Offseason Grading: The Kansas City Royals

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be going through the offseason moves in the AL and NL Central.  Day one (today), we’ll start with the easiest team to grade: The Kansas City Royals.

The best thing about grading the Royals? It doesn’t really matter what we give them, they will probably take last place in the AL Central. Let’s look at what they did:

Additions: Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Jeff Francis, Lorenzo Cain.

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Milwaukee Brewers Acquire Cy Young Winner Zach Greinke

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What a coup this is for the Milwaukee Brewers. With a deal like this in place, the Brew Crew have to be considered right up there with the Cards and Reds as favorites in the NL Central. Tonight it was leaked that they acquired one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.

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Hunt for Ken’s Machtober: Make or Break for 2010

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Since 1954, only 56 starting rotations have sheepishly admitted finishing with a higher ERA than the Milwaukee Brewers hold this season. That’s the same season Jim “Dusty” Rhodes helped led the SF Giants to a World Series win, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio and RCA manufactured the first color TV set. The first Burger King was opened in Miami that year, too; but that doesn’t mean the Milwaukee Brewers will let you “have it your way” when it comes to building a pitching staff for the 2010 roster.

 
Fans have been suffering through the drama of an injury-ridden ‘09 pitching staff.  They’re empathizing with the All-Star Braun & Fielder duo who have been getting far less support than a woman with a pair of queen-size control-top pantyhose.

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The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober: Mayday, Mayday!

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
The raging submarine has surfaced. The Man with the Mustache has parted the Milwaukee Brewers’ plagued sea from which coast guard officials were picking up distress signals. Adios to pitching coach Bill Castro. Enter Chris Bosio straight from country music land. Speaking of, if your tween wants to party with JJ Hardy, she’ll have to hitch a plane to Nashville. To top things off, Alcides Escobar will now take your questions from the infield. But we’re not done–Bill Hall was also designated for assignment and OF Jason Bourgeois is coming up the ranks.

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A pitching staff that ranks near the bottom of almost every category in the NL brings little job security.  So after 17 years as bullpen coach, it is sufficed to say Bill Castro was NOT cutting it during his first year as pitching coach.

 
I personally mourned the loss of Mike Maddux prior to this season, who was successfully courted by the Texas Rangers.  He was Milwaukee’s pitching coach from 2003-2008 and is largely credited with the Ben Sheets era of Brewers baseball. The organization knew it would be nearly impossible to fill his shoes and the appointment of Bill Castro, while welcomed, was not digested without some skepticism.

 
Tuesday’s 13-6 loss to San Diego was the nail in the coffin. If the Padres have one of the worst offenses in the league and the Crew can’t stop them from scoring, Doug Melvin and Ken Macha will go postal. 22 losses in 35 games often means a team is facing a meltdown on multiple levels.  No, this time it truly is JUST the pitching. When even Bill Hall is smacking homers and you still lose by 7 because of pitching that wreaks of limburger, adjustments are inevitable.

 
As for Castro’s interim replacement, Chris Bosio made his MLB debut in 1986 by pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a second-round draft pick for them back in 1982. Bosio came home to roost this year by taking the pitching coach position for Milwaukee’s AAA Nashville team. As of Wednesday, that team was tied for second in the Pacific Coast League in team ERA with a 4.05 and has allowed the fourth-fewest homers (83).

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Onto James Jerry Hardy—kids call him JJ (trademark David Kay)—the struggling shortshop is two years removed from All Star status and has been playing as such. His .229 batting, mere 11 homers and 45 RBI’s were dismal, essentially putting a black hole the Brewers’ lineup.

 
Hardy was sent down to AAA with little choice.  A player must have five full years in the majors before he is able to turn down such an assignment. Meantime, Aaron Harang just cleared waivers.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Hardy and Hart or Hardy, prospect and Hall for Harang? We could hear more chatter on this in coming days.

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Alcides Escobar, who was brought up to the bigs last season and sent back down to work on his defensive consistency, will takeover for Hardy. He is considered the team’s top prospect, (see “Chart Magnificence” Above), batting .298 in Nashville with two dozen doubles, 6 triples, 4 homers and 34 RBI’s. His OBP is .353 and he could fill the void of stolen bases for the Crew, having tallied 42 himself this season. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but Milwaukee’s stolen base record wasn’t half-bad until Rickie Weeks’ season-ending injury.

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Hall might as well erase the last two years of his life. 24 RBI in 214 at-bats screams gigantic waste of cash. The Brewers are paying him $6.8M in 2009 and $8.4M in 2010 to produce jack squat.  I apologize ahead of time to anyone named Jack.

 
Right now, the organization has ten days to trade Billy, cut him loose or stick him in the minors. Billy has already agreed to head to the minors but injuries forced the Crew to stick him back in the lineup. Don’t hold your breath. No one will want to pick up his salary, so Milwaukee appears to be stuck between a Hall and a hard place.

 
Onto the Brewers decision to go Bourghetto.  By the way, Bourghetto is a termed defined as bourgeois AND ghetto, commonly used by one Paul M. Banks.  Bless Paul’s fine vocabulary, which comes in quite handy here.

 
In 105 games with Nashville, Bourgeois was batting .316 with 18 doubles, six triples, two homers and 41 RBI, with a .354 OBP. Desperate times call for surprising measures. Another OF will be welcome. This could also indicate the Brewers have some level of comfort in considering dealing Hart.

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Wednesday’s decisions won’t fix the starting rotation or the bullpen fatigue, but it’s obvious the front office wants to send a signal to its coaches and players.  The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober isn’t over until the submarine has sunk. Or until Sean Connery says it is.

Hold the Cheese: A Sox-Brewers Exchange

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By Soxman and Melissa S. Wollering

You have to reach back to years of California’s rolling blackouts, Mad Cow disease media-hype and the release of the very first Apple’s IPod for the last time the Chicago White Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers.  2001 was remarkable.  Fast-forward to 2009, as Soxman and Melissa cheese it up about the latest meeting between the two teams, sure to be as memorable as the smell of limburger left in a vehicle at 90 degrees for 8 hours.

(SM)  Nope, I’m not going to do it.  There will be absolutely no gloating by this White Sox super fan regarding our series sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why?  Well, I have two reasons.  One: our victories actually helped the Cubs in the standings.  Two: the Brewers are my second favorite team in the National League.  Yes, for Soxman, there are other teams in baseball beyond the boys who protect the diamond at 35th and Shields.

The Brewers franchise is the little engine that could.  The small market team, built from home-grown prospects and complemented, not defined by free agents. I love their park and their fans, so you will not hear me “drop a beat down” on this team.

That said, to quote the 70’s sensation Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  Any thoughts you would like to share overall on the competitive series that took place at Miller Park this weekend?

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(MW)  First off, I count a sweep as taking three of three.  Brewers won on Friday 7-2, so let’s say you ‘won the series’.  Your pitchers got it done when ours didn’t, your hardwood performance made our players appear to be using toothpicks, Pierzynski was ‘one to watch’ even though Paul M. Banks thought I was nuts for saying so last week.  To top it all off, you robbed Trevor Hoffman of a perfect ERA.  Robbing Hoffy made me feel as though the Sox had cursed death upon my future first-born child.  It left me that empty.

(SM) Okay, let’s look at each game in a little more detail.  The first game to me was not a loss by the White Sox as much as it was a loss to Ozzie Guillen.  He pulled Clayton Richard after pitching five solid innings and only giving up one earned run.  It  was also the start of a great series (and hopefully a hot streak) for Corey Hart.  A double, a triple, and 3 RBIs.  Our bullpen, which had been pretty automatic, gave up six earned runs.  For a final thought, where in the heck did former Cub, Casey McGehee come from?

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(MW) He came from Cubbie purgatory where if you vow to contribute to the Milwaukee Brewers after a life with the Cubs, then you reach heaven after your career is finished. Amen, brother! He got the leadoff spot in Sunday’s lineup and contributed to that game, too, before it took a Turnbow nosedive.

I also love pitchers that can get it done on both offense and defense. On Friday, Suppan retired the side in just 7 pitches in the 2nd inning. Then he stepped up to the plate in the 3rd and advanced Kendall to second with a nice Sac.   Richard doubled for his first major-league hit in the 5th, too. Ozzie pulled him for that error in the following inning, which I agree, wasn’t completely necessary. Still, Suppan and Richard impressed overall.

(SM) Game II.  Let’s just say your premonition regarding Manny Parra in last weeks exchange with Paul M. Banks was spot on.  Six earned runs in an inning and two-thirds pitched.  What is wrong with this guy?  With an ERA over seven, perhaps he’ll follow his opponent’s lead and figure everything out in the minors?  Did I mention that Jose Contreras appears to be back?  Eight innings of two-hit ball.  Bottom line, that was the story of this game.  Care to offer your perspective?

(MW) If you care to sweep Manny Parra’s glove and uniform under Miller Park’s bleachers, douse them with lighter fluid and start tailgating around them with a couple of Usinger’s famous bratwursts, then by all means SWEEP away. Let’s just say I awoke Sunday extremely unsurprised that he was sent down to AAA Nashville. 

What cracked me up though is that Macha is so disgusted, he currently does not give a rat’s rear-end about trying to replace him. We brought up the reliever Chris Narveson and will use Seth McClung to start if need be.  However, the next 8 games include two off days, so a 4-man rotation works until June 27th. Attanasio is probably doing some Father’s Day shopping in the starting pitching department, aisle better than a 7.52 ERA? You had to know this was coming.  It’s not IF, it’s WHEN with the Milwaukee Brewers and their pitching woes.

Contreras impressed with the number of innings pitched, copious amounts of strikeouts and no signs of returning ailments. That is a trifecta to me because those Achilles can take some time. Hey, come to think of it you know, we could use a starting pitcher…

(SM) Well, if we are going to tailgate, I’d prefer Johnsonville beer brats.  The series finale was like bizarro baseball world in my opinion.  Jim Thome attempts to bunt, Mark Buehrle homers and Trevor Hoffman gives up his first run of the season.  Corey Hart brought us back to reality by belting two homers and Casey McGehee appeared to be playing with Cubs ire as he went 3 for 4, falling a triple short of the cycle.  Thoughts ?

(MW) Hart does well in June, it’s his month.  It is the month of the harvest, when his ‘International Harvester’ as a batting song actually makes sense for 30 days.  JJ Hardy looked absolutely dismal.  He got shoved down the batting order to eighth on Monday as a direct result. He is something like 1 for 32 right now in at-bats.

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Buehrle surprised with his bat and I enjoyed watching White Sox fans cheer in utter shock!  I cheered with them.  Heck, who cares?  It was exciting. Looper didn’t deserve any cheering whatsoever, so…. 

Also, let’s describe how Melissa watched the 0.00 ERA on the gigantic wrap scoreboard flicker at status quo for the last time in Brewers history for Hoffman.  Let’s pause 30 seconds for silence.  Now let’s never speak of it again. I heard he was .8 innings away from making club history.  I said let’s never speak of it again! This is me, writing to myself in my alter ego.

(SM)  I actually did a Sox Exchange once with my alter ego Bruce Wayne Parker, so I know how these things go.  It will get better.  Earlier this season, I scouted the Brewers farm system, taking in Nashville Sounds game.  All the buzz surrounded super-prospect Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar, yet most of the return on investment thus far seems to be coming from McGehee, who only hit .167 with the Cubs last year despite driving in 92 runs for AAA Iowa.  Former Brewer Scotty Podsednik has been that guy for us.  Left for dead by the Colorado Rockies, Pods was out of work until mid-April when the Sox took a chance on him.  The 2005 World Series hero has made the  most of his second chance with Sox, posting a .360 OBP, and hitting .311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, and 8 SB.  The Brewers and Sox both have a history of getting the most out of frugal signings.  Do you think its that Midwest mentality or dumb luck ?

(MW) It’s karma…we lose people like Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins who go on to semi-resurrect their careers with other organizations.  But we also give away people like Scott Linebrink to the White Sox and watch him implode on himself, like he did Saturday. 

You win some, you lose some.  So, somewhere smack in the middle of Midwest mentality and sheer dumb luck. That dances around your question like a circus performer on hot coals. Sorry, Soxman. But I agree, kudos to the Sox for picking up Scotty Po Po.  I cheered for him this weekend and I was in the vast majority!  You would have been proud of my Milwaukee Brethren.

(SM)  Finally, lets play Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox (and Brewers) and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball… 

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White Sox pitching was good for Corey Hart.
 

(SM) Maybe, He was in a 2 for 23 slump on Wednesday, looks like Ryan Braun against the Sox. 

 

(MW) Mirage, it had nothing to do with the pitching. In June 2007, Hart batted .336 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs from the leadoff spot. June of ’08 was decent, too.

 Jose Contreras is back.
 

(SM) Maybe, 2 starts, 16 IP, zero ER, and three hits allowed.  Enough said. 

(MW) Maybe, watch his health, keep stretching that achilles and I don’t see why not.

The Brewers will be buyers at the trade deadline.

(SM) Maybe, they need another solid starting pitcher and perhaps a hitter hat can get on base. 

(MW)  Strong Maybe if not Definitely. For the first time in years, more MLB teams are looking to trade for bats. It may give us an advantage when seeking pitchers. Starting pitcher = happening for us.

 The Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline.

 (SM) Mirage, who are they going to give up on?  Sellers are a possibility. 

(MW:) Mirage, they’ll be selling to teams like the Brewers and salvaging the future. My sincere apologies, but…

The Brewers and the Sox will meet in the 2009 World Series.
 

(SM) Mirage.  Not unless we start scoring more runs. 

(MW)  I like your thinking!  But probably not, so mirage it is. Bless what we have in common until then–our hatred for the Cubs!

(SM) Great exchange Melissa!  Good luck to you guys down the stretch.

What Milwaukee’s Brewing: 30 in 50, Raw Relief & Fountain vs. Fist

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

Thirty W’s in 50 games—the Milwaukee Brewers make club history with that number.  It’s also just the second time the Crew has won 30 prior to June 1.  Unfortunately, the next day, Jorge Julio throws raw steak at the Fish, single-handedly loses a game and prompts Ken Macha to rethink his entire bullpen. Now that’s more like the Brewers we know and love. Ugh.
 
The bright side: the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Reds after an interleague interruption to the Twins and losses to the red birds. Also good: Trevor Hoffman is 13 for 13 in saves.  But the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen is now valued beneath Milli Vanilli’s Grammy award at any local pawn shop near you.

 

The Brewers were on top of the Florida Marlins 4-2 Monday, when Jorge Julio entered in the 6th inning to give up five runs, four earned. Coffey stepped in that inning because after all that, Julio still couldn’t record ONE OUT. If Julio were the piece of raw meat I saw travel towards the plate Monday night, I’d feed him to Siegfried & Roy’s tiger. I’d also make sure that tiger lived a happy, fulfilling life in the Brewers bullpen reminding relievers not to THROW CRAP.

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Ken Macha just might tear apart his bullpen. He released Julio 14 hours later and called up AAA Nashville’s Mike Burns. Burns has pitched for the Sounds, recording a 6-2 record, 2.98 ERA in 10 starts and one shutout game. He’s pitched in the majors for Houston, Cincinnati and Boston and will serve a middle-reliever role.

If Macha had wanted David Riske, forget it. On Tuesday, Brewers Asst. GM Gord Ash announced Riske will undergo elbow surgery immediately and it could be as serious as Tommy John’s. He’s done for the year after just one outing.

Mark DeFelice has recently been held out of games due to his ailing elbow and could be placed on the DL any day. The Crew has R.J. Swindle but kicks itself every time it calls the LHP up because he gives up runs every time he enters a game.

In the event Macha needs someone else who can cover several innings, he could call up Nick Green or Chase Wright. Seth McClung and Mitch Stetter were so overworked by Monday, they were unavailable. Coffey and Villaneuva aren’t seeing much rest lately either. Tim Dillard would have been another decent choice to bring up Tuesday, except he pitched 7 innings on Sunday for Nashville and needs rest. Dillard has transitioned from reliever to starter.

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Mike Cameron left Monday’s game with knee irritation and Ryan Braun was part of that double-switch because he fouled a ball into one of his shins. Maybe if Braun wasn’t so busy throwing Remetee promotions parties on Milwaukee’s northside, he wouldn’t foul the ball in that direction.  Nothing is said to be serious with either player. Braun’s back in the lineup Tuesday.  Cameron is not. Jody Gerut is in.

Can we talk about the positive? May showered the Milwaukee Brewers’ with 18 victories and the wins are saving fans money.  A line formed at Miller Park Monday morning as people purchased discounted tickets to the Rockies’ series next week. The team offered a dollar off of loge level seats for every victory in May. $28 seats became $10 seats. Windell Middlebrooks calls them ‘good seats at an honest price’.

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Contributors worth recognizing include Prince ‘Month of May’ Fielder. His OBP of .450 gives statisticians chills; he whacked 9 homers, 31 RBI’s and 20 runs; AND his reflective shades complement his .305 average for the month. That’s not bad considering he lost your friend and mine, Rickie Weeks.

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Craig Counsell’s performance has exceeded the worth of his contract and it’s only June. Yovani Gallardo is finally showing signs of Ace potential. And Trevor Hoffman is playing paramedic, performing CPR on the bullpen even though he was out the first month of the season.  He is already approaching the top of the list in saves in the NL. He also converted his 13th save on the day the Milwaukee Brewers released his first bobblehead figure.  Remember when the Derrick Turnbow bobblehead release signaled his demise? Oh, Turnblow.

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I understand Miller Park finally got it right for Hoffy on Friday, playing AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ the correct way. As the Brewers secured the final out in the 8th, all graphics on the video board went out, cameras and lights went dark and music stopped. Then, Hoffman opened the door and BONG! As he started jogging, music blared and video of ‘Trevor Time’ appeared.  Someone from San Diego must have faxed a step-by-step procedure manual to Milwaukee.  Thanks, San Diego.

I’m glad they got it right just in time to welcome Francisco Cordero back to Milwaukee.  Are you still celebrating your dollar figure or scratching your head about last season’s record under .500? We’re over you like cheekless chaps on Cher, Coco.

As for the offense, Ken Macha is now making it clear that if you were waiting for the Brewers to play small ball, even during the hitting funk prior to the Reds’ series, you wasted your time. Macha still subscribes to the idea that home runs and walks win games; stolen bases and sac bunts do not. Macha also insists this philosophy isn’t a product of his time with the Oakland A’s.

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During spring training, batting coach Dale Sveum spoke extensively about shifting offensive reliance on homers towards more of a manufacturing-friendly attitude. Macha just chucked that idea to the wolves this week.  He says that prior to sweeping the Reds, the Brewers’ only problem was passivity at the plate.  What is Macha’s solution should home-run bats become silent? Encourage hitters to be more aggressive on first-pitch strikes a.k.a. earlier in the count. I wonder if Sveum and Macha are clashing on philosophies this season.  It would appear they, are but no one’s talking about it.

In June, watch out for Corey Hart and Manny Parra. Hart has hit around .306 (20 points higher than his monthly average) and slugs .583 (100 point difference) in the month of June. Parra also loves the start to summer. He went 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA last June. However, Alcides Escobar will not start at second for the Brewers any time soon.  He’s back to shortshop down in Nashville.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” if the fan next to you at Miller Park is ticking you off, you can now text park personnel for someone to monitor and investigate the situation. As part of the organizations’ “Play Nice – Be a Friendly Fan”, you can now report misconduct by texting BREWERS, followed by a space and their seat or ballpark location to 41513. If a player punches a Gatorade dispenser, that’s a separate issue.

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In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” I’m sure you’re shocked that I would take this opportunity to deluge Mr. Ryan Dempster and Mr. Carlos Zambrano for their two separate attacks on a defenseless hydration device. Dempster’s new book (to be released in the off-season), “Speaking With Your Fist”, recounts Ryan’s experience after walking in two runs in the 2nd inning to the Pirates on Memorial Day.  That’s when he ran into the dugout and punched the soda fountain to pieces. But friends, it lived on.

You see, the Cubs’ soda fountain for Gatorade is one you’d see at Hardees or the BK, with approximately six varieties of pressurized beverage for players’ electrolyte pleasure. Great Zeus’ beard—who would put this in their dugout?  It was only a matter of time before the oversized, bulky monstrosity, which splashed sticky liquid in players’ faces, would get on someone’s nerves.  Its refrigerated cooling device hums like a kazoo, driving men bonkers. zambrano

The dispenser’s epic tale ended once Los named his Nueva amiga Fontana de’ Gatora.  Unlike a nice, garden-variety wooden beverage barrel from the 50’s, this dispenser could not withstand such a blow.

Typical dispensers require service calls for maintenance if they happen to be blasted with 35 ounces of maple. Alas, in this economy, the Cubs decided they didn’t want to keep calling the repairman to put the thing back together every time Zambrano attacked it.  So it has been placed on waivers. Bless you, Gatorade dispenser. You aren’t the first victim of Z’s angry demeanor and you won’t be the last.

What’s Brewing in ’09: Benchmarks, Hot Air Balloons & Braun Backstory

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Brewers first-year manager Ken Macha has a recipe for down-home offensive cookin’ and Emeril ain’t got nothin’ awn it.  The three ingredients: bench players who complement the starting lineup, guys who play multiple positions and both lefty-and-righty hitters who can bring batters home when the game is on the line.

It’s no secret that the Brewers’ offense is probably the team’s top strength – particularly the potential the team has to score with runners in position. We’re now getting a sense of what Macha believes is a recipe for success this season.  His diamond setting is three-pronged and if the Brewers execute, it might produce the bling needed to win the NL Central.

1.  Bench players must complement the regulars and complete the whole, not serve as replacements.  Depth is important, but does that depth step in and fit like a glove?  In Macha’s world, it must and each player off the bench must blend right in, generating a seamless transition.

2.  Versatility allows for pinch hitters, pinch runners and double-switches without a drop-off in production, especially in the NL. So if you can play multiple positions, welcome aboard.  Craig Counsell, Mike Lamb and Casey McGehee can suit up for multiple positions and will be heavily-utilized assets to the team this season.

3.  DA MAN, Doug Melvin, added left-handed hitters to a team that is mostly right-handed.  But the second part to that equation is getting these guys to drive in runs when the game is on the line. Lefties Trot Nixon and Chris Duffy could come off the bench to provide this. The Brewers are still looking for a righty like Gabe Kapler to be a go-to, perhaps Mike Rivera or Casey McGehee could fit that bill. Hopefully we have options BESIDES Rivera, because the age-old rule “never use your backup catcher unless it’s to catch,” still applies.

In “Injury Update,” now Mike Cameron has a strained intercostal!  Ugh.  That’s a sore left armpit/ribcage in English.  Only expected to be out a few days. As a result, Duffy and m’boy Cain should get some more playing time.

Bill Hall’s calf is still healing as slow as molasses. Hall is scheduled to play his first spring training Saturday. Angel Salome’s back strain, Lil TG’s shoulder and Mat Gamel’s shoulder also make my list of “things that piss me off” this week.

You know what doesn’t piss me off anymore? I have begun my celebration lasting 40 days and 40 nights, honoring the release of reliever Eric Gagne.  Right Field Bleachers ranks this momentous occasion in Brewers history somewhere between the ‘82 World Series and Jeffrey Hammonds.  Miller Park Drunk is so excited, it has a Gagme photo tribute if you just want to relish in the moment for a bit longer…

Speaking of the 1982 World Series, someone uploaded the opening video to Game 2 of it on NBC and it’s 80’slicious. Wow.

This week, Rob Neyer of ESPN took time to blog about the Brewers and build a case for some serious position changes/trades.  Neyer says Prince can’t play first, Weeks can’t play second, Braun shouldn’t have to play LF and Alicides Escobar is a SS that shouldn’t be wasted. He proposes trading Fielder, moving Braun to first and finding Escobar an everyday job.  How, he doesn’t say how we’d be able to realistically do this NOW, but it’s an intriguing analysis nonetheless.

In “Where Are They Now?” someone needs a hobby and needs to refrain from drinking the Brooks Kieschnick kool-aid.  You can, however, join David K. in drinking the Megan Corkery kool-aid.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” the Curse of the Billy Goat hits the WBC.  Cubs closer Carlos Marmol blows the save Tuesday night and commits a throwing error in the DR’s 2-1 loss in 11 innings.  Keep it up, sport, keep it up.  If I may submit an order for a similar performance, with delivery slated for April 10th-12th, that’d be great.

On a Lou Pinella note, his largest decision in Spring Training was made on the Cubs’ off-day Wednesday in Arizona.  He pondered over whether to take his wife on a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon, whitewater rafting down the Snake River or hot-air ballooning around the Valley. Also, Pinella seems to have a special relationship with Fukudome’s trainer/masseuse, Yosho Nakazawa, who went with Fukudome to the WBC.

“I miss his rubdowns,” Piniella said. “Be looking to get him back, too.” Sick man, sick.

Back to the Brewers, Ryan Braun is intriguing for many reasons, chiefly because he’s the foundation upon which the Brewers have built their organization for the next 8 years.  But recently, we learned a little more about his life aside from on-the-field play.

Ryan’s father, Joe Braun, was born in Tel Aviv and moved to the U.S. when he was 7 years old.  Ryan’s mom, Diane, hold your breath Brewers fans– is a brewer for Budweiser. He also has a younger brother, Steve, an infielder who went undrafted out of the University of Maryland last summer and signed with the Brewers.

Ryan spent time at the While House for a Hanukah dinner last year and talked baseball with President Bush.  Braun also attended the last two Grammy Awards in L.A. You may have spotted him last week with some U.S. teammates on David Letterman to promote the WBC. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is THE Braun Marketing Machine.

Ryan Braun is working on his own line of aluminum bats, which has kids everywhere excited. He hosted a film premiere in Milwaukee last summer and was offered a part in a movie this winter. He turned it down, but would’ve played a bit part in a motion picture originally written for former NBC player Rick Fox. Braun stresses that playing baseball is paramount to anything else in his life, but Macha says it’s nice to have the Hollywood A-lister playing for Milwaukee.

This week in “Just A Bit Outside”, Bob Uecker has successfully marketed many things for the organization, including $1 “Uecker Seats,” which are a genius name for obstructed-view seats.  With the economy in the shitter, the Brewers are introducing something else for a dollar: MENU ITEMS.

$1 this season may get you hot dogs, sodas and small popcorns. Oh, the insanity. The organization only plans to screw Chicago fans with full-price menu options during all Cubs games.  Haha, we pay your tolls.  You pay our full-prices, suckas.

And finally, in “Chart Magnificence,” we break down one of the top three Best Home Run Ballparks in America. Ameriquest Field ranks 3rd best.  The second-longest dinger ever came off the bat of Prince Fielder on June 10th.  Thank you Beyond the Box Score. Average homers per game there in Texas = 2.5.

What’s Brewing in ’09: The $90M Mark, Blood Sacrifice & Child Smuggling

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 

When we saw everybody at the fan event [in Milwaukee last month], we were still at a bit of a discomfort point [with the pitching]. Now, I’m at a little bit of a discomfort point on the payroll.” –Mark Attanasio

 
Reporters chuckled, but here’s the sobering truth: one of baseball’s smallest payrolls is pushing $90M. That becomes reality should Gagme make the team and he and other players become eligible for their negotiated incentives.

 
Or it could pay off. Picking up CC Sabathia and Ray Durham last season pushed them beyond $90M but gave the team a NL Wild Card birth. It also fueled ’09 ticket sales. 1M+ are gone—the earliest date in franchise history. Plus, the org set a new single-day sale record on Saturday. That’s Guns N’ Roses-sellout-style.

 

 

 

 
One concern is over the Brewers’ portion of MLB revenue sharing, which is expected to tank like Derrick Turnblow’s pitching in ’07. One possible replacement: Gov. Jimmie Doyle’s proposal for a special team license plate. Just shell out cash to the DOT and a portion pays off the Miller Park stadium debt.  Bonus = you could pick the “M” or the ball-in-glove logo. I’ll take retro, please in honor of the Eau Claire native who designed that logo. It’s been named among top 5 sports logos of all time by some.

 

 

There may have been no life raft for the payroll had Milwaukee successfully courted Sabathia for ’09. Attanasio’s brilliant plan: “We were going to buy a small, regional bank and apply to the government for federal aid. All that TARP money could have helped us.”

No amount of TARP money could have bought you a spot at the front of the line last Saturday. That’s when single-game tix went on sale at Miller Park, half-naked fans braved the cold days prior and hot dogs get passed out to lucky dorks at what they call the Arctic Tailgate. If you didn’t get what you were looking for because opening day has been sold out for centuries, you can shed blood for tickets. I’m not kidding.

 

 


The BloodCenter of Wisconsin location near Wausau is entering donors into a drawing for two Opening Day Cubs/Brewers tickets. Seriously, if you’re willing to sacrifice blood for just a chance at getting in, I cannot do anything but honor your dedication and then vomit in my mouth.

 
More feel-good news: the US Airways Flight 1549 co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, will throw out the first pitch opening day. He’s from the village of Oregon, near Madison, of which I shall soon reside. Glad I have someone famous in my town despite the fact it is named after a state. By the way, they should give him a cameo on Lost as a pilot of yet another plane going down on that island.

 
Fine, I’ll talk real baseball. In Spring Training, we’re seeing more Mike Rivera and less Jason Kendall. This will hold true for regular season as well. Macha says he wants to the give the Incredi-Kendall more rest, considering he contributed to a franchise-record 149 games last season.

 
Corey Hart has left his ’08 September stats in the dust and is all-of-a-sudden red-hot. This Monday, he went 3-3, including a 2-run homer. Brad Nelson’s getting a look in the outfield. Chris Duffy seems to have the one-up on Trot Nixon if Macha can only take one of the two. And Counsell changed his batting stance and is commanding positive results.

 
Speaking of Craig Counsell, he recently pulled rank like Colonel Potter on M.A.S.H. He took Vinny Rottino’s semi-broken-in infield glove and commandeered it like Jack Sparrow to a French vessel in the Caribbean. Apparently, Alcides Escobar has two of JJ Hardy’s old gloves because he likes the softness as well. I’m told these guys slather them in conditioner from time to time – no joke. That’s a Pantene commercial in the making.

 

 
In week 2 of “Ace’s Corner,” Macha set the exhibition rotation as Suppan, Gallardo, Parra, Looper and Bush, although Looper’s going to miss a start now due to tightness in his left-side. Many think this could be the start-of-the-season lineup too, designed to take pressure off Gallardo and give the home crowd the opportunity to cheer for Looper on Opening Day at Miller Park. Gallardo’s record could also benefit from facing lower-caliber opposing starting pitchers.

 
Danny Knobler at CBSSports is flattering us. He thinks Gallardo has Cy Young potential this season. However, Gallardo’s the last on the 40-man roster to not yet agree to terms for the ’09 season. Get a move on it, Yo-yo.

 
Omar Aguilar is an underdog for a bullpen spot, but the RHP reliever is turning heads in Spring Training. Chris Narveson is playing B games and won’t make the roster, but did pitch a 3-inning no-hitter Monday. And Trevor Hoffman pulled a CC gesture of gratitude, by taking out a full-page thank you ad in the San Diego-Union Tribune. Stay classy San Diego.

 
By the way, CC made headlines for smuggling a small child into spring training. This needs no explanation.

 

 

 
In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” apparently teams approached the baby bears about trading for Kosuke Fukudome, although get this: ONLY IN TRADES where GM Jim Hendry would have had to take back BAD CONTRACTS. The Mariners, which have been trying to pawn pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard, are rumored to have been among them. “Hontou desu ka” is how you ask really? in formal Japanese.

 
In “Just a Bit Outside,” I share with you the first Uecker line of the season at 2:22 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25th versus the Oakland A’s. Brewers execute a double-play to end the inning and Cory Provus shares a Bob-on-a-fishing-boat story complete with Bob’s big catch. Ueck says, “Actually, that took place underwater as I held onto the big catch for dear life, hoping one of them would pull me to shore.” Ah…it’s good to hear that voice again.

 

 
And because you crave more “Chart Magnificence,” this week I bring you the JJ Hardy-Carlos Quentin Bar Graph courtesy of our friends at Beyond the Box Score. Of course we salute Soxman in this Chart edition. If you’re wondering why it’s comparing a LF to a SS, they looked down the list of ’08 WAR and picked players of similar value where public perception was different. Now they want to see if Carlos could rebound fielding-wise in what they considered a more “constrictive” ballpark. Geeky…but so wonderful.

Stay tuned for more Spring Training insight and Brewers Worth Fantasizing About for your fantasy rosters next week…