Spring training is open for business as the first official workouts took place yesterday and, unlike past seasons, this one is turning me into Nellie Forbush.
In case you don’t get it, Nellie Forbush sang "The Cockeyed Optimist" in "South Pacific."
I know baseball is a game of statistics. But it is also a professional sport and sometimes you have to go by what’s in your gut. If you listen to sports talk radio or read all the preseason predictions by everyone from Sports Illustrated to the 16-year-old kid with a computer in his bedroom, it’s easy to see how statistics dominate this sport.
And the last statistics for the Milwaukee Brewers of 2013 don’t look all that good. The team won 74 games, their lowest total since 2004. They had injuries galore. They had the Ryan Braun mess. They had a starting pitching staff that just about forgot where the pitching rubber was in the first half of the season.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned about professional athletes over the years is that most of them are very good at putting the last game, the last month and the last year behind them and face the future with optimism and hope. World-class athletes learn that from the time they are young and by the time they get to the big leagues, it’s become a way of life.
One thing I hear a lot of is Doug Melvin bashing. Melvin didn’t abuse any players last year and cause that raft of injuries. Maybe he didn’t stack the team with good enough reserves to fill in, but building a good bench is one of the toughest things in baseball, or any sport. Ask Ted Thompson about that.
I’m not nearly smart enough to rate the Brewers position-by-position. But there are a couple of things I feel strongly about.
The biggest thing is Braun. Obviously a great player. But what kind of fallout is there going to be from his use of drugs? Here’s my guess.
I think Braun has already, or most certainly will, complete the process of apology to his teammates. And athletes are very forgiving. If they think a player can help, they readily forgive past sins.
I think the team will rally around Braun and help protect him from the slings and arrows he’s going to get around the league. And I think Braun will be grateful for the support from his teammates and feel a level of comfort that might otherwise be unexpected.
I think getting Rickie Weeks out of the everyday lineup will help provide a level of expectation at second base that has some consistency to it. Weeks was capable of great play, but you never knew when it was coming. Scooter Gennett may not be a superstar, but he gives you something you can count on.
I also think Jean Segura is going to live up to the first half of last season when he was one of the best hitters in baseball. He finished at .294 but I think he’s going to play a whole season a little higher than that.
Pitching can’t possibly be as bad this year as it was last year.
If the pitchers live up to expectations, the starting rotation of Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada may well be the best in the division.
And a final word, about Jonathan Lucroy. Every year he has gotten steadier and better. And I think he’s a perfect candidate to take over the role of clubhouse leader.
I’m sure all the Sabermetrics guys out there can take issue with some of this, and I’m sure they will.
But remember the two things that are so very important in sports: gut feelings and surprises.
It’s been a struggle this year with our Packers and our Bucks. We have time to kill before the NBA draft and before the Packers go to camp. So Brewers, it’s up to you.
We need it.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.