Monday, April 12, 2010

Hell's Bells: Trevor Hoffman Wins One

What do you do when your legendary bullpen ace falters? If you're the Milwaukee Brewers, you win the game anyway. If you're a Brewers fan, it's not so clear.

Sunday night's Brewers-Cardinals game at Miller Park was hugely entertaining for Milwaukee baseball enthusiasts, including my Beloved Spousal Unit and I, perched in the upper deck. Baseball's full range of action was on display: impressive power hitting, alert baserunning, an incredible, diving catch in the outfield, and both expert stops and game-changing errors in the infield.

By the time the overtaxed stadium speakers struck up "Hell's Bells" at peak volume as the Brewers' closer, future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, trotted in from the bullpen, the hometown faithful were in a partying mood.

Only, not so fast. Giving up back-to-back homers to Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday -- what other pair of the game's best sluggers would be more likely to come through in the clutch? -- Hoffman closed out merely the half-inning, not the game. He left with a a 7-7 tie, a blown save, and a deflated crowd.

There were boos as he walked off, more than a few. For Trevor Hoffman. The Trevor Hoffman. With 594 career saves, the most in the history of the game. The veteran presence on the pitching staff. The player whose theme song alone whips the crowd into a frenzy.

But also, the Trevor Hoffman who had signed a new contract for a healthy raise early in the off-season, struggled all spring training, and has yet to find his "A"-game this April. Now, two of the game's best hitters take him deep in the ninth. Never mind that the Brewers' Casey McGehee made Hoffman the game's winning pitcher with a walk-off homer moments later. The question remains: is this the beginning of the end for one of the game's superstars?

Could be. But, fellow Milwaukeeans, knock it off with the booing. We're talking about Trevor Hoffman here. Not only is he crucial to our chances, but we're lucky to have the opportunity to watch him at his craft, even in his late career. This is why we bring Rembrandts to the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Milwaukee Public Museum, Eric Clapton to Summerfest, the Bratwurst to the Sausage Race.

We're trying to encourage the Brew Crew to win a ballgame, and we're disappointed when the team falls short some nights. But please, a little appreciation and respect for the great career and continuing efforts of a consummate professional. Enough with the booing. All things considered, I'd rather not be in Philadelphia.

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