I knew, admit it-you Italian sausage eating, beer drinking, opening day junkie-you too, were not all that comfortable going with a bunch of youngsters as ¾ of your Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation in 2013; something had to be done to subdue the unease. In response a fast-acting remedy has been administered, which includes signing veteran free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse to a three-year deal worth $33 million, as well as former and now current Brewer shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt. (I’m still not sure how to pronounce that last name..)
Does this move akin back to the signings we all think back to now and cringe? Guys like Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf, even Jeffrey Hammonds? Quite honestly, no. Does the third year of the Lohse deal scare the bajeebers out of me? A little, yes. But all of those guys mentioned did some good things (except Hammonds). This is a deal that didn’t have to be made by the Brewers front office right now, but one that gives them, and us, as fans, comfort behind Yovani Gallardo before and during the regular season. Surely, being able to pencil in a true number two starter, rather than Marco Estrada, who, yes, had a great year last year (win-loss was a little tough to swallow), and would be a good number four or five in any starting rotation in the majors, has got to bring comfort to all in Brewer Nation.
Besides Estrada, everyone else now gets to move down a spot in the rotation, making it look a lot more appealing to the eyes than before:
The Eyes of the GM
If we take a look at this thing from the prospective of a GM who just happens to sport the greatest ‘stache in any front office in sports: the Brewers own: Doug Melvin we’ll see that, as of a few weeks ago, he spoke in candor about any potential in signing a guy like Lohse. In this, he stated the Brewers just aren’t the kind of team molded by the league to be able to get a player commanding the kind of money, length of contract and most of all, overall risk that a guy at 34 years of age like Kyle Lohse commands.
Weeks later, here we are. What to make of the change of heart? Perhaps it was Mark Attanasio taking over, stepping in and plainly saying, “I don’t like what I’m seeing from these young guys in Spring, we need some depth and insurance in the rotation.” And will Lohse give them that? Sure. He’s no Cy Young, but he’s affordable at $11 million per year and has pitched well over the last six seasons for the Cardinals, including a stellar 16-3 record last season.
Months from now, we’ll either be praising Mark for stepping in or demanding answers for why more wasn’t done. Well, maybe. But you can’t fault the move. This move wasn’t done for the wrong reasons; and certainly, readers, if your memory serves you correctly, think back to the Nyger Morgan signing a couple of years back, right before the start of the regular season. Morgan hopped on the Brewers bandwagon and became a fan-favorite, hard-nosed playing spark plug capable of solid defense, timely hits, and best of all, signature appearances from five alter-egos after games. He helped ignite some kind of fire under the team at the beginning of the season, to bring together a clubhouse that was already pretty tight, but with the addition of Morgan, could relax, play their game, and have a bunch of fun while doing it.
Young guns and expectations
I have the utmost confidence that young guys like Fiers, Peralta and even Rogers, can somehow contribute to the Brewers success this season. The problem is that we, as fans, saw what those fella’s were capable of at the end of last year; to help a team surge into contention for the playoffs and push the fan base into expectation of the same this year. Which, don’t get me wrong, is what you want as a franchise, to contend every single year.
So perhaps that is not a problem, but an issue. We see this happen as fans, and then automatically expect almost the same results in return. It’s an unrealistic approach to a sport that lasts more than six months; we want Mike Fiers to pitch like he did in the first half of the season last year; that’s a hope, and it’s not unrealistic, just, a hope.
But some fans can latch onto expectation too easily, and too quickly. Some of these guys could be one-hit wonders, but let’s hope for this team’s success, they aren’t.
The rebuilt bullpen should be strong with key additions like Mike Gonzalez, Burke Badenhop and Tom Gorzelanny; the middle relief is in good hands. However, the back-end of the pen is a concern with minor league journeyman Jim Henderson as the setup man, and fan-favorite John Axford returning to consistently and erratically close the door.
Don’t forget the offense. With the exceptions of Corey Hart and Mat Gamel, this team is relatively healthy (knock-knock), and returns most of that formidable lineup that led the league in almost every statistical category last season. Barring some kind of ridiculous Ryan Braun legal fiasco at mid-season, Ron Roenicke should not have any issue penciling in the starting eight every day.
No way the current bullpen blows as many games as last year, right? It just won’t happen. It can’t. Last year’s Brewers pen was an enigma wrapped inside a Chinese fortune cookie pushed off into the deep, dark recesses of space; it all made no sense and it tasted like crap. No matter which button the coaching staff pressed, nothing seemed to work. No player was safe out there. And you could feel it every time a new guy headed to the mound.
It will sound simple, and it is, but this pitching staff’s success depends on the starting guys eating solid innings, and, a few brats, (mainly just Eddie Sedar) but it’ll be up to the new guys in the bullpen to pick up the pieces, if needed, and set the tone from the outset of the season. For example, if Yovani can go six strong innings and get into the seventh with a comfortable lead, it should hold with the newly mentioned players toeing the rubber this season.
But that’s on paper.
They still have to go out and play the game.