Bears Gear Up for
'It's us against the world,'
says Coach Agard
Picayune staff writer
It's only virtual mid-July, but the Denver Bears are gearing up
for their first ever stretch drive for the Panhandle Western Division
The Bears are tied for first place with a 48-38 record, but they
are anything but happy. Their recent nine-game losing streak cost
them a chance to put distance between them and their closest pursuers,
perennial contenders Burlingame and the upstart Belmont Ravens.
The Bears have been the most inconsistent team in the newly realigned
Panhandle Western Division. After stumbling out of the gate with
a 6-14 start, The Bears went on a 36-12 tear, led by the entire
pitching staff, which had a 2.83 team ERA during the streak, and
timely, if streaky, hitting by the high-salaried Bear offense,
particularly third baseman Ken Keltner. After this came the awful
losing streak, when the entire team seemed to collapse.
Team manager Tom Austin Jr. seemed unruffled by the bumpy path
his team had taken so far. A cerebral manager in the Tony LaRussa
mold, Austin says he expects ups and downs in a long season. "Statistics
don't lie," Austin said as he perused spreadsheets on his computer
screen. "According to my charts, the Bears have the best LX/QR
ratio in the league. What's more, our IP/R/TSIP ratio has been
improving since May."
Many baseball insiders questioned the hiring of Austin as manager,
citing his lack of on-field experience. Austin has no organized
baseball playing experience. When questioned about his qualifications,
he huffed, "I have read a lot of baseball books." So far, it appears
that he was reading the right books.
If Austin is the brains behind the Bears' surprising success,
it is clear that third base coach Ken Agard is the team's emotional
center. Many credit Agard's Thanksgiving outburst, when he upended
the postgame meal table and send a roast turkey flying into first
baseman Don Mincher's lap, with triggering the team's turnaround.
More recently, he held a closed-door meeting with the players
after the team had lost nine games in a row. "He told us we were
a bunch of lollygaggers," said pitcher Pablo Torrealba. "Que es
'lollygagger'?" he asked nearby pitcher Sarge Connally.
Coach Agard walked into Austin's office and popped open a beer.
"What a bunch of lollygaggers," the burly coach groused as he
pounded some Bud. "They get a little winning streak going and
they think they're (expletive deleted) Babe Ruth." Agard continued,
"you're one of those #$%*&* reporter types, aren't you? Goldang
New York writers. You're probably just like that Zminda guy. All
he does is rip us. First he ignores us when we're burning up the
league, then he jumps all over us when we stumble a little. I
tell ya, all you press types are out to get us."
It is rumored around the Panhandle League that Agard is interviewing
for managing jobs. While he has more experience than Austin, his
major league experience is unclear. He claims to have spent time
with the Minnesota Twins of the Killebrew/Oliva era, but no records
can be found.
Bears Ownership Situation Unclear
When crusty Denver liquor tycoon Thomas Austin Sr. bought the
defunct Portland Smoked Salmon and moved them here to Denver,
local fans were not sure what to expect. Austin began with a complete
housecleaning, firing the entire Portland front-office staff (some
of whom are still unaccounted for) and releasing all of the players
on the roster. Austin intimates say that reflects his brass-knuckled
style, which he developed in the liquor, import-export, and gambling
industries. "'Tommy the Animal' has left more than a few dead
bodies in his climb to the top," said one anonymous source, as
he entered the Federal Witness Protection program building on
Others paint a different picture of the aging patriarch of the
Austin "Family." Austin, 89, is rarely seen in public these days.
Most of his public statements are made through his fourth wife,
Candy. The former Candy Hotcakes, 22, is a former Las Vegas showgirl
and porn star who is now, she says, "totally in love with my Tommy."
Others within the Austin empire hint at darker ambitions for the
former dancer. These sources hint that Candy is plotting to take
over the team and replace whiz kid General Manager Tom Austin
III, 31. Speculation continues that she plans to move the team
into the STATS Fantasy Football league because "I like their cute
butts in those uniforms they wear."