Milwaukee Brewers Mid-Season Synopsis: Soap Opera-Style

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

If any major league baseball team were to be the premise of a daytime drama, it just might be the Milwaukee Brewers. Soap operas aren’t set in super-huge cities, so some “soap” on the shores of Lake Michigan sounds like a sell (also an improvement to the water quality). Bob Uecker already has television sitcom experience and Jeff Suppan, JJ Hardy and Bill Hall were on one episode of the Young & the Restless in 2007. Here’s a look back at how the season has unfolded so far, plus analysis; all within the storylines your mother obsesses over.

 
All My Children

Young pup Mat Gamel arrives late to Spring Training after failing to tell coaches that his shoulder hurts.  His teammates give him the Bronx cheer for that and his prego-wife drama.  The cheers change once Gamel is brought up to the majors on May 14th. Gamel records a .248 batting average, .350 OBP, 10 runs, 16 RBI and 4 HR’s leading up to the All-Star Break. 

He’s only 23.  That’s why the expectations set for Yovani Gallardo were a bit high.  Overall, his first-half performance was strong with the exception of three straight losses toward the end. Remember, he only had 21 starts in the majors before this season.  He’s still the strongest pitcher in the starting rotation—and that’s impressive for his age.

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As the World Turns

The Milwaukee Brewers sign All-Time saves leader and closer Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman pulls a CC gesture of gratitude, by taking out a full-page thank you farewell ad in the San Diego-Union Tribune. Stay classy San Diego.

The Chicago Cubs give the Milwaukee Brewers something of worth. The tables turn for Casey McGehee on May 19th, who goes onto produce 24 runs, 27 RBI’s and 6 homers for the Crew. At the break, he had a .329 batting average and .387 OBP.

Third base gets a makeover as Bill Hall secures the starting position, then loses it to Mat Gamel, Craig Counsell and Casey McGehee in some sort of super-platoon arrangement. Hall continues being the man fans love to hate, even though he still dons pink bats on Mother’s Day.

If you liked your morning tea, you may have recently switched to strong coffey.  Todd Coffey was one of the only reliable members of the bullpen until Hoffman showed up on the scene. He’s still an island of tropical warmth and offers possibly the most entertaining sprint to the mound. 

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The Bold & the Beautiful

If any two Brewers could be named for this Soap, think Fielder & Braun = Bold & Beautiful. Prince takes the words of naysayers everywhere and spins a beautiful web of first-base defense with only 3 errors so far this season.  He leads the team in homers, RBI’s, doubles and has the highest on-base percentage of any Milwaukee Brewer.

Fielder jacks his first career grand slam on June 15th against the Cleveland Indians to win the game for a bombshell episode on the show this season. Less than a month later, Prince is crowned King of the Home Run Derby with 23 long balls, including one that traveled 503 feet.

Ryan Braun makes a bold back-to-back appearance in this year’s All-Star Game; the first for a Milwaukee Brewer since Robin Yount. Braun and Prince now have two Midsummer Classic appearances each and a combined 39 homers and 139 RBI’s prior to Friday.

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Days of Our Lives

Ken Macha set the season in motion in March, with an exhibition rotation of Suppan, Gallardo, Parra, Looper and Bush.  Foreshadowing of many season-long trials and tribulations begins. Parra tanks (more on that in The Young & the Restless), Bush suffers an minor muscle tear in his arm and pretty soon Seth McClung and some dude named Mike Burns enter the picture in June.

The ups and downs within the NL Central began May 13th, as the Brewers moved into first place. (May 13-May 26, May 29-June 19, June 26-July 2 = more days spent atop the division)

Mike Cameron took April by storm, reminding everyone why he’s a gold-glover and an above .250 hitter.  The team will need his defensive skills and some more consistency from his bat in the second half of the season.

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General Hospital

Prior to Spring Training, Bill Hall was welcomed to General Hospital for an outpatient procedure: refractive surgery.  Apparently LASIK stands for “Less-than Average Sight Incurs more K’s.”

General Hospital’s main character and team physician, Dr. William Raasch, has been trying to reduce the number of player injuries with little success in 2009.  He has treated Braden Looper’s left oblique, Ryan Braun’s intercostal, Mike Cameron’s intercostal, the shoulders of Tony Gwynn Jr., Eric Gagne and Mat Gamel, Bill Hall’s calf muscle, Mike Rivera’s hamstring and David Riske’s elbow.

Perhaps the biggest blow on GH came on May 18th, when a wrist injury (torn tendon sheath) ended Rickie Weeks’ season.  Through 37 games, Weeks was hitting .272/.340/.517 with 9 homers and may have had a shot at an All-Star bid. It was the first time people remembered he was a No. 1 draft pick.  Team production slowed with his exit and I feel sad when I open my closet and realize the Weeks jersey will remain on the hanger for yet another season.

Dave Bush is the cause of the most recent pitching drama on GH.  A slight tear in his arm shook up the entire rotation and now the emergency room is scrambling to find adequate staffing. He had some quality starts and a fair number of strikeouts; look for more of the same when he returns to the show.

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Guiding Light

Trevor Hoffman has prompted the Milwaukee Brewers to believe that if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, he will guide the team to it and to a win.  ‘Hells Bells’ rang after Trevor overcame his DL stint in late April.  He went 18 appearances without a run and made 20 saves out of 22 opportunities. One observation however; he should never be put in a non-save situation. He has a 5.40 ERA in non-save situations compared to a 1.27 ERA in save situations. Oh well.

Mitch Stetter has been the lone beacon of light coming from the left.  This lefty set a record for most consecutive K’s and his WHIP is less than 1.000. 

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One Life to Live

The man who saved lives warms the hearts of thousands at Miller Park on April 10th.  US Airways Flight 1549 co-pilot Jeff Skiles throws out the first pitch opening day.

Carlos Villanueva has two lives; the one he lived before June 6th and the other one he’s pissed away since then. His ERA was 3.33 and opponents were only hitting .167 against him prior to June 6th this season. Since, batters have belted .419 against him and his ERA has inflated to 13.14. How many lives does Carlos have before the organization becomes impatient?

On the contrary, Craig Counsell has been playing like each day is his last. He has already recorded more hits this season than all of last. A batting average of .281, OBP of .354, 34 runs and 15 RBI’s are worth far more than the meager $1M amount we agreed to pay him.  He has earned his salary ten-fold, I’ve been saying it all season. He’s also doing it with torn cartilage in his right knee. Craig could replace that leg with a peg and still probably impress.
Passions

Bob Uecker loses the love of his life, Jim Powell, to the Atlanta Braves before the start of the season. Cory Provus of Cubs Radio replaces Jim Powell.

Telly Hughes is named Trenni Kusnierek’s replacement on FSWisconsin.  Passions is renamed Teletubby Love and is restricted to early AM and weekend timeslots only.

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Port Charles

In this daytime drama, it’s all about the ship that sails.  In February, Eric Gagne was handed a minor-league offer with big-league camp invite attached. If he made the team, he would have received $1.5M and possibly $3M in incentives. Good thing Gagme was put on a ship in the Pacific and carted back to Canada. Smart move that saved some bullpen angst. Notice I didn’t say all angst…

Tony Gwynn, Jr. sets sail for his hometown, San Diego. He leaves Milwaukee and has a fairly stellar season there. Isn’t that what happens with every Milwaukee Brewer who leaves?

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The Young & the Restless

Brad Nelson, Chris Duffy and Trot Nixon duke it out during Spring Training for the remaining outfield bench slots. Macha becomes restless with Nixon first.  After dismal outings, Nelson and Duffy are also let go in May.

As a result, the Milwaukee Brewers pick up Frank Catalanotto and Jody Gerut.  Catalanotto helps fill the expansive bench void, but Gerut does not by racking up a total of just 4 hits since setting foot in Milwaukee. 

The Crew signs free agent RHP Jorge Julio to a one-year deal then cuts him on June 2nd after restless fans call for his head on their fireplace mantle.

In March, 26-year-old Manny Parra is identified as a possible fantasy sleeper for 2009. He mistakes the prediction and instead takes to falling asleep while ON the mound.  He is eventually demoted to AAA on June 13th to rediscover the strike zone. They bring him back before the All-Star Break for a decent outing despite it being a loss.  He’s certainly young, but we hope he’s not restless for long.

James Jerry Hardy—kids call him JJ—avoids arbitration, signing for $4.65M in February.  He goes on to mostly disappoint along with everyone else with a last name beginning in the letter “H”.  Hardy, Hart and Hall will be asked to step up their production in the second-half of the season or risk being prohibited from starring in hot loves scenes with the female stars of the Young and the Restless.

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Future Story Lines

Remember when Ken Macha told the media he thought five of his guys could knock out 25+ in homers this season?  Remember when I thought seven Brewers could do it?  The only ones still in the running: Braun, Cammie, Prince, JJ and Hart.  The last two are the least likely, realistically.

I also hoped Cappy could come back before the All-Star Break.  Melvin once estimated as early as May, and some writers shot the Chris Capuano as “Comeback Player of the Year” phrase out. The lefty is recovering from Tommy John’s and is not yet ready, but boy could we use him.  He’s had setbacks with his recovery, but I’m praying for miracles to happen. Maybe that’s the future title of the Milwaukee Brewers’ daytime drama: MIRACLES.

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