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.
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Phil Roof (’70-’71)
George Scott (’72-’76)
Jamie Quirk (’77)
Tony Muser (’78)
Ned Yost (’80-’83)
Dough Loman (’84-’85)
B.J. Surhoff (’87-’95)
Kelly Stinnett (’97)
Geoff Jenkins (’98-’07)
Ray Durham (’08)
Taylor Green (’11-’12)
Hector Gomez (’14-’15)
Nevin Ashley (’15)
Jonathan Villar (’16-Current)
By: Big Rygg
(And what do we do to cover for Rickie Weeks?)
First and foremost, allow me to say “Welcome to the Show, Mat Gamel!”
Yes, I know (as you should, if you don’t) that Gamel made his official Major League debut last September. Heck, he even recorded his first big league base hit. But tonight? All he did was smack a three-run home run and make a terrific defensive play (and, naturally, a throwing error but let’s focus on the positives) en route to helping the Brewers to a series sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Coming into this series, as a side note, the Milwaukee Brewers were tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central Division. As mentioned a tidy little sweep through town puts us a full 3 games up on the redbirds.
But tonight was Mat Gamel’s first career start and he made a nice day out of it by hitting his first career home run and playing a great hot corner with the exception of his thrown away ball in the bottom of the 7th.
Here’s to many more big flies, Mr. Gamel!
Something else I wanted to talk about this evening is the loss of Rickie Weeks to probable season-ending surgery which he will undergo in very short order. Weeks tore a tendon sheath in his left wrist while striking out to lead off the game last night. Weeks was having the best start to a season in his career by a long shot and this is the purest definition of “bad timing”.
The real question, of course, is “How do the Brewers cover up Weeks’ absence?”
Do they bring up Hernan Iribarren? Do they sign a free agent like a Ray Durham or Mark Grudzielanek? Do they try to pull off a trade? If a trade, what do they do once Weeks is ready to go for 2010? Do they perhaps bring up Frank Catalanotto to have a 5th OF again and simply go with what they’ve got to cover 2B (which means some combination of Craig Counselll and Casey McGehee and maybe Bill Hall in an emergency)?
All viable options, but not one of them screams that it is the correct option.
Keep your eye on this, Brewer fans, as it truly could impact our march to the playoffs more than you might initially think.
But, in better news, the Brewers did finish that sweep of the Cardinals. We move on to Houston for the second time this season and look to at least duplicated our 2 out of 3 effort that we accomplished last time.
Let’s have another winning road trip!
By: Big Rygg
With the World Series having finished (finally), it’s officially the off-season for all of Major League Baseball. That brings a lot of things, but most notably for Milwaukee it brings the impending free agency of several members of the 2008 playoff team.
Let’s review those players and discuss them a bit both in how their 2008 season went and whether or not I think they will (or should) come back to the Brewers for 2009.
3B/OF Russell Branyan – .250/.342/.583, 33/132, 24 R, 8 2B, 12 HR, 20 RBI, 19 BB, 42 K, 1/1 SB
Branyan even being a part of the Brewers’ system was a matter of fortunate coincidence. He didn’t have a job coming into 2008 and because he lived in the same city as his former big league club’s AAA affiliate and said affiliate needed a third baseman…well, it worked out.
It was another matter of good fortune when The Muscle returned to Milwaukee. He had been tearing up the league at AAA Nashville and the Brewers needed a left-handed bat to platoon with Bill Hall at third base because of Hall’s propensity to suck so hard at hitting right-handed pitching this year, Branyan’s bread and butter by the by.
Branyan hit home runs at a near record pace for the Crew for a fair chunk of the year. Eventually, however, Branyan’s numbers began to tail off before he finally wound up on the disabled list for almost the balance of the season after hurting himself during an at-bat.
It was almost poetic the way that Branyan rode to the rescue for a stretch, but at the same time it was just as much happenstance. That being said, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Crew could decide to open the year with Hall in the starting infield at 3B with Branyan sitting on the flight deck as the “Ready 5” player. (Note: That’s a reference from Top Gun…I really hope you knew that without me having to tell you.) The bottom line on bringing Branyan back would be how much left-handed hitting they end up with on the roster after the Winter Meetings. Either way, I don’t expect Branyan’s lack of contract situation to be resolved any time soon. Fortunately for The Muscle, the off-season is plenty long enough.
CF Mike Cameron – .243/.331/.477, 108/444, 69 R, 25 2B, 2 3B, 25 HR, 70 RBI, 54 BB, 142 K, 17/22 SB
So here’s the truly mind-boggling thing about Mike Cameron’s 2008 season: He missed nearly an entire month of games (25) due to a suspension but still managed to finish with respectable numbers in several categories. Unfortunately, Cameron also lead the team in strikeouts, beating guys that had at least 140 more at-bats than he did.
The former Gold Glove Award winner, Cameron’s defense was mostly solid this year. There were a few plays that he screwed up, but everybody has a few in a given year. I can’t remember how many times Cameron would go 0-2 in a count and then immediately take that same count to 2-2. Sure, he struck out thereafter an awful lot, but it’s still an interesting quirk of his season.
The issue with Cameron returning to Milwaukee next year is the price of the team option on his contract which stands at $10MM for one year. Yes, we’d have Cameron for 150+ games instead of a maximum of 137, but having already struck out 142 times in just 120 games, it doesn’t bode well for 2009. Cameron, like I’ll explain about Counsell next, might just come down to other roster moves. $750K is a whole lost easier to pay than $10MM, after all. What’s more, General Manager Doug Melvin has made it known that he wants to get more left-handed bats in the lineup to create better balance. The “holes”, so to speak, that we have to fill that we could fill with lefties are at 3B and CF (and possibly 2B depending on your viewpoint). For whatever reason, the Brewers don’t seem willing to give Tony Gwynn a shot despite the fact that he hits lefty, plays solid defense and is more of a prototypical leadoff hitter than anyone else we’ve got on the roster. That could help Cameron come back as a one-year bridge to another propsect being ready (Lorenzo Cain, perhaps, now that Michael Brantley was sent to Cleveland to finalize the CC Sabathia trade).
Time will tell on this one as teams have a deadline to announce whether or not they are picking up options on players.
INF Craig Counsell – .226/.355/.302, 56/248, 31 R, 14 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 46 BB, 42 K, 3/4 SB
The Craigger (as I call him) or The Schnozz (as my wife does) is a local boy with a flair for coming up big in clutch situations. There’s always some great anticipation when he steps into the batter’s box when the bases are loaded, but quite frankly for the 38-year-old, those situations don’t happen nearly often enough.
He’s got one helluva glove and I routinely find myself assuming an out when the ball gets hit toward him…but the bottom line is that .226 overall isn’t going to get the job done anymore. I’m a big Craig Counsell fan, but realistically can the Brewers afford to carry a $3.5MM (or so) utility infielder? Depending on some of the other rosters moves the team is able to make or chooses to make…it’s probably not feasible. Besides, if things go according to my master plan, we’ll already have an expensive utility infielder in Bill Hall.
2B Ray Durham – .280/.369/.477, 30/107, 21 R, 12 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 15 BB, 23 K, 2/4 SB (with Milwaukee)
Brought it just before the non-waiver trade deadline, Ray Durham added a needed spark to Rickie Weeks at first, but ultimately the two fell into a platoon at 2B. one that doesn’t figure to be repeated in 2009 one way or another. Either the Brewers will recommit to Weeks or they’ll trade for a different double-play partner for J.J. Hardy (or possibly Alcides Escobar depending on how that situation pans out).
Durham missed several games down the stretch which could be contributed to either fatigue, age, bad luck or possibly a bit of all three. Durham is a switch-hitter, which is a nice thing, but the fact that he hits lefties about as well as Weeks hits righties (.238 overall this year vs lefties for Durham). His defense is more solid than Weeks’ too, but the fact is Durham is no spring chicken, or autumn chicken for that matter.
Bottom line on Durham is tha the was brought it to provide some veteran leadership for the stretch run and he delivered just that. If the price is right, he could be a fine bench player whether the Brewers retain Weeks or not.
RP Eric Gagne – 4-3, 5.44 ERA, 46.1 IP, 50 G, 10/17 SV/SVO, 38 K, 1.47 WHIP
Fewer financial committments were worse in 2008 than the $10MM, one-year contract that Doug Melvin signed Eric Gagne to. Signed to be the closer after Francisco Cordero skipped town, Gagne struggled right out of the gate, blowing a 3-run lead on Opening Day in Chicago. The Brewers ended up winning that game, but it was the season for Gagne in a nutshell. Struggles, inconsistency, expectations…all in all Gagne just simply didn’t measure up despite falling into a setup role fairly comfortably late in the year after a stint on the DL.
As for next year? I wouldn’t even mind having Gagne back in Milwaukee, but at a much more believable price. I have a feeling that Gagne will listen to offers for a bit before deciding what he wants to do. If he has the chance to be a closer somewhere for closer-type money, perhaps he takes that offer. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Melvin extends Gagne an opportunity to return to Milwaukee.
OF Gabe Kapler – .301/.340/.498, 69/229, 36 R, 17 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 13 BB, 39 K, 3/4 SB
What a story Gabe Kapler turned out to be for the Milwaukee Brewers. The guy retires, manages for two years, get the itch again, lets people know he’s available, signs a contract with the Brewers that the majority of fans (thank you, I am NOT included in that group) did not understand or agree with. All he did was capably fill in at all three OF positions, hit over .300 and was our best bat off the bench as well. Unfortunately, for many reasons, Kapler’s season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. He could have been extremely useful to spell both Ryan Braun (rib cage) and Corey Hart (mental fatigue perhaps?) down the stretch.
Kapler will be 33 for a little over half the season in 2009, turning 34 on July 31st. That’s definitely not too old, especially for a guy who keeps himself in as good of shape as Kapler does. He is a free agent, and given the state of the league, could probably find a starting job on a few teams. Hopefully, though, the fans and clubhouse here in Milwaukee impressed him enough that he would want to come back. Hopefully, also, Doug Melvin was impressed enough with Kapler’s play that he would want him back. I think it’s a great fit here and if I were on Melvin’s staff, I’d push for a deal to get done quickly.
3B Mike Lamb – .273/.273/.273, 3/11, 2 R, 1 K
Lamb has the option to become a free agent after this year. Based on his lack of starts while he was with the club, along with how they only picked him up off waivers, and there’s very little chance of Lamb not exercising that option.
*UPDATE* Lamb filed for free agency on the first day, as expected.
RP Guillermo Mota – 5/6, 5.11 ERA, 58 G, 57.0 IP, 1/4 SV/SVO, 50 K, 1.40 WHIP
Mota came to the Brewers in what was probably the best trade of Milwaukee’s off-season. Doug Melvin contacted the GM of the New York Mets, Omar Minaya, and struck a deal. He offered Johnny Estrada against a list of players he’d be willing to take back in a one-for-one deal. Minaya picked a guy that the fans in New York booed when he was warming up in the bullpen for crying out loud.
Mota pitched well in chunks for the Brewers, a couple of times falling into old habits in New York that got him into trouble. Pitching Coach Mike Maddux corrected Mota multiple times and made him serviceable. If he’s able to continue pitching like he does when he’s right, he’ll help out whatever team he winds up with.
Now, whether or not that’s the Brewers remains to be seen. I think that Melvin would probably be willing to bring him back for a reasonable price, as he did finish the season as our most consistent bullpen arm and you just can’t overhaul as drastically as they did in 2008..can you?
SP CC Sabathia – 11-2, 1.65 ERA, 17 GS, 130.2 IP, 7 CG, 3 SHO, 128 K, 1.00 WHIP
Um…what would I be able to say here that could possibly come close to stating how incredible CC Sabathia was for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008? The man was flat out amazing nearly every time he took the hill. He won his first 9 decisions in a Brewer uniform and, quite frankly, carried the entire team into the playoffs on his large back.
To say that the Brewers want him back is the understatement of the off-season. But, with CC comes a lot of $$. In fact, there is talk that the Yankees are prepared to offer him 7 years for a total of $175MM (that’s an average of $25MM per year, math majors). The Brewers supposedly are preparing to offer (if they haven’t already) a contract of comparable annual amount though not the years. Some talk has said 4/$100MM another I read said 6/$120MM. Either way, if the Brewers are fortunate enough to sign the unquestioned #1 arm on the free agent market…well…it’ll be a glorious day in the history of the Brewer franchise.
SP Ben Sheets – 13-9, 3.09 ERA, 31 GS, 198.1 IP, 5 CG, 3 SHO, 158 K, 1.15 WHIP
After finally confessing and repenting (if you don’t understand that point, you need to look at our September archive), Ben Sheets won a 13th game for the first time in his career and nearly pitched 200 innings for the first time in a few years. However, Sheets also fell prey to the injury bug yet again.
I personally feel that if this wasn’t a contract year for Sheets, he would’ve allowed himself to get shelved if not more often, certainly earlier in the year than late September. It’s unfortunate, but the guy is hamstrung like very few other players in the game. While Sheets hasn’t missed as much time, a decent comparison could be a Carl Pavano. Loads of talent, seemingly always unavailable when their teams need them most.
Doug Melvin has gone on record as saying that he has spoken to Casey Close (Sheets’ agent) and is going to making an offer to possibly bring Sheets back to the Brewers. Having endured the ups and downs of Sheets’ last few years, it’d sure be nice to have a healthy pitcher with his kind of talent. But the bottom line is that Sheets is NOT that pitcher anymore. Yes, a lot of his injuries are weird and random, but when they keep happening, I’m sorry; that’s a trend. And the bottom line that Melvin has to ask himself is whether or not the Brewers can afford the starts. They can afford the money that Sheets can/will get on the open market, but can they afford to carry six starters so that there is a guy ready to pitch when Sheets inevitably (yes, inevitably) misses a start?
The only way I’m comfortable bringing Sheets back to our mid-range payroll team is for Melvin to sign him to a slightly-below-market-value deal that protects our payroll figure from becoming over-bloated to the point where owner Mark Attanasio doesn’t give Melvin any flexibility to pull off deadline deals like he did this year.
RP Brian Shouse – 5-1, 2.81 ERA, 69 G, 51.1 IP, 2/5 SV/SVO, 33 K, 1.17 WHIP
Our left-handed specialist for the past couple of seasons, Brian Shouse is 41 years old but continues to get the job done coming out of the bullpen. Ned Yost used Shouse in some odd ways at times, but he is simply best utilized by bringing him in to face a lefty in a key situation.
Shouse is looking for a two-year deal which would be impossible to come by given his age if it weren’t for his continued success on the bump. Shouse has said that he would like to return to Milwaukee, but feels that he owes it to himself and his family to see what kinds of offers he’s able to field on the open market just to gauge his “value”.
The Brewers are grooming a replacement for Shouse in fellow lefty Mitch Stetter, but I’d still like to see Shouse return to the Crew for at least one more year. Left-handed relievers never seem to flame out so as long as he’s not given up homer after homer, Shouse will be worth the phone call to the bullpen.
CL Salomon Torres – 7-5, 3.49 ERA, 71 G, 80.0 IP, 28/35 SV/SVO, 51 K, 1.35 WHIP
Torres was traded for in the off-season to be a setup man but also provide more veteran leadership to a group that was sorely lacking in that department in 2007. When Eric Gagne was patently ineffective to begin the year and spent some time on the DL, Torres was handed the reins at the back end up the bullpen and did a stellar job until, quite frankly, he wore out by the end of the year. They say sinkerballers prefer to not be overly rested, but 80 innings over 71 games…that’s a LOT of work, fellow Brewer fans.
The team holds on option to bring Torres back, and I believe that they’ll exercise that option. It’s a reasonable cost at just $3.75MM and he pitched very well. He may not come into the year as the closer, but all that will be hashed out in spring training of course.
***NOTE: Joe Dillon was designated for assignment when the Brewers claimed 3B Casey McGehee off of waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Dillon was claimed by the Oakland Athletics so he is no longer a part of the Brewers’ organization.
By: Big Rygg
“Ray Day” is a commonly known nickname for former Milwaukee Buck (and recent NBA Finals participant) Ray Allen. But as soon as the final out in San Francisco this evening settled into Rickie Weeks’ glove (securing the Brewers’ first three-game road sweep since the 2004 season along with Manny Parra’s 9th win of the season), Milwaukee received another man to call Ray:
Switch-hitting second baseman Ray Durham.
Durham, 36, was traded, officially, from the San Francisco Giants to the Milwaukee Brewers this evening for two minor league players (a single A outfielder from Brevard County and a left-handed pitcher from triple A Nashville).
What does this mean for Milwaukee? Quite simply it gives them another option to man the infield and also lead off the batting order. Durham is a career .277 hitter (.293 this year so far) with a a career on-base percentage of .352 (currently .385).
What’s more, though Durham is a switch-hitter, he still has splits that are fairly weighted. He handles right-handed pitcher (while hitting left-handed) at a .318 clip this year. Current starting second baseman Rickie Weeks handles left-handed pitching better than he handles righties too, so the splits scream platoon, at least for now.
Chances are very good that Joe Dillon will be heading to Nashville tonight while Durham takes his seat on the Brewers’ charter back to Milwaukee.
Short-term, this move makes sense in every respect. Long-term Ray Durham isn’t the answer, but this move most definitely makes the Brewers better and puts them in a better position to compete in 2008.
What do you think, Brewer Nation?