MARYVALE, Ariz. -- The Milwaukee Brewers are a young team, but they are growing up fast. They recognize that they are new school and not old school, but that they must go to school to avoid the mistakes of a year ago, when their youthful exuberance alienated their opponents.
They will adapt. They will temper things. They will not pull out their shirttails after walk-off wins.
At least that's the goal after a season of inventive celebrations earned them a fair amount of animosity. There was the time
That's over, they say. Their celebratory choreographer, whoever he was, has been canned. They are going to have fun, just not at the expense of others. "We all respect the game," Brewers star
It's either tone it down, or expect more plunkings like the one Giants pitcher
"We knew it was coming," one Brewers person said of Zito's retaliation.
And they weren't necessarily that impressed, but that's another story.
The story of the day is that the Brewers are going to change their ways. They're going to contain their youthful exuberance before they make any more enemies. But they've still got plenty of youth.
The Brewers return their superb corps of kids, even younger than last year after the defections of
Though Fielder appears to be the most vocal, the Brewers are still looking for a leader. When asked who the leader is, Macha replied, "We'll find out."
Whoever it is will have some work to do. Some of the kids are, well, childlike.
The Brewers figure it's hard enough to play at the major-league level without a target on their backs. The loss of Weeks and a decided lack of depth in the pitching staff torpedoed the talented team's season last year; they were in first place in May but finished 80-82, well behind the Cardinals, one of the teams that took offense. But Brewers players don't single out the Cardinals. They noticed quite a few teams took exception to their ways, and they are starting to wonder whether their over-the-top celebrations made them a team other teams loved to beat.
"We were getting some bad vibes -- just the way people came after us,"
"We don't want to give the other teams reason not to like us. There's a lot of old-school guys out there that might look at things differently."
The Brewers even have a couple old-school guys in their midst -- including their manager and their bench coach. "You want guys to express themselves," Randolph said. "That's the culture we live on. But players have to understand there's an etiquette to baseball, and if you run into teams that take offense, you have to deal with that, too. Players have to be conscious of that, they have to decipher what is right and the core leadership has to keep tabs on it."
It's unlikely Braun and Hart delivered the very same message without a hint or two from the top. Hart said the players all gathered to talk about changing their ways, even before Zito sent his message. Macha, though, won't cop to telling the team to tone it down.
"We," Macha emphasized, "are all in favor."
Macha is old school, after all, and old-school men don't reveal what goes on behind closed doors. "Those are all discussions not to be put in the paper," Macha said. "All the stuff that's done with the players, that all stays within house."
As for the celebrating, Macha acknowledged that the game has changed since he played, and that at 59 he's more than a generation older than almost all his position players and most of his pitchers (
"I'm OK with guys having fun," Macha said. "But there's a way to have fun and still respect the other team. ... You've got to focus on playing the game. I feel we're good enough. People should see we respect the game by playing it hard. We play it as hard or harder than anyone."
This season, they hope to do so without upsetting the opposition.
Sadly, it appears the club will have one less year of Nathan, who's going to wait two weeks to let the swelling subside before testing his arm. "He was excited about the club. He was excited about the new stadium," Nathan's agent
It makes sense to give it a shot, but the reality is surgery seems likely, which would be a major blow to the Twins. Not only does Nathan have more saves than anyone since 2004 (three more than
The Twins have a strong bullpen, but since they have no one obvious closer-in-waiting (
The Twins showed interest earlier this winter in
I spent a little time with
Torre is about to turn 70, but he seems more fit and youthful than he was a decade ago. He overcame prostate cancer diagnosed in 1999, but he attributes the appearance of increased energy to the knee surgery that restored his gait.
Torre is now in negotiations with the Dodgers on a one-year extension to the three-year deal that ends after this season, and the current talks have included a lot of discussion about what else Torre might do for the Dodgers after he stops managing following the 2011 season. The assumption has been that 2011 will be the end. Of course, it was first thought that 2010 would be his final year, and it seems like we've been here many times before. Retirement rumors have surrounded Torre for nearly a decade, and he's always been pulled back to the game.
This case is slightly different, of course, in that the Dodgers have a definitive succession plan, with longtime lieutenant
That is, if Torre goes. He did warn me several times he's taking it "one year at a time." But he doesn't sound like a man thinking about retiring at the moment.
"This is a great life," Torre said, adding, "I'm enjoying myself. We're enjoying being in the West Coast. I like working with
It's apparent he still loves this job, too.
You see where this is going. You have to wonder.
"I don't want to say I'm waffling ... but I can't completely decide not to do it," he said.
"At some point, I'm going to say, 'Isn't this enough?'" Torre said. But he didn't say he was quite at that point. Until he leaves, based on his history I'm just going to have to assume he's staying forever.
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