What’s Brewing in ’09: Benchmarks, Hot Air Balloons & Braun Backstory

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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.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    That is the coolest chart yet! Love ones with a stadium in it. That dollar menu rocks. the depression is in full swing when MLB starts cutting prices…of course this hasnt led to them cutting ticket prices

  2. David Palmer says

    Ryan Braun = “Hebrew Hammer”

    Feel free to use that in upcoming columns.

  3. paulmbanks says

    Rikki Greenberg, TSB’s only Jewish contributor trademarked that phrase in an email to me….I guess. Maybe you beat her to the punch Palmer

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