Milwaukee Brewers Bring Back Mike Rivera for 5th time in 6 Years

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…