By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Mar 17, 2009 at 5:24 AM

I am, by nature, an eternal optimist.

I had a heart attack once, and while everyone else was standing around wringing their hands, I was smiling because I figured I finally had a good reason to quit smoking.

Once I had a Doberman come running at me full speed with his teeth bared and while his owner was screaming, I was thinking "Good puppy."

When I was in Hong Kong, I met a guy with one eye and all gold teeth who told me that his sister would be happy to meet me if I would just walk down this dark alley with him. I did.

You get the point. I am a guy who always looks on the bright side of the most terrible events.

And that's why I'm so stunned with how I feel about the Brewers.

Put succinctly, I am approaching this season with an incredible case of dread.

Dread is what you feel when you go to the dentist. For the first time in 10 years.

That's the way I feel about the Brewers.

I remember the joy and wonder of last year, when the curse was broken and the team made it to the playoffs. The Brewers rode the huge arm of C. C. Sabathia and a solid offense into post-season play. It truly was a magical time.

The problem with magic, as either Siegfried or Roy says so eloquently, is that it doesn't last.

Three big names from last year are gone. Sabathia, Ben Sheets and Eric Gagne. Well, we won't miss one out of three. But, we will sure miss two of them. Braden Looper is supposed to fill one of those spots. In 11 years, he's had two winning seasons, one 5-1 and one 6-4. He is not CC Sabathia.

We've also got Trevor Hoffman, who is going into the Hall of Fame someday. But, Gagne had been a Cy Young winner. Relief pitchers, even with a pedigree like Hoffman's, are risky business. Maybe he'll be great. Maybe not.

And pitching is going to be very important to this team.

With an offense that can pound the ball with just about any team in the league, the Brewers need to have pitchers who can keep the team in games so the bats have a chance to do some damage.

Somehow the names Gallardo, Parra, Bush, Suppan and Looper don't sound all that threatening. The other issue is who is going to pitch those few innings between the starter and Hoffman? I'm not sure the Brewers have a great answer to that question.

There is also the major issue of Rickie Weeks. Tons of potential. He really looks like a major-leaguer. Maybe Willie Randolph can work a miracle and make this guy a real player. If so, the Brewers will be much better off.

One of the unknowns is also the new manager Ken Macha. By all accounts, he's an avuncular sort with lots of patience. An avuncular saint who never panics might be just what the Brewers need.

I've got to tell you, I hope I'm wrong about all this. I hope Gallardo bounces back from his lost year and I hope Parra turns out to be a great second starter. I hope Suppan is that rugged starter everyone can count on and I hope Hoffman proves to us why he's going to the Hall of Fame.

I really liked the baseball season last year. I mean, I loved what it did to the community. I thought seeing Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin hug each other with tears in their eyes was a very special moment.

I just hope we don't have to wait another 25 years for it to happen again. That's what dread is all about.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.