MILWAUKEE – Here I am again, back at what was Ground Zero for Randall Simon’s career.
Back when I was just the backup Pirates beat writer, the main guy never liked coming to Milwaukee so I covered at least one series here each season. I don’t mind Milwaukee, overall. Of all the National League towns, it most reminds me of Pittsburgh. It’s not as busy as Chicago, not as scenic as Denver, not as glamorous as LA, not as warm as Phoenix and not as seat-of-power-in-the-free-world-ish as Washington, but it has Summerfest (an awesome weeklong concert series) and … well, beer and brats.
When I got here this afternoon, I went to my favorite Milwaukee restaurant for lunch — Cubatinas, around the corner from the team hotel. It’s Cuban food, not brats. A cold Mojito instead of Milwaukee’s Best. Cubatinas was highly recommended to me a couple of years ago by Trenni Kusnierek of Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, who is a Milwaukee native (Milwaukean? Milwauker? Milwannabe? Milwaukeeanian? Whatever).
The restaurant is in the middle of what is emerging as a funky neighborhood. Across the street is a Vespa dealership. Next to it is a joint called “Carnivore” (gee, what’s on the menu there?) and a few doors down is a sushi bar that advertises its “soon-to-be-famous Godzilla roll.” Wonder if it’s as good as the Kuwata roll I had in Bradenton?
• Milwaukee is the middle stop on a three-city road trip — two games in St. Louis, two here and three in Los Angeles. I am dreading the fight Friday morning out to LA. Basically, I’ll step off the plane, chug more coffee and head straight to Dodger Stadium for work.
Joe Rutter, who worked this gig before me, predicted two things about this road trip: 1. I’ll hate the travel and 2. I’ll be sick as a dog by the time I get home. He’s got a point. I mean, how much recycled airplane air can you breathe before some virus catches up with you?
• Here’s a shout out to Buzz, my freshman year roommate at Penn State. Buzz is a Phillies fan — which in my book ranks high on the list of faults a man can have — but, as I recall, otherwise was a pretty good guy.
Anyway, I hadn’t heard from Buzz in about 20-odd years. He came across my byline via a fantasy baseball tip on Yahoo.com. The e-mail he sent included this greeting: “How the heck are ya? A little older, judging by your Bucco Blog photo.”
Chalk up another vote in the “nuke it” column for my mugshot.
• It’s getting on toward the end of April, and Adam LaRoche is still in his batting funk. Bouncing him up or down in the batting order isn’t the answer — ” I don’t see that changing anything,” LaRoche told me the other day — so don’t expect manager Jim Tracy to tinker heavily with the lineup to try to jump-start his first baseman.
After talking with LaRoche, I get the sense it’s more a mental thing than anything to do with his stance, his swing, pitch recognition or whether he bats fourth or sixth. There are times when he goes to the plate, and wonders which infielder will stick out his glove and snare the line drive, instead of expecting the ball to get through for a hit. It’s a confidence thing.