January 2009

A little Spring, mid-January

The Brewers On Deck event was this past Saturday, and while I was not one of the crazies that waited outside the Midwest Airlines Center for 5 hours to get one of 250 coveted passes for Ryan Braun’s autograph, I did manage to still have a really good time and meet a lot of the players. However, getting there 2 hours after the event started did mean that I pretty much missed Braun altogether. Boo.

The whole event was pretty kid-friendly, as I suspected it would be, but, as I unknowingly attended a Festivus party later that night, I must air some grievances.

1. If your child is too big for a stroller, please don’t burden the rest of us by bringing it along anyways. When your day is spent winding through stanchions with hundreds of other people, it’s obnoxious to have wheels constanty slamming into your heels.

2. If your child is too young to appreciate or stay awake for an event like this, it’s probably best to find yourself a babysitter. No one, probably not even you, parent, likes to hear the sound of a cranky child that wants nothing more than to go to sleep.

3. While I love the sight of an infant in a teeny tiny Hardy tshirt, when I’ve been waiting in line for 20 minutes to meet the man himself, the baby loses all cuteness when you try to get him/her to smile and look at a camera and take far longer than your photo-op turn allows.

Now, there was plenty of stuff there for the older kids to do and I was glad to see them playing and laughing and having a good time. Honestly, I’m sure that’s more what the whole thing was about. Not the crazy adults with their backpacks full of crap to try and get as many autographs as humanly possible. I’m glad the event was as successful as it was and that the Brewers were able to promote all levels of the organization while raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

I’m also glad that I got to get some cool pics along the way. (I’m no autograph hound.)

Me, Mark DiFelice, Mol

Tim Dillard. He was pretty excited to hear we have the exact same birthday.

Only like, my favorite sausage.

Oh my god. I touched JJ Hardy.

Villanueva was soooo nice. Awe.

 

This is Mark Rogers. He’s a hottie. He makes Top 10 and I only just heard of him yesterday. YUM.

Mike Rivera had very few people waiting for autographs or pictures. My friends and I obliged and he, just like Carlos, was a crazy nice guy.

Top 10 Hottie Manny Parra signing autographs. The girls and I were too exhausted to wait for his photo session, so I had to settle for this. Still, not bad.

All in all, it was a really good day. I got a little taste of the baseball season, so I should be good for awhile now. Mol, Nik and I headed to Fanatics afterwards and we were discussing all the things we’re looking forward to at Miller Park this year: Jonathan and Pina Coladas, free Club Level seats, Friday’s Raspberry Long Islands, Ryan Braun’s game-winning ways, Drunk Lot tailgate parties. But most of all, I think just being with friends and having a great time watching a great (and extremely good-looking!) team. Oh yeah, and Hell’s Bells. Cannot wait for that!

You want me to pay how much for Corey Hart’s autograph??

A couple weeks from now is the Brewers On Deck event, which is a chance for fans to gather mid-winter and start to think about the impending warm weather that comes along with the start of the baseball season. I know, I know. It’s hard for us Milwaukeeans to think that we’ll ever feel temperatures above zero again, but trust me. It will happen.

Alright. There’s more to it than weather. There’s the Q & A with Brewers staff, the press conference officially announcing the addition of closer Trevor Hoffman, the hopefulness of all the teeny-bopper girls hoping that Ryan Braun will see them and fall madly in love. well, actually, quite frankly, the whole thing sounds pretty kid-friendly. Mini baseball clinics, fake broadcasting, an entire “Kids Area,” whatever that might be. All for the low, low price of $15 per adult, $9 per child. Not too bad.

Until you add in the prices for autographs. Sure, Ryan Braun and Trevor Hoffman might be worth $25. But, if the Brewers continue Friday Night Autograph sessions at Miller Park this year, guess what? They’re free. Ryan’s autograph was free when I saw him at a signing last summer and it was free at a dozen other places last season, too. What really gets me, though, is what do the players think when their autograph is only worth $10? Or free, like the minor leaguers that will be in attendance?

Based on the players attending, and that, clearly, the most popular is worth $25, here’s what I would pay accordingly, working my way down from there:

$25- Ryan Braun (Duh.), Bob Uecker 

$16.50- Manny Parra, JJ Hardy

$12.25- Dave Bush (I’d pay more, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be sporting a beard.)

$9- Yovani Gallardo, Tony Gwynn Jr.

$6.75- Trevor Hoffman (Hey, I don’t know what this guy’s gonna do for the team just yet.

                                 He’s 41 years old, for crying out loud.)

$5- Vinny Rottino (He’s listed ‘free’ but have you seen this guy catch the first pitch? Also,

                           he’s really hot.)

Between $1-$4.99- Carlos Villanueva, Mat Gamel, Mike Cameron, Tim Dillard (he has my

                            exact same birthday)

$0- Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Jeff Suppan and everyone else on the list. I mean, let’s face it,

      according to the autograph pay scale, if you’re a minor leaguer, you just don’t matter.

See how asinine it seems when I do it? Obviously, I’m just trying to make a point that you shouldn’t put a price on popularity, or how big one’s contract might be or anything else like that. And I really shouldn’t be so hard on the Brewers. The money is going to charity. But seriously, if there are only going to be 250 opportunities for each player, regardless of how much you have to pay, then don’t pay anything at all. Do you really think that Brad Nelson, Mitch Stetter and Angel Salome will feel any different when there are still 126 vouchers left for them and poor Ryan Braun’s got carpal tunnel? Probably not.

I’m more than happy to pay the entrance fee, and I’m sure if I want to eat or drink anything during this day-long event I’m going to have to pay for that, too. I just don’t think it’s fair to have to pay for a tiny piece of memorabilia on top of it all.

 

You’re gonna love it here, Mr. Hoffman

The Brewers may finally be getting on track for Spring with the addition of Trevor Hoffman as closer.

The all-time saves leader, with 554, will allow the Brewers to shake up the bullpen and prepare, most likely, Seth McClung for the fifth starting spot. The Brewers have been relatively quiet up until yesterday, but when they do make moves, they make them big.

Hoffman agreed to a one-year, $6 million contract, with up to $1.5 mil in incentives by the end of the season. He said that Milwaukee seemed to be a much better fit than Los Angeles and also liked that the Brewers were more aggressive in getting him signed, adding that the Dodgers were looking elsewhere for options, while Milwaukee was pretty focused solely on him.

Ok, ok. So McClung isn’t what the Brewers had in mind for a closer. I just hope that coming out of Spring Training with a starter’s mentality, being able to hone his pitches and perfect his craft, McClung will work in the fifth spot of the rotation. Like I’ve said before, Milwaukee’s rotation is only good, not great. Adding a more experienced starter would’ve been a better option, but the more than experienced closer will probably help just as much. Plus, being able to better groom the bullpen for set-up situations will add a lot for the team.

The best thing about adding Trevor Hoffman to the roster is that he’s happy about it. He’s looking forward to playing in Milwaukee and that’s always a good sign. I never much looked forward to Gag-me, ahem, Gagne, coming in in the 9th last season but I think my tune will be very different for Hoffman.

And, just because I’m soo happy about it, I have to brag about having my Opening Day tickets locked up already. Ordinarily my fave bar, Leff’s Lucky Town, would host an Opening Day tailgate party. Unfortunately, due to the massive success of the Brewers last season, the organization isn’t offering group tickets this year. Boo. (But check out their party for Saturday April 11th. I will be bartending. It should be just as awesome.) But I got my tickets and I’m just so excited for the season to get underway! Why is it only January?

 

Trevor Hoffman: to be or not to be?

Is it too soon to make a Clubhouse nameplate for Trevor Hoffman? Maybe. But the Brewers hot stove hasn’t had much cooking lately and I think I have a right to be hopeful.

If Hoffman passed on $4 million for one more year in San Diego, it’s pretty clear that it might not take much more than that to get him. And it seems Milwaukee and Los Angeles are the only contenders. Both teams have offers on the table for more than the initial $4 mil, and it’s reported that Hoffman will have made his decision by end of day tomorrow. While Trevor Hoffman is a West Coast native, both the Brewers and Dodgers were playoff teams last season and that seems to be a factor for a lot of players out there. Will whatever LA offers be enough to keep Hoffman in California or will a small market, yet big time team like the Brewers draw him away? I suppose we’ll see within the next 24 hours.

I would like to see Hoffman play in Milwaukee, even though everyone knows I’m a big pusher for Seth McClung to have a chance to take on the closer’s role. However, I’m not an idiot. I know that a young team like the Brewers can’t rely solely on manufacturing their own talent and that it’s really important to have veteran guys in big roles. Closing is one of those roles. McClung doesn’t have nearly the experience as Hoffman and if Milwaukee wants to be a playoff contender again in ’09, they need guys like Trevor Hoffman on the roster. I mean, what have the Brewers got to lose by signing him? They spent $10 million on Eric Gagne last season and look what an aaaaaawesome closer he turned out to be!

But also on the front of closers, the Brewers have been looking at the recently rehabbed Chad Cordero. Cordero, who’s only 26, underwent surgery in early July to repair a torn labrum. That’s not exactly an easy thing to turn around from, but the Nationals hope that if he’s still with them come Spring, he’ll be on the roster for Opening Day. Personally, I would stay away. He did rack up 127 saves in his first 4 seasons with Washington, but he didn’t pitch in ’08 and seems to be rehabbing awfully quickly for such a major surgery. But again, I have no say.

By tomorrow the Brewers should know whether or not Trevor Hoffman will need an official introduction in Milwaukee or Los Angeles and whether or not to keep looking at Cordero. Or, maybe, just maybe, start to consider Seth McClung for closer? Maybe?

 

I want a pitcher not a bel–eh, I want a pitcher

With pitchers and catchers set to report to Spring Training in 39 days, who’s going to be in Phoenix, I wonder? The Brewers have yet to make any earth-shattering deals regarding the pitching staff, and with at least one hole in the starting rotation and a wide-open closer’s spot, hopefully Doug Melvin and co. will find some guys that fit soon.

Yovani Gallardo is on everyone’s radar for the 2009 season. Getting a mid-season call-up in 2007 and missing nearly all of ’08, the kid doesn’t have a whole lot of big league experience. But what he does have has proved to be great. Coming into this season healthy will hopefully mean Gallardo is on top of his game and will stay there for the duration of ’09. Having him back is a tremendous help for the Crew.

Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan are both slotted for the rotation, and while it’s great to have veteran pitchers, both were just so-so last season. Bush pitches well at Miller Park, but was put in a platoon with Seth McClung in ’08 so he wouldn’t have to pitch on the road–not really a good thing. Bush did, however, prove himself with his post-season appearance, but all in all went only 9-10. Suppan has not impressed me in his past 2 seasons with the Brewers. He went 10-10 in 2008, 12-12 in ’07. I suppose .500 is good, but paired with the rest of the starting rotation, it’s not good enough. Towards the end of last season, Suppan seemed to have just fallen apart. I know guys have bad days, but coming out after 2 innings in an 11-2 loss to the Reds with less than 2 weeks left to play? Talk about your bad days.

Manny Parra is the 4th guy with his spot seemingly locked in the starting rotation. A 10-8 record isn’t bad, but Parra also spent some time in the bullpen in 2008. I do love me some Manny. I’m not upset about the choice to start him in ’09. I just think that, right now, the rotation seems a little bit weak.

That brings me to Seth McClung. With the Brewers eyeing a closer, McClung seems to be their choice for the 5th starting spot. I really just disagree with him being a starter. If you look at his performances in relief situations from last season, he was absolutely outstanding. He had a couple noteworthy starts, but nothing compared to his stint as a reliever. Case in point: September 26, 2008. McClung replaced Jeff Suppan early in the 6th with a 1-1 tie. He held the Cubs at 1 for the remainder of the game. And came up with some stellar offense, as well. Now, I know management isn’t looking at just 1 or 2 games and basing a decision on that, but it’s got to count for something. In my opinion, McClung just seems to fit better as a reliever.

That being said, the bullpen seems pretty well stocked with youngsters like Tim Dillard, Mitch Stetter and Carlos Villanueva, not to mention the vets like David Riske, Todd Coffey and Mark DiFelice. And the Brewers recently added 2 lefty relievers in Jorge Julio and RJ Swindle.

With Spring Training inching closer and closer, I really just think that Milwaukee should focus on acquiring a quality starter and work on making McClung their 9th inning guy. Once Spring Training gets underway, if he’s not working out, Julio came from a closer’s role in Baltimore. If another starter is inked, McClung definitely works in long relief, so I’m sure a secure spot in the bullpen would be just fine for him.

And completely unrelated, I caught this article on mlb.com about a freshman girl in Indiana being allowed to try out for the boys baseball team. While I do agree that girls should be given just as much opportunity to play sports as boys, I somewhat disagree with the basis on which she’s allowed to try out. According to the Indiana H.S. Athletic Association, because the school has a girls softball team, girls are prohibited from trying out for baseball, claiming the sports are comparable. Of course they’re not comparable. A softball field is smaller, the ball is bigger, etc, etc. Personally, I would find it much harder to hit a fast-pitch softball than a baseball, but whatever. That’s not why I disagree. If you think about where baseball goes, from Little League all the way up to the Bigs, what could this potentially do to the sport? If she proves herself and makes the team, what would happen when she goes to college? Now, I’m not saying she would want to continue on in college ball, but if that’s the case, just because a high school athletic association allowed her to play doesn’t mean the NCAA will. I don’t know, whatever. It just struck a chord with me. Let’s just say I’m not looking forward to opening day of the WMLB

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