Brewers George Kottaras Randomly Hits For The Cycle


The Milwaukee Brewers back-up catcher George Kottaras had a career night against the Houston Astros as he became the seventh player in franchise history to hit for the cycle.

Kottaras doesn’t play a lot, but received the start on Saturday night because left-handed batters fare well against the Astros’ Bud Norris. Kottaras is the first player in the MLB to complete the rare cycle this season. [Read more…]

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

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

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

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

[Read more…]

The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Formerly known as What Milwaukee’s Brewing, The SportsBank.net flips the switch on this baseball column in anticipation of October. On Sunday, Doug Melvin and Ken Macha initiated Step 1 in their master plan to secure a return to the playoffs for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Switch-hitter Felipe Lopez increases options at the leadoff spot, fills the void Rickie Weeks left at second base and could be used to play almost any position in the Crew’s infield if needed. The only problem: this move still leaves fans chomping at the bit for another starting pitcher.

 
First things first: was it worth the price tag? Like finding a Deron Williams Cartier diamond-encrusted watch replica at the Dollar Store, yes it was worth it. Arizona drew the short end of the stick on this one.

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This Lopez move sort of reminds me of last season’s Ray Durham pickup. Lopez is an unrestricted free agent come fall. Milwaukee would need to negotiate to keep him, but has the freedom of knowing they’re not married to a long-term contract.

 
The Brewers could get a compensation pick after the first round next June if he shops another team; Class B is what Doug Melvin’s guessing. Felipe has about $1.5M left on his $3.5M contract.

 
The only thing the Brewers organization sacrificed was AAA outfielder Cole Gillespie and A reliever Roque Mercedes. Gillespie was batting .242 with seven homers and 27 RBI in Nashville, but started the season on the DL. Mercedes was 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA and six saves in 29 games played down in Brevard County. Rookie Mat Gamel was sent back down to AAA to free up space on the roster. No worries; this just gives Gamel daily playing time and it’s only a matter of weeks/months before he’s back in the bigs.

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How This Brings Them Closer to October….


Ken Macha has been frustrated while trying to find a right-handed hitter to anchor the top of the lineup when the team faces lefties. Craig Counsell can still be used at second against right-handed aces if needed, and both Craig and Casey McGehee (another 2B substitute) can be utilized elsewhere in the infield.

 
Rickie Weeks exited stage left with a torn-up wrist just as his curtain had gone up for the first time in opera house history.  Weeks was contributing with a .857 OPS. Lopez may make up for some of that lost production, considering 2B has been a sieve on the flip side (offense) for the Brewers. Lopez has been batting .301 with 18 doubles, six homers and 25 RBI for the Arizona D-Backs. More to love: he is batting .313 from the right side of the plate and .298 left-handed. As of Sunday, he ranked second in the NL with a .372 OBP.

 
Arizona beat writers seem to agree that Lopez is selecting more good pitches to swing at and drawing the walk more often. As a result, he should bring more consistency to the lineup and put more guys on base for Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to drive home.

 
He also provides a boost to the Brewers’ defense, with solid experience at nearly every position in the infield. He previously struggled with his defensive skills at shortstop, but he’s never disappointed at second. In fact, he may have flown under the radar in value due to the bad wrap he picked up while working his previous position.

 
The NL Central is anyone’s division right now. Any effort to improve the quality of play could increase the W column. Just a handful of wins could be the blueberries in your bran flakes. Think about it breakfast fanatics, and feast on it if the Brewers make it to Machtober.

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Any Downside?


Felipe has called Toronto, Cincinnati, Washington, St. Louis and Arizona home.  If five cities were happy to trade him, what makes Milwaukee his sensation destination?

 
Skeptics believe the move won’t make an ounce of difference because the team does not resemble a 90-win ensemble right now. We’ll let you watch and let YOU decide.

 

hunt-for-3

Still Needed in the Quest for October….


Doug Melvin made it clear that he tried to nab a Diamondbacks pitcher in the deal (all bets are on lefty and former Brewer Doug Davis).  However, GM Josh Byrnes wasn’t biting.

 
Melvin says he has little to no interest in handing over Mat Gamel or SS prospect Alcides Escobar, but that may limit the organization’s ability to trade for a pitcher of quality.

 

As you read in Blue Jays Don’t Migrate to Milwaukee, I’m not optimistic Roy Halladay will land on a beam of the retractable roof in Miller Park, but the buzz isn’t going away.

 

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Perhaps the most convincing indication Melvin is serious is that he has a habit of becoming mysterious and quiet right before he pulls the trigger on trades. All is quiet on the Halladay front right now, and he brushes information off as “the same old rumors” when possible.  The C.C. Sabathia trade was a prime example of Melvy’s masterful deception, which the guys over at Right Field Bleachers explain in detail quite well.

 

Many of you read the content of premiere insider Tom Hardricourt as well.  If you do, you know he’s changed his tune in recent days and believes Milwaukee will try to secure Roy if only to get him out of the hands of the Cubs and Cardinals.

 

On Twitter Sunday, Tom let us know Dick Groch, Melvin’s top scouting assistant, was in Toronto watching Roy pitch. Regardless of whether the Brewers club possesses the worm of choice for the early bird, we know they are interested. And a solid nest of starting eggs in the rotation should be Step 2 in the Hunt for Ken’s Machtober.

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!

Cubs-Brewers Exchange

By: David K. and Melissa S. Wollering

Thesportsbank.net’s inaugural Cubs-Brewers exchange!  After taking two of three from the depleted Cubs, the Brewers have leapfrogged Chicago in what is shaping up to be a competitive NL Central Division.  TSB’s Brewers expert Melissa S. Wollering and our resident Cubs fool, David K. share their thoughts on this weekend’s series.

DK: Well, at least we saved face by winning Sunday and avoiding an embarrassing sweep to your Brewers.  After Saturday’s game, I was ready to quit the Cubs for about the 214,736th time.  Somehow whenever I threaten to do that, they manage to get a win and just suck me back in.

Kudos to the Crew though.  Ryan Braun’s game-winning home run Friday night was baller.  Saturday, you guys treated our bullpen like they were Eric Gagne and Derrick Turnbow.  You have the best record in baseball since April 19th, winning 15 of your last 20.  Enough with the compliments though.  It’s time to make some excuses.

We played this series without Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, and with Aramis Ramirez separating his shoulder in the first game.  That would be like the Crew being without Yovanni Gallardo, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun.  Doesn’t sound fun does it?

By the way, can we get Craig Counsell to take a drug test?  He has to be on the juice after going yard Saturday night.

MW: I firmly believe I stood up during his home run and shouted, “that was just worth more than we paid you for your entire 2009 season contract.”  When looking directly at Craig’s face I always think it has been frozen in time since he’s all of 12 ½ years old.  Perhaps his going yard was more of sudden burst of youth circa 1987. But yes, you can test him for banned substances, by all means.

What has surprised me even more than the Brewers recent stellar offensive display is its pitching. The Crew is either tied with the Cubs or is now leading the league in quality starts with at least 18.  Considering all 5 members of your Cubs starting rotation were said to be better than the best starter we had at the beginning of this season, how do you feel about that, David?

DK: I hate it because I was a big basher of the Crew’s rotation at the beginning of the season.  Yo is living up to his stud potential and Dave Bush has been solid.  As of late, Suppan has been more crafty veteran than washed-up junk-baller.  As for that supposedly sweet Cubbies rotation; Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster all have ERA’s in the upper-four’s.  But that’s not the major issue.  It’s our bullpen which I trust as much as I would trust Ron Santo not to scream after a Cubs walk-off home run.  I mean, Chad Fox’s ERA is 135.00 in his two games.  Granted, his arm is pretty much dead, but still, a 135.00 ERA?  Even Gagne and Turnbow are laughing at that.

By the way, did you notice Braun’s home run Saturday night when he stared down Dempster after he knew it was gone.  Granted, Dempster had beaned Braun in the helmet the at-bat before, but still, it seems like Braun is getting a little cocky these days which I am usually all about, just not against by Cubs.  K?  Thanks.  For the record Braun is batting .619 against left-handed pitchers this season.  That is shocking.  Not 135.00 ERA shocking, but nonetheless shocking.

MW: That staredown you speak of consisted of steel-tipped darts protruding from Braun’s eyes, yes.  Good thing Dempster was looking back at the ball in awe instead of at Braun or you would have had two pitchers go down in agony that night.  Fox’s arm looked as though it fell off right then and there.  That’s gotta be tough to rehab all that time and throw it out during one of your first outings back.

Surprisingly, our starting rotation is playing to its potential.  Prior to Sunday, Suppan had 4 quality starts in a row.  That’s a shocking as Paula’s song-and-dance return to the stage on last week’s American Idol. But our bullpen isn’t all that much better than yours with the exception of Trevor Hoffman.  When you have someone like Jorge Julio, who’s given up 7 hits and 10 runs (9 earned) in the last 7 days, you tend to want to throw things at the television before the man even finishes running to the mound.



On a bright note, Fukudome’s on base-percentage when he comes to Miller Park is ridonkulous.  Even with three of your stars MIA you might be able to win even if you skipped the other 8 men in the starting lineup and just sent him out to bat for you every third inning.

DK: A) Somehow I just picked up Trevor Hoffman in fantasy baseball league.  B) I think we should call him George Julio, just like it was Bill Mota last year.  C) We can say five of the Cubs stars are MIA.  The aforementioned Big Z, D-Lee, and A-Ram, but don’t forget Milton Bradley and Geovany Soto who are both hitting well below the Mendoza line.

Besides about thirty pounds, what has gotten into Rickie Weeks this year?  He is finally playing like an All-Star second baseman, no longer looks completely incompetent in the field, and doesn’t talk like he has marbles in his mouth during post-game interviews anymore.

Well a tip of the cap to you and the Brewers.  You got us this time around evening the season series at 3-3.  Finally, the Crew travel south to Wrigley in early July for a four-game series so we will get home field advantage.  Hopefully by then our big guns will be healthy and our bullpen situation figured out.  ‘Til then…

MW: …’til then get on the Rickie bandwagon. What’s gotten into him is aggressive swinging early in the pitch count combined with patience at the plate for more hits, more BB’s, and fewer K’s.  Finally the leadoff hitter we’ve been waiting for. Too bad we almost gnawed our arms off it took so long. Braun and our pitching staff need to stay healthy for the Independence Week showdown in Chi.  We may be even now, but we know your baby bears have every intention of setting off some fireworks on the field before the real thing lights up the skies above Lake Michigan. It’s always a superb matchup during which we’ll have to do this again.

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: Benchmarks, Hot Air Balloons & Braun Backstory

By: Melissa S. Wollering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Infield

By Melissa and Jason Wollering

Don’t start hate-blogging about it now because we can’t handle it this early in the year, but Wickie Reeks will almost certainly be hitting at the top of the order again in ’09. Melvin defends Weeks to Baggot in this article. Bernie’s Crew also crunches Weeks’ average stats, pointing out at least he’s not a detriment to the team.

MW: Brother Jay, these articles bring up some great points about two common perceptions. 1. Why do people think second basemen have to be contact hitters, say, like Jimmy Gantner?

JW: For those who remember watching PBS when the show debuted in 1980, “3-2-1 Contact” this: 90 players struck out at least 100 times in ‘08 and 14 were second basemen.

MW: And it’s a little-known fact, last year Weeks was second in runs scored among NL leadoff hitters. He was also #1 in all of baseball in scoring from second base on a base hit – 23 for 24. Eat your pinstripes Johnny Damon; you went 9 for 22. Onto #2: The leadoff guy must BB a lot.

JW: Big sis’, last week Melvin asked reporters how many players walked more than 100 times last season. Answer = Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Fat Al Pujols and Pat Burrell; none of whom are leadoff guys.

MW: Did I ever tell you I sloot Melvin’s argumentative skills? Speaking of walks though…

Prince may be King after $18M, but his increased platoon split is one of Paul Noonan’s 10 Biggest Brewers’ Fears. Coming into the league, he hit against both lefties and righties with fervor. But with the Crew already lopsided, we don’t need lefties thinking Prince is easy-to-manage at the plate. He’ll need to take his walks in ’09. No more .313 OBP, even if that is your “real weight” buddy.

In , seven Brewers minor leaguers signed contracts for ’09: SS Alcides Escobar; 3B Mat Gamel; 3B Casey McGehee; 1B/OF Brad Nelson, C Angel Salome and relievers Tim Dillard and Mitch Stetter. Stetter has the best shot at making the club in spring training as their lefty relief specialist. Dillard’s not out of the question, either.

As for Escobar, his baby’s mama is causing drama. But Alcides’ potential has implications for the team’s best defensive infielder – James Jerry Hardy. Melvin isn’t afraid to say the reason JJ’s never been offered a long-term contract is Escobar. Melvin doesn’t want to ask the SS to move to third either, even though speculation regarding that increased this off-season. Enjoy ‘09 and expect Hardy to contribute big: over the last two seasons he’s hit .280, averaged 25 get-up-get- up-get-outta-here-gone’s, and 77 RBI’s.

And who’s on third? Bill Hall. But there’s some speculation that position could become 3B by committee. Crazy, but true. Mike Lamb worked several wonders for the Crew off the bench last season and will be used again. My clear choice when needed is none other than Craig Counsell. And since my readers enjoyed last week’s flow chart, here’s a comparison graph on Counsell’s production since 2002, courtesy of Right Field Bleachers.

This season, In-Between Hops (the site markets itself as a full keg of Brewers with a couple pints of generic baseball news) calculates there’s a 30% chance the Crew could be the 12th team in MLB History to have four 30-HR hitters and a 7% chance it could be the first team to ever possess five.

Ken Macha is not Pete Rose– but if he were, he’s told the media he thinks five of his guys can knock out 25+. There’s a small chance that seven Brewers could go 25+ in ’09: Braun, Cammie, Prince, Hall, JJ, Hart and Weeks. The odds of this may be similar to me replacing Jim Powell….but nevertheless it is possible.

Shouse…Shouse…let it all out. He’s the next we’ll have to live without as Tampa Bay picks him up. He got a two-year gig, we were offering one. Ray Durham may not play for anyone in ’09. The MLB Network is starting off its first season by spewing hogwash. No Jon Heyman, the Brewers do NOT have interest in free agent lefty Oliver Perez because that investment would be as worthwhile as the last Citibank bailout. Hardricourt sniffs a Boras marketing ploy and we concur.

Surprise! Ben Sheets’ ratings are higher than General Hospital ’s or Days of Our Lives…cmon’ man, I needs me some guarantees. Like Marquette shining without Tom Crean, take your inflated self-worth Ben and issue a courtesy flush.

Don’t have a coronary, but Cappy could be back before the All-Star Break. Melvin estimates as early as May, and some have already shot the Chris Capuano as “Comeback Player of the Year” phrase out. The lefty is recovering from Tommy John’s.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Hill may fly east to nest with the Orioles. This time we’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” Cubs’ pre-game WGN radio announcer Cory Provus may be the front-runner to replace Jimmy Powell. Here’s Jimmy’s farewell to fans. Timeline = February 25th. Uecker reaction = “Back in the day, I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for $3,000. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn’t have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up. Say new guy, how do you catch a knuckleball?

Wait until it stops rolling, then go to the backstop and pick it up.”