That aggressiveness has manifested itself in the Brewers' scoring first in their first 21 games. And in their pasting of the Red Sox 18-0 on Patriots' Day in Boston. And in their uncoiling of the Cobra, as Parker is known, who through Sunday was batting .341 as the designated hitter. And in Trebelhorn's saying, "Once again, we have a chance to win this division."
Once again. Last season, Milwaukee opened with five starters on the disabled list: infielders Paul Molitor, Dale Sveum and Greg Brock, and pitchers Teddy Higuera and Juan Nieves. During the year, 15 Brewers spent time on the DL. Still, Milwaukee was only a half game out of first on Aug. 20, when they left on a seven-game trip to Baltimore and Toronto. They lost their first six on that road swing and never reentered the race.
That was when they brought in Baylor, a baseball wise man who had grown weary of the road. "I was sent here to check the pulse of a team that was in contention, but was not in contention," says Baylor, who last played, for Oakland, in 1988. He found a dead clubhouse full of Brewers, who, he says, seemed primarily interested in playing five-card draw and watching reruns of Taxi. "There were social factions here and there," says Baylor while hooking up a VCR to a TV installed in an empty locker in County Stadium. "There was just a dull attitude in general."
To be sure, the Milwaukee players still sink into the two hideously upholstered sofas in their clubhouse to catch some cathode rays. But this year, the programming they're watching is produced by Baylor, who became wired up after he accepted Dalton's offer to become batting coach, on Dec. 4. After three months as the general manager's assistant, Baylor's business suit had begun to itch.
Now Louie and Latka have been replaced by a library of videotapes—one for every player, each of whom can cue up any of his at bats (or pitches) from this season. Baylor, who caught the video bug while touring Japan last summer, takes the TV and VCR everywhere so that young Brewers like Sheffield and rookie outfielder Greg Vaughn will gather around it with their batting coach, as if Baylor is Dad and they're all in the den.
In Kansas City on May 1, Sheffield was being badly fooled by Bret Saberhagen's off-speed pitches. So before he batted in the top of the sixth, he popped in a tape of his first two at bats against the Royals' righthander and saw himself swinging too early, each time anticipating an incendiary fastball. Minutes later at the plate, Sheffield decided to wait for whatever pitch was thrown. His two-run homer off a Saberhagen changeup was his first of the season, and it iced the Brewers' 6-3 win. "That's something I couldn't have done last year," says Sheffield.
It is a tribute to Trebelhorn's managing style that he is thrilled, not threatened, by Baylor's presence. "There are people out there who, for one reason or another, have a reluctance to come in and talk to me," Trebelhorn says in his office, in the back of the Brewers' clubhouse. "The door is open, but there's a barrier. And I understand that. It's human nature."
So Sheffield and Vaughn and outfielder Glenn Braggs can be seen chatting up, being chatted up by, or simply basking in the presence of, Baylor, Milwaukee's clubhouse Buddha, who often just sits there, oozing baseball knowledge. "I go to him, he comes to me, I see him all the time," says Vaughn. "Probably too much. It's like going to school every day."
Says Crim, "I think the big change this year is that people are worried about the actual game now, instead of worrying about who is saying what and why they're saying what."
If the change is most noticeable in the Brewers' extra intensity on the field, it is almost equally apparent in the insanity in the clubhouse, a lot of it provided by Parker, who says, "Let's see. We got one brother in here that looks like a black Jimmy Durante. Sheffield? He's Home Plate Face—the man's got the widest face in baseball. Vaughnie? He's always got this devious look on his face. He couldn't date my daughter, let's put it that way...." Parker's needle finds everyone on the team, but it never breaks the skin.