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!

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.

[Read more…]

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…