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Who Doesn’t Pack Up For This Camp?

The Fairly Detached Observers

Aug. 5, 2009
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A century ago there was a hit song called “I Love My Wife But Oh You Kid.” That sentiment applies to Wisconsin’s pro sports fans as football season nears: “I love my Brewers or Bucks, but oh you Packers.” With the Green and Gold’s training camp underway and the Brewers rocked by dreadful July, the Observers turned their gaze to the state’s most revered team.

Frank: Mark your calendar. The first pre-season game is a week from Saturday and the first game that counts is Sept. 13.

Artie: It’s not too early for a season-ending injury, is it? I’m not saying it’ll be a starter, but this is football. Someone will go down quickly.

Frank: Your pessimism needs no training camp. Mid-season form already!

Artie: I’m a three-technique pessimist. Disaster lurks on offense, defense and special teams.

Frank: For fans of a more sunny disposition, if the key guys stay healthy and the defense makes a good transition to the 3-4 scheme, the Pack could well bounce back.

Artie: That’s what NFL “parity” is all about—13-3 one year, 6-10 the next. This defensive change confuses me a bit. You hear about a guy was a 4-3 end but now he’s a 3-4 end and it sounds like he has to learn a new sport. Hey, buddy, you’re on the end!

Frank: Get in your stance, look to both sides and if one of them doesn’t contain a teammate, you’re an end.

Artie: And if both sides are filled, you’re in the middle. And no matter what, go tackle someone.

Frank: There might be a tiny bit more to it, but what matters is whether it works. Packer fans make a big commitment, in time and emotion and maybe even money. They deserve to know whether it’ll be worth the effort.

Artie: All they need to do is read the Sept. 10 issue of the Shepherd. That’s when we’ll give our predictions for the 2009 Packers and the whole NFL, ain’a?

Frank: Last year we predicted better than the Packers played, pegging them at 8-8 when they only had a 6-10 year in them.

Artie: We’re about serving the community. People will know in September whether they should plan a playoff-watching party for January.

Frank: Last week we found out the Packers won’t be facing Brett Favre. And then, in Favre’s usual way, we found out that we hadn’t really found out anything.

Artie: As soon as he said he wouldn’t un-retire to join the Vikings he said, well, he’d keep working out and if something happened down the road, well...

Frank: He’s still interested in the Vikings and vice versa, no matter what the Vikes said about moving on with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels as their quarterbacks.

Artie: If their starter stinks or gets hurt, I believe they’ll call Brett. And look what’s happened already; Jackson sprained a knee in practice and is out a few days at least.

Frank: Favre mentioned Nov. 1, which happens to be when the Vikings visit Lambeau Field. But only as a date when he might get a call.

Artie: Two reasons for that. He wants no part of anyone’s training camp and he wants no part of the Lambeau game. But by Nov. 1, maybe other teams will come courting because they have a shot at the playoffs but need help at quarterback.

Frank: How about that other QB in the news, Michael Vick? Under his conditional reinstatement by the NFL, he could be playing by October. I have no problem with that; he served his sentence for his dog-fighting crimes. But who’ll hire him?

Artie: The hot theory is New England, where Bill Belichick will make him a hybrid player for one of those “wildcat” offenses.

Frank: In other words, an offense that shows a little imagination beyond offtackle runs, 10-yard square-outs and dump-off passes to the backs.

Artie: Come to think of it, how many NFL games did I watch last year that were just damned boring?

Pitching Backward

Frank: Let’s not forget about baseball, although Brewer fans may soon be saying “forget about it” regarding the playoffs. The Brew Crew entered this week under .500 and the trading deadline passed without a 2009 version of the CC Sabathia blockbuster.

Artie: No Roy Halladay, no Cliff Lee, not even a Jarrod Washburn. The pitcher they added was Claudio Vargas, and not even for the starting rotation

Frank: He was here just two years ago, going 11-6 as a starter.

Artie: But with an ERA of 5.09. Suppanesque, except that he got a lot of run support.

Frank: And the Brewers cut him in spring training last year. He pitched well in relief for the Dodgers this year after a long time on the disabled list, and if he’s really going to stay a reliever he’ll get plenty of work.

Artie: Jeff Suppan hurt, Dave Bush hurt, Braden Looper giving up homers galore, Manny Parra inconsistent. If Yovani Gallardo weren’t around, this rotation would be a complete disaster.

Frank: And no strong pitching prospects in the minors—which is why the Brewers couldn’t offer the right package to get a top-level starter.

Artie: Doug Melvin decided not to part with his top two prospects, Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar. But this winter they’ll be making deals for pitching, once they decide what to do with the prospects, J.J. Hardy and some others.

Frank: Meanwhile, they still need someone to start games.

Artie: How about Brett Favre? I’ll bet he’s got a heater. I’ll tell you this: They better have a good August because their September schedule is brutal. And now they’ll play most of August without Corey Hart, thanks to his appendectomy.

Frank: Here’s who they face in September: Cardinals, Giants, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Astros, Cubs, Phillies, Rockies, Cardinals. Wow!

Artie: They just finished a stretch against losing teams—Reds, Pirates, Nationals, Padres—where they went 7-10. They get all those teams again this month, but how can anyone be optimistic?

Do the Right Thing, Pete

Frank: Hank Aaron, who joined us in advocating asterisks or some other designation for steroid-era achievements, also says Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Twenty years in exile for betting on baseball is enough, the Hammer believes. And I agree.

Artie: Me too. The guy had 4,256 hits, after all, none of them drug-aided.

Frank: But for me, and for Bud Selig, Rose needs to say four words: “I lied. I’m sorry.” Even when he admitted in a book five years ago that he lied about betting on baseball, he showed no regret.

Artie: He says he never bet against his own team, but that’s not the whole story. What about games when he didn’t make a bet involving the Reds? In that bookie world, the word probably spread fast—”Pete didn’t bet tonight, so he thinks they’ll lose.” And that had its own effects.

Frank: To get to the Hall, Rose will have to do something he’s never done— act less than arrogant.

Artie: I’m not sure that’s possible.

Frank: And back we go to steroids, with the report that Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez tested positive in 2003. More evidence that the only reasonable course is to admit the whole era is tainted and keep the numbers in the record book—with asterisks.

Artie: Laws are being broken as we get more leaks of names from the list of 103 test-flunkers from ‘03—which was supposed to be kept confidential.

Frank: To misquote Winston Churchill, it’s a mess wrapped in a mess inside a mess.

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