Ten Optimistic Things To Think About

20 05 2008

It’s been a couple rough weeks for Brewers Nation (not this site, the fans) with the double sweep in Houston and Florida, the surprising losses at home against the Dodgers, and another sweep in Boston. Trolling through the comments section on sites around the web, one would think that its time to start propping ourselves on the ledge of the US Bank Building in Milwaukee and strongly consider jumping.


As Jim wrote, it’s no fun heading into Pittsburgh looking up at the Pirates in the standings. Being what it is us Brewers’ fans need some lifting up, and I thought I’d put together a post to life the spirits of the Brewers faithful. No calling for Yost’s head or Week’s bat here. The following is ten reasons to still be optimistic about your 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.


* This is not the 2004 Brewers


Granted the Brewers are sitting in last place for the first time since 2004, but this team is certainly not those Brewers. In 2004, the only reliable pitcher on the staff was Ben Sheets and of course he got injured again. Lyle Overbay starred for the offense. These 2008 Brewers are more experienced and talented that the former squad that had a decent season through the All-Star break and then suffered a terrible collapse to finish 67-94.


Of course I could make the comparison that this Brewers squad is not one of many other terrible Brewers teams, but that’s not the point. The point is that rather than looking at the 2004 season as the beginning of something positive we should be looking at the 2008 season as a continuation of the franchise’s growth. Many expected 2008 to be the breakout season for the Brew Crew, but that may or may not be the case.


Either way, compared to four years ago, this year’s team in infinitely more talented. They will not rely on single players to carry the team. People like Jeff Suppan in the rotation and other young (and improving pitchers) will back up Sheets and while Overbay is gone, there are no solo stars on this year’s team. A Prince Fielder is not alone or a Ryan Braun is not alone or a Corey Hart is not alone. The fact that I listed three players (any could more) shows that this offense is not alone in talent like teams of old.


* Its only ¼ way through the season


I’m a teacher so there are not many students that I give up on after just one quarter of the school year. One of the best things that the Brewers have going for them that, at this point, the season is still young. After about 40 games in we are certainly not the perfect position, but certainly not in the worst position either.


Anyone that was also a fan last year knows that strong or weak starts to the season have little bearing on the end result of a season. The Cubs played absolutely wonderful post All-Star break and the Colorado Rockies played out of their minds to close the 2007 season. With almost 120 games to play and any number of combinations of risings and fallings of the various NL Central teams, this Brewers team is by no means finished. The squad has all of the tools to be competitive. The only thing needed is consistency.


* Corey Hart


Speaking of consistency I hear that Milwaukee right fielder Corey Hart is legally changing his name to Corey Consistency. Mr. Consistency has been that and more for the Brewers. If 2008 was supposed to by Rickie Weeks’ breakout season, Hart may have stolen his thunder. Currently batting nearly .300 and getting extra-base hits like they’re going out of style, Corey has been the rock in the Brew Crew’s line up of struggling hitters.


* Braun is on a tear (no sophomore slump)


If you asked me earlier in the season if I was worried that Braun was being crushed under the weight of expectations for his second Major League Season you may have gotten a “yes” out of me, but after a slow start the $45 million dollar man has shown that he will probably avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. His batting average is soaring in the three-hole of the lineup and he is making big time pitchers look like chumps. At this pace he could add a MVP trophy next to the Rookie of the Year one.


* Melvin is on the case


Which is why it’s so important that Doug Melvin nailed Braun down to that eight-year, $45 million contract. Some Brewers fans are concerned that his off-season bullpen moves are not ironing out, but no one can doubt that this GM is trying to establish long-term success while balancing short-term expectations. The Mike Cameron move showed that right now we want success, but Melvin is clearly trying to establish success alongside development with Braun the future of left and possible Hart, Gwynn (although unlikely) and LaPorta being groomed for the outfield.


Melvin is working on signing such players as JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder, and Hart to long-term deals and getting vocal people like Braun to sign first and encourage others to follow suit is the right steps to take.


* Attanasio has got the big bucks and a small ego


All of which wouldn’t be possible except for the support and checkbook of Daddy Warbucks, Mark Attanasio. Time and time again Mr. Attanasio has not only spoken of building a long-term contender, but he has put his money where his mouth is. He has even made comments that said, if need be, he would shell out some money to strengthen the rotation this year.


Attanasio bought the Milwaukee Brewers not just so he could have a play-thing, but because he saw potential in the massive amount of talent the Brewers have and its incredible fanbase. This is not a Steinbrenner owner with fingerprints all over the management decisions. Attanasio is active without being overbearing.


* The young arms will improve


Pitchers like Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra take a lot of flack because they don’t hold up quite so well the third time through the order, but often times that blurs the fact that these pitchers (along with the injured Gallardo) have great stuff. Part of being a young pitcher is that there is a massive learning curve and just like Fielder has to adjust to not being pitched inside as much these young pitchers are talented and smart enough to recognize that they must (and will) improve to become more dominant as the season goes on.


It’s easier for offenses to focus their lenses on these pitchers because they are studying one player, but our guys have to study countless batters for each game and re-work their pitch selection and delivery to go deeper into games. They will.


* Kendall is not Estrada


So it’s important that a man like Jason Kendall is behind the plate instead of Johnny Estrada. Kendall brings much more talent offensively and defensively than the embattled 2007 catcher Estrada. A hot beginning of 2008 and some great clutch hitting thus far has made Kendall’s 9-hole batting an essential part of many Brewers offensive outbursts. Offensively, Kendall is sniffing around .300 as a career hitter, walks a lot, and strikes out few and far in between. A far cry from the painful hitting of Estrada (who I swear to God only got hits with 2 out and no one on). After playing runner-up to Estrada as the worst defensive catcher in baseball last year, the 12-year veteran has pushed his caught stealing percentage is above 30 percent.


Even more important than the offense/defense numbers is that an experienced catcher that molds well with his pitching staff. This is why I worry less about our young pitchers, because Kendall knows how to call a

game and given his work ethic he will only work harder to improve these kids.



* The defense is stronger


Of course I started writing this part before the six errors in Boston, but I’ve made the point in a previous column that the defense is far and away better than it was last season. Numbers show that they are near the bottom in errors and tops in fielding percentage. Moving Braun away from the hot corner and signing Mike Cameron have been well-documented. Are they perfect? Hell no. But improvement is always a step in the right direction. The point above about Kendall is just one more area of less concern with the 2008 Brewers.


* There’s always next year


This one isn’t so much about the 2008 season (obviously, because I’m saying next year…), but Brewers’ fans need to keep everything in perspective. Expectations were and continue to be massively high for this season. Those expectations may cost someone who shall remain nameless his job and maybe even result in a few Brewers finding new homes, but most sane people realize that harnessing young talent is an on-going process. Melvin and the ownership are working on securing these young lads for the long-term, but not everything works out as quickly as the fan base expects.


Whether or not this season is a wash doesn’t mean all is lost. These are not the Florida Marlins which, in the past, have assembled one year teams and then dissembled them. Teams like the Brewers are being built for the long-term. It has been 26 years since the Brewers have sniffed the post-season so as much as it pains me each year to say it… there’s always next year if this one doesn’t work out.


By: Dan Wiersema

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4 responses

20 05 2008
Jim Breen

You are exactly right on about Mark Attanasio. The Brewers are lucky to have him as an owner, especially after going through the Bud Selig days. He is consistently committed to fielding a solid team.

I’m not so sure I agree with your sentiment that Carlos Villanueva has great stuff. His calling card has been his savvy and the way he switches speeds down in the zone. I wouldn’t necessarily compare that with Manny Parra and the great stuff that he has.

We’ll have to see though. I may or may not be addressing this issue in an upcoming article…

20 05 2008
Kyle

Mark is the #1 reason that the Brewers are a contending team, maybe he is behind the Brewer’s director of scouting, Jack Zdurienci, but his commitment is something we haven’t had in a long time and is refreshing.

The next year argument I guess applies, but if Sheets is gone, we have a below average pitching staff, even if Parra and Villy (former starter now) turn into decent starters, so this year should be an urgent one, if not this year, then we still have 2-4 years with all the young guys, but if you want to make the playoffs you need a solid pitching staff. This year without Yovani and next year without Sheets spells trouble…

Overall great points, and a month after this point last year the Cubs were further back then we are now… the problem I don’t see the Cubs slumping that bad in the summer, and I don’t see the Brewers repeating the first 40 games last year anytime soon, but you never know!

21 05 2008
Dave

I like your point about Kendall- not only is he more effective than Estrada, but also he is such a better leader for the team.

13 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News (5/20)

[…] – BrewersNation is keeping things positive. […]

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