See that thing at the top of this blog? The shiny blue and gold doo-hickey? And the picture next to it? That's what's inside when you crack open the cover.
It's a baseball scorecard and, in a perfect world, it comes with a roster inside so you know who's who. This one dates back to last season--July 22 to be precise--and it's already a museum piece.
We were well past the All-Star break by the time this game was played--a 7-5 inter-league loss to the Cleveland Indians snapped a modest four game Milwaukee win streak and left the Crew 12 games below .500. Pennant hopes were gone by Memorial Day and soon, many of the players who cavorted this day at Miller Park would be, too.
Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gomez, and Aramis Ramirez would be dealt by the trading deadline. The purge would continue into the offseason as new General Manager David Stearns started an overhaul that's put the team in full rebuild mode. It needed it, no doubt, and most true fans recognize the need for fresh blood and renewed patience.
Ah, patience. It can sometimes be in as short of supply as those scorecards I buy.
Last season they proved to be downright hard to find as the number of old-schoolers who practice the dark art dwindle. With 3-D scoreboards that tell everything from that day's at-bats to a player's favorite FX drama who needs pen and ink? "Really, you still DO that?" more than one fan has asked when sitting nearby over the years. "How quaint," they'll say before asking a follow up question, usually something along the lines of, "So where did you park your horse carriage?"
I then smote ye mightily with my buggy whip and quaff my sarsaparilla.
Point is, you'd best bring you smartphone to the game with you, and not just to take selfies with the Chorizo. Have www.brewers.com bookmarked, especially the link to the roster. Esteemed Journal/Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt reports folks named Ramon Flores are heading north with the club, along with Yadiel Rivera and possibly Colin Walsh. While happy for all of these folks, this avid fan has to admit I'd be hard pressed to recognize any of them if they knocked me down on the way to the club level bar.
Trust me, I know a lot of folks there. Especially the bartenders.
It's reminiscent of "Major League", where front office types are pouring over their roster of freshly assembled talent. "This guy's DEAD?!?" one of them shrieks while the other replies, "Then scratch him off the list!" No one coming to Milwaukee is room temperature, to be sure. What Craig Counsell has is a batch of a few veterans named Braun and Lucroy, a passel of placeholders like Chris Carter and Aaron Hill and a slew of kids hoping to make an impression. If they don't, there's a cubic boatload of talent waiting in the minors.
The new Sports Illustrated has the Brewers going 70-92 in 2016. Sure, things could work out swell and all of these new faces could play out-of-their-minds baseball and Carter could swat longballs as he did in a previous life. Perhaps Braun, Lucroy and Matt Garza put up the kind of numbers we know they can. Even if they do, Milwaukee is stuck in a division with the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Not only will the Crew have to exceed expectations--they'll need these three powerhouses to play down toward their level.
So, you come to ballpark in 2016 for the bobbleheads, Free T-Shirt Friday and the party atmosphere. The hard cores stay for the baseball. If you actually care about the game, you may want to invest in one of those scorecard things. You don't have to become wise in the ways of the hieroglyphics that fill the little boxes--I taught my kids how to do it instead of having them study Latin and other dead languages but that's between them and their psychiatrist. Don't be ashamed if you have to ask the guy next to you, "Who's that playing centerfield?" or if you get caught blurting out, "I never heard of this pitcher!" as a new Brewers arm takes to the bump.
The Crew has youth. It has promise. It has talent in there somewhere. And hopefully, there's a big pile of fresh scorecards stacked high in the bowels of Miller Park. We may need them, not to track the team's progress around the bases but to figure out who in hell these guys are.