By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Apr 04, 2007 at 5:42 AM Photography: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography

SURPRISE, ARIZ. -- Brewers fans have high expectations for 2007, which is understandable given the current crop of exciting young players, the health of Ben Sheets and the praise of national pundits and prognosticators. In what has become a tradition at OnMilwaukee.com, we caught up with Brewers Radio Network announcer Jim Powell for a level-headed analysis of this year's chances.  As the team wrapped up Cactus League play, we asked Powell about the Brewers' lineup, his off-season and his future as a broadcaster in Milwaukee.  As usual, his answers were insightful and entertaining.

Enjoy this annual tradition: Milwaukee Talks with Jim Powell, 2007.

OMC: The Brewers didn't look particularly crisp in spring training. Is that something fans should be worried about?

Jim Powell: I don't know, how did you feel when you came to spring the last few years, where they looked great and then they finished under .500?  Spring games don't mean anything.  Really, if you ever have any questions about how much momentum there is in baseball, and it's an ongoing debate, there's an old adage: 'You only have as much momentum as the next day's starting pitching.' And that's it.  Look at the Cardinals last year. They played horrible baseball in September. They were basically a .500 team that backed their way into the postseason in a division where no one else could finish over .500, and they won the World Series.  They had no momentum at all going into the post season.

OMC: Last year, when we were standing right here in Surprise, you said that if the Brewers were not at least a .500 team, you'd consider the season a major disappointment.  Obviously, injuries played into that.  But is this a .500 team this year?

JP: If the Brewers don't finish over .500 this year, it will be a major disappointment (laughs).

OMC: Is this Ned Yost's last chance to build a winning team?

JP: Well, I don't know. It all depends on the circumstances. At first blush in 2006, it was a disappointing season, no doubt about it.  I was disappointed, Ned Yost was disappointed, every player I spoke to expressed his disappointment. There were reasons why things happened the way they did, but I don't know of anybody who thinks that's Ned Yost's fault. In the end, though, these are the big leagues. The mission statement for a team is to win. There are no more excuses.

That said, this is a much better team than last season's team was. There's a lot more depth and experience now. Most young players take a year or two to get a feel for what baseball is like on a day-to-day basis before they begin to really produce at something close to their potential.

OMC: What will the Brewers do at third base?

JP: They'll start with the platoon of (Tony) Graffanino and (Craig) Counsell, and that's a sign that things have changed in Brewers ball.  A couple of years ago, it would've been a no-brainer.  Ryan Braun could've been hit in the face with every ground ball hit to third base in spring and, as long as he would've hit five home runs, he'd be on the club. That's it, end of the discussion.

OMC: And now, that's not good enough?

JP: Now, that's not even close to good enough. I was shocked how early he was sent down -- on the day he hit a home run. It's a different world now. The Brewers want to win.  It's time to win.  Ryan Braun knows he needs to tighten up his defense, and he's working very hard on it. He'll be here very soon.

OMC: Switching gears a bit, how was your off-season?

JP: It was fantastic.  I love my family and all the winters are great, but this has to have been one of the greatest off-seasons I'll ever have.

OMC:  They're all here right now, and I was just watching an inning with your wife and kids.  You think they'll remember this trip when they grow up?

JP: I hope so.  I know if they were boys they would. Their future husbands will thank me, but I make sure they understand baseball and football.

OMC: A couple months ago, I wrote about some of the broadcasting changes within the Brewers organization.  Daron Sutton left for the Diamondbacks, and at the time, I threw out the idea of you doing some TV mixed in with your radio broadcasts.  Did that ever cross your mind? Would you consider doing TV?

JP: Yeah, it did cross my mind and we talked about it some, but the feeling was that we have a great chemistry in the radio booth.  Not that a lot of people wouldn't have great chemistry with Bob Uecker -- don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's all me, by any means. But we've got a great thing going on, and it's been going on for a long time.  The longer it goes, the easier it is for us to fall right back into it each spring. It's like two old friends, sitting down together to watch a game.
 
I'd love to do some TV, I think it would be a interesting challenge. I never want to give up radio, because I think that's the ultimate play-by-play art form.  I think I have a certain aptitude for it.

OMC: Have you ever done any TV broadcasting?

JP: I did some Brewers TV, filled in during a couple of different seasons.  I've done some basketball, football and minor-league baseball TV, too.  It's a different animal.  It's much more of a team sport.  Radio play-by-play, you're own your own.  You've got someone in the booth, but mainly you're painting the word pictures by yourself. On television, you have meetings and people talking in your ear and a booth full of people.  You all collaboratively try to entertain the baseball fan and give him a good product. I don't know if it's quite as much fun as radio, but it would still be a fun challenge.  I'm only 42, and I'm hoping I still have plenty of time to do stuff like that.

OMC: You're entering your 12th season … that's a long time to be in one market for someone who isn't a former player, right?

JP: It can be, it depends. I grew up listening to Skip Caray and Ernie Johnson, and Milo Hamilton doing the Braves games. You know, Milo left, and that was traumatic.  It was like your parents getting a divorce. People take their radio and TV teams very seriously, like they're part of the family. I understand that even more deeply now that I get letters and have conversations with people about it.

I always wanted to be one of those guys who stayed in one market with one team.  I love the broadcaster who says 'we' hit a game-winning home run for his team, because people know he loves the team. People can enjoy being in the foxhole with that guy.  And if you're bouncing from market to market, and then you pop into the next market and say, 'We're down in the ninth inning,' it's like, 'C'mon, you have no right to say 'we.' It took me a long time to earn the right to have people feel like I'm in the foxhole with them in Milwaukee. If I moved to another market, I would be starting over.

OMC: I'm sure fans want Bob to stick around forever. Maybe he will, maybe he won't, but do you think the continuity of having you as his successor would be good for Brewers fans? Do you ever think about that stuff?

JP: Of course not.  Whether I do TV, radio or sell insurance -- I'll never have this type of a dynamic ever at work again.  And no one in baseball does, either.  I'm the only guy that gets to work with Bob Uecker.  That's all mine.  Someday, maybe it'll be me who leaves before him, who knows?  Someday, I'm sure it will come to an end, but I don't spend much time worrying about it.

Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.