal fan that he is, and perhaps also afraid to anger the benevolent spirit of Jack Buck, Dan flat out refused to answer my question. So… let me do the dirty work for Cardinals fans. In the spirit of my hypothetical question, if you take Pujols long term what you are basically saying is that the Cardinals will win multiple championships after this season which seems highly unlikely considering the age of your hall of fame first baseman as well as the contract status of resident svengali Tony La Russa. Even though Dan can’t say it, I’m willing to bet that most Cardinals fans would rather win the World Series this year and take their chances with Carlos Pena for the next 4 seasons after that. Come to think about it…

And finally, a very quick scouting report. On paper these are two very equal teams each with deep lineups, adequate starting pitching, and stellar bullpens. Both managers, Ron Washington and Tony La Russa command the respect of their players even though Washington has been prone to partake in some recent involuntary breakdancing.

I predict the Cardinals win in 7, Lance Berkman is your World Series MVP, and Pujols takes a massive pay cut to sign with the Baltimore Orioles this offseason. How does that sound to you Dan?

view from Miller Park courtesy of @BIGCATWOOWOO

Old Man Fundamentals: Those Dang Brewers and Their Fancy Celebrations

Time to hike up the pants well above the waist line and vent about an issue that only your grandparents care about.

And before I go all George Will on you, allow me to preface this latest rant by saying that I really really wanted to root for the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. As many of you know, Wisconsin has become a home away from home for me and my family. Sconnies are some of the friendliest people on the face of the earth and I’m thrilled that they’ve been able to enjoy the recent succes of the Packers, Badgers, and now Brewers.

BUT, the Milwaukee Brewers have made the St. Louis Cardinals my sympathetic favorites to win the 2011 NLCS. That’s right, those surly, uber professional Cardinals led by their grumpy, non conformist manager Tony LaRussa are my personal preference to win the pennant and go to the World Series.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came last night in the bottom of the 5th inning when, with first base open and runners on 2nd and 3rd, the Cardinals, already up 7-2, basically pitched around Brewers slugger Prince Fielder. No one, least of all Fielder, should have been surprised by the non intentional intentional walk yet when he reached first base he proceeded to go through a series of hand gestures/secret signs/wild gesticulations that paid homage to nearly every single member of the Brewers dugout, his children, and Dave the Leinenkugel vendor working section 212. There was a point where I thought the first base umpire was going to call a delay of game on Fielder who was still motioning to various members of the crowd as the Cardinals pitcher toed the rubber.

Now normally, I’m all for a little modest exuberance in baseball. Too often the game gets labeled as slow, not exciting enough, and just out of touch with hyperactive American society in general. It’s a sport after all, and competition is meant to be fun. If you don’t enjoy the privilege and great honor of playing Major League baseball then you should probably find something else to do. But, in my opinion, the Milwaukee Brewers “beast mode” goes well beyond the restraints of basic baseball etiquette and good professional sportsmanship. When Yuniesky Betancourt, a very average shortstop having a solid postseason, nearly blows a blood vessel celebrating an RBI single, you know things have gone too far.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps this is just what young baseball fans want and if so, congrats to this Brewers team for growing the brand. And, to be fair, I’ve seen celebrations in Texas go on just as long. I just can’t imagine that there are a lot of people in Milwaukee or Arlington who approve of all these excessive celebrations. I’m sure they like the results, but most folks could probably do without Nyjer Morgan and his ill timed “f-bombs” after the Brewers clinched the NLDS over the Dbacks.

Or maybe it’s just me. And my grandfather.

view from Miller Park courtesy of @mattlindner

Miller Park in Milwaukee: Home of the Friendliest Parking Lot Bar in America

Our dispatches from the field courtesy of intrepid VMS adventurer Steve continue with a close examination of a parking lot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That’s right. The very first thing he mentioned about his trip to Miller Park was that there is a fully functioning bar and sausage haus in the parking lot. Leave it to the fine folks of Wisconsin to do it right. If you’re not going to build a ballpark directly downtown, where it can be surrounding by existing bars and restaurants, then you might as create the sort of infrastructure that encourages tailgating in the parking lot.

And why can’t all of baseball be more like football in this regard? Football fans, what with their cast iron smokers and brick oven pizzas, have created an entire culture around the pregame tailgate. Does this not happen before MLB baseball games because, unlike football where they play only once a week, baseball teams average 3-4 home games over a similar stretch? Probably also has something to do with people coming to ballgames directly from work. Unfortunately, with the national unemployment rate rising to the near cataclysmic level of 9.2%, perhaps some fans are going to have a bit more time to explore leisurely activities.

Getting back to Steve, here are a few highlights from inside Miller Park.

– Brewers fans are unfailingly generous people. After Steve’s girlfriend “accidentally” dumped a beer on his lap a Brewers fan was quick to offer a few baby wipes to help contain the spill. After hearing about this incident I will now pack baby wipes before attending my next baseball game.

– Bratwurst winning the sausage race. My only question, how does the Bratwurst not win the sausage race every single time? It’s the closest thing Milwaukee has to an indigenous encased meat.

– Bernie Brewer = consimate professional mascot. If Milwaukee really wanted to expand their revenue stream they should auction off turns down Bernie’s slide after every Brewer homerun.