Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Thank you, San Francisco Giants! Thank you, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. Thank you, Hunter Pence. Thank you, Santiago Casilla. Thank you, Pablo Sandoval. Thank you, Yusmeiro Petit. Thank you (and congrats), Tim Hudson. Thank you even to Buster Posey.
Thank you, Michael Morse for tying that one game.
Thank you, Travis Ishikawa for walking the birds off the field.
I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today without the efforts and success of the San Francisco Giants. You can drop the #EvenYear hashtag on social media. You can thank a blossomed ace in Bumgarner. You can shower praise on Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff. It’s all deserved. It’s all warranted. “THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS (WON) THE PENNANT!”
And as happy as I am today that the senior circuit representative in this year’s Fall Classic plays its home games outside the state of Missouri, my desire for Giant victories ended when that ball left Ishikawa’s bat.
So why am I rooting against them starting tonight? I like the Giants just fine. I like most of their players. Only Angel Pagan really gets my dander up, and he’ll miss this series with injury anyway. So this isn’t about the Giants.
As far as leagues go, I absolutely prefer the National League game to that of its younger brother. The Designated Hitter should be done away with (though I realize it never will be). The strategy and timing of the NL game makes for a beautiful, and sometimes sickening, dance where decisions feel like they loom larger. You can’t always just pitch a guy until he’s done. Maybe you have to lift a pitcher early because of a key offensive spot. Maybe you try to stretch a guy farther because his spot is due up next half inning. Et cetera. There is so much more that goes into it. It’s more interesting and more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.
I’m a stump for the NL way of life. My team plays in the National League, for what that’s worth.
So, again, I ask: Why am I rooting against the Giants?
Well, to be fair it’s about rooting for Kansas City more than it is about rooting against San Francisco.
Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. All former Brewers. All good guys who I enjoy watching succeed. But pulling for the Royals is deeper than just that connection. Doug Henry and Dale Sveum. Both former Brewers. Both members of KC’s coaching staff. I like that, and personally like Sveum as a coach, but certainly wouldn’t use that as a reason to cheer for one team over another. Ned? Not even a little bit.
So instead of continuing to tell you why I’m not rooting for them, even though they are fine reasons should you choose to use them, here’s why I am.
I look at the 2014 Kansas City Royals and I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s not a perfect 1:1 on the field, of course, but the similarities even at that micro level are interesting. It’s more about how they go about their business on the field, the lights out bullpen, trading away young and controllable talent for a shot at the brass ring, the payoff of a long-term plan. You can take it one step farther and compare to 2008 in Milwaukee where the Brewers faltered down the stretch while trying to hold off other teams for the Wild Card. In 2008 there was only the one Wild Card spot available, but the Brewers held off the Mets to win it by just one game. In 2014, Kansas City got the home game by just one game over Oakland (who held off Seattle by just one game).
Kansas City rode years of awfulness to amass a bunch of young talent in their system. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon (drafted the same year as, and ahead of, Ryan Braun, by the way), Wil Myers, the list goes on. In fact, you could almost mark the 2005 draft which got the Brewers the final “homegrown” piece to their playoff runs in Braun as the start of the Royals turnaround. In that way, they’ve been a few years behind the Brewers’ blueprint. Get a bunch of young, talented guys in the system with a goal to hit the Majors at roughly the same time, supplement with free agents, and when the moment is right, make a big trade (or two) at the big league level by sending out minor leaguers to go for it.
Let’s break that down, in case you aren’t agreeing with me.
Milwaukee: Drafted Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun. Traded away Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley (and more)) for CC Sabathia in 2008. Traded away Cain, Escobar, Jake Odorizzi (and more) for Zack Greinke in 2011. Traded Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum in 2011. Supplemented with veterans: 2011 -Mark Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Takashi Saito. 2008 – Gabe Kapler, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, Ray Durham, (ironically) Counsell.
Kansas City: Drafted Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas, Billy Butler, Greg Holland. They scouted international amateurs like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura. Traded away Zack Greinke to acquire several young pieces. Flipped Odorizzi with Wil Myers to acquire James Shields and Wade Davis. Supplemented with veterans like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Josh Willingham, and Jason Frasor.
I think I’ve made my point.
Their offensive games differ, to be sure, as the Brewers hit home runs at a great pace in 2011 and the Royals are more about speed and getting hits that raise the ol’ BABIP. But the rotations were similarly solid from top to bottom, but the real crux of what sent me down this comparison exercise are the late inning relievers.
- Closer: John Axford (1.95 ERA / 2.41 FIP / 46 saves / 1.140 WHIP / 10.5 K/9)
- Setup man: Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA / 2.23 FIP / 1.138 WHIP / 10.2 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: LaTroy Hawkins / Takashi Saito (Combined: 2.28 ERA / 1.200 WHIP / 6.1 K/9)
- (the Brewers used two veterans so as to keep them fresh)
- Closer: Greg Holland (1.44 ERA / 1.83 FIP / 46 saves / 0.914 WHIP / 13.0 K/9)
- Setup man: Wade Davis (1.00 ERA / 1.19 FIP / 0.847 WHIP / 13.6 K/9)
- “7th inning guy”: Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA / 2.69 FIP / 1.143 WHIP / 7.6 K/9)
Six inning games are easier to win than nine inning games. Both of these teams had/have that game-shortening bullpen that general managers are yearning to cobble together each and every off-season.
I won’t lie to you though. The former Brewers being on the Royals certainly helps me root for them. In fact, it led to a series of tweets (@BrewerNation) with commentary how the team with the most former Brewers on it was winning every series (and even every game for a while) in the 2014 Postseason.
Market size, payroll relative to MLB’s elite, a fan base desperate for a winner after more than 25 years of missing the playoffs, that their last pennant was won in the 1980’s — these are all comparisons between the two franchises that help me see them in such a similar light.
But when it comes down to it, when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, when all the clichés have been dropped…
I’m rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals because I see the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and what might have been.
The comparisons can stop there, though, because this Kansas City team won the two games which that Milwaukee team didn’t. The Royals won their pennant and now have a chance to win another World Series, while the Brewers still seek their first championship.
But if these Royals can get the job done, it offers renewed hope that my team can one day get back and accomplish the same.
And that’s worth rooting for more than anything.
By: Big Rygg
Plenty to talk about as I roll out a new title here. When I have several things to discuss and I choose to put them in one post instead of several, it’ll be called “Quick Hops” as I hop from topic to topic. Oh, and if you don’t know, hops are an ingredient in beer…and the team is the Brewers…I hope you’re following me.
Anyway, let’s get to it!
Non-Tender Choices Add Intrigue to Spring Training
The Milwaukee Brewers chose not to tender contracts to injured relief pitcher Mark DiFelice, pitcher Seth McClung and catcher Mike Rivera. This makes the three men free agents, able to sign a contract with any team. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you understand the arbitration system and what the meaning of the non-tender is.
The system that is in place in Major League Baseball allows for a team to “control” a player for six seasons of service time (in the majority of cases). During the first three years of team control (again, in most cases) the team has 100% control over what they pay a player provided that the salary is at least as much as the league-mandated minimum. Typically teams negotiate salaries with players on a year-to-year basis anyway in an effort to involve the player in their money-dealings, but the team has the final say if they and the player cannot reach an accord. If that happens, then the team “renews” the player’s contract at whatever number they deem fair. This can upset players greatly if they feel they outperformed a certain level of pay with their level of play. Prince Fielder is the Brewers’ most recent example of that situation when, after becoming the youngest player in the history of the league to slug 50 home runs in a single season, he felt he was deserving of much more than the contract that he was offered. The two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, so the team renewed Fielder’s contract at a rate that was in line with their team’s pay scale for non-arbitration eligible players.
Being eligible for arbitration is what leads to the non-tendering of contracts if it’s going to happen. When a player becomes eligible for arbitration, salary is no longer completely up to the team. There are a lot of details that I could bore you with, but the basics are that the team and player negotiate to reach a salary for the upcoming year. If the two sides cannot agree on a number by a certain, pre-determined date then they exchange figures. These figures are those that they will submit to a salary arbiter before the season begins. Arbitration hearings are scheduled over a few days in the spring. The team and player can continue to negotiate up to the beginning of the hearing to reach an agreement. If they do, great. The player signs the contract and plays under its terms. If they don’t, a three-member arbitration panel hears the case and chooses one of the figures the sides submitted several weeks prior. (To note: During Doug Melvin’s tenure as General Manager of the Brewers, no player has gone to a hearing.)
Now, the reason that arbitration eligibility can lead to a non-tender is because the contracts a player gets go up in value significantly during arbitration. The jump in salary in the first year of eligibility is often a multi-million dollar one. What’s more, is that arbitration salaries are often influenced simply by service time itself more so than performance. For example, former Brewer J.J. Hardy made around $4MM in 2009. His 2009 season was terrible. It was terrible statistically and it was terrible peripherally. Hardy is not worthy of even the same salary let alone an increase in salary. However, with the system that’s in place, it is an unbelievable rarity that a player’s salary goes lower.
To summarize this entire Hop, allow me to say this: While Mark DiFelice was non-tendered under the rare case where he wasn’t arbitration eligible (he had shoulder surgery which will most likely cost him his entire 2010 season), the increases in salary that McClung and Rivera (who is eligible for arbitration for the first time) stand to receive are more than the Brewers want to pay for those positions for next year. McClung might have been a combination of high-salary/low-performance with the adding of LaTroy Hawkins and needed a spot on the 40-man roster for him, but most likely they could’ve kept McClung anyway with the injury to DiFelice. As for Mike Rivera, the Brewers are finally able to move on from the career backup. Rivera has been a servicable backup backstop during his time with this franchise however he has never been the future at the catcher position. The Brewers knew this when Damian Miller retired and they brought in Jason Kendall for the last two years with Rivera backing him up. Finally, however, the Brewers feel that they have talent at the position in the minor leagues such that they can promote from within and, with a season or two of tutelage at the Major League level, have a home-grown starting catcher for the first time since Mike Matheny.
This should make for a fun battle to watch during Spring Training. The Brewers have two catchers that might be ready to make the jump. Angel Salome has been the most talked about catching prospect in the system for a couple of years now, especially when he put up such gaudy offensive numbers as part of that stacked AA Huntsville club from two seasons ago that included Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and others. He was the starting catcher for AAA Nashville last year. The catching prospect that has gotten the most talk lately, howevere, has been Jonathan Lucroy who was the starting catcher for Huntsville in 2009. The consensus seems to be that Lucroy might be more ready for the big leagues now with his better plate discipline and what not, but that Salome’s ceiling might still be higher. The Brewers did also claim George Kottaras on waivers early in the off-season as well, so if both youngsters are unable to show anything in spring training that wins them the job, Kottaras might end up being the defacto big league backup while the kids get some more seasoning down on the farm.
Any way it ends up, it ought to be a fun ride. Stay tuned.
The Craigger Set to Stay Put, Announcement to Come Monday?
Monday is shaping up to be a big day for Doug Melvin’s staff. The reports from Indianapolis at the Winter Meetings this past Monday through Thursday were that free-agent pitcher Randy Wolf would be announced to the media as the Brewers’ latest acquisition this coming Monday after passing his required physical examination.
The Brewers, though, just might have two names to announce on Monday. While free-agent signee LaTroy Hawkins was rumored to be announced this coming Tuesday, veteran infielder and team leader Craig Counsell has reportedly agreed to stay in Milwaukee for what might be the balance of his career.
I couldn’t be happier about this move. Even if Counsell doesn’t duplicate his offensive production from 2009, his ability to play three infield positions very well defensively is a huge asset to this team. With inexperienced (at the major league level) starters at SS and 3B in Escobar and Casey McGehee respectively along with Rickie Weeks one bat waggle away from season-ending surgery, having Counsell to spell all three positions is as invaluable for 2010 as having him has proven to be over the past couple of years as well.
Welcome back, Craigger! The Brewer Nation is glad you never left.
Rumor Burner Stays Warm on Hot Stove
Doug Melvin has made no bones about his desire to add two starting pitchers during this off-season. Signing Randy Wolf to a free agent contract gives him one. Where the second one comes from has been a matter of some opinion.
There are still plenty of free agents on the market to be sure. Given the Brewers’ projected payroll, some of them are out of the team’s price range. However, there are several that can be had for a reasonable rate that have great chances to put up better numbers than most members of the Crew’s 2009 starting rotation. In this realm, names like Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Wisconsin-native Jarrod Washburn and the recently non-tendered Chien-Mien Wang to name a few.
Pulling off a trade is another possibility that is open to Melvin et al. The Brewers still have a handful of trade chips that they can deal to interested teams to get a starting pitcher in return. It’s all about making something work for all teams involved. The biggest rumor that has been floating around since the Winter Meetings is a trade involving the New York Mets which would send Corey Hart to the Big Apple in exchange for John Maine. This makes sense for a couple of different reasons for both teams, but the biggest thing for Milwaukee’s point of view is that it gets us another starting pitcher. It also relieves us of Corey Hart and his waning value. He performed poorly last year but has had recent success and could still have plenty of upside. Maine has worked with new Brewer pitching coach Rick Peterson before when Peterson was in the same role with the Mets. The pairing led to Maine’s best season as a pro so it’s reasonable that it could produce positive results should the two be reunited in Milwaukee.
The Brewers are rumored to be preparing for this possible trade by readying offers to a handful of right fielders. They haven’t offered contracts to any of them yet, of course, because Corey Hart is still on the roster and would start in right field is no move is made. However, I have been told that guys such as Austin Kearns, Xavier Nady and recent 2009 Brewer Frank Catalanotto (who has one of the best batter walkup tunes EVER!). It’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers need to make an offer to one of these players or to another outfielder altogether. Even if they keep Hart, they carried five outfielders for the majority of 2009 and they currently only have four on the 25-man roster in Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Jody Gerut and Hart.
Whether a trade or signing is next on the horizon for this team remains to be seen, but the Hot Stove League shouldn’t cool down for Milwaukee for a bit yet.
Just an FYI here to finish things up, the next Brewer Nation podcast with yours truly and Cary Kostka should be recorded at some point this month, schedules permitting. We’ll definitely keep you posted though here at the blog so come back often and thanks for your continued (or brand new) readership!
By: Big Rygg
First and foremost, Happy Independence Day to all of our domestic readers and those U.S. citizens that read us from the other side of our borders!
Now let’s get down to business…
There has been a TON of acceleration regarding C.C. Sabathia’s possible trade out of Cleveland. The destination that’s being penciled onto his plane ticket has been reading: MKE (the airport code for Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport if you didn’t know).
Heading back the other direction? Well therein lies some of the discrepancy in stories.
FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal is reporting that both (yes, both) OF Matt LaPorta and SS Alcides Escobar were offered to the Indians for Sabathia. Beat-writer for the local Milwaukee paper the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Tom Haudricourt, reports that he has it on “good authority” that the Brewers would never offer both of those players in the same deal for Sabathia. He has found out that the Indians had scouts watching the Brewers’ Single A team (the Brevard County Manatees) the other day where 2007 Brewers Minor League Player of the Year Taylor Green plays ball and believes that Green might be a centerpiece in a deal.
There is also some talk about J.J. Hardy possibly being involved in a deal for Sabathia and then that Escobar would be used to replace Hardy on the big-league roster. (I’m officially on the record as not in favor of this scenario if we could get Sabathia with just prospects instead.)
The non-waiver trading deadline in Major League Baseball is July 31st and you usually will see many of the trades that are going to happen in this league happen on or just prior to that date. Part of the reports around the internet are saying that the reason the Brewers might be offering such a strong deal this early is so that the Indians will be convinced that they can’t get anything better and will pull the trigger on the deal. After all, you only throw a starting pitcher every 5th day so the earlier you get that pitcher into your rotation, the more benefit you get for the deal.
But then again…maybe everybody is way off base here and no deal will happen.
Here’s where you guys get involved…
- Would you do a deal for C.C. Sabathia if structured as is indicated by the rumors?
- Which deal?
- If you’d deal for Sabathia but not want to do one of the supposed deals, what would you offer?
- If you won’t deal for Sabathia, who else do you think the Brewers should target?