Sunday, April 24, 2011

Some rambling about the Crew in Blue

First things first: I have been extremely busy writing for my reporting class as well as the school paper, not to mention I have completely neglected the website I write for and nothing other than baseball has been going on in Wisconsin sports (other than the Admirals) since my last post. Now that the excuses are out of the way, let me give you an assessment after the first 20 games of the Milwaukee Brewers’ season. I’ll some it up in four words: much to be desired. There are plenty of things to be grateful for, and I promise I’ll tie my negative feelings up with a positively-spun bow, but if you’re watching the same Brewers that I’ve been watching, what you’ve seen simply isn’t acceptable. I was at the game against the Astros tonight and will be pinpointing certain events that took place this evening to help support my cause.

Let me start off with the triple pickle. No, that’s not some sort of new drunken revelation a farmer made last week. First (Lucroy) and third (Yuni B) with no one out down 6-5 in the 8th. I’ll get to the batter in a little bit. The batter to be named later hits a chopper to third. Betancourt takes off on contact, despite being given the order that it was not a run-on-contact play. He gets in a pickle. Lucroy, just like he should, moves up to second base, but then heeds the idiotic wave of the arm from Yuni B and takes off for third just as Betancourt gets tagged out. Lucroy gets in a pickle. He-who-will-not-be-named takes off for second, only to see Jonnie get tagged out instantly, and then darts back for first. He narrowly avoids also getting picked off thanks to a poor throw. If you’re still following at home, what you just read was a double play strictly from horrific base running. Here’s the moral of the story other than myself regretting to not score this game…manager Ron Roenicke has made it known from day one that he wants aggressive base running. There’s a distinct difference between aggressive base running and head-shoved-up-your-a-- base running. The only player that plays on a regular basis who seems to understand this is…you guessed it…Ryan Braun. As my friend Dan pointed out (with me at the game), there really aren’t that many situations that you have to be prepared for on the bases. There are four bases. It isn’t that hard to figure out what you should do. Sure, you’re going to have to take some chances once in awhile, but you need to understand when to take said chances. It’s getting beyond frustrating to watch this team make out after out after out on the base paths. Idiotic choices coupled with awful personnel decisions have probably cost this team 2-3 games this year and last time I checked, that can come back to haunt you in the end. The world champion Green Bay Packers are an exception to this rule.

My next point begins with the man who was sent to the plate with runners at first and third and nobody out. Mr. 3-28 himself, Erik Almonte. Now listen. Almonte has put up one p--- poor at bat after another, but he shouldn’t be at this level. And he shouldn’t be given opportunities in pressure-filled situations like he was tonight, especially in a pinch-hitter role. What he did (chopper to third) at the plate could’ve been much worse, like a double play ball or a strikeout, but what the runners on the bases amplified his lousy AB. This begs the question…don’t the Brewers have anyone else they can turn to on the bench? Quite frankly, they don’t. Plush is on the DL. Rickie has a banged up hand. Damn near our entire farm system was traded away in the offseason. But isn’t there anybody out on the market, or even in our depleted minor league system? There has to be, which is why I believe that my prediction of the Brewers picking up a key bench player sometime this season will come true. Let’s all pray that it comes sooner rather than later.

Now up at the plate…Sean Green. Not literally (although it couldn’t get much worse than the bench), but once again it’s not all Green’s fault for what occurred tonight. Injuries are a big reason for the lack of depth in the Brewers’ bullpen and to be honest, I wasn’t sure of much when looking past the Ax-factor, Braddock and Loe. Tonight certainly magnified that uncertainly because despite Marcum managing the damage control on his off-night, the bullpen came in and crapped the bed. Axford was solid in a non-pressure situation, but Kintzler struggled and of course Green was exactly what his last name signifies. The point I’m getting at here is that Roenicke is still trying to figure out who he should be using in which situation and just how far he should push certain guys on particular nights. Why this still hasn’t been figured out is beyond me. He even said after the game that he considered using Ax for the 10th but knew he wouldn’t have been able to go on Sunday if he pitched another inning. HELLO! YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! NOT THE GAME THAT YOU ARE PLAYING TOMORROW WHILE TRYING TO WIN THE GAME TONIGHT! Wow. It’s like saying ‘well, I wanted to keep Michael Jordan in there but I knew he wouldn’t have as much in the tank for game 2’. Bad analogy, I know, but once we see Saito, Hawkins and Parra get back in there and start finding their grooves (Saito and Hawkins is wishful thinking…), the bullpen should once again become a non-issue just like toward the end of last year. Roenicke’s decision making on the other hand…

…I totally understand that it’s his first year at the helm…ever…but lately myself and several fellow Brewer fans have been able to call certain situations a helluva lot better than the major league manager himself. Am I missing something? Is managing a team really that difficult or is there just too much going on at one time to realize that you should walk around a guy with a 3-1 count and two men on with an open base and 2 down with a pinch-hitter on deck? Don’t even risk it. Just have the catcher stick his glove out to the side and take your chances with the next guy. Hell, you can even make a pitching change after Green walks the bases loaded. Ugh. I’m not saying that I could succeed with this team if I was the manager, but…I’m saying I could succeed with this team if I was the manager. It’s common sense. If you’re a baseball guy (or gal), you understand. Figure it out, Ron.

Alright. That was therapy for me and I’m sorry if it wasn’t so much for you, but now it’s time to turn this frown upside down. The Brewers are 10-10, 0.5 GB of the division-leading Reds/Cardinals. For as terrible as this season began (0-4) plus the games that the Crew have left on the table plus the players that Milwaukee is waiting to get back from injury (Grienke, Parra, Hart, Morgan, Saito) plus Roenicke learning how to manage a team, you have to feel pretty damn good about where this team is going to be when it’s all said and done. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have been on an absolute tear to put it lightly, the Brewers statistically have one of the best defenses (I was wrong on that one) and one of the best starting pitching staffs in the league and we are still right there at the top. We are FINE. All you people jumping off the bandwagon are still free to hop right back on if you so please because this team is going places. You can take my word for it…

…whatever that is worth.