Thursday, July 16, 2009

Holding Out for Hero

When I was a kid I’d look forward to coming home after school and watching episodes of the old Batman tv show from the 60s. This was long before the booming metropolis of LeRoy, Wisconsin ever got hooked up with cable television; during a time when Super 18 on UHF was the closest we would come to having Nickelodeon. But come four p.m. every week night I’d be lying in front of the console tv set, sure to return the following night—same bat time, same bat channel.

And, of course, my favorite episodes were the ones that included Batgirl. There were obvious reasons for this. After all, even in my prepubescent state, I’m pretty sure I understood how well Yvonne Craig filled out her bat suit. Besides having a dynamic leg kick that spontaneously caused me to yell things like “Bam” and “Splat,” (okay truth is, I was prompted) Ms. Craig also had the curves that called attention to her chest thrusts more blatantly than the bat signal glaring in the night sky.

But beyond any boyhood crush, there was a far simpler explanation as to why I looked forward to the episodes with Batgirl: three super heroes are simply better than two. Now, I’m pretty sure that at that age I didn’t have a clue that the show was actually spoofing a genre that I loved. The campiness went completely over my head, and I just took it for a super duper action series. Sure, when Mr. Freeze locked the Dynamic Duo in his super-freeze chamber, I thought it was a bit odd that Batman commented on having his Bat-thermal underwear, but I just chalked it up to Batman being one incredibly well-prepared super hero. And when Batgirl was around, there was seldom a need to escape any diabolical traps. Most of the time, the triumphant trio would capture their enemy within part one, leaving no need to tune in to a second episode. With Batgirl in the fold, most crimes were simply solved in 30 minutes. She was just that good. And again, further proof that three super heroes are better than two.

And that brings me to the 2009 Brewers. We have a Batman of our own. He’s a basher that became the first Brewer ever to win the home run derby. If not for a bloke named Pujols, our Batman would be the front runner for MVP. And our Boy Wonder is a cocky, fun-loving, quick to run his mouth all-star, who might very well become the state’s biggest super hero ever, especially now that Superman is about to don a purple cape.

But wouldn’t it be nice to add a third super hero to the mix? After all, at this point JJ Hardy and Corey Hart would have a tough time passing for the Wonder Pets, much less the Wonder Twins; and Bill Hall continues to be an unsolvable Riddler…

(As for Hall, it may be a very unfair assumption, but I’m not sure how fans cannot at least wonder if his 2006 numbers were “enhanced” in some not-so-super way. All I’ll say is this: Keith Ginter was friends with Richie Sexson, who was friends with Geoff Jenkins, who was friends with Bill Hall. Anyone seen their collective numbers of late? Given recent events, you just have to wonder.)

Casey McGehee and Craig Counsel are certainly having surprisingly good seasons, but I’m not sure they’re super heroes at this point…more like Chief O’Hara and Commissioner Gordon. And Mike Cameron had a fantastic early part of the season, but with his veteran presence he’s more like Alfred the butler, keeping our Dynamic Duo in line and making sure they remember to relax and have fun.

Which means: we could still use a third super hero. And I have just the guy in mind.

But before I get to that, I need to further explain my beliefs on the current seller’s trade market:

1. The Brewers do not have enough young pitching to land a Halladay type ace.
2. Mid-level pitchers, especially those that are merely half-season rentals are not worth the loss of top prospects.
3. Doug Melvin needs to make a move before the deadline.

Let’s take a brief look at each:

1. The Brewers do not have enough young pitching to land a Halladay type ace.

All Brewers fans (me included) were spoiled last year with the acquisition of CC Sabathia. But this year is even more of a seller’s market, which means in order to get a pitcher; you’re going to need to give two up. Even if the Brewers are ready to part with Parra, which I think is unwise, you’re going to have give up another quality arm, plus Gamel or Escobar (or both) before a trade partner will even consider an offer. If you don’t believe me, consider the trade that Jake Peavy nixed with the White Sox as a benchmark. That deal had the White sox sending to “A Type” pitching prospects, Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard, as just part of the package that was to go to San Diego. So if you’re one of those people thinking JJ. Hardy and Corey Hart can get the job done; please just stop. Pitching begets pitching is the story in ’09. And ESPN’s Buster Onley is reporting that the Blue Jays are looking for three Type A prospects, two Bs and a C.

2. Mid-level pitchers, especially those that are merely half season rentals are not worth the loss of prospects.

For the record, I am not against the Brewers trading Matt Gamel, if the return is favorable. And right now that’s the reported asking prospect if you want a pitcher like John Garland or Doug Davis—a type A prospect. While I can’t deny Doug Davis would make the Brewers rotation better, I don’t think it’s that much of a marked improvement. Double D is not exactly the type of pitcher that inspires confidence every fifth day. Personally, I’d rather take my chances on Parra’s ability to duplicate his outing against St. Louis (and keep Villanueva in the bullpen) and Dave Bush’s chance to get healthy and return to his May form. I do think Washburn and Bedard would be worth the inquiry (after all, there are probably Type B prospects in our system that Jack Z values more than Doug does), but as of now it looks like the Mariners are going to be in the hunt well beyond the trade deadline.

3. Doug Melvin needs to make a move before the break.

Despite my urging not to squander the future for non-difference-making players, I do think the Brewers need to do something to inspire the fans and players. Trevor Hoffman is right; the players can’t sit around and wait for the cavalry to arrive. But that doesn’t mean adding an extra punch to our line-up isn’t worth the investment. When asked this offseason if the Brewers would be able to make another blockbuster deal, Doug Melvin explained that they’d be more inclined to trade for someone that they could have in the fold for more than a half of season. Certainly, Halladay qualifies in that regard, but again, I just don’t think there’s enough to make that happen. And I understand that in an ideal world that acquisition would be a pitcher, because pitching wins championships, yadda, yadda, yadda…And perhaps there are relievers that could strengthen the bullpen for both the short and long term (Scherrill?).

But what about this idea of further protecting our incredible dynamic duo? What if you could acquire the type of bat that would be worth giving away a prospect with the talent of Matt Gamel? Then I hope you would agree that you have to at least inquire.

Especially when you’ve done business with that organization in the past. Especially when the super hero’s name is Victor Martinez.

Before you scoff, at least take a moment to imagine a line-up with Braun, Prince and Martinez at the heart. I‘ll wait.

(Oooh and remember, Martinez is a switch hitter.)

Fun to think about, isn’t it? If you believe the rumors, the Indians would at least listen to offers for Martinez, who is under contract for 2010 at an affordable $7.5 million. With Prince also locked up for 2010, and locked under arbitration in 2011, why wouldn’t you make a run at creating the most fearsome threesome in the heart of any NL order? With Suppan and Hall’s collective $20 million coming off the books after 2010, you could then make a run at signing one of them (either Prince or Martinez) for 2011 and trading the other (probably Prince) for the prospects you gave up to get Martinez (and probably more).

So what about those prospects? I’d start by offering the Indians Gamel, their choice of either Lucroy or Salome and either Hart or Hardy. That’s a type A prospect, a B (near A) prospect, and a major leaguer with all-star qualifications whom they would control for the same length that they would have controlled Martinez. My guess is that they’d choose Hart, since Asdrubal Cabrera is looking like a very legitimate shortstop. If they were demanding pitching instead of Hart or Hardy, I’d get Detroit or Atlanta involved and see what pitching prospects they’d be willing to offer Cleveland in exchange for Corey (both teams have been rumored to have more than a slight interest in Corey).

Martinez has stated that he’ prefer to retire an Indian, but so did CC in the ’07 offseason. And granted, he won’t be able to catch every day, but even on the days he can’t start behind the plate, you’ve greatly enhanced the bench for that key pinch-hitting opportunity. And at some point it would be nice to let Prince sit a game without worrying that Mike Rivera is your best option if you wanted to spell him. The only real loser in this equation is Jason Kendall, who suddenly becomes a quality back-up catcher for the remainder of this year, while his $4.6 million safely comes off the books next year.

I know, I know. I haven’t addressed the lead-off hitter situation or the pitching. But just think of this line-up:
1. Counsel—2b
2. Escobar—SS or Catalanatto—RF
3. Braun
4. Fielder
5. Martinez
6. McGehee—3b
7. Hart—RF or Hardy—SS
8. Cameron—CF

Holy power punch, Batman! That’s the sort of line-up that would knock out the Reds (BOOM!); the Cubs (BAM!) and the Cardinals (KA-POWIE!)

I just ask one thing.

If we do get Martinez, please don’t tell him that I compared him to Batgirl.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

You might want to mark it on your calendar. April 19. That was the day when Jeff Suppan reemerged as an actual big league pitcher.

And hell, who knows—perhaps it was only for a day. After all, there’s no doubt that at least some of his success can be attributed to the fact that he was pitching in a ballpark that doesn’t have a power alley, but rather, has a par five. Carlos Delgado’s first inning double would have landed somewhere in the Brewers bullpen had Suppan served up the same pitch at Miller Park. But they weren’t playing that game in Milwaukee, and so…it was a win. It was a win that Jeff Suppan really, really needed. But more importantly, it was a win that Ken Macha, Doug Melvin and Mark Antanasio really, really, REALLY needed.

Say what they will, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Brewers brain trust was facing the very real possibility that a $12.5 million pitcher was heading for the bullpen. Had Suppan been rocked like he was in San Francisco or lacked control like he did on that depressing Easter Sunday night against the Cubbies, they would have had no choice. The hole being dug is getting far too deep, and the fans in Milwaukee deserve better than to watch their team stand no chance every fifth game. At this point, the pitcher’s salary should not matter. The point is: three million fans deserve better than that.

And as I watched the game Sunday afternoon, holding my breath on every Suppan delivery, I couldn’t help but think of the ramifications if Suppan does continue his spot-on mound impersonation of Ben Hendrickson. I started wondering just where he would stand in regards to the worst free agent signings in Wisconsin history. So, of course, the only thing to do was to make up a list of the worst free agent signings in Wisconsin history…

As you take a gander at my rankings of ineptitude, please note that this list does not include players that were re-signed to new contracts. Therefore, you will not see the likes of Danny Gadzuric or KGB or Derrick Turnbow. No. These are the guys that our beloved teams plucked from their competitors. And these are the players that we fans wished they would have quikly given back…

10. Marquand Manuel

See Marquand
See Marquand play.
See Marquand take a horrible *#*!ing angle.
Run, Marquand, run.
See the opposing team celebrate.
Boo, Marquand. Boo.

The fact is Manuel’s contract was not that lofty, so he did not cause the same fiscal challenges as the other guys on this list. But when you couple Ted Thompson’s unwillingness to dabble in free agency with the departure of a fan-favorite safety like Darren Sharper, and Manuel’s fate with Packers fan was sealed after the first forty-two or forty-three times he looked completely lost on the field. It also did not help that he somehow managed to start all sixteen games with only one interception.

9. Eric Gagne

I know some Brewer fans will want to see Gagne much higher up on the list. Certainly, the steroids revelation coming out the day after he was signed left a foul taste in fans’ mouths. Not nearly as foul, however, as when he actually started trying to save games. But the fact is, Gagne was only a one year mistake, and therefore his signing was not crippling to the team’s long-term payroll. After all, they were still able to go out and sign CC. Torres emergence as the team’s closer also cushioned the blow of Gagne’s failures. The story almost took a positive turn when Gagne agreed to a minor league deal this spring, but an injury derailed any chance of a make-good season.

8. Bobby Simmons

Admittedly, I was pretty excited when I got the news of this signing. I was at the Tessmer’s housewarming barbecue when my friend Brent asked what I thought of the Simmons signing. I distinctly remember nearly choking on one of Chad’s delicious wieners, out of excitement that the Bucks had gone out and nabbed the league’s most-improved player. And why wouldn’t I have been excited? The last four most improved players included Jermaine O’Neal, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady. Hmmm. If only I had known what was to become of O’Neal, Arenas, Randolph and McGrady. I guarantee I would have chewed my wiener much, much more slowly.

7. Tom Brunansky

Even though they were our rivals, I always kind of liked that old Twins team with Puckett, Hrbek, Gaeti and Brunansky. So when the Crew went out and signed one of those offensive juggernauts, I couldn’t help but get a little bit excited. Unfortunately, Mr. Brunansky forgot to pack his bat. In 1993 he hit a whopping .183 with 6HRs and 29 RBIs. In ’94 he played in 16 games and after hitting no home runs and NO RBIs, he was traded for back-up catcher Dave Valle. Let me just type that again…
He was traded for a back-up catcher. Enough said.

6. Jeff Suppan

Yep. This is where I currently have Soup simmering (I had to). He still has two years left on his contract, however, so there’s still plenty of time to make a push for #1!
The Suppan supporters will tell you that his .500 winning percentage is exactly what we should have expected from him on the mound. Most Brewer fans, however, will not forget that this man was signed because he had postseason experience. Experience that meant absolutely nothing after Jimmy Rollins launched his first pitch of game 4 towards the Dew Deck. Had he not had a stellar August, I might have put him up in the top five.

5. Sean Berry.

For all those people who like to take cheap shots at Prince, I offer you exhibit A of the Brewers post-Cooper years. Please stay tuned for exhibit B.

4. Jeffrey Hammonds

Two monumental things happened in the winter of 2000. I finally got my first personal computer, and the Brewers signed Jeffrey Hammonds. This new gadget was a real treat, as I began searching in this fantastic world-wide web. Suddenly, I had hot stove information available each and every day. Brewers season could now last a full twelve months. The new-found joy came to a screeching halt, however, when every single site I stumbled upon talked about how the Brewers signing of Hammonds was the biggest mistake of the winter. I mean every website. Yahoo, ESPN, CBSsports—they all said the same thing: Hammonds had one all-star season in Colorado, and it was purely due to the Rocky Mountain air. Apparently, Dean Taylor had never heard of this theory. And obviously, neither did manager Davey Lopes who said he didn't think Coors was a factor in Hammonds' success. "Jeffrey and I go back a long way," said Lopes, "I see his production last season as a guy getting to play every day for the first time in his career. I think Jeffrey is just now tapping into what he is capable of doing in the major leagues."

Needless to say, my relationship with computers has been tumultuous ever since.

3. Joe Johnson

When you think about it, the Packers probably deserved a horrible defensive line signing, given that White, Dotson and Jones might have been the best three free-agents to ever have been signed to one d-line. The simple fact is—you can’t rush the quarterback if you can’t get on the field. Be honest. If Joe Johnson walked into your office right now, would you know who he was? Neither would anyone in the Packers offices.

2. Franklin Stubbs.

Introducing exhibit B of the post-Cooper years. The truth is Berry actually had worse numbers than Stubbs.

Year 1:
Stubbs .213 11HR 38 RBI
Berry .228 2 HR 23 RB!

Year 2:
Stubbs .229 9 HR 42 RBI
Berry .140 1HR 2 RBI

Both men made over $1 mil in year one and $2 mil in year two, and Berry was released in June. But the reason Stubbs is so much higher in the ranking, however, is because his contract was signed 8 years earlier. And believe me; a $2 million contract was significant in 1990. Especially for the Milwaukee Brewers. And when you consider that for the past two decades I’ve referred to any worthless scrub of a ballplayer as a “Stubbs,” then you should understand why Franklin comes in at #2.

1.Anthony Mason

It isn’t just that Anthony Mason completely disrupted the chemistry of a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. It isn’t just that his crappy attitude helped widen the divide between Ray and Big Dog and between Ray and Coach Karl. It isn’t just that the Bucks completely ignored the fact that Scott Williams was a key part of their previous success. It isn’t just that they traded Williams to Denver simply to clear salary space to sign Mason. It isn’t just that, in order to take Williams, the Bucks also had to give Denver a 1st round pick for Radjovec and Kevin Willis (who they then traded for a second round pick). It isn’t just that the 1st round pick they gave up later became (via trades from Denver to Detroit and then Detroit to Atlanta) the unbelievably athletic Josh Smith. It isn’t just that Mason believed in pounding the ball into submission with his butt rubbing on an opponent, thereby completely bringing an otherwise high-powered offense to a screeching halt.

But when you add all of those things together, you should see why Anthony Mason and his $5 million per year salary ranks number one. He sat out all training camp waiting for the contract he thought he deserved. Because of that, the Bucks are still waiting for him to get in shape.

Brewer fans just hope Soup never gets that chunky (again, I had to). Because the number one spot might only be a couple shellackings away. Thank heavens, therefore, for April 19…

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brewers Need to Go Around the Van Horn

It’s all right. I get it.

I understand that one exhilarating postseason run doesn’t erase twenty-six years of futility. I understand that CC Sabathia picked the Crew up on his over-sized shoulders and carried them into that series in Philadelphia. And, most importantly, I understand why no one gives my Brewers a chance to return to postseason play.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t.

It’s been several months since I last blogged about the Brewers hopes (or rather, mine) for signing CC. I want to make it very clear that I harbor no resentment for Carsten Charles’ departure to the Big Apple. (Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a wee bit pleased to see him get lit up a bit today in Baltimore.) This article is not meant to take anything away from the masterful second half of a season that CC composed or undermine what his performance means for this franchise. I just happen to believe that life will go on.

But before I go too far, let’s acknowledge that much has happened since my last blog. My long-time friend Brian asked why I haven’t been blogging of late, and my only answer is that I have been extremely busy with work, my playwriting hobby and my charismatic daughter.

But let’s take a moment to review what we have learned over the past few months:
1. We’ve learned that Aaron Rodgers probably would have got the Jets into the play-offs.
2. We’ve learned that Cleveland getting Mo Williams in exchange for Damon Jones has the rest of the Central division (and perhaps the entire league) cheering for the Bucks to be contracted.
3. We’ve learned that Arizona has a professional football team.
4. We’ve learned that a Bo Ryan team should never be counted as “off the bubble”, just because they’ve lost six consecutive league games.
5. We’ve learned that you don’t ask a blind guy to step away from the piano to shake things up a bit.
6. We’ve learned that success in the NCAA tourney is still dictated by point guards (Reynolds, Lucas, Lawson).
7. We’ve learned that, despite his inability to make a free throw, Marquette’s point guard was a pretty important piece of the success.
8. We’ve learned that Matt Sorenson can actually play a little wide receiver. (By the way, I feel sorry for anyone who decided to watch Friday Night Lights this season. Go back and watch season 1. And then desperately try to burn everything you’ve seen this season from your mind.)
9. We’ve learned that women in Wisconsin still play the best hockey (though I’m not sure that’s a positive for our tourism department).
10. Finally, we’ve learned that if you manage to get off a remote island, which has the unique quality of being able to travel through time, you never EVER intentionally go back.

And that brings us to today. April 6th. The night of the National Championship game and the home opener for most teams.

(By the way, it is completely idiotic that the Brewers start the opening series in San Francisco on Tuesday. Not only does that leave them with a horrible travel schedule for the home opener, it also gives them no wiggle room in the event of a rain out. I really hate the Giants. We take Ray Durham’s salary off their hands. We give them Ernest Riles for Jeffrey Leonard, and this is how they repay us? Jerks.)

A day of optimism. Of: what might be. Of: this could be our year.

But yet optimism for the Crew seems to be limited, at best. It started for me last week when several friends sent emails about a potential rough season. Then on Sunday, it continued when only one writer from the Journal staff predicted a postseason appearance for the Brewers. No one on had the Brewers in the post season. The same was true for the folks who write for Yahoo.

And like I said—I get it. So why, then, do I remain optimistic for the ’09 season? Well, for one thing—I pee Brewer blue. (Okay, really I don’t. But if there was a beer that allowed you to pee your favorite team’s colors, tell me you wouldn’t buy it by the case and buy stock in the company…) And also…I have a theory.

I call it the Van Horn. And it’s a phenomenon that occurs when a team overachieves, even after losing their star and essential heart of the team. To fully understand this theory, you have to rid yourselves of any memories of Keith Van Horn the Milwaukee Buck. Forget the pasty white forward who was the embodiment of the Bucks inability to play defense.

No, instead I need you to remember the pasty white college star from Utah, who was one of the most dynamic scorers college basketball had to offer in the late ‘90s. The guy who led his Running Utes to the Elite Eight in his final college season. And the guy who caused the pundits to write off Utah the following season because he was off to the NBA.

Do you remember what happened to that Utah team the following season? They not only got as far as the original team, they went two rounds further. They managed to knock off the top seeded and reigning champ Arizona Wildcats to get to the Final Four and then beat a second #1 seed (North Carolina) on their way to the championship game. They pulled off the ultimate Van Horn. And on this championship night, it is that team that should give Brewers fans hope for 2009.

It’s not like Wisconsin sports teams don’t have a history of Van Horning. The Wisconsin Badgers team that lost Alondo Tucker (who represented something like 97% of the team’s offense) Van Horned the following season quite nicely. The Packers wide receiving core Van Horned after Sterling Sharpe was injured and the whole world decided that Brett would now have no one to throw to…

So I say this 2009 Brewers squad can Van Horn too. Their sum can be greater than their parts. And here’s just a few reasons why:
1. Jeff Suppan. Come on. Do you really think he could be as bad as he was last year again? I figure Suppan is worth at the very least two more wins this season.
2. Ryan Braun. Just like that Utah team had Andre Miller when they Van Horned, the Brewers have their own spark plug for their offense. Like Miller, he sets the pace and leads by example.
3. Prince Fielder. The Brewers have a Doleac too. A big guy who is an enforcer (just ask Manny Parra) and can also knock one (from) deep.
4. Ken Macha. You hated how Ned Yost kept playing guys mired in month long slumps? Won’t happen this year. Not while Macha’s in charge. Not while McGehee, Duffy and Nelson sit on the bench waiting for their turn to swing it. Put up or shut up will reign supreme in Milwaukee this year.
5. Rickie Weeks. I know, I know. I can hear the guffaws and scoffs of Jonny and Darren from miles away. But by my math, had Rickie not been rushed to the majors, this would have been his second full season. It’s time for the unleashing. And if not, well then…see #4 above.
6. Alcides Escobar. I know I’ve already mentioned the three stellar plays he made in the four innings I saw of spring training ball last season. It was the sexiest debut I’ve seen since Jamie Presley first disrobed in Poison Ivy 3. The Brewers have (wisely) decided to let Escobar mature another year in Triple A. But don’t think for a second that he won’t be summoned if he manages to hit like he did in Double A, come July. He should also be a reminder that the future is still very, very bright in Milwaukee.
7. Dave Bush. Take away his horrible April last year, and you have a legitimate #2 starter to team with Yovani. So let’s do that. Let’s not have a horrible April, okay Dave? I’m predicting 15 wins from Bush this season, which will make for a huge escalator next year if the Brewers want to keep him…
8. Corey Hart and JJ Hardy. Many fans can’t seem to get past Corey’s September swoon. But this kid was an all-star for three-fourths of the season, and there’s no reason why he can’t become a little more consistent this year. I had been begging for JJ to hit in the 5 hole last year, and I’m glad Macha is putting it in motion. JJ is probably the best fastball hitter on the team, and if Prince is getting walked, he’s going to see a lot of fastballs for strikes. Although I’d still hit Corey 1 and Rickie 2, I really like having these two guys at the top of the order. Needless to say, I have big hopes for the top 5 in the order this season.
9. Yovanni. I’m really trying to temper my enthusiasm for this kid, but I just can’t wait to see what he’ll accomplish in a full season. He carries himself on the mound the way Braun carries himself at the plate. And that’s saying something.
10. CC Sabathia. I know, I know. We don’t have him anymore. But the fact that the Brewers went out and got him last year should never be lost on the fans. The ’08 Brewers still had to play well enough to convince Doug Melvin to go out and get CC. And I predict that this year’s Crew will have a better record come July than last year’s squad. Is there another CC out there? Who knows. The Cubs haven’t landed Peavy just yet. Halladay has already been mentioned in rumors. Options exist. Granted, there’s probably less payroll flexibility than year’s past, so a trade might have to include a major leaguer. But that’s where having major league ready talent like Escobar and Gamel can pay off. And if you think the Brewers cupboards are bare, think again. I’d guess that Escobar and Cain are the only two untouchable position players. Hope is only a Doug Melvin phone call away.

So go ahead. Tell me what a horrible bullpen we have this year. Throw out names like Riske and Julio. I understand your concern. Or if you prefer, give me your concerns about starters like Looper and Suppan. I’m not dumb. I get that they are average at best. Or tell me how we’re too strike-out prone and throw out names like Hall and Cameron.

(By the way, Doug Melvin should win an award for his PR work this season. Remember in Bull Durham, when Crash taught Nuke how to interview with appropriate baseball speak? How he made sure Nuke had phrases at the ready like “We’re just going to take it one game at a time”? Well Doug must have held a similar coaching lesson this off season. Go back and look at interviews of different players, coaches, Gord Ash, and even Doug himself and count how many times the following three phrases were used this off season:
1. “We’re not going to change who we are. We are a home run hitting team.”
2. “You don’t replace a player like CC Sabathia.”
3. “The strike-out isn’t the worst out in baseball. The double play is.”
I guarantee you’ll find those quotes from at least five different members of the organization. Kevin Costner, eat your heart out.)

And, I suppose if you really want to make your point as to why the Brewers are doomed, you’ll just mention two names: Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia.

But just know that I have a name for you as well.

Keith Van Horn.

And for the record, two rounds further would mean a trip to the World Series.
Go Brewers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

CC-ing is believing

An open letter to Doug Melvin, GM of your Milwaukee Brewers--

Dear Doug,

Let me start by saying that for the first three plus months I never even dared to think it was possible. When you oh-so-wisely acquired CC Sabathia in July, I made peace with the fact that this was only a half year rental. As soon as anyone asked me what I thought about the Brewers chances of keeping CC for the future, I immediately told them to forget it. Draft picks. We were going to get a couple compensation draft picks to restock the farm system and replace the likes of Laporta, Jackson and Brantley. And I was fine with that. More than fine, actually. My Milwaukee Brewers had finally made a statement about "going for it." Those words were magic to my ears. I even abstained from blogging for the remainder of the season, out of fear that I might jinx what I believed was the oncoming end of the 26 year postseason void. And when that happened, it verified my faith in you, Doug. My belief in your status as a genius. You ended the postseason drought, and it was okay that CC would soon be moving on to greener pastures.

But then something funny happened. Both you and Mr. Attanasio stated that you would make an honest effort to sign the big lefty. You each acknowledged how much this guy is worth, and that he deserves every cent. But you would not rule out a CC signing in the free agent period. My gut reaction, of course, was that this was just company-speak to appease the fan base. Hoping is one thing, reality is another.

But the next to speak up was Ryan Braun. And the cornerstone of the franchise too thought it was possible for CC to stay in Milwaukee. Easy for him to say, sure, but I couldn't help but wonder if CC and Ryan had talked seriously on the subject. And then of course came the blow that knocked me out of (perhaps) reality...CC himself said it was possible. He said the clubhouse was like no other he'd played for, and he'd love to stick around if it could work out. And now, the guy who attempted to be so realistic, so accepting of those compensatory draft picks was completely lost to dream of what might be. And I'm daring to dream, Doug. I'm daring to dream.

That's because the signing of CC Sabathia would be the biggest transaction in the history of the organization. Think Reggie White to the Packers. In that equation, of course, Ryan Braun would play the role of Brett Favre: the talented up-and-comer that makes the veteran believe in the future of the franchise. Given that Mr. Favre is no longer a player in our beloved state--that makes a possible CC signing all the more impactful.

And so, from the moment I got home from the elimination game against the Phils, I've been crunching the numbers and trying to figure things out. You're a genius, Doug. I know that. So you don't really need my help. But I figured if I could make the numbers work, there'd be no doubt that you could too...

So here's my plan for '09, Mr. Melvin, the plan that includes one CC Sabathia. Our ace starting pitcher. #1 in the front of the rotation. The plan starts, of course, with signing him.

Step 1--CC Sabathia

I figure it's going to take at least $22 million a year to keep the big man in Milwaukee. Ryan Braun implied that perhaps CC would take a contract with one less year offered to stay in Milwaukee. I'll let you work out the details on the number of years, Doug. But I'm going to consider that we'll be $22 million above last year's salary. So that's what I'll look to make up.

(Truthfully, you actually paid a portion of CC's $9 million contract last year. But I know our beloved owner said by doing that it meant the club would be in the red for '08. And given the economic hardship right now, I'm not sure we can assume 3 million fans will come through the turnstiles again. Even with the championship-level squad I'm about to propose. So we'll look at making up the entire $22 million.)

We'll refer to this difference as the CCIP--the CC Investment Pool. I work at a company that's big on acronyms, and the "CCIP" just sounds kind of important to me. And it is pertinent-- because I'll be keeping a running total as we go. Just remember that step one is to get the big guy signed. We'll continue to look at the 2008 roster in order of the size of the '08 contract....

CCIP= - $ 22 mil

Step 2--Ben Sheets ($11 mil in '08; free agent)

I think it's quite clear that the Ben Sheets era is over in Milwaukee. Personally, it will be rough seeing him in an Astros uniform. And I'm not going to rehash Benny's injury history. We both know it is what it is. Ben still goes down as one of the greatest Brewers pitchers in club history. But step 2 involves not resigning Ben Sheets. Compensation draft picks are a plus.

CCIP= - $11 million

Step 3--Eric Gagne ($10 mil in 'o8; free agent)

Unlike others, Doug, I do not begrudge you for the Gagne signing. I actually think it was remarkable to sign the guy to a one year deal. 9 times out of 10, when you sign a guy to what is essentially a contract year, he's going to perform for the next contract. It's also amazing how many Brewers fans pissed and moaned (oops, forgive the language, Mr. Melvin) when Cordero got away, only because those are the same fans that complained when you acquired Cordero in the Carlos Lee trade. They mocked you for grabbing a "has-been" closer. And then they complained when you let that "has-been" get away. A fickle fan base, huh? Anyhow, there's no dispute that the one year deal with Gagne did not pay off. So step three is that we do not sign Eric Gagne.

CCIP= - $1 million

Step 4--Jeff Suppan ($8 million in '08; $12.5 million on '09)

I tried, Doug. I really did. But there's no way I can imagine anyone helping us unload this contract. I even considered the Yankees, but even they are not going to over spend on a number 5 starter. Not the way Suppan finished last year. And not when you consider that he's also under contract in 2010. So step 4 is dealing with the fact that we're keeping Jeff Suppan. (Although, you are the genius, Doug. So if anyone could figure it out, you could. And that sure would help with some of the very tough decisions I'm going to have to make moving forward. But I just couldn't do it...)

CCIP = - $5.5 million

Step 5--Ray Durham ($7.5 million in '08; free agent)

I'm not sure exactly how much of Durham's '08 contract you ended up paying. I know the Giants included cash considerations. But I have to believe you're saving at least $2.5 million by not having him on the roster next year. And step 5 is to not resign Ray Durham.

CCIP = - $3 million

Step 6--Mike Cameron ($7 million in '08; $10 mil in '09)

I spent a large portion of the '08 season defending the acquisition of Mike Cameron. I maintain that he's the greatest CF I've ever watched roam CF, not named Tori Hunter (and ever-so-slightly ahead of Devon White, during his Blue Jay years). I think the majority of Brewers coaches and players would attest to those comments. That being said, we desperately need to eliminate some of the strikeouts in this lineup. And the veteran leadership that Cameron provides may have to wait next year until we acquire a few veterans at the July trade deadline. And so, Step 6 is to not exercise the option on Mike Cameron.

CCIP = + $4 million

Step 7--Bill Hall ($4.8 mil in '08; $6.8 in '09)

Here's another significant contract increase that I didn't think I'd be able to move. I mean, what team is going to overpay for a guy who hits .225.? But then I remembered what Billy did to the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. And, even more, I remembered that they're the Pittsburgh Pirates. They desperately need some power in the line-up, and they might be willing to see what a change of scenery does to Billy's swing. That being said, the guy I've targeted in return from the Pirates could never be acquired straight up for Billy Hall. But Freddie Sanchez has been rumored to be on the trading block. And I also know that the Pirates, like most teams, could use more pitching. So step 7 is to trade Bill Hall and Dave Bush ($2.55 million, arbitration eligible) to the Pirates for Freddie Sanchez and a prospect. Freddie has a $6.1 million price tag that, like Hall, escalates over 8 million in 2010. It, however includes a reasonable club buy-out. The difference between Bush and Hall and Sanchez is a savings of $1.25 mil. It's tough to trade pitching away, and I'd never even consider dealing Bush...unless we had CC. But how could the Pirates pass on a pitcher who won a post season game? And how else could we expect them to take Billy's contract off our hands?

CCIP= + $5.25 million

Step 8--Keep Jason Kendall and David Riske (both under contract for '09)

We still haven't seen the best of David Riske yet. And Kendall is a great stop gap until either Salome or Lawrie are ready to go. Both have minimal escalators for '09--from what I've been able to locate it will total about half a million.

CCIP= +$4.75 million

Step 9--Trade Rickie Weeks ($1 mil in 'o8), Tony Gwynn ($.4 mil) and Chris Capuano ($3.75 mil) to the Kansas City Royals for David Dejesus ($3.6 in 'o9 escalates in '10, club option in '11) and Ryan Braun ($.4 million).

Let it be clear that I still believe Rickie will be an all-star in the next two to three years. But it's time for him to pay immediate dividends, by bringing back a legitimate lead-off hitter. Dejesus has been rumored on the block for a while, and the combination of Weeks and Gwynn gives the Royals solid major league ready prospects in return. The Cappy situation would certainly be dependent upon him passing a physical, but if he does look good, the Royals are in no position to pass up on pitching, especially one that is still under arbitration. With DeJesus and Sanchez now batting 1 and 2, the Brewers finally have the table setters that Braun and Fielder deserve. As for the other Ryan Braun, I don't know much about this young relief pitcher other than he seems to be somewhere between a triple A and big league pitcher. I just think it would be nice to completely corner the market on guys named Ryan Braun.

CCIP= + $5.9 million

Step 10--Do not resign Guilerma Mota ($3.2 mil in '08)

CCIP= + $9.1 million

Step 11-- Exercise the club option on Solomon Torres ($3.2 mil in '08; 3.75 mil in '09)

I'm not sure Torres will survive another season as closer, but he's too good not to bring back and the salary is very affordable.

CCIP= + $8.55 million

Step 12--Craig Counsell ($2.8 million in '08; $3.4 in '09 club buy out of $.4 mil)

I like Craig Counsell and think he's good for this ball club. But even he has to realize that, in order to keep CC, we can't pay a utility infielder over $3 million. So, Doug, I think you need to buyout Counsell's contract and then ask him to come back at $1 million. I'm willing to bet he gives the "Whitefish Bay discount" just to be a part of this team. If not, that $1 million could be put to the likes of a Russel Branyan or another utility infielder. I sure hope Counsell takes the deal though. It saves us $2 million, if he does.

CCIP= + $10.55 million

Step 13--I'm just going to assume that Mike Lamb isn't on the books for anything significant. We let him go.

Step 14--J.J Hardy ($2.65 mil in 'o8; arbitration eligible)

This is actually a two-step process. First, you have to convince J.J. that he's the club's future at third base. Alcides Escobar is the shortstop of my choice, and I think we need to bring him up in '09. J.J.'s been a shortstop his whole life, so this is going to be a tough one to accept. Especially when you consider that Escobar will almost certainly make more errors than J.J.'s 15 last year. Escobar committed 20 in AA, but the extra range that he has to offer makes it all worth it. If Cal Ripken (albeit later in his career) and ARod can swap positions, so can J.J. Hardy. And the selling point, Doug, is that with his somewhat limited range at short, J.J.'s probably never going to be a gold glove shortstop. But with his glove, I think he could be a gold glove third baseman--very, very soon. This also allows Matt Gamel to try either the OF or 1B and become the heir apparent to Prince in a few years.

The second part of this step is to lock J.J. up for three years. There's just not a huge market for 3B, and I'm not convinced that Gamel (30 errors in AA alone) will be ready to man the hot corner anytime soon. That means J.J. holds the fort until Greene is ready. After another solid year, I have to assume J.J.'s looking at a million dollar increase.

CCIP= + $9.55 million

Step 15--Brian Shouse ($2 million in '08; free agent)

As solid as he has been, I think it's time to look to Stetter to be our lefty specialist of the future. That means we're going to have to let Shousey walk.

CCIP= + $11.55 million

Step 16--Sign Todd Coffey to $1 million deal.

He was good enough for us in the last couple weeks to make him an offer. The fact that he was cut from the Reds should make it a very affordable contract.

CCIP= + $10.55 million

Step 17--Gabe Kapler ($.8 million in '08; free agent)

I don't see anyway how you can not bring this guy back in '09, Doug. The only problem is, he won't come as cheap as he did last off season. I have to assume Gabe's going to demand at least $2 million. But the good news is, he revived his career here, and I think he'll want to stay, which is especially good news for a friend named Jonny, who has developed a very, very serious man crush, Doug. He's even dubbed him "Gabe Ruth." So keep him around for Jonny, or I'll hear about it all next season. I'm not sure he can man RF every day, but my '09 plan involves Gabe being out there the majority of the time.

CCIP + $9.35 million

Step 18--Seth McClung ($ .75 million in '08; arbitration eligible)

Here's another guy who will see a marked (and deserved) increase in '09. I can't imagine where the team would have been without his right arm, however, so we have to bring him back (unless the Pirates would prefer him to Bush, which I doubt). I don't have him making the starting rotation, but he'll be in the pen in the event of an injury. And I have to say, given the way he pitched from the pen late in the year, Doug--I'd give Seth a serious look at the closer role in '09. That would allow Torres to return to his more comfortable set-up role...I'm guessing McClung's salary will jump up to 2.5 million next year.

CCIP= + $7.6 million

Step 19--Ryan Braun ($.455 mil in 'o8; $.745 mil in '09)

This was a step you already took last year, and it's almost as great of a move as the trade for CC itself. Braun's contract being so affordable next year is the biggest reason that re-signing CC is actually possible. He's almost certain to qualify as a super 2 after the season, however, and that means he'll jump all the way up to over $3 mill in 2010.

CCIP = + $ 7.3 million

Step 20--Prince Fielder ($ .67 million in 'o8; arbitration eligible)

Here come the two biggest steps of the process, Doug. There has been a lot of sentiment that Prince should be traded this off season. That includes a fellow actor I know who writes for, Dave Begel (see # 4)--

I respect Dave and his opinions a great deal. He's certainly seen a ton of more games than I have, but I think he's flat out wrong about trading Prince, Doug. Don't get me wrong. I understand that Prince is destined for the American League. But I just can't see moving him while we still have control of his contract for three more years. The trade will come, but it has to happen when we have identified a realistic dynamic left-handed bat to replace him. Frankly, even though he hit less homers in '08, I think it's remarkable that Prince played as well as he did without another legitimate lefty bat in the regular starting line-up. The majority of time Prince was in a key situation, he was either walked or the other team was able to save their only lefty in the pen just for Prince. And even so, he still put up a 30+HR/100 RBI season. And no one can tell me that Ryan Braun isn't a much better hitter because of Prince behind him. Maybe when Gamel becomes more of an established big league hitter--then maybe it will be possible. But we just can't move the big fellow yet, Doug. It would cause too big of a hole in the lineup. And I have a feeling the big fella at first is a drawing point for the other big lefty we're trying to keep. That means a big raise is coming Prince's way. Miguel Cabrera landed a $10 million contract in his first year of arbitration. As good as Prince has been, he doesn't quite match Cabrera, who made much more of an impact as a rookie. That being said a two year average of 40+ HRs and 100 RBIs doesn't come cheap. I'm guessing we're looking at an $8 million contract for '09.


Step 21--Corey Hart ($.44 million in '08, arbitration eligible in '09)

This is the one that hurts the most, Doug. And if you can find a way to sign Prince at a cheaper amount or somehow move Suppan, we might not have to make this last painful step. Anyone who thinks this a reactionary move to Hart's struggles at the end of the season would be completely wrong. I am as big a Corey Hart fan as you will meet. I love the way the kid comes to work every day. It really came down to J.J. or Corey, and it's simply easier to find corner outfielders than it is to find a third baseman. And Corey's going to be due for a huge raise. If JJ was at $2.5 million in '08, then I have to believe you're looking upwards of $3 million for Corey. I realize that Prince critics are going to argue that it's still much cheaper than Fielder, but we simply need Prince's left-handed power for at least one more year. I'm standing by that. So this final step involves trading Corey Hart to the Tampa Bay Rays for SP Andy Sonnanstine. The Rays have plenty of pitching, and with Price and Garza emerging with Kazmir and Shields, Sonnanstine should be available. I also know that the Rays are looking for a right-handed OF bat with power, and reportedly no one garnered more attention last offseason than Corey Hart. Sonnanstine's not arbitration eligible, so his salary should come out even with Hart's in '08.

Step 22--fill the remainder of roster with kids

Gallardo, Parra, Villanueva, Stetter and Escobar are all givens. You'll probably want to lock up Gallardo for a while in 2010. (Perhaps that's when we move Prince.) I'd also look to add Rivera again at catcher and Rottino if Rivera doesn't sign. I'd bring up Irribarren and Nix along with either Brad Nelson or Jay Gibbons. You've also got 8 kids who can compete for the last bullpen spot: DiFilice, Dillard, Pena, (non roster invitees:) Gulin, Narron, Narveson, Bateman, and the newly acquired Ryan Braun.

It's a young team, I get that. But as I mentioned, you will have a chance to acquire more veterans in July, when it's clear that this team is set to return to the post season. Here they are, Doug. The 2009 Milwauke Brewers.










The Bench:

Counsell, Rivera, Irribarren, Nelson, Gibbons/Nix

The rotation

1. Sabathia

2. Gallardo

3. Sonnanstine

4. Parra

5. Suppan

And the pen: McClung, Villanueva, Torres, Stetter, Riske, Coffey, and DiFilece

Now you just need to make it happen. And it all starts with step 1--signing CC. And, hell, if I can figure out a way to make it happen, well, then you know with a genius like you at the healm--

It. Is. Possible.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Argument With...Myself

I call this blog the Midseason Forum, so I guess (given the mid-season baseball classic is about to begin) I’m obligated to post something this time of the year…The problem is: I’m having far too difficult a time focusing on baseball lately. And I guess that’s to be expected. After all, it’s not every day a legend says he wants to abandon his franchise. And it’s even rarer for a franchise to want to abandon their legend…

So here I sit, watching the first ever Milwaukee Brewers pitcher to start an all-star game, and as Sheets gets introduced and shakes hands with legends like Steve Carlton, Don Sutton and Whitey Ford, I can’t help but wonder if our Lambeau legend is hoping to shake hands and join forces with evil empires in Minnesota or Chicago. I mean, dammit, it’s the all-star break. I should be relishing in the CC trade. I should be rejoicing in the fact that baseball’s smallest television market managed to get Ryan Braun and Corey Hart into the all-star game. I should be wondering how Tony Gwynn Sr. came to get so friggin’ fat and should be worrying that just maybe he’s eaten Tony Gwynn Jr.

But no. I have to deal with the emotional roller coaster of Ted vs. Brett. And it pains me.

You see there are two sides to this blogger known as Tom. There is the Packer Tom, the guy who has admitted that he was wrong about Teddy T all along and believes this franchise is heading in the right direction…the guy who sweats green and gold…and who has considered shaving a large capital G into his private region but doesn’t know of the barber he would trust with the clippers.

And then there’s Favre Tom. The guy who defends Brett Favre’s every interception, who has a “Wall of Favre” in his rec room, and who has considered tattooing Favre’s likeness onto his backside (think Henry Winkler’s Roy Orbison in The Water Boy.) if only I wasn’t so afraid of having hot pokers near my supple tushy.

And these two Toms have been going back and forth inside my head since last Friday when the news broke that Favre had asked for his release. And they won’t stop bickering inside my head. It’s not fair to the Brewers. It’s not fair to my family. Hell, it’s not fair to me. And since I’ve been tortured for the past week, I thought I’d open my mind up to my seven readers…

PACKER TOM: I think we should just go ahead and call Favre “Moses” from now on. Not because he’s old, but because he’s managed to split the Green and Gold Sea better known as Packer Nation into two equal halves.

FAVRE TOM: That’s not Brett’s fault. That’s all on your boy Ted. All he had to do was welcome Brett back with open arms.

PACKER TOM: Ted didn’t retire. Brett did. And nobody made him retire. He even said so himself. He went out of his way to say as much at his press conference in March. Nobody forced me. I just don’t have it in me. But now, all of a sudden, his story changes. The guy has problems. Seriously. I think he’s mental.

FAVRE TOM: Why is he mental? Because he wants to play again? Great. Bring him back, hand him some shoulder pads, and snap the ball. We get another year of Favre. What’s the problem?

PACKER TOM: Look, it’s like that episode of Saved By the Bell. Remember the one where Zack sells a skin care product to everyone, but it actually makes Kelly’s face turn red? That’s how I feel about Favre. It’s like he’s selling us a different story all the time, and I just can’t trust him anymore. I just wish he’d go away and retire with a little grace.

FAVRE TOM: Are you really comparing Brett Favre to Zack Morris? So what does that make Ted Thompson—Screech? You should be embarrassed for even mentioning that show. And you should be more embarrassed for not standing up for Brett.

PACKER TOM: Hey—you know our old roommate, Eric, watched that show religiously. We were forced to watch so many episodes of both that show and Boy Meets World that it’s possible we actually went through puberty for a second time. Forget the Zack comparison. Think of it this way—when Javon Walker was threatening to hold out, Brett said a player needs to honor his contract. So if he comes back, and the Packers want him to be Aaron Rogers back up—he should honor his contract. Or is he saying that his words don’t apply to him? Only he’s allowed to play hardball and ask out of his contract? Seems like a double standard to me.

FAVRE TOM: Seriously, you think Brett Favre should be the back up QB? To Aaron Rogers? I can’t figure out what Packers nation is thinking. Rogers plays one good half of a football game in Dallas and suddenly he’s a better option than Favre? That’s ridiculous.

PACKER TOM: It’s not just about that half of the Cowboys game. Aaron’s been there all off-season. He wasn’t the one who said in March that he wouldn’t be able to give it 100%. He’s got the support of a lot of players in that locker room.

FAVRE TOM: But he’s Aaron Rogers!!! He’ll be hurt by Week 4, and then we’ll be wishing we did let Brett come back.

PACKER TOM: So then why doesn’t Brett just come back as the #2 QB? If everyone thinks Rogers is going to be hurt by Week 4, then why can’t Favre just wait until then to get his snaps? It might keep his old ass in shape for the post season.

FAVRE TOM: Because he’s BRETT FAVRE. He’s not a number two QB.

PACKERS TOM: But HE retired. He gave up his starting spot that day. Why shouldn’t the Packers brass tell him he needs to earn the spot back? Favre could have eliminated all of this nonsense by just saying, “all right, I’ll come back as the #2. But I’m leaving as the #1.” Instead he feels slighted. It’s ridiculous. His whining is driving me crazy.

FAVRE TOM: He’s not whining. He just wants to play football.

PACKERS TOM: Not whining? You heard the interview on FOX News as well as I did—

FAVRE TOM: Of course, I did. I am you.

PACKERS TOM: Why didn’t Ted sign Marco and Wahle? Whine, whine, whine. Why didn’t Ted hire Steve Mariucci and his oh-so-impressive record as head coach of the Lions? Whine, whine, whine. Why didn’t Ted get Randy Moss for me? Well you know something Brett? Greg Jennings and Donald Driver didn’t lose the NFC Championship game against the Giants. You did! Yeah, that’s right. Even if that last pass was headed for Randy Moss, it still would have been picked. 90% of the QBs in this league would be giddy to have a receiving core like you had last year. So how do you show them the love for all of the YAC they racked up? You complain that Ted didn’t get Moss. Let it go you, horse’s ass. There’s nothing wrong with the personnel Ted built around you.

FAVRE TOM: (Long pause.) Wow. Tell me how you really feel.

PACKERS TOM: Look, all I’m saying is Brett had a chance to be a team leader and instead he reverted to his usual selfish self. We keep hearing people say that the Packers should trade Aaron Rogers and let Favre play this year. But what if Rogers is the Matt LaPorta of QBs?

FAVRE TOM: So what if he is? Isn’t another year of Favre just as valuable as a half season of CC Sabathia? The guy was second in the MVP voting, for crying out loud. If the Packers can get something good for Rogers, make the deal. We know how Ted loves his draft picks…

PACKERS TOM: Until Favre calls it quits again in mid August, right? Look, we both suspected that Favre was going to call it quits when we saw him in that Bears game last year. Sure, he said it was the coldest game he’s ever played in, but that was the not the Brett Favre that we have grown to love. The playful, fun Favre would have toughed those cold conditions and put forth a much better effort. This Favre didn’t even want to be on that field at all. And it showed. Sure, we saw that playful Favre again during the Seahawks game, but we’ve come to expect it game in and game out. The current Favre only seems to bring the joy when they’re winning. Well, I’ve got a news flash for you: the Packers are going to lose some games. There’s going to be some missed tackles. And there’s going to be some dropped balls…I don’t want to watch a Favre that doesn’t have the joy of playing through thick and thin…maybe the Packers are right not to let him tarnish his legacy…

FAVRE TOM: That’s not for the Packers to decide. It’s Favre’s legacy. So he’s the only one who can determine how it’s written. So if the Packers aren’t going to let him start, maybe they should just grant his release (crap, I just threw up in my mouth a little…)

PACKERS TOM: Absolutely not. Favre is a commodity and you don’t just give him away. You have to trade him and get something for him (crap, I just threw up in my mouth a little…)

And the debate rages on in my mind. There’s no simple answer. And I feel like both halves of me are right. So I can’t even enjoy Sheets two solid innings right now. Now with all this background noise making me dizzy. All I know is something needs to be done to resolve this mess in Green Bay real soon. And if I were a betting man, I’d say this whole Favre mess is not going to end pretty…

Crap. I just threw up in my mouth a little…

Thursday, July 3, 2008


So much has happened since the last post on Weeks: Rickie got food poisoning, someone reminded JJ Hardy that he can hit to all fields, the Bucks are movin’ on up to the East side with Mr. Jefferson, and Favre got a nasty itch. With so much excitement bubbling, you’ll have to forgive me for needing to ramble…

With all the attention on getting Ryan Braun to the all-star game (which I do think is deserved, don’t get me wrong), I feel like Corey Hart’s first half of the season has gone a little unnoticed and unrecognized. He’ll never make it this year, but Corey Hart deserves just as much mention as a viable candidate to play at Yankee stadium. That’s why I was extremely happy to stumble upon this story on Yahoo!, in which Steve Henson lists Corey as a deserving starter for the National League team:;_ylt=As9YtsJtwUSEaOKtd7nnr6wRvLYF?slug=ys-allstarpicks070208&prov=yhoo&type=lgns
Again, I realize it won’t happen, but it’s nice to see Corey getting at least a little national attention. I have to admit, he’s certainly been well used in the five hole protecting Fielder, but he’s also proving he could produce from any spot in the order. Rickie’s out? Let’s hit Corey lead-off. Prince is going to get a day off? Let’s hit Corey clean-up. Ryan’s got a sore thumb? No problem; Corey can hit third. Now that Braun is a Brewer for years to come, there’s no player I want locked up more than this kid.

I’m going to have to declare Monday night’s loss to the Diamondbacks the most painful loss of the season. Not because Dave Bush gave up a 2-0 lead quicker than Lindsay Lohan gave up on the idea of wearing underpants. No, it actually had nothing to do with the final score, or the return of Dave Bush to his usual meatball tossing self. What made the game so painful was the foul tip that Arizona catcher, Chris Snyder, took to his giblets. When it happened, Bill and Brian did the usual, “he’s going to need a couple of minutes” routine, and the camera crew panned in on guys who were grimacing, but also smiling (because it wasn’t them). Then, early in Tuesday’s telecast, Brian Anderson announced that Snyder was placed on the DL with a fractured testicle. As my wife declared, “I didn’t even know that could happen,” I immediately curled myself into the fetal position and breathed deeply, desperately wishing I had taken that yoga class the company offers. Even just the fact that I typed the words seconds ago is causing me to ….type…much…slowe…r…
I think from now on, teammates should not be allowed to take these foul-tip-to-the-nards moments so casually. Instead, it should become an unwritten rule, that guys treat these incidents the same way football players react when a wide receiver is laid out and lying unconscious. They should huddle together, engage in a group prayer, and treat it as the solemn moment that it really is…any less respect for the injury is just plain nuts. (Forgive me.)

As long as I’m proposing unwritten rules, let me propose a written one as well. Last night, David Riske got the win after blowing the 3-2 lead in the 8th. There is no rule in sports that infuriates me more than this “win” rule in baseball. If a starting pitcher can’t earn a win without pitching 5 innings, why should a relief pitcher get a win after blowing a save (or a hold)? I just don’t get it. Why can’t the win get credited to the last pitcher of record (in this case Shouse, who performed an amazing escape act in the 7th)? If a relief pitcher blows a lead, they should have to pitch two more innings to qualify for a win. That’s a simple rule. We can add a Wild Card, realign divisions and move the Brewers to another league, but no one thinks it’s feasible to change this ridiculous rule? Who’s with me? (cricket, cricket)

A lot of debate is going to occur over the next three to four weeks in regards to how much the Brewers should be willing to give up for an ace pitcher. The Sabathia rumors abound, but there seems to be a large contingency who don’t think the Brewers should be willing to part with the likes of Matt Gamel. All I know is I’ve waited far too long for the Brewers to be legitimate buyers at the trade deadline, and even if Gamel ends up being the next Jeff Bagwell, I’m willing to take that gamble. Considering that we’ll probably lose Sheets after the season, the Brewers have to take a run at it this year…there’s simply no guarantees that a team, no matter how young and no matter how talented, can duplicate their output from year to year. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Colorado Rockies…

Aaron Rogers is a smart man. I don’t know if he’s going to be a quality starting QB in the NFL, and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to stay healthy for four games, much less a full season. But I do know that he is smart. That’s why I couldn’t help but wonder if his comments in Sports Illustrated weren’t actually a little more contrived than he’s letting on. After all, for three years he’s had to deal with the Favre rumors every time he opened up his newspaper or turned on his tv.

“Will Favre retire?”
“Will Favre come back?”
“Does the fact that Favre has given up eating bagels mean he wants to return in August?”

It has to get old very fast. So why not purposefully say things about the fans needing to “shut up” just to draw a little attention to Aaron Rogers? Then you can quickly let the fans know how much they mean to you, and even if there’s a recovery period with the fans, you have them thinking about you, instead of the Hall of Famer that isn’t around anymore.
But then, of course, that attention goes away as soon as an unscratched itch is reported. I’m guessing it was a nice 18 hours of fame for Aaron while it lasted. I’m also guessing he ripped up his copy of the SI Special Edition Favre Tribute issue. Just a guess.

Every time I see that Kyle Lohse put up another quality start for the Cardinals, I can’t help but remember that the Twins wanted to trade Lohse for Hall, straight up. At the time I thought it was ridiculous. Billy was ten times the prospect of Lohse. And, of course, when the Twins finally gave up on him, I was feeling even cockier that I was right. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like such a bad trade. Funny how these things go in cycles, huh?

I can’t ever remember being as excited about a Bucks off-season as I currently am about this one. I love the Jefferson trade. I like the draft picks of Alexander and Mbah. I’m excited that Skiles plans to instill a defensive mindset. And I think (forgive me, given my Pistons roots) that John Hammond will bring a winning attitude to the organization. I still think Mo and Charlie V are on their way out the door, given the fact that one of Hammond’s first comments was that he could ask Skiles to hide one poor defender, but not three or four. I have to assume that "one" is Michael, who they’ll try to hide. "Two" is Bobby, who is gone. And "three" and "four" are Mo and Charlie V. Package the two of them for a defensive minded PF, and I’ll really be ecstatic.

But as excited as I am about the direction of the team, I’ve been here before at trading deadlines and off-seasons gone by. Probably the best way to sum up my problem with the NBA is that I’m never as excited during the regular season as I am in July, when hope springs eternal. That’s the only league I can say that about. Let’s hope the Bucks can do something to have me as excited in January…you know, when they’re actually playing games…

I know this old news, but I just have to wonder what would have happened if Danika Patrick had taken a swing at the guy that she was pissed at a few weeks back. I know nothing about car racing, but i do know that you're never supposed to hit a lady. But what if she clocks you on national tv? You still can't hit a girl, right? Or is it offensive not to swing back at her, because she wants to be treated like an equal? I'm perplexed. And it's just another reason not to get into to car racing...

Finally, I close with the words of Ned Yost, after Rickie hit his pinch-hit home run last night--

"We figured Rickie's a leadoff hitter, let's see if he can't lead off and get on base," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He put a jolt into one."

Is he really, Ned? ‘Cause he looked a lot like a power hitter to me…

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Great Rickie Weeks Debate

My daughter puked all over me on Friday night.

I don't share this information as an attempt to gross you out or as an attempt to use fatherhood as an excuse as to why I haven't been blogging of late. I only tell you this because I had never been puked on so thoroughly before in all my life. And because of this technicolor dream coat of vomit that I was given to wear, I became very, very ill myself. So ill, in fact, that I was unable to attend the Brewers game on Sunday. I had company seats, 7th row, behind home plate. I was taking my parents (my dad's birthday was Sunday and he retired on Friday), but I couldn't stay away from the toilet long enough to make it to my garage, much less all the way out to Miller Park. So the family went without me to a Brewers game--my wife, my dad, my mom...and of course, my daughter, who was feeling super-dee-duper by Sunday morning. I was with them in spirit, of course, and my dad did go back out of the park so he could re-enter and cash in on a Ryan Braun Bobblehead for his ailing son. And as I watched the Brewers offense come to life from the sweaty comfort of my own couch, I knew that the team's success had little to do with my absence from the game. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same thing about Rickie Weeks absence from the line-up.

See, the thing is...just like I will always love my daughter, regardless of how many times she spews molten oatmeal upon me like my own little Mt. St. Helen's, I will always believe in the future of Rickie Weeks, even as he continues to consistently throw-up in key game situations. Hell, I'll just say it. I love that kid.

I love the way Rickie Weeks approaches the game of baseball. I loved that last year, while I was working at the park, I'd see Rickie taking infield with Dale Sveum before any other players were out there. I love the way the ball jumps off his bat (granted, when he makes contact), and I love the way he hustles out every single ground ball, just like Robin and Mollie used to. Despite the fact that he was the second overall pick and signed the largest amateur contract in Brewers history, Rickie has never displayed any arrogance or the slightest sense of entitlement. Despite his well documented struggles, the kid plays hard. And no one can deny that an abundance of talent is waiting to be tapped.

And we are again. For the past few weeks there have been another group of emails exchanged among several of my friends about when Yost is going to finally get the balls to bench Rickie. For several weeks, our friend Kelly has been admirably attempting to defend Rickie, primarily citing his ability to score runs as justification for putting up with Rickie's other apparent flaws. In the other corner of cyberspace were Jon and Darren (who, of course, still refers to Weeks as "Rick"), who each could care less about Rickie's runs scored, but merely want a lead-off hitter who can get on base for the big boppers. As these emails continued to be exchanged, I pretty much stayed out of the fray but silently cheered when Kelly would make his pro-Rickie arguments. Things turned for me a little, however, when Kelly started to rip Prince in his defense of Rickie. (However, maybe I should be thanking Kelly for apparently lighting a fire under the big man's arse.) And the debate seemed to flicker out eternally yesterday when Kelly conceded that the Brewers offense finally clicked with some legitimate table setters at the top of the order.

And although I applaud Kelly's efforts to defend Rickie, the fact is, I agree with both sides of the debate. For the record, I would never be in favor of benching Weeks this early in the season. He has offensive capabilities that no one else on the roster possesses. And as I've said before, no one has ever worked their way out of a slump on the bench. It just doesn't happen. But at the same time, I can't see how the Brewers can continue to march him up there in the lead-off spot.

And that, my friends, is the point I've tried to make about Rickie Weeks for the past three seasons--Rickie is NOT a lead-off hitter. The Brewers want him to be solely because he's fast, but that's not the approach Rickie has ever taken at the plate. And it's not how the Brewers projected him throughout his minor league career. Rickie was always projected to be a three-hole hitter, a plan that changed when the Brewers drafted arguably the greatest three hole hitter in all of baseball in the form of Ryan Braun. But that doesn't change the fact that Rickie never spent time as a lead-off hitter during his development. And it's really difficult to change your approach and make that drastic of an adjustment at the major league level.

Consider this: it was about this time of the year in 2005 when the Brewers decided to call Rickie up to the majors full time from Triple AAA. Take a look at his numbers when he left Nashville:

55G 203 AB 43 R 65H 12 HR 48RBI 28BB 51SO .320BA 10SB

Now I ask as you, as you look at these numbers from early June 2005 do you immediately think--"now there's a lead-off hitter"???? Me either. I know what I'm thinking: there's a kid who likes to swing for the fences, who probably benefited from hitting in front of Prince at triple A (Gwynn was the lead-off hitter on that team), and who doesn't get cheated when he swings...

Interestingly enough, take a look at Rickie's numbers heading into this evening's game against the Diamondbacks:

56G 217AB 41R 45H 7HR 19RBI 29BB 46SO .207BA 9SB

It's rather astonishing to me that with the exception of twenty less hits, and the 100 point drop in average because of it, the numbers are actually eerily similar. And I know, the cynics are going to say that those twenty extra hits makes it ridiculous for me to even compare the rest of the numbers--but is it really? When I look at the walks-to-strikeout totals and how close they are, I'd have to say that the Brewers have gotten everything they should have expected from Weeks back in 2005...with the exception, of course, of those missing twenty hits.

And I also believe that Rickie has failed to obtain those 20 less hits because he's not been able to take his same approach at the plate. The Brewers are asking Rickie to try to see more pitches and work the count deeper--you know, like a lead-off hitter would. But that's not something Rickie is used to doing. Like Ryan Braun, Rickie is a free swinger. Name the last time, you saw Rickie get a cheap, bloop single...He's a line drive hitter who doesn't ever shorten his stroke with two strikes--you know like a lead-off hitter would. And what's more bizarre to me, is the Brewers don't really want him to shorten his stroke with two strikes. You know why? Because they don't want to take away from his power. So they're asking him to take the approach of a lead-off hitter, but without relinquishing any of his power. What does that translate to? More hitting with two-strike counts. And more swinging and missing on that third strike...because you aren't asking him to shorten his swing.

What's more baffling to me is that Corey Hart has proven to be a terrific lead-off hitter, but because he doesn't look the part--the Brewers are resistant to put him there. Yost claims it's because he wants to protect Fielder because Corey is hitting so well with runners in scoring position...but do you know what else Corey does well--bunts for hits, sees a lot of pitches, and effectively shortens his stroke with two strikes--you know, like a lead-off hitter would.

So instead of Jon calling for the benching of Rickie Weeks or Kelly saying he should keep leading off, I say Rickie should be given the chance to swing like he did when he was called up to the big leagues. Is he going to strike out a lot? You betcha. After all, Ryan Braun has struck out 49 times this year and has only walked ten times. But you don't notice his Ks as much because he's producing those extra hits. But Ryan doesn't exactly work the count. And Rickie could really benefit from chasing a lot more first-pitch fastball strikes (something he started going after more during his seven game hitting streak a couple weeks ago) which he too often is letting go by because he's desperately trying to be a better lead-off hitter...even if he's not really built that way.

It's not easy to develop as a lead-off hitter. Tony Gwynn has had several years to try it in the minors (he and Rickie were drafted in the same year after all) and Dave Krynzel never figured it out. But if you want Rickie to start stroking the ball like he can--let him start hacking.

My suggestion: Give Rickie a shot in the two hole, with Ryan hitting behind him. After all, even Ryan Braun's numbers drastically improved when Yost flipped him and Fielder in the order and he started seeing more pitches. Give Rickie a chance to benefit from the fastballs he'll see from pitchers who don't want to pitch to Ryan and Prince. Then watch the fastball hitter go to work.



Ryan (who has the chance to be Wisconsin's next Favre, but that's another post)






This is the line-up I've been clamoring for. This is the line-up where Rickie will be able to show what he's made of. It will make Kelly proud.

And it will erase a third of a season full of constant puking...