Siding With the Players: It's a Lock
When the Observers conferred via telephone, with Frank still aglow from seeing the Yankees' three-game sweep of the Brewers, the NFL's labor talks seemed likely to produce a new labor agreement soon. Not so in the NBA, which has a lot longer to go before endangering the next season.
Frank: Lucky us, to be part of a two-lockout fan base.
Artie: Good thing we have baseball, and a contending Brewers team, to keep us occupied.
Frank: But pretty soon we'll reach the point where the NFL lockout will start depriving the fans of actual games, right?
Artie: Depends on whether you think preseason games are "actual." But losing some of those would certainly cost the owners and players actual money.
Frank: Something like $200 million in ticket and TV revenue for each week's worth of the exhibitions, from what I've read.
Artie: That's a lot of dough to give up—especially since the owners got caught with their pants down in that court ruling in March that prohibited them from setting aside a big pile of TV money as a lockout nest egg. So I think something will get done by July 15, which seems to be the "drop dead" date for settling in time to have a full season. It'll take some time to get rookies signed and training camps opened in time for the Hall of Fame Game Aug. 7 to start the exhibitions.
Frank: For which the owners charge regular-season prices, even though the games are hardly close to that quality. Despite that, I assume you want to get things going so the regular season isn't affected.
Artie: With the Packers a sure thing to repeat as Super Bowl champs, why wouldn't I? The NBA we can put on hold for a few more months. And really, when I've heard people say that the "best-case scenario" in the NBA talks might be a 50-game season, I say, "Jeez, that's my best-case scenario for the NBA in any season."
Frank: Just like the last lockout season in 1998-'99. It didn't start until February and I sure didn't miss those 32 lost games. Why not wait until the Super Bowl is over all the time?
Artie: Of course we know the answer—the leagues exist to squeeze every penny they can out of Joe Fan.
Frank: I know that in the NFL mess you're totally on the side of the players—in other words, the guys who for the most part have relatively short careers, non-guaranteed contracts and huge risks of injury. But how about the NBA, where the contracts are guaranteed and the salaries generally outlandish? Perhaps you agree with one commentator I read, who told the owners and players, "A plague on both your mansions."
Artie: Nope, I'm totally with the NBA players too. Who decided to pay Eddy Curry and Charlie Villanueva these outrageous salaries to be scrubs? Did those guys put a gun to some owner's head?
Frank: In other words, the owners want the players to make concessions to save them from themselves.
Artie: For me, that's the bottom line.
Frank: I don't think anyone is going to care about the NBA until October, when the timetable for the season reaches the same point that the NFL's at now.
Artie: But NBA teams are losing their summer leagues, where they could see what they have in draft choices and make decisions about undrafted guys. And those games are enjoyable to watch. Now they're gone. But the main thing is to get an NFL deal so the Packers' re-march to glory can get under way.
Frank: Well, my three games at Yankee Stadium couldn't have been more pleasant. And I know you're happy for me.
Artie: Um, yeah, you betcha. As for the Brewers, though, that was a mighty poor showing. Smoked by a cumulative 22-4—ouch!
Frank: They didn't do much to create some buzz with the almighty Big Apple media. There wasn't much in the papers or on gasbag radio to set up the matchup of division leaders. During the series I heard Doug Melvin for a few minutes on WFAN, the main talk station, and Rickie Weeks had a segment too. But the attitude was, basically, "The Brewers are in first place because of how they're playing at home."
Artie: Who can argue with that? I listen to the ESPN national radio shows and the Brewers hardly ever get mentioned. Same with the highlights on the TV side. And what happened in the Bronx ain't gonna change that.
Frank: Now they've gone 2-7 against Boston, Tampa Bay and the Yankees, any of whom they might encounter if they made the World Series.
Artie: Is there a pattern here? Yes. The only thing I can think of is that the Brewers are doing a cat-and-mouse thing here. "We're gonna suck so those guys get overconfident, and in the World Series we'll wipe the field with 'em." That Ron Roenicke is a cagey one!
Frank: Following my maxim of "gracious in victory, gracious in defeat," I'll say that aside from the 12-2 opener the Brewers really weren't outplayed that much. Except for Zack Greinke in the opener, they pitched pretty well. They just didn't hit much; every one of the top hitters took a turn or two at failing with two out and runners on base.
Artie: The defense wasn't so hot either. And Corey Hart better go back to where he got his contact lenses; it might help him see where the ball is when he's on base.
Frank: In his defense, Curtis Granderson did make a terrific play on that long fly to right-center Wednesday night. But Hart was way past second and two good throws easily doubled him up at first.
Artie: As for Greinke, I can't help but think that in an alternate universe where Nyjer Morgan doesn't slip and create a triple for Granderson, maybe Greinke settles down and that game goes differently.
Frank: Greinke caught some flak from a radio guy for not being very receptive to the media after the game.
Artie: What the hell do those Noo Yawkers think they'll see from a guy who's lasted two innings? Now with Shaun Marcum, I hate to sound like Ned Yost, but except for that 0-2 pitch to Russell Martin, he was fine.
Frank: And it wasn't really a bad pitch. Martin had to go down and get it for that three-run homer. And in the finale Randy Wolf pitched pretty well, too. But their old pal CC Sabathia looked like he did with the Crew in '08.
Artie: We better not let the Yankees see all this because it'll sap their overconfidence.
Frank: It's pretty true, though. The Brewers just couldn't find anyone to break the logjam on offense.
Artie: They sure did Saturday night in Minnesota, roaring back from a 7-0 hole to win. It helped that after the fourth inning the Twins' offense decided, in solidarity with Minnesota state workers, to take a furlough. But the next day the Brewers returned the favor, blowing a 6-1 lead and completing a 1-5 road trek.
Frank: Just 16-29 on the road for the season, That's pretty glaring.
Artie: Anyway, the Yankee series was what you hoped for.
Frank: And I'm pretty proud that I was playin' with pain—a lower-back something that had me walking like even more of a geezer than I am. What's more, I had to go "day game after night game"—back to Long Island around midnight Wednesday, then right back on a train to make a 1 o'clock start. A-Rod got the day off, but I sure didn't!
Artie: No one had to rest you, even on a getaway day. Of such stuff are fan legends born!