[Editor note: I've known John since we were in high school. While he's quite accomplished professionally - Professor of Law at St. John's University in New York City - it's his ongoing devotion to the Milwaukee Brewers that most impresses me. I'm thrilled he's agreed to share his thoughts about the upcoming season with us. I'd recommend against getting into an argument with John, though. He was the top college debater in the country his senior year at Georgetown. - SPM]
The Brewers are back in Milwaukee to play their last preseason games at home (I’m not sure why). I have not lived there in a long time, but it’s my hometown. It’s been the Brewers home since I was eight. I appreciate Steve’s invitation to write about them. They’re still my team. We grew up together. They keep me entertained, and young.
The Brewers club that appeared out of bankruptcy court in April 1970 had been, for one season, the Seattle Pilots. Those Brewers were nearly an expansion team and they were bad. (And they knew it. A few years ago, I had a brief conversation at a minor league game with a manager, Ted Kubiak, who had been a Brewers infielder on the 1970 team. I told him that I’d grown up in Milwaukee, that the Brewers’ arrival had been the biggest event of my childhood, and that I’d had his and every Brewer’s photograph plus other team stuff on my bedroom wall. “What a tragic childhood,” he replied.)
Although it has not been tragic to be a Brewers fan, it has been, to date, short of the glory. They were (personal view) the best team in baseball from 1981 through most of 1983, but they made only the 1982 World Series and lost that in game seven. They didn’t get back to the (expanded) playoffs until 2008. They won a playoff series in 2011 but lost the NLCS. The past two seasons have been, um, complicated and disappointing.
But it is nearly April, I am a Brewers homer and, all that aside, they look to be good, maybe very good, this year.
[This post title? “Somethin’s Brewin’” has been a club marketing slogan. It’s also part of the title of a 2007 song by “Osmosis Gintronics” (guys from Milwaukee, it seems). They first recorded it in 2007 and then updated it for 2011. As far as I can find, there’s no 2014 version. There should be.]
As in past good years, this year’s Brewers look to have lots of pop and strong (at least starting) pitching.
The spark is Carlos Gomez. Leadoff man with strong stats, including power. Golden glove in CF. Last year an All-Star. Could be that for many years.
Power pervades the rest of the batting order. Aramis Ramirez (3B), Jean Segura (SS), Jonathan Lucroy (C), free agent pickup Mark Reynolds (1B), LF Khris Davis and others can hit—this team will score a lot of runs.
[A note on Segura: “Starting shortstop, Milwaukee Brewers” is special territory. Robin Yount took that job in 1974 when he was 18. He became the team’s face, its biggest star, an All-Star, twice an MVP and in 1999 a Hall of Famer. In the Brewers’ pantheon, Yount will always be “The Kid.” But Segura, only 24 and an All-Star last year, is the new kid—he is something special, and the team and its fans will happily deal with nickname confusion.]
That batting order will support a starting pitching staff that is the Brewers strongest in many years. In the offseason, they spent big and smartly to get Matt Garza. He joins Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily—as in Loman, not Coyote—Peralta. Each could win 15 games or more.
The bullpen? I’ll get back to you. Jim Henderson is a strong closer. The Brewers always have a strong closer until he blows up. Then things get ugly, and then they find another strong closer—see Dan Plesac, Trevor Hoffman, John Axford, etc. I hope that Henderson stays where he was last year, in the strong part of that cycle, and that it lasts. The rest of the bullpen isn’t bad but might not be great…
Special motivation? The Brewers have announcer Bob Uecker, now 80 and funny as ever. (His 2003 Hall of Fame induction—well, almost—speech) It is time to win for Ueck.
Fan-pleasing gimmick? The Brewers found a battered dog this spring at their Arizona training camp. They cleaned him up and named him “Hank” (after Henry Aaron, who means much more than that might indicate to Milwaukee, the Brewers, baseball and the country). Hank the dog became the team mascot and a People magazine celebrity. The other Brewers who came from Arizona to Milwaukee for the start of the season are glad that only Hank has been neutered. He’ll be a Miller Park darling.
And one more development: When the Brewers open next Monday, they’ll start a new right fielder. That’s just a new position—the player himself is not new to the team. But he didn’t play much last year. Yet, he could have a tremendous impact this season—with all of the above talent, he could be the Brewers’ key piece. That’s what management expected when it signed him to big contracts, first in 2008 for seven years and then in 2011 when it extended him through 2020 for about $150 million guaranteed. That fall, he carried the Brewers to a division title and a playoff series win. Then he flunked a drug test. I’ll focus on Ryan Braun in a next post.