The Brewers’ magic number to finish with a better record than the Cubs is down to 27. The two teams begin a four-game series tonight at Wrigley Field. It is the last time they play each other this year.
Each Brewer victory during the series will lower the magic number by two, so a sweep would bring the magic number to 19. If Cubs manage a sweep, it will remain unchanged.
At least it is for my Brewers. The A’s and Mariners played two games in Japan last week, Miami and St. Louis christened the Marlins’ new stadium on Wednesday, and a good chunk of the league began the season yesterday. Today, the Brewers and the other remaining teams get their start.
They open up at home against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals (1-0). That championship came at Milwaukee’s expense, in a heartbreaking repeat of 1982. So the rivalry is a little more intense than it was this time last year, even though Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder have all moved on.
By my calculations from Wikipedia’s handy formula, I put the Brewers’ magic number to clinch their division at 163. Any combination of Brewer wins and Cardinal losses adding up to 163 makes the Brewers NL Central champs.
It is far, far too early to be calculating this kind of thing, but that’s precisely why it’s so much fun. This blog will be keeping an eye on the magic number throughout the season.
One of the things I like about the Milwaukee Brewers is that they have a healthy sense of humor. Here, relief pitcher Tim Dillard hijacks an ESPN microphone and does a spot-on impression of stat-obsessed journalist Tim Kurkjian (click here if the embedded video doesn’t work):
The Wall Street Journal has a nice profile of how mustachioed Brewers closer John Axford crawled, clawed, and climbed his way to success in the big leagues.
Read it here.
The article doesn’t show it, but Axford is known for his wry sense of humor, which is one reason why he fits in so well in what may be baseball’s loosest clubhouse.
In addition to being a proud nominee for the American Mustache Institute’s 2011 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year award (vote here), he also endorses Ax Mustache Spray in this video:
Nyjer Morgan plays center field for the Brewers. He’s also quite the character. This is how he greets Bob Uecker in the clubhouse:
It started in an empty clubhouse in Chicago, where a few repeated whispers of “Bob” had the announcer wondering where the sound was coming from. Uecker kept hearing his name and after walking through the clubhouse, he eventually realized that it was coming from Morgan’s locker. He looked inside and found the player hiding behind all of his clothing with a huge grin on his face.
Meanwhile, Steve Rushin has penned a lovely paeon to the city of Milwaukee and its baseball team.
This week, the Brewers will play a series against the Yankees in New York for the first time since 1997. The New York Times used the occasion to profile Ryan Braun. It’s worth a read; very rarely does a player of his caliber stay with a small-market team for an entire career. Braun signed a contract extension earlier this season to stay in Milwaukee through 2020, when he’ll turn 36. This fan wishes there were more like him.
In what is believed to be a baseball first, a robot threw out the first pitch at yesterday’s Brewers-Phillies game in Philadelphia.
Watch out, Cliff Lee.
Baseball is back! Here’s hoping my Brewers end their season the same way the Packers ended theirs — with a Super Bowl victory.
The most entertaining part of following the Brewers is Bob Uecker, their radio announcer. He had two heart surgeries last year and missed a large chunk of the season. But he’s feeling much better now, and is still cracking jokes.
The Wall Street Journal profiled him today. It’s worth a read. Note that the article describes his partner in the booth, Cory Provus, as his straight man; one hears a lot more than baseball when Uecker calls a game.
Zack Greinke (pronounced grain-key), who won a Cy Young a few years ago, is moving from Kansas City to Milwaukee. The Brewers gave the Royals most of their farm system in return.
This is a win-now move by the Brewers. They are routinely among the league’s best offensive teams. But poor pitching has done them in the last two years.
Not this year. Before getting Greinke, they already traded for former Blue Jay Shaun Marcum this offseason. Adding those two to a rotation already featuring Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf means that 4 of the 5 starting pitcher slots will be filled by above-average players. There are teams with twice Milwaukee’s payroll that can’t boast that.
The defense will be downgraded a bit, since slick-fielding shortstop Alcides Escobar is now Royal. The Royals were kind enough to include his replacement, Yuniesky Betancourt, in the trade. But since he fields and hits poorly by big-league standards, the Royals were probably glad to be rid of him. Still, on net, the Brewers will probably give up far fewer runs than in recent years.
There is a price to paid for what should be a good year. The Brewers rosy 2011 prospects come at the expense of 2012 and beyond.
Prince Fielder’s contract expires at season’s end, and he’ll sign with a big-market team for big-market money. Second baseman Rickie Weeks may also leave for wealthier pastures. The farm system doesn’t look capable of replacing them. But for now, those big bats are here, and they’re entering their prime years.
Milwaukee’s window of contention will probably close after this season, so if they are going to earn any pennants to hang from Miller Park’s rafters, it has to be now. This is better than never.
Posted in Sports
Tagged alcides escobar, brewers, brewers pitching, kansas city, milwaukee, now or never, Prince Fielder, randy wolf, rickie weeks, royals, shaun marcum, win now, win now mode, yovani gallardo, yuniesky betancourt, zack greinke
This got lost in the election hysteria, but the Brewers hired Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke as their new manager. He replaces the fired Ken Macha.
Managers have little impact on wins and losses as strategists; everyone at the major league level knows the game well enough to make the right moves most of the time. A manager’s real impact is in dealing with the egos and personalities in the clubhouse, and keeping morale high in hard times. Early indications are that Roenicke will be a good hire in that regard:
He is even-keeled and can come off as the quiet type. He is never too high and never too low and will give honest assessments of his team and players.
That sounds a lot like Ken Macha, the Milwaukee Brewers manager for the last two seasons who was not brought back when the team declined to pick up his option for next year.
However, there is a distinct strength for the new Brewers manager that wasn’t always present with Macha: Roenicke is great at player relations. Macha was criticized for not always relating well to some players, particularly stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and admitted to a communication gap.
Roenicke, the Los Angeles Angels bench coach for the last five years and a third-base coach during the previous six, became a favorite sounding board for some Angels, especially centerfielder Torii Hunter, who spent the last three seasons playing for Roenicke.
Time will tell how Roenicke pans out. But at this point, he looks like a smart hire.