To shake things up a little this week's forecast will be told in story format, but don't worry; you'll still get plenty of fantasy information to put you on top in Week 5. And no, Trevor Hoffman will not be saving your fantasy team anytime soon. Good luck.
Meet Colton. He's a young lad, only eight years old. He lives on a farm roughly 60 miles north of the city of Milwaukee. His mom and dad were both raised to be farmers, and have raised young Colton to be the same when he grows old enough to buy his own farm. Colton milks cows, plucks chickens, forks manure and even drives his father's tractor.
One sunny morning, his Uncle Pat came up for a surprise visit. He wanted to take Colton to his first ever baseball game at Miller Park. Colton's mother and father refused, but his Uncle Pat insisted, and after several minutes of arguing the parents finally gave in, or so that's what he told Colton.
So with a quick Alcides scoop, a YoGo fast hurl, and a Suppan hard start, the two drive off in Pat's beat-up Ford Ranger truck and head back for Milwaukee. Pat quickly reaches behind the seat, and pulls out a brand new Brewers old school hat for Colton to wear. He places it on the boy's head, and Colton grins from head to toe. And for some reason the young boy was excited to be away from the farm for a change.
They were just 20 miles away from the ballpark when Pat finally turned the radio dial to AM 620. It was pre-game show time. An invigorating and ear pleasing voice sends a line drive right through Colton's ear, and he very carefully listens to what the man on the other side is saying.
The boy quickly turns and looks at his uncle, and before he could move his lips he hears his uncle say, "This is Bob Uecker, and he will go down in baseball history as one of the best, if not the best voice in radio history."
Colton responds, "I like him already."
His uncle smiles.
After driving for about an hour the two finally reach the stadium parking lot, and as they pull to a stop in the spot that they're instructed to take Colton turns to Pat and asks, "Why does that guy with that orange glow stick have his name and the number 43 on his back?"
Pat laughs, "That's not his name or number. That's the name and number of Randy Wolf, our pitcher today and later in the week. Against the two teams he'll face this week he recorded 43 strikeouts in 49 innings last season."
Colton comes back, "What's a strikeout?"
Pat responds with a smile trying to figure out the best and easiest way to define the big word in his mind, "It's when the batter either doesn't swing or swings and misses three times." Pat just leaves it at that, for now.
Both Pat and Colton exit the truck, and start making their way towards the ballpark. It's a great Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining, the sound of the baseball hitting fan's mitts as they play catch everywhere can be heard from miles away, and the smoke from all the charcoal filled grills is like heaven to the nostrils providing so many different sweet scents.
All of sudden Colton stops, and turns right. He walks a few steps, and stops in front of a middle-aged man who is enjoying a charred bratwurst.
Colton asks, "What is that?"
The man looks at his brat, and laughs, but then says, "Would you like to try one young man?" Colton shakes his head yes. The man grabs a bun, places a brat inside, and squeezes some stadium sauce on it. He hands it to Colton. Colton takes a bite, and his eyes light up as the stadium sauce smothered bratwurst slithers through his teeth, and down his throat. He devours it, says thank you, and shakes the man's hand. He takes his uncle's hand and starts walking back on their path towards the stadium.
Colton turns to his Uncle Pat and asks, "Why was that man wearing a red bird and the number five on his shirt?"
Pat chuckles, "That's because he's a Cardinals fan who loves Albert Pujols."
Colton quickly responds, "Who's Albert Pujols?"
Very sternly Pat says, "He's one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, and in his past six games has 10 hits in 23 tries."
Colton asks, "Is that good?"
Pat responds, "The real question is: Was that bratwurst good?" Colton shakes his head emphatically yes. They continue on.
They finally get to the front gate, and approach the ticket checker, who has a scan gun ready and loaded with plenty of laser beams. He scans their tickets, and both run towards the field; of course Pat is chasing after Colton who darts past the smiling usher. The young boy's eyes light up as he takes in the view from directly behind home plate in the very first row. He has so many questions, but is too mesmerized to ask. Pat smiles and even sheds one small tear as he looks at his nephew's eyes scanning the field back and forth. A few players are throwing bullets to each other parallel to the dugouts on both sides of the field, while others are jogging in the outfield. One grounds crew worker is raking the light brown infield, while another is fixing the chalk lines that stretch from home plate all the way to first and third base. And the colorful scoreboard, well, that's a sight for any child's eyes to see and enjoy, especially one who hasn‘t seen much of what the city has to offer.
Pat grabs Colton's arm, and they walk to their seats just four rows behind the Brewers dugout. Still mesmerized as he takes in everything that the beauty of the ballpark has to offer, Colton doesn't say a word as the announcer reads off the starting lineups and fans in both red, blue, and even yellow cheer all around him. A young man takes his seat next to Colton.
He introduces himself, "Hi, my name is Charlie."
Colton knows better not to talk strangers, so very rudely he turns away.
Pat sees this and says to the young boy, "It's okay Colton, Charlie is a nice man who can teach you everything you need to know about baseball." Colton turns back and gives Charlie a fist bump.
The announcer asks everyone to rise for the national anthem, but Colton sits in his place. Pat lifts him off his seat, faces the young boy towards the flag that waves in the wind in left-centerfield, takes his hat off his head and places it over his heart, and points towards the flag. After the anthem ends Colton doesn't say a word, and observes as the Brewers trot on to the field including No. 43 Randy Wolf. "Hey that's the guy from the parking lot."
Pat laughs, but is left speechless.
The game begins and No. 28 for the Cardinals, Colby Rasmus, comes to the plate. Colton turns to Charlie and says, "Hey, he almost has the same name as me." Charlie responds, "Yeah, you're right."
Colton asks, "Is he good?" Charlie comes back, "Well, according to the scoreboard he's hitting .344 with six homers and 12 RBI. It also says that he has 12 hits in his last 21 at-bats, and has scored 11 runs in his last seven games."
Charlie looks at Colton, who all at once is stunned and confused. He then simplifies it, "Just put it this way, with how hot he's been hitting the baseball he's someone who could have a big game and big week."
"Oh," Colton says.
The game continues on in to the second inning, and then Brewers hitter Corey Hart comes to the plate.
"Hey, that guy has the number one on his back. Is he our best hitter Uncle Pat?"
Pat chuckles once again, "Yeah right, he's more like our worst hitter."
Upon hearing the bashing Charlie angrily responds, "Pat, he has a hit in each of the last eight games he's played in, and has driven in six runs. Stop hating!"
Pat lashes back, "He's no Manny Ramirez or Nelson Cruz."
The conversation started to heat up, "Pat, both of those guys are on the disabled list, and besides that, Cruz went homerless in his eight games prior to getting hurt. He's either boom or bust."
Pat shakes his head in disgust, "Whatever Charlie."
Corey Hart strikes out, and is the fourth batter to do so for the Brewers through two innings. Pat smiles, but Colton catches him.
"Uncle Pat, why are you smiling. I thought when the guy swings and misses, it's a bad thing. And why are all our guys striking out?"
Charlie laughs, but Pat looks over and asks, "Charlie, would you like to take this one?"
Charlie stops laughing, "All right, Colton. The reason why our players are swinging and missing so much is because the other team's pitcher, Adam Wainwright, is really good."
Puzzled, Colton asks, "Aren't the Rockies that beer from the TV commercials?"
Both Charlie and Pat laugh hysterically.
The game continues at a fast pace as both teams continue to swing and miss at nasty pitches. It's the fifth inning, the score is 1-0 in favor of the Cardinals, and Colton is bored. He looks out behind where outfielder Ryan Braun stands, and sees another scoreboard.
"Hey, I didn't see that scoreboard before. What's that one for Uncle Pat?"
"That's so you can see how the other teams in baseball are doing as they play their games."
Colton turns to Charlie and asks, "Does "CHI" stand for those things with the green hair that you can watch grow? My mama has one of those on the ledge in the kitchen."
Once again all Charlie can do is laugh hysterically before turning to Pat and saying, "Hey, you want to tell your nephew what "CHI" really stands for."
Pat turns to Colton, "Listen to me real closely here. The Chicago Cubs: You never cheer for that team. They are our hated rival."
"Do they have any good players?"
"Well, not really, but a guy named Aramis Ramirez always seems to do well against us."
Charlie shakes his head in disgust, "He's right Colton, that guy is amazing every time he plays the Brewers. Heck, he's amazing every time he plays the Reds and Pirates too, and for his career is averaging a home run every 11.5 at-bats. I think he's also hitting .328 against the Reds."
Pat laughs, "Come on Charlie, you're pulling those numbers out of your ass."
By this time, though, Colton has tuned them both out, and is watching as Ryan Braun makes his way in to the dugout. The young outfielder waves at the young Colton, and the boy's eyes light up.
Charlie snickers, "I think your nephew has found his new love."
"Yeah, Charlie, it looks as though you're right on that. To top it off, he's up second this inning."
Braun makes his way to the plate as Carlos Gomez reaches base after singling up the middle.
Colton is starting to get excited and yells, "Go Braun!"
And on the very first pitch Braun lifts the baseball over the left field wall.
Fireworks ensue, and excitement builds within Colton's young baseball heart.
The roars from Colton and the crowd settle for a while, well, up until the sausages make their way on to the field and everyone gets to their feet.
Pat lifts his nephew on to his shoulders so he can see better.
Colton understands what's going on here as he thinks back to his younger days when he was five and pigs use to race at one of his friend's farms every Friday night. He points to the Italian Sausage as his winner and holds up three fingers. The sausages race around the dirt path in front of both dugouts and in the end Colton's choice comes out on top.
Charlie high fives Colton, "Good call bambino."
Colton asks, "What's a bambino?"
Without hesitation Charlie goes on a rant, "A bambino is an Italian term for little boy, and is also the name that was given to the great Babe Ruth, who hit monstrous home runs at record pace. White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko hits long home runs, and he'll continue to, especially this week when he plays two teams that have allowed a combined 54 homers already this season, and one of the teams features starter Gil Meche, who will continue to struggle to bring his 10.13 ERA down this week. Adam Dunn of the Nationals also knows how to make them fly far, and he plays two teams he homered off of a combined eight times in 2009."
Colton just sits innocently in silence, not knowing exactly why Charlie is feeding him all this insight that he doesn't understand.
Pat glances at Colton and then at Charlie, "I think you're scaring the poor boy."
The game progresses to the ninth inning and Trevor Hoffman enters the game with "Hells Bells" blasting in the background and a 3-1 lead.
Charlie turns to Pat and says, "I would much rather have someone like Kevin Gregg closing out games with the way Hoffman has been pitching lately."
Pat laughs, "The Blue Jays overpaid to get him. His best years are behind
"Dude, he has six saves and 14 strikeouts in 11 innings this season."
"Yeah, but hasn't he blown a few, and doesn't he have a high earned run too?"
"Nope. Gregg has a 0.82 ERA and has yet to blow a save. He's like the bi-polar good version of Rick Vaughn; perhaps the best closer in the American League right now, and we could have had him. But no, everyone wanted the aging Trevor Hoffman back instead, and he‘s blown three saves already, and has an ERA of 13.00 that Mr. Vaughn himself couldn‘t even attain in his worst days"
"Put a lid on it Charlie, I'm watching the game here."
Hoffman would eventually load the bases and give up the game winning grand slam to Colby Rasmus.
Pat turns to Charlie, "Where's Matt Capps, and his 10 saves and 0.68 ERA when you need him?"
"Ah, Pat, he's in Washington."
Both shake their heads in disgust one last time as Corey Hart's pinch hitter, Jim Edmonds, strikes out against Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin with runners on second and third to end the game.
Pat turns to Colton and says, "Well kid, they can't win them all."
Colton smiles and says, "Maybe next time."
Surprised, Colton's uncle replies, "Oh, so you really liked the game?"
"Did I ever!"
Colton would then go on and on about the game, and what he liked and disliked as the two walked in to the Milwaukee sunset and away from Miller Park towards Pat's beat-up Ford Ranger. And with another Suppan hard start the two, uncle and nephew, make their way 60 miles back to the farm. And all the way back Uncle Pat explained to the young boy all the rules, and facts surrounding the game itself only to hear Colton say the six words he was dying to hear him say as he exited the truck, "See you next week Uncle Pat."
He watches as his nephew runs in to his mom and dad's arms with a big smile on his face. All three wave, and Pat begins his journey back home 60 miles with a big smile on his face, and a baseball future with Colton to look forward to.
Players who are must starts this week: Starting pitchers Randy Wolf and Francisco Liriano, closers Kevin Gregg and Jon Rauch, outfielders Corey Hart and Carlos Quentin, first basemen Billy Butler and Aubrey Huff, second basemen Dan Uggla and Asdrubal Cabrera, shortstops Jason Bartlett and Ryan Theriot, third basemen David Freese and Brandon Inge, and catchers Yadier Molina and Jason Kendall.
Players who should be bench warmers (if you can help it) this week: Starting pitchers Gil Meche and Johnny Cueto, closers Matt Lindstrom and Rafael Soriano, outfielders Andre Ethier and Jose Guillen, first basemen Adam LaRoche and Kendry Morales, second basemen Robinson Cano and Orlando Hudson, shortstops Rafael Furcal and Marco Scutaro, third basemen Casey McGehee and Jorge Cantu, and catchers Russell Martin and Geovany Soto.
Thanks for reading. Tune in as the season progresses, as Colton as much more to learn, and his Uncle Pat has more to teach him.