By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published May 30, 2002 at 5:26 AM

The Brewers are on pace to set a major league record for the biggest drop in attendance in the second year of a new ballpark. When will management realize changes have to be made now to get the fans back?

You can cite the slow economy, and the fact attendance is down around baseball. You can point to the fact the Milwaukee market always reacts adversely to the talk of labor problems. Maybe the ticket price increases also have kept a few people away.

But, the overwhelming reason for the attendance drop remains the fact the Brewers are losers on the field. From the president of the club through GM Dean Taylor, lip service is paid to this fact, and vague promises of fielding a better team are made.

Yet, nothing happens. We're not talking about firing Davey Lopes and replacing him with his bench coach. Another wholesale change in coaching will not do it.

Taylor, with the endorsement of his higher-ups, has to start making some major changes in the makeup of this club. If Taylor can't make deals, then he should be fired and Dave Stewart or another solid baseball man should be named GM.

Forget the fact the Brewers played pretty well at the end of the 2000 season and started 2001 in decent fashion. These guys have proven repeatedly they cannot win over the long haul. And, don't even think about blaming things on injuries, because any of the players on this disabled list this season, with the possible exception of Chad Fox, would make little to no difference.

Trade one or two of the infielders. Deal a reliever or two. Maybe even consider dealing Geoff Jenkins if the return is right. Do something to show you are trying to make this team better.

Only then will the fans start to come back. A Brewers spokesman said this week the club will draw 3 million fans when it wins. Until some substantive proof is given that progress is being made toward that goal, attendance likely will return to near County Stadium levels.

The Brewers should be embarrassed to be setting records for strikeouts and attendance declines. The fans are, and are demonstrating it by staying away in droves.

Helfaer Field

While the Brewers can't build a winner on the field, they are doing several other things right. One is the development of Helfaer Field, with funding from the Helfaer Foundation.

The Little League park, on the site of the former County Stadium, will be dedicated this Friday in a 4 p.m. ceremony. Brewers President and CEO Wendy Selig-Prieb, Stadium District Board Chairman Bob Trunzo and Helfaer Foundation Administrator and Trustee Tom Smallwood will speak.

The first game will be played at 5 p.m. and will feature the Brookfield Park and Recreation Twins against the Wauwatosa Little League Suns. These two teams will include kids between eight and nine years of age.

Another game will follow at approximately 7:30 pm pitting the Oconomowoc YMCA Indians against Jensen Law of Hortonville. These are teams of 11 and 12 year olds.

Helfaer Field is one of the best youth baseball facilities in the country, and along with the Milwaukee Braves monument, statues of the Miller Park workers, Henry Aaron and Robin Yount and other amenities make the grounds around Miller Park a real showcase area of the community.

Draft Picks Signed

The Brewers reached an agreement with lefthanded pitcher Manny Parra this week. Parra, 19, was the Brewers 26th round selection in the 2001 First Year Player Draft. This past season, he attended American River College in Sacramento, California, where he was named the Junior College Player of the Year by Baseball America.

Parra was 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 14 games for American River. He pitched 86.2 innings allowing 63 hits and 25 walks while striking out 118 batters.  Parra was recently named the Pitcher of the Year in the Bay Valley East Conference.

Parra is 6-3 and 200 pounds. He will report to Maryvale, the Brewers pre-season rookie camp in Arizona on June 10.

Milwaukee also reached agreement with outfielder Stephen Hunt, their 35th round pick last season. Hunt, 20, played for Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Chandler, Arizona, this season. Hunt will join Parra at the pre-season camp in early-June.

Player of the Week

Ruben Quevedo for his three-hitter last Saturday over the Padres.

Plays of the Week

Strikeouts by Geoff Jenkins and Alex Ochoa in Sunday's loss, Eric Young to end Wednesday's loss and by others during much of the week. The Brewers still strike out too much, especially in clutch situations.

Goat of the Week

Jenkins had a nightmarish week and has slumped to .220. He hasn't been the same since his shoulder injury last season. Right now, there are questions whether he ever will be.

Gregg Hoffmann writes The Brew Crew Review on Thursdays and The Milwaukee Sports Buzz on Mondays on OMC.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.