There’s Always Next Year

Reporting from the Milwaukee Brewers

“…hopefully we can finish this [season] on a high note and
carry it on into spring training next year…get some momentum going and leave
everyone with a good taste in their mouth”

Those were third baseman Casey McGehee’s words in the
Brewers clubhouse August 20th, after his team had just clobbered the
NL West-leading San Diego Padres, 10-6.

casey-mcgehee-swing-baseball.jpg

At that point the season still had 50 – i.e. nearly a third
– of its games left to go and here was one of the Brewers’ big hitters
essentially saying that they had nothing left to play for but pride and a good
vibe. Was he wrong? Not at all. McGehee wasn’t being pessimistic and he won’t
have been hauled in front of management for giving off a negative aura. By that
point the Milwaukee Brewers, though only third out of six in their division,
were (and still are) 13 games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds.

Late August through September can be a strange time of year
for many teams in baseball, full of intensely competitive men with no chance of
winning anything because their teams are too far back in the standings. The
good ones (teams and players) will try and conjure up McGehee’s kind of team-oriented
motivation – try to treat each game as a season in its own right and compete as
if they still had a chance of getting to the postseason. He spoke further of
playing “spoilers” – beating the contending teams which, McGehee said,
“definitely gives us something to play for”. Ouch.

So McGehee was actually saying all the right things, while
in the postgame interview being fed information by reporters that could have
goaded him into an altogether more individualistic perspective:

Reporter: “You said you weren’t aware of nine [home games in
a row with at least one hit], the other day…are you aware that it was 11
today?”

McGehee: “At home?”

McGehee paused, looking slightly bemused and entirely
uninterested.

“Now I am.”

There’s nothing wrong, of course, in celebrating individual
accomplishments, even in a team sport. However, so far this season there have
been more than 30 players putting together real
hitting streaks of 13 games or more, so give McGehee credit for not getting
overly excited about a fake one (i.e. home games only).

Of greater interest after that game was pitcher Chris
Capuano’s first home win since 2007 after Tommy John (ligament replacement)
surgery. It was refreshing to see a man so obviously grateful just to be there.

And this win was not all he had to celebrate. One of the
reporters wished him a happy birthday. Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf, walking
across the clubhouse behind us, seemed about to join in the congratulatiosn when
he asked, “Oh, is it your birthday, Cap?”.

“Yeah, yesterday”, he replied.

“Oh, never mind…” smirked Wolf, his voice trailing off as he
left a slightly embarrassed Capuano still facing the bevy of TV cameras,
microphones and voice recorders in front of him.

Oh well, there’s always next year.

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