Cubs Cause Stir With Big Announcements at Convention

theo_epstein

After a day dominated by headlines about Kerry Wood returning to the North Side, day two of the Cubs Convention in Chicago was marked by headlines in other areas. New changes to Wrigley Field were discussed, some free agency matters were addressed by the Cubs’ head honchos, and there was plenty of reaction both positive and negative to all of it.

[Read more…]

Chicago Cubs Manager Dale Sveum: More Detailed Biography

dale_sveum

Dale Sveum was named the manager of the Chicago Cubs for the 2012 season. This is after he has been a coach in the majors for most of the last decade. Sveum has two World Series rings, one in 1998 with the Yankees and one in 2004 with the Red Sox.

(Editor’s note: Guest post from David Malamut, But if you’ve already figured out I didn’t write this because you know I DON’T CARE about baseball)

[Read more…]

Chicago Cubs New Manager: Dale “Sick Facial Hair” Sveum

dale_sveum

During his MLB playing career, Dale Sveum was known for his “Sick Facal Hair.”As a young man he sort of resembled what would happen if Matthew McConaughey and  Jeff Foxworthy had a child.

Sveum also had the distinction of playing for five different managers who would eventually win a league Manager of the Year Award. They were Tony La Russa (’83, ’88, ’92, ’02), under whom Sveum played in Oakland, Joe Torre (’96, ’98), in New York, Lou Piniella (’95, ’01, ’08), in Seattle, Jim Leyland (’90, ’92, ’06) in Pittsburgh, and Gene Lamont (’93) with the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pittsburgh.

For those of you drinking Cubbie Kool-Aid, I’ll go ahead and post what you’re already thinking “maybe he learned a lot about leadership through osmosis from these guys, and we’ll see that as he leads the Chicago Cubs.”

[Read more…]

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

milli_vanilli

By: Melissa S. Wollering

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

 

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

siegfried_roy_tiger_1_r_0

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

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

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

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

brauns-remetee-party

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

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

wendall-middlebrooks

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

princeflow

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

derrick_turnbow_bobblehead_may_13th_2006_3__soul-amp

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

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

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

sveum

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

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

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

gatorade-dispenser

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

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

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

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

What’s Brewing in ’09: 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: Miller Park’s Holiest Holiday

By: Melissa Wollering

It’s only fitting that the Brewers’ home opener also happens to be the first I-94 season match up with the Chicago Cubs on the holiest of Catholic days – Good Friday. The only way to spend such a day: complete your stations of the cross in the tailgating parking lot and go drinkin’ for Jesus.

 
As season ticket holders, each and every year my brother and I arrive to await entry into the Miller Park lots about 4 hours prior to game time.  This is because despite the scheduled opening 3 hours prior, we know the traffic patterns around Miller Park Way do not allow for backup.  Therefore, like clockwork, officials are forced to open lots about 3 hours and 45 minutes prior. 


With front row parking achieved, not far from the Usinger’s Sausage Haus, we set up shop.  Last year we managed to fit a full-size portable Coleman gas grill, large Brewers’ table, 3 coolers of food, chairs, mini bar, tailgating games and a Brewers’ flag inside my compact Saturn Ion.  This year we add the handpainted Brewers cornhole game my Dad and brother built me as a gift for Christmas. Will it all fit?  Piety leads me to believe in religious miracles on holy weekends.


Better question: will there be enough Port-o-John’s in the Miller Park lots this year on Opening Day?  Much of the Milwaukee talk radio conversations day-of and the week following surrounded the controversy over the lack of relief spots. Fans with pickup trucks were strapping green or blue plastic toilets with limited privacy on their flatbeds, charging anywhere from 50 cents to $5.00 per use to strangers.  Friends got a discount and were likely charged a beer. No room for a John on the Ion, but it’s an interesting thought.  I even saw one guy put a bucket in a cardboard refrigerator box.  Now that’s both thrifty and MacGyver-like.


Compared to other stadiums across the country, Miller Park is still relatively new and an ideal destination for April games considering its retractable roof. Stadium management hopes to keep it desirable by continuously upgrading it each season, which is a smart investment considering Milwaukee loves its baseball. 

 
The organization says tickets sales are up by 10% from this time last year, surpassing a whopping 1.75 million. There are only a handful of teams that can say that.

 
New this year: a remodeled Team Store sponsored by Majestic. They took the existing store near TGI Friday’s in left-field and expanded it, complete with sentimental brick from County Stadium.

 
All Club Level suites have been redone with wood flooring, carpeting in Brewers’ colors, flat-panel hi-def TV’s, refrigerators and extra square footage. Many of the meeting rooms were redone for the corporates and a new party suite graces the right-field area. The new one is themed after the Brewers’ 2008 season, with the two existing party suites named for the 1957 and 1982 teams.

Sponsors aren’t completely shying away during these economic times. The Harley-Davidson deck makes its debut in the left-centerfield area. It’s elevated and can seat 42 fans with real Harley motorcycles built into the décor. It also overlooks the new outfield grass, the same grass the team installed in the infield last season. Even in March that stuff looked ready to play on.

 
Kalahari Resorts bought the naming rights to Bernie Brewer’s landing in left-field. Expect some mid-season changes to the look of that as plans are still in the formative stages. You can check out many of the new changes in this video.

 
On the field, the Brewers finished their Cactus League schedule at 20-10-3. They finished 14-3-1 in their final 18 and won 20 total Spring Training games for the first time since 1995. ST records mean little, but it can only bring momentum to regular season play.

 
Macha was toying with the two and five spots in the starting lineup and it looks as though there was a rhyme to his reason. Macha swapped JJ Hardy and Corey Hart, putting Hart #2 and Hardy #5.  It remains that way and we’ll see if it sticks.

 
Jason Kendall got a batting stance makeover and hopes some work with Dale Sveum in Spring Training pays off. Kendall says he wants to improve, even after all these years in majors, because he doesn’t want the outfielders playing just behind the infield when he steps up to the plate.

Kendall recently stated he wants to play at least six more seasons and he’d like them all to be in Milwaukee.  That’s just the sh*t. He says it’s one of the best cities he’s ever played in.  I think Bill Hall should take a cue from this guy’s PR mentality. Kendall’s now endeared himself to fans for the duration of his career if not much longer.

 
In “Ace’s Corner,” how about that Gallardo?  On Wednesday, Yovani pitched well AND hit a three-run homer against RANDY JOHNSON. Fact: Yo is the first pitcher to ever hit a homer off the Unit and Johnson’s been playing for something like 22 years. Fact: Johnson’s only homer in the majors came off former Brewer “Double-D” Doug Davis in 2003 at Miller Park. Fact: before this one, Gallardo had two MLB homers – one off Doug Davis, then pitching for Arizona in 2007.  Creepy…

Trevor Hoffman will need more than 15 days on the DL.  Vanillawafer, excuse me, Carlos Villanueva will fill in for the time being and he didn’t do all that bad Wednesday night to be honest.


Dave Bush is taking grooming tips from the Amish in northern Wisconsin. The Sportsbubbler is comparing Bush’s beard to Peter Griffin’s.


The Brewers are continuing the win-and-untuck your jersey tradition.  Started in honor of Mike Cameron’s father, who would come home from a tough day at work and never complain, just untuck his shirt to signal he wanted some alone time and was proud of his accomplishments that day. Or something sentimental like that.


Apparently, Alcides Escobar has made a big impression on Peter Gammons.  Not that you should say Peter’s name around Doug Melvin for a while. Peter’s talking Alcides up and he’s also fond of Yovani.  Then again, he picked Rickie Weeks as a breakout player, so I’ll let you judge Peter’s credibility as the season progresses.

 
In “Where Are They Now?” the Rays might be going with a Gabe sandwich platoon in the outfield.  Former Brewers Gabe Kapler AND Gabe Gross might both get starts there. I watched Gabe Kapler in Wednesday night’s Rays game against the Red Sox. The answer is yes, Kapler is still as attractive as the first day I laid eyes on him…


And in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Carlos Zambrano recently stated the Cubs need a new stadium, then backed off his comments. Yes, Wrigley Field was made during a time when mass communication was pioneered with hieroglyphics, however it is sacrilegious on the Northside to suggest the stadium is anything but the Queen’s crown jewels. Funny, Zambrano made similar comments after a game at Miller Park last year.  Welcome back to Milwaukee, Zambrano!  Eat it.

 
In this week’s “Chart Magnificence,” we evaluate plate discipline.  Mike Cameron seems to be getting bashed for his assumed lack-thereof.  The conversations came up this week after Cameron’s 4 BB game on Tuesday, which were a contrast to last season. To prove the nay-sayers wrong, take a look at Tuesday’s at-bats by Pablo Sandoval, who I’ve watched in the last two Giants’ games. He’s really beefy, like Prince, by the way. This shows lack of discipline. 


Cameron strikes out a ton; however he does not swing at many pitches outside the zone and is generally patient.  He has a low Z-Swing percentage and below average contact percentage so he takes strikes, goes deep in the counts and tends to miss. Now you know. Don’t bash our gold-glover and never whack our wienies.

 
Finally, I feel it is an appropriate time of year to explain to all of you my baseball philosophy.  We all have a purpose in life and I hope you’ll share yours with me in due time.  Let us pray…

 
“Baseball is my religion.  Miller Park is my cathedral. Opening Day is a time for renewal, with worship taking place between the first pitch and the last. Holy is thy scorebook. Holy is thy bratwurst. Look to the heavens for the fly.  Know the grace of God is with your glove. The general manager is seated near the left-hand of the Father. Your starting lineup is comprised of the original apostles. Welcome your baseball brethren into your home.  Treat them as you wish to be treated. In this stadium, you will be at peace, one-in-being with the greats.  It is through them this game was made.  Amen.”