Brewers honoring Mr. Baseball Bob Uecker with statue

bob-uecker

Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Uecker is going to be honored by his hometown Milwaukee Brewers this season with a statue outside Miller Park.

The 77-year-old Uecker became a national household name as a comedic actor (George on “Mr. Belvidere,” his legendary role as Cleveland Indians announcer Harry Doyle in “Major League.” He’s been in the Brewers’ radio booth since 1971.

[Read more…]

We Heart Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker

Bob Uecker

By: Melissa S. Wollering

This news is just a bit outside. Baseball play-by-play on Wisconsin radio waves won’t be same without him. For 10-12 weeks, Hall of Fame Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker will be missed as he undergoes heart surgery. His last heart surgery was in 1991, and he missed several weeks that season, too.

In Tuesday’s press conference, he opened by announcing he’d been added to the Brewers’ active roster.  After the laughs subsided, he told reporters he has known about his condition for a while and that only his most recent scans revealed that his aorta is enlarged to a point where it could rupture. Surgeons will perform an aortic valve replacement on Friday. [Read more…]

Happy 75th Birthday Bob Uecker!


 

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 

In honor of Mr. Baseball turning three-quarters of a century old, it is worth reading (or re-reading) Uecker’s acceptance speech on July 27, 2003.  That was the day Bob was awarded the Ford C. Frick award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. No one says it like the Ueck.  Here are some excerpts from his speech that day.

I, in deference to Hal McCoy, was asked to quit many times. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Actually, I was born in Illinois. My mother and father were on an oleo margarine run to Chicago back in 1934, because we couldn’t get colored margarine in Wisconsin. On the way home, my mother was with child. Me. And the pains started, and my dad pulled off into an exit area, and that’s where the event took place. I remember it was a nativity type setting. An exit light shining down. There were three truck drivers there. One guy was carrying butter, one guy had frankfurters, and the other guy was a retired baseball scout who told my folks that I probably had a chance to play somewhere down the line. [Read more…]

Thank you Rick Vaughn! ‘Major League’ advantage: Brewers

Great movie

Great movie

By Jake McCormick

Major League should’ve centered around the Milwaukee Brewers. The movie was filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium (R.I.P.), the two most memorable Yankee

players (Clu Haywood and “The Duke”) were played by former Brewers (1982 Cy Young-winner Pete Vuckovich and Willie Mueller, respectively), and of course, Bob Uecker made the movie great as drunk announcer Harry Doyle.

But for Cleveland, a city obviously known for hoarding sports championships, the movie gave a national audience a glimpse into one of the most underrated lack-of-success stories in baseball. After it was released, the real-life Indians went on to collect seven AL Central Division titles and two World Series appearances, causing speculation that the movie actually had a positive impact on the organization. This holds true simply because after Mr. 3000 was released, the Brewers have been to the playoffs and are looking more like a respectable franchise again. Thank you, Bernie Mac. Which brings me back around to the Brewer’s three game sweep of the Indians.

JUUUST a bit outside!

JUUUST a bit outside!

The 2009 Milwaukee Brewers might have to thank Harry Doyle, Rick Vaughn, and Willie Mays Hayes for sweeping the Cleveland Indians. Monday’s crazy win on the 20th anniversary of Major League’s release was easily the team’s strongest mental game of the year. It was a turning point for the team in the same way that Jake Taylor’s motivational “win the whole, f***ing thing” speech was for the movie Indians. I’m not predicting a pennant, but the Brewers’ collective hitting confidence is growing.

Corey Hart, Jason Kendall, Mike Cameron, JJ Hardy, and Bill Hall forgot which end of the bat to grip over the past two weeks, if not months. Hart, Hardy, and Hall have been especially painful to watch, as they have more problems with curveballs and sliders than Pedro Cerrano. The bright side is that each member of the Triple H Club hit a home run against Cleveland, and Hart has increased his season total from six to nine over the last four days.

Popeye

Popeye

Hart and Hardy must’ve found a couple of diamond-plated slump busters before the Cleveland series, because they’re producing like their fantasy draft positions predicted they would. Remember when Kendall (or Popeye, as I like to call him for his look at the plate and massive wad of *gum* lodged under his left lip) started last season hitting like Joe Mauer, minus the power? Kendall is a lot like Taylor because his value is more in leadership of a young pitching staff than his incredibly powerless swing.

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder will get their statistics, but they usually do it in ying-yang fashion, where one is up while the other is down. Lately they’ve been lockstep together like the West Side Story, but the scarier part for other teams is the resurgence of the supporting cast. The Brewers role players have been like the lesser known guys in Major League – shortstop Malina, left fielder Tomlinson, or pitcher Kellner, all mentioned at some point in the film.

Clu Haywood pitching in real life

As good as the Brewers’ hitting has been over the last few games, the pitching has been stuck in a bizarro world. Jeff Suppan is the Eddie Harris of the Brewers staff because he does well in clutch games, is religious, and looks like he’s not a real pitcher sometimes. The only difference between the two is that Harris consistently went eight to nine innings in all two games he pitched in the movie, whereas Suppan is successful with a six inning, three to four run outing. Suppan has been the team’s most consistent pitcher over the past two weeks, while Manny Parra especially has done a spot-on Rick Vaughn impression for the last month. But glasses won’t fix what ails him. Parra has some big confidence issues, and a stint in Triple A should do him well. The rest of the starting rotation has slumped lately, including a couple of wins by Yovani Gallardo where he was only able to get through five innings. It’s not what you want to see from a staff on a first place team, but as long as the rest of the division continues the “any way you can suck, I can suck better” mentality, the Brewers shouldn’t lose too much ground on anyone.

Note the Milwaukee WTMJ radio station ad under the press box

Note the Milwaukee WTMJ radio station ad under the press box

The Brewers definitely have a Willie Mays Hayes swagger, and they’re continuing to hold strong in the Central Division despite some injuries and drop offs in production. Only time will tell if the team’s hitting woes have been cured and if the pitching will turn around, but Milwaukee showed an offensive spark against Cleveland that wasn’t always around when pitching was solid. Ken Macha’s squad has more talent and better Vegas odds than Lou Brown’s Indians, but it’ll take a collaborative pitching and hitting effort to do anything close to what happened in the movie.

What’s Brewing in ’09: Plate Patience, Pirate Tantrums & Rickie vs. Rourke

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Doth my ears hear correctly?  Exsqueeze me?  Bacon powder? On Wednesday, the Brewers broke .500 for the first time this season. After a horrible start to April, that’s like beating the same odds Ben Linus has of becoming Chief of Staff to Jimmy Carter after getting off the island post-
Dharma Initiative.

 
Your Milwaukee Brewers have won seven out of their last eight to achieve that monumental task. Note 15 wins in a row against Pittsburgh and 18 in a row at Miller Park. Playing the Pirates every other series wouldn’t be so terrible, eh?  Strange enough, many of them have been close games and the Brewers always pull it out. Why can we only win close games against the Pirates?


AAAARRRRRRR, matey. The fans of those losing scoundrels are angry that the Brewers untuck their jerseys after a win. If you haven’t heard by now, the tradition is in honor of Mike Cameron’s father who used to untuck his shirt after a tough day’s work. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogs are chock full of dissenters. Really? One guy wrote that he wanted the Brewers’ Gatorade cooler tainted with swine flu because he’s so mad. Really?


Meantime, Yovani Gallardo went to bed Tuesday and woke up an ace pitcher 12 hours later. Put this into your TI-84’s and crunch it: 8 innings, 2 hits, 1 BB, 0 runs, 11 K’s. Perfect game through two outs into the 5th inning. Then he got ‘er done at the plate by going yard in the 7th on a 0-2 count for the only run of the game.


Did you know that’s two homers in only 12 at bats so far this season for Gallardo? TI-84 says at that pace, collecting 550 at bats this season could hypothetically produce 92 home runs while Gallardo maintains a .333 average. Yeah, and if frogs could fly they wouldn’t bump their ass when they hopped. Oh, Cassandra…


Baseball Musings says it is the first 1-0 game won by a starting pitcher’s home run since August of 2002, when Odalis Perez homered off Rick Helling a Dodgers win over the Diamondbacks. It is only the seventh time that has happened in the last 50 years, with Early Winn, Milt Pappas, Jim Bunning, Juan Pizarro and Bob Welch also completing the feat.

 
Corey Hart is inducing coronary failure ‘round the world as he forms a good habit – TAKING WALKS, THREE IN ONE GAME. I’m going to have the big one. Call an ambulance. On Tuesday, Hart reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances; 3 BB’s contributed to that.

 
Hart’s three were among a season-high NINE for Crew hitters on Tuesday.  BrewerFan.net has Ryan Braun on pace to take more than 100 walks this season. Jeromy Burnitz holds the Crew’s record for walks in a season with 99, so Braun and even Fielder could break that with this type of start.

Last year at this time, the Brewers had worked a mere 60 walks.  They’ve already marked 87 through 21 games this season. Their patience at the plate is so good that the Dalai Lama is channeling it during deep contemplation sessions, where it may silence tribal wars in Africa and achieve world peace.

Ben Sheets was spotted picking his nose in the dugout more times than any other Brewer in history.  Funny – Todd Coffey must have been passed some sort of torch because he was caught searching for an illegal substance to smuggle with him to the mound here. 

watch?v=_Bj45VNrM5w&feature=player_embedded

Carlos Corporan has been called up from the minors to replace Mike Rivera, who was placed on the DL. Corporan’s defensive skills are better than Angel Salome’s (if you’re wondering why Corporan).  He’s also batting well right now and Angel needs work at .182 or something pitiful like that.

M’boy minor-leaguer Lorenzo Cain almost had me in tears this week. However, the good news is he did not tear his ACL.  4-6 weeks off. Also, Mark Rogers is not injured.  He missed the last few starts.  Turns out he just ran into a wall while shagging fly balls.  Whew!  Although, which brain response is failing to communicate to your lower limbs that they should stop before running into walls?

No, the Brewers are not interested in signing Pedro Martinez.  Poor Doug Melvin. He despises rumors as much as Peter Christian despises Al Davis’ ignorance in drafts. By the way, Peter, Paul and Mary… No, kidding.  Peter Christian, Paul M. Banks and Rikki Greenberg all get shout outs for understanding my Jackson Pollack – Jorge Julio strike zone reference last week.  Outstanding. We have such a diverse palate of writers, all of whom appreciate the fine arts on thesportsbank.net. 


Trevor Hoffman recorded his 1st-ever save as a Brewer this week, complete with Hells Bells.  Apparently, Hoffman wants it not just playing—but blasting.  In a post-game interview, he told a reporter that it wasn’t loud enough and that he had looked into noise ordinances in the city of Milwaukee and was fairly certain the volume could be increased safely.  Trevor wasn’t afraid to express to Attanasio that he should invest in extra speakers and sub-woofers at Miller Park before the closer’s next appearance. Fiesty, feisty.

Ryan Braun extended the Pirates & Brewers history of scuffling by taking a clearly intentional hit from Jeff Karstens. Both benches were warned and nothing ensued the rest of the game. Still, do you remember Prince Fielder and Matt Capps’ Yosemite Sam episode from the ’07 season? Fire in the hole…


“Friendly Fire with the Cubs,” is short and sweet this week.  Milton Bradley is a head case.  His condemnation to a psych ward would not surprise me in the slightest.  Why, why, why does he open his mouth?

 
The Beer Pen knows how to satisfy Rickie-haters who can’t keep their mouth shut either.  Usually I scowl, but this week, they compare Rickie Weeks to Mickey Rourke.  And that IS funny.

Rourke’s acting career of flops, bombs, straight-to-TV-movies and gonorrhea mirrors “Dick Weeks’ ” career of strikeouts, errors, braided hair and gonorrhea. That’s pretty straightforward, actually. Rourke astonished the world with his performance as Marv in Sin City and then of course, The Wrestler. Rickie magically comes out this year and astonishes Brewer fans with his exceptional play.  Coincidence?  I don’t know, but credit is given Beer Pen.


In “Just a Bit Outside,” Bob Uecker shared dialogue during the bottom of the 1st Wednesday that I must share with you.  He told Cory Provus that he follows blogs, email and facebook but he doesn’t Twitter. Here’s why:

 

And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I’m allowing empirical data and statistical graphs to sit the bench while The Beer Pen illustrates the greatest comic strip of the month. Can we play?

What’s Brewing in ’09: Strong Coffey, Boring Bench & Trenni Talk

 
By: Melissa Wollering

 
When half your team is playing really well and the other half can’t stop itself from imploding, the losses are disgusting, the wins are both shocking and satisfying and the word consistency is foreign.

 

 
In this week’s “Good, Bad & Ugly,” Coffey is my favorite beverage, Looper my favorite pitcher and Bush my Most Improved.  In his last outing, Bush gave up 4 hits, 3 BB and 3 runs in the 1st inning alone. However, on Thursday, Bush had a no-hitter against Philly going into the 8th. Former Brewer Matt Stairs eventually ended that with a homer that hit the right field foul pole.


Looper continued his winning streak Wednesday pitching six scoreless innings. Word is he may move ahead of Manny Parra in the rotation. Coffey did give up his first run as a Brewer on Wednesday, but should be thanked for a gutsy two-and-two-thirds-inning save earlier in the week.  In that game, Coffey forced a double play with the bases loaded in the 7th, got out of a jam in the 8th AND plopped down a perfect sac bunt in the 9th to move Kendall to second.  That transformed into an insurance run. Sicko good.


Coffey is also drawing comparisons to Brewers 2003-2004 closer Dan Kolb. Kolb hadn’t made many waves before the Brewers picked him up in his late 20’s.  Same for Coffey. Both showcase mid-90’s sinking fastballs.

Also in this category: Mike Cameron.  At time of print, Cameron led the team with a .316 batting average and 4 homers. More impressive is his .422 on-base percentage, which is tops among Milwaukee regulars.

 
As for bad, we move Suppan up one category from ugly this week. The Mets seemed to hit quite a few hardballs off Supp in his last outing, but he held them off going 6 innings and giving up just two runs.  It’s progress. Now build on it like a kid with 4 hours in Legoland at Mall of America.


Brew Crew Haiku provides us with this thoughtful analysis of his last outing:
Suppan Effective
But story of this game is
Strong Coffey brewing

 
Hopefully the bullpen won’t be as bad once Trevor Hoffman returns.  He’s expected to return on Sunday.  Cue Hells Bells once we get back to Miller Park.

 
If you want a bad stomachache, buy any large Pizza Hut pizza until May 2 and get a free Brewers ticket. Or just buy a real ticket and opt for Palermo’s in your frozen section.

 
As for what’s ugly for the Brewers, avid reader Justin Z. and I both salute Rickie Weeks’ ass.  Have you ever seen the Family Guy episode where Peter’s midsection and backside actually have an orbit around them?  Brian the dog throws objects into the gravitational pull to demonstrate.


If you’ve ever mistaken Rickie’s face for his ass, then perhaps you’ve identified the reason for his tough month of April. Rickie collided with JJ Hardy’s shoulder and was removed from Tuesday’s game for dizziness.  A game or two prior, his face got nailed by a pitch. If it didn’t already, NOW his face looks like his… Fine, I’m done. But I was having so much fun!

What else is ugly?  The bench. I spent a great deal of time discussing Chris Duffy, Brad Nelson and Casey McGehee during Spring Training.  I also explained that one of Dale Sveum’s campaigns in Maryvale was to make the bench so solid that each member could step for the starters without anyone taking notice.  He wanted pinch hitters to be winning factors in games….uh…yeah. You should pinch yourself at this point.  Are you dreaming, Dale?


Since Opening Day, we’ve hardly seen the bench.  When we do, they suck. Duffy, Nelson and McGehee combined have stepped up to the plate less than 20 times in the first 14 games. To put this in context, Counsell alone has batted 15 times in the same number of games.


My final ugly thought is Jorge Julio.  I so badly wanted to chant, “Rufio, Rufio, Ru-fi-ohhhhhhhhhh” all season.  Now I would like to catch a glimpse of the crack addict who drew his strike zone and see if he knows that he paints the corners like Jackson Pollack.  Wow.  If you got my art reference, I will give you a shout out in the next What’s Brewing.

 
In “Just a Bit Outside,” Bob Uecker does not think highly of the Mets’ new CitiField ballpark. He gave a long rant about the design of the visitor’s booth. He says there are half-a-dozen seats in front of them.  When someone stands, they loose all visibility – batter, catcher AND home plate.

As for other problem areas with that park; you can’t see the playing field from the visitor’s bullpen. Here’s Coffey’s reaction: “It’s horrible. It’s awful. It’s the worst bullpen I’ve ever been in…It’s a bad design.”

 
Nice.  In “Friendly Fire with the Cubs,” your favorite board-game creator and mine, Milton Bradley, was ejected from last Thursday’s game after a K in a pinch-hit appearance. Apparently he made contact with the ump. He was suspended two games. If you’re groin still hurts and you’re on the bench though, why even bother, Milton? Of course, he’s appealing it on principle (says Lou).  Andy Paschen has bequeathed Milton with the nickname of “The Meth Bear.” Children, if an angry bear is chasing you with a syringe full of meth coursing through his veins, make sure you can run faster than your slowest friend.

 
In “Where Are They Now?” former Brewer Geoff Jenkins wants to play. I think he could find a spot on a bench somewhere in National League. He can pinch hit and always adds to the defensive depth in the outfield wherever he goes.

 

 “Around the NL,” Lance Berkman is reportedly in an “uncharacteristic slump.”  Time out.  So the slump he was in for the majority of 2007 makes this one uncharacteristic how?

 

Pirates may resort to kidnapping although these wouldn’t do it off coast of Africa.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are about to start kidnapping fans. Not only did the team sell just 8,700 tickets the other day, but they only counted 4,500 actually enter the turnstiles.  I smell the first MLB team bailout…

And finally, your friend and mine, Trenni Kusnierick is getting a little traction for her MLB Network makeover.  She’s been very open about it, saying they wanted to ‘girl her up’ for the NY market crowd.  She’s done some interviews this week on 1250 AM in Milwaukee and written into Right Field Bleachers about it. What do you think?  I think they gave her a Jenny McCarthy look.  Not bad…

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 $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…

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…