New Era in Cubdom: Five Ideas for Theo Epstein

After weeks of speculation and several years of futility, a new era finally began in Chicago baseball on Tuesday as the Chicago Cubs named Theo Epstein their new President of Baseball Operations. He brings with him the obvious pedigree of winning two championships as GM of the Boston Red Sox, but perhaps more importantly, he has shown an ability to make moves that may not seem genius at face value but sell them to a rabid fanbase and end up making them work out in the end. This is a trait that he will need to bring with him to Chicago as he takes on the challenge of what will probably go down in history as the longest championship drought in American sports, but from what we’ve seen early on in his tenure, he seems to be up to the task. [Read more…]

What Milwaukee’s Brewing: Sudsy Bubbles to All-Star Break

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By Melissa S. Wollering

Either you drink through the foam head barrier or remain parched until the suds settle.  There’s no way around it; the Milwaukee Brewers must drink in the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers until their All-Star break reprieve. Speaking of which, we also let our readers weigh-in as we evaluate the Crew’s representation on the All-Star roster in this edition of What Milwaukee’s Brewing.

St. Louis leads the division and got an A from your third-grade English teacher when she assigned a compare/contrast assignment. A depleted starting rotation for Milwaukee combined with a less-than-stellar starting pitching rotation IS IN CONTRAST TO a roster that includes Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and the newly-acquired Mark DeRosa.

Gaining momentum going into the second-half of the season is important, but the Brewers have been putting their stationary bikes on the “hills course” and heading both directions over the past month. The Crew went 5-10 in interleague play, with the only source of pride being the three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians. The Brewers then took a red-hot poker from Colorado as they were swept at home. They went on to take 2 of 3 from each of the Giants and Mets only to get clubbed over the head by the Cubs. Freakin’ awesome.

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Which brings us to the Mark Cavendish or Lance Armstrong of your stationary bike. Since they’re team racing the Tour de France, can we get some rhythm-setters up in this starting rotation so the sprinter can finish her off?

Our consistently outspoken Ryan Braun had no problem saying Seth McClung and Mike Burns aren’t getting the job done. He knows Doug Melvin is trying to acquire the answer to everyone’s prayers, but Braun clearly felt his words might serve to light a fire under Mr. Mustache’s rear-end.

With two games up for grabs (meaning Gallardo, Suppan and Looper will handle the rest) before the All Star break, Ken Macha/Doug Melvin’s choice to pitch those two games could have a hefty effect on the Tour de’ Milwaukee (this next homestand) and the momentum going into the Hunt For Ken’s Machtober (post All-Star break).

I wrote that I believed the first target date by which Melvin wanted to acquire a starting pitcher was July 2nd. I believe the second target date is July 9th. I’m not saying there isn’t plenty of time before July 31st, but the timing of the acquisition at this point in the season is paramount. We knew our starting pitching rotation was going to be thin and bald.  We didn’t know it was also going to be fat and ugly. Not that there’s anything wrong with thin, bald, fat or ugly!  They are all wonderful attributes!

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What attributes do you need to have to make this year’s All-Star team? Whatever they are, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder had them. Brauny is the first Milwaukee Brewer to make the roster two years in-a-row since Robin Yount. Fielder was the manager’s choice, which is satisfying. Fielder is also competing for the crown in this year’s Home Run Derby as one of 4 first basemen in it.

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I wanted to know what you think, so here are a few responses from avid readers:

“Let’s be honest–if Hoffman were doing the same job for the Cubs, Yanks, Cards, etc. he would have been selected. Voters see MIL next to his name and forget his accomplishments because they have been trained to accept the premise that Milwaukee has no pitching this season. Gallardo I’m less distressed about because he’s been good, but not great. Certainly above average, and noteworthy, but not an All-Star. My 2 centavos.”  -Justin Cleveland

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“It’s no snub…just ran out of room for both guys. Look at the closers on the NL team…Bell, Broxton, Cordero, Franklin and K-Rod…all solid choices. The starters are all solid as well, and you also have to remember the rule of getting at least one guy on from every team, but still, starters on that roster deserve to be there. Trevor has been lights out but so have all the other guys. And Gallardo has been the ace of this staff, but others are matching him for their clubs. My two cents…but so have all the other guys. And Gallardo has been the ace of his staff, but others are matching for their clubs.” –Bob Brainerd

As a former FS Wisconsin reporter/host, we love Bob Brainerd. Bob knows baseball. Thank you, Bob.  Your thoughts are always appreciated and may we share with you, we love your reporting from those stands. One more:

“Apparently the sound system in St. Louis isn’t equipped to play Hell’s Bells loud enough, so Trevor declined. I would say that I hate “one player from each team rule”…but then the Crew would’ve had a ten year drought of representation!” –Nic Kulinski

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Examining the rosters, I will not argue any of the NL closers are less worty.  Only that Yovani got a raw deal if you even want to bring up the names Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis.  Don’t even.  I’m serious. The only justification I provide is the one player minimum per organization.  Could we do a little “Chart Magnificence”? Marlins’ starter Josh Johnson and Dodgers’ starter Chad Billingsley could be compared to Yovani in terms of numbers so here it is folks.  Johnson deserved it, Billingsley no way. The West Coast hollas loudly I suppose. Then again, there’s always next year!

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What’s Brewing in ’09: Opening Week Woes, Cold Soup & Hot Hitting

By: Melissa Wollering


It wouldn’t be rivalry if there weren’t highlights and lowlights to the Brewers Opening home stand against the Cubs this past week.

 

 

     
Personal highlights include the first christening of my new handmade cornhole game with my little brother, having a Brewers fan tell me ‘that’s an impressive amount of liquor you brought for two people,’ a picture on the Warren Spahn plate near the outfield entrance in honor of the late Walter Wollering, and of course Rickie Weeks safe at the plate last Friday.


Plus, at 10:33 a.m. Opening Day, sitting in traffic backed up before the off-ramp to Miller Park Way, Bill Schroeder decided to get out of the vehicle dropping him off and walk the rest of the way to the press entrance.  First he came by our car, peeked in and asked, “What’s everybody waiting for?”
Personal lowlights include Suppan’s pitching, Vanillawafer’s pitching and the four male Cubs fans next to me calling me blondie and exiting from the middle of the row a combined 42 times in 9 innings while I’m trying to score the game in my new geekster Uecker-carbon-copied scorebook (made it myself).


Let’s go good, bad, ugly. Good is Mike Cameron snapping out of his – I need to speak with a psychologist after I fractured Joe Martinez’ scull three times – hitting slump.   Cameron returned to glory Wednesday with two solo home runs to help the Brewers actually win a game. He was freakin’ after leaving San Fran and probably needed to rid himself of nightmares before being able to smack the ball again.


Braden Looper may be the only Brewers starting pitcher who knows walking multiple batters is generally unfavorable in the game of baseball. Todd Coffey and Mark DiFelice were the only men who impressed me from the pen.  Maybe now that David Riske’s been put on the DL, lefty reliever R.J. Swindle can also contribute.  He was just brought up from AAA.  God knows we need Hoffman and fast. Hells Bells need to ring throughout Miller Park more than ever.

 
First however, Brewers bench coach and former Mets manager Willie Randolph will get a chance to seek revenge on the team that gave him a raw deal. Maybe the Brewers can beat up on the Mets in their new house to help Willie out with that.

 
I have also received a few apologies from Wickie-haters this week. For most of his four years with the organization, Wickie Reeks has earned his nickname by being called the biggest underachiever on the team. On Opening Day, quotes unlike anything anyone has ever heard before came spewing from his proud teammates and coaches.

 
“He pretty much won the game for us,” says Ken Macha. “I just know it’s going to come together for him. It might be happening right now.”

 
“You can’t ask for anything more than Rickie gives,” Seth McClung said.  “He gets here early and works so hard. Nobody deserves it more.


Weeks tied the home opener with his bat and won it with a slide to the plate as the Brewers rallied in the bottom of the ninth.  The swarm of B’s at the plate said more about Rickie’s overdue break than the team though.  The team then went on to SUCK IT UP by losing the next 4 in a row.

Which brings us to the bad.  Or in this case, sad.  Merle Harmon, the original radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers passed away this week.  Harmon partnered with Bob Uecker from ’71 to ’79 and he’s as legendary as they come. With the recent loss of so many baseball greats these last few weeks, the only consolation I can provide is that these amazing men are probably playing a game of countless innings up in the heavens together.

 
Yovani Gallardo isn’t pitching like Yovani Gallardo either.  In his loss to the Reds this week, he went 5 innings giving up 7 runs on 3 hits and 4 BB’s. Also sad, at one point this week, Ryan Braun had hit like 2 for his last 18 or something awful like that. But the bigger picture reveals worse: the Brewers have left a total of 27 on base throughout the last few games. Vomit in my mouth. 

Jeff Suppan not only got a-talkin-to by Macha, not only will he sit out his next start but he should also consider retiring next year out of guilt and forfeit his salary back to the organization so they can pay SOMEONE WHO DESERVES IT. I’m torn because what is more alarming: 3 HBP? 10 BB in < 9 innings? 2 HR’s AND ONLY 2 K’s? 

 
It begs the question: can two terrible starts combined with an ugly performance down the stretch last season be enough to give a veteran pitcher an Essen Haus boot to the drawers? Among Brewers who pitched at least 300 innings for the organization, Jeff Suppan has the fourth worst ERA.  Here are your top five: Glendon Rusch, Jimmy Haynes, Gene Brabender, Jeff Suppan and Steve Woodard. You want league-adjusted?  Fine, when you use ERA+, then Soup drops to eighth. He’s also second worst in quality start percentage, behind Brabender again.

 
It used to be funny when Madison 1070 AM guys pulled the Conan O’Brien wonder-dog “for me to SUUPPP—AANNN” quote out, but now it’s just reality. In this week’s “Chart Magnificence,” we study Jeff’s movement on pitches. Compare the difference between these four starts.


He threw a great deal of strikes in Sept. 07 and most of his misses were just shy of the zone, too. A year later, his pitches weren’t painting the corners; they were decent pitches to hit. Even so, Suppan managed to cash in a 3.00 ERA based on a joke-of-a .214 batting average on balls in play. Then by the end of last season, Suppan had just crumbled and combined his unimpressive throws with zero command and complete inaccuracy when it came to the zone. Commanding the strike zone is his only hope for saving himself. Painting corners and changing speeds will also need to be part of the equation. Note his falling velocity is also working against him.


In “Around the NL,” Cecil Cooper could be the first manager fired.  What?  He said the Astros were going to win 120 games?  Not if your entire team hates you. Tony La Russa says Chris Carpenter’s going to be out “for a while.”  Heh.  Meanwhile, the Pirates actually won some games and acquired Delwyn Young.  But Young hasn’t been a healthy OF.


This deserves a call-out but it also fits in this column – YOU DO NOT HANG A DEAD GOAT AROUND THE HARRY CARAY STATUE. No way.  No how. No matter who you are, you do not do that.  I’m not even going to expound on that.


But finally in, “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” I was pleased to see Cubs fans boo Jason Marquis only to have watch him beat his former team and cash in for 2 RBI’s at the same time. Rich Harden only lasted 3 innings, too.  Giggle.

 

 
Plus, in a rewind to Sunday, Prince rightfully tipped his hat to Reed Johnson after Reed robbed Prince of a grand salami.  See, when Milton Bradley left with an injury, it was the luckiest thing that could’ve happened to the Cubs. Milton would NEVER have made that play at the wall, but Reed Johnson is just ridonkulous. Game-changing catch on a moon shot.  Classy describes what I think of Prince’s gesture, too.