The 1989 Brewers: Milwaukee Baseball According to Taylor
Well you guys, it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve given you anything to read from the mind of Travis Sarandos, and I know you’ve been left wanting. Well I’m here to feed you, baby birds, and we’re going to fill a void in the sports blogging world that has too long been lacking: rabid Brewers baseball fans who are also obsessed with Taylor Swift’s fifth album, 1989. “Well Travis,” you might be thinking, “well, I’m pretty sure there’s only one person who fits that extremely specific set of variables and guess what it’s you.” And I have just one thing to say to you.
That’s right, we’re going to run through 1989‘s track list and find a Brewer to match up with each song. This is groundbreaking sports blog territory IMO. If that sounds like something you’re not sure you want to read then might I suggest completely altering the direction you’ve taken in your miserable life.
1) Welcome to New York – Jimmy Nelson
The lights are so bright, but they never blind me.
After putting up eye popping numbers at AAA Nashville (R.I.P) in the first part of 2014, Nelson was brought up to The Show for good in May to give Marco Estrada some time off to heal from the self-induced whiplash acquired watching a preposterous number of home runs fly over his dumb head. He failed to match the lofty expectations of fans who don’t realize how difficult it is to jump from AAA to MLB, but was effective enough to retain a spot in the rotation for most of the season as the Brewers suffered through a rash of mid-season injuries.
Nelson is currently ticketed for the bullpen in 2015 after Mike Fiers’ sizzling second half (more on that later). That’s not good enough for the Brewers’ former top prospect. With nearly a year’s worth of experience now at the MLB level, the Brewers need Nelson to start realizing his potential as a front line starter.
2) Blank Space -Allen Craig
‘Cause I got a blank space, and I’ll write your name.
The Brewers acquisition of Adam Lind from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Estrada signaled that, although the team recognized the desperate need to upgrade their production at first base, they had no intention of moving away from the platoon system they installed out of necessity when absolutely every first baseman in the organization broke down during the spring of 2012. Lind mashes right handed pitching, but carries an abyssmal .212/.257/.331 slash line against south paws.
Enter Craig, the erstwhile St. Louis Cardinal who can, in fact, hit against LHP occasionally. The Boston Red Sox are known to be actively shopping Craig, whom they acquired last season as part of the deal that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals. Now, many of you know how I feel about a man with two first names — can’t trust him. But Craig would fit in nicely in the black space in the middle of the Brewers order, and would gladly be accepted into the fold to be rehabilitated after spending years being brainwashed under the Cardinal Way.
3) Style – Carlos Gomez
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time, ‘cuz we never go out of style.
Gomez fills a role that nearly every team has: the guy who is loved dearly by his team’s fans, but everyone else’s fans can’t stand him. He’s like your loud drunk friend: you love him, but everyone else in the bar wants to fire him into the sun out of a cannon. Gomez is an absolute treat to watch as he regularly flings his body to the ground and into walls and other people in an effort to make the extraordinary play. Anyone who hates Gogo can get 100% real.
4) Out of the Woods – Ryan Braun
Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet?
Boy, it’s been a rough couple of years for Ryan, huh? Three years ago, the only real knock anyone had against him was that he had his own line of Affliction t-shirts and he looked like a god dang tool in his Kwik Trip commercial. Since, he’s etched his gigantic-eyed face on the Mount Rushmore of Reviled PED Users right next to Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens, sat out a half season due to suspension, spent several weeks on the disabled list due to a series of troublesome chronic injuries, and struggled to produce at anywhere near even all-star level, let alone the eye-popping stat line that made him the controversial 2011 National League MVP.
So will we ever see anything close to the Ryan Braun of old? After going through an innovative procedure to try to correct the nerve issue plaguing his thumb that has sapped him of his power, Braun became one of the first members of Team #BSOHL for 2015 by announcing that his thumb was “100 percent” for the first time in two years. Whether or not Braun is finally out of the woods with respect to his injured thumb will be one of the biggest factors affecting the Brewers’ success in 2015.
5) All You Had To Do Was Stay – Prince Fielder
Well, could have been easy, all you had to do was stay.
Well, well, well. Look who it is, look what the cat dragged in. After missing just 1 game in the five previous years combined, Fielder played in just 42 games in his debut season with Texas and was largely a disappointment when he was on the field, leading to some frustration from Rangers fans who wonder why their team traded for a 30-year-old under contract for six more years that regularly flirts with 300 lbs. The Brewers, meanwhile, have tried absolutely everything to try to replace Prince’s production since his departure 4 years ago: Corey Hart worked for a year before his body broke down, as did Mat Gamel’s (though he failed to produce at all anyway), they tried a novel approach of “how about a bunch of bad shortstops is our first baseman now” in 2013, then tried to channel 2005 with the Ren-O platoon last year. What I’m trying to say here, clearly, is all you had to do was stay, Prince. We’d have made you a king. And I bet SOMEONE in the Milwaukee locker room would have been a bro and stopped you from doing ESPN’s Body Issue.
6) Shake It Off – Troy Tulowitzki
Just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world, you could’ve been getting down to this. sick. beat.
We’ve already re-hashed Braun’s self-inflicted tribulations today, so we won’t beat a dead horse YES WE WILL. The Brewers drafted baseball’s biggest tool with the fifth overall pick in 2005 in what may have been the most loaded draft class of all time. Who was the seventh pick that year well guess what it was Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo’s had issues throughout his career with staying on the field, but when he’s been healthy, he’s provided a corner outfield bat while being among the best defenders in the league at a premium position. It’s impossible to speculate of course, but I can guarantee the Brewers would be 3-time World Series champions had they drafted Tulo over Braun.
7) I Wish You Would – Yovani Gallardo
You always knew how to push my buttons. You give me everything and nothing.
Speaking of Braun, it boggles my mind that Yovani remains a beloved member of the Brewers after putting lives in danger when he was arrested for DUI, but Braun has been blackballed for hurting really nothing except his own reputation. There’s a lot of things we’ll forgive as a sports-loving society: DUI, manslaughter, running a dog fighting ring, domestic violence, gambling addiction, probably murdering someone, etc. But by god if you cheat by giving yourself an unfair advantage while playing a children’s game and then lie to protect yourself, well that we just can’t forgive.
Anyway, Yovani has been a frustrating player over his eight year career, showing flashes of ace-status for a while and then seemingly losing his way for months at a time. We’ll see who shows up in 2015.
8) Bad Blood – St. Louis Cardinals
Did you have to hit me where I’m weak baby I couldn’t breathe and rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me?
The Cardinals are the worst. If the Brewers are Taylor Swift, the Cardinals are John Mayer. My second favorite baseball team in the world is whichever team is playing the dang Cardinals. Rooting for the Arizona Cardinals football team made me viscerally ill last month. I hope all the Cardinals have to go to superhell for 500 years when they die.
9) Wildest Dreams – Jim Henderson
Say you’ll see me again, even if it’s just in your wildest dreams.
The Brewers bullpen put up some incredible numbers over the first two months of 2014, then really fell off a cliff as guys like Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg started to break down from overuse due largely to Jim Henderson prolonged absence and the Brewers’ steadfast refusal to admit the Wei-Chung Wang experiment had been a colossal failure. Henderson wound end up missing the remained of the year after making just 14 disappointing appearances, following a question-filled spring that led to him shockingly ceding the closer role to K-Rod on Opening Day. Not coincidentally, the Brewers slide back to mediocrity followed the same timeline. If Henderson can come back and return to his 2013 form, it should help shore up a thin Brewers bullpen.
10) How You Get The Girl – Gilbert Lara
I want you for worse or for better, I would wait forever and ever
Before last summer, the Brewers had never spent more than $800,000 on an international signing. They nearly tripled that when they spent $3.1 million to sign Lara, No. 4 on MLB.com’s Top 30 international prospects list. It’ll be a long while before the 16-year-old power-hitting shortstop will arrive at the major league level, but he has one of the highest upsides in the Brewers’ improving farm system.
11) This Love – Jean Segura
When you’re young, you just run, but you come back to what you need.
It’s no secret young Jean struggled at the plate, producing at a rate that was troublingly more similar to the second half of his rookie year, rather than the first half that made him an all-star in 2013. So if the bat just isn’t going to be there, Jean is going to have to rely on the two tools he still has in his belt: his glove and his speed. Just run, Jean. Run, and never look back. Well, okay, you can look back. But don’t lose track of where you started. Well, okay, you can lose track of where you started. Just don’t…
…you know what? Never mind. You do you, Jean.
12) I Know Places – Jeremy Jeffress
I know places we won’t be found and they’ll be chasing their tails trying to track us down ’cause I know places we can hide.
Jeffress was once considered the top prospect in Brewers system, but he wore out his welcome when repeated failed drug tests left him one missstep away from a lifetime ban and was traded in a package to the Royals for Yuniesky Betancourt and a pitcher. He was sold to Toronto after a disappointing turn with Kansas City, and the Brewers brought him back the Blue Jays cut him last year. Jeffress shined over the last half of 2014, turning into one of Roenicke’s most dependable relievers. Now safely in MLB where they don’t test for marijuana use, Jeremy is safe from the punishment that threatened to end his career. Go ahead and toke up^, Jeremy, you’ve earned it.
13) Clean – Ron Roenicke
The drought was the very worst, when the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst. It was months and months of back and forth…
The drought the Brewers went through in the back half of 2014 is one most die-hards won’t soon forget, as we watched a blossoming team whither and die on live TV night after night. And you know, you just never want to be that guy. If you have any sense at all, you don’t want to be the guy that’s screaming for the manager’s head when the team fails to meet expectations. So, I’m not trying to be that guy. I’m really not.
But you have a team that was 19 games over .500 with a 6.5 game lead on the rest of the division on June 28th, and then went 31-48 the rest of the way to not only blow the division but miss the playoffs by a wide margin. You have to figure out what happened and who should be held accountable. And when you take a look at what went wrong for the 2014 Brewers, the answer is, “absolutely dadgum everything.” Over the final three months of the season, the Brewers hit, pitched and fielded like a drinking team with a softball problem. They found new and exciting ways to lose games seemingly twice a week. They made the types of errors that get weeded out when games still end with Capri Suns and orange slices. So maybe Ron Roenicke is a good manager, and maybe the players just let him down. Or maybe how in the world does he still have this job? My god.
14) Wonderland – Mike Fiers
We found Wonderland, you and I got lost in it, and we pretended it could last forever.
Fiers had a dream season in 2014. Pressed into the major league rotation after starting the season in AAA, he recorded a 2.13 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 71.2 innings, and was over the final two months of the season seemingly the only Brewers regular who had any interest in winning baseball games. We’ve seen this act from Fiers before though, when he burst on the scene in 2012 only to fall apart in September as major league hitters got a chance to watch film and adapt to his tendencies, a trend that continued into an injury plagued 2013 season. It’s probably silly to pretend that Fiers can produce at that level going forward, but maybe we’ve found Wonderland.
15) You Are In Love – Jonathan Lucroy
‘Cause you can hear it in the silence, you can feel it on the way home, you can see it with the lights out. you’re in love, true love.
The rest of the league found out what Brewers fans already knew during Lucroy’s breakout season in 2014: that’s he’s one of the best young catchers in baseball. What’s not to love? He led the league in doubles, setting a record for doubles by a catcher along the way, en route to a sparkling .837 OPS which earned him a fourth place finish in MVP voting. We already knew he was capable of this, of course, as Lucroy actually posted a higher OPS and slash line in his 2012 season that was cut short by a totally normal, ordinary everyday sports injury. Lucroy has swiftly filled the “face of the franchise” void vacated by Braun two years ago.
16) New Romantics – Matt Garza
We hang back, it’s all in the timing. It’s poker, he can’t see it in my face but I’m about to play by ace.
Garza’s Brewers career got off the a rough start. After a tough luck loss in his debut in which he allowed just one run on two hits over eight innings, Garza struggled mightily, and his ERA ballooned to nearly 5 at the end of May. He seemed to flip a switch as the calendar turned however, and was the Brewers best pitcher by a wide margin for two months until his yearly injury robbed the Brewers of their ace at the worst possible time. The Brewers will need June and July Matt to show up more often in 2015, and hope that their ace can stay healthy for a majority of the year.
*This is not true. It is assumed Taylor just actively roots against the favorite team of whichever Hollywood hunk she most recently engaged in a public break-up with.
^Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co. does not condone the recreational use of marijuana, which is considered a controlled substance by the state of Wisconsin. Stay in school and don’t do drugs.