Dear Ken Macha

Strange Brew

By - Apr 12th, 2010 04:20 am

A ninth inning game-winning home run on Sunday night capped a weird and wild week for the Brewers (photo by Brian Jacobson)

Dear Ken,

One week into the season and we’re already knee deep in weirdness.

Opening day started off on the wrong cured meat appendage when the Italian Sausage was nearly taken to the great Klement’s factory store in the sky by its police escort. The sausage managed to stay on its feet and, thankfully, the same can be said about your team. After stranding runners like it was going out of style en route to your opening day loss, your team bounced back to take the next two from the competitive Colorado Rockies.

On Friday, the Cardinals came to town and things got wacky again. Leading 4-3 as “Hell’s Bells” announced that it was about time for Trevor Hoffman to pitch (Trevor Time?), Hoffman was but one strike away from securing victory when pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha went Boyz II Men on Hoffman, crushing his change up into the left field stands and giving the Cardinals a 5-4 victory. It was straight outta 1982 — retro jerseys, heartbreak, mustaches and all. Then on Saturday Yovanni Gallardo celebrated his five year, $30 million extension by giving up 6 runs in a disappointing 7-1 loss. And on Sunday Trevor Hoffman did it again, allowing two ninth inning home runs to blow the Brewers’ 7-4 lead. Thankfully, Casey McGehee saved your weekend by belting a ninth inning walk-off blast to save Trevor and give the Brewers a respectable showing after a week of ups and — in the case of sausage safety, star pitchers and Jeff Suppan’s “pillow”— downs.

3-3 is a decent place to be after facing two respectable teams in St. Louis and Colorado, and you’ll hopefully get a break in the coming week when you travel to Wrigley Field and Washington, D.C., but off the field you have a few other fires burning. Prince Fielder’s contract situation stands as the most pressing issue for fans besides the laughably stupid outcry over “hyper-inflationary” beer prices at Miller Park. Off topic, Ken, there are two things in the Milwaukee area that we have in abundance, even though we pretend like we don’t: alcoholism and parking lots. Neither makes this area all that attractive, yet both are heavily subsidized. But, I digress.

Prince Fielder flips a ball to fans at Miller Park on Sunday night (photo by Brian Jacobson)

Fielder’s contract negotiations are being handled in a series of public proclamations by both sides that they’re “open” to working out a contract. Much like oxygen to fire, being “open” to signing a contract is important if one actually wants to sign a contract. There are two strategies for handling Prince’s contract status: either pay him what he wants and keep him forever, or trade him before his salary demands sink our battleship and net a few boatloads of prospects in return. I think the latter option is a little silly. Prince currently makes about $11 million and stands to make upwards of $20 million after off-season arbitration. Jeff Suppan’s $12.75 million salary will definitely disappear next season, which means the organization ought to have enough spare change to meet Prince’s demands no matter how extravagant.

Some argue that Prince will eventually become too out of shape to keep playing first base, but that’s absurd. First base is the graveyard of immobile players, so really, just how badly do people think a 25-year-old Prince Fielder is going to age? Perhaps this is just an example of collective projection, considering Fielder actually keeps himself in great shape compared to the sausage-swilling chain smokers you’ll find in the parking lots (and lots) of Miller Park.

Fielder needs to be re-signed, Ken, and  you really ought to be one of the first in line at Doug Melvin’s office each and every morning to tell him as much. Beyond Prince’s on-field ability to punish opposing pitchers, he’s also able to coax precious dollars out of fans’ wallets like no other Brewer. You think just any schlub in an oversized jersey playing first base is going to draw fans from the nether regions of Wisconsin and make your job easier? I think not.

But there’s one team that could derail Prince’s return: those (non-Nugent) damn Yankees. Recently your boss, Mark Attanasio, pointed out that the Yankee’s infield is paid more than the entire payroll of the Brewers. Right on cue, Yankee’s team president Randy Levine told Mark to stop “whining” and spend ’em if you got ’em. Sass like no other, if you ask me, Ken.

Yankees team president, Randy Levine, discussing revenue sharing. (Still courtesy of Imagine Entertainment)

Essentially the Yankees — a team with an almost unlimited ability to generate revenue — told Mark, who’s more than tripled the Brewer’s payroll since taking over, that he should be grateful for the percentage of money that  the Yankees share with small-market teams operating on roughly one-fourth the payroll. That same money is generated by having the ability to outbid those  small-market teams for any and all players.

Now, we all should know that the Yankee’s are simply doing what the rules allow, but nevertheless it’s usually good manners to not draw attention to the glaring advantage one possesses. Fielder will certainly be tempted by the tofu-shaped cubes of money the Yankees and other large market teams will offer him, but I have a feeling that Fielder will be hesitant to have to open himself up to the scrutiny he’ll face in a larger city with healthier-but-still-dying media. Fielder’s always struck me as shy, so maybe to him there’s something alluring about having the ability to mumble through a few interviews with the local grins on the teevee.

We won’t have an answer about Prince any time soon and we probably won’t have one for Trevor’s troubles, either. But maybe a successful jaunt through Chicago and D.C. can give you and your team a brief respite from the storm clouds of contract negotiations sure to be rolling through as the season progresses. Make sure the Italian sausage keeps his arms and legs inside the train car at all times, Ken.

Best regards,

Rob Vosters

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