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Tough Day to be a Brewers Fan…Lucroy, Jeffress, Smith Traded

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Some days, it’s harder than others to be a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers.

My team has never, in its forty-six year history, won the World Series. It’s won only one league championship, back in 1982 — when the team was still in the American League. It’s competed only a handful of times in the postseason, including 1981, 1982, and 1983 (banner years, truly), 2008, and 2011.

That’s been about it, for me as a Brewers fan.

So I’m used to futility. I’m used to frustration. And I’m used to the best players I’ve come to know and appreciate ending up on better teams around the league, as only a few players these days play their entire careers in Milwaukee or anywhere else.

Still, today is a worse day than many, because the Brewers have done something teams rarely do — on August 1, 2016, Milwaukee traded their starting catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, their closer, Jeremy Jeffress, and one of their best bullpen arms in Will Smith away to two different teams. Lucroy and Jeffress went to the Texas Rangers, while Smith went to the San Francisco Giants. And what did the Brewers get back? Prospects…with one exception. (And that one exception, former Giant catcher Andrew Susac, has played fewer than 100 games in the major leagues.)

Up until now, the Brewers have been better than expected. While not a world-beating team by any means, they haven’t been embarrassing, either. They’re currently five games over .500 while home at Miller Park, and their overall record is 47-56.

In fact, a few weeks ago, my father asked me, “How many more games do you think the Brewers can win?” My answer was between thirty-five and forty, as they’d been improving lately…providing Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun were not traded. (I would’ve included Jeremy Jeffress in that, but trading a closer at the deadline that’s still extremely productive is almost rarer than trading a starting catcher, so I have to admit it never crossed my mind that this would happen.)

This year has had some good surprises — pitcher Junior Guerra being one of those. So it’s obvious that David Stearns, the Brewers GM, can find talent…but so far, he doesn’t seem cognizant of the fact that fans have to have something on the field to root for.

I expected this to be a bad year, mind. I expected this to be a year where top prospect, shortstop Orlando Arcia, gained time in Triple-A, and where we’d have a shuttle going back and forth from Triple-A affiliate Colorado Springs and Milwaukee — and we have.

I did not expect this to be the year the Brewers traded away two impact players, literally minutes before the trade deadline, and then expect fans to be happy about it.

I’m sorry. I’m not into pain, so of course I’m unhappy with this move.

Do I understand it rationally? Sure.

Do I appreciate it emotionally? Oh, Hell no.

And will I watch games? Yes, but quite frankly, I won’t expect very much…especially with the new closer almost certainly to be Tyler Thornburg. (I like him, but is he closer material?) And with the new starting catcher being defensive whiz Martin Maldonado…

All I can say is this: Dammit. (In lieu of a blue streak of profanity that none of you need to hear, or see, or that I need to say.)

And, of course, I need to add this, specifically to Lucroy, Jeffress, and Smith: Good luck to all three of you. May your teams go to the playoffs, and may you enjoy excellent careers. And someday, remember the fans in Milwaukee, still waiting for our day in the sun…and that we remain in your corner.

 

Brewers Trade K-Rod for Prospect — and I’m Not Happy About It

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Folks, when I read about the Milwaukee Brewers latest trade of closing pitcher Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers for single-A prospect Javier Betancourt — the first trade under new General Manager David Stearns’ tenure — I was not happy.

Why?

Well, one of the few bright spots I had as a Brewers fan, last year, was to watch K-Rod come out to save games. He was one of the few players to remain positive despite Milwaukee’s dismal season, and he had one of his best seasons, to boot.

As Tom Haudricourt wrote at JSOnline.com (aka the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“K-Rod” had a tremendous season for the Brewers in 2015, converting 38 of 40 save opportunities with a 2.21 earned run average in 60 appearances. But the club is in the midst of a significant rebuilding program, and Stearns decided it made more sense to acquire young talent rather than keep an aging closer.

And K-Rod is still only 33 years old, plus was signed at a low price for an elite athlete, too…less than $10 million, including a 2017 contract buyout.

What did the Brewers actually get? Haudricourt has that covered, too:

Betancourt, 20, is primarily a second baseman but has seen limited action at shortstop and third base. Rated the No. 11 prospect in Detroit’s system, he played in 2015 at high Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League, batting .263 with a .304 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage, with 17 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 48 RBI.

Betancourt had 29 walks and 44 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances. He played all 116 games in the field at second base, a position manned mostly by Scooter Gennett for the Brewers over the last two years.

In other words, Betancourt is a step under Double-A ball. He’s a prospect, and somewhat unproven; he is known, apparently, as a good and solid defender, but has no power potential whatsoever.

Granted, the Brewers are full of free-swingers right now. Only Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, among the regulars, seem to know how to take a walk now and again.

That said, it’s extremely frustrating to me, as a long-time Brewers fan, that our new GM has traded one of the achingly few bright spots on the team for someone like Javier Betancourt. And, quite possibly, a player to be named later — though this trade, also according to Haudricourt, also has a player to be named later on Detroit’s side, too!

(How is it possible for Detroit to get another player, considering they’ve just garnered one of the best closers in the game in K-Rod? Your guess is as good as mine. But I digress.)

At any rate, I know the Brewers are in a major rebuilding mode. I accept that; I’ve seen it before.

What I don’t accept, as a fan, is the contention that anyone else could do as well as K-Rod on the 2016 roster. Nor that it’s not a salary-dump of some sort — despite Stearns’ assertion to the contrary. (Why Stearns would think any real fan who’s ever followed this team would believe that kind of baloney is beyond me. But again, I digress.)

Look, folks: What I want, as a fan, is for the Brewers to put an entertaining team on the field that at least tries to win every night. Having players who are happy to play in Milwaukee, despite the fact that they’re not likely to get one whiff of the playoffs for another three or four years, minimum, is a huge part of how the Brewers, as a team, can get there.

I fail to see how trading K-Rod away will promote team victories in 2016. Especially as the two most likely choices on the current roster to become closer — Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress — have zero closing experience. (Smith is a brilliant set-up man until July; after July, he’s competent or worse. And Jeffress, while I like him a lot, does not seem to be closing material, either.)

Maybe K-Rod will enjoy being in Detroit, because Detroit, on paper at least, is a better team than Milwaukee. (But as I’m also aware that K-Rod took less money last year to re-sign with Milwaukee because he liked it so much despite all the nonsense, I have to wonder about that assertion, too.)

Bottom line: The Brewers did not get nearly enough for K-Rod. And unless Javier Betancourt turns out to be the steal of the century, those folks in Detroit have to be laughing their butts off at the hicks in Milwaukee over this one.

Milwaukee Brewers 2015 Trade Aftermath: Situation…Bleak

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Folks, most of you know I’m a huge fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball club.

And most of you are aware that when good players like Carlos Gomez, Gerardo Parra, and Mike Fiers get traded for minor-league prospects, that usually indicates that the team in question (in this case, the Brewers) is undergoing a rebuilding phase.

As a fan, I don’t like seeing rebuilding phases. I know they’re necessary. But it’s frustrating all the same, because I like to see a team that competes hard and does its best every day.

Right now, the MIlwaukee Brewers cannot do that.

When you take a hitter like Carlos Gomez out of the lineup, you lose a great deal. Couple that with taking Gerardo Parra out of the lineup — Parra hitting better than he ever has, and playing solid defense at all three OF positions, and you have the recipe for a lineup with little pop and even less situational hitting.

Couple that with the earlier trade of Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates, and the hitting situation grows even more desperate.

Right now, the Brewers have only two hitters with any chance of doing well: Ryan Braun and Adam Lind. Both have had trouble with back spasms this season, and Braun has a lingering issue with his thumb that will almost certainly plague him from time to time for the remainder of his career. So these things have to be taken into account, health-wise; both players cannot play every day in the high heat and humidity, not if manager Craig Counsell expects to get a maximum return out of them.

The other hitters are not doing that well this season. Jonathan Lucroy hasn’t looked like himself all year. Khris Davis — he still strikes out too much, and he waves at pitches in the opposing batter’s box, too. So no one with any sense is going to throw Davis a fastball. And Hernan Perez?

Really?

Granted, Jean Segura has shown flashes of his old hitting style, and is playing reasonably decent defense in the field. But he’s not a guy the Brewers should be depending on for RBIs; he’s a table-setter, not a meat-and-potatoes type of guy.

Then we get to the starting pitching. And we see the void that the trade of Mike Fiers has left in the Brewers pitching staff.

Look. Taylor Jungmann has had a great ride thus far, and looks like a solid pitcher for 2016. But Kyle Lohse — much as i like the man, and much though I root for him, he looks like he’s at the end of the road. And Matt Garza’s been up and down, Jimmy Nelson is still overrated (he’s done well most of the time, but I still don’t trust that), and Wily Peralta is showing just why his 17-win season last year was such a fluke.

If the Brewers didn’t have excellent relief pitching, they’d probably be even worse off than they are. Neal Cotts has actually been good (I have to say this, as early on I said I wanted him gone). Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has been stellar, as always. Will Smith has been iffy lately — at about the same point he became iffy last year — but was very good at the start of the season. And Tyler Thornburg is back up and pitching well…Jeremy Jeffress looks solid…really, I have few complaints with the bullpen.

The Brewers are currently 44-62. They look like they probably won’t even win sixty games this year, the way they’re playing. So I understand, mentally, why GM Doug Melvin made the trades that he did.

Still. Right now, what the Brewers front office is doing is an exercise in narrative framing. They’re saying, “Hey, in a year or two, we’ll be really good. Look at all these prospects!” And trying to divert the long-time fan, who’s seen the Brewers be awful before (in my case, many times), into dreaming of the future…all while the present looks downright depressing.

The thing about prospects is this: It’s all speculative.

We knew that Carlos Gomez loved Milwaukee, would hit reasonably well, would play excellent defense most of the time, and make some baserunning mistakes while striking out a goodly percentage of the time. Because that’s who Gomez is.

But Gomez is a known commodity. Brewers fans knew exactly what we were getting in him.

Similarly, Fiers and Parra were also known commodities. I knew, as a fan, that Parra would be tenacious at the plate and have good situational-hitting skills, and I knew that Fiers would always try his hardest and be unsparing of himself in postgame commentary if he just didn’t have it.

But fortunately, Fiers mostly does have it.

Anyway, Doug Melvin took three very good players — one perhaps a superstar in Gomez — and traded them, when the Brewers are already having trouble with their offense. He got back some very solid prospects, some of which may develop into decent-to-better players (Phillips, which the Brewers received in the Houston trade, might even turn out to be a superstar himself down the line; but that day is not today).

But for now, the situation is bleak and getting worse.

What I want to see, as a fan, is for Doug Melvin to go out and get some hitters. Daniel Nava was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox last week — and Nava can hit. (Granted, he hasn’t hit well this year at all for Boston, but a change of scenery might really help him.) Plus, Nava has some speed and would play a better left field than Khris Davis, who really shouldn’t be in the field at all (why, oh why, hasn’t Davis been traded to the AL by now? He is a DH in the making; he’ll never make an outfielder.)

And the Brewers need to find other diamonds in the rough like Nava. Guys who can hit, who’ve proven they can hit, and who can do a little better than the Shane Petersons or (gasp! shudders! horrors!) the Hernan Perezes of the world.

So that’s where I’m at, as a fan. I think the aftermath of the Brewers trades of Parra, Gomez and Fiers is showing itself right now.

And if I had to bet, I’d probably say it’s very unlikely the Brewers will even win 60 games this year. Which is very, very sad.

So don’t believe the narrative hype, my friends. Know full well that the Brewers will be awful for the remainder of this year, with some flashes of solid playing by folks like K-Rod, Braun and probably Lind.

And hope that somehow, some way, we’ll get some people in the lineup who can hit, run, and field…because right now, they’re just not there.

Carlos Gomez Not Traded; Brewers Nation Shakes its Head

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Carlos Gomez remains a Brewer.

This may not seem very surprising, if you weren’t following MLB Network last night. They, among others, had reported that the Milwaukee Brewers were about to trade Carlos Gomez to the New York Mets in exchange for pitcher Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores. (Wheeler is on the disabled list with Tommy John surgery, and Flores is playing out of position at shortstop; he’s projected to be a power hitter in the major leagues, possibly at the third base position.) The deal was reported as all but done, pending physicals…

Then Sandy Alderson, GM of the Mets, said this: “The deal will not transpire.”

Huh?

After all that, there are now conflicting reports saying that the Mets did not like Carlos Gomez’s health issues of the past season. And that the Brewers didn’t like the extensive arm surgery Wheeler endured.

Whatever the truth is, the only thing this Brewers fan knows is that Gomez remains in a Brewers uniform. Which is, on balance, a good thing.

Look. I get annoyed sometimes with Gomez because of his baserunning blunders and his propensity to strike out. But he’s an outstanding outfielder, and his defense makes up for a lot.

This trade, from my perspective, made very little sense for two reasons.

First, if you trade Gomez and then trade Gerardo Parra (long rumored to be on his way out of town due to his contact being up at the end of the year), who is going to play center field?

I mean, look at who’s left on the team. You have Ryan Braun, Shane Peterson, and Khris Davis left. Braun is the fastest of them, but he’s not a center fielder and has been dealing with back spasms lately. Peterson is a decent left fielder who possibly would be better off at first base, long-term. And Davis, while he does have some speed in the outfield, cannot throw to save his life.

None of them are well-suited to playing center field. Which means the Brewers would either have to trade for someone, or they’d have to bring up the only pure center fielder in the Brewers organization: Logan Schafer.

And Schafer has had multiple opportunities to show he can hit major league pitching…and hasn’t managed to convince me or anyone else that he can.

Second, Zack Wheeler is on the DL and can’t help anyone for at least another full year. (I’m sure Brewers fans remember just how long it took Chris Capuano and Ben Sheets to recover from arm surgery; well, we’re looking at a similar time-frame for Wheeler.) Even if Wheeler comes back fully from his Tommy John procedure, he’ll have to relearn his arm mechanics and possibly have to reinvent himself as a pitcher. (Stephen Strasburg is struggling with doing just that right now, which shows that recovery from Tommy John is not as automatic as some make it out to be.)

So here’s where we stand, Brewers fans:

Carlos Gomez remains on the team, meaning Milwaukee continues to have a solid-to-better center fielder patrolling the outfield.

And both the Brewers and Mets have leaked conflicting information regarding the proposed trade, so no one’s completely sure exactly why this proposed trade was nixed.

What a mess.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 30, 2015 at 6:17 am

Yovani Gallardo Traded to Rangers for 3 Prospects

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As expected, Yovani Gallardo was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Texas Rangers around 8:30 p.m. CDT on Monday, January 19, 2015. In exchange for Gallardo, the Rangers sent twenty-one-year-old utility IF Luis Sardinas along with two pitchers — eighteen-year-old Marcos Diplan and twenty-three-year-old Corey Knebel.

Now, was this an equitable trade for a guy who’s racked up 89 wins and over 1000 strikeouts in his career over an eight-year span?

No. It wasn’t. Especially considering that the Rangers somehow got the Brewers to agree to pay $4M of Gallardo’s nearly $14M salary in 2015.

So let me get this straight. Texas gets Gallardo and $4M. And Milwaukee got a promising young utility infielder, Sardinas, who hit left-handers very well in a limited big-league sample, Knebel, who may not quite be ready for the big leagues yet (after looking at these stats, Knebel probably grades out needing another year of AAA), and a huge wild card in the young, hard-throwing Diplan, who has all of one year of professional experience under his belt in the Dominican Summer league.

How does this trade make any sense whatsoever?**

To give up someone as consistent at Gallardo has been for the Brewers for the sake of these three guys at this stage of their careers seems…well, the only word I can come up with is “risky.”

Yes, the Brewers desperately needed a platoon partner for Scooter Gennett, as Gennett cannot hit left-handers to save his life. And with Rickie Weeks gone, Gennett’s weaknesses would’ve been exposed. I also agree that the Brewers needed a major-league-ready bat who could play a more than capable infield, considering Aramis Ramirez is going to be 37 in June. Ramirez will need someone to spell him who can hit; it’s quite possible that Sardinas is that man.

So I can see why they went and got Sardinas, even though I don’t think they should’ve traded Gallardo to get him.

In the long run, this trade could work well for the Brewers. But in the short run, the only upside for Milwaukee that I see is that the Rangers will be paying $9M+ of Gallardo’s salary and that Sardinas could potentially help shore up the infield.

No matter what other noises the Brewers make, it is absolutely impossible to know right now whether Knebel could be someone to help Milwaukee fans forget about Tom Gorzelanny or Zach Duke or whether Knebel goes to Colorado Springs and stays there for the duration of 2015.

As for the “addition by subtraction” debate going on in some corners of Brewers fandom, I do not believe Jimmy Nelson is ready to become a solid, big-league starting pitcher. So getting rid of Gallardo to make a space for Nelson makes no sense, especially as Nelson has shown only two major-league ready pitches thus far (a fastball without much movement, and a hard slider) and needs a minimum of three to keep major-league hitters off-balance.

My bottom line analysis: Unless Knebel makes the big-league club and does well, this trade seems like an absolute steal for the Rangers. In Gallardo, they get a quality, durable #3 starter who likes Texas and is from there, so he should fit in well with their team. While we get one guy, Sardinas, who looks like he’s probably ready for the big show on a regular basis to play in various places around the infield, and two other guys who may or may not pan out.

———–

**Gallardo would’ve been a free agent at the end of 2015. So this trade is in effect a one-year rental for the Texas Rangers unless they can get Gallardo to sign an extension. But if the objective is to “win now,” as Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says it is, it makes zero sense to trade Gallardo unless you have someone better in the fold to take Gallardo’s job.

Jimmy Nelson is not that guy.

Hot Stove Heats Up in Milwaukee — Will Gallardo be Traded?

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Sunday was a big sports day in Wisconsin. First, the Green Bay Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in overtime in the NFC Championship Game, 27-22. And next…the Milwaukee Brewers are considering trading starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers?

Really?

Apparently it’s true. This report from Yahoo’s “Big League Stew” column explains why a trade like this might take place. Gallardo was raised in Texas, so he’s familiar with the area. Texas’s pitching coach is Mike Maddux, and as longtime readers of this blog know, Maddux was the Brewers’ pitching coach before he left for Texas several years back — which means Maddux has known Gallardo for a long time. And in addition to all of that, this particular trade seems to make sense from a financial standpoint for both sides — that is, depending on who Texas is willing to send in return.

Now, just strongly considering the merits of a trade in this instance does not commit the Brewers to actually sending Gallardo to Texas or anywhere else. But it seems logical that the Brewers might do this for several reasons:

  • There currently are six potential good starting pitchers on Milwaukee’s staff, including Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Gallardo, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, and Jimmy Nelson. (Nelson is the most unproven of these starters.) Trading Gallardo would open a spot in the rotation for Nelson.
  • Gallardo never quite became the ace the Brewers faithful were hoping for. He’s more a solid number two starter, or a really good number three, not an ace. If he’s in Texas, behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland (if the latter stays healthy), Gallardo would not have anywhere near as much pressure to deal with from the fans or from the media. (Not that the media is all that awful in Milwaukee, mind.)
  • Gallardo may wish for a fresh start, considering he got busted for a DUI last year.

Now, who might Texas want to trade to Milwaukee? Rumors are running rampant, from prospects like Joey Gallo to even potentially sending Prince Fielder back to Milwaukee (if all of the monetary stuff could somehow be worked out). Fielder is a particularly intriguing possibility because the Brewers have had a huge void at first base since he left (with the exception of Corey Hart for half a season).

And there are reasons for Fielder to want to come back to Milwaukee. He always did well here. The clubhouse’s family atmosphere also was appealing to Fielder and his sons. And the media in Milwaukee are, for the most part, far more forgiving than many other baseball markets.

That being said, most likely if Gallardo is traded, it’s going to be for several prospects and one utility infielder who can hit and play some occasional outfield (someone much like Tony Graffanino in his heyday with the Brewers). The Brewers need prospects. And they desperately need a MLB-capable utility player.

Personally, I’ll hate to see Gallardo go. I respect him, and I think he’s a quality pitcher.

But if he goes, I hope the Brewers will make the right trade — not simply trade him because he’s owed $13 million in 2015 and the Brewers don’t particularly want to pay.

So, what’ll it be, Brewers? Will we have a shake-up just in time for the Brewers On Deck event on Sunday?

Stay tuned.

Major League Baseball End-of-the-Year Wrap-up

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Folks, my health has delayed this blog significantly, but as I promised an end-of-the-year wrap-up talking about the World Series, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Carlos Gomez and his Gold Glove, and any significant trades, I figured I’d better get down to business and write one.  Because of the rather lengthy wait, I’ve even thrown in a Corey Hart update in the bargain . . . so let’s get started.

First, the World Series did not go the way I expected it to whatsoever.  I’d expected that the St. Louis Cardinals, which had been the best team in baseball over the latter two-thirds of the season, to waltz away with the Series.  But instead, the Boston Red Sox played much better than the Cardinals, even though neither team was anything close to error-free.

In fact, Boston’s pitching was better; its hitting was better; even its defense was better, which was extremely surprising as the Cardinals had been among the best defensive teams in the majors all year long.

And, of course, David Ortiz had a monster World Series, hitting .688 (no misprint) to carry the Red Sox to victory in six games.

After that shocker of a Series, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Carloz Gomez of the Brewers won a well-deserved Gold Glove for his play in center field during 2013.  Gomez was most definitely the best defensive center fielder in baseball, but it wasn’t a lead-pipe cinch that he’d win the Gold Glove as Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is also a very good center fielder and had a much better offensive year than Gomez.  Fortunately, McCutchen won the Most Valuable Player Award, a well-deserved honor, but did not win the Gold Glove due to an increased focus on defensive metrics.

Since the Gold Gloves and MVP Awards were announced, there have been two trades that caught my attention.  The first of these was the trade of Detroit Tigers first baseman (and former Brewer) Prince Fielder to Texas for the Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.  At first, I was extremely surprised at this trade because of Fielder’s offensive value to Detroit, but after reflection I thought I understood it.  Detroit needed better defense, which Kinsler will provide at second, and by trading Fielder it’s possible for the Tigers to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base.

But I really think Fielder would still be a Tiger today if not for his really awful postseason.  Fielder looked bad defensively throughout the postseason, but worse than that, he looked as if his bat speed was not there — extremely distressing when your primary value as a player is due to your offense.  Even so, he might’ve rode out all of that if not for his infamous “belly-flop slide” into third in game six of the American League Championship Series that may have cost his team the ALCS, then some ill-advised comments afterward (which I’ll get to in a bit).

Since Fielder’s been traded, it’s now common knowledge that Fielder is in the process of getting a divorce.  I don’t normally comment on player divorces, but I’m going to make an exception in Fielder’s case because he and his wife were so prominent in Milwaukee.

I don’t know when Fielder was served with divorce papers, but it’s quite possible that Fielder’s “indifferent season” (where he “only” hit .275 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs and again backed up AL MVP Miguel Cabrera nicely) was made far less meaningful to him once he found out his wife wanted out.  This seems like a very trite statement — and perhaps it is — but Fielder is very well known in Milwaukee as a family man, and he took great pride in his wife and two young sons while he was here.  So it’s very possible that getting a divorce, for him, is much more difficult than it might be with someone else . . . not that divorce is ever easy.

In addition, Fielder wanted economic stability for his family.  This was the main reason he turned down the Brewers’ offers of roughly $20 Million a season for five or six years (there were several offers, but that is the last one I remember) to go to Detroit in the first place.  (Not that Fielder didn’t have any other offers; I’m sure he did.  But he liked Milwaukee, found it a stable and safe place for his family, and enjoyed the family friendly Brewers clubhouse, and was known as someone who was interested in more than just the greenbacks.)

Finally, my guess is that Fielder’s psyche is a bit more fragile than it appeared.  He’s a big, strong, tough man, sure — and he plays a great game of baseball.  But his own father, Cecil, was not a model father — this is well-known — or a model husband.  Prince took great pride in being both, and to find out that his wife didn’t want to be married to him anymore must have been devastating.

I said all this because without that context, Fielder’s comments after the ALCS was over (he said, roughly, that he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over his performance because he still had two young sons to take care of) make no sense.  And fans excoriated him over it, because it sounded like Fielder just did not care what happened.

As Jeff Deacon of Detroit Sports Nation (part of the Yardbarker sports blog network) put it:

After going 9 for 40 with 0 HR, and 0 RBI in 12 playoff games this postseason, it’s understandable that Prince would be upset. But many believe his comments are crossing a line. We all know he’s going through a now very public divorce, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for yet another awful postseason.

It wasn’t so much what he said to the media post-game, but how he said them. To me, it was evident his head was elsewhere this season. Almost as if he didn’t care.

I’m not saying Prince should ignore his family issues and focus solely on baseball, but when you’re making $25 million a year, you have to be able to cope with them. And if you can’t, take yourself off the field because you’re hurting your name and your teammates. Many people go through tough times in their life, especially over the past few years in Detroit. Yet, we still go to work and get our jobs done. Why should Prince Fielder be any different?

There’s a lot of truth in what Deacon said, and I completely understand and agree with the frustration in Detroit over Fielder’s comments.  But Fielder made many similar types of comments in Milwaukee long before his divorce, and we didn’t get upset with him over it.

Maybe this is because Brewers fans understood Fielder  a little better, or maybe it’s just that Fielder was not going through his divorce when he was with Milwaukee.

At any rate, my view of what Fielder said is simple — as bad as it sounded, Fielder pointed out that the season was over.  He didn’t want it to be over, for sure, and he assuredly wanted to play better in the ALCS.  (No one, most of all a prideful professional baseball player, wants to look bad in the national spotlight.)  But he has to look at the big picture, which is how he takes care of his two sons from here on out and how he rebuilds his personal life after his divorce is finalized (probably sometime late next year if Mrs. Fielder filed in Michigan and my understanding of Michigan divorce law is correct — which, admittedly, it may not be).

So had Prince Fielder still been in Milwaukee and said something like this, it’s unlikely there would’ve been as much of a furor.  Instead, fans would’ve been likely to forgive him, because Brewers fans always saw Prince as one of their own and would be likely to empathize with him over his impending divorce.

Anyway, let’s get to the second trade that sparked my interest, which was of Brewers relief pitcher Burke Badenhop to Boston for low minor league pitcher Luis Ortega.  Ortega is only twenty years of age, pitched in the rookie league last year, and is in no way, shape or form an equal talent to Badenhop.

Look.  Badenhop did a fine job for the Brewers this year, appearing in 63 games, pitching 62 1/3 innings with a 2-3 record and a 3.47 ERA, but he was due to make more next year in arbitration than this year’s $1.55 million.  The Brewers have to know that Ortega may or may not develop into a major league pitcher of any sort, as Ortega is just too young and raw to make any judgments, but they may have seen something in him that caused them to make this trade (giving them the benefit of the doubt).

My view, though, is very simple: the Milwaukee Brewers are again in “salary-dump mode” if they’re willing to jettison a proven major league reliever like Badenhop for someone like Ortega.  I’m so tired of the Brewers doing things like this, especially considering Badenhop’s more than adequate year as a middle reliever — he’d only been with the team a year, did a great job keeping the Brewers in games during an exceptionally difficult season and  seemed to truly enjoy playing baseball in Milwaukee despite all the ups and downs of the 2013 Brewers season.  Which is why I’m sad to see Badenhop go.

One final thought — it looks like the Brewers are going to make a serious run at Corey Hart once Hart is medically cleared for baseball activities on December 3, 2013.  This is very good to hear.

But I’m worried, again, that the Brewers will make Hart a low-ball offer due to Hart’s stated wish to stay in Milwaukee, especially after the Brewers jettisoned Badenhop for next to nothing.  The fans need our favorites after the dreadful 2013 season, and Hart’s one of the most fan-friendly players around . . . here’s hoping the Brewers will offer Hart enough money to stay in Milwaukee, where he’s comfortable and wants to continue playing.

Brewers News: George Kottaras Designated for Assignment; Greinke Trade Rumors

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Folks, the Milwaukee Brewers have made four roster moves so far today, but the two moves that concern me right now are these: they’ve reinstated catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the disabled list, and designated for assignment catcher George Kottaras (.209 BA, 3 HR and 12 RBI) to make room for him.  (The other two moves?  The Brewers sent shortstop Jeff Bianchi, who hadn’t yet managed to get a hit in his major league tryout, back to AAA ball, and have brought up pitcher Jim Henderson from AAA, where he’d been having an outstanding year — 4-3 record, 15 saves, a 1.69 ERA in 35 outings (48 innings) with 56 strikeouts.)

Aside from that, everything else is all rumors — but the hottest rumor right now is that pitcher Zack Greinke may be going to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Elvis Andrus via the Brewer Nation blog.  Neither player would be traded alone; supposedly, a relief pitcher and a position player would go with Greinke (anyone but Corey Hart, please!), while a pitching prospect or two would come from Texas along with Andrus.  While other rumors insist that the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves are still very interested in Greinke and will do anything to cut the rest of MLB out of the mix . . . as always, I’ll keep you posted.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Brewers Update

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Today’s update is mostly about Rickie Weeks’ injury situation.  It’s been reported by both Adam McCalvy (of MLB.com) and Tom Haudricourt (of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) that Rickie Weeks has both a severely sprained left ankle and some ligament damage that will not require surgery.  The estimated time for Weeks’ return is anywhere from three to six weeks; as Weeks has been injured before — both wrists and one of his knees — he’s aware of what he needs to do to rehab, so the Brewers are hoping Weeks will only be gone about a month.

For the moment, the Brewers have re-acquired infielder Felipe Lopez, who’s played with the Brewers before.  Lopez is an iffy defender with a good bat — similar to Weeks in that way, though Weeks is a bit better in the field and works really hard at it while Lopez, to be charitable, is mostly known to be a guy who’s been a bit of a loudmouth (which is why he doesn’t stick around very long at any team he’s ever played for).  Lopez, who had been in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, batting over .300 at AAA ball, will start tonight at second base and bat fifth, which is where Weeks had been batting before the injury due to the Brewers’ woes at that batting position . . . here’s hoping Lopez can put his money where his mouth is, as the saying goes.

Otherwise, I was remiss not to mention John Axford during my last Brewers-centered post, as Axford has set a new Brewers record for 27 saves in a row (his 26th save, which broke the previous record, was on Wednesday; his 27th save was yesterday afternoon).  Axford is nearly certain to be the Brewers player of the week, as this was a tough record to surpass; Axford has been consistently good (not always great, but good) as a closer, and has been a big part of the Brewers success this year.

One reason I like Axford so much, though, is that he has a blue collar sensibility to him.  He just goes out to the mound and gets the job done.  No histrionics.  No drama.  Just goes out every day and does his job.

I wish we had more people in this world who were like Axford.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Brewers get Greinke, Betancourt . . . .

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And finally, folks, for my third post of the night, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Milwaukee Brewers recent trade for RHP Zack Greinke.

Yesterday afternoon, the Brewers traded SS Alcides Escobar, CF Lorenzo Cain, and two minor league RHP, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, to the Kansas City Royals for Greinke and SS Yuniesky Betancourt.  Greinke is a former American League Cy Young winner (he won in ’09 with a 16-8 record), and is considered one of the best pitchers in the major leagues despite having an off-year in 2010 with a 10-14 record and a 4.19 ERA.

I’m pleased the Brewers went out and got Greinke, because this is the second pitcher the Brewers have acquired in the off season (the Brewers got Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays a few weeks ago, trading minor league 2B Brett Lawrie for him straight up).   He’s an excellent pitcher and should really help the Brewers’ rotation — and as all know, the Brewers’ main problem the last few years has been pitching.  Especially starting pitching.  (When the Brewers lost C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets to free agency, they took a major step down despite all their good hitters — Corey Hart, Casey McGehee, and of course Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.  Hitters can’t do much when the starters keep giving up around 5 ERs a game.)

But I’m not happy the Brewers parted with Lorenzo Cain; Cain had shown some power and a great deal of speed to go along with his excellent defensive skills in centerfield in his brief stint in the majors last year, hitting .308 with a robust OBP of .348 — pretty good for his first 147 at-bats.

The others — eh.  I liked what I saw of Jeffress, and I’m sure he’ll have a good career if he can stay away from the illegal substances (he’s been busted twice under MLB’s anti-drug policy for marijuana use), but to get Greinke I have no problem with him leaving.  Ditto for Jake Odorizzi, who seemed like a good prospect thus far — possibly the Brewers best pitcher in the minors (certainly the most-hyped), though he was still in A ball this past year.

To be perfectly honest, though, I was glad to see Alcides Escobar go; I felt his defensive play was at best overhyped (Escobar makes great plays, then muffs easy ones), especially compared to the SS who came before him, JJ Hardy (who is an outstanding defensive shortstop, possibly the best in the major leagues, and certainly in the top five when healthy), and his offense was, well, anemic at .235 with a .288 OBP and 10 stolen bases.

When I went to Brewers games last year, everyone I spoke with used the same words to describe Escobar:  “Overhyped.”  “Flash in the pan.”  “Melvin’s an idiot — can we please have JJ Hardy back?”  And I agreed — Escobar was described as “the real deal,” or “everything, and the bag of chips besides” — and he just wasn’t.  (Perhaps no one could live up to that billing.)

Betancourt would appear to be a step up offensively, as he batted .259 with 16 HRs (to Escobar’s 4) and 78 RBIs (to Escobar’s 41), though he also has a very low OBP at .288.  As for his defense, I’d describe it as adequate — he’s another guy who won’t make anyone forget JJ Hardy anytime soon — though as he’s not been labeled a “can’t-miss” prospect, maybe he’ll be less encumbered by expectations than was Escobar.

At any rate, this is a trade that looks very good on paper and I hope it works out well for the Brewers.  I know that as a fan, I’m for it.