Francisco Rodriguez wants to close and isn't happy that he hasn't been given the chance with the Brewers. Prince Fielder is entering the final few weeks of his Brewers career and says it's unlikely he'll be back.
We've known this to be the case for weeks (or, in Fielder's case, well over a year) -- it isn't exactly news to anyone who's been paying attention. So why is the national media jumping over these stories?
It has to do with timing. That's the only reason anyone is pretending to make this a big deal.
The Brewers are in unfamiliar ground with a sizeable division lead and October in sight. They've had a rough couple weeks in which the Cardinals have shaved off 5 games and made the Brewers sweat. Things are getting tense, and when things aren't going well, some people like to point to potential distractions.
Of course, there's been no indication that K-Rod's desire to close or Prince's desire to go elsewhere or even Nyjer Morgan's antics are causing distractions in the Brewers' clubhouse. Everyone in the clubhouse knows Rodriguez wants to close, but it hasn't affected team performance. Everyone in the clubhouse knows that Prince is likely going to get a better offer somewhere else this winter, but it hasn't affected performance, either. For the most part those feelings seem to be understood, maybe even appreciated. It's great that Rodriguez is so competitive and confident in his abilities that he feels he could do just as well as John Axford. Players understand that baseball is a business and Fielder will do what he feels is best for his family.
It's hard for these things to become distractions when they've always been present. Shaun Marcum didn't serve up home runs to Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario because he was worried about getting save chances for K-Rod. He made a pair of pretty bad pitches. The offense isn't struggling to score runs because they're worried about Prince's free agent status. They bat four position players in a row with an OPS+ under 100 when Rickie Weeks isn't in the lineup -- they're going to be a bit streaky.
These feelings existed in August when the team went 21-7. We're supposed to believe that they're suddenly going to cause trouble now in the final weeks of the season?