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Friday, March 9, 2007

Pwned By Jerry Kramer, Plus Brewers Talk!

So, getting dissed by Jerry Kramer.

For a while, I worked in a nice-ish hotel, and we played host to a golf outing for several Packer Hall of Famers, including Don Majkowski, Bill Currie, and Jerry Kramer. First off, Majik was drunk practically the entire time. Him and Bret Bielema wouldn't stop smoking cigars in the lobby, and you try and remove two men who outweigh you by at least 100 pounds.

That wasn't the worst of it, though. I have read the book "Instant Replay," by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap, just about every year now. It's Jerry Kramer's diary of the 1967 season, starting when Paul Hornung goes to the Saints ending with Lombardi's retirement and Phil Bengston's hiring. It's an illuminating book, one that should be required reading for anyone doing sportswriting.

Suffice to say, this book is one of my all-time favorites. I was really excited to meet the man who wrote one of my favorite books and tell him what his book meant to me. It was horribly unprofessional, but you only have one chance to tell someone like that what you think about him.

Finally, Jerry came up to the desk. He had some questions, and myself and my other front desk mates were answering them. Before he was about to leave I said, "Oh, and Mr. Kramer..." He turned away and asked the other people a question. Then I piped up again, thinking, hey, maybe he didn't hear me. I tried again and he did it AGAIN. After the third time I tried, he thanked us and walked away from the desk.

So there it is. I was pwned by Jerry Kramer.

What does this have to do with the Brewers? Well, every year, you try and talk to national sportswriters about the Brewers, and they react in much the same way. They would rather talk about the Yankees or the Red Sox, or laugh at the Royals for a while, than talk about an up-and-coming team in the NL Central.

I mean, think about it. Last year, they were plagued with injuries. There was Ben Sheets at the beginning, then Tomo Ohka. Then J. J. Hardy got hurt, then Rickie Weeks went down, then the weird Derrick Turnbow meltdown happened. The Turnbow thing cost them two or three crucial games right at the All-Star break where they were finally starting to poke their heads above .500, which was devastating. They traded away Carlos Lee because of it. After the Lee trade, Prince Fielder was no longer protected in the lineup, so he looked mortal.

Out of the negatives, though, it's important to remember some positives. Bill Hall looked really good, and he'll be perfect in center field. Corey "Sunglasses At Night" Hart will play in right, and Ryan Braun' s bat looks amazing so far. They picked up Francisco Cordero in the Lee trade, and he was pretty decent. They'll be stable at closer until Turnbow returns to form, and their starting pitching should be decent.

Now, I'm not crazy about the Suppan signing. I mean, he's just Jeff Suppan. Don't expect too much. I also don't understand the Johnny Estrada trade. You had CHEAP starting pitching, which is at such a premium in baseball these days, and you traded it to get a catcher. You already had two average to above-average catchers. Maybe they're planning on trading Mike Rivera or Damian Miller, considering how few good starting catchers there are.

However, this team is surprisingly free of holes. Sure, you have Geoffin Menchins starting in left field, but one of them has to hit the ball every once in a while. The infield is strong. The pitching, starting and relief, is actually solid. Considering the shoestring budget, this team is shockingly good.

So, there's no need to pull a Jerry Kramer on this team. If things go their way even slightly, we could be looking at a rising young team in the NL Central.