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.