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Archive for October 8th, 2011

Saying the Brewers and Cardinals don’t like each other is like saying, “The water is wet.”

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Today’s blog post by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s regular baseball beat writer, Tom Haudricourt, states the obvious even to its title, which is: “Brewers, Cards don’t like each other.”  This is like saying, “The water is wet.” 

I’ve been discussing this for months now, with my most recent post about the Brewers-Cardinals animosity being this one regarding Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan’s “spitting incident” at Saint Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter after Carpenter swore at Morgan.  This is why Haudricourt’s blog post shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  But Haudricourt’s blog is still quite insightful due to getting a number of revealing quotes.

First, Haudricourt started with Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke, who will start Game 1 of the National League Championship Series tomorrow at 2:30 PM CST at Miller Park in Milwaukee.  Greinke said, after being asked whether the Cardinals and Brewers truly have animosity toward the other team, this:

“Maybe now,” he said. “I think no one really likes (Chris) Carpenter. Besides that, I think (the Brewers) respect mostly everyone on their team.”

Greinke referred to the Cardinals’ ace, whose 1-0 shutout of favored Philadelphia in Game 5 of the National League Division Series propelled wild-card St. Louis into the confrontation of NL Central rivals. That comment drew an immediate and expected response from St. Louis manager Tony La Russa.

Here, Greinke may be referring to the way Carpenter acted at the end of the concluding game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals in their National League Division Series.  The Phillies’ big first baseman, Ryan Howard, tore his Achilles tendon on the last play of the game and was writhing along the first base line as he never made it to the first base bag while the Cardinals piled into the now-traditional dogpile in celebration elsewhere on the field.  Then, Carpenter was interviewed, and he either didn’t know that Howard had to be helped off the field (and could put no weight on his leg or tendon) or he didn’t care. 

None of this looked classy on the part of the Cardinals, though the media for the most part left it alone.

Back to Haudricourt’s blog, where the next person quoted was Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa.   However, because LaRussa is a very good friend of former Brewers manager Ned Yost (who was unjustly fired with only twelve games or so remaining in 2008), that might somehow impact upon what LaRussa thinks and feels.  You need to keep this in mind as you read the following:

“Very disappointed that Greinke would say that,” said La Russa. “I don’t know him a lot but I always thought he was a high character, classy guy. That’s a bad comment to make unless you know Chris Carpenter.

“Our attitude is we look at ourselves and we grade ourselves. And even if we don’t like what’s happening on the other side, it’s not our business unless somebody crosses the line.

“So, I think the Brewers should take care of their players and their comments and not be concerned about other players and comments. But, like I said at the beginning, if they had Chris Carpenter they would be cheering for him and believing in him and they would not allow somebody that was a teammate to make a crack like that.”

Haudricourt’s blog is full of information about why the Cardinals dislike Morgan in particular; it goes back to when Morgan was a member of the Washington Nationals, long before Morgan ever became a Brewer.  Morgan is a hard-nosed, gritty player with attitude and ebullience, and he isn’t shy about sharing what he thinks and feels, either (see the two “f-bombs” he let loose with in the TBS coverage during the game 5 coverage that I talked about here).  Morgan also is known for being a player whose behavior is right on the edge of what’s considered acceptable, as Tim Brown pointed out in this article from Yahoo Sports, dated September 8, 2011.

So perhaps it’s not too surprising that one Cardinals player, veteran Lance Berkman, opened up and actually discussed with Haudricourt (quoted in Haudricourt’s blog) what Berkman thinks about the Brewers in general and Morgan in particular.  

Berkman, however, was more truthful about the lingering tension between the clubs.

“It doesn’t just go away; it’s always under the surface,” said Berkman. “So, we’ll see what happens. It is what it is. I hate that phrase but that’s as good as I can come up with to describe it.

“I don’t want to create something that’s not there. We all respect the Brewers and think they have a great team. Taken individually, I think they’ve got some great guys. Sometimes, when you’re competing collectively, there are things that rub you the wrong way or incidents that happen.”

As for Morgan’s antics, Berkman said, “He’s obviously a passionate guy and intense competitor. That being said, sometimes that exuberance can spill over into a realm that I don’t feel is appropriate. But I’m not the czar of baseball, either.”

All of this is why the Brewers-Cardinals will definitely be “must-see TV” in my household, even if I weren’t such a big Brewers fan.

———-

** Note:  You also might want to take a look at Jeff Passan’s column at Yahoo! Sports, which discusses the Cardinals and Brewers in great depth with the understanding of the whole “Brewers are ‘new school,’ Cardinals are ‘old school'” dynamic that the national media is doing its best to portray.  (Me, I see the Cardinals, and their ace P Carpenter, the same way Greinke does, quoted above from Haudricourt’s blog.)

Just reviewed Mercedes Lackey’s “Changes” at SBR

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Folks, I just finished up a book review for Mercedes Lackey’s CHANGES at Shiny Book Review, so here’s the link:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/changes-by-mercedes-lackey-decent-but-not-her-bes/

As Lackey is one of my favorite authors, writing a review like this, where I stated she’s “done this all before” and talked about the formulaic nature of the Valdemar series at this point was difficult for me to write.  Note that saying something has a formula to it doesn’t mean it’s bad; in this case, Lackey has so much skill that you can’t help but read any of her novels, even one of her weaker efforts, until the end.  Lackey is a very good writer for a reason, and she’s sold a great many books for a reason also, because her formula works.

In the Valdemar novels (also called the “Heralds of Valdemar” series), there are a number of things that are generally seen.  These are:

1) A likeable hero or heroine (in this case, Herald-trainee Mags).

2) The likeable hero feels like an outcast, as he’s come from someplace that doesn’t know much about the Heralds of Valdemar and struggles to fit in.

3) He finds friends who, like him, feel like outcasts for various reasons, so he’s not entirely alone.

4) He solves some problems due to his unique set of challenges and gifts; the way the hero looks at the world is vital to the safety and security of Valdemar, and thus everything the hero does (even the stuff that isn’t so nice) makes sense in context.

Those four things all have to be in a Valdemar novel, and they all were present with abundance in CHANGES.

So why, then, did I give this novel a C-plus when I really like Lackey’s writing?  Because while I sympathize with her in trying to come up with a unique angle for writing the Valdemar stories after all this time (after twenty-nine novels, the first one being published in 1987), this angle didn’t work for me.  Mags is analytical and intelligent, yes, but the way he speaks (in heavy dialect) is there so the reader will be constantly reminded that Mags really is intelligent and analytical because he doesn’t sound like either one of these things most of the time.  As a reader, I don’t like being “force-fed” like this, even from someone who writes as well as Lackey.

Second, as I said in my review, I’ve seen this done before and done better by Lackey, most notably in EXILE’S HONOR, BY THE SWORD, and the allied novel OATHBREAKERS (the latter being a view of Heralds from outside Valdemar, and through the lenses of two diversely gifted women).  

Third, even though there was a very nice emotional center to the book (I said this in my review, too), some of the emotional lows were not really there.  Mags doesn’t doubt himself so much as think that he should doubt himself, if that makes sense; also, when there were fights between the major characters, it felt forced and unnatural, as if Lackey figured there’d better be a fight so she put one in there even though it didn’t flow out naturally from the characterization.  And since I know Lackey can and usually does do better than this, that was the primary reason why CHANGES only garnered a C-plus from me, with the other reasons being that this book seemed more like an appetizer to whet my palate rather than a full, rich, satisfying meal.

Anyway, no writer is going to hit 100% with every reader on every book, so Lackey only hitting about 75% of what I’d hoped for with regards to her newest Valdemar novel, CHANGES, isn’t that big of a surprise.

Still, if you want to read Lackey (and I hope you do), you’d be better served to start with these books instead (along with the ones I’ve already mentioned):

ARROWS OF THE QUEEN (the very-first written Valdemar novel), ARROW’S FLIGHT, and ARROW’S FALL — These star Talia, an unwanted child from the puritanical Holderkin who live on the far outskirts of Valdemar.  She is Chosen to become the Queen’s Own Herald, struggles mightily in the role as her primary gift is empathy (not usually seen outside of Bards or Healers, and most especially not seen alone), and eventually finds her soul mate, Herald Dirk, after a great many trials and tribulations.

MAGIC’S PAWN, MAGIC’S PROMISE, MAGIC’S PRICE — this is the “Last Herald-Mage” trilogy, and it stars Vanyel Ashkevron, who is gay.  Vanyel’s family doesn’t like this fact overmuch and causes great troubles for him; when Vanyel’s first (and best) love, Tylendel, dies through misadventure, Vanyel tries to commit suicide.  Instead, he is Chosen and must come to terms with his new-found, prodigious abilities while his lover is still dead.  Very real emotions are evoked here, and the storytelling is as strong as I’ve ever seen it in any of Lackey’s novels.  Lackey won the Lambda Award for the final book in this trilogy, MAGIC’S PRICE, due to her sensitivity and understanding of Vanyel’s problems.

Try one of these trilogies, or better yet, try both as they’re uniformly excellent.  Then read the newest novel, CHANGES; if you do so, I’m sure you’ll see some of the same things I did with regards to this newest novel (the lack of freshness and emotional depth compared to “what has come before”).

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 8, 2011 at 8:56 pm