By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Mar 30, 2008 at 5:23 AM

PHOENIX -- There are only a few people who watch the Brewers as closely as Milwaukee radio announcer Jim Powell. And that's why we catch up with him each and every spring to get his take on the team's chances.

This year, Powell and his partner, Hall of Fame announcer Bob Uecker are expecting big things for the Brewers. We talked with Powell during the sixth inning of a game at Maryvale last week to get his take on what he's seen this preseason: Every year at this time, I ask you if this is the year for the Brewers. So I'm not going to ask you that again. But I will say that last year you said you'd be disappointed if they didn't go to the post season, and if they were not a .500 team, you'd be very disappointed. Half of that came true.

Jim Powell: I was disappointed. They should have gone to the playoffs. I'm very optimistic about 2008, don't get me wrong. But if you're asking me about looking back, that was a year that they had to have been in the playoffs. They had the big lead, the team was playing well, all the pieces were in place, and they just ran out of pitching. They literally couldn't get enough outs. This year, they may win 95 games or 98 games and lose the division by five games. You just don't know. Last year was right there for the taking, and they couldn't grab it. I'm not the only one who's disappointed -- everyone the in organization feels the exact same way or worse.

OMC: There's not a shortage of pitching on this team this year, so that shouldn't be the problem, right?

JP: It shouldn't be. They have a lot of veteran pitchers in the bullpen, so you wonder a little bit every time a pitcher over 30 is doing that unnatural throwing thing that baseball pitchers need to do, and if they run the risk of injury. Everyone looks good in camp, the bullpen looks a lot deeper. But the bullpen wasn't really the problem last year. It was more a combination of the bad defense and the starting pitching not going deeper than five innings. That would've fried any bullpen.

OMC: Speaking of defense, how is Ryan Braun looking in left, and how does him not being at third change the equation?

JP: Braun in left will be fine. He looks natural. Tools-wise, he's capable of playing anywhere in the outfield. He's exceeded everyone's expectation. Bill Hall will definitely be an improvement over Braun. Defensively, the team hasn't played very well in Spring Training, despite all the talk and emphasis early.

OMC: Do these guys play differently in Spring Training?

JP: They do, it's an adrenaline factor and a different mindset. Here, it's very relaxed. Guys are looking at their watches in the fourth inning, getting ready to play nine holes at Kierland.

OMC: Why is everyone so excited about Mike Cameron?

JP: He's looked great in camp. He's a great defender, and he will quickly become the best defender on the team, including J.J. Hardy, because of his superior range and great arm. He's a nice steadying influence between two young outfielders. I think it's going to be very difficult to get balls into the gap against this Brewers outfield. The speed out there is as good as any in baseball.

OMC: Can they tread water out there until Cameron gets back from his suspension?

JP: I think they can. Tony Gwynn will be a different kind of player, but it looks like he's earned the lion's share of playing time with a very strong spring.

OMC: How was your winter?

JP: I had a great time. I had a great time spending time with my family and kids. The older the kids get the more fun the activities become for everyone. The winter flew by because of the anticipation of the season. Some years it's well past January before I'm ready for the 162-game marathon. But this year, by the end of October, I was ready for more baseball. I like the players, the owner, the manager, everyone involved. But I can't get the bad taste out of my mouth from the way 2007 finished.

OMC: Any changes in the booth this year, or just more of what people have come to love and expect?

JP: I think more of the same. Bob is in a great mood, he's had a great spring. We've had a lot of fun on the air, and he's already made me laugh and embarrass myself a few times already. His goal is to do that 15 or 20 times a season, so he's well down the path. I think we're going to have a great year in the booth. When the teams winning, everyone's in a better mood.

OMC: OK, I know I said I wouldn't ask you, but the Brewers are going to be a good team this year, right?

JP: I believe they are going to be in the playoffs. Last year I said I'd be disappointed, but this year, if they don't make the playoffs, I'll be very disappointed. Thy have the personnel, everything is set up for them. Even if they don't win the division, the depth of teams in the East and the West and the unbalanced schedule, there's a pretty good chance the wildcard team will come out of the Central Division. I looking for this team to win 90 plus games and get in the playoffs.


Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. 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 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.