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.
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
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
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
- 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.