All In Their Places…

Saturday at Maryvale. Photo by Lance G. Hanish © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday at Maryvale. Photo by Lance G. Hanish © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

The fun has stopped. The crowds have left the sunny climes of Florida and Arizona one more time as all the practice games are over. The fields are vacant, once filled with the laughter of the guys who bring the summer dreams alive, even the grounds keepers have left as hot dog wrappers tossing ever so softly in the air on the field around the keystone sack. The aisles are empty. No more hawkers loosening their pipes for the trip back up north. The Brewers and the Indians have left Maryvale to allow the real season to begin.

So, now they are all in their places. The rosters have been set. Schafer has made the team again hoping this time he gets his chance to prove he can hit in The Show and stick this time. Scooter will try to hit left handers to see if he can become the permanent second baseman in the shadow of Gaintner’s ghostly past. Lind is a mystery at first but appears to be a good hitter. Surely he will not be able to live up to the expectations of the legend of Prince. Segura seems set to prove the horrible 2014 events are far behind him after batting .305 in the spring. The trusted veteran, Ramirez is ready for his final season at third. He is the epitome of the word ‘veteran’.

Photo by Lance G. Hanish © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by Lance G. Hanish © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Lucroy is ready for another season to see if he can be discovered as the real #1 catcher in the game. Gomez appears to be THE center fielder of the National League as he has groomed his game flawlessly this spring hitting .316. Davis has the breath of Parra on the back of his neck as he battles to prove he deserves the left field spot. And then there is Braun. Once the face of baseball, now he only gains respect in the corners of Cream City. The boys in Pigsville are taking bets on the thumb as they toss down another boilermaker which passes for breakfast. What he did…he did. That will live in his past and be kept in our minds by the writers who will always bring it up like a permanent footnote to his name. But this spring, he has looked like he did before all this happened batting .395 and an OPS of 1.252. Lohse will do what Lohse does…win 14 games. And that won’t do. Of course it is all about pitching. #watchingattanasio

Which brings us to the inevitable…who will win the divisions this season.

In the American League West it will be a fight between the team with the longest name in the history of sports, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Orange County So Cal and the Oakland A’s. And this year, with the best player in the game residing in center field, the Angels will take the crown. He is that good. If you haven’t seen Mike Trout play, he is worth the price of admission. In the Central Division, the Chicago White Sox will be the only winner in Chicago. In the Eastern Division, the Boston Red Sox will again top the standing.

In the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers will finally prove that money can buy everything, including a divisional crown. In the Central Division, the St. Louis Cardinals will again be the team to beat. And in the East, the Washington Nationals will demolish the division. Hail to the Nationals.

That is all on paper. Now they take it to the field.

Tonight at Wrigley Field, the game begins for real.

It’s time to … let the games begin.

Play Ball!

#watchingattanasio

The air is filled with the perfume of jasmine in Arizona during this time of the year. Flowers blooming everywhere give new hope to life for the coming year. The sound of the bat hitting the ball and the scattered talk of the players indicates that this is spring and hope really is in the air. That cannot be said for the Milwaukee Brewers. This is a time of expected expectations. This is due to the leader of the Cream City Nine, one Ron Roenicke.

Since taking over for the disaster that was led by Ken Macha, in his four years in the Brewer dugout, Roenicke has been noted for being a nice guy and a very honest man. It does not speak to his ability to manage a baseball team except for Aarmis Ramirez who says Roenicke is the best manager he has ever had. But remember, the great veteran third baseman played for the Cubs before coming to Milwaukee.

What has Roenicke done? He has won 22 more games than he has lost. He had his team blow a huge lead last year after leading the Central Division for over 4 months last year and dropping completely out of the playoff picture beginning on Labor Day. It may have been the biggest disappointment in Brewer history. And, oh yes….he was not fired by the owner. Nor was his third base coach released. But that’s another story. And during the entire first week of Spring Training, his team continued the slide until this week.

The Brewers did little to improve his chances of improving because, according to the owner, ‘it is a good team’ and he expects them to win. Let’s look at this team that is so good few changes were made.

At catching, no need to improve here as Martin Maldonado is one of the best back-ups in the game. Jonathan Lucroy is a terrific hitter but much has been said of his hamstring problem. He finally played in his first single Spring Training game on Saturday.

First base is always a problem. Adam Lind was brought in and he has been virtually a no-show as he has only played in two games. Nobody backs him up because both of the players that rotated in this position have left.

Second base has Scooter Gannett who is now full-time at the keystone sack. But he has not proven that he can hit left handers.

Shortstop has a gem. Jean Segura is the real deal. He went through a lot of problems last season but he has looked terrific in Spring Training both on the field and at bat.

Third base is Aarmis Ramirez who is as good as any in the league in the Hot Corner. But it is his last season. There is no replacement sight.

Left field is a mystery. Kris Davis has never looked good since being named Braun’s heir apparent two seasons ago. Gerardo Parra is terrific but he may be needed to fill the hole at first. And there is always Logan Schafer who has looked brilliant in the field during Spring Training. He has made a personal highlight reel this spring with his fielding. But can he hit?

Center is home to one of the most underrated outfielders in baseball. Carlos Gomez IS the face of the Brewers. There is none better.

Right belongs to the former face of the team. Ryan Braun looks strong but still has no home runs in the spring. In fact, he has no hits so far this spring. With all the talk that his thumb is OK, don’t forget that is not all one has to worry about with this form All-Star. There is still the head problem that no one is talking about. Can he play under the cloud he created as the face of baseball to the shadow of a ballplayer he is today?

Pitching is the key to making it into the playoffs and winning the World Series. The Brewers traded their #1 pitcher to Houston for nobody. They do have a solid performer in Kyle Lohse and the real-deal, Wily Peralta. But after that is a wing and a prayer. Can Jimmy Nelson become the major league performer everyone thinks he will become? Can Fiers paint more corners than Gallardo and actually not bore all of us to death? And, can we unload the weight around this team’s neck, Matt Garza, and get someone in return?

As for relief pitching, we have what could be a pretty good bullpen. A-Rod, Henderson and the Hulk from Cincinnati. It could be a potent 7th, 8th and 9th inning trio. But can they perform in 162 games?

The team continues to play poorly in the field. Mental mistakes in handling the ball, which are fundamental for most clubs, is a lost art in Maryvale. This is what extends losing streaks. There was a feeling among fans at the ballpark this spring that Roenicke could be fired before the season began. Then the team went on a three game winning streak before being clobbered by Seattle on Friday and totally outplayed by a split-squad Cub team on Saturday. In an interview watching Jimmy Nelson pitch, Roenicke argued that while Nelson had worked on a curve ball in the off-season for a third pitch in his arsenal, the skipper felt that he should be reverting back to the good slider he had last season. What? Who monitors these guys? Is there no communication between the pitching staff and their players during the off-season? Why do we have to wait until his second outing to discover that the manager and pitcher are not on the same wave length? Lets see…the pitcher thinks he needs a curve ball. The manager thinks he should have a slider. Yikes!

We are all #watchingattanasio and hope that someone, namely the General Manger, gives up on this Macha re-do and bring us someone who can finally turn this franchise around. But the problem with that thinking is that since the GM came aboard, the Brewers have continued their losing streak with 956 wins and 987 losses under Doug Melvin’s leadership. In their history, the Milwaukee Brewers have won 3,419 games and lost 3,739 games. Nearly 26.4% of all losses have come under his leadership. That is not a legacy to be proud of. #watchingattanasio

So it is another spring when the air of hope is eternal. There is no bright hopeful in the wings…no Prince…no Braun…no Hart who can give us all the lift our spirit needs. The farm system is bare. The proud days of 1982 are still visions in every Brewer fan’s head. Pauly is now that old-looking manager of the Minnesota Twins and Robin is that old-looking guy in the Crew’s dugout who is getting bigger ovations at the ballpark than most of the players for just for showing up. Rollie, Simba, Gantner, Coop and Oglivie don’t bother to show up any more. Harvey is watching from above.

Will we ever see the hope…the dream of being the World Champion realized?

It’s all up to one guy who lives in Los Angeles.

Play Ball!

Improvement?

It was a team that drew a solid attendance of 2,797,384 or 34,535 per game, 82.4% of capacity. It was the 8th highest in baseball and the fourth best in the National League. And, they were the seventh best draw in baseball on the road. In baseball you make money both home and away. And the Cream City 9 were big draws.

2013 record was 74-88. 2014 record was 82-80.

So, what went wrong? Who is to blame?
2013 Brewers .252..2014 Brewers .251
RF Aoki .286…………Braun .266 – .020
CF Gomez .284…….Gomez .284 even .020
LF Braun .298……….Davis .244 – .054 .074
3B Ramirez .283……Ramirez.285 + .002 .072
SS Segura .294…….Segura .246 – .048 .120
2B Weeks .209……..Gennett .289 + .080 .040
1B Francisco .221….Overbay .233 + .012 .028
C Lucroy .280………..Lucroy .300 + .020 .008

2013: 23 BlownSV….2014: 20 Blown Saves
Fielding: .981…. .984
HR: 157 ……….. 150
RBI: 610 ………. 616
ERA: 3.84 ……… 3.67
Errors 114 …….. 98
Francisco/? 14….. Overbay/Reynolds 13
Weeks/Gennett 10/5=15.. Gennett/Weeks 9/7=16
Segura=15………… Segura=16
Ramirez=7…………. Ramirez=10
Braun/Davis-2……. Davis/Parra=6
Gomez=5 …………. Gomez=5
Aoki=3………………. Braun=3
Lucroy/Meldonado 10-4=14.. Lucroy/Meldonado 4/7=11
Pitchers: 7………… Pitchers 4

2013…………………….. 2014
Gallardo 12-10 4.18.. Gallardo 8-11 3.51 -4W +3L – 0.67
Lohse 11-10 3.35…… Lohse 13-9 3.54 +2W -1L +0.19
Peralta 11-15 4.37…. Peralta 17-11 3.53 +6W -4L – 0.84
Estrada 7- 4 3.87…… Garza 8-8 3.64 -1W +4L – 0.23
Gorzelanny 3 -6 3.90. Nelson 2-9 4.93 – 1W +3L +1.03
Relief +2W……………. +5L -0.53

2013…………………………….. 2014
Henderson 5-5 2.70 28 SV.. K-Rod 5-5 3.04 44 SV
Axford 6-7 4.45 0 SV……….. Smith 1-3 3.76 1 SV

So, what is the difference between a Pennant Winner and an average team?
a) Better General Manager
b) Better Manager
c) Better Players

Of not, it is on the owner? Who has won a World Series?
With current ownership of their teams in the 21st Century:
New York Yankees (2x) 2000; 2009
Philadelphia Phillies 2008
St. Louis Cardinals (2x) 2006; 2011
Boston Red Sox (3X) 2004; 2007; 2013
San Francisco Giants (2X) 2010; 2012
Chicago White Sox 2005
Miami Marlins (Florida Marlins) 2003

Remember, the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks were owned by a partnership headed up by Jerry Colangelo. And the 2002 Anaheim Angels were owned by the Walt Disney Company.

The general manager has to take some of the heat. One can only look at the Kansas City Royals and their top hitters…the center fielder; the right fielder and the short stop. Even their manager and hitting coach were integral to the success of rebuilding the Crew. Look in the other dugout. It all began with the trade of the rising star shortstop, JJ Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez. Gomez potential success led to the trading of Escobar AND Cain to the Royals for Greinke who was traded to the Angels for Segura. Question: who is a better center fielder, Gomez or Cain? Who is a better shortstop, Hardy, Escobar or Segura? And, who is a better manager, Yost or Roenicke? Who is a better hitting coach, Sveum or Narron?

The manager is judged by winning championships. The Milwaukee Brewers has had only one manager in their history who won a championship.

The players have to be placed in a position to succeed. And if, as the above stats are any indication, they have not been placed in that position. The manager is not doing what he is expected to do. If he doesn’t have the players to accomplish winning a championship, he has to press the GM to acquire them. The GM has to press the owner to acquire them.

Now it is up to the owner to prove he is a champion. He has made his course. He kept the general manager. The general manager has kept the manager.

How can this be an improvement?

Play Ball!