In Their Own Words: A Twins-Brewers Conversation

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By: Peter Christian & Melissa S. Wollering

When the Twins and Brewers aren’t playing each other, their fans are incestually cheering for each other’s teams. So instead of complaining or bragging about their team’s woes or strengths, Pete and Melissa have created conversations between members of the two organizations as they come together for their last interleague matchup of the season in Milwaukee.  You may recall, Milwaukee is Algonquin for “The Good Land” in the words of Alice Cooper.  Now to the words of General Managers Bill Smith and Doug Melvin.  Let’s listen in like a fly on the wall…

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Bill Smith: Doug, I haven’t told you enough how impressed I was with you pulling off the CC Sabathia trade last year. That took some real cojones. I know for a fact I would never have the gumption to make a trade like that, especially now. Have you noticed how bad the two major trades I made have turned out for the team? Santana for a pile of poop from the Mets and then the Garza trade. That was dumb. Have you ever made a pair of boneheaded decisions like that in succession? How can I bounce back from that? Are the other GM’s around the league referring to me as the Chris Wallace of the MLB? Do you think this sport coat makes me look fat?

 

Doug Melvin: That sports coat does make you look fat, Bill. [Chuckles.] But Bill, my mustache makes me look I’m carrying a fuzzy caterpillar on my upper lip.  Thank you for the compliment but CC is the one who took the mound day after day, carrying us to the postseason. Without his dedication, I could have looked like Wendy Selig Prieb wearing clown makeup after a mid-week bender.

 

The Ray Durham pickup wasn’t bad either in ‘08.  But don’t forget I acquired Eric Gagne for $10 million.  There wasn’t even a market for Gagne when I coughed up that chunk of dough.  He blew so badly that Derrick Turnbow could have pitched better in a wind tunnel. I also paid $3.4M for Kevin Mench two days prior to signing Chris Capuano for about the same price. Not one of my finer moments.

 

Bouncing back isn’t always about new acquisitions.  Sometimes it’s about resigning those players who are working. I’ve steered clear of arbitration and it sounds as though you’ll have the option of playing chess with nearly 30 members of your 40-man roster who are under one-year contracts right now. Think about resigning guys like Slowey, Span and Young if they’re worth it at the end and don’t count out your injured, like Boof Bonser. Look at how Mauer recovered.

 

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Ryan Braun: Joe, you pulled something I would last time we visited the Dome, going 5 for 8 with 2 homers, 5 RBI’s and 7 runs. We’ll probably spend some time together at the All-Star game this year, won’t we? Well, you don’t have as much competition at your position, but… You know we have some things in common. They call you Baby Jesus. I don’t believe in Jesus but you may have heard them call me the Hebrew Hammer once or twice. 

 

Sounds like you had the flu this week, huh? Yeah, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather since me and my girlfriend split this week. You know ladies, I’ve been real heartbroken and what not.  Just trying to take it day-to-day. Andreena just wasn’t supporting all the PR gigs and parties I had to attend for my Remetee line. Speaking of a remedy, I’m sure there’s one for heartache now that I made my rounds on KISS FM in Milwaukee the other day….[We edited it at this point, because he just keeps talking about himself.]

 

Joe Mauer: Wow! You sure do like to talk… where do I start? Yeah, last time we played you guys I was feeling good. I really seemed to see your pitchers well, but I’m sure they were just having off days, the game of baseball is pretty cyclical and I know that I’ll have to endure some slumps in the future. It sure is nice talking to someone without them bringing up the whole hitting .400 thing. That gets kind of old. In fact, I just want to be left alone… wait, Ryan are you still talking? I’m outta here, I’m gonna go watch some tape and hit the cages.

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Justin Morneau:  I’m telling you Prince… I think you and I are the best hitting left-handed first basement that play in Minnesota or Wisconsin, eh? I’m just kidding. You know what always makes me laugh? When they show the highlights of you hauling ass around the bases in the dome a couple of years back when you got that inside the parker… I know you get a lot of crap for your size, but man, you can move for a big guy. When was the last time you ran a 40 yard dash? I bet you could be a great guard in the NFL with that speed and size you could be devastating. I bet the CFL would sign you, I mean they signed Ricky Williams and Onterrio Smith. But seriously, why don’t you get more pub man? You have a better OBP, OPS, slugging percentage and more RBI than me and you are only hitting 20 points lower than me. You are on pace for a monster season, yet I’ve barely heard your name over the last month or so… What gives?

 

Prince Fielder:   I’ve put up consistently good numbers, so maybe that’s why? Publicity comes to guys who slump and then find their hot streaks, but for guys like me, the only story would be consistency. I don’t talk about my numbers, it’s all about how I can contribute to overall wins for the team. My size? A lot of people thought because I started going more veggie that I’d drop a lot of weight.  But I just eat more pasta with tofu and sprouts, some sweet potato chards ‘en glace’, it’s gourmet and it’s buck. I just eat more of it, man. And speed, I got speed. Everytime I try to steal a base, they all roll their eyes in the dugout, but hey.  Big guys gotta get in scoring position, too. Hey, you know, if y’all could send a few Midsummer Classic votes my way, I’d like to overtake Pujols, you know what I’m sayin? Holla at my boy Cameron, too.

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Rick Anderson: It may look like I have a calm demeanor with my slow walks to the mound, my comforting Tom Selleck mustache and my jacket collar flipped up, but let me tell you Bill, I’m mad as hell. I work my ass off with these pitchers to get them prepared each and every day. Yet, somehow my guys continue to ruin a perfectly good start with one bad inning where they lose their mechanics and revert back to all of their bad habits. Tell me Bill, what am I supposed to do when Francisco Liriano can’t throw a slider within a foot of the plate when he is behind in the count? Or when Scott Baker inexplicably starts floating pitches waist high after 4-5 innings of painting corners low in the zone? I’m fed up Bill, I think I have an ulcer forming. Do you have a bottle of Jim Beam handy? How is your staff holding up?

 

Bill Castro: Creo que somos mierda fuera de suerte, los amigos. El Sr. Dave Bush tiene un brazo cansado y él puede perder su comienzo. Manny Parra todavía trabaja algunas cosas fuera en los menores. Nosotros no estamos seguros lo que haremos. Los tipos trajeron algunas cervezas sobre la otra noche y nosotros hablamos de ello. El Sr. Doug Melvin dice que podemos buscar otro principio pero necesitamos para figurar algo fuera mientras tanto.

(Translation): I believe we are shit out-of-luck, friends. Mr. Dave Bush has a tiny muscle tear and will miss his first start ever.  We brought up Mike Burns to pitch against you on Thursday. Manny Parra is still working some things out in the minors, although he struck out and forced a ground out with Manny Ramirez in AAA Tuesday.  Firecrotch is a possible option Saturday for Manny. ¿Ah? ¿En Engles? No, I mean Seth McClung. That’s what we call him. I was not speaking en Espanol this time. His ERA is 3.32 and he’s pitched the more innings than others. 

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Nick Punto: Billy Hall, do you ever wake up and think, “Holy crap! I’m a Major League Baseball player!” I do. All the time. In fact I still have to pinch myself that I get paid more than the league minimum. Do you wanna know a secret Billy? The contract I signed this past off-season, 2 years, $8.5 million, it was more than double of what anyone else offered me. Double! Did you know that I’m known as a defensive player but I’m getting outperformed at shortstop by Brendan Harris all while hitting .220 with an OPS less than .575? Now do you understand why I’m so excited to be a major league player? I knew that video of Gardy acting like Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs was going to get me places… I’m tellin’ you Bill, a strategically placed surveillance camera could be a great career move for you.

 

Bill Hall:  Last time a camera was strategically placed near me I told ’em I was pissed for getting benched despite what’s turned into a 2-year-long slump. I told ’em “play me or trade me” last season and Brewers fans booed me for 3 months solid. This year I’m ‘platooning’ with Mat Gamel, some punk-ass prospect with beginners’ luck who gets the start everytime Macha anticipates my failure against righties. So what if I have the lowest batting average since 2002, when I first started in Milwaukee? I’m changing my batting stance. Plus, Gamel can’t field like I can. He can’t strut up to the plate to some bad ass Paul Wall rap like I can. He doesn’t even know who Paul Wall is. Do I pinch myself, Punto?  Hell no. I’m making $6.8 Mil this year and sittin’ on my duff while I earn half of it. All I’m trying to do is get better. Every Mother’s Day I use pink bats and I work hard to promote awareness of breast cancer. Meantime, the city of Milwaukee treats me like I’m the disease.

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Ron Gardenhire: Ken, I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m barely going to prepare for this series. Between all of the flood issues at your stadium, your pitching staff falling apart like a perfectly smoked babyback rib and the fact that we own you; I don’t think I’m going to have much to worry about… well, other than Andy (Rick Anderson), he’s been pretty jumpy lately. I think we may need to look into getting him some anxiety pills or something… he makes me uncomfortable when he starts twitching. I find it hard to talk to him about the pitchers because of it, so I’m always guessing as to whether I should leave my starter out there to get out of the jam or if I should go to the bullpen. It seems I’ve been getting burned a lot no matter what I choose. Either way, I should be able to relax in your city… hey, the visitors clubhouse and dugout weren’t affected by the flooding were they?

 

Ken Macha: Well, we told our players to stay away from the ballpark Monday on their day off because Miller Park flooded late Wednesday and it took a long time to fix. Hundreds of employees have working around the clock. The guys had to go to each substation and get the electricity back on section-by-section. The training room and batting cages were pretty heavily damaged. The field is main priority.  It’ll be pretty barebones, but it’ll be allright.  We replaced the carpet and had to do some work on the visitors clubhouse, just a little. You’ll be allright in the dugout.

 

As for the matchup, we’re glad our guys won’t have to face Kevin Slowey again. Thanks for moving him to the back of your rotation, works for us. Don’t worry about Andy. At least he doesn’t speak to you in broken English while mariachis get piped into through your soundsystem. We thought of smuggling in one of Castro’s brother’s uncle’s farmhands from Tijuana and putting him in Manny’s uniform for the next start, but we found some logistical problems along the way.

 

We’ve lost five straight games to you over this season and last, so we need a win here. I think the scoring is the key. You outscored us 23-8 in that last series and we’ve got stop some of those runs defensively and score some of our own.  Gardy, you want to get some Red Stripes and nachos after Thursday’s game? I know this great little place on your way to the airport….

 

MW: That about wraps it up, doesn’t it Shirts? Twins took one so far…are you going for the SEASON sweep? Here’s to salvaging one, Crew! By the way, Pete (Shirts) and I would like to wish our fellow colleague David Kay a very Happy Birthday this week.

 

PC: That does wrap it up… quite the characters on these upper midwest teams. Thanks for spying with me Melissa, Happy Birthday to David K. and Go Twins!

What’s Milwaukee Brewing? Pious Princes, Spare Parras & A Hint of Favre

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By Melissa S. Wollering

They were afterthoughts.  Surely Prince Fielder has hit a Grand Slam in his career.  Nope. Surely, the Milwaukee Brewers would never send Manny down to AAA and start a search for spare pitching parts. Nope. Alas, we relish in both this week.  We also take a look at why valuable players like Hardy and Cameron slump worse than aging scoliosis and what helps them bat upright again.

 
If there ever was a ‘stank’ face, it was the one Prince Fielder made right before he smacked the ball so fast into right-centerfield that Marty McFly could’ve used it as a mode of transportation in Back to the Future.
It truly was the Itchy & Scratchy—Brauny & Fieldy Show. Ryan and Prince drove in a combined 11 RBI’s Monday, prompting this: when your team is slumping, who lifts you up? Who restores the faith of the masses when the pitching is pitiful and your startling lineup is in despair?  More importantly, how do they do it?

 

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have provided long-term consistency, leadership and foundational strength for the Crew for some time now.  However, Monday was the first night I took a step back and admired them for rejuvenating the faith of a team who had just loss 6 of its last 7 and was now losing big-time on national television.

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Argue all you want, but isn’t that what gives Braun and Fielder each the “it” factor?  There was quite a bit of speculation in the off-season and in spring training that Fielder wouldn’t be worth the hassle of re-negotiating with Dr. Evil/Scott Boras. But combined, these two men seem to be able to alter their teammates’ emotional status, make game-winning plays and affect the entire course of a homestand or away series.

 
Example #1: JJ Hardy, Mike Cameron and Bill Hall epitomized slump before Monday.  On Tuesday, all three drove in key runs for a win. It was JJ’s first multi-RBI game since May 19th.  Cameron was 3-for-38 entering that game and Bill Hall has only 7—count them seven—hits in his last 71 AT BATS. Monday was great inspiration for fans, better inspiration for Prince & Braun’s teammates.

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Example #2: Prince has stated, “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” referencing the importance he places on his defensive contributions to the Milwaukee Brewers as well.  Earlier this month against Atlanta, he socked two homers and threw out a runner at the plate to keep the Braves off the board for a second consecutive game. He’s not the best first baseman in MLB, but he’s not the worst.

 
Example #3: When in doubt, Ryan and Prince make you believe ‘hey, we’re not that bad’.  It sounds simple but is easy to forget amidst a losing streak. The Brewers are one of only two teams in the National League with a winning record both on the road and at home. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the other.

 
Fielder and Braun physically hold their team together like Gorilla Glue. Is it applicable when Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio consider keeping the dynamic duo together for the good of the team next year?  Multiple years? You bet your civil war references it does. Together we stand; divided we fall. Pretty deep for baseball, hey?

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In contrast, shallow is the level of skill Manny Parra has displayed so far this season.  In this week’s “Ace’s Corner,” if you take away the starts Manny made, the Brewers have a record of 33-21 as of Wednesday. Developmentally, the kid needs work. The team won’t need a 5th starter until June 27, but it rekindles the question that’s been burning all season.  Will the Milwaukee Brewers pick up another starter mid-season?

Don’t ask me if he’ll stack up to CC, you’re smart and know better. Peavy’s DL announcement made me smirk for this reason, too. I hate throwing out names, but Ken Macha has stated they are eyes wide open up to the trade deadline.  If you absolutely want to see the options, Right Field Bleachers has a great breakdown of who’s worth it and who’s not. Names include Cliff Lee, Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson and a host of injured.

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In “Just a Bit Outside,” I am relieved to hear he turned down an offer to appear on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” I’m sure it took some restraint, considering the Ken-Finds-Barbie concept works wonders for additional T-shirt sales. Check out Miller Park Drunk for an excellent re-creation of what ABC execs must have said to Braun. The hypothetical conversation includes offering Braun the grown-up version of Walt in LOST, who holds all the island’s mysteries.  Yes, Walt is black.  And in Grey’s Anatomy…they want him to play “McJewy.”

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” someone has too much time on their hands but has managed to amuse me.

And finally, in this week’s Chart Magnificence,” I couldn’t resist a Terrell Owens vs. Brett Favre comparison checklist.  Don’t forget to use the handy comparison checklist at work when deciding between departmental budget needs vs. wants; who gets pink slip vs. who stays; and the ever-popular inappropriate vs. appropriate responses to your boss. Enjoy.

 

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What’s Milwaukee Brewing: Interleague Interruption & Locker Room B-Line

By Melissa S. Wollering

Bill Hall hits a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 10th Sunday to beat St. Louis 1-0 and what does he do? Pivots like a runway model at first, leads the entire team up the dugout stairs to the locker room at cheetah speed and signals to the whining Cardinals that they can take Milwaukee’s untucked jerseys and SHOVE THEM. No high-fives, no on-field celebration and no coincidence.

Apparently, the St. Louis Cardinals grumble the most about the Milwaukee Brewers untucking their shirts after victories. Complaints emerged again after the Brewers’ last sweep of the red birds at Busch Stadium on May 17. If you still haven’t heard the story, the tradition honors Mike Cameron’s father, who untucked his shirt after a hard day’s work.

It’s no surprise.  The Cardinals are bitter due to the fact the Brewers have dominated the NL Central rivalry as of late, winning 9 of the last 10 games in St. Louis and 14 of 19 overall since the start of last season.

The Milwaukee Brewers, however, are NOT dominating interleague play. Call it a mere interruption if you’re an optimist and a giant gaping black hole in play if you’re a pessimist, but the Minnesota Twinkies sat on the Crew like a fat kid on a Hostess cupcake.

Manny Parra and Braden Looper struggled as rookie Anthony Swarzak prompted umpteen texts/emails to my phone courtesy Palmer and Christian. Swarzak was so good, that during my drive to Green Bay that evening, I resorted to throwing in a book on tape rather than listen to the entire game. My hosts had a beer waiting for me as soon as I stepped in the door. It was THAT rough. They knew.

Let me preface the following with the fact I do not believe this was the case this weekend; however, do the Twins get THE most bloop hits of any MLB team? Is the Dome its own galaxy with an alternate centrifugal force affecting the gravitational pull of balls? With a shoutout to my most recent hosts Justin & Amy Z. in Green Bay, when Rickie Weeks’ rear-end orbit went in for surgery along with his wrist, did the energy shift to the Dome?

Ken Macha has some seriously negative energy focused on Adrian Johnson. The ump called foul when Mitch Stetter’s pitch hit Joe Mauer hear his hand with two runners on and two outs. Mauer started walking toward base, but Johnson called him back convinced it hit the bat. Then Ron Gardenhire stomps out of the dugout and successfully gets the call overturned, which leads to Morneau’s grand slam, which seals the sweep. You watch the replays. You decide.

At least Mike Cameron celebrated a home run that night—his 250th. He and 19 other players have hit at least 250 homers and stolen at least 250 bases. Cameron has 291 steals in his career to be exact. He also broke the 1,500 mark in hits earlier this season. I feel like untucking my shirt at work solely based on his achievement this week.


JJ Hardy should be back in the lineup Tuesday after dealing with back spasms over the weekend. I could make a horrible joke here by adding the same two words you can add to the end of those quotations that come out of fortune cookies, but I’ll save it. Meantime, in his absence, Craig Counsell has been filling in at SS.

In Rickie Weeks’ absence, Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell have been holding down the fort at second base. Counsell has also settled into the leadoff spot in the lineup.

Mat Gamel and Casey McGehee have seen some playing time at third and Frank Catalanotto was called up from AA Huntsville. The outfielder was signed to a minor-league deal a week ago and should help the Brewers’ bench. To make room for him, lefty reliever R.J. Swindle was sent down to AAA Nashville. Swindle was supposed to help the bullpen during the Twins match up but failed, by pitching twice and surrendering runs both times.

Jody Gerut is the Brewers’ newest acquisition and also a backup outfielder, courtesy of the San Diego Padres.  We actually got something for Lil’ TG (Tony Gwinn, Jr.) one month after we couldn’t pawn him for anything. Jody (a left-handed hitter, bonus) has seen some playing time in right field for Cory Hart already, but is used to being part of platoon in SD.  He’s probably a bit disappointed with the change, but seems to be upbeat about helping the Brewers. As a result of the Gerut trade, Chris Duffy was outrighted to AAA Nashville.

Speaking of the farm system, Milwaukee Brewers’ “top” pitching prospect and my personal fantasy league draft selection Jeremy Jeffress is performing so poorly, he was just demoted to Class A Brevard County last week. He was a first-round draft pick in ’06, but was struggling at AA Huntsville, going 1-3, with a 7.57 ERA in 8 starts. He’s being replaced with another first-round draft pick named Mike Jones, who is on a 4-0 start with 4.06 ERA this season.

Also in “Ace’s Corner,” Gallardo imploded on himself last week only to realize he suddenly needed to pitch the biggest game of the season so far (with the Brewers needing to snap their 3-game losing streak and maintain their lead in the NL Central on Monday). Sure enough, he and Chris Carpenter duked it out in a Memorial Day duel. Yo had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning and Carpenter a perfect game until Craig Counsell nixed it as he led off the 7th. Both pitchers worked 8 innings respectively and each gave up zero runs on dos hits.

Biggest hit this season for Bill Hall = Monday’s game-winner.  His slump is still terrible, but in his interview after the game, Billy held back tears as he described how badly he wants to break out of it.  Kudos, Billy. I don’t know if it’ll save your career with the Crew long-term, but I feel for you and respect the passion you have for the game.

Also impressive this week, the Brewers have recorded the second highest number of walks of any team in MLB and Prince Fielder is on par to annihilate the Crew’s team record for walks in a season. ‘Walk It Out’ can repurposed from Johnny Estrada’s batting song.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” Prince Fielder has a new theme song.  Really?  No clue, but someone took time to make this rap masterpiece.  Sheesh.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” they lost eight straight prior to Tuesday. David K. is about to quit on them for his 298,917th time.  I don’t blame you DK. On a brighter note, Mr. T. is the #*$@^#!  I know he can’t sing, but can he visit Wrigley more often?  This is entertainment at its finest.  As bad as Denise Richards was, is as good as Mr. T. IS.

In “Chart Magnificence,” we praise Lange’s blog at Sheffield’s House.  Lange wondered what positions our favorite Brewers would play if they were stuffed in pads and dropped onto a football field.  Enjoy!

What’s Brewing in ’09: the Roster, Rickie’s Revival & Peeved Over Peavy

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Doug Melvin hates you. Doug Melvin hates you if you disrupt his club’s pre-season prep time with silly banter about Jake Peavy.

 
Enter Peter Gammons.  Peter’s Sunday notebook cited Bill Hall as a source, claiming the Brewers are like white-on-rice over Jake should he go on the market. Then the San Diego Tribune leap-frogged over Peter, publishing the Brewers “are interested.” Tu’ es loca en la cabesa. You city is no longer known as Saint Diego en Espanol. Melvin was so angry he called SD’s GM Kevin Towers to assure him the baseless rumors weren’t coming from him.


Melvin hasn’t talked to the Padres. Peavy’s no-trade clause blocks a deal to Milwaukee. And what are we going to sacrifice?  J.J. Hardy?  Alcides Escobar? Mat Gamel? Top pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress? A combination of the four?

 
Many of you have called me or written me about the likelihood of this over the past week, due to last season’s midseason CC Sabathia trade. Let me make this clear.  It is not very likely.
Jack at Right Field Bleachers has the numbers to prove Peavy’s not worth sacrificing J.J. Five years of financial obligation with declining numbers doesn’t match a blazing shortstop with top NL hitting lines in his prime. I’m just saying. Cousin Nic Kulinski gets a shout out this week for suggesting I date J.J.  Thanks cuz, that’s flattering.  But that’s not why I think the Brewers should hold onto him.


What do Brett Favre and Ryan Braun have in common?  Braun had the whole Brewers world in cardiac arrest because he thought he broke his thumb Tuesday. He lost a line drive in the lights against the Padres, but alas, x-rays show it’s just bruised and swollen.

Hold your breath for another reason…here’s the ’09 roster barring anymore unforeseen injuries. I hate injuries like I hate waiting for American Idol results after the break.

Starters
RHP Jeff Suppan – predicted by Jason Craig.
RHP Yovani Gallardo
LHP Manny Parra
RHP Braden Looper
RHP Dave Bush

Relievers
RHP Carlos Villanueva – the temporary closer in place of Trevor Hoffman.
RHP Seth McClung
LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Todd Coffey
RHP David Riske
RHP Jorge Julio
RHP Mark DiFelice
DL – Trevor Hoffman

Locked
C Jason Kendall
C Mike Rivera
1B Prince Fielder
2B Rickie Weeks
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Bill Hall
LF Ryan Braun – strained intercostal has subsided but scaring us with his thumb now.
CF Mike Cameron
RF Corey Hart
INF Craig Counsell – has torn cartilage in his right knee but says he’ll play without surgery.

Limbo
INF Casey McGehee would be the best based on performance to replace Counsell if need be unless Macha wants to send him down to AAA because he still has a minor league option that other guys don’t. He’s been hitting .370 on the spring with 6 homers and 15 RBI’s. However, Lamb is being placed on release waivers, so he gone. Betcha the Yanks pick him up for help while Arod’s out.

OF Brad Nelson appears to have locked the spot at this point and has no minor league options left.

OF Chris Duffy or OF Tony Gwynn Jr.  Only one of these guys can get the spot and Lil TG is out of options. Duffy could see AAA action only to maintain OF depth. OF Trot Nixon, he gone.  No hopes for another Gape Kapler.

In terms of lineup, Ken Macha is trying Corey Hart in the two-hole and J.J. fifth behind Prince. Reasons: Hardy’s excellent spring (.439, 4 HR, 15 RBI, .500 OBP) could convince teams pitching around Fielder equals disaster. Plus, Hart’s speed following Weeks could keep him out of the trap of double plays, something Hardy has been susceptible to in the past.

In “Ace’s Corner,” Ken Rosenthal is the second major sports writer to jump on the Yovani Gallardo-Cy Young bandwagon.  Yo is also coming in 20th on the Sports Guys’ rankings of MLB’s top pitchers.

Meanwhile, in SI’s ’09 MLB Preview Issue, Joe Sheehan suggests trading Fielder for a front-line pitcher to make the Brewers more competitive with the Cubs. He thinks we should move Mat Gamel to majors and off 3B to have him play 1B. Read for another minute and you’ll see why this idea is as great as another new Osbourne family TV show.

Meantime, Chris Capuano has returned to minor league camp after that second Tommy John surgery. He hopes to start pitching some games there soon and judge his comeback timeframe. C’mon Cappy, we need you!

Dave Bush could pitch relief in San Francisco on opening day because Macha wants him to get his work in and stay on schedule. Bush is missing work in Maryvale because his turn in the rotation falls on April 6th, the travel day prior to the opener.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” the Detroit Tigers are going to hell for pissing off Catholics across the country. They are the only MLB team to schedule their game time during the holy hours of Good Friday.  Everyone else, including the Brewers made it 3:05 p.m.  You know me.  Come Good Friday, I’ll be drinkin’ for Jesus. Miller Park is my cathedral. Baseball is my religion. Just don’t say Bud Selig is the Pope. That’s blasphemy.

In “Where Are They Now?” former Brewer Lance Nix may make the Reds 25-man roster while Zach Jackson (traded to Cleveland in the Sabathia exchange) has indeed made the Indians 25-man roster.  Bob Uecker says, “This guy threw at his own kid in a father/son game.” No, that was a movie, April fool’s.

In the last “Spring Training” update, here’s who’s playing hotter than a habanero pepper.  Corey Hart is leading all NL players with a .885 slugging percentage.  On his coattails is J.J. Hardy at .873. As you read, they are both flipping between the two and five holes in the lineup, so we’ll see which it is come opening day.

Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer so far last week that Tom Hardricourt says it nearly burned upon re-entry. It traveled approximately 475 feet, over the berm, over the sidewalk and just short of the white fence at Maryvale. He’s hit at least five HR’s this spring. Go ahead Prince.  Eat a hamburger. You deserve it.

Meantime, Wickie does not Reek this month. Weeks is consistently going hitting just below .350 and has only committed one error throughout all of spring training. He’s the subject of my chart magnificence below, eat it haters.

Call it favoritism thanks to m’boy Mattie Vasgersian and Trenni Kusnierek, but the MLB Network will make the its first regular-season broadcast the Brewers/Giants game in San Fran on April 9th. I watched the Brewers and Rangers last week and realized I have MLB in HD now. It truly is the most religious season of the year, ain’t it? I prayed and it happened.

In a call-out that complements Pete’s fabulous column, Brad at Chuckie Hacks took a hack at the Brewers for putting up a banner for winning the ’08 NL Wild Card. I might be with Brad on this one. Championship banners should be reserved for division titles, league titles and World Series titles. What do you think?

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” three of your players are writing this column for me. Milton Bradley was recently told the Cubs are favored to win the NL Central to which he replied, “they should…I’m here.” He went on to credit himself with turning no less than three clubs into winning teams. Go throw another 3-gallon Gatorade cooler further than any man on the planet, Milton. Bradley also entertained all of Scottsdale last week by doing this.

Everyone knows the spring training atmosphere lends itself to families who want a chance to meet the players in a way they can’t during regular season.  So when someone’s kid patiently waits several times before approaching Carlos Zambrano for an autograph on his Big Z All-Star Jersey, you damn well better sign it you Jag.  And you didn’t. You didn’t even turn your head and acknowledge the kid.

Third, Carlos Marmol lost out on his closer duties to Kevin Gregg this week, Marmol cried like a baby. He made it sound as though it was his all along. I’m really laughing because Lou Pinella is mildly firing back, telling Marmol to get over it. Nice.

Finally, in “Chart Magnificence,” we bring you a graph that compares Rickie to the top 40 2B in the league by plate appearances. The thick lines are league averages, the dotted are Rickie’s stats. I know it doesn’t address his defensive skills, but Beyond the Box score assures you he’s improving (-9.1 UZR in 2006, -4.7 in 2008).  Hey Rickie you’re so fine, you can stop riding the pine! Hey Rickie! Hey Rickie!

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: Injury Woes & Brewers Worth Fantasizing About

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Let’s recognize the man who’s seeing the most action during Brewers Spring Training this year: Dr. William Raasch. I have resorted to channeling my anger and frustration over a left oblique, a lower back and three shoulders into something positive and achieving mental clarity. Thank you, Dalai Lama. And thank you team MD Bill Raasch.

This week in Spring Training, Braden Looper was held from the rotation for tightness in his left oblique. Lil’ TG, Tony Gwynn, wants to believe his shoulder doesn’t hurt but is a horrible liar. Might be more than an impingement – might be his rotator cuff. And Gagme’s ailing shoulder is only proving my point that he won’t make the team after all. Yesssss. Eric may need to consider exile in Montana, where he can build himself a cabin, take up goose hunting and whittle bird whistles for the rest of his life.

Bill Hall’s calf progress has slowed. Mat Gamel is still a week away from being allowed to play. C Mike Rivera says his hammy hurts while C prospect Angel Salome is having back trouble. Finally, we are going to see reliever David Riske pitch for the first time off the mound next week after rehabbing from elbow surgery. When have you ever heard of so many injuries during the second week of Spring Training?

Seth McClung is getting Looper’s starts for now, but Seth hasn’t been doing anything spectacular with them. Chris Duffy’s seeing playing time with Braun in the WBC. JJ has been going yard and is apparently smoking both on and off the field. Casey McGehee’s actually bonding with 3B and produced a grand slam already. McGehee, Duffy, Mike Rivera and Trot Nixon have all jacked homers against the Rockies. Now that’s rocky mountain refreshment.

Cain is finally ABEL to play with the big boys after coming over from the minor league side. Readers already know: future CF Lorenzo Cain is m’boy. I stopped contributing to my 401K and invested in stock in this guy a long time ago. With a shortage of healthy outfielders, he’s getting some playing time. To prove my point: he tripled into the left-field corner as a right-handed hitter this past Tuesday. Sick good, just sick.

In a new feature, “Brewers Worth Fantasizing About,” we break down some early Fantasy Baseball projections. I’ll have more on this closer to the first week of April, but here’s a taste for those of you chomping at the bit.

Ryan Braun. Expect a first-round pick, taken most likely in the 6th-8th positions. If he falls further than that, scoop him up with no regrets.

Prince Fielder. Think late second or early third-round.

Corey Hart. Next to go after Fielder, may be able to snatch at a good value after disappointing owners last season. Consider round 6 excellent, probably won’t last that long.

JJ Hardy. He’s been my shortstop because he’s great value in rounds 6-9 and his numbers do the trick depending on how you stack your lineup. It always depends on the highly volatile pool of SS each year, too.

Yovani Gallardo. If you want him, he’d be a great #3 starter for your roster and is another mid-rounder. But be aware: he only pitched 24 innings throughout the entirety of last season. Who is everyday Yovani? We have really yet to find out.

Wickie Reeks. You know for all the grief I give him, I have a secret to share with you. He’s rarely failed me at 2B and I have drafted him two years in a row. Why? Because even when he sucks, he miraculously puts up fantasy numbers. When he’s injured, well, that doesn’t work. But when he’s healthy, he’s like gold in the bank, backing a bad line of credit.

Other potential fantasy notables: Trevor Hoffman, Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Mike Cameron.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” this just in: the Cubs will now win the World Series. They’ve signed Corey Koskie.

Remember Randall Simon? Of course you do. The once-a-douche-always-a-douche wiener-whacker was recently quoted, since he’s in the WBC. Who says they’re proud to be remembered for abusing sausages?

“I think it’s something that’s going to be good for me because it keeps memories of me,” joked Simon, who was a member of the Pirates when the sausage race incident occurred. “As long as people don’t take it in the wrong way, I don’t have a problem with it.”

The guys over at Miller Park Drunk, (what a website name) wrote a letter in first-person to a tavern jukebox. The writer blames Corey Hart’s scary September on his choice of batting song, “International Harvester.” They also shiver at Jason Kendall’s Mudvayne batting song.

As you know, I have lifelong respect for the FS Wisconsin Crew. Brian and Bill do a great job and B. Anderson writes his own blog. During Spring Training webcasts, they have developed a new interactive feature for questions/comments.  Send yours to askthetruck@brewers.com.  Love it.

On a not-so-great note, former FSN WI play-by-play Mattie Vasgersian flubbed up by saying the real thing on the MLB Network. Way to christen your network, Matt. I feel bad, he’s a really quality guy. He’s probably feels so bad that he’s on his 458th Hail Mary and 677th Our Father as we speak.

If you’d rather seek a steady income as a lifer in Vegas, sportsbook.com recommends you put your cash on the Brewers, who are 50:1 to win it all this season. That’s not as good as the Devil Rays, but we may never see those odds again.

This week in “Just A Bit Outside”, comedian Artie Lange spent his entire time on David Letterman reminiscing about his time with Uecker. Artie and Norm MacDonald in the same room as Ueck – no wonder Artie said it was the funniest 24-hour period of his life. Ueck shared a great Harry Caray story with Artie as well.

On a heartbreaking note, I bring you my second quote from Bob Uecker during pre-season radio:

“We wish everyone good luck to start this season…except Jim Powell.” He then proceeded to talk about Powell for the rest of the inning. Aww…he’s so lost. So alone. So sad…

Ryan Braun was also on Letterman this past week with some Team USA players to countdown the Top 10 Reasons to Watch the WBC. Too bad no one cares about the WBC, which stands for Why Bother/Care. Or We Bad at Catching.

We can’t go a week without checking in on CC. Picture this: Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Woody and Buzz. That’s right CC & Joba checked out the new Toy Story ride at Disney. Headline next day: “First Titanium Amusement Ride Thrills, Withstands One-Ton Loads.”

And finally, in “Chart Magnificence,” America’s favorite pie chart debuts in the What’s Brewing column. These two graphs represent the upcoming strength of the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals Farm Systems. Translation = Cubs had better win now before talent moves up the pipeline.

Stay tuned for the Injury Update & 5 Things You Never Knew About Ryan Braun next week…

What’s Brewing in ’09: The Gag Rule & Spring Training

By Melissa S. Wollering

It’s time to redeem yourself, GagMe. A gag rule forbids discussion of a particular topic.  I instituted the gag rule when Eric Gagne ruined my life, namely when he used a plunger to push $10M down the drain while compiling a 5.44 ERA in 50 appearances.

Now he has a minor-league offer with big-league camp invite attached. If he makes the team, he gets $1.5M, possibly $3M in incentives. If that’s not enough to make you choke, here’s the arrogant son-of-a-jackal’s response:

“You look at your paycheck every two weeks and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s crazy what I get paid for,’ and you put pressure on yourself,” Gagne said. “I knew [Doug Melvin] took a chance on me last year…and it didn’t work out with me.”

You think?  You pitch 6.98 for two months, go on the DL for your shoulder, then give up two homers and four runs against the Reds on July 12th and you’re shocked at fans’ boos?  You’re the first EIGHT FIGURE reliever in the club’s history and still in utter befuddlement as to why we screamed like you murdered our mother?

There are only two open bullpen slots, so go duke it out with Jorge Julio, Todd Coffey, Eddie Morlan, Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard.  See if I care whether they tear you up. Gagne says he’s looking forward to playing with Trevor Hoffman.  Funny, bet Hoffman’s not looking forward to playing with you. When Gagne retires, I’m throwing a gag party. That’s the new gag rule.

Darn, no more goggles jokes. Gagne and Bill Hall both got LASIK eye surgery in the off-season.  He says the goggles gave him a headache all the time. Welcome to my world, Eric.  Welcome to my world.

In a new update called “Ace’s Corner,” Yovani Gallardo will not be #1 in the rotation after all. Ken Macha wants him the middle of the rotation, which is fine with me. Dave Bush or Braden Looper in the #1 spot would be my wager, in that order.  Although, my buddy Jason Craig (nicknamed because his roommates found him on Craigslist) thinks the Soup’s On in Numero Uno. 

Manny Parra must sing Stevie Wonder in the shower. He changed his number from 43 to 26 this season because he’s very superstitious. He wore 26 in HS, was drafted in the 26th round, signed on the 26th day of the month and is 26 years old right now. Wow. At least he did it the right way, making it to the big leagues first Alshon Jeffrey, cough, Steve Spurrier. The number could pay off: our friends at Razzball think lucky 26 is a fantasy sleeper.

Last week Macha confirmed what I called three weeks ago; which was Wickie Reeks will top the batting order, J.J. Hardy will bat #2. As for our OF Corey Hart, he got more than he’s worth AND avoided arbitration, finally netting $3.25M for one year.

In Spring Training, 3B prospect Mat Gamel’s shoulder hurts. He didn’t tell anyone prior to camp because he thought it wasn’t serious enough. Yeah, right.  He was also a bit “late” to warm-up the first day because his wife is expecting, so his teammates gave him the Bronx cheer and told him they were none too happy. Then Macha and Gord Ash had a stern talking to the young man last Thursday. Tough crowd in Maryvale these days.

Gamel has the same shoulder problem as Lil’ TG (Tony Gwynn, Jr.), so no throwing for now.  This is coming at a time when he could have seen more action due to Bill Hall’s calf injury. Billy should be back in action in a little more than week.

In other ST news, the once-porky Prince is slimmer! He says he beefed up his cardio regimen, no pun intended.  You’ll also notice Prince has a new tat on the right side of his neck – angel wings to complement the Asian character on the other side. Sweet. Also sweet: fat kid pictures of Prince from the 80’s on this week’s Two Fisted Slopper Blog, courtesy of a Cecil interview.

You have too much time on your hands if you’re the group of Brewers fans who set up shop last Friday to wait for single-game tickets that go on sale this Saturday. Sales managers sent them home and told them they should come back to Saturday’s Arctic Tailgate after they’ve put down their crackpipes.

In another new update “What A-Rod’s Done For Me,” Ryan Braun is standing by A-Rod. He says no one’s perfect. Braun met A-Rod in 2001 on a recruiting trip to U of Miami, allegedly the same year Alex started taking banned substances. Alex later helped #8 transition from 3B to LF and Ryan still considers Alex a mentor. Btw, Braun started his own clothing line called Remetee and he’s the cover boy of this season’s media guide.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” former-Cub, now-Brewer Casey McGehee is prominently featured on the Cubs’ pocket schedule. Really? Who’s your Director of Marketing/Promotions?  That’s like featuring Gabe Kapler on Miller Park’s $2 Scorecard, which they only print once a year.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” it’s official.  Ueck will omit the word ‘Jimmy’ and insert the word ‘Cory’ into his two-bit comedy routine. Cory Provus of Cubs Radio replaces Jim Powell. FSWI’s Brian Anderson says Cory is low-maintenance, humble and a solid journalist. Good, because I would not categorize Bob Uecker as low-maintenance.

Meantime, blonde bombshell-lovers everywhere are mourning the loss of Trenni Kusnierek with the announcement that Telly Hughes is to replace her. Hughes is a DUDE, yes that’s right, a MAN who’s made some cameos as a studio host on FSWI. At least they didn’t promote Jeff Cirillo.  Dave, I’m convinced your interview would have impressed beyond Telly’s. The name reminds me of four dancing PBS characters.

Trying to redeem themselves, FOX Sports Wisconsin is making it up to me by televising 136 regular-season games in 2009 with WMLW also broadcasting 151 games over-the-air! When I worked for WMLW in 2003, we hired Pat McCurdy to write and sing our commercial jingle “WMLW means Milwaukee” and it’s still around. Thank you Pat and WMLW for helping me live life to the fullest between April and October.

And finally by request, more “Chart Magnificence.” Let us examine spray charts for Alcides Escobar’s ground balls, courtesy of a new feature at the Minor League Splits database. Here are all the balls Escobar hit that were classified as ground balls by minor league scorers. Green is a hit and red is an out.

Compare that to Huntsville 2B Mike Bell, who played in the same park, had about the same number of at-bats, and racked up a .220 BABIP on ground balls, though he hit far fewer of them overall than Alcides.

Look for more on spring training and Attanasio’s fear of reaching $90M with his payroll next week…