October 01, 2011
MILWAUKEE — The two biggest stars on the Milwaukee Brewers played like beasts and acted like monsters during their 2011 playoff debuts, with both making the sort of impact required for a team wanting to reach the World Series.
Fielder prefers to compare that area to the popular kids movie "Monsters Inc.," but two actions are needed to enter the team's beast mode: One, you must make a great play. Two, you must raise both hands, preferably above your head, pose your fingers like an attacking wild animal, and go "RAWR!"
(Or, "ARGH!" as teammate Jerry Hairston said.)
Yes, grown men do this.
But, by any measure, Fielder and Braun gave monster performances.
Fielder had a dream of a game, contributing two hits including a killer two-run home run against Ian Kennedy(notes) in the seventh inning that all but sealed the victory and sent Miller Park up for grabs with roaring and towel-waving. Not only does Fielder want to enjoy what amounts to a second and final chance at postseason success with Milwaukee after fizzling in 2008, but he wants to show other teams that he — and not Albert Pujols(notes) — should set the free-agent market for sluggers this winter.
Braun, who is under contract until 2021 and poised to be the face of the franchise for the next decade, went 3 for 4 with two runs scored. His best at-bat actually might have been his first, when he popped out to short after making Kennedy throw him a lot of pitches.
It was Braun's defense, which he's not known for in a positive sense, that really set the game's tone. In the first inning, Braun made a perfect, two-hop throw to cut down Willie Bloomquist(notes) at the plate and keep Arizona off the scoreboard.
After Braun's play on defense and Fielder's blast, each player added a ritualistic celebration, to which teammate Nyjer Morgan(notes) applied the "beast mode" term when asked about it by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Fielder seems uneasy with that nickname, preferring to associate Milwaukee's antics with a popular animated film about monsters who act loveable instead of scary. Like the characters in the film, Fielder and Braun manage to be both — it just depends on who's watching.
"My kids like 'Monsters, Inc.,' — they watched that growing up," Fielder said. "'Beastmode" is too hard for me. But that's fine, that's cool. They can call it what they want."
For the Diamondbacks, they're definitely scary. And they both kind of resemble the main characters.
Fielder is like the burly and hairy Sulley (voiced by John Goodman), only with tattoos.
Braun, with his entrancing saucer-like eyes, is like Mike, who was green had only one eye. Close enough.
Not all of the Brewers fit into "Beast Mode" neatly. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo(notes), who pitched probably the best game of his career, doesn't appear to act like a monster, like, ever. And his catcher in Game 1, Jonathan Lucroy(notes), said his monstrous body language needs work.
"When I put my hands up, it comes off looking like a T-rex," Lucroy said as he demonstrated with his fingers. "I think I've got to get my arms higher."
The Brewers seem kind of sensitive about "Monsters, Inc./Beast Mode" when asked for comment. Certainly manager Ron Roenicke worries. They don't want to appear to be showing up the other team, like when they got backlash for Fielder's game-winning home run celebration against the Giants in 2009. Back then, he pretended to be the atom bomb and the rest of the Brewers were the fake town in the desert obliterated during nuclear testing.
Genius, but easily interpreted as rubbing it in. This is a little more low-key.
Braun tried to explain:
"We have a lot of fun," Braun said. "The 'beast mode' thing is something that we do for each other to kind of get fired up whenever something positive happens. And I think it's kind of taken on a life of its own. But it's something that we all enjoy doing."
And they're not going to stop just because some curmudgeons might get offended at their celebrating a big moment.
"You don't stop being who you are just because it's the playoffs," Lucroy said.
If the motion reminds you of "The Claw," made famous by the Texas Rangers in 2010, yeah, well you're not the only one. But do the Rangers do any roaring? No, they do not. And it's usually just one claw. Looks like they're throwing a grenade. The Brewers make two claws. Totally different, like when Vanilla Ice sampled "Under Pressure" and turned it into "Ice Ice Baby." It's not even the same song!
Fielder wants to be singing a different tune in these playoffs than in 2008, when the Brewers got in as the wild card on the last day and got beat in four games by the Phillies. Fielder went 1 for 14 and said he was miserable the whole series.
"I was trying to enjoy the moment," Fielder said. "Just trying to enjoy it. You know, it's still baseball. Just more magnified, I guess. I'm just trying to enjoy fans, teammates, just really trying to have as much fun as possible and not make it a job. Not try to win so hard. Just try to enjoy it.
"Of course, you'd like to have this kind of day, a first day of the playoffs, but it was more like I said before. In '08, in my mind, I felt like it was a one-game playoff every game. I felt, when we lost, that the series was over every time. Today, like I said, I was just trying to enjoy it. We've got five-game series. It's still baseball, man."
Played by human and — in the Brewers' case — beast.