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Milwaukee Brewers: Time to Clear the Front Office

The 2015 season is starting much like the 2013 season did for the Milwaukee Brewers, and that’s light years from good.

Kicking off the 2015 season with a franchise-worst 2-11 record, the Milwaukee Brewers may find themselves out of contention even faster then the 2013 squad, which was basically out of the race before June.

The Brewers did lead their division for a good portion of the year in 2014, but they have now sandwiched futility around that one bright spot.

After strong words of disapproval by ownership following the Brewers’ collapse last season, the team made few discernible changes going into 2015 and the result has been a squad that mirrors the one that collapsed last fall.

It is another Brewers team characterized by an anemic offense, ineffective starting pitching, and woeful results.

You can only say “It’s too early” for so long and that period is close to over. With Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy now on the disabled list, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that the team’s fortunes will change much before the All-Star break, or after, for that matter.

After nearly 13 seasons with Doug Melvin in charge of personnel management as the Brewers’ general manager, it has become clear that change is needed in Milwaukee.

Given owner Mark Attanasio‘s disappointment with the 2014 collapse, there can be no doubt he’s probably fuming over the team’s follow-through in 2015.  

Hopefully Attanasio spent at least part of the off-season sketching out a disaster plan to put in motion for this current development.

The team went 9-22 over its last 31 games in 2014 and has started 2015 with a 2-11 record. Combined, that makes the Brewers’ record 11-33 over their last 44 games, far below .500 ball.

Attanasio favored continuity over disruptive change this past winter, but with that strategy now backfiring, there’s really no other option left for him except a major overhaul, at minimum in the front office.

This time around, Attanasio might actually consider trying something new in Milwaukee. The Brewers have patched together a team for far too long with aging, expensive veterans like Aramis Ramirez and Francisco Rodriguez. The team might better consider a draft-and-develop approach like its NFL counterpart in Green Bay.

It’s hard to imagine that many schemes could be worse than what the Brewers’ front office did to prepare for 2015, a collective effort that has netted the club baseball’s worst record.

Former Brewers skipper Ned Yost has the Kansas City Royals competing at a high level using a team filled with low-dollar names. Such a strategy certainly seems well-suited to the small-market Brewers.

When seeking a new general manager, the team should consider tapping one of the assistants in Kansas City or elsewhere who has a knack for doing more with less. Recruiting a baseball executive from the St. Louis Cardinals organization, a perennial contender, doesn’t sound like the worst idea either.

Whatever steps are ultimately taken, there’s no doubt that the first needs to be Melvin’s removal.

Ownership stayed the course last season and it now has absolutely nothing to show for it. For the second time in three years, it looks as though the team will drop out of contention before the start of summer in Wisconsin. The season between those two, unfortunately, ended in a train wreck.

It is difficult to imagine that a savvy owner like Attanasio isn’t seeing the same writing on the wall.

The only question that likely remains is the timing of the changes. And one can only hope those arrive sooner than later.

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Milwaukee Brewers Hit the Ground Running in 2014

After winning the NL Central Division in 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers and their faithful followers commenced on a steep downward spiral that nearly transformed into a harrowing free fall.

The team spent portions of the 2013 season in the NL Central cellar, which meant it was actually playing worse than the hopeless Chicago Cubs

After reaching the NLCS in 2011, the Brewers lost two of their three best players when Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke departed through free agency and a trade, respectively. Last season, the third domino fell when MLB nailed Ryan Braun to the wall on a PED-related suspension. 

Talk about a rough couple years…

To make matters even worse, one of the team’s former future stars, Rickie Weeks, hit a multi-year skid that made his immense salary the type of anchor that can often sink a small-market franchise like the Brewers. 

Had Weeks been the only problem in 2013, the Brew Crew may have been able to overcome that obstacle with some extraordinary performances from their other big-ticket contributors. Unfortunately, Braun was suspended, Aramis Ramirez spent much of the year on the disabled list, and Corey Hart was lost for the entire campaign.

Entering the 2014 season, things didn’t look a whole lot better for the Brewers as the number of questions facing the team seemed to outnumber the known quantities.

The Brewers lost their planned starter at first base, Corey Hart, to free agency. The team was also still married to Rickie Weeks at second base because of his guaranteed $11 million salary. The fact that Braun and Ramirez hadn’t played much in 2013 only added to the team’s question marks in 2014.

Consistent, effective starting pitching has also been a problem in Milwaukee since the team traded away its ace, Zack Greinke. During the offseason it looked like the Brewers would enter 2014 with only two legitimate starting pitchers—Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse.

During spring training, much of the chatter around the team suggested the Brewers would only be competitive if at least a couple unknown factors panned out in their favor. 

The Brewers needed to find a serviceable first baseman. They needed either Weeks or his understudy, Scooter Gennett, to emerge as the clear starter at second base. They needed a healthy Aramis Ramirez at third base. They needed Ryan Braun to shrug off the suspension and return to the team hitting lights-out as he’d done since his rookie season. 

And they needed their somewhat-suspect starting pitching rotation to perform at the high range of its potential. The bullpen was, of course, another wild card.

Typically, one would expect that only a couple of those challenges would be answered favorably during the regular season. Baseball is a numbers game, and the Brewers simply didn’t have statistics on their side heading into Opening Day.

Amazingly, the least likely outcome appears to be playing out (at least early on), as the Brewers have kicked off 2014 with a 7-2 record and looked every bit an early contender in the process.  

After dropping two of their first three games at home against the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers went on the road and absolutely crushed some tough competition. 

The team went to Boston and pounded last year’s champions at Fenway Park. Then, the Brewers flew down to Philadelphia and continued where they left off by shelling the Phillies. The Brewers swept both teams in three-game sets.

So far, almost every outstanding question the team faced entering the season has been answered with a moderate to strong positive statement. 

Ryan Braun looked much like his old self when he smashed three home runs in a single game against the Phillies. Matt Garza, the Brewers’ surprise free-agent pitching acquisition, nearly threw a no-hitter in his first outing.

The Brewers’ entire pitching staff has been unusually efficient through its first nine games and has compiled a minuscule ERA of 1.95, which leads the league. 

Additionally, the team’s platoon at first base involving Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds has been more productive than spring training would have suggested. Milwaukee’s emerging star at second base, Scooter Gennett, is hitting .273 and looks to be entrenching himself as the new everyday starter. 

On top of that, the team’s new face in the outfield, Khris Davis, has acquitted himself very well. Braun and Ramirez are also mostly healthy and playing at a level in line with their high-quality historical averages. As if that weren’t enough, the team’s emerging stars, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Jean Segura, have picked up right where they left off last year. 

The net result is that the Brewers’ on-field product looks more balanced and complete than possibly any squad in franchise history. The Brewers are in first place and do not appear like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

With 162 games during the year, the professional baseball season is obviously more of a marathon than a sprint. Sustaining their extremely high level of play will be difficult for the Brewers, and there’s no doubt the team will have to overcome its fair share of adversity if it truly wants to contend for its first World Series title.

However, the fact that the Brewers are playing such complete ball cannot be minimized, either, especially given the adversity they’ve faced in recent years.

Team chemistry is a difficult quality to measure, and the Brewers appear to be drawing directly from this mystical energy source through their first nine games.

Going forward we’ll find out if the Brewers can remain healthy and productive enough to translate their early season success through the summer and beyond.

The fact that the team has shrugged off some preseason question marks and transformed into a unit with few discernible weaknesses suggests the Brewers may go far in 2014. 


Statistics are accurate as of Friday, April 11.

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Boston Red Sox: Are Fans Getting a Fair Shake with Joe Buck as Lead Broadcaster?

The World Series, like any league’s championship playoff round, is a time for fans to bathe in the hype surrounding their favorite team. The 2013 World Series involving the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals is no different from any sport in that regard.  

With the advent of the internet, there are of course a plethora of sources available to fans that really want to dig deep on their team’s prospects. On-demand video, blogs, and endless news stories are just a fraction of what’s available.

Having said that, the most important piece of media is the actual coverage of live competitive action. This reality puts a large burden on whichever television network is covering the championship to produce the highest quality and most unbiased proceedings possible.

In the case of the 2013 World Series, that network is Fox Sports, a division of Fox Broadcasting Company and a global media giant with a fairly robust history in covering such climatic sporting events.

This brings us to one particularly perplexing aspect of the 2013 World Series, and for that matter, more than a few that have come before it. In the case of this year’s World Series, Fox Sports selected Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to be their lead announcer and analyst in the telecast booth, respectively.  

These two are of course extremely experienced, as one would assume of any duo selected for such an important event. However, one peculiar aspect of this specific pair as it relates to the 2013 World Series is that Joe Buck has extremely close ties to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Specifically, Buck was not only raised in St. Louis, but also happens to be the son of long-time sportscaster Jack Buck. The elder Buck was the play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals for 47 years and it’s probably safe to say one of the biggest individual supporters of the Red Birds.  

Joe Buck, having followed in his father’s sportscasting footsteps, is now a national sportscaster with Fox Sports. He also remains a resident of St. Louis and undoubtedly a huge fan of local teams from the region.    

It is Fox Sports’ designation of Joe Buck as the lead broadcaster for the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox that begs some serious questions.

First and foremost, one would wonder if Joe Buck could be a truly impartial observer during such emotional proceedings. Surely, Mr. Buck is keenly aware of his potential conflict of interest and likely makes every effort to conduct himself in the most professional and unbiased manner possible.

However, attempting to realistically judge Joe Buck’s impartiality is a highly subjective endeavor and quite honestly shouldn’t even be a conscious piece of something like the World Series.  

The fact is, Fox Sports has likely made a huge mistake in placing Mr. Buck in such a precarious position. The network risks alienating at least half of their prime target audience (Red Sox fans) while also putting a damper on their ability to create the most neutral viewing conditions possiblea scenario which would arguably help them net the largest absolute audience.  

It is of course well known that nothing in this world is perfectnor perfectly fair. That fact being a key reason why sports themselves are so popular to begin with, as they provide an escape for fans from real life hardships. And in the playoffs, this escapism can arguably reach its maximum level.  

In this age of instant feedback, it’s stunning to think that a network with the considerable resources of Fox Sports wouldn’t have already learned, through viewer feedback or a myriad of focus groups, that presenting the most impartial programming possible would be most ideal for an event as emotionally-charged as the World Series.  

Instead, the network apparently believes that designating Joe Buck, a man whose father worked for nearly a half century covering the St. Louis Cardinals, somehow represents their best option for lead broadcaster. All this despite the fact that the season is all but over, leaving a stable of other idle announcers available for the job.  

I’m neither a Cardinals nor a Red Sox fan, but if my team was facing such an unfavorable broadcast scenario I’d be leaning heavily on my local radio broadcast to mark the proceedings.

An immense network such as Fox Sports certainly isn’t going to change its behavior because a few small voices highlight a puzzling and imperfect situation. On the other hand, television networks do have one significant Achilles Heelratings.

Maybe a large dent in that vital statistic would send a strong enough message to Fox Sports and other networks that striving for the most neutral broadcast possible would be a win-win for both networks and viewers.


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Cardinals Reveal True Feelings on Lohse Through Extension of Wainwright

You don’t win 11 World Series championships by stumbling upon them blindly. The St. Louis Cardinals, with the second-most World Series titles in the history of baseball, have almost always been a shrewdly run organization.

Throughout their history, the Cardinals have consistently managed player evaluation, player development and the team’s payroll with world-class precision.

It’s for this reason that the Cardinals’ recent signing of Adam Wainwright, as reported by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, is such an interesting topic. Especially on the heels of their decision not to pursue Kyle Lohse, who, according to Adam McCalvy of, was recently signed by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Although Lohse, at the age of 34, is a few years older than the 31-year-old Wainwright, there seemed to be more at work in the Cardinals’ evaluation of these two players than just the wear on their respective arms.

Lohse had one the best years in his career last season, ending play with a 16-3 record and a 2.86 ERA. Wainwright, on the other hand, went 14-13 in 2012 with a 3.94 ERA.

Based on their new contracts, Lohse will earn around $11 million per year, while Wainwright’s extension is for significantly more at approximately $19.5 million per year. Lohse is signed through the age of 37 in Milwaukee, while Wainwright will be a Cardinal through the age of 38.  

The recent signing of Wainwright must have left Kyle Lohse feeling mighty underappreciated. Given that he will pitch more than a few times against his old team in the coming years, it’s not difficult to imagine that he might draw some extra motivation when his turn comes up against the Red Birds. This is just the type of situation that may help the Brewers get the most out of the pitcher’s contract.

Before missing the 2011 season due to injury, Wainwright was as dominant a pitcher as there was in the league. From 2009 to 2010, he amassed a 39-19 record with an average ERA of 2.53. However, when Wainwright returned to the team in 2012, he looked downright average. 

Given their successful history, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the Cardinals’ management at this early stage of the two players’ new contracts. The Cardinals must have felt something unusually compelling about Wainwright given that they locked him up to a serious long-term contract up after such an unremarkable season.  

In the past, the Cardinals have been mostly lauded for their effective management of player development and contract strategy. In the case of Albert Pujols, a wildly popular figure in St. Louis, the Cardinals deftly negotiated the exit of both the player and his out-sized payday without too much collateral damage.  

The wisdom in the Cardinals’ approach with Pujols is one reason their approach with Wainwright seems so peculiar. At 31, Wainwright is almost exactly the same age as Pujols was when the Cardinals let the rubber hit the road toward Los Angeles.  

While the nearly $100 million for Wainwright is less than they would have invested in Pujols, Wainwright also has the added complication of coming off major injury. And given that he was already signed through the 2013 season, the team also had the luxury of continuing to evaluate his progress before laying down the big bucks.  

Despite these factors and Wainwright’s drop in production last season, the Cardinals still felt they were best served locking the pitcher up right now as opposed to somewhere down the road. The team will have to hope he can still tap into his former self and maintain that type of productivity for six more seasons.  

The Brewers, on the other hand, will merely have to hope that Kyle Lohse continues where he left off last year. And they will have considerably less risk in the event that that doesn’t occur.

Time and results will eventually reveal which team negotiated the better contract and ultimately partnered with the more productive player. For now, however, the Cardinals’ decision is the one that appears more suspect—a puzzling situation, given how they usually do things in St. Louis.  For the Brewers, their relatively economical signing of Lohse could be a positive sign of things to come.    

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