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.