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February 9, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

OK, Brewer Fans...

by Keith Law

In my last Pivot column for ESPN.com, an offhand comment about the stupidity of the Brewers drew a surprisingly large number of reader e-mails, almost as many as I got about the Henry Rollins reference. One particular reader expressed the reasons for his frustration:

It seems is though year after year the Milwaukee Brewers don't get any respect whatsoever...every year it's dwell on the things they do wrong, dwell on who they overpaid, dwell on how they will finish in last place, etc., etc., year after year.... I just would really like for one of you guys to be positive for once just once. It will make my day along with many die-hard Brewer fans out there.

-RR

So this is for him and all the frustrated Brewer fans out there.

I don't know that I'd predict last place for the Brewers this year. I mean, the Pirates are going to be the team to beat in that race, what with Derek Bell on the team now. Still, it's hard for me to justify any prediction that puts the Brewers above fourth place. The Cardinals, Reds, and Astros are all better teams than the Brewers, so it'll take a lot of luck for Milwaukee to finish in the top half of the NL Central.

That said, let me try to make your day by saying a few positive things about the Brewers.

  • Raw power. The Brewers could have as many as three 40-home-run hitters this year, given some luck and good health. Richie Sexson hit 30 last year in about 600 plate appearances, but didn't have job security until he got to Milwaukee and improved his performance at the plate. Geoff Jenkins hit 34 bombs despite missing 27 games. Jeromy Burnitz hit 31 in a down year last year, but hit 38 in 1998 and is clearly capable of making a run at 40. They're not quite Harvey's Wallbangers, but they should get the fans excited with all the longballs.

  • Jeff D'Amico's comeback. It's hard to imagine that D'Amico will keep his otherworldly performance up, but if he can, he's a Cy Young candidate. The Brewers haven't won that award since 1982 (Pete Vukovich, in a questionable decision) and they haven't had anyone who could even be considered a preseason candidate for the award in even longer. The portly D'Amico's return after a two-year layoff is remarkable enough, but if he can repeat as one of the NL's top 10 pitchers, he'll give the fans plenty of reasons to cheer.

  • Lots of assists. They tend to be overrated as stats, but outfield assists are certainly exciting. Jenkins has 26 assists over the last two seasons. Burnitz has 43 in the last four years. Even the much-lamented Jeffrey Hammonds had eight last year. Combine those arms with that of Henry Blanco, whose one useful skill is nailing baserunners (he caught 39 of 67 attempted base-stealers last year), and you'll have plenty of exciting plays in the field to get the fans jazzed.

  • Ronnie Belliard. Call me a wild-eyed optimist, but I liked Belliard as a prospect and I won't give up on him yet. He was a great walk/stolen-base guy in the minors, and if he has really improved his conditioning (as rumored), he could be that kind of player for the Brewers in 2001.

  • Great fans in a new park. Milwaukee's fan base may not be large, but the fans certainly are rabid. My one experience in County Stadium was watching the Brewers get trounced by the Blue Jays, with the home team behind by at least four runs for almost the entire game. Yet the fans stuck around and cheered every Brewer hit and run as if the team might mount that eight-run comeback and win the game. All teams should be so lucky. Combine those fans with the (manufactured) charm of a new ballpark and it should be a fun year, if not a winning one, in Milwaukee.

In other words, even losing baseball teams give their fans plenty to watch and cheer. This is not the NFL, where a team can go 1-15 and count its Week 17 attendance on an abacus. Even if the Brewers go 75-87, there will be plenty of good things happening in Miller Park this year.

Keith Law is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Related Content:  Fans,  Milwaukee Brewers

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