After years of futility, Brewers expect to win
There was a long period that began in the early 1990s when the
Milwaukee Brewers were an afterthought – when 90-loss seasons
trumped winning ones, and the days of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor
were slowly fading into obscurity.
Then came the tipping point: A few good draft classes, a bunch
of talented young position players and some bold moves to acquire
pitching that resulted in a playoff berth in 2008.
Now, four years later, winning baseball is expected in
”Anybody can win in a given year. It’s the sustainability in
that,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who succeeded
Dean Taylor in their front office in 2002.
”In 2007, we weren’t eliminated until game 156,” Melvin said.
”In 2008 we went to the playoffs, 2009 we were in first place in
July, and 2010 we had an off-year. Then the ’11 playoffs and then
last year, we were eliminated in game 159.”
”The main thing,” he summed up, ”is playing meaningful games
The Brewers have continually done that, even after shedding some
of their biggest stars.
Last year, Melvin made the decision to trade former Cy Young
winner Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels for a pair of minor
leaguers and infielder Jean Segura. The year before that, the
Brewers were unable to hold onto first baseman Prince Fielder, who
became a free agent.
Those moves shouldn’t be construed as being cheap, though.
The Brewers have certainly spent some money – this week, in
fact, they gave free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse a three-year deal for
A couple of years ago, they locked up slugging outfielder Ryan
Braun with a $105 million, five-year deal that should keep him in
Milwaukee through the 2020 season. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo –
the staff ace – is under club control for the next three
The success this season of Braun and Gallardo, more than any
others, should ultimately decide the level of success of the
Brewers, who finished 83-79 and third in the NL Central last
Braun led the league in homers with 41 a year ago, was second in
RBIs with 112 and finished third in batting with a .319 average,
nearly winning his second straight MVP. He finished second to San
Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in the voting.
All those numbers were cast in a skeptical light this past
The 27-year-old Braun’s name surfaced in records from the
now-defunct Biogenesis of America LLC clinic, which allegedly
provided performance-enhancing substances to several players.
Braun issued a statement in which he said he used the clinic’s
operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant in successfully appealing
a positive test after his MVP season in 2011, but otherwise has
refused to answer direct questions about his connection to the
”You know, I think the longer you deal with something, the
easier it becomes to deal with, if that makes sense,” he said.
”Regardless of what the circumstances are, I’ve kind of lived this
for the last year and a half, so I’m able to focus when I get on
the baseball field, whether it’s personal issues or family issues
or a situation like this. I just come to play.”
Gallardo, meanwhile, will be counted on more than ever after
Greinke was sent west, Shaun Marcum left in free agency and Randy
Wolf was let go after a 3-10 season. A former All-Star, Gallardo
went 16-9 with a 3.66 ERA last season and was a big reason why
Milwaukee remained in contention.
Gallardo dealt with a minor groin injury during spring training,
but still managed to pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball
Classic, and is expected to be the opening day starter.
Marco Estrada nailed down Milwaukee’s No. 2 job after going 5-7
with a 3.64 ERA last season. He’ll be followed by Wily Peralta,
Chris Narveson and Mike Fiers in a new-look rotation.
For all the changes on the hill, most of the Brewers’ lineup is
Braun will be joined by Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez in the
outfield, with Jonathan Lucroy entrenched behind the plate. And in
a perfect world, Segura would be at shortstop with Corey Hart at
first base, Rickie Weeks at second and Aramis Ramirez at third.
That’ll be shuffled up early in the season, though. Hart won’t
be available until at least May after having surgery in late
January to repair cartilage in his left knee.
Still, manager Ron Roenicke’s bunch believes a lineup that
produced more runs, homers and RBIs than any other in the majors
last season can do it again, even with Hart starting on the
”Our staff has faith that those guys can go back out there and
do that again,” Hart said, ”and they proved they can. They should
have a lot of confidence going forward.”