Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Brief Note on my Favorite Brewer...

...Vincent Antonio Rottino signed a contract with the Brewers today, as was briefly outlined at the end of a Tom Haudricourt blog post. Not surprisingly, the signing places him on the team's 40-man Spring Training roster.

Rottino was the final player sent to Nashville prior to the 2007 season. Able to effectively play every non-pitching position, he will again contend for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

To date, the Racine, WI native has logged five Major League hits in 23 career at bats. Prior to being called up from Triple-A Nashville last September, he was a Pacific Coast League All-Star.

Tapping Talent in the Virgin Islands

Brewers scouts attended the Scout Day in the Virgin Islands that was covered in a story a week or two ago that we linked to. The recap is here: Young talents get chance to shine for MLB scouts. It sounds like there is some legitimate talent there, but that the players are probably several years away still.

Former Brewers' second base prospect Callix Crabbe, a rule 5 draft pick by the San Diego Padres earlier this season, is from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

I'm no draft expert, but speculation on BrewerFan.net is that Virgin Islands players are draft eligible like Puerto Rican prospects because the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are U.S. territories.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trenni Kusnierek Interview

A Milwaukee-area native and lifelong Brewer fan, Trenni Kusnierek is coming back to her old stompin' grounds this season after stints with FSN-Pittsburgh, the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network. FSN's newest Brewer broadcast team member talked about living with her parents, what it's like to be a female sportscaster, why she isn't Bob Brainerd and what she hopes will be an exciting 2008 season for the Brew Crew.

Listen to the interview here:

Well, first off, congrats on the job. Are you excited about it?

Yeah, I’m really excited about it. I mean I grew up, not only a huge baseball fan, but a huge Brewers fan so this is a great job for me. It’s really nice to come back home close to my family and friends and covering a team I have a real genuine interest in that I have followed pretty much my entire life. It’s nice to come home and have the opportunity, plus the broadcasting team I get to work with is phenomenal. Brian and Bill and Craig and Davey are really top notch guys that make you feel right at home. I’m very, very excited. I just wish it was baseball season because then it would be warm and not one degree.

You touched on the broadcast team briefly, Craig Coshun, Davey Nelson, Brian Anderson, Bill Schroeder. How do you think you’ll fit in to that team?

I think it should be a very easy transition. This was a position that they had been trying to add for a while. For whatever reason, it just didn’t pan out. It didn’t work out. They didn’t find someone who they thought could fill the position. I don’t really know the back story on it. I think it’ll be good. I think it will take a load of off Davey and Craig especially. I’m sure you know this from last season, Craig had it tough. You know, Craig would have to do all the interviews, all the pre-game stuff and then run over and be on set with Davey. And then post-game, quick get an interview and then run and go help Davey. And Davey would have to host things. And, you know, Davey is a coach, Davey is an analyst. Davey is not a host. So, I think this will make it easier, number one, and get a little more dimension into the broadcast.

And what will you add to the team?

That’s a great question. I think I’ll add a little different perspective, you know, more of a reporter’s kind of perspective. And I’ll have the ability, I think, because I’ll be with the team a lot, to be a little more interactive with the players and give people a little better look at the players as not just people but what they’re doing kind of on the field and how they get to where they are, how they get to be successful. I know one thing we really want to do is we want to focus on baseball Xs and Os. I’m not going to be running around interviewing mascots and fans in the stands, but instead we hope to really kind of show how the Brewers approach different teams and how they prepare for games and if they’re not hitting well, what adjustments do they make? Why do they make them? How do they make them? I’m going to kind of be the liaison between the players and the audiences, asking the questions you probably want to know at home and then hopefully getting an answer.

Looking at your career, did you ever think you’d come back to work in Milwaukee?

You know, it’s funny you ask that. When I left, I never thought I’d come back. I had left with the intention of “I worked here once before” and kind of had assumed my tenure was over. I don’t know what it really was, I kind of hit a plateau professionally in Pittsburgh and probably about, I don’t know, the beginning of the baseball season last year started to put the wheels in motion to move, but I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. So, I actually quit and I came home in November and kind of took some time to really evaluate what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I probably could have held out. My agents were in talks with people in Boston and Philadelphia and San Francisco. I probably could have held out and gone to a bigger market, but when push came to shove, when I thought about covering sports, I wanted to cover a team I was really passionate about because it just makes it more fun. Otherwise it’s just kind of a job. That’s what made me decide to stay here. I wanted to be back kind of close to friends and family, but I also knew if I was going to continue to do sports full time, I really wanted to do it with a team and around a team that I would get just as psyched up about wins and losses as the fans.

A lot of professionals in sports broadcasting or reporting say that they’re not really fans of the team. It’s a job. But it sounds like you don’t view it that way?

Um, I think you have to in a sense. You have to put the fan part of it aside a little bit. It’s going to become a little different. I’m not going to lie. If you’ve got plans to go out on a Saturday night and the game goes into extra innings, trust me, you don’t care who wins, you just want somebody to win. It’s Saturday night and you’re like “Man, I had dinner plans. This game should have been done by now.” or “This was supposed to be an afternoon game and now we’re in the 15th inning.” It definitely changes a little bit. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. Plus, you get a view of players and managers and the people around the game that other people don’t see and you stop looking at them like superstars. You know, they’re just J.J. Hardy or it’s just Corey Hart. It’s like if you work in an office, they’re any other co-worker. So, that changes a little bit, but I think if you completely lose that love of the game and that sense of being a fan, then I don’t think you should be in the business anymore because I think that sports people still really truly enjoy sports. I would go to a Brewers game on an off day even when I was in Pittsburgh covering the Pirates. I mean, I wasn’t a huge Pirates fan, but if it was my off day and it was a beautiful summer afternoon and I didn’t work, I would still go to a baseball game because I like baseball and I like sports. I think if you get to the point where you’re like “Ugh, I could not even think about being near the ballpark if I didn’t have to work,” then I think maybe you want to sit back and reevaluate, “Gosh, maybe this isn’t what I should be doing anymore.” But at the same time, obviously, it is a little different. At the end of the game, if Ryan Braun makes an error at third which allows the winning run to score and then he’s up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and he swings and misses, you have to go ask him about it. So, it is a little different.

You’ve had a successful career in sports reporting, starting at CBS-58, moving on to FSN-Pittsburgh and you did some work with the Big Ten Network and NFL Network, do you think it was harder to break into sports reporting as a woman and is any part of your job more challenging because of your gender?

Um, I wouldn’t say it was harder to break into the business. I would actually say it was easier to break into it because, I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret, a lot of TV stations are looking specifically for a female. If they’ve got a whole bunch of men on staff, they may say “You know, we really need a woman to add to the broadcast.” I think where the difficulty can come in is not breaking into it, but maintaining professionalism in it and having people take you seriously. I think if you ask any female in the business, they’ll tell you the same thing. I am judged far differently on my performance than my male counterparts. If I make a mistake in a game, mispronounce someone’s name or stumble or something, which is just human nature, you’re going to do it, you know it’s “Oh, my god, she’s an idiot. She got her job because she’s blonde. She’s this. She’s that. She doesn’t even know sports.” When really, you know, maybe I was sick with a cold. Maybe I had a late night the night before. Maybe, I don’t have kids, but maybe my kid was up screaming and yelling and I didn’t get much sleep the night before, you know, if you’re Jessie Garcia. I think that’s the hardest thing to overcome. People never completely, I don’t know if trust is the right word, but never completely believe you. There’s always skepticism. “Why is she in the business?” “Why did she do this?” “What is her real motive?” That’s the hardest thing about being a female in the business.

Like you really have to prove yourself before…

Oh, absolutely, you have a 920 number so I’m guessing you live up near the Green Bay area, but Jen Lada on Fox 6 and I talk about this all the time. She’s a little bit younger than me. We went to college together. She’s always asking me advice. You know, “It frustrates me so much. Tim makes a mistake and it doesn’t matter. When I make a mistake I get 50 e-mails about it.” And I’m like, “You know what? You just have to ignore it because you’re going to make mistakes. And if you try to hard to not make mistakes, you’re going to end up making more mistakes.” I just laugh them off now. I think Bonnie Bernstein always does a really good job of laughing off mistakes. A lot of times I’ll see her stumble or mispronounce something and she’ll say, “Ah, long night. I can’t talk today.” That’s really how you kind of have to approach it because it’s really better to admit you made a mistake than cover it up or pretend that you didn’t.

Growing up in the Milwaukee area, did you get to a lot of Brewers games when you were younger?

Oh yeah, I mean, I went to a ton of games as a kid. I should ask my dad, I think he just came upstairs, but, I think… I’ve been living at my parents house (laugh) since I came back, but I’m finally moving out next month. I think my parents took me to my first game when I was a real little baby, maybe like three or four months, but the first games I really remember going to are probably when I was six or seven or eight, kind of in grade school. I remember going to a lot of games. You sound like you’re probably too young to remember this, but they used to have these things at the ballpark at County Stadium called Kool-Aid Kids Sundays and like Oscar Meyer Sundays. And, like, if you drank a whole bunch of Kool-Aid, you could bring your Kool-Aid packets and get free tickets so we used to go all the time. My dad like would literally pack up the station wagon with kids from the neighborhood and we’d go sit way up and go to games. I was there for Robin’s 3000th hit. I was at the last game at County Stadium. I was at the first ever inter-league game. The first ever National League game. The first game at Miller Park. So, yeah, I’ve seen a whole lot of Brewer baseball and I’m ready for them to go back to the postseason because I was five and I barely remember when they went last time.

Yeah, I was a newborn so I don’t remember that too much either.

Yeah, I know, that’s actually my first baseball memory. I can remember like little bits and pieces of the 1982 season. I don’t remember games or specifics, but I remember my parents going to the game and I remember being at my grandparents’ house and watching it on TV. My parents took us down. They had a big party on Water Street or like a big parade. I don’t even know what the parade was for, but I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders and seeing guys in cars, but I was 5 or 5½ of you really want to be technical about it. It’s like those things that you just… kind of like flash memories from a kid, but I don’t actually remember it so I’m really excited, you know, if they go back that I could experience it again. It looks like a lot of fun from what my parents tell me. My parents tell me it was an absolute blast. They went to a bunch of the games actually.

Did you have a favorite player back then?

Oh, back in the ’80s?

Yeah.

Obviously everyone loved Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, but for whatever reason, I loved Rollie Fingers. Loved Rollie Fingers. It must have been the moustache or something or he kind of looks like my dad and that’s why I liked him so much. But, yeah, I was a big Rollie Fingers fan.

Do you have a favorite player on the current team?

That is one of the things I guess I’ll say changes in time. I don’t know them. Now, because you work in the business, when you “pick favorite players,” a lot of times, you pick them based on how you interact with them, almost like a, you know, favorite co-worker or something. I guess I don’t really have a “favorite player” and I’d hate if it leaked out to them that I did because I might take some crap at spring training. But I do like that they’re a young team. I love the way that they play. I mean, coming from Pittsburgh, I will tell you, this team, they’re a great clubhouse team. There’s just something different about them. You can tell that they like each other. And I think that will go a long way on the field.

And if you had to make a prediction, do you think that they’re going to make the postseason this year?

I think they have all the tools to make the postseason if Ben Sheets stays healthy. I hate to put that much pressure on one player, but obviously everyone of them saw how different the Brewers were when Ben Sheets was healthy as opposed to when Ben Sheets was not healthy. I just think they’re a more confident team when he’s on the mound. It seems odd to say that one player makes the whole rotation better, but he really makes the entire rotation better because it puts guys in more comfortable positions and Ben Sheets is really comfortable taking the whole team on his shoulders and being the guy. And when he’s not in the rotation, it’s almost like they don’t have that stopgap guy, the guy that they know every time he steps out on the mound that even if he doesn’t get a win, he’s going to give you a really good outing. They don’t really have a true number one other than Ben, although maybe Yovani Gallardo in time will turn out to be that. I think he’s really important to the rotation and their success. Plus, he’s got experience, he’s been around, I think guys just really like him on the team. The one weakness? Not having a true proven closer, I mean, unless Gagne comes up. It’ll be interesting to see if these young guys who went through this last year, probably for the first times in their careers, they were at the center of the universe, to see how they respond to that this year. I think that if Ben is healthy and if their offensive production stays at the very least the same as it was last year, I think… And you know a lot of people don’t really like the Bill Hall to third base and Ryan Braun into leftfield move, but I think that really does help them defensively. And if Billy plays well and their defense is a little better, that automatically makes their pitching better. And if their starting pitching is better, then the arms they put in the bullpen don’t have to work so hard and then the bullpen is better. If all the stars align… On paper, they are definitely a team that could make a run at the playoffs I think and make a run at the NL Central. Plus, other than Houston, I’m not real sure that a lot of teams made a lot of moves in the division. You know, even Chicago with the Japanese player whose name I can’t pronounce, I mean, they didn’t do a ton. It’s not like somebody in the division picked up Johan Santana. I think it’s a similar division to last year.

“Brewer Fever” reached a pretty big high here last year, especially in the early months when the team got off to that hot start. What do you think the atmosphere would be like here if the Brewers actually did make the playoffs?

Oh, Insane. Insane. My parents, who as you can tell by the stories I’m telling, my parents are huge, huge Brewers fans. And my dad throws this huge tailgate every year. Last year, I brought friends in from Pittsburgh with me. They came home and came to Miller Park with me. They were like raving. They came back to Pittsburgh raving about Brewers fans, raving about Miller Park, raving about the atmosphere. It was so much fun. I think that was part of the reason it was easy for me to take this job. I came home and saw how much fun baseball is here. I think it would be insanity. I think people would actually, if they made the playoffs, the Packers might actually be slightly irrelevant in October for the first time in like 25 years.

This Packers’ offseason I think was the first time in forever that sportscasts weren’t leading off with training camp updates and stuff like that.

Yeah, I think it was actually pretty cool. My brother and I… I have a younger brother and a younger sister, and I took my younger brother to a Packers game. We went to the Packers/Oakland game. It was me and my brother and a couple of his friends from college and we were like sitting and talking and the next thing you knew, it was the day I think the day they got Gagne, and all of us were talking about Gagne and whether or not it was a good move. One of my brother’s friends stopped and was like “Dude, it’s December and we’re at Lambeau Field. Why are we talking about the Brewers?” And I was like, “No, this is so cool because, for how many years, we’ve never talked about the Brewers in December and we’re talking about them right now at a Packers game.” You know, switching back, the Packers, I think that’s a really good indicator of how exciting and how into the Brewers this city is and this state could be. I think people across the state are even more into them now, which I think is awesome.

Can you give Brewers fans any insights or inside info on FSN-Wisconsin’s Brewer coverage for this season?

Actually, my official starting date, I actually start at the end of February, but to the best of my knowledge, I believe all of our home games, and if not, almost all of our home games, will be in high definition, which is awesome. And, I think FSN alone is carrying 132 Brewer games and with our deal with WMLW, I believe we’ll have 150 of the 162 games on TV this year and that doesn’t include national broadcasts. That’s amazing. And, don’t completely quote me on this, but I think that the numbers last year, you know the whole Nielson Ratings and stuff, I want to say the Brewers were like the top three highest rated baseball games last year, which is awesome because this is kind of considered a mid-size market and for so long people didn’t care about the Brewers. There should be a lot of really good coverage this year. We’re going to do more on the pre-game show, post-game show and we’ll even have more player interviews I think and more things, so don’t turn off the TV after the game. I’ll have the ability, you know, unlike Craig having to sprint to death. I’m going to be just getting a ton of post-game sound and interviews and stuff like that in the clubhouse. It should be good. It should be a fun season.

Alright, is there anything else you’d like to add at all?

I don’t think so. I’m so new I haven’t even gone to spring training yet. All I’ve done is the Winter Warm-Up. So, I’ll get a chance to know them a little bit. I think Brewer fans will have a good time this year.

Labels:

In the News...

- MSNBC's Tony DeMarco says the Brewers will be the NL's suprise team - He says Milwaukee "could have the game's most-lethal 3-4 combination" and "a formidable rotation." "The Rockies showed late last season what can happen when a nucleus of young players comes of age," he wrote. "It just might the Brewers' turn this season."

- BrewersNation Jonathan Lucroy Interview - Sounds like a nice guy. Hopefully we'll see him up in Milwaukee at some point.

- Josh Kalk of the Hardball Times has a piece on his favorite player, Prince Fielder - It's a pretty nice personal article about Prince.

- Brewers GM happy with bullpen overhaul - Melvin says, "We are expecting to go to the postseason."

- Brewers could be trade partner for Blue Jays? - Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star says the Blue Jays could "unload Jason Frasor to a National League team like the Phillies or Brewers." I'm pretty sure this is just pure speculation and that Frasor wouldn't really fit into the Brewers' plans, but who knows?

Fan Favorite Likely to Call it Quits

In a sad chapter of this Brewers offseason, an article on Tom Haudricourt's blog confirms what many Brewer fans have dreaded. Milwaukee fan favorite and all-around class act Jeff Cirillo met with Brewers GM Doug Melvin regarding a potentially vacant roster spot. Melvin reportedly told Cirillo there was no spot for him on the 2008 roster.

Cirillo, 38, said he'd only leave his family in the Seattle area to play for the Brewers. Without that option, it looks as if retirement is soon to follow.

I hate to see 'Rillo's career end like this, when he's undoubtedly a better fit than certain players on the roster both on the field and in the clubhouse. It's sad to know that his career will probably end in such a regretable way, as he signed with the Twins in 2007 and was later traded to the Diamondbacks. I know I wasn't alone in hoping the Crew brought him in for one last season.

One ray of light that exists in this sour ending; Cirillo said he'd be receptive to one day return to the Brewers dugout as a coach.

On behalf of all Brewer fans, thanks for everything Jeff. Until we meet again, you'll be missed.

Philly GM at the Helms: Another Slow News Day Speculation

Paul Hagen of Philadelphia Daily News expands on his article yesterday, regarding Phillies GM Pat Gillick's apparent desire to move either Wes Helms or Greg Dobbs following the signing of third baseman Pedro Feliz. It now looks to be Helms who may be sent packing. The article even goes as far to name teams either already interested in Helms or teams he'd be a good fit for. The teams mentioned are: Marlins, Rays, Twins, Giants, A's. If Joe Crede is indeed shipped to the Giants, I could see the White Sox bringing Helms in at a backup and pinch hitting role.

It's debatable to what extent the name Wes Helms belongs on this Web site. I feel I'm nearing my quota, but he's a player I've personally never stopped following (based mostly on disdain for) after he left Milwaukee. He did lead the Brewers in homeruns not to long ago with a respectable 23. An added bonus, he sort of resembles a flabby Val Kilmer, as you can see in the included picture of... a flabby Val Kilmer. But hey, maybe that's just my take.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sales Tax Not Ready to Retire

The economic downturn has effected the amount of sales-tax revenue the Miller Park stadium district has generated, according to Don Walker of the Journal-Sentinel. The stadium tax may go past 2014 says Mike Duckett, the executive director of the stadium district.

This is something that will upset a lot of people because it is a tax, but, in the end, that small amount of tax will have very, very little real effect on anyone. And the return is a beautiful ballpark that brings in money and is a point of pride for the whole state.

Revisiting the Sexson Trade (Santana Edition)

The seemingly amazing coup the Mets pulled off might be a reverse of the trade the Brewers made in 2003 with Richie Sexson. Personally, I feel that the Twins could have gotten much better than what they did get. Then again, who knows? Deolis Guerra might be the second coming of Luis Aparicio or something. Did anyone know who Santana was when the Marlins traded him for Jared Camp? While it's far too early to speculate the total ramifications of the Santana deal, it's a perfect time to sit back, enjoy, and see exactly what the Brewers have gotten from trading Richie "Anti-Clutch" Sexson.

Brewers trade Sexson, Shane Nance, and Noochie Varner for Junior Spivey, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, Chad Moeller, Chris Capuano, and Jorge de la Rosa.

The Diamondbacks can claim the following:

  1. Sexson was on the team for one year, played in 23 games and had 90 at bats, and hit .233.
  2. Shane Nance had a 5.84 ERA in 12.3 innings of work and hasn't seen the majors since.
  3. Noochie Varner has played decent AA ball for both the Reds and the Astros after one year of being in the D-Backs system.
Interesting Note: Each player was part of the organization for 1 year

The Brewers can claim the following:
  1. Junior Spivey did a good job keeping second base warm for Rickie Weeks and was an upgrade over Eric Young (who the Brewers lost to the Giants anyway).
  2. Junior Spivey was then traded for Tomo Ohka who was a respectable number 4 starter. Ohka was denied arbitration after 1.5 years with the team.
  3. Craig Counsell kept the shortstop position warm for JJ Hardy, then was resigned to the Dbacks for 2 years and is now back with the Brewers
  4. Lyle Overbay had two excellent years for the Brewers, also allowing Prince Fielder not to be rushed through the system. He was known for hitting doubles and having an OOOOO Chant.
  5. After two great years with the team, Overbay was traded for Gabe Gross, Dave Bush, and Zach Jackson. All three players are still with the team.
  6. Chad Moeller was a backstop for three years and was able to be the first Brewer since Paul Molitor to hit for the cycle. He has since become a punch line for his lack of punch, but there was a time fans were glad to have Moeller.
  7. Chris Capuano went from an unknown throw-in to an All-Star pitcher with a devilishly good move to first. While Cappy needs to battle for a spot this year, he has been a solid starter.
  8. Finally, the Brewers got Jorge de la Rosa. While he had modest success from time to time, he never reached his potential with the Brewers. The Brewers grew tired of waiting and traded him to the Royals, where he would continue to dazzle one day and frustrate the next. The Brewers received Tony Graffanino.
  9. Tony Graffanino hit .345 for the Brewers in 2006 as a much needed infielder after injuries to both JJ Hardy and Rickie Weeks hit the team. Sadly, he was not able to replicate those stats in 2007.

So as of today, the D-Backs received 3 players from that trade. None of them were really full-time players and none of them are with the team anymore.

The Brewers received 6 players from the trade and turned them into 11 total players. Of those 11, 4 are still with the team (5, if you count Counsell) and 8 could have been considered full time players at one point. I hope in my lifetime that the Brewers can pull off another trade like that.

Decibulliever in Brewer Fever: Q&A; with Decibully's Aaron Vold

A Milwaukee resident and lifelong Brewer fan, Aaron Vold drums for Polyvinyl Records’ Decibully. The band has been featured on MTV2 and FUSE and Alternative Press Magazine has said of them, “Indie rock doesn’t get any better than Decibully.” I know we RFBers have a special place in our heart for Decibully too. Aaron was gracious enough to share with us his thoughts on the upcoming season, his fondest Brewer memories of years past and… his opinion of Fall Out Boy.

How long have you been a Brewer fan?
I've been a brewer fan pretty much as long as I can remember. I'd guess my first game at County Stadium was somewhere around 1985 or 86. Back then I thought Ernie Riles was really cool.

What is your fondest Brewer memory?
There's so many, but the one that jumps out is when I was a little kid and tried to get Cecil Cooper's autograph. I said, "Hey Coop! You're my favorite! Will you please give me an autograph?!?!?" Coop gruffly replied, "After I warm up, kid." I still do not have a Cecil Cooper autograph.

Who is your all-time favorite Brewer? Why?
This is tough, but it'd have to be either Rob Deer or Russell Branyan. What can I say? I love the all or nothing slugger.

Who are your favorite and least favorite current Brewers? Why?
For the favorite it has to be Benny Sheets, mainly because he seems like such a huge goofball. The moustache did a great job this off season getting rid of the only brewer I had personal disdain for, Johnny Estrada, so for least favorite I'd have to say Claudio Vargas but that's mostly just because I'd hoped he too would've been traded by now.

How do you think the team will do this season in both NL Central standings and record?
I think this team has 87-90 wins and NL Central Champions written all over them.

Are any of the other members of Decibully fans? To what extent?
Andy (our bass player) is the other hardcore brewer fan in the band. The whole band went to a game together last summer and it was a blast so I'm sure we'll have another outing this year.

Is it weird for you hearing that Promise Ring song (“Emergency! Emergency!”) at Miller Park when you know and/or play in bands with people that were in the Promise Ring?
The first time I heard it, I definitely did laugh out loud and thought it was pretty cool/unexpected. The one thing that did kind of get me a little mad though was when I found out the song they play when somebody strikes out is a Fall Out Boy song. I'd done my best to avoid ever hearing a single note from that band and then I finally do hear them at Miller Park of all places?!?! That's like your girlfriend cheating on you in your own damn bed.

If you played, what song would you want to play as you stepped to the plate?
I caught for Jack Taschner (now of the SF Giants) in high school and we had this conversation once as he was getting ready to pitch in the college world series with UW-Oshkosh and he said he was gonna go with "The Final Countdown" by Europe. I always thought that was a pretty badass choice.

As a resident of Brew City, what is your tailgate beer of choice?
I don't tailgate too often because I don't like paying for parking, but a forty of any malt liquor housed in a paper bag for the walk in to the park usually does me just fine.

Who do you pull for in the sausage race?
Ever since the Randall Simon incident I must admit I've kind of lost interest in the sausage race as the most amazing of possible outcomes has already occurred.

Any predictions for breakout seasons or All-Star selections?
I think Rickie Weeks will finally be healthy enough (mentally and physically) to put together a whole season along the lines of what he did after coming back up from Triple A. As for All-Stars I'll go with Prince, Braun and Gallardo.

Anything else you'd like to say?
I’ll say the same thing I did at the end of my best man speech for my friend's wedding this fall...let's all drink to a healthy 2008 for Ben Sheets!!!

Listen to Decibully here or catch them at the Empty Bottle (Chicago) on Jan. 31.
Interview by Tyler Maas

In the News

- The Brewers have come to terms with Escobar and Iribarren - Not big news, but the Brewers reached agreements with two minor-leaguers on their 40-man roster, shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman/outfielder Hernan Iribarren.

- The Mets have reportedly traded for Santana - Since the Brewers have to compete with the Mets for the NL crown, this is not good news. It does make me feel better knowing that I own Santana in my fantasy baseball league and he will now be pitching in the NL (and not the AL East where he was rumored to be traded) though.

- More on the Estrada signing - Tyler already posted a story on Estrada, but I thought it was worth noting the catcher carousel between the Mets and the Nationals. The Mets let Lo Duca go. The Nationals signed him. The Mets traded for Estrada and then let him go. The Nationals signed him. The Nationals trade Brian Schneider to ... the Mets. Bizarre.

- Breaking down the contenders' flaws - Dayn Perry notes flaws on teams he thinks will contend. He thinks the Brewers' defense is still a weakness, the back end of the Cubs' rotation is a weakness and the Reds' rotation is a weakness.

- Desert watering hole could use more cheeseheads - A story on the large number of Wisconsin people in the Phoenix area. It references the Brewers spring training facility in Maryvale. And anyone who's familiar with Oshkosh will recognize the bar sign in the photo.

- And Greg Schmitz of the Badger Herald says Selig is getting the job done.

Walk it Out

An article by mlb.com's Bill Ladson claims that former Brewers backstop Johnny Estrada has signed a one-year, 1.25 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals. Ladson insinuates, and I agree, that Estrada will likely serve as a backup to Paul Lo Duca.

If many of you don't remember or weren't aware, the Brewers dealt Estrada to the Mets late last year in exchange for RHP Guillermo Mota. The Mets subsequently declined their club option on Estrada, rendering him a free agent. Excluding the Mets, the Nationals are the fifth team Estrada has played for in as he enters the eighth year of his career, and the fifth team in the past five years.

Estrada, a lifetime .280 hitter, has been openly criticized, most recently by Brewers GM Doug Melvin, for his lack of speed and/or hustle. Estrada claimed he played much of the 2007 season injured. A mere four seasons removed from an All-Star appearance and Silver Slugger Award with Atlanta, Estrada has evidently burned many bridges and seems low on career options. Reportedly, Pittsburgh and Washington were the only two teams who showed interest in acquiring Estrada, both in backup roles.

In other news: Philly.com reports the Phillies, who recently signed glove god Pedro Feliz, may be looking to deal either former Brewer/chubby Val Kilmer doppelganger Wes Helms or Greg Dobbs. I'm not sure how appealing either would be to buyers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fox Thinks the 2008 Brewers Will Be Winners

In a sure sign that Fox believes the Milwaukee Brewers will be in contention throughout the season this year, they've picked up four national telecasts of the team for 2008: Fox to give fans more Crew coverage. The games are:

Saturday, May 10 at 2:45 p.m. vs. St. Louis
Saturday, May 17 at 2:55 p.m. @ Boston
Saturday, Aug. 2 at 2:55 p.m. @ Atlanta
Saturday, Sept. 13 at 2:55 p.m. at Philadelphia

In other Brewer media news, Jim Powell's Talking Brewers radio program returns Feb. 2 from 3 to 5 p.m., Feb. 9 from 3-5 p.m., Feb. 16 from 4-6 p.m. and Feb. 23 from 3-5 p.m., according to Adam McCalvy's latest Mailbag. The show will be on AM 620 WTMJ.

McCalvy also said three Spring Training games will be telecast: March 14 against the Padres in Peoria, Ariz., March 16 against the Mariners at Peoria and March 24 against the Rockies at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Tea(garden) Bagging: Catching a Catcher

With Bedard looking to be Seattle bound, the M's rotation seems set and the Brewers, with their plethora of potential starters, are thus rendered poor trading partners. Long story short, don't expect Melvin to wheel and deal for catching prospect Jeff Clement. But a more likely, and arguably more preferable option is Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden.

Teagarden, 24, excelled in high A ball last season and catapulted to AA, where he also posted great numbers. Combined, he hit 27 HR, 83 RBI and to sweeten the pot managed a decent amount of walks and an above .300 average. Based on those numbers, it wouldn't make much sense for Texas to deal him - but circumstances might find him more expendable.

The duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who himself is sparsly more than a minor leaguer) and Gerald Laird is collectively blocking the plate and the TERRIBLE Rangers rotation, who finds Kevin Millwood its ace, might force the Rangers front office to outsource for a more favorable arm. I could see Vargas/Gwynn for Teagarden, or Capuano for Teagarden as possibilities. I'd prefer the former - but I think almost any move that would release some pressure on the rotation and convey an improvement to our woeful and/or roided up stable of so-called "catching prospects" is a move i'll stand behind. The Cards' Bryan Anderson and John Jaso from my beloved Devil Rays would make sense too.

All the pieces seem to be in place at the Major League level, with extra to spare. I think it's best to fill future needs while we're still sellers.

"Sounds" Like the Brewers Might Need a New AAA Team

It looks like the Brewers may be searching for a new AAA team soon: The Chatter Class: With three strikes, Gordon is out. With serious ballpark concerns and what appears to be no progress on a new stadium, this Nashville reporter believes the Brewers could part ways with the Sounds after the 2009 season. Something to keep an eye on...

2008 Draft - Big Day for Jack Z

BrewerFan.net has posted a draft preview article. The Brewers will have seven picks in the first 100 picks of the 2008 draft due to compensatory picks being added to their usual picks. Jack Zduriencik, who Baseball America's Major League Executive of the Year award earlier this offseason, has a chance to make a huge impact on the Brewers' minor-league system.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bedard Looks to Be Headed to Seattle

If reports out of Seattle are true, the Orioles left-handed ace, Erik Bedard, will be traded to the Mariners for outfield prospect Adam Jones and others within the next day or two.

This is not Brewer news, but it is related to the Brewers in that rumors were circulating that the Cubs were after Bedard and Baltimore's second baseman, Brian Roberts. If the Cubs had been able to pull off a trade for one of the best up-and-coming pitchers in baseball who had a Cy Young-caliber season last year in the offensively overloaded AL East and a speedy leadoff hitting second baseman, they would have probably been expected to run away with the NL Central.

The Cubs could still trade for Roberts, but they'd likely have to give up significant pitching talent to acquire him and that would hurt an already thin pitching staff. Without getting Bedard, the addition of Roberts and the subtraction of pitching would be a marginal improvement at best for Chicago, in my opinion, especially if Mark DeRosa, who is penciled in at second base for the Cubs, could put up offensive numbers similar to last year (although I'd bet against him matching his 2007 numbers).

The position the Cubs should be more concerned about, in my opinion, is shortstop. Ryan Theriot will not help them offensively. The rumor that the Cubs are interested in the Padres' Khalil Greene, who would likely hit significantly better outside of Petco Park, makes a lot more sense to me than the addition of Roberts. This is especially true since it seems as though the Padres are interested in outfielder Matt Murton. If the Cubs could land Greene without giving up pitching, that could be a significant upgrade to their 2008 squad.

Ben Sheets Carries Heavy Burden

FoxSports.com's Dayn Perry lists Ben Sheets among 10 players that carry heavy burdens in '08. It's a simple analysis, but I agree with him. If the Brewers are going to make noise this season, Sheets will likely have to stay healthy and be the #1 pitcher he's capable of being.

Perry also says outfielder Kosuke Fukudome has to "live up to the hype" for the Cubs' investment in the Japanese player to pay off.

Brewers Offense Improved Slightly

Baseball Musings has their 2008 Brewers offensive predictions up. They predict the team will score 4.97 runs per game, up slightly from the 4.94 runs per game the team scored last season with their best production at 5.22 runs per game and their worst at 4.52 runs per game. They used their Lineup Analysis and Marcels Predictions to come up with the numbers.

For reference, the league average for runs per game in the NL last year was 4.71. The Brewers averaged the most runs per game in the NL Central and the Reds were the only other above average offense in the division with a 4.83 runs per game average. The Cubs averaged 4.64, the Cardinals averaged 4.48, the Pirates averaged 4.47 and the Astros averaged 4.46. Watch for the rest of the NL Central predictions in the coming weeks at Baseball Musings.

A hat tip to Brewer blog In-Between Hops for pointing me to the Baseball Musings' predictions this morning.

In the News

Brewers Well-Armed
Tom Haudricourt feels about the same as I do about the battle for spots in the rotation. Sheets, Gallardo and Suppan are locks, Villanueva has a leg up on the fourth spot and Capuano is a good bet for the last spot since the Brewers expect him to bounce back and he's left-handed.

Haudricourt's Sunday piece also mentions third base prospect Mat Gamel, who had 53 errors at the hot corner in 113 Class-A games with West Virginia last year. The elite hitting prospect is getting one more shot this season at third and if he does not improve significantly, the Brewers will have to find another position for him.


The Brewers have less pitching than last year?
Sometimes I'm surprised at how little some sports columnists know and how much they pretend to know.

Chicago sports columnist Mike Nadel has this to say about the 2008 Brewers and why "even the flawed Cubs will have trouble choking away this division":
Milwaukee was a fashionable pick last season but had too little pitching to hold off an 85-win Cubs team. The Brewers again will hit, but they have even less pitching now. David Riske might be their closer . . . need I really say more? No, but I will: They’re counting on Jason Kendall to be their everyday catcher.
The Brewers starting five will all but certainly be better than last season. The team has to expect more from Sheets, Gallardo will be up a full season, Suppan is a solid #3, Villanueva, who has been very successful as a starter, should lock down a spot in the rotation for the whole season and Capuano would be among the best #5 pitchers in baseball. It seems like he might be talking more about the bullpen though, the bullpen that went through a major overhaul and added several arms (Gagne, Mota, Torres and Riske), not the "even less pitching" Nadel alludes to. Sure, they lost a reliable closer in Cordero, but most feel the bullpen as a whole will be improved in 2008 because of the depth. And Riske as the closer? He's probably the fourth or fifth option at closer with Gagne and Turnbow definitely getting shots before him and Mota and Torres likely also getting chances. If Bush is pushed to the bullpen, he could even get a shot at closing before Riske depending on how that transition works. Bush was a closer in college.

Yes, the Brewers are counting on Jason Kendall to be their regular catcher. Coincidentally, he's the catcher the Cubs relied on as their regular catcher at the end of last season when they went to the playoffs. And who is the new Cubs backstop? 25-year-old Geovany Soto, who has all of 80 major-league at bats and is all but a complete unknown as a major-league player. And Soto's back-up as he likely goes through struggles adjusting to MLB? Henry freakin' Blanco.

Need Mike Nadel say more? Please, no...


Koskie's goal: A normal life
Former Brewers third baseman Corey Koskie is still battling post-concussion syndrome related to his attempted catch on July 5, 2006. He has started light workouts again and is hoping for a comeback at some point, but it sounds like he's still many months away from taking the field. It'll probably be an uphill battle since he's not over the effects yet and is almost 35 now. I wish him the best of the luck.


Nunez willing to start season in AAA
From the DelawareOnline.com:
Brewers GM Doug Melvin said Nunez didn't receive other offers and is willing to open the season in Class AAA.
Nunez signed a minor-league contract with the Brewers, but I had not heard he had already said he'd start the year at AAA. I assumed his signing was along the lines of a tryout for the big-league club and if it didn't work out, the Brewers would let him go try to win a spot on someone else's team. I like the signing even more now because Nunez will be good insurance for injuries and won't take up a spot on the 25-man roster.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

The New Ann Carroll?

Trenni Kusnierek has joined the FSN broadcast team for Brewers games in 2008, according to Bob Wolfley of the Journal-Sentinel. Kusnierek is a Muskego native, graduated from Marquette University and used to work for WDJT-TV (Channel 58) in Milwaukee. She has recently worked for the NFL Network and for FSN covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Penguins.

Don't worry Brewer fans. She is not Ann Carroll. She was a part of the Winter Warm-Up TV special a week or two ago and seemed to be comfortable, knowledgeable and personable. She even pronounced names right! I like that they brought in a local person for the job too. It will add a little local flavor and she is said to be a "huge Brewers fan."

If you're interested, here is a YouTube video of some of her work with FSN last year covering the Pittsburgh Penguins:


She seems to have been pretty popular in Pittsburgh based on the responses to that video and the fact that she has her own MySpace fan club. There's a little more background on her HERE, HERE and HERE.

In Other News
- Suppan's restaurant has been making the news - MLB.com had an article today and the JSOnline.com Brewer blog featured a post on the business earlier this week too. It sounds like a fairly neat place, one that I'm sure I'd enjoy visiting some day and I'm pretty sure Suppan is the kind of guy that won't let it get in the way of his first priority - being a successful professional athlete. Sometimes guys start things like this and lose sight of their priorities (i.e. Nick Barnett and Club 5-6 or whatever it was called).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Small Market Team Locks Up Big Names

The Twins, whose plans Doug Melvin said he follows, have locked up two players with multi-year deals.

Former MVP Justin Morneau is reportedly getting 6 years, 80 Mil and fan favorite Mike Cuddyer (which is hilarious to hear Twins fans pronounce) for 3 years 24 million. This is a lot of money for a supposed "small market team". It is also in the news that Santana's agent might be realizing that the Twins offer might be the best one he's going to get.

This is all good to hear, because in a couple years we will want to lock up our perennial all star and fan favorite. If the Twins, from the state that voted for Jesse "The Body" Ventura, can lock up their big names, so can the Brewers!

Bush, Brewers Moving Closer to Deal

Tom Haudricourt of the Journal-Sentinel reports in the JSOnline Brewer Blog that the Brewers and pitcher Dave Bush are working on a deal that would allow the team and player to avoid arbitration hearings.

Bush and shortstop J.J. Hardy are the only two Brewers in arbitration.

If history is any indication, both players will agree to deals before their arbitration hearings next month. Doug Melvin has never had to go to an arbitration hearing with a player since he took over as GM in Milwaukee.

It's Miller's Time (to go)

It looks as if former Brewer backstop Damian Miller will be hanging it up after a long tenure as a big leaguer.

According to Rotoworld.com and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Miller, 38, is leaning toward retirement after the Brewers opted not to resign him. I've heard rumblings of him landing a backup job in Pittsburgh among other possibile destinations but it now looks as if his career will come to an end.

Though he was never flashy and didn't exactly provide a staggering solution to the Brewers perpetual weakness at the catching position, he ushered in a face of respectability to a city that previously found names like Jessie Levis, Henry Blanco, Eddie Perez and Chad Moehler its finest catchers of the new era. In 11 plus seasons Miller registered 834 hits, 87 homers and a career .261 batting average. Most notably, he won a World Series ring with the Diamondbacks in 2001, a year that turned out to be the best offensive year of his career.

"I would have loved to come back, but I understand it's a business," Miller said of the Brewer franchise, who now hands the reigns of backup duty to the triad of Eric Munson, Miker Rivera and Vinny Rottino. I think I'll best remember the Wisconsin native for his walk off homer against the Astros last season - and for not being Johnny Estrada.

May you have a happy and fulfilling retirement, Damien.

Melvin "Quick" to Rip Estrada

Doug Melvin on Johnny Estrada's speed, reportedly said last night at the Hot Stove Event in Green Bay:
"Three quarters of you here tonight are faster than Estrada."
Hilarious... Doug Melvin with a zinger. But seriously, how glad is everyone that we don't have to watch Estrada in a Brewer uniform dogging it to first base on another double-play grounder to end an inning?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Otsuka Out for 2008

Good thing the Brewers didn't make that rumored Gwynn Jr./Otsuka swap last season. Not only was he shut down for the season in early July last season, but it sounds like he's now done for the 2008 season as well:
Jon Daniels (Rangers GM) apparently shared some interesting news at a Rangers fan event yesterday, responding to a question about Akinori Otsuka's status by noting that the righthander, who turns 36 this Sunday, is headed for elbow surgery that will cost him the 2008 season. Certainly makes last month's non-tender a lot more understandable.

Jenks Getting Comfy in Philly

There are a couple articles on Jenkins settling into Philadelphia: Jenkins getting acquainted with fans and Jenkins eases loss of Rowand for Phillies. He's got some quotes about his time in Milwaukee in there:
"Being somewhere for 10 years is a long time. Not a lot of guys do it. You take a lot of pride in that. I had a wonderful time there."
and
"When you're a part of an organization for 12 1/2 years, that's a long time, you take a lot of pride in that. I have definitely closed the book on that. I just know that this is going to be a great place for me to play. It's almost like you didn't know what was on the other side of the fence."
Jenks is a class act and I wish him the best in Philadelphia. I hope he receives the welcome he deserves when he comes back to Milwaukee.


- Juwan Howard is Craig Counsell - What a bizarre guy to aspire to be...
Juwan Howard raised a few eyebrows with a surprising self description. Asked about filling in for injured teammate Brandon Bass, the veteran power forward launched into a comparison with a light-hitting, left-handed journeyman.

“I’m like a utility man,” Howard said before the Mavericks-Bobcats game Wednesday. “You know a guy by the name of Craig Counsell? He played baseball. The guy played for the Brewers, he played for the Diamondbacks, he played for the Florida Marlins. I’m Craig Counsell.

“I’m sitting around, I’m working hard in practice, just staying ready, waiting for the name to be called. You’ve got to have a utility man on any ballclub just like that. I’m Craig Counsell. That’s a guy I respect a lot.”

Howard added that Counsell is a guy who’s “under the radar” that his teammates can depend on. Howard has earned the same respect. A free agent with his pick of teams before the season started, Howard decided to return to Dallas where he played from 2001-02. Playing time has been scarce for someone who’s been a major contributor throughout his 14-year career.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

J.J. Hardy - Third Baseman?

Could J.J. Hardy eventually slide over to third base? A couple of recent reports might lead one to believe so.

In late November, Baseball America came out with their Top 10 Milwaukee Brewers Prospects. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was listed as the third best prospect behind outfielder Matt LaPorta, who was drafted last season, and left-handed starter Manny Parra, who may win a spot in the rotation this season. In the Projected 2011 line-up, Escobar is listed at shortstop with Hardy at third base.

While casual fans regard Hardy as a superior defender because he has a decent arm and makes relatively few errors, his range is concerning. He's generally regarded as one of the worst shortstops in the NL in regards to range while Escobar is regarded as a spectacular defender, which is noted in the Baseball America Top 10 Prospects article where he is listed as the Best Defensive Infielder and Best Infield Arm in the Brewers minor-league system. Escobar's offensive numbers are not nearly as impressive as his defensive tools, but he should continue to develop in AA or AAA this season and is only 21.

Earlier today, Doug Melvin appeared on the Doug Russell Show on 1250 WSSP (The show is archived HERE for anyone that is interested). The topic of Alcides Escobar came up and Doug Melvin seems to regard him very highly:
"We do have a good young shortstop, probably our top positional prospect along with Matt LaPorta, Alcides Escobar, who will be in camp this year. He's got a chance to be very good."
Later in the conversation, Melvin addressed the possibility of moving Hardy to third:
"There's always been talk that J.J. could adjust and become a third baseman. He's got great hands. He's got a pretty accurate arm.

"We've talked about J.J. Hardy as a third baseman before."
What are your thoughts on the possible move?

In the News