Live from Miller Park, Game 3 Brewers vs. Cubs

Miller Park Press Box

It’s a treat for the Sportsbank.net today as well as TSB’s resident Brewers Beat chick.  I’ll be taking the reigns for FoxSportsWisconsin.com and giving you all the latest from Row 1 of the Press Box at Miller Park.

If you like small blue birds, find me tweeting @MilwBrewersBeat and follow along with us that way. If you prefer I serve you your meat and potatoes on a silver platter, just keep logging on for player interviews and my reaction right here on the home page. Today’s preview of Cubs @ Brewers is now served. Bon Appetite!

By: Melissa S. Wollering [Read more…]

I-94’s Disappointment Bowl: Crickets Chirp Over Cubs & Brewers

WGN Radio is hyping hockey, basketball and even…BEARS football?  Attendance is down at both Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Fields. Milwaukee fans are apathetic about northbound traffic from Illinois and no one’s uttered the FIB acronym in weeks.

Wow, the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs must both suck this season. Chicago: your offense is 13th in the league, you’ve scored 234 runs and Ted Lilly hasn’t won a game since his season debut in April. Milwaukee: your pitching is 13th in the league with a team ERA of 5.29. Crack a PBR or a High Life.  Either way, you might need it to get through this week’s Disappointment Bowl.

By: Melissa S. Wollering

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Brewers Make Mockery of Ken Macha’s Hometown

Home Run Production 4-22

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Did we just watch a Spring Training game in Pittsburgh? For the first time in club history, the Milwaukee Brewers decided they were going to lead by at least eight runs in four consecutive games. The last time they made it happen, were the first three games in 1978.

Meantime, by raiding the Pirates’ ship in 20-0 fashion, the Brewers basically tied a record set on Aug. 18, 1992 in a 22-2 win playing the Blue Jays in Toronto. This is also the most lopsided shutout in club history, the previous being an 18-0 win at Boston on April 16, 1990.

Manager Ken Macha must be celebrating after having swept his hometown  Pittsburgh Pirates. But bear with me as I deliver some not-so-great news. The Brewers continue to rely on the long ball for a vast majority of their runs, something they may not be able to continue doing with larger NL Central contenders, namely the Cardinals and the Cubs. Note to self, Ken Macha: on your to-do list = manufacture runs. [Read more…]

Jeff Suppan Claims Neck Injury, Coincidence? Or Just In Time?

By: Melissa S. Wollering

The first four starting pitchers have been named to the Milwaukee Brewers rotation.  No surprise,  Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Doug Davis and Dave Bush will start in that order.  After watching Spring Training in Arizona this year, I figured that.  But I made one other prediction: if Jeff Suppan got the hint he would not be named #5, he’d fake injury rather than suffer a bruise to his pride.

[Read more…]

The Hunt For Ken’s Machtober: Bullpen Breakdown

jesus

 By: Melissa S. Wollering

The starting rotation is experiencing full engine failure, prompting a bullpen meltdown. For the Milwaukee Brewers to salvage their race for October, the organization prayed to the skies above.  Doug Melvin ordered some stormy Weathers to cool off overheated relievers.  He also ordered the Coming of Jesus.  Jesus Colome, that is.

 

 
39-year-old David Weathers gets around. He has license plates from 10 metropolitan cities: nine in the U.S., one in Canada. He also dated both of your twin sisters; as a Yankee and a Met. Doug Melvin worked out a deal after the trade deadline, when Cincinnati put Weathers on waivers. The Crew is handing over a player yet to-be-named or just plain cash.

d-weathers
Weathers brought sun as well as rain clouds into Milwaukee as a Brewer from 1998 to July of 2001, when he was dealt to the Cubs. He is the third reliever added to the Brewers’ bullpen in ten days and was sought out with the hope that he can eat up late innings. Needless to say, he provides experience, a sneaky cutter ball and the ability to be one of two set-up men for Trevor Hoffman (the other being Todd Coffey).

 
According to Tom Hardricourt, no one was more shocked about his return than Weathers himself.  The good news: Weathers is self-forecasting fresh pitching because he’s received an easy workload and adequate rest in Cincy.  Can he bring clear skies back to a state under a permanent tornado watch?  Check out TSB’s 7-Day Weathers’ Outlook in “Chart Magnificence” below.

weathers-chart-thin2

Former Milwaukee Brewer Claudio Vargas is also back to provide some semi-fresh arm action. Mmm…at this point should we find Ruben Quevedo? No? By the way, Doug Melvin gave the Dodgers minor-league catcher Vinny Rottino in exchange.

 
Finally, nothing shows Melvin’s desperate plea for divine intervention more than summoning Jesus himself to the bullpen. Last week, the club called up righty-reliever Jesus Colome from AAA Nashville to replace R.J. Swindle. The lefty could have used his right arm, right toe, left ear or rear end and still wouldn’t have made a difference in the Brewers’ physically-drained bulllpen. Swindle had three stints in the bigs with the Brewers, ultimately allowing a dozen hits and a dozen runs in less than 7 innings, for a 16.20 ERA.  Cue the coming of Jesus.

Nationals Cubs Baseball
Melvin signed Colome several weeks ago after his release from Washington and was assigned to Class AAA Nashville. He’s been great in four outings there; going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and two saves, three hits and two walks allowed in seven innings, and 11 K’s. If he doesn’t knock your socks off just remember, Swindle allowed at least one run in each of his last six outings.
It’s clear that the bullpen breakdown is a direct result of Melvin’s inability to obtain a starting pitcher while Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan are on the DL. 

 

 

During the injury waiting game, the Hunt for Ken’s Machtober has been stymied by starters habitually making short-inning appearances and relievers being beckoned über early.

hunt-for-3
Case and point: the tired Mark DiFelice.  He’s made 45 appearances so far this year and even cost the organization Friday’s game. Typically, DeFelice can sack righties. Instead, he hung a “cut” fastball to Houston’s Jason Michaels, who served himself a three-run shot on a silver platter that night. DeFelice admits he’s been dropping his arm and not following through on his trusted pitch. He’s highly unlikely to be the only one in the bullpen doing such a thing.

 

 
Chew on this: the Brewers are 1-21 in games in which Chris Smith has come to the mound. You know you have problems when your pitcher can’t hold a six-run lead.  In addition, you know you have problems when your beer pitcher can’t hold the six-pack you need it to in order for you to get through such a game.

 

Ken Macha worried this domino effect would prevent his team from vying for the “up-for-grabs” NL Central. With the Brewers back below .500, tied for third with the Astros as of Monday and five games off the pace, Ken’s Hunt had better include an improved bullpen first and foremost, with a glorious return for Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan fairly soon afterward.

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Other things worth fixin’ like country fried steak: get somebody on base before there are two outs already on the board. Seriously.

inspgadget
Stop taking game-critical abuse from senile umpires. On Sunday, Ryan Braun took a third strike so far outside that Humberto Quintero used an Inspector Gadget extendable arm or Stretch Armstrong putty limb to retrieve it. Braun rightfully complained to home plate umpire Larry Vanover. Replays showed the fastball was spotted in Austin, Texas. Those calls are not helping the Brewers.

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Lastly, stranded runners destroy big opportunity innings. AGAIN, these are game-critical innings. On Saturday, the Crew got one run off Mike Hampton in the first but could have put a few more up on the board.

 
In the coming weeks, we’ll keep tabs on the submarine in Ken’s Hunt for you.  Remember that until Machtober, the Brewers do not surrender.

What Milwaukee’s Brewing: Streaky Shine & Return to Wrigley

mike-burns

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Generic Windex has nothing on the absurd streaks of the Milwaukee Brewers. Dave Bush fill-in Mike Burns says Cy Young means squat after outpitching Johan Santana, former Cub Casey McGehee gets his first Grand Slam in the majors and Fielder and Braun give us a glimpse of what the Home Run Derby could look like—all in one week. Plus, the prime window to acquire another starting pitcher narrows as the Milwaukee Brewers head south to play the Chicago Cubs this Independence Day weekend.

 
The phrase ‘atop the NL Central’ still baffles me, but several solid performances, including games on Saturday and Wednesday, restored a bit of the confidence the Milwaukee Brewers lost last week. 

 
Imagine making 48 appearances for four different teams in the majors before collecting one W for your record. Enter Mike Burns.  He has to pitch against Johan Santana then watch David Wright smack a two-run homer in his first inning out. That smells of the same fear gatorade dispensers have for Carlos Zambrano. So how, or better yet, who gives Mike the confidence he needs to last through six-plus innings?

gatorade-dispenser
Ryan Braun.  This question-answer game should start to look familiar by now, o-wise-avid team leadership-tidbit-seekers. Ryan Braun produces 3 hits for 4 runs and pretends third base is a slip-n-slide during a Santana error that allows him to score. Back from that early deficit, Burns goes onto last longer than Doublemint gum. Corey Hart had 3 hits, Prince Fielder goes yard in the 7th for insurance and his 20th homer of the season, Johan sprinkles in some walks, too and there’s your shocking Mike Burns win.

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Burns is the Dave Bush replacement until that minor tear in Bush’s arm heals.  He has a tendency to walk the first hitter, then settles down and starts throwing first-pitch strikes. Burns threw 66 strikes, 29 balls and 16 first-pitch strikes.

 
Shall we do the math? Throwing first-pitch strikes forces more swinging of the bat, equating to 10 outs in three pitches or less. More than half of Burns’ curve balls, fastballs, sliders and change-ups are all strikes. Is he working for the Milwaukee Brewers right now?  You bet he is.

 
Nevertheless, we’re approaching July 3rd.  In my opinion, this was a target date for Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio to tell us they’ve acquired a new starting pitcher.  Think about it.  We’re about to head south on I-94 to play the Cubs, we’re minus Dave Bush and Manny Parra in our rotation. There’s plenty of time to find one, but this would’ve been my first “date-to-watch-for” on the calendar. Names still popping up: Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Doug Davis.  Yes, former Brewer Doug Davis.  I don’t know about that.

Mariners Angels Baseball
Did you know Jarrod Washburn is from La Crosse and went to UW-Oshkosh? Erik Bedard is from Canada, so a July 1st acquisition would be easy to remember along with his national holiday.

 
Can we please talk Casey McGehee?  His bat is so hot the Kool-Aid Man suffered heatstroke. Wisconsin’s dairy farmers say McGehee’s so hot that their cows have only produced evaporated milk in June.

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In more than 115 plate appearances this season, McGehee is hitting .325 with a .388 OBP and .544 slugging (.931 OPS).  He’s not the Savior, but he might be contributing more than anyone in the lineup since the departure of Rickie Weeks.  His defense is solid, too, considering he played exactly 7 games at second base in the minors and zero in the majors before this season.
More fun with production numbers: 73/274.  That’s the combined home runs and RBI’s Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are on pace for this season. Can you say the new Brewers’ pet dinosaur is the Thatsalottorunsasaurus? The homer record for teammates is 115 set by Maris & Mantle in 1961.  Oh, I love history.

 
History also proves though that if you want to beat the Brewers, just debut a new pitcher against them. The Brewers have lost all 4 of the last 4 games facing a newbie including Sadowski on Sunday, Figaro on June 20, Hanson (no decision, but Atlanta won June 7) and Swarzak on May 23. Yep, that’s right Peter and Palmer.

openingweek-003
In “Just a Bit Outside,” Miller Park isn’t perfect as a full-fledged shadow investigation is underway. No lie.  During a day game, shadows are distracting players by the 4th inning. It happens during evening games to a lesser extent as well. Last Thursday against the Twins, Prince Fielder was asked what kind of pitch he homered off of.  Turns out he hit the ball blind, didn’t even know if he’d make contact. When asked what should be done about the lighting situation, Prince responded, “I don’t know. I just work here.”

 
In “Down on the Farm,” my 25-man fantasy roster, complete with minor-league player Jeremy Jeffress, continues to produce pigs for slaughtering. Jeffress was handed a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” He wasn’t doing well anyway and was demoted earlier in the season. Once thought of as a potential legacy pitcher, his problem with Mary Jane appears to be giving Tom Petty a better shot of pitching for the Crew in the coming years.

parra
Speaking of the farm, don’t expect Manny Parra to return to the big leagues any time soon.  He took a huge step back Sunday giving up 5 hits, 5 BB’s and 7 runs (6 earned) in less than 5 innings.  Gross.

 
In “Around the NL Central,” dang you St. Louis for getting Mark DeRosa. I love DeRosa and believe he would’ve been a solid veteran investment. I’ve been saying it all season. At least Doug Melvin went after him.  The bad news is Cleveland wanted young pitching prospects, which by reading above you can see WE DON’T FRIGGIN HAVE.

milton-bradley
In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” whenever I’m feeling down, at least I’m not feeling Cubbie Blue over Milton Bradley. Consider this when you need a pick-me-up: this season Milt has been ejected, ticked-off an ump for a suspension, decided to flush his productivity down a toilet, threw a ball into the stand with two outs, blew up at his manager and prompted Pinella to ask Milt to physically remove his jersey. Feeling better? Wait…Bradley isn’t likely to go anywhere for two more years.  Oh, now you feel on the northside.

 
And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I started watching the Live Win Probability Charts change before my eyes each inning on Fan Graphs.  I’m told that by taking the MLB data and plugging into some crazy html algorithms, you get auto-refresh graphs like this one. When they change before your eyes, you just FEEL smarter.
graph-live-win-probability

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.”

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

By: Melissa S. Wollering

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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