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The 2014-2015 Brewers: A Tale of Two Aprils

Let’s run the clock back a year. It’s July 21st, 2014, and the Brewers are frantically trying to hold off the storming Cardinals, having regained a half game lead in the division with a 5-2 win over the Reds. Brewers fans, nervously scoreboard watching as the Pirates sit just 2.5 games back as well, are wondering what sort of moves Doug Melvin plans to make to bolster the pitching staff and find a left handed hitter to plug holes that have allowed the rest of the NL Central to climb back into the race. Brewer Nation is nervous, having watched what once seemed to be a healthy division lead evaporate, but fears of missing the playoffs haven’t yet begun to take hold for even the most cynical fans; the shade of the horrors of the oncoming September collapse is creeping but remains in the shadows, just beyond our peripheral visions.

Now bring it back to the present. The surging Brewers have won 16 of their last 22 games, but at 41-52 still find themselves decidedly out of the playoff picture, and are one of a small handful of teams universally regarded as sellers at the trade deadline. After a decade-long commitment to winning now that resulted in only two playoff appearances and only one series victory, the farm system is weak, and the Brewers are expected to make a big push to trade most of their veteran players for whatever they can get in an effort to further bolster a recovering minor league system.

The Brewers rather famously got off to a 20-7 start last year, the best start in team history and one that put them in the driver’s seat for most of the year in the NL Central race. This season began just slightly worse, when they all but obliterated their playoff hopes with a disastrous 8-19 start over that same span.

But what about after those aberrational starts? Let’s take a look:

2014 Milwaukee Brewers 2015 Milwaukee Brewers
First 27 Games: 20-7 8-19
Next 66 Games: 32-34 33-33
Final record: 82-80 ???

So the difference between a solid World Series contender looking to buy at the deadline and one of the worst teams in the league due for a fire sale is … a month’s worth of games in April? It seems silly to judge these teams based on a number of games that amounts to about 16% of the season. More likely, last year’s team was significantly worse than we may have thought early on, this year’s version is quite a bit better than their record has shown to date, and the true talent level for both years is right around that 82-80 mark that the 2014 squad wound up with.

None of this is to say that the Brewers were wrong to go for it last year, or that they shouldn’t be sellers at the deadline this year. Often, all it takes is for an average team to get hot for a month to find your way into the playoffs. Remember the 2007 Colorado Rockies? They sat just four games over .500 on September 15th  and were just another NL West also-ran, but went on to win 20 of their next 21 games, including a walk-off win over San Diego in game 163, to find themselves in the World Series. On the flip side of that coin, as we’ve seen this year, a disastrous stretch of bad play like the Brewers experienced this April is more than enough to knock a borderline team out of contention.

That being said, if you thought the Brewers were a legitimate threat to win the World Series in 2014 (and we did), then there is little reason not to believe that going forward under the right circumstances, because it’s essentially the same team. For that reason, and especially given the Brewers recent surge, do not be shocked if the Brewers hold on to their assets that could help them win in the very near future at the trade deadline. Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers and Adam Lind – the Brewers’ four most valuable trade chips outside of the blistering-hot Gerardo Parra – are all under team control next year in one way or another: Gomez and Lucroy are on team-friendly contracts that run through 2016, Lind’s $8 million club option next year is almost certain to be picked up by whatever team he’s playing for at year’s end, and Fiers won’t even be eligible for arbitration until 2017. All of this give Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin the flexibility, if they so choose, to make one last run with this core in 2016, and should the fall flat again, trade them next July for a smaller but still substantial bounty.

There are holes that would need to be filled if the Brewers’ meant to compete as early as next year. Matt Garza remains under contract through 2017 (with a vesting option for 2018 that bears discussing sometime soon if he remains with the team), but he isn’t likely to offer a ton of value to a contender going forward, and his contract will make him difficult for the Brewers to move. Kyle Lohse is a free agent after this season, and he’s clearly outstripped his usefulness as a major league starting pitcher. The Brewers have some young talent in Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann in addition to Fiers, but that’s certainly not the kind of rotation that wins you a playoff series. The Brewers will also have to find a third baseman Ramirez retiring after this season, a position at which their farm system is totally bereft of talent. This is neither an endorsement nor a denouncement of a potential effort by the Brewers to try to reload for next year; I present this as a mere statement of fact. If they wanted to fill those holes, they would need to do so through free agency – to gut the already thin system again for an outside shot at a wild card spot in a spectacularly tough division would be a franchise-crippling mistake that I’m willing to trust Attanasio won’t make, no matter how great his drive to produce a team that can fill seats on a yearly basis.

Are the Brewers really, truly done this year? Probably, yeah. They were sitting at about the same spot they are now back in 2012, when a seven game losing streak left them 10 games under .500 and 10 games back of the second wild card spot. That late July slide forced Melvin’s hand toward selling, and Zack Grienke was dealt to the Angels. The Brewers, however, would rally all the way back to get within a game and a half of the Cardinals for that last playoff spot on September 21st before finally fading away. So there’s a slight gasp of hope if you feel like holding onto something, but the NL Central was a lot weaker in 2012, when the both the Cubs and Astros lost 100 games and the Pirates were still a year away from breaking their long streak of losing seasons. So the best case scenario, if you’re the impatient type, is a quick reload (though the free agent third baseman class for next year looks downright brutal) for next year.

What will the Brewers do at the deadline this year? At this point, who knows. It’s been a slow starting trade season across the league this year, but with so much parity throughout the league, the Brewers man be one of a very small amount of teams willing to toss in the towel and sell assets over the next week and a half. If you were hoping for a home run return for the likes of Gomez or Lucroy, the promising signs the Crew has shown over the past month has probably wiped that possibility out, if it ever really existed at all. Parra is the Brewers best and most obvious piece, and were he to still be on the team on August 1st, it would not only be shocking, it would be a grievous mistake on the team’s part. Ramirez may be traded, if he wants to be and if they can find a buyer. The Brewers would love to offload Lohse and/or Garza, but will find it difficult to find a contender that believes either can offer value down the stretch. For anyone else on the roster, the Brewers would really need to be blown away to consider moving pieces with multiple years of team control left. Whatever the Brewers choose to do, I would expect the big league team to look substantially different come August 1st.

Being An Idiot On Twitter: A Tragicomedy in Three Acts

I did not have a very nice morning.

I woke up tired and sore after a weekend mini-vacation to the Wisconsin Dells to celebrate the wedding of a college roommate. Two days of carefree fun in the sun had been replaced with five days of weirdly patterned cubicles, fluorescent lights, and a lot of decidedly un-fun things like spreadsheets that aren’t about baseball statistics, making phone calls to people who do not want to talk to me, and capitalized interest. I didn’t not drink fully 126 ounces of tropical-themed drinks with names such as The Kings of Rum Poolside Punch and Wild Blue Yonder on Sunday out of a giant margarita glass large enough to fit a women’s basketball into, so I was dealing with the aftermath of that as well. I was cranky, and I needed to take it out on someone. I decided to take it out on you, Brewers Twitter.

Oh boy. Oh no.

But wait. Assuredly, there’s no one out there that would take such a preposterously hot take seriously, is there? 10.5 games back is a LOT of games to be back. Orlando Arcia is super NOT going to be traded. I mean, this is @PFTCommenter done very poorly. You have to be a BIT more realistic, right?

Well, look. Brew Crew Ball has upwards of 8,000 followers, and it’s just not reasonable to assume that some portion of them are awe-inspiringly stupid. This is Twitter, after all. They don’t check your official transcripts before they let you join. It’s reasonable for them to assume my reply was in earnest.   Let’s take it up a notch.

Alright now wait just a gosh darn minute. Now, not only am I implying that a single at bat during a meaningless exhibition game in any way affects a prospect’s value, but I am making this claim based on an at bat that I didn’t even see, I only read about it. This is very obvious trolling, and anyone who doesn’t see it just doesn’t want to and feels like havin’ an argument. Definitely, the rest of y’all aren’t fooled, right?

This phrase is trademarked by Elsa you will need to sent $3.99 to Disney to use it

BUT DID YOU SEE THE AT BAT IT WAS BAD CHRIS IT WAS SO BAD

Another $3.99 in the coffers for Disney. Pay the man, Eric

Heh! You an me both, pal. Who wants to be a part of a team that gives up on a season because of silly things like “reality” or “because there isn’t any hope of us competing this year” or “the long term health of the franchise”

“Math” is on to me, you guys. PLAY IT COOL

A stunning development in our story. This is brand new information to me!

So anyway, the experience of pretending to be the world’s worst Brewers fan this afternoon gave me the chance to blow off some steam on my lunch break, while simultaneously making a few folks feel real nice about themselves for being so right in an argument on the internet. Imagine the gift I’ve given these folks! All of them won an argument on Twitter today. What a treat. And my imaginary beef with whoever runs the Brew Crew Ball social media accounts ended with a nice talk about sandwiches.

Happy Monday, everyone.

The dang Brewers are bad: 5 ways to enjoy the game anyway

You're a spade

You’re a spade.

Okay, folks friends. Now, let’s not beat around the bush or anything, let’s just talk about the dang elephant in the room. Let’s really get down to brass tacks here. Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s time to face the music, people. It really is.

The Brewers are the worst dang baseball team in the whole league.

And it’s just the pits.

So what are you gonna do? If you’re like me (you know, not totally like me, but a little bit I guess is what I’m saying, anyway just shut up and listen, will you), then you’ve got this whole big stack of Brewers tickets for the rest of the season, because you know, maybe you didn’t think they were going to win the World Series or anything like that, and maybe the playoffs were really a long shot all along if we’re being honest with ourselves, but you kind of figured they’d be playing some meaningful baseball for at least a couple months, and darn it, going to the ball game is just a good time all around, anyway.

But instead the days of the Brewers playing meaningful baseball are already over, and holy crap will you just look at that, it’s not even May yet for Pete’s sake. What in the world! That’s right, at 4-17 (as of Tuesday night), the Brewers are already 10 games out of first place. TEN GAMES! In April! They have a -52 run differential, which is 15 runs worse than the next worst team, Philadelphia. As a team, they are ranked 27th in ERA, 29th in OPS and 27th in Fielding%, the latter of which isn’t even a good stat but shut up the point is, they aren’t good at any of the three parts of playing a baseball game. Plus they keep wearing those Dwight Schrute uniforms, so they don’t even look good while the look bad.

But we’re not here to beat any dead horses, that’s what we have @HoustonRockets for. So just how the heck are you going to have any fun at Miller Park this summer with the Milwaukee Nine playing like the Indians at the beginning of Major League? I’ve heard your cries for help:

“We need a solution, Travis!”
Yeah, I know you do, friends.
“The Brewers sure are bad, aren’t they, bud?”
Yup.
“What are we to do, Travis? Die in our beds?”
Quit bein’ so dramatic. I’m here to help with some handy tips on how to really spice up your game-day experience:

1) Drink a lot

The seems like it goes without saying maybe, and shouldn’t necessarily be a significant alteration in your normal game-day routine. Here, I merely suggest drinking slightly-to-moderately more than you would normally. If your tailgating program normally calls for 2-3 beers, perhaps have 3-5 beers instead. If you are 21 years old, you might consider shotgunning two beers (a double-barreled shotgun, if you will), or perhaps a tallboy, rather than the customary single 12 oz. can. Of course, I stress here the importance of a designated driver to make sure you and all your fellow fans get home safely. In the absence of a willing teetotaler, I urge you to consider Uber, which now has it’s own designated pick-up parking lot right next to the Brat Haus.

3196051746_759dbb6f43

You sure don’t want to see this on your date!

2) Take a pretty girl to the game with you

Or a handsome man, okay, that’s fine, ladies and gay dudes. We are accepting of all cultures here. All I’m saying is, you know, most things are more fun if you can bring a nice-looking person of your chosen gender along with you. Y’all can have a nice chat, maybe enjoy some delicious ballpark nachos, and just really see where the night takes you. In fact, there are only a few places where bringing along a hot date would make things less fun:

  • A prostate exam, OBGYN appointment, or colonoscopy.
  • Your own wedding
  • Oddly enough, the movie theater to see 50 Shades of Gray
  • To fight Batman (no one wants to see you get your butt kicked, loser)
  • A Magic: The Gathering tournament
  • Gary, Indiana

3) Root for some other team

This isn’t necessarily a suggestion for enjoying games that you are attending at Miller Park, but rather for having a nice time during the MLB season in general. Now, I do not want to confuse anyone here: I am not advocating abandoning the Brewers or actively rooting for them to lose so that they acquire a better draft pick; that stuff is for jabronis. When you’re at the game, you just better root, root, root for the home team. I simply want to give you the opportunity to watch a team that has a chance to make some noise in October this year. Here’s a few top options:

  • Kansas City Royals – Did you like rooting for the Brewers during the 2006-2008 seasons? Well guess what, most of those guys are here now. The Royals lineup features former Brewers top prospects Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, and of course, they’re managed by statewide pariah and world-renowned George W. Bush impersonator Ned Yost. They also have the same style as those nasty jerks from the mid-aughts Brewers that so offended the official Keepers of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball. They may have gone too far a week or so ago, but it’s really, really hard to blame anyone for throwing balls at Brett Lawrie.
  • Whichever team is playing against St. Louis – This has been my second favorite team for years. I’m really looking forward to them hopefully having a great season.
  • Houston Astros – Guess whose got a four game lead in the AL West, that’s right you guessed it, it’s the dang Astros. Why not root for the Astros? Why not?
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – They’re gonna win so you might as well root for the winner if you’re gonna pick another team anyway.
8421A_d

This is a silly hat, for example

4) Wear a silly hat

There’s all kinds of silly hats you can wear. This one time, myself and a bunch of friends got roaring drunk and entered a kickball tournament, all wearing a bunch of silly hats from my house. There was a guy with a Packers helmet on, one lady wore a bike helmet, and I was wearing a festive felt chicken hat, like the one pictured to the left. The other team was a bunch of people in their 30s and 40s who had blue kickball uniforms and even wore matching baseball pants. They beat us by 30, but I like to imagine that we left with a greater degree of dignity than they did, having taken a kickball game so seriously. Any time a guy wearin’ a dopey chicken hat on his head thinks he’s ahead of you in the dignity standings, it’s time to reevaluate some choices.

Anyway, wear a silly hat to the Brewers game, who cares anyway. Just make sure it doesn’t obstruct the view of the people behind you.

5) Tacos

Find a way to incorporate tacos into your game-day routine. Tacos are the best food and eating a taco will always make a day better than it was before you ate any tacos. For a baseball themed taco, you can try topping your taco with bits of shaved baseballs or splinters from broken bats. Just make sure they’re new ones from the store and not game-used, or else you might get some dirty bits and your taco might be ruined; ruining a taco is among the gravest of game-day sins.

Can you think of any other ways to enjoy a baseball game featuring a bad team, just have a nice time during the summer in general, or do you own a cat? Sound off in the comment section below!

NostaTravis’ 2015 MLB Preview

Hey there pals. Yup that’s right it’s me, appearing before you for the first time, NostaTravis. Well, you know, I heard that baseball season was coming up soon, what with it bein’ April and all, and I thought maybe you all would like to know what was going to happen this year, since the baseball season is pretty long and the games are considered “boring” by some of you less dignified mortals, and you might just not have the patience to stick around and find out who the winner will be come October. So, consider this your **SPOILER ALERT** because if learning the winners of all the games before they happen will upset you, you better just go ahead and check out now.

Some things to note before we get started:

  • I am not very good at this. Last year I predicted that the Diamondbacks would make the playoffs as a Wild Card team (they finished in last place with a record of 64-98) and that the Tampa Bay Rays would win the World Series (at 77-85, the Rays finished 11 games out of the race for the second Wild Card spot). If you make gambling decisions based on my predictions, you will probably lose all of your money.
  • “Travis you big idiot the Brewers aren’t very good you are being a homer.” Read the name of this blog ya chucklehead.
  • Everything written here is exactly as true as you want it to be. Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co. is a magical vehicle powered only by your imagination. Let it run wild.

AL East

1) Baltimore Orioles
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Toronto Blue Jays
4) New York Yankees
5) Tampa Bay Rays

A lot of folks are down on the Orioles this year, which doesn’t make a dang lick of sense; they didn’t do much in the off-season, but they won this division by 12 games last year without Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, they didn’t need to do much … The Rays will have one of the best starting rotations in the league once Alex Cobb and Matt Moore are healthy, but their lineup is abysmal … A-Rod will play this year, which is pretty funny.

brantleymb

Cleveland MVP candidate Michael Brantley, in happier times.

AL Central

1) Cleveland Indians
2) Kansas City Royals*
3) Detroit Tigers
4) Chicago White Sox
5) Minnesota Twins

A couple of years ago, this division was a laughing stock outside of Detroit. Now it’s probably the best division in baseball: I could easily see any one of the four top teams taking it, and the Twins are only a year or two away from contention … The White Sox made a big splash in the free agent market, but a lot of times you don’t see a team click into contention after moves like that until year two … Sure the Tigers are getting old, but they’re not the Yankees yet, and David Price and Miguel Cabrera are still the best pitcher and best hitter in this division.

AL West

1) Los Angeles Angels
2) Seattle Mariners*
3) Oakland Athletics
4) Texas Rangers
5) Houston Astros

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and it isn’t close. The Angels have a bunch of other nice pieces as well … Oakland was very busy this off-season and made a couple of moves many considered questionable, but they haven’t lost too much … Yu Darvish will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery, which is an absolute tragedy … The Astros still aren’t close. Was the possibility of contending in the nebulous “next year” worth the half decade they’ve put their fans through?

bold-strategy-cotton

The Phillies

NL East

1) Washington Nationals
2) Miami Marlins*
3) New York Mets
4) Atlanta Braves
5) Philadelphia Phillies

A lot of people have dismissed the Nationals’ division championship as a foregone conclusion, which I think is as much an indictment of the rest of the division as it is a crowning for Washington. Everyone else is terrible … That being said, holy cow is Washington’s starting rotation good. Gio Gonzalez is their FIFTH starter — he is better than every pitcher currently employed by the Milwaukee Brewers … The Phillies are sitting at the intersection of really old and really bad. It’s an interesting approach.

NL Central

1) Milwaukee Brewers
2) Pittsburgh Pirates*
3) St. Louis Cardinals
4) Chicago Cubs
5) Cincinnati Reds

“Travis you can’t put the Brewers in first place you are being ridiculous” Oh yeah well guess what idiot I just did, shows what you know … The Brewers are a better team this year than the team that spent 150 days in first place last year. It’s not a stretch to think Jimmy Nelson can produce at the same level Gallardo did last season, Braun is healthy again, they employ an actual first baseman for the first time in three years, and the bullpen is deeeeep … “Travis you can’t put the Cardinals in third place you are being ridiculous” Yes I can fuck the Cardinals … The Cubs are going to be good. Really, really good. But I think they’re still a year away.

NL West

1) Los Angeles Dodgers
2) San Diego Padres
3) San Francisco Giants
4) Colorado Rockies
5) Arizona Diamondbacks

I mean, the Dodgers can afford to outbid everyone for anyone, and they just went on got one of the best penny-pinchers in the game in Andrew Friedman. I’m not sure how well that’s going to play out: he just shelled out 4/$48 for Brandon McCarthy … The Padres were involved in basically every off-season deal all winter, and they’ve obviously improved a league-worst offense immensely. I’m a big fan of their 100% new and improved outfield … The Diamondbacks have about nine major league players on their team, which is pretty good, because there aren’t any on the baseball team that I own. But since most of the other teams in the league have 25, I don’t think they’re gonna have a really nice time.

Playoffs:

Wild Card Games
NL: Marlins over Pirates
AL: Mariners over Royals
Divisional Series
NL: Nationals over Marlins, Dodgers over Brewers
AL: Angels over Mariners, Indians over Orioles
Championship Series
NL: Dodgers over Nationals
AL: Angels over Indians
World Series
Dodgers over Angels

The smirk of a man who knows he's the best in the world.

The smirk of a man who knows he’s the best in the world.

Awards:

MVP
NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
AL: MIke Trout, Los Angeles
Anyone who picks someone other than Trout for MVP is grasping for headlines. Get real.
Cy Young
NL: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
AL: Felix Hernandez, Seattle
Little bit of chalk here, but these are the two best pitchers in the game, health permitting.
Rookie of the Year
NL: Kris Bryant, Chicago
AL: Rusney Castillo, Boston
Boy, I SURE AM EXCITED for the Cubs future.

Well, thanks for taking a look, friend. Feel free to bookmark this post and tell me what an idiot I am during this year’s White Sox-Cubs World Series.

The Belt-O-Meter: Three Brewers Breakout Candidates

If you’re a fantasy baseball player or a fan of the San Francisco Giants (and why the hell wouldn’t you be? they win constantly), you may have noticed something strange over the past five years concerning a certain alliterative first baseman. To wit:

2011

Rant Sports: “Who Will Be The [sic] MLB’s 2011 Breakout Rookie?” (March 31, 2011)

2012

The Press Democrat: “Giants Breakout Pick for 2012: Brandon Belt”  (April 5, 2012)
Baseball Prospectus: “14 Choices for 2012 Breakout Players” (February 29, 2012)
SB Nation: “Predicting Breakouts With Spring Training” (March 29, 2012)

2013

CBS Sacramento: “Giants’ Brandon Belt Seems Primed for Breakout Season” (March 27, 2013)
SB Nation: “2013 Power Breakout Candidates” (March 30, 2013)
Sports Illustrated: “Reading Into Spring Training Statistics: Expect Big Things from Belt, Moustakas” (March 29, 2013)
Bleacher Report: “San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt Poised for a Breakout 2013 Season” (November 16, 2012)

2014

Sporting News: “Highlight These 1B Breakouts in Your 2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings” (February 24, 2014)
Fangraphs: “Is Brandon Belt Due For a Breakout?” (April 1, 2014)
SF Giants Rumors: “Brandon Belt Will Have a Breakout Season, and This is Why” (January 20, 2014)
The Baseball Haven: “2014 Breakout Candidates” (December 28, 2013)
ESPN: “Brandon Belt: Batting Title Contender?” (March 10, 2014)
Fansided: “San Francisco Giants: Who’s Poised for Breakout Year?” (February 6, 2014)

2015

SF Gate: “Shea: Belt Hopes to Provide Healthy Dose of Power” (February 7, 2015)
San Francisco Chronicle: “Belt is Preparing for Breakout 2015” (February 27, 2015)
Fansided: “Brandon Belt Should Enjoy Breakout Season in 2015” (February 11, 2015)
Fantasy Sports Locker Room: “The Price is Right: The Brandon Belt Breakout is Upon Us in 2015” (February 24, 2015)
ESPN: “Is Brandon Belt Ready to Bust Out in 2015?” (March 7, 2015)
Bloguin: “Ten Players Ready to Make The Leap in 2015” (February 27, 2015)

BRANDON BELT IS ETERNALLY BREAKING OUT. The 2015 list will grow as we move closer to Opening Day — A Google search for “Brandon Belt breakout” returns 188,000 results. The twitter dot com search for “Brandon Belt breakout” is pretty fun as well. In honor of the crowned king of the Breakout Year, I’ll be rating this year’s breakout candidates for the Brewers on my brand new Belt-O-Meter™ of Breakout Year potential (scale: 0-5 Belts).

4f177a49_mlbam1. Jimmy Nelson, SP

Nelson had been penciled in as the Brewers’ swingman and first man up in the event of an injury to one of the starting pitchers for 2015 until the February trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers thrust him into the Opening Day rotation. The whiplash-inducing struggles of Marco Estrada, who was also traded in the off-season, in 2014 led to a lot of Brewers fans clamoring for Nelson to be promoted early last year, and the Brewers eventually obliged, though Nelson generally failed to impress after dominating at AAA Nashville. However, Nelson has generally taken about a year to get acclimated to a new level throughout his professional career. Nelson was basically unhittable with the Sounds, being named the PCL Pitcher of the Year despite making only 16 starts. The Brewers’ rotation is incredibly thin, especially when considering Matt Garza’s annual trip to the DL — they’re counting on Nelson making a impact in 2015.

Belt-O-Meter:
belt  belt  belt  belt

47033146_mlbam2. Wily Peralta, SP

Peralta is neck-and-neck with Ryan Braun for Most Important Brewer as far as the Crew’s 2015 fortunes are concerned. While the focus on Braun will be on whether he can finally return to MVP form with a supposedly healthy thumb, the Brewers are basically asking Wily to flash signs that he’ll be able to bust out of the scouts’ consensus that he has a ceiling as a No. 3 pitcher. The Brewers lack a true ace, and most consider the year Wily had last year, when he posted a 17-11 record with a 3.53 ERA, to be pretty close to as good at the 25-year-old right hander is going to get. The Brewers have some potential high-end pitching talent working in the lower levels of their system, but their AAA team is staffed mostly by minor-league lifers and future relievers. To compete in the next couple of years, the Brewers are going to need Peralta to make another leap to something close to a franchise pitcher. Is that realistic, or have we already seen Wily’s ceiling?

Belt-O-Meter:
belt  belt

ph_6083493. Corey Knebel, RP

Knebel, who came over as part of the package the Brewers received for Gallardo, will most likely start the season at AAA Colorado Springs following the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez (barf) and the steadily improving health of Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson. That should in no way be an indictment against his talent, however, as there’s a very good possibility the 23-year-old is the best reliever in the organization right now, according to @D_J_Harvey at Brew Crew Ball. Knebel projects as a potential high-end closer, and he’ll likely be one of the first injury replacement call-ups this year if he doesn’t break camp with the big league club. BBC Co. endorses the idea that Knebel will negate the need to pick up K-Rod’s option in 2017, thus releasing Milwaukee from it’s six-year fever dream.

Belt-O-Meter:
beltbeltbeltbelt

Meet Your 2015 Brewers- A BBC Co. Exclusive

Well, well, well. Look what we have here. That’s right it’s me, Travis, and guess what? I’ve got it. I can’t tell you how but I have acquired a document that outlines definitively who will make the Milwaukee Brewers 2015 Opening Day roster and starting lineup and well, against my better judgment I am going to share it with you. That’s right, here today, just five games into the Cactus League schedule, I am here to share with you what the Brewers will look like when they take on the Colorado Rockies at 1:10 pm on April 6th.

STARTING LINEUP
CF Carlos Gomez
C Jonathan Lucroy
RF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Adam Lind
LF Khris Davis
SS Jean Segura
2B Hector Gomez
P Kyle Lohse

-Gomez is the obvious choice for the lead-off spot, despite the fire takes of jabronis with 24 Twitter dot com followers who don’t understand how baseball works:

I legitimately saw tweets like this in response to the Brewers posted lineups every single day Gomez was in the lead-off spot where he belongs. SMH
-Braun, the Brewers’ lone representative on the 2015 BSOHL team, reclaims the three hole for now, until his no-longer-filled-with-steroids body breaks down again and he spends all of June on the DL.
-Scooter is relegated to backup duty, as the Rockies’ most likely opening day starter is lefty Jorge De La Rosa. Runnin’ Ron has insisted he means to give Scooter and fellow lefty Adam Lind a shot to play everyday, despite the fact that neither has ever hit against lefties ever, at any level of their professional careers. Adam Lind will get the start anyway because he’s the Brewers’ big off-season acquisition and this is Opening Day, but Scooter owns a career OPS of .291 against LHP. TWO NINETY ONE. Scooter will remain the business end of the platoon at the keystone.
-Kyle Lohse will start on Opening Day for the first time since 2012, when he took the ball for the Cardinals following an injury to Chris Carpenter (I am currently checking to see if I have won the prize for being the 1,000,000th person to type the phrase “injury to Chris Carpenter). Some people think Wily Peralta should start on Opening Day. Some people are also idiots.

BENCH
OF Gerado Parra
C Martin Maldonado
1B/3B Luis Jimenez
2B Scooter Gennett
OF Shane Peterson

-Hector Gomez will be the backup at SS and 2B, but as mentioned previously will get the start on Opening Day
-I foresee Parra forcing his way into something close to a 50/50 split with Khris Davis in LF during the rare instances he’s not starting in right due to a Braun injury.

STARTING ROTATION
SP Kyle Lohse
SP Matt Garza
SP Wily Peralta
SP Mike Fiers
SP Jimmy Nelson

-This starting rotation isn’t very good. Sorry about that.
-There’s nothing anyone can do about it and the Brewers are probably going to lose some games because of it.
-The Brewers have said they will be stretching Tyler Thornburg out to provide depth for a suddenly paper-thin starting pitcher stable. IMO he’s more valuable as a reliever, but we shall see.

BULLPEN
CL Jonathan Broxton
RP Francisco Rodriguez
RP Will Smith
RP Neal Cotts
RP Jeremy Jeffress
RP Brandon Kintzler
RP Tyler Thornburg

-This is probably the position the Brewers are deepest at. Newcomers Corey Knebel, Chris Perez and Dontrelle Willis (lol) provide valuable depth, and erstwhile closer Jim Henderson, who appears on track to potentially be healthy for Opening Day, may find there’s not even a spot available for him.
-K-Rod is not listed as the closer because I hate him.

#SeeUApril6

Thirty Pitches of Terror IV: K-Rod Returns

Three and a half years ago, a clerical error sent New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers despite a no-trade clause in his contract that barred him from being sent to Milwaukee. Today, the 33-year-old Venezuelan signed with the Brewers as a free agent for the fourth consecutive year (despite being traded to the Orioles at the 2013 trade deadline). Rodriguez and Brewers GM Doug Melvin have become baseball’s Sarah and Stephan (This reference means nothing to you if you’re not familiar with at least the last half-decade of my love life, so don’t think about it too hard): the couple that keeps hooking back up no matter how many times it doesn’t work out, and no matter what any of their friends say. This tweet, which features some truly flawless Photoshop work, about sums up the complicated relationship between Doug and K-Rod:

Let’s run K-Rod Part IV through the Pro/Con machine:

Pro: Fransisco Rodriguez is a good baseball player, was the best relief pitcher left on the free agent market and makes the Brewers better at baseball.
Con: Francisco Rodriguez is not a very good human person. He beats up his significant others, he beats up his significant others’ family members, and he escapes punishment when his victims conveniently wind up in South America.
Pro: K-Rod immediately replaces Ryan Braun as the worst person in the Brewers organization, because beating folks up is worse than cheating at a children’s game. This frees Braun up to worry about his thumb and how he’s going to get Kwik Trip to resign him as a spokesperson.

Pro: His 2 year/$13 million deal is probably a bit below market for someone with his overall track record and veteran status.
Con: While K-Rod has been very effective over the season’s first few months during his apparently indefinite Brewers tenure, he’s shown a marked decrease in effectiveness in each of the past two years as the season dragged on, including a home run rate that has doubled in the second half:

Pro: This signing eliminates the possibility of the Brewers trading away any of their assets for the right to pay Jonathan Papelbon $26 million over the next two seasons.
Con: Papelbon is a better pitcher than K-Rod.

Pro: This:

Pro: The Brewers already have scoreboard graphics for K-Rod’s entrance, so they won’t need to spend any money on making up something for Jonathan Broxton, who will be pushed to a setup role.
Con: Broxton’s walk-up song is Black friggin’ Sabbath, and K-Rod’s is unintelligible Puerto Rican reggaeton.

Pro: This signing gives the Brewers four pitchers with closing experience: K-Rod, Broxton, Jim Henderson (still on his way back from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of 2014) and former Indians closer Chris Perez, who was signed to a minor league contract earlier this month.
Con: It is 2015 and “closer”, a made-up completely fictional non-position, is still a thing professional baseball managers care about.

Pro: “Thirty Pitches of Terror” is a fun nickname, and K-Rod can turn even the most boring three-run saves into a roller coaster of suspense, which is great for television ratings.
Con: That pro was actually a con.

Here’s hoping the Brewers have this in their playlist when it comes time to make a decision about K-Rod’s club option year in 2017:

Travis’s Mailbag #1

Well hello there, folks. Guess what it’s a new feature of Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co. (that is the name of my blog but don’t worry it doesn’t matter), it’s Travis’s Mailbag. This new feature will appear pretty much every time I think it’s time to do one. It includes real questions from actual readers people I know. Some of the questions are about sports, some are not. I hope you like it. If you don’t, please send all complaints to a therapist, they’re awesome at listening.

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That analogy was in no way a thinly vieledexcuse to use a picture of JLaw.

What difference in performance will we see this weekend in the Green Bay offense against Seattle with three key scratches (Davante Adams, Bryan Bulaga and Eddie Lacy) from week one that are now available and playing well?

-Ian F., Kenosha, WI

Comparing the Packers offense in week one of 2014 to the Packers offense in, say, November, when the Packers averaged 39.5 points per game, is like comparing the attractiveness of pre-pixie cut1 Jennifer Lawrence to the burned side of Harvey Dent’s face. Sure, you can do it, but you shouldn’t, because you’ll only wear yourself out and honestly it’s irresponsible.

Green Bay’s offensive line in week one featured Derrick Sherrod, who might represent Ted Thompson’s greatest draft failure of his ten year run as the Packers GM, starting for the injured Bulaga; and Corey Linsley, a fourth round draft pick pressed into a starting role due to JC Tretter’s injury. The Packers were abused by Seattle’s defensive line; Sherrod posted a PFF grade of -6.4 for the game (an explanation of their grading process is here, but -6.4 was the lowest of the game, and among the lowest in the league that week) while being exposed repeatedly in pass protection by Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Linsley was also ineffective, which you might expect from a rookie playing his first meaningful snaps against the defending Super Bowl champions in the most hostile environment in the NFL.

Now, the Packers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, with Bulaga now healthy and Linsley, with a season’s worth of experience under his very large belt, playing like one of the top centers in the league. They also have a couple more weapons in the passing game with the emergence of Adams and Richard Rodgers, and of course they have Lacy, who looked like a Trent Richardson starter kit over the first several weeks of the season but has emerged now as one of the NFL’s premier running backs.

All of this leads us here: were Aaron Rodgers healthy, there’s nothing about the Seahawks that really scares me, and I would expect a comfortable win for Green Bay. But he’s not, and the loss of his mobility is something the Packers will miss even more against Seattle’s dangerous defensive line. Rodgers will have to be much closer to 100% than he was last Sunday for the Packers to have a legitimate chance to advance past Seattle. I don’t know if they can do it THE PACKERS ARE GOING TO WIN BY 600 POINTS.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

-Megan L. (@megan_leonard), Lake Geneva, WI

First of all, we need to define some of our terms here. The woodchuck, more commonly known as the groundhog when not starring in North American tongue twisters, is a rodent that belongs to the family of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Groundhogs, common throughout North America, are excellent swimmers and burrowers in addition to their well-documented revulsion toward their own shadows and lackluster meteorological skills. To chuck, according to Webster’s dictionary, is to toss, throw or discard something.

So how much wood would a groundhog throw, if it could throw wood? When digging it’s burrow, a groundhog moves about 35 cubic feet of dirt. The wood of a sugar maple tree weighs approximately 56 pounds per cubic foot. So a woodchuck would chuck about 1960 pounds of wood, if a woodchuck only could.

Are there hats?

-Brett H. (@bhtherightway), Madison, WI

Unfortunately, there are no hats at the present time.

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Despite a passing resemblance to Number Eight, it is unlikely that Wang is a Cylon.

Will Wei-Chung Wang ever develop into the pitcher the Brewers hope he will?

-Cael K. (@calejames), East Troy, WI

That depends on what sort of pitcher the Brewers hope Wang will be. At the minimum, based on their actions to date, you have to assume that the baseline is “at least the sort of pitcher that justifies torpedoing your own bullpen in a year in which you were in first place for five months as you consistently overused young pitchers in high leverage situations, causing them to burn out in June both physically and mentally, as the team played basically a man down for four months until you were able to find a doctor to lie about a phantom injury long enough to hide him on the disabled list, thus circumventing the spirit of the Rule 5 draft process.”  In that scenario, you’re looking at Wang needing to be a Cylon specifically engineered to be the greatest baseball pitcher of all time, consistently hitting 145-150 mph on the gun and treating the inside corner of the plate like the roof of the Sistine Chapel.

Do I think Wang can be that? Not really. If anything, Cylons would have been engineered to play Pyramid, which is a boring game anyway, and he has yet to exhibit the kind of mechanics that might be able to produce those kind of eye-popping fastball speeds.

Why is purple?

-Rob Z., Waukesha, WI

Oh, we got a wise guy, eh?

What is the greatest boy band of all time?

Stephanie, C., Racine, WI

What is a boy band?

-You need a collection of boys making music (you know, because words mean things)

-No instruments. If I so much as see a guitar string, you’re out (sorry, Hanson)

-If you weren’t managed by Lou Pearlman, that’s not a good sign (if you were managed by Lou Pearlman, that’s not really great either)

-No writing your own music. Are you kidding me? Out of the question. Get real.

Fine, fine, FINE. We know what this comes down to. After the jump:

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The Backstreet Boys are the best boy band of all time. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!! Look, N*Sync was great. The video for “Bye Bye Bye” was iconic, Tearin’ Up My Heart is a dope track, and their Christmas album is as important at holiday gatherings as the the damn cheese and crackers. But we are talking about the Backstreet Boys here. Millennium is one of the greatest albums of all time, and went Platinum 13 times in the United States. THIRTEEN DAMN TIMES! They invented Diamond, a certification better than Platinum3, in Canada because the Backstreet Boys sold too many dang records. “I Want It That Way” belongs in the Library of Congress, and if you sing it in a crowded karaoke bar it will cause all ladies within earshot to fall in love with you4.

In your opinion, why, when Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Bjork worked together, did they not call Byorke or Thom Bjork or anything like that?

-Adam G. (@AmadJames), Milwaukee, WI

First of all, let’s clarify something. Nothing read here is “my opinion”; this collection of molten-hot takes is comprised entirely of verified, indisputable facts4. Now, I don’t know anything about either of these artists. The only thing I know about Radiohead is that they are Scott Tenorman’s favorite band, which means I absolutely want nothing to do with them, because Scott Tenorman sucks. The entire sum of my knowledge of Bjork and her work comes from the following classic Celebrity Jeopardy clip from SNL, which you will now watch before continuing with my mailbag (if you don’t watch it, I’ll know).

Celebrity Jeopardy - 2002-05-18 - Dave Matthews, Bjork, Sean Connery

Anyway, the answer to your question, most likely, is poor management. In the high-stakes business of Icelandic folk rock, it’s important to brand your image correctly, and this was obviously a missed opportunity.

Why isn’t Flint Flossy everyone’s favorite rapper?

-Jesse D., Whitewater, WI

It’s Flynt, Jesse, and he is. Ladies love F dot Floss, Flynt Flo double, Internatioknown, ya feel me. You know better than that. Ol’ McFlossy had a freak so E I E I E I E I OHH.

Who was your favorite obese Brewers bullpen pitcher, and why?

-Cael K. (@calejames), East Troy, WI

This one’s easy: Ray King. My boy was 6’1″ and listed at 225 pounds (yeah…naw), and the hefty lefty (h/t Jared Lorenzen) mowed fools down in his first season with the Crew in 2000. His strong debut and our shared southpaw status made Burger a fan favorite in the Sarandos household.

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The hat I’m talking about. It is real and it definitely exists.

My fun story involving Ray: my dad took me to the MLB Fan Fest when the All-Star game came to Milwaukee in 2001. We hopped in line at the Fox Sports North booth, where Ben Sheets was on hand to tape faux Sports Center-type clips with young fans along with a couple other players and the Brewers TV broadcast team. I had my hat5, signed by both Sheets and Ray King, who was at the time my favorite player. As we made our way through the line, Bill Schroeder asked me if I wanted his autograph as well. I really didn’t, but 14-year-old me had the grace to not shoot the poor guy down, so Rock signed the hat too. I then went on to make my on-screen debut. The almost certain fact that the video of me awkwardly reading a fake sports highlight clip next to Ben Sheets is going to re-surface during my wedding reception remains a constant source of anxiety for me.

What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?

-Matt H., Salt Lake City, UT

We never get to marry Mallory Voelker. We don’t even date. However, she does invite us to play four square once in 5th grade. You’ll be shocked to learn that she knows your name, even though there’s only 25 dang kids in your class, and it will be the highlight of your time at Magee Elementary. Other things that may upset you to learn: the Brewers still haven’t won the World Series, they made a The Lion King 2 and it’s just awful, and we’re going back to school at age 27 on purpose.

What is love, and why does Haddaway keep asking that after all these years?

-Stephen J. (@johnsonsd04), Rockford, IL

Love is when her favorite girl from The Bachelor doesn’t get a rose, and she’s crying she’s so upset about it, and you pretend like that’s not absolutely insane. The reverse of this is any woman tolerating our reaction to every sports game ever. Haddaway only keeps asking that question because you keep listening to that song, which is really only acceptable if you’re watching 1990s SNL. Get your life together, son, that’s my advice to you. Start listening to better music. Like Taylor Swift.

Travis’s Mailbag was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Any rebroadcast, re-transmission or account of this mailbag without the express, written consent of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club is strongly encouraged and appreciated.

1Pixie cuts are awful. “BUT THAT’S SEXIST WOMEN DON’T HAVE TO DO THEIR HAIR THE ‘CORRECT’ WAY JUST TO PLEASE YOU!” No you don’t that’s correct but I don’t have to like what you like. I also don’t like mayonnaise or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Please note: post-pixie cut JLaw is still an absolute smoke show.

2Yes it was.

3I don’t know if Canada invented the Diamond certification specifically for the Backstreet Boys. Probably not.

4This is not true.

5The existence of this hat does not contradict the answer to Brett’s question, in which I state that no hats exist at the current time.

The 1989 Brewers: Milwaukee Baseball According to Taylor

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This is the unedited , real, not altered in MS Paint version of Taylor’s 1989 album cover. She is actually a huge Brewers fan.*

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.

Shut up.

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.

f2b4f-hi-res-178004547_crop_exact

We are prepared to forgive you for your past, Allen. No one is perfect.

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.

df6e7-prince-fielder-body-issue-cover

Why Prince. Why would you do this.

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.

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See Taylor is a baseball fan this is not ridiculous at all.

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.

How to cope with this week: A guide for Brewers fans

The Brewers are currently in the midst of a harrowing six game stretch that sees them play the Cardinals and the Pirates on the road, a trip that will almost assuredly decide their playoff fate and most likely the fate of the soul of baseball itself. It’s started off well with a very Cardinals 3-2 extra innings win when a bloop single from a September call up scored Gomez, who had just stolen two bases of off an apparently uninterested Yadier Molina. I know many Brewers fans are at their wit’s end after the Brewers’ disastrous tumble from the division lead to third in the wild card race, so here’s a handy guide on how to cope as you take in these final 11 games.

1) Drink a lot: There’s only one game left on the Brewers schedule that would conflict with your normal 9-5 work schedule (a ghastly 11:35 am start against the Reds next Thursday), so there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t be able to have a healthy buzz on before the singer drops the the final note on “brave” every day. I recommend avoiding  Budweiser and Yuengling products at all costs, as well as anything containing the words “Steel City” to avoid accidentally causing the baseball gods to believe you’re supporting the Cards or Bucs. Should you be worried about having a hangover at work the following morning, a good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one beer for every two innings*. Of course a nice, frosty Miller Lite would be ideal, but if you’re desperate, you can just dump whatever you have into one of the souvenir margarita mugs your girlfriend just needs to have at every game you drag her to.

*double this rate for any inning in which K-Rod appears

2) Watch this video: Over and over.

3) Switch games:  Should the tide of play seem to be inexorably turned against the Crew, it is permisible at this stage of the season to switch your MLB.tv feed to the Pirates game, to instead root for their opponent. With just two weeks to play, a Pirates loss counts just as much as a Brewers win. Should you find yourself in this scenario during the Pirates series, simply switch to the Yankees feed and laugh at the incessant slobbering over Derek Jeter’s shambling corpse. Under no circumstances should you switch to the Cubs game, lest you fill yourself with dread at the thought of facing a decade of Soler-Baez-Rizzo-Castoooooooh my god we’re screwed.

4) Remain calm and remember it’s just a game: LOL just kidding, panic.