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Zach Greinke Comeback: Brewers’ Ace Dominant in First Rehab Start

It has been well-documented that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is adamant about Zack Greinke making three rehab starts prior to being activated to the Major League roster.

If tonight’s start was any indication, Greinke will be ready sooner rather than later. Greinke started tonight for the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Class-A affiliate, the Brevard County Manatees. He pitched three full innings without breaking a sweat.

He faced 10 hitters, setting nine down easily and only allowing one single. Greinke struck out four and seemed to have very good command with 27 of his 35 pitches going for strikes.

Greinke’s fastball hovered in the low 90s during the start, which is a great sign for his first live action after his rib injury.

Now you’re probably wondering what’s next for Greinke? If he stays on a regular five-day schedule, his next start is likely to take place with the Nashville Sounds, the Brewers’ Triple-A franchise. That start would most likely take place against the Omaha Storm Chasers in Nashville on Easter Sunday, April 24.

Following his second start, the Brewers will make their evaluation as to whether Greinke would be good to go after one more Minor League appearance. The odds are we will be seeing him in a Brewers’ uniform at the beginning of May.

Keep your fingers crossed!

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Fantasy Baseball 2011: One Draft Sleeper from Every Major League Team

This is sort of like last minute Christmas shopping. Here is one final tip for you before you have your fantasy baseball league draft. Sorry but I can’t stop you from picking a bunch of stiffs. What I can do is give you a few ideas as to which “sleepers” might be able to help your team in spite of your other draft picks.

There have been a ton of injuries this Spring, so some of these sleepers may get an early start. I have my own draft on Sunday, so I’ll be reading this too when I’m done writing it. I’ve heard the phrase, “maybe you should take your own advice” before, so I just may have to do that.

None of these guys are Rumpelstiltskin sleepers, but they will probably go late in your draft and a few maybe not at all. I listed the teams by division starting with the National League. Without further ado, here they are.

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MLB Power Rankings: Mike Hampton and Each Team’s Worst Contracts of All Time

Money does grow on trees in professional sports. All you have to do is look at contracts that teams dole out every season that make fans scratch their heads and swear at their computers until steam shoots out of their ears.

While researching the teams and their contracts, one thing has become evident. If you sign more than a couple players to bad contracts, the odds are the list will continue to grow. Teams like the Mariners, Dodgers, Rangers, Tigers  and Yankees have been notoriously bad in spending their money. The Yankees can afford it. The Mariners and Rangers can’t.

On the other hand, teams like the Marlins, Padres, Pirates, Twins and Astros have been on the opposite end of the spectrum. I suppose it’s easy to spend your money wisely if you pretty much ignore trying to sign virtually any free agents. That’s one approach.

There is not only a lot of debate about the worst contract for each team, but even more for the worst contract of all-time in MLB. I focused on each team leaving the “all-time” question up for future debate.

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Milwaukee Brewers: 5 Reasons Why Ron Roenicke Will Be NL Manager of the Year

Thank God.

Those are the two words I uttered when I first heard Ken Macha would not be back with the Brewers for a third season.

That euphoria lasted all of five minutes because then I found out who was going to replace him.

It took a little while to find out who the candidates even were. Two prominent mentions were Bob Brenly (gag!) and Bobby Valentine. I did not want either of them anywhere near the Brewers. Then there was talk of Joey Cora, who wouldn’t have been all bad.

Then came the name Ron Roenicke. My only recollection of him was on a baseball card I had as a kid.

Not much later, more information on Roenicke began trickling in. He was on Mike Scioscia’s staff in Anaheim, and he favored an aggressive style of baseball. Those were certainly two positives.

Scioscia’s two previous bench coaches, Joe Maddon and Bud Black, have gone on to tremendous success managing the Rays and Padres respectively. Could Roenicke do the same?

I have listened to what Roenicke and others have said and not said in the few short months since he has been manager of the Brewers. Everything I hear leads me to believe he will succeed and be the 2011 NL Manager of the Year.


1) Aggressive Style, Yet Calm

Those are two seemingly contradictory notions, but they can work in harmony within the right personality. Roenicke has said from day one that he plans to be aggressive on the bases and constantly put pressure on the opposing defense.

Pressure doesn’t mean running around the bases willy-nilly. To Roenicke, it means being aggressive going from first to third and always taking that extra base. It means hitting and running and bunting for base hits.

While willing to be aggressive, Roenicke won’t pull the plug on that philosophy if someone happens to get thrown out. He knows the risk, and he’s willing to take it. That sense of calm hasn’t been present in the recent past in the Brewers dugout.

Under the previous regime, one mistake meant a shift from aggressiveness to ultra conservatism. That type of panic was a major problem.


2) Positivity

Right or wrong, this spring Ryan Braun made some comments about the negativity that permeated the Brewers clubhouse last year. Other players, including Corey Hart and Prince Fielder, reinforced that sentiment in a slightly more diplomatic way. No matter how the message was sent, it was still the same.

In multiple forums, including on MLBTV’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days, several Brewers players have used the word fun when describing their first spring camp under Ron Roenicke. I thought spring training wasn’t supposed to be fun.

Braun has been up front saying that they are playing a game, and it is supposed to be fun. He’s got a point. Games are meant to be fun. Who knew baseball could be fun in Milwaukee?


3) Open Communication

Coaches under the tutelage of Mike Scioscia become aware of how important people skills are in being a successful major league manager.

After Roenicke was hired and before spring training began, he invited Ryan Braun to lunch. The two live near each other in California, so it seemed to be an easy way for Roenicke to get the pulse of the Brewers from one of its leaders.

Braun said he appreciated that the new manager reached out and sought his opinion. An important line of communication was opened early on.

During spring training, Roenicke has made a point of talking to each player on a regular basis to find out exactly the best way each player can get ready for the regular season. No one knows what a player needs more than that player himself. Roenicke is approachable and more than willing to listen to his players.

Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has characterized the previous two Brewers managers as being wound too tight (Ned Yost) and as “grandpa-grumpy” (Ken Macha). Both of their personalities rubbed many of the players the wrong way. Ron Roenicke is clearly neither of those.


4) Trust and Respect

In my estimation trust and respect are probably the most important components of a solid player/manager relationship, but without open communication, neither of these would be possible.

The Brewers players, most notably Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, felt they couldn’t count on Ken Macha to stand up for them and as a result didn’t respect him or even like him just a little bit.

Macha tried to play things as if he had an open-door policy for his players in 2010. It was easy to claim that when he already knew the players didn’t respect him enough to want to talk to him. Then he tried to put it all off on the players, as if he did everything he could to be open to communication, especially with the team’s stars.

Macha never once took any responsibility for the poor lines of communication. When Jason Kendall had issues with Macha in Oakland, that should have told Doug Melvin something.

Ron Roenicke is the complete antithesis of Macha. He truly wants to communicate and get to know his players. He put his trust in the players right from the start.

Roenicke has made clear that he wants the players to come to him when they feel they need a day off this spring. Not only that, Roenicke has been open to players asking for more playing time. Fielder took advantage of that when he felt he needed more at-bats. Roenicke didn’t hesitate to slide Prince into that day’s lineup.

Roenicke has shown trust in his players to not take advantage of that policy, and the players haven’t done that in the least. They have continued working even when they weren’t playing in games. The players realize that when the manager puts his trust in them, they need to do the same with their manager.

Players appreciate not being treated like little kids and constantly being told what to do. When they are treated like adults, odds are they will act like adults.


5) The Starting Rotation

I couldn’t ignore this extremely important change in the Brewers team. We all know what the starting rotation has looked like for some time minus the rental of CC Sabathia.

In the minimal number of games Ben Sheets was healthy, he was a stud and a true No. 1 starter. Yovani Gallardo has been good but is still not considered a No. 1 in my eyes until he becomes more consistent. Signing Randy Wolf was a decent move, but he is only a No. 3 or 4 starter.

Finally, this offseason Doug Melvin got aggressive and brought in two very good starting pitchers in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.

I won’t pretend things may have been different under previous managers if they had this starting staff, but then again, maybe not. If you can’t talk to your manager or trust and respect him, it doesn’t matter who is on the mound. The team is still going to struggle.

Ron Roenicke has been the bench coach on a team with a dynamic starting staff. That can only help him in connecting with the Brewers starters. It’s a proven fact that better pitching leads to more wins, which will make the Brewers’ run at the NL Central crown that much more probable.


Going down this list, I think you can see why I think the way I do. Roenicke has a good baseball on-field philosophy. He has the right personality. He values communication, trust, respect and positivity throughout the organization.

He will let the players speak their minds and be themselves—in fact, he encourages it. Roenicke will also have one of the better starting rotations in the entire National League.

How can you not view him as being one of the favorites for NL Manager of the Year? I do.

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Pedro Martinez’s Colored Gloves and the 25 Greatest Accessories in MLB History

Baseball has always been a sport based mainly upon tradition. People fear change, and Major League Baseball is no different.

Nearly everything you see on this list comes from the past 35 years or so. Prior to that time, there was little room for individuality in the game. It was about tradition and the team. Players weren’t supposed to bring any added attention to themselves except from their play on the field.

These accessories come in several different categories including equipment, style and habits. Players have been allowed to express their personalities and their individuality during this recent 35 year time frame.

I may have missed something, so if that’s the case please share.

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MLB Preview 2011: A.J. Burnett and Each Team’s Most Important Comeback Player

A team’s fortunes can often be severely altered by the injury or severe under-performance of just one player. When a team is littered with those types of players (see the New York Mets), a season can be over in just a few short months.

Coming into the 2011 season, every team expects to be better. If it didn’t believe that, what’s the point in even playing the games, besides the money of course?

Some of the aforementioned type of players have moved on to new teams. That doesn’t mean they aren’t expected to make a comeback in their new digs, however.

One player can make a huge difference, especially on teams that aren’t stacked with talent from top to bottom.

Now who exactly are these players, and what is expected of them this season? You’re just going to have to read on to find out.

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MLB Predictions 2011: Power Ranking the Top 10 MVP Favorites for Each League

While spring training is still almost a week away, it’s never too early to take a peek at which players have the best chance of playing at an MVP level in each league.

Obviously injuries can play a factor, but in the absence of them I have chosen 10 players from the AL and NL that I believe have legitimate shots at carrying their respective teams.

A lot of these guys will be no-brainers as they are legit candidates every year. There may be a few players who have flown under the radar, but I feel are ready to take their games to another level in 2011.

Enough talk. Let’s get this show on the road.

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MLB Rumors: One 2012 Free Agent Each Team Could Target After the Season

While the 2011 free-agent frenzy has pretty much come and gone, there is always next year. Let’s take a sneak peek at what might be in store for the winter of 2012.

A solid crop of talent that will be on the open market, including Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks, Carlos Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Jonathan Papelbon and maybe even Albert Pujols.

On top of those names are some players that have 2012 options on their contracts. Some people on this list are Nick Swisher, Brandon Phillips, Rafael Furcal, Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, and Rafael Soriano.

I’ll try to predict which of these players’ options will or won’t be picked and see who might be interested in those who I believe may become available.

One player who could completely turn the 2012 free-agency period upside down and is CC Sabathia. He can opt out of the remaining four years and $92 million remaining on his contract with the Yankees.

Now THAT would make things real interesting.

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Rickie Weeks is Not the Future for the Milwaukee Brewers at Second Base

This is THE year for the Brewers. Just ask anyone. If they are going to win, it will be in 2011. It is a foregone conclusion that Prince Fielder will be leaving via free agency in 2012. If you’re Doug Melvin, you’re probably already coming up with a plan of attack for 2012 and beyond. At least I hope so, because that’s what good General Managers do.

Melvin made the right moves this offseason, but he can’t afford to take any missteps moving forward. The Brewers need to put their money where they will get the most bang for their buck. Dropping a tidy sum for multiple years on Rickie Weeks will not help the Brewers moving forward.

I like Rickie as a player and a person. I certainly won’t claim otherwise, but there are three specific reasons that make keeping Weeks long-term an impractical notion.

1. A player who has played in only 65 percent of the possible games in a six-year career, is a terrible long-term investment.

You may have heard this before, but Weeks has only played in 130 games or more once in his career and that was in 2010. He put up great numbers, and he is a unique player. That is valuable to any team. The problem here is that you can’t count on Rickie to be in the lineup day in and day out.

If you don’t believe you can count on someone, why would you invest millions of dollars in him?

2. Even after all the work Weeks has put in, he is still a below-average defensive second baseman.

To most people it seems that he has improved so much, he must be pretty good by now. In actuality, he was so bad it was impossible for him not to get better. That’s like a 500 lb. person losing 100 lbs. It’s a major improvement, but still not very good. During the 2010 season, Weeks was third in errors for a second baseman in the NL.

3. Spending a lot of money on Weeks will make it harder to keep a solid pitching rotation together.

Now that Doug Melvin has finally realized that pitching wins championships, that is where he needs to invest the money. He needs to sign Shaun Marcum to an extension, which Marcum is open to. At the time of his trade to Milwaukee, Marcum and his agent were talking contract extension with the Blue Jays.

Not extending Weeks would also leave some wiggle room for an eventual contract extension with Zack Greinke as well. The Brewers would have flexibility with their payroll, as well as acquiring draft pick(s) upon Weeks signing with another club.

The Brewers and Rickie Weeks’ agent, Greg Genske, had recently been discussing a contract extension, but those talks have been tabled for the time being. In my estimation, that is the prudent way to go to help maintain the future health of the franchise.

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MLB Power Rankings: The All-Time Best Player in the History of Every MLB Team

This is a TALL order. Deciding on who is the best player of all time for each MLB team is like trying to decide who the best soldier was in each of America’s wars. There’s absolutely no way to get everyone to agree. I’m just hoping my choices will be made as objectively as possible.

Not only am I ranking the best for each team, but I am also charged with ranking each of those players against one another. It’s sort of like a ranking within a ranking. The rankings will include players from present day all the way back to the early days of each franchise.

I’m going to throw a little spoiler in here right now. Cy Young did not make the cut. You’re probably thinking that I’m some sort of nimrod, which I may very well be. My explanation is simple: Cy Young never stayed with one team long enough to be that team’s all-time greatest player. Go figure.

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