Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Homestand: 2010 Milwaukee Brewers

"The Homestand: Milwaukee" gave a behind the scenes look at Miller Park and the Milwaukee Brewers organization over a six game homestand from June 7, 2010 to June 13, 2010. The one-hour special provided a bunch of "nuggets" that provoked a number of my thoughts about the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday, June 7, 2010:
The narrator started with the understatement of the year when he described the Brewers season so far as "frustrating". Just to illustrate how frustrating the season has been, four Brewers pitchers (Chris Narveson, Manny Parra, Dave Bush, and Randy Wolf) joined the "Gave Up 10 Runs in a Game in 2010 Club" in July 2010. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to have three pitchers give up 10-plus runs over a four games span was the St. Louis Browns in July 1937...nice work Crew.

On a more positive note, you gotta love Yovani Gallardo getting in some extra work on the off day. I know it sounds crazy but if Gallardo can stay healthy, a big if since he is a pitcher, Gallardo has a chance to go down as one of the best Brewers pitchers of all-time. Plus, it's not like the Brewers have had a ton of great pitchers.

Just to drive the point home, only two pitchers have won at least 100 games in a Brewers uniform. I bet most thought those two guys are Teddy Higuera and Ben Sheets. Good guesses, but neither of them eclipsed the 100 win mark, Higuera had 94 wins and Sheets had 86 wins. The correct answer is Jim Slaton (118 wins) and Mike Caldwell (102 wins).

Besides Higuera, Sheets, Slaton, and Caldwell you have to consider Pete Vuckovich (great mustache), Juan Nieves (for one reason only...he threw the only no hitter in Brewers history), Dan Plesac (all-time Brewers saves leader with 133) and Rollie Fingers (best mustache ever) for the best pitcher ever. I would like to put C.C. Sabathia in there but that just seems too short sighted. Gallardo can easily top those guys.

Moving from all-time great Brewers pitchers to new Brewers pitchers, cut to the Brewers war room for the 2010 first year player draft. We get Bruce Seid, Brewers Director of Amateur Scouting, saying that we "gotta hit on the first ones"...value add Bruce. By the way, how can a sport have their draft in season? I understand the logistics and that players hardly ever go straight to the big leagues but it is absolutely absurd that the amateur draft happens during the season.

Former Brewer great Gorman Thomas relays the draft picks for the Brewers at the actual draft, which begs the question: who has a better mustache, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin or Gorman Thomas? Ultimately I give it to Thomas because his mustache creeps around the mouth a bit. Melvin's mustache is strong, just not quite as strong as Thomas.

As we all know, the Brewers took high school pitcher Dylan Covey in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft. Unfortunately the Brewers have had a great track record drafting high school pitchers in the first round over the last decade (Mike Jones in 2001, Mark Rogers in 2004, and Jeremy Jeffress in 2006). Come on Dylan, it's time to buck the trend.

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010:
Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says he speaks almost everyday with Doug Melvin. In the few minutes they show Attanasio and Melvin speaking, they actually look fairly comfortable together. By the way, Attanasio seems to take just the right amount of interest in the Brewers. Any more interest and Attanasio would be a meddler, any less interest and Attanasio might seem out of touch. Trust me, the Brewers are in good hands with Attanasio.

The camera just flashed by new Brewers closer John Axford. Going back to the above conversation of best mustaches in the Brewers organization, Axford has to join the debate. I still think I give the gold medal to Thomas, but Axford probably takes the silver medal away from Melvin.

The camera moves from current closer Axford to former closer Trevor Hoffman. We all know that Hoffman is a workout warrior, unfortunately he no longer produces on the field...let's just move on.

The camera next flashes to Bernie Brewer. I am not a big fan of in stadium gimmicks but Bernie's slide is impressive. As the camera picks up the game, Corey Hart hits a home run off the Chicago Cubs so Bernie takes the plunge. Besides the Sausage Race, Bernie's slide is a sight to see at Miller Park.

With the game tied 1-1, Brewers manager Ken Macha brought in Axford to pitch the 9th inning. Axford pulls a Hoffman and gives up a run so the Cubs lead 2-1 heading to the bottom of the 9th. Former Cub Casey McGehee steps to the plate with a chance to win the game.

Quick tangent, I know the Brewers and Cubs are having absolutely horrible season so far. One silver lining for Brewers fans are at least they have the right guy playing third base for them. The Brewers have McGehee instead of his Cubs counterpart Aramis Ramirez. The Brewers are only paying McGehee $427,500 this year as opposed to $15.75 million that Ramirez is scheduled to earn this year. Furthermore, McGehee is not eligible for salary arbitration until 2012, which means McGehee cannot become a free agent until 2015. On the other hand, Cubs' 3rd basemen Aramis Ramirez is owed $15.75 million in 2010, has a $14.6 million player option in 2011, and a $16 million club option ($2 million buyout) in 2012. Here is a look at the head-to-head numbers:
McGehee is hitting .273 with 13 HRs, 55 RBIs, .337 OBP, and .443 SLG.
Ramirez is hitting .226 with 15 HRs, 47 RBIs, .283 OBP, and .447 SLG.

Back to the game, the grossly underpaid McGehee brought home two runs in the bottom of the 9th to give the Brewers a win in the series opener....sweet revenge against his old team. After the game McGehee's stock rises even higher when he shows he is a nice family man as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010:
The segment picks up in the examination room where Manny Parra's leg looks like complete hell all bruised up, .may be that is why he has struggled mightily this year.

Shocker of the year, Dave Riske is in the examination room getting treatment from Roger Caplinger, the Brewers' head athletic trainer. Riske seems like a nice guy, but it can't be said enough how horrible of a signing that was by Doug Melvin.

Next we cut to Corey Hart giving an interview with chewing tobacco in his mouth...really...couldn't leave the chew out for the interview Corey? The interview starts to get humorous when Hart can't give an explanation for why he is hitting so many home runs this year. Hart confirms he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I have said all along that Hart gets by on talent, as opposed to smarts...this interviewed sealed it for me.

Next the camera cuts to the bullpen where we get to see a little of the banter between the Brewers' relief pitchers. We see John Axford talking about spitting seeds, which proves that relievers need some more productive hobbies in the bullpen.

The bullpen scene reminds me of one of my favorite Miller Park stories. I was at the game with my buddy Gaber and Fernando. Pretty ho-hum game, we got seats in right field a few rows back from the the visiting team's bullpen. For some reason we started throwing peanuts and my buddy Fernando tossed the "nut heard round the world". With one peanut, Fernando hit not one but two Angels relief pitchers...probably the most impressive toss Miller Park has ever seen. We thought we got away with it until we turned around and a women is talking to an usher pointing at us. Suffice to say, we heard the rest of the game in the parking lot on the radio courtesy of the soothing pipes of Bob Uecker. Nice toss Fernando, it was worth getting tossed for your toss.

Back to the game, shocking to see Randy Wolf give up a bunch of home runs. Wolf has almost already given up more home runs this season then he did all of last season and is on pace to give up the most home runs in a season of his entire career. Wolf is looking more and more like the left-handed Jeff Suppan.

The only real positive note to take from the loss to the Cubs is that Dave Riske threw a scoreless inning after being out 14 months. As a person, good for Riske. As a professional, Riske has gotten a ton of money for being on the disabled list. Never sign a pitcher named Riske, it's lie signing a hockey goalie named sieve.

Thursday, June 10, 2010:
A day game following a night game means the team eats breakfast at the stadium. As McGehee, Weeks, and Gomez eat they argue about whether Weeks or Gomez is faster...I say Rickie.

As Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph posts the line-up, Gomez sees he is out of the line-up again. With how inconsistent Gomez has been this season, the omission should come as no surprise.

During the rubber match against the Cubs, Hart hits another home run. Doug Melvin please add that to the trade package DVDs that you are sending to San Francisco and Tampa Bay.

With the game ted at 4-4 in the bottom of the 10th inning Gomez pinch hits for Axford. Gomez draws a walk on four straight pitches. Craig Counsell comes up to bat next. As Counsell lays down a perfect bunt, Gomez goes from first base to third base and ultimately scores on an errant throw to third to not only clinch the game but the series over the Cubs. On second thought, may be Gomez is faster than Weeks.

The final clip of the game is Axford getting the shaving cream in the face from LaTroy Hawkins. I don't really get that tradition, but like most things in baseball, old habits die hard. Speaking of old habits dying hard, despite having the technology, baseball refuses to embrace replay.

Friday, June 11, 2010:
As we come back from commercial, we get my buddy Gaber's favorite portion of the program...up close and personal with Jim Edmonds. Edmonds "took a year off from baseball" (translation: no one wanted to sign him) yet the Brewers still had a spot for him on the team. Edmonds could not be any more monotone when talking about the chemistry of the 2010 Brewers...not very convincing.

We move on to Doug Davis flying a model plane inside Miller Park. Flying the plane is supposed to keep Davis' mind off a heart condition that landed him on the disabled list...I hope it helps but I am not too sure if that is possible...seems like they are reaching for story lines at this point.

Next we cut to pitching coach Rick Peterson. For how prodigious the mustaches are within the Brewers organization, Peterson and his mullet are in a class of their own. Peterson truly takes business in the front and party in the back to a new level. The cameras show Peterson conducting a meeting about how to approach the Texas Rangers. The narrator says Peterson is always prepared, which is possible but unfortunately that has not translated to results on the field.

After leaving the meeting, the camera cuts to Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. After starting the season in Double-A, Lucroy sits atop the depth chart. It shouldn't be all that surprising since Gregg Zaun is simultaneously collecting a pay check from the Brewers and social security from the government while spending the rest of the season on the disabled list.

Finally right before the game we get up close and personal with Prince Fielder. By all account Fielder seems like a gregarious guy, but I sincerely hope he is playing for the Chicago White Sox on August 1, 2010. There is no way that Prince is playing for the Brewers past 2011 so they might as well end the speculation and swap Fielder for a couple of prospects...hopefully a starting pitcher and an infielder.

Before we get to the opener between the Brewers and the Texas Rangers, as a kid I attended Texas Ranger Nolan Ryan's 300th victory at County Stadium with my Grandpa. The reason why I bring that up is that we used Pepsi Brewer Fan Club Tickets, which were general admission tickets to County Stadium. Granted we were limited to a couple of sections, but that meant we could choose between thousands of seats. Can you imagine general admission seats in 2010?

Back to the inter-league series opener between the Brewers and Texas Rangers. The Brewers hit the cover off the ball all night with Braun, McGehee, Hart, and Fielder going deep. Former Texas Ranger Kameron Loe picked up where Chris Narveson left off to hold the Rangers scoreless over the final two innings. The Brewers went on to take the series opener 6-2 over the Rangers. It sounds crazy to say but without Loe, Braddock, and Axford (three relative unknown commodities heading into spring training) the Brewers would have an even more dismal record.

Saturday, June 12, 2010:
Total 'sconsi to have a cook out with the Brewers. Players signed autographs and mingled with the community...good stuff all around...especially with the team struggling on the field.

Heading back on the field, Brewers third base coach Brad Fischer is working on pop flies in foul territory with catchers George Kottaras and Jonothan Lucroy. Although it is important to work on pop-flies in foul territory, let's make sure Kottaras and Lucry get some practice throwing down to 2nd or 3rd because throwing out base stealers has been a huge problem for the Brewers in 2010.

In batting practice, Dave Bush and Yovanni Gallardo hit a couple home runs. We all know Gallardo hits well for a pitcher but he takes it one step further by rounding the bases after knocking one out in batting practice...gotta love Gallardo.

Shockingly, the Rangers piled on runs in the first inning against Manny Parra. In one of the only Brewer highlights from the game, Alcides Escobar made a nice defensive play to show why the Brewers traded J.J. Hardy in the offseason to make way for Escobar.

As the game wears on, the offense continued to struggle. Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum offers some advice to the hitters. Sveum is a class guy. Towards the end of the 2008 season the Brewers went from a playoff lock to sputtering. Sveum took over as manager for the fired Ned Yost with only a handful of games remaining in 2008 to right the ship (with a ton of help from C.C. Sabathia) and guide the Brewers to their first postseason birth in 26 years. For some reason Dog Melvin passed on Sveum and hired Ken Macha instead. I give Sveum credit for coming back and going about his job without complaining, it has to be hard to take a back seat after sitting behind the wheel.

We pick the game up in the bottom of the 9th with the Brewers trailing 4-1. Rickie Weeks drove in a run to make it 4-2. Hart scored another run on a fielder's choice. That brought up Fielder with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, with a runner on 3rd. Unfortunately, Fielder popped out to left field to give the Rangers a 4-3 victory over the Brewers. Melvin, make sure NOT to include that highlight of Prince on the DVD you send to the White Sox.

Sunday, June 13, 2010:
Heading into a Sunday matinee between the Brewers and Ranges, the Brewers are 3-2 on the home stand with the Brewers/Rangers series tied 1-1. The best part of it all, it was Family Day at the park. It was great to see all the player's kids walking around the field with the players smiling. The highlight was Prince showing he is a much better father then his estranged dad Cecil.

Gallardo took the bump for the Brewers on a hot streak, 1.76 ERA over his last six starts. Fielder hit a home run to the left fielder power alley but the Rangers' Josh Hamilton countered with a home run of his own to the right field power alley.

If this game was played in County Stadium, neither Fielder's nor Hamilton's hits would have left the park. These two home runs are exactly what former Brewers great Robin Yount was talking about when Yount was asked about what he disliked about Miller Park. The only complaint Robin Yount had of Miller Park was the power alleys. At County Stadium, the power alleys were much deeper than they are at Miller Park.

The turning point in the game came when Gallardo gave up a hit to the pitcher that drove in two runs to ultimately give the Rangers a victory.

"The Homestand: Milwaukee" showed the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers going 3-3 at Miller Park over a seven day span. The specific homestand covered lacked on field drama so the "The Homestand: Milwaukee" focused on the Brewers organization, which made every person associated with the Brewers seem more human. From Brewers owner Mark Attanasio all the way down to third base coach Brad Fischer and everyone in between, "The Homestand: Milwaukee" painted everyone in a much more positive light than the NFL's counterpart "Hard Knocks" usually does. The production value was pretty good and an all around enjoyable hour of television.

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