Three moves to hassle the Hoff and shake up the Milwaukee Brewers

Trevor Hoffman

Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was willing to can manager Ned Yost with 15 games left in the 2008 Wild Card race. Last August, he fired pitching coach Bill Castro, options the struggling JJ Hardy to Triple A, and showed Bill Hall the door. If Attanasio wants to keep a consistent message, he needs to make at least one of these three moves. [Read more…]

Finally, Your Pitcher is Older Than Ours

Jamie Moyer

By: Melissa S. Wollering

As the Milwaukee Brewers get that nervous butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling with the defending National League champions coming to town, there’s one thing the team can take comfort in.  Your pitcher is older than ours. 

Now, Philadelphia Phillies’ Jamie Moyer is no slouch! But he was born in 1962 and that makes the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff just feel better. Well boys, soak it in.  Because it’s not going to be an easy weekend and you may not feel good about much more than that. [Read more…]

Hoffman Savors Save Versus Former Team, Inches Closer to 600

Trevor Hoffman

By: Melissa S. Wollering

If the Milwaukee Brewers’ Trevor Hoffman is going to convince his team and its fans that “Hells Bells” deserves to be played regularly at peak volume in the top of the ninth at Miller Park, he can start by converting more saves than blowing them. Hopefully, the recent frustration ended Saturday, when Hoffman inched closer to inking 600 saves by converting number 595 at Petco Park against his brethren, the San Diego Padres.

[Read more…]

Live From Spring Training: 31 Compete to Pitch for Milwaukee Brewers


By: Melissa S. Wollering

For the next week, we’ll be coming to you live from Arizona and Cactus League play. A majority of my coverage will focus on the Milwaukee Brewers, but we’ll also throw is a taste of what’s going on with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox and more.

We start with what the Milwaukee Brewers need most: pitching. Look at it this way, at least they have options.  31 starters and relievers are looking to the make the roster and plenty of spots are for the taking. That’s a stark contrast to the 2009 rosters, in which the starting rotation had zero spots up for grabs and bullpen roles were fairly set. [Read more…]

Hunt for Ken’s Machtober: Make or Break for 2010

marilynmonroe_gentlemenpreferblondes

 
By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Since 1954, only 56 starting rotations have sheepishly admitted finishing with a higher ERA than the Milwaukee Brewers hold this season. That’s the same season Jim “Dusty” Rhodes helped led the SF Giants to a World Series win, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio and RCA manufactured the first color TV set. The first Burger King was opened in Miami that year, too; but that doesn’t mean the Milwaukee Brewers will let you “have it your way” when it comes to building a pitching staff for the 2010 roster.

 
Fans have been suffering through the drama of an injury-ridden ‘09 pitching staff.  They’re empathizing with the All-Star Braun & Fielder duo who have been getting far less support than a woman with a pair of queen-size control-top pantyhose.

[Read more…]

Hold the Cheese: A Sox-Brewers Exchange

bernie-soxman

By Soxman and Melissa S. Wollering

You have to reach back to years of California’s rolling blackouts, Mad Cow disease media-hype and the release of the very first Apple’s IPod for the last time the Chicago White Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers.  2001 was remarkable.  Fast-forward to 2009, as Soxman and Melissa cheese it up about the latest meeting between the two teams, sure to be as memorable as the smell of limburger left in a vehicle at 90 degrees for 8 hours.

(SM)  Nope, I’m not going to do it.  There will be absolutely no gloating by this White Sox super fan regarding our series sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why?  Well, I have two reasons.  One: our victories actually helped the Cubs in the standings.  Two: the Brewers are my second favorite team in the National League.  Yes, for Soxman, there are other teams in baseball beyond the boys who protect the diamond at 35th and Shields.

The Brewers franchise is the little engine that could.  The small market team, built from home-grown prospects and complemented, not defined by free agents. I love their park and their fans, so you will not hear me “drop a beat down” on this team.

That said, to quote the 70’s sensation Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  Any thoughts you would like to share overall on the competitive series that took place at Miller Park this weekend?

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(MW)  First off, I count a sweep as taking three of three.  Brewers won on Friday 7-2, so let’s say you ‘won the series’.  Your pitchers got it done when ours didn’t, your hardwood performance made our players appear to be using toothpicks, Pierzynski was ‘one to watch’ even though Paul M. Banks thought I was nuts for saying so last week.  To top it all off, you robbed Trevor Hoffman of a perfect ERA.  Robbing Hoffy made me feel as though the Sox had cursed death upon my future first-born child.  It left me that empty.

(SM) Okay, let’s look at each game in a little more detail.  The first game to me was not a loss by the White Sox as much as it was a loss to Ozzie Guillen.  He pulled Clayton Richard after pitching five solid innings and only giving up one earned run.  It  was also the start of a great series (and hopefully a hot streak) for Corey Hart.  A double, a triple, and 3 RBIs.  Our bullpen, which had been pretty automatic, gave up six earned runs.  For a final thought, where in the heck did former Cub, Casey McGehee come from?

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(MW) He came from Cubbie purgatory where if you vow to contribute to the Milwaukee Brewers after a life with the Cubs, then you reach heaven after your career is finished. Amen, brother! He got the leadoff spot in Sunday’s lineup and contributed to that game, too, before it took a Turnbow nosedive.

I also love pitchers that can get it done on both offense and defense. On Friday, Suppan retired the side in just 7 pitches in the 2nd inning. Then he stepped up to the plate in the 3rd and advanced Kendall to second with a nice Sac.   Richard doubled for his first major-league hit in the 5th, too. Ozzie pulled him for that error in the following inning, which I agree, wasn’t completely necessary. Still, Suppan and Richard impressed overall.

(SM) Game II.  Let’s just say your premonition regarding Manny Parra in last weeks exchange with Paul M. Banks was spot on.  Six earned runs in an inning and two-thirds pitched.  What is wrong with this guy?  With an ERA over seven, perhaps he’ll follow his opponent’s lead and figure everything out in the minors?  Did I mention that Jose Contreras appears to be back?  Eight innings of two-hit ball.  Bottom line, that was the story of this game.  Care to offer your perspective?

(MW) If you care to sweep Manny Parra’s glove and uniform under Miller Park’s bleachers, douse them with lighter fluid and start tailgating around them with a couple of Usinger’s famous bratwursts, then by all means SWEEP away. Let’s just say I awoke Sunday extremely unsurprised that he was sent down to AAA Nashville. 

What cracked me up though is that Macha is so disgusted, he currently does not give a rat’s rear-end about trying to replace him. We brought up the reliever Chris Narveson and will use Seth McClung to start if need be.  However, the next 8 games include two off days, so a 4-man rotation works until June 27th. Attanasio is probably doing some Father’s Day shopping in the starting pitching department, aisle better than a 7.52 ERA? You had to know this was coming.  It’s not IF, it’s WHEN with the Milwaukee Brewers and their pitching woes.

Contreras impressed with the number of innings pitched, copious amounts of strikeouts and no signs of returning ailments. That is a trifecta to me because those Achilles can take some time. Hey, come to think of it you know, we could use a starting pitcher…

(SM) Well, if we are going to tailgate, I’d prefer Johnsonville beer brats.  The series finale was like bizarro baseball world in my opinion.  Jim Thome attempts to bunt, Mark Buehrle homers and Trevor Hoffman gives up his first run of the season.  Corey Hart brought us back to reality by belting two homers and Casey McGehee appeared to be playing with Cubs ire as he went 3 for 4, falling a triple short of the cycle.  Thoughts ?

(MW) Hart does well in June, it’s his month.  It is the month of the harvest, when his ‘International Harvester’ as a batting song actually makes sense for 30 days.  JJ Hardy looked absolutely dismal.  He got shoved down the batting order to eighth on Monday as a direct result. He is something like 1 for 32 right now in at-bats.

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Buehrle surprised with his bat and I enjoyed watching White Sox fans cheer in utter shock!  I cheered with them.  Heck, who cares?  It was exciting. Looper didn’t deserve any cheering whatsoever, so…. 

Also, let’s describe how Melissa watched the 0.00 ERA on the gigantic wrap scoreboard flicker at status quo for the last time in Brewers history for Hoffman.  Let’s pause 30 seconds for silence.  Now let’s never speak of it again. I heard he was .8 innings away from making club history.  I said let’s never speak of it again! This is me, writing to myself in my alter ego.

(SM)  I actually did a Sox Exchange once with my alter ego Bruce Wayne Parker, so I know how these things go.  It will get better.  Earlier this season, I scouted the Brewers farm system, taking in Nashville Sounds game.  All the buzz surrounded super-prospect Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar, yet most of the return on investment thus far seems to be coming from McGehee, who only hit .167 with the Cubs last year despite driving in 92 runs for AAA Iowa.  Former Brewer Scotty Podsednik has been that guy for us.  Left for dead by the Colorado Rockies, Pods was out of work until mid-April when the Sox took a chance on him.  The 2005 World Series hero has made the  most of his second chance with Sox, posting a .360 OBP, and hitting .311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, and 8 SB.  The Brewers and Sox both have a history of getting the most out of frugal signings.  Do you think its that Midwest mentality or dumb luck ?

(MW) It’s karma…we lose people like Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins who go on to semi-resurrect their careers with other organizations.  But we also give away people like Scott Linebrink to the White Sox and watch him implode on himself, like he did Saturday. 

You win some, you lose some.  So, somewhere smack in the middle of Midwest mentality and sheer dumb luck. That dances around your question like a circus performer on hot coals. Sorry, Soxman. But I agree, kudos to the Sox for picking up Scotty Po Po.  I cheered for him this weekend and I was in the vast majority!  You would have been proud of my Milwaukee Brethren.

(SM)  Finally, lets play Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox (and Brewers) and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball… 

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White Sox pitching was good for Corey Hart.
 

(SM) Maybe, He was in a 2 for 23 slump on Wednesday, looks like Ryan Braun against the Sox. 

 

(MW) Mirage, it had nothing to do with the pitching. In June 2007, Hart batted .336 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs from the leadoff spot. June of ’08 was decent, too.

 Jose Contreras is back.
 

(SM) Maybe, 2 starts, 16 IP, zero ER, and three hits allowed.  Enough said. 

(MW) Maybe, watch his health, keep stretching that achilles and I don’t see why not.

The Brewers will be buyers at the trade deadline.

(SM) Maybe, they need another solid starting pitcher and perhaps a hitter hat can get on base. 

(MW)  Strong Maybe if not Definitely. For the first time in years, more MLB teams are looking to trade for bats. It may give us an advantage when seeking pitchers. Starting pitcher = happening for us.

 The Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline.

 (SM) Mirage, who are they going to give up on?  Sellers are a possibility. 

(MW:) Mirage, they’ll be selling to teams like the Brewers and salvaging the future. My sincere apologies, but…

The Brewers and the Sox will meet in the 2009 World Series.
 

(SM) Mirage.  Not unless we start scoring more runs. 

(MW)  I like your thinking!  But probably not, so mirage it is. Bless what we have in common until then–our hatred for the Cubs!

(SM) Great exchange Melissa!  Good luck to you guys down the stretch.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Plate Patience, Pirate Tantrums & Rickie vs. Rourke

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Doth my ears hear correctly?  Exsqueeze me?  Bacon powder? On Wednesday, the Brewers broke .500 for the first time this season. After a horrible start to April, that’s like beating the same odds Ben Linus has of becoming Chief of Staff to Jimmy Carter after getting off the island post-
Dharma Initiative.

 
Your Milwaukee Brewers have won seven out of their last eight to achieve that monumental task. Note 15 wins in a row against Pittsburgh and 18 in a row at Miller Park. Playing the Pirates every other series wouldn’t be so terrible, eh?  Strange enough, many of them have been close games and the Brewers always pull it out. Why can we only win close games against the Pirates?


AAAARRRRRRR, matey. The fans of those losing scoundrels are angry that the Brewers untuck their jerseys after a win. If you haven’t heard by now, the tradition is in honor of Mike Cameron’s father who used to untuck his shirt after a tough day’s work. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogs are chock full of dissenters. Really? One guy wrote that he wanted the Brewers’ Gatorade cooler tainted with swine flu because he’s so mad. Really?


Meantime, Yovani Gallardo went to bed Tuesday and woke up an ace pitcher 12 hours later. Put this into your TI-84’s and crunch it: 8 innings, 2 hits, 1 BB, 0 runs, 11 K’s. Perfect game through two outs into the 5th inning. Then he got ‘er done at the plate by going yard in the 7th on a 0-2 count for the only run of the game.


Did you know that’s two homers in only 12 at bats so far this season for Gallardo? TI-84 says at that pace, collecting 550 at bats this season could hypothetically produce 92 home runs while Gallardo maintains a .333 average. Yeah, and if frogs could fly they wouldn’t bump their ass when they hopped. Oh, Cassandra…


Baseball Musings says it is the first 1-0 game won by a starting pitcher’s home run since August of 2002, when Odalis Perez homered off Rick Helling a Dodgers win over the Diamondbacks. It is only the seventh time that has happened in the last 50 years, with Early Winn, Milt Pappas, Jim Bunning, Juan Pizarro and Bob Welch also completing the feat.

 
Corey Hart is inducing coronary failure ‘round the world as he forms a good habit – TAKING WALKS, THREE IN ONE GAME. I’m going to have the big one. Call an ambulance. On Tuesday, Hart reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances; 3 BB’s contributed to that.

 
Hart’s three were among a season-high NINE for Crew hitters on Tuesday.  BrewerFan.net has Ryan Braun on pace to take more than 100 walks this season. Jeromy Burnitz holds the Crew’s record for walks in a season with 99, so Braun and even Fielder could break that with this type of start.

Last year at this time, the Brewers had worked a mere 60 walks.  They’ve already marked 87 through 21 games this season. Their patience at the plate is so good that the Dalai Lama is channeling it during deep contemplation sessions, where it may silence tribal wars in Africa and achieve world peace.

Ben Sheets was spotted picking his nose in the dugout more times than any other Brewer in history.  Funny – Todd Coffey must have been passed some sort of torch because he was caught searching for an illegal substance to smuggle with him to the mound here. 

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Carlos Corporan has been called up from the minors to replace Mike Rivera, who was placed on the DL. Corporan’s defensive skills are better than Angel Salome’s (if you’re wondering why Corporan).  He’s also batting well right now and Angel needs work at .182 or something pitiful like that.

M’boy minor-leaguer Lorenzo Cain almost had me in tears this week. However, the good news is he did not tear his ACL.  4-6 weeks off. Also, Mark Rogers is not injured.  He missed the last few starts.  Turns out he just ran into a wall while shagging fly balls.  Whew!  Although, which brain response is failing to communicate to your lower limbs that they should stop before running into walls?

No, the Brewers are not interested in signing Pedro Martinez.  Poor Doug Melvin. He despises rumors as much as Peter Christian despises Al Davis’ ignorance in drafts. By the way, Peter, Paul and Mary… No, kidding.  Peter Christian, Paul M. Banks and Rikki Greenberg all get shout outs for understanding my Jackson Pollack – Jorge Julio strike zone reference last week.  Outstanding. We have such a diverse palate of writers, all of whom appreciate the fine arts on thesportsbank.net. 


Trevor Hoffman recorded his 1st-ever save as a Brewer this week, complete with Hells Bells.  Apparently, Hoffman wants it not just playing—but blasting.  In a post-game interview, he told a reporter that it wasn’t loud enough and that he had looked into noise ordinances in the city of Milwaukee and was fairly certain the volume could be increased safely.  Trevor wasn’t afraid to express to Attanasio that he should invest in extra speakers and sub-woofers at Miller Park before the closer’s next appearance. Fiesty, feisty.

Ryan Braun extended the Pirates & Brewers history of scuffling by taking a clearly intentional hit from Jeff Karstens. Both benches were warned and nothing ensued the rest of the game. Still, do you remember Prince Fielder and Matt Capps’ Yosemite Sam episode from the ’07 season? Fire in the hole…


“Friendly Fire with the Cubs,” is short and sweet this week.  Milton Bradley is a head case.  His condemnation to a psych ward would not surprise me in the slightest.  Why, why, why does he open his mouth?

 
The Beer Pen knows how to satisfy Rickie-haters who can’t keep their mouth shut either.  Usually I scowl, but this week, they compare Rickie Weeks to Mickey Rourke.  And that IS funny.

Rourke’s acting career of flops, bombs, straight-to-TV-movies and gonorrhea mirrors “Dick Weeks’ ” career of strikeouts, errors, braided hair and gonorrhea. That’s pretty straightforward, actually. Rourke astonished the world with his performance as Marv in Sin City and then of course, The Wrestler. Rickie magically comes out this year and astonishes Brewer fans with his exceptional play.  Coincidence?  I don’t know, but credit is given Beer Pen.


In “Just a Bit Outside,” Bob Uecker shared dialogue during the bottom of the 1st Wednesday that I must share with you.  He told Cory Provus that he follows blogs, email and facebook but he doesn’t Twitter. Here’s why:

 

And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I’m allowing empirical data and statistical graphs to sit the bench while The Beer Pen illustrates the greatest comic strip of the month. Can we play?

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 $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…

What’s Brewing in ’09: The Gag Rule & Spring Training

By Melissa S. Wollering

It’s time to redeem yourself, GagMe. A gag rule forbids discussion of a particular topic.  I instituted the gag rule when Eric Gagne ruined my life, namely when he used a plunger to push $10M down the drain while compiling a 5.44 ERA in 50 appearances.

Now he has a minor-league offer with big-league camp invite attached. If he makes the team, he gets $1.5M, possibly $3M in incentives. If that’s not enough to make you choke, here’s the arrogant son-of-a-jackal’s response:

“You look at your paycheck every two weeks and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s crazy what I get paid for,’ and you put pressure on yourself,” Gagne said. “I knew [Doug Melvin] took a chance on me last year…and it didn’t work out with me.”

You think?  You pitch 6.98 for two months, go on the DL for your shoulder, then give up two homers and four runs against the Reds on July 12th and you’re shocked at fans’ boos?  You’re the first EIGHT FIGURE reliever in the club’s history and still in utter befuddlement as to why we screamed like you murdered our mother?

There are only two open bullpen slots, so go duke it out with Jorge Julio, Todd Coffey, Eddie Morlan, Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard.  See if I care whether they tear you up. Gagne says he’s looking forward to playing with Trevor Hoffman.  Funny, bet Hoffman’s not looking forward to playing with you. When Gagne retires, I’m throwing a gag party. That’s the new gag rule.

Darn, no more goggles jokes. Gagne and Bill Hall both got LASIK eye surgery in the off-season.  He says the goggles gave him a headache all the time. Welcome to my world, Eric.  Welcome to my world.

In a new update called “Ace’s Corner,” Yovani Gallardo will not be #1 in the rotation after all. Ken Macha wants him the middle of the rotation, which is fine with me. Dave Bush or Braden Looper in the #1 spot would be my wager, in that order.  Although, my buddy Jason Craig (nicknamed because his roommates found him on Craigslist) thinks the Soup’s On in Numero Uno. 

Manny Parra must sing Stevie Wonder in the shower. He changed his number from 43 to 26 this season because he’s very superstitious. He wore 26 in HS, was drafted in the 26th round, signed on the 26th day of the month and is 26 years old right now. Wow. At least he did it the right way, making it to the big leagues first Alshon Jeffrey, cough, Steve Spurrier. The number could pay off: our friends at Razzball think lucky 26 is a fantasy sleeper.

Last week Macha confirmed what I called three weeks ago; which was Wickie Reeks will top the batting order, J.J. Hardy will bat #2. As for our OF Corey Hart, he got more than he’s worth AND avoided arbitration, finally netting $3.25M for one year.

In Spring Training, 3B prospect Mat Gamel’s shoulder hurts. He didn’t tell anyone prior to camp because he thought it wasn’t serious enough. Yeah, right.  He was also a bit “late” to warm-up the first day because his wife is expecting, so his teammates gave him the Bronx cheer and told him they were none too happy. Then Macha and Gord Ash had a stern talking to the young man last Thursday. Tough crowd in Maryvale these days.

Gamel has the same shoulder problem as Lil’ TG (Tony Gwynn, Jr.), so no throwing for now.  This is coming at a time when he could have seen more action due to Bill Hall’s calf injury. Billy should be back in action in a little more than week.

In other ST news, the once-porky Prince is slimmer! He says he beefed up his cardio regimen, no pun intended.  You’ll also notice Prince has a new tat on the right side of his neck – angel wings to complement the Asian character on the other side. Sweet. Also sweet: fat kid pictures of Prince from the 80’s on this week’s Two Fisted Slopper Blog, courtesy of a Cecil interview.

You have too much time on your hands if you’re the group of Brewers fans who set up shop last Friday to wait for single-game tickets that go on sale this Saturday. Sales managers sent them home and told them they should come back to Saturday’s Arctic Tailgate after they’ve put down their crackpipes.

In another new update “What A-Rod’s Done For Me,” Ryan Braun is standing by A-Rod. He says no one’s perfect. Braun met A-Rod in 2001 on a recruiting trip to U of Miami, allegedly the same year Alex started taking banned substances. Alex later helped #8 transition from 3B to LF and Ryan still considers Alex a mentor. Btw, Braun started his own clothing line called Remetee and he’s the cover boy of this season’s media guide.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” former-Cub, now-Brewer Casey McGehee is prominently featured on the Cubs’ pocket schedule. Really? Who’s your Director of Marketing/Promotions?  That’s like featuring Gabe Kapler on Miller Park’s $2 Scorecard, which they only print once a year.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” it’s official.  Ueck will omit the word ‘Jimmy’ and insert the word ‘Cory’ into his two-bit comedy routine. Cory Provus of Cubs Radio replaces Jim Powell. FSWI’s Brian Anderson says Cory is low-maintenance, humble and a solid journalist. Good, because I would not categorize Bob Uecker as low-maintenance.

Meantime, blonde bombshell-lovers everywhere are mourning the loss of Trenni Kusnierek with the announcement that Telly Hughes is to replace her. Hughes is a DUDE, yes that’s right, a MAN who’s made some cameos as a studio host on FSWI. At least they didn’t promote Jeff Cirillo.  Dave, I’m convinced your interview would have impressed beyond Telly’s. The name reminds me of four dancing PBS characters.

Trying to redeem themselves, FOX Sports Wisconsin is making it up to me by televising 136 regular-season games in 2009 with WMLW also broadcasting 151 games over-the-air! When I worked for WMLW in 2003, we hired Pat McCurdy to write and sing our commercial jingle “WMLW means Milwaukee” and it’s still around. Thank you Pat and WMLW for helping me live life to the fullest between April and October.

And finally by request, more “Chart Magnificence.” Let us examine spray charts for Alcides Escobar’s ground balls, courtesy of a new feature at the Minor League Splits database. Here are all the balls Escobar hit that were classified as ground balls by minor league scorers. Green is a hit and red is an out.

Compare that to Huntsville 2B Mike Bell, who played in the same park, had about the same number of at-bats, and racked up a .220 BABIP on ground balls, though he hit far fewer of them overall than Alcides.

Look for more on spring training and Attanasio’s fear of reaching $90M with his payroll next week…