Saturday, June 12, 2010

How Ben Grieve explains the outlook of the 2009-2010 Milwaukee Brewers

One of my favorite quotes from an athlete came after Ben Grieve, when he still played baseball, struck out looking to end a game in 2003. His manager at the time, Lou Piniella, was upset that Grieve took the third strike looking, and when he asked Grieve in the dugout why he didn’t argue the call with the umpire, Grieve responded with something along the lines of “it doesn’t really matter.”

I don’t know why but this line always stuck with me. With most athletes in today’s age of overkill understanding that the watered-down, safe statements are the best statements, you never expect to hear someone say “it doesn’t matter.” It was honest, and because he played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the time, it was funny because it was true.

Well, I think he meant that arguing the call wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but Piniella got on one of his run-out-every-groundball-like-they-did-in-the-old-days baseball manager’s rant and bashed Grieve after the game. He was now a guy who “didn’t think it mattered” if his team won or lost, the malcontent of baseball. It only made sense at the time that when he became a free agent after the 2003 season, he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.

My feelings for the Brewers are on a platonic level; I want them to do well and succeed in life, I just don’t have very strong emotions towards them. I hope they understand. The one thing I love about the Brewers however is my yearly tradition of trying to find the most random, seldom-used utility man or relief pitcher and dub him my “favorite” player. I look for the underdog, or someone that fills out the end of the roster, and then annoy everyone around me with made-up stories about him.

Ben Grieve was a perfect match for me. He didn’t play regularly, didn’t produce much when he did and had the general look of “yawn” at any given moment. It looked like he was embodying his quote from a year ago. And this was okay at the time; the Brewers didn’t seem to be going anywhere anyway.

Before they finally sold the team, it appeared the Selig family couldn’t be bothered with any on-field happenings, like wins and losses. After the sale, coincidentally, the youth movement of Prince, Hardy, Hart and Weeks happened. Then Braun happened. Then C.C. Sabathia and the Wild Card happened. Thanks in large part to the new ownership that took over in 2005, the Brewers, as an organization, actually gave a damn.

Now, after a few seasons of competitive baseball in Milwaukee, it looks like it might stick around. This means a guy like Ben Grieve doesn’t fit into the picture anymore. Not because he said “it doesn’t matter,” but because he simply wasn’t that good. The Brewers look done trotting out guys solely to fill a position on the field; everyone matters now. Everyone has a place, a role, a reason for being on the team. There is no more room for the Ben Grieves, the Ruben Quevedos, or the Wes Helmses of the world on the Brewer depth chart. They now belong to the memories of true fans who sat through those tumultuous seasons, not because they wanted to, but because as fans, they probably felt they had to.

For these fans, this is all good news. The only negative effect is on me in that there are less bad players to choose from. Brian Shouse was my most recent favorite and he wasn’t really bad, more like unique. It felt like he pitched about once every two weeks and when he did, it was to one left-handed batter at a top speed of about 81 miles per hour. He was awesome.

Anyway, I may or may not find that ill-fated player who fits into the ridiculous profile in my mind, and that really doesn’t matter (Grieve-ism!). I didn’t struggle with the real Brewer fans through those lean, painful years that occurred not too long ago. They now have an organization with the makings of a foundation; consistently looking forward with a plan of attack, no longer asleep at the wheel for seasons upon seasons. There’s a reason for sustainable Brewer pride. That’s what matters.

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