Beer and Sabathia: Two Clubhouse Cancers? Oh, And — Duh — More Favre

Corey Hart Beergate: This has been an unprecedented few weeks in Wisconsin sports, with much of the national spotlight shining on the Brewers acquisition of CC Sabathia, the Bucks acquisition of Richard Jefferson, and of course the Packers apparent re-acquisition of a certain Hall of Fame quarterback that they are welcoming back with all of the enthusiasm that most of us would welcome a bad case of impetigo.


With so much ESPN airtime dedicated to the Badger state, it’s a shame that a few Brewers players had to ensure that the nation’s oldest and deepest and most negative stereotypes about Wisconsin are enforced.


You know those stereotypes, the ones about how people from Wisconsin define a small town as one that has less than five bars or how people from Wisconsin are unaware that there is a legal drinking age.


Or those stereotypes that people from Wisconsin think that it’s OK to shower your friend with beer, even if he’s got his two-year-old daughter on his lap.


That’s a new one that might gain traction after the incident this past week in which several Brewers players doused Corey Hart’s two-year-old daughter with suds upon learning that Hart had won the All-Star fan vote and the final spot on the NL All-Star roster.


I understand that the press conference was a surprise to Hart and that he said he wouldn’t have brought his kids in there had he known that’s what he was walking into. But Hart or his kids are not to blame here; shouldn’t we expect grown men to pull up and stop their wacky beer escapades once they realize the recipient of the bath has a toddler in tow?


I’ve heard some say that kids should not be allowed at press conferences. I don’t have a problem if a player or coach wants to see his kids immediately after a game, especially in baseball when you can go days or even weeks – Sunday’s Brewers game is their seventeenth straight without a day off – without any time off. The real question has to be, why does beer continue to be available in the clubhouse? Thirteen major league teams, including the Twins and the Cubs, have banned alcohol from clubhouses. If it seems like those teams are being major party poopers, ask yourself: Does your employer provide beer for you to enjoy after a particularly productive day at work?


I’m not saying the Hart thing is a catastrophe or that Hart’s daughter is permanently scarred from her beer shower. But if the Brewers wanted to turn an embarrassing story into a positive, they would join half of their fellow teams and ban alcohol from their clubhouse. It’s a move that is long overdue.


Sabathia A Cancer?: So since last Monday’s formal announcement of the signing of former Cleveland Indians pitcher CC Sabathia that was supposed to turn the Brewers from pretenders to contenders, the Brewers are a lousy 2-4 (and at Miller Park, no less), while the Indians, the second-worst team in the American League, are 3-2 and riding a three-game winning streak against Tampa Bay, one of the best teams in the majors.


Obviously, CC Sabathia is a clubhouse cancer.


OK, I’m being ridiculous, but it’s clear that the Brewers are having some difficulty adjusting to their new role as favorites to reach the postseason. Instead of feeding off the confidence that Doug Melvin obviously has in this group and the increased (if that was possible) fan enthusiasm since Monday’s announcement and using the momentum to wallop bad teams – and Colorado and Cincinnati are bad teams – at home, the Brewers have instead responded by playing their worst baseball in almost two months.


Now I don’t expect this to last, nor do I expect to see many more games featuring appearances by either Eric Gagne or especially Guillermo Mota. These two middle-to-late relievers have been inconsistent at best (Gagne) and downright awful at worst (Mota). The good news is the bullpen should improve with Jeff Suppan’s return from the DL after the All-Star break as Seth McClung will likely fill in the void that Gagne and Mota (and Tavarez and Turnbow before them) are leaving. The bad news is the starting rotation will worsen with the struggling Suppan taking over for McClung. But few teams have four starters as good as Sheets, Sabathia, Parra, and the newly-invigorated Dave Bush. Brewers fans should not let a bad stretch here result in any significant panic.


And Yes, More Favre: The most interesting Favre news that has come out in the past few days is the revelation that Favre, Thompson, and McCarthy were set to formally announce Favre’s return in late March after Favre changed his mind about retiring only days after his tearful goodbye on March 4. But then Favre changed his mind again.


I’m starting to believe that Favre has crossed the line from being an emotional, indecisive guy to being mildly nuts. Obviously the Packers released the aborted comeback story to further sway public opinion in their favor, and I believe it’s working. But the Packers organization is still in a no-win situation here. Again, here are their options:


  1. Bring Favre in as a back-up to Aaron Rodgers. This simply won’t work. Can you imagine the pressure on Rodgers, knowing that the most popular player in the history of Packer football is breathing over your shoulder? Fans would use every incompletion, every missed read, every moment of perceived indecisiveness on Rodgers’s part to scream for Favre’s return. It would be ridiculous.
  2. Grant Favre’s request for an unconditional release. In a fair world, this is what would happen. Even though he’s selfishly put the Packers in a ludicrous situation, Favre deserves his freedom to play elsewhere. But the Packers won’t do this, because of the fear he would sign with a NFC team or – horrors – a NFC North team. I think Favre’s loyalty to the people of Wisconsin would prevent him from suiting up for either the Bears, Lions, or Vikings, but you never know. After all, Favre’s mildly nuts.
  3. Trade Favre. This is now the most likely situation. Unfortunately, the Packers would probably try to trade Favre to a miserable team with no hope for winning (i.e, the Dolphins) in the hopes that Favre would balk at the prospect of going 4-12 again and retire for good. A crummy way to treat Favre, but hey, football’s a business. This seems to be the best option for the Packers. The best Favre could hope for here would be that a mildly promising AFC team (Buffalo?) would come through with a decent trade offer.
  4. Play Favre as the starter. Seems unlikely at this point. For better or worse, Thompson and McCarthy seem to have moved on and are unwilling to let one player – even a player as beloved and great as Favre — continue to hold their team hostage. But if they want to do, as they say they want to do, what’s best for the team, then this option becomes more and more of a possibility. Because the bottom line is – and no one in the Packers organization has publicly refuted this – is that Favre as the quarterback gives the Packers the best chance to win.

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