A few funny things have happened on the way to June.
While the Brewers have been slogging through a seesaw month of May (two and six in their first eight, five and one in the next six, one and five in the six after that, five and two in the most recent seven games entering play on May 31st), they’ve tinkered and toyed with some things that we simply wouldn’t see — because we haven’t — in recent history.
First, the Brewers posted their May 24th lineup and it featured a major change. After a day off to rest his tweaked oblique, rightfielder Ryan Braun was back in the lineup but he was hitting second. It’s a move that sabermetricians would love as there is plenty of statistical evidence that the second spot in the lineup is the most efficient and productive spot for your “best” hitter. Braun and his offensive brethren would falter in that game from a run production standpoint as they would only score once despite 11 hits. (It was Braun that scored the run, for what it’s worth.) But this would not be a one day trial that manager Ron Roenicke would abandon due to lackluster results in the columns of R or W.
Roenicke explained his thoughts after the game, more or less, and confirmed that this was the plan for a while. Truth be told, it started in phases even though that might not have been by design. Season-long leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez needed a day off two days earlier on May 22. It was that day that Roenicke moved Jean Segura up to lead off for Milwaukee. Segura responded by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored in a loss to Atlanta. When Gomez returend on May 23, Roenicke left Segura at the top and inserted the powerful Gomez in the cleanup position. That was seen as a reaction to Braun being out and moving Jonathan Lucroy up to Braun’s customary third spot. It was seen as a blip and scarcely even mentioned let alone thought deeply about. Then Braun returned on May 24 and Segura, Lucroy and Gomez held their positions as Braun slid in at number two.
The offense has been on a tear since that 22nd of May, tying a franchise record with at least 10 hits in 10 straight games. All this has happened without Aramis Ramirez, and it’s almost June 1, which we collectively know as Aramis Ramirez Day. If he comes back (scheduled for Wednesday in Minnesota and likely DHing) and doesn’t take long to warm up, the offense could really make a splash early in the second third of the season.
But there is more going on than just a significant lineup change.
On that same May 24 in Miami, the Brewers outrighted Jeff Bianchi to Triple-A Nashville after he cleared waivers. Bianchi, who is out of options, has been outrighted off of a 40-man roster before in his career and therefore had the right to refuse this assignment thereby electing free agency. He eventually decided to stay, but the point here is that there was more going on than simply swapping one utility infielder for another (they called up Irving Falu, but you know that).
The Brewers of the recent past would not risk losing an asset, even one grossly underperforming as was Bianchi, by outrighting them. This is a front office displaying more of a sense of urgency than even they themselves did this off-season by signing Matt Garza and bolstering a rotation that many assumed they’d just fill in house with five readily identified arms.
That they were willing to shake up their lineup, one that had been struggling to score runs shortly beforehand, and outright Bianchi at all speaks to the team’s desire to sustain their position atop the National League Central. They are not going to stand idly by, subscribing to the Ned Yost School of Thought that once infamously and dismissively reminded worriers that his Brewers were “still in first place”.
No. These Brewers, while still in first place, were seeing a once large lead begin diminshing as perennial division rivals the St. Louis Cardinals began to find their stride a bit while the Brewers scuffled. Their lead was down to 1.5 games as recently as May 27. Milwaukee is certainly striding right at the moment as they’ve won their last three with St. Louis losing its last three and the division lead entering play on the last day of May was back up to 4.0 full games.
Complacency and status quo are not seemingly in the toolbox of the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers. Kudos to them for yet another day alone in first place (where they’ve been since April 9) but more so they deserve accolades and attention for not just thinking that was good enough.
What’s more? They aren’t necessarily done.
They could consider changes in their first base platoon, including dumping the defensively solid but weak-sticked Lyle Overbay. They could juggle their bullpen pieces a bit which they’ll have to do when Tom Gorzelanny is ready but there’s certainly room for more if they desire. They could certainly continue to tweak their bench and bring in a more powerful option their the currently versatile yet light-hitting duo of Falu and Elian Herrera. And if someone doesn’t perform in that rotation or if they need to use a piece to get a piece elsewhere, they could make the decision to go with Jimmy Nelson at some point.
The bottom line is that if they decide to stand pat this season it won’t be due to a lack of want to change nor will it be due to any apprehension thereof. This is a front office that not only sees the benefits in making moves, but certainly won’t be lured in by making a change for the sake of change.
It’s a different feeling than we’re used to as fans over recent history, but it’s certainly a welcome one.
The Milwaukee Brewers today announced specifics of an Opening Day Ticket Opportunity that will allow fans the chance to purchase tickets to Opening Day and weekend games at Miller Park prior to the sale of individual tickets.
Beginning tomorrow, January 21 at 9 a.m. and continuing through Monday, February 17, fans can go to Brewers.com and register for the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets to Opening Day on Monday, March 31 against the Atlanta Braves. Due to limited availability, the Opening Day Ticket Opportunity includes single seats, standing room only and some obstructed view seats. In addition, fans can register for a maximum of eight tickets to each of the weekend games (Friday-Sunday) at Miller Park.
Following registration, a pool of randomly selected winners will be chosen and provided access to an online pre-sale opportunity, based on available inventory. The winners will be notified on Friday, February 21.
There is no charge to register. This will be the only opportunity for fans to purchase single game tickets for Opening Day, other than a very small number set aside for fans lining up at the Box Office on the first day of individual game sales at Miller Park. Single game ticket sales will go on sale at a later date (exact date TBD).
Meanwhile, there are still options available for fans to guarantee their place at Miller Park for Opening Day and other popular games with 10-Packs starting as low as $180. Each 10-Pack includes 10 Brewers home games, plus a bonus of Opening Day or any other game of the fan’s choice absolutely FREE. Fans interested in purchasing 10-Packs are encouraged to call 414-902-HITS (4487) or visit Brewers.com for more information.
Please note: A very limited amount of individual tickets will be available for Opening Day.
The 2013 edition of Baseball’s Winter Meetings, at least as they pertain to the Brewers which is why you’re reading, got underway with a flurry of news and notes but no signings.
Here’s your Day 1 recap:
The day began with word that Corey Hart’s agent would be meeting with the Brewers contingent later in the day, and that the Brewers were making a resolution with Hart a “priority.”
Adam McCalvy then chimed in that the Brewers touched base with the Mets about their available first basemen as well, phrasing the communications with the Mets and with Hart’s agent as “groundwork.”
Bad news then came down the pipeline late afternoon. It was confirmed that Brewers LHP Tom Gorzelanny had undergone shoulder surgery. It was considered relatively minor (in the grand scheme of things) with the expectation that Gorzelanny would be pitching again by mid-March. Gorzelanny’s shoulder cost him the end of his 2013 season and further proved, in my opinion, that he shouldn’t have been put back into the rotation last year.
Brewers brass then confirmed that they had met with Hart’s agent and that the two sides had agreed to touch base again during the Winter Meetings. It was suggested that the Brewers would get a chance to react to other offers Hart receives.
I speculated leading up to the Winter Meetings when the Brewers were tied to a handful of other first baseman options at least as a backup plan to if not leverage against Hart. To that end, Hank Schulman (who covers the San Francisco Giants) tweeted that Milwaukee had checked in with San Fran about the availability of 1B Brett Pill.
But, despite all of that, the Brewers aren’t only in Orlando looking to settle one position. General manager Doug Melvin has also made no secret about his desire to add a reliever with “closing experience” to field manager Ron Roenicke’s bullpen. To that, Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweeted that the Brewers had talked to Carlos Marmol. Nothing imminent, but still
Amongst all of the rest of the newsworthy items was the Logan Morrison situation. That’s the one where the Marlins have said that they’ll be trading him soon but multiple teams denied being close to acquiring him. For what it’s worth, the Brewers have been connected there as a “it makes sense” destination by a handful of scribes.
And finally, my personal contribution to the rumor mill last night about where that “groundwork” may have the Brewers positioned come Tuesday morning, can be read right here: Hot Stove: Pushing The Issue
So there you have it. Day 1 of the 2013 Winter Meetings in a nutshell.
(*Apologies for the lateness of this. I got my rumor last night and only ended up with time to write up the one post. I’ll add in tweets later to fill out this recap, but the info is at least all here.)
Ryan Braun made himself available to media today at a Hunger Task Force charity event outside Miller Park. He was asked a flurry of pointed and direct questions, nary a softball among them.
Hear his comments for yourself right here:
I’ll be transcribing the dialogue later today if you prefer to read.
Holiday 4-Packs Return Just in Time for the Holidays; Plans Start at Just $72
With the holidays approaching, the Milwaukee Brewers Holiday 4-Packs will go on sale this Friday, November 15 at 10 a.m. CT.
Fans will be able to choose from five appealing 4-Pack options, including a new Fan’s Choice Plan. If holiday shoppers order by Thursday, December 19, their 4-Packs will be delivered in time for Christmas in special holiday carriers, ready for giving.
Brewers Holiday 4-Packs include many of the most anticipated games of the 2014 season. Three of the five plans – the Matinee Plan, the Rivals Plan and the Weekend Plan – include one All-Fan Giveaway Date, while the Double Bobble Plan includes two All-Fan Giveaway Dates. The Fan’s Choice Plan allows fans to select four games of their choice from an assortment of 34 games.
In addition, the Brewers are offering a free Bernie Brewer ornament gift-with-purchase to fans with every pair of 4-Packs they buy.
Holiday 4-Packs range in price from $72 – $168 and are available in the Field Outfield Box, Loge Infield Box, Club Outfield Box, Terrace Box, Loge Bleachers and Terrace Reserved seat locations. All tickets are subject to availability while supplies last. Pricing is as follows and includes one ticket to four games:
Location: 4-Pack Prices:
Field Outfield Box $168
Loge Infield Box $160
Club Outfield Box $160
Terrace Box $96
Loge Bleachers $92
Terrace Reserved $72
Standard shipping and handling fees apply. Advance parking packages are also available. To make a purchase, visit Brewers.com/4packs or call (414) 902-HITS (4487). For information on all other ticket plans, call (414) 902-4090.
So much for making this a running series of posts, but life got in the way a lot during August and I just couldn’t find the time for this aspect of things. That being said, I first had this notion for the series back when Jonathan Lucroy walked off against Aroldis Chapman and the Reds back on August 16th at Miller Park.
Away we go.
As I mentioned here back on August 1st, the end of a season like this brings out many naysayers and exposes a multitude of casual fans who can’t wait until the Packers (or whichever NFL team is their favorite) begin to training camp and pre-season. But there are certainly things to continue to watch baseball for in August and September of a “lost” season (at least “lost” as far as the playoffs are concerned). On August 1st I spoke of September callups of which the Brewers tapped top prospect Jimmy Nelson. Nelson is getting his feet wet and experiencing what goes into being a Major League player from the travel schedule to the daily routine and more.
Today though I wanted to talk about what happened on August 16th and what happened again last night:
On August 16th the Brewers were down to their last turn at the plate when the unexpected happened. Jonathan Lucroy stepped to the plate with a man on, trailing by a run, against a pitcher to which point in his career he was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts against. Lucroy worked a seven-pitch at-bat, fouling off five consecutive fastballs averging 98 MPH. Then, on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Chapman hung a slider. And, as the saying goes, you hang ’em, we bang ’em. Lucroy sent Chapman and the Reds walking off the field in defeat.
Miller Park erupted and the Brewers celebrated an unexpected victory, because if Lucroy doesn’t come through in that situation, there’s hardly a guarantee that Aramis Ramirez (career 0-for-3, 3 K, 1 BB) or Sean Halton (career 0-for-1, 1 K) would have. In fact, Lucroy has faced Chapman once since that day and again struck out.
These games exist and they are an absolute delight to attend and to be paying attention to. After all, cheering our collective heads off is what being a fan is all about.
That brings us specifically to the game almost exactly one month later on September 15th. The Brewers trailed 5-1 going into the 8th inning, having been stymied all day by the pitcher who they are historically terrible against. Look up some of the career numbers of Brewers hitters against Bronson Arroyo and you’ll be floored if you didn’t already realize how poor they are.
Anyway, the Brewers are looking set up for consecutive losses to the Reds, a team which Milwaukee just took a series from on the road. But then the magic of baseball took over and the Brewers pulled out an unexpected victory. Norichika Aoki entered the game as a pinch hitter and walked. Khris Davis pinch-hit for Scooter Gennett and was hit by a pitch. Jean Segura tripled to the right-centerfield gap, scoring both Aoki and Davis. Lucroy followed that up with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field, and the game was tied.
In the 9th, Jim Henderson struck out two of the first three batters he faced, walking Shin-Soo Choo in between. He stole second and Ron Roenicke elected to put Joey Votto on base, putting the force in play. Noted Brewers killer Jay Bruce stepped in and hammered a ball that was headed over the wall for a heart-crushing three-run home run. But then Carlos Gomez did what he had done four other times this season and lept at the wall to catch the ball and keep the runs off of the scoreboard.
That gave the offense a chance and a chance is all Sean Halton has ever wanted. Halton swung at a 1-0 change up and the Brewers were walk-off winners again!
That’s the beauty of baseball, fellow fans. I know the term “any given Sunday” exists for good reason in the National Football League, but there are 162 “Sundays” in a Major League Baseball season. Any one of them has a chance to end up in an unexpected victory, snatched from the jaws of defeat.
This season of Sundays has but 13 games left after tonight. That’s 14 more chances to witness something unexpected.
I’ll be watching.
The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that admission for Brewers On Deck, presented by Time Warner Cable, will be free of charge for all attendees in 2014. Set to take place on Sunday, January 26, 2014 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Wisconsin Center, Brewers On Deck is the winter fan festival that bridges the gap between the Wisconsin winter and Spring Training.
“As another way to say ‘thank you’ to our fans for their incredible support this year, we wanted to do something very special as we head into the 2014 campaign,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. “We are committed to delivering the best fan experience possible, both at Miller Park and in our off-site events, and we expect that free admission to Brewers On Deck will be very popular.”
Today’s announcement is part of a series of fan appreciation initiatives unveiled by the Brewers during the final two months of the season under an umbrella program known as “Fans First.” Last month, the team provided $10 vouchers for free concessions, merchandise and game tickets at Miller Park to all fans during the month of August.
The free admission is applicable to the 2014 Brewers On Deck event only. Typically, admission ranges from $9 to $20.
Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family. Autographs and photos from Brewers players and coaches, interactive games in the Kids Area, Q&A sessions and game shows with Brewers players, coaches and broadcasters, vendor booths with baseball memorabilia, the Brewers Community Foundation Treasure Hunt and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.
Details on autograph sessions and tickets will be announced at a later date.
There have been some momentous happenings on July 9th in baseball history. Satchel Paige made his sorely delayed debut in Major League Baseball in 1948, as an example.
There was also a less-than-glorious moment for HONKBAL’s own Randall Simon as his Pittsburgh Pirates were preparing to bat one inning at Miller Park in 2003.
My buddy Chris Jaffe has a feature on the event that spawned a catchphrase and launched a t-shirt (updated with commemorative anniversary logo!)
Click here for Chris’s column: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/blog_article/10th-anniversary-randall-simon-versus-milwaukees-sausage-race/
You can buy the updated t-shirt pictured above from the gang at Brew City here.
Or get the original here.
Catching up on a couple of news items from yesterday in advance of tonight’s game in Pittsburgh.
Perhaps his musical counterpart of the same name would never do it, but the Brewers Corey Hart was forced to surrender the rest of the season. While furiously rehabbing his surgically-repaired right knee, Hart’s left knee began swelling and giving him problems during and after workouts. It finally became bad enough that he sought a second opinion from renowned surgeon Dr. Neal El Attrache.
Surgery was the recommended option and Hart will undergo such soon. It’s the same surgery that he needed on his right knee so the obviously Hart has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Hopefully everything goes cleanly for him after this.
The biggest question for Hart now is where his career goes from here. While he should be healthy before spring training next year the fact is that he’s a free agent after this one. And with multiple knee surgeries (both in terms of surgeries and knees), the 31-year-old veteran faces an uncertain future at a time when he should be preparing to cash in on a free agent contract.
The Brewers could extend a qualifying offer to him in an attempt to get draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere, but the risk there is that if he accepts and the knee injuries limit his effectiveness in 2014, then they’d be paying him somewhere north of $13.5 million to sit. That’s probably not a risk that they can take unless Hart can prove himself 100% healthy before the deadline to decide this off-season.
Gindl Optioned, Thornburg Returns
This feels like deja vu all over again.
The last time the Brewers started a long stretch of consecutive games, the team dealt with a number of short starts out of its rotation members at the beginning of the run. The bullpen was worked hard and an extra arm was brought up to help alleviate some of the strain. It’s happened again and Caleb Gindl was the victim of the numbers game this time. He hit okay while he was here, tallying both his first hit and first RBI in his first turn in the Major Leagues, but his defense in an unfamiliar left field was shaky. With Carlos Gomez back after his scary wall collision just a few days ago, Logan Schafer can shift back to starting every day in left with the usual starters of Gomez and Norichika Aoki in center and right. The back up outfielder on the roster though is one who has only played it extensively this season for the first time in Sean Halton. They’d never put him in center and would prefer to keep him out of right. In fact, Ron Roenicke specifically mentioned that with how big the Pittsburgh left field is, he’d question putting Halton in there defensively at all in this series. Hopefully it doesn’t come to a spot where Roenicke’s hand is forced in any direction.
Returning as that extra bullpen arm is Tyler Thornburg who has seen time up with the parent club already this year after making his MLB debut last season. Thornburg had been struggling in the Nashville rotation but pitched very well in relief with Milwaukee during his previous stay. The Brewers will be looking for Thornburg to provide them length after both Tom Gorzelanny and Burke Badenhop went multiple innings in relief of Johnny Hellweg’s short outing in his debut on Friday night.