Braun: Brewers Didn’t Expect to Win

For anyone who’s played team sports, you know that attitude is just as important as talent. If you’re well-prepared to win, focused on winning, and believe you’re going to win, there’s a good chance you’re going to win. But sometimes teams really don’t approach games with a winning mentality, and sometimes they’re just going through the motions. Maybe it’s because of money issues, maybe because the team’s performance isn’t all that important to an individual, or maybe because partying is more important than winning. Whatever it may be, resident LBS stud Ryan Braun felt that his team didn’t expect to win this weekend.

“I almost felt like this series, we didn’t expect to win,” Braun said after the Brewers dropped their fifth consecutive game and ninth in a row on the road.

“We were competing; I know everybody tried hard. But it’s not about trying hard. You’ve got to expect to win. I almost feel like we never really expected to win any of these games. I just kind of had that feeling.

“It’s just a feeling. Every time we were winning, I just didn’t feel we expected to win. It was like we were just content to be there and compete. I don’t think we necessarily expected to win.”

And why do we care what Ryan Braun says? Because he’s one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and he went deep on possibly the best starting pitcher and best closer in the world over the last two days. And he couldn’t hit off of yours truly in high school, going 0-for-4, and every time I see him go deep it’s a swift kick in the ass for my self-esteem. But honestly, what he describes could be a reality. What he’s talking about is the same reason I didn’t have the Rays finishing ahead of the Orioles even though I thought they had more talent. Just having good players is one thing, proving you can win is another. And Braun is also talking about guys stepping up against the best competition, showing you belong with the big-boys like the Red Sox. Maybe that is the problem with the Brewers because they certainly are better than what they’re doing.

Eric Gagme Ready to Close Again

Well, that was quick. After saying he didn’t deserve the closer role following Saturday’s loss, the Brewers showed they agreed by yanking Eric Gagme as closer. Gagme said he didn’t need a mental break like Jason Isringhausen from the Cardinals, but he got one anyway. I guess two days of watching his teammates get saves makes Gagme remember how easy it is and now he wants to get back in the saddle:

“I want to go out there as soon as I can … that’s the way I am. That’s what I know. I know how to close. That’s the only thing I know how to do.”

“I wanted to go out there yesterday in a save situation — that’s how bad it is,” Gagne said. “As much as you hate it, you can only hate what you love, I think. And that’s exactly what I went (through) yesterday. I just went out there and I was sitting on the bench and I was getting anxious. I wanted to get the ball.”

Well I’m sure Jeff Weaver would like to be back in the bigs, Aaron Boone would like to be starting, and Rich Harden would like to stay off the DL. But none of that is in the cards, you know what I mean? At some point Gagme you’re just hurting the team and your wants become secondary to the team’s needs, and you’re well past that point. You’ve blown six saves and your team’s lost half of those games. Your replacements have saved consecutive ballgames putting your team at .500. The objective is to win games. Your team is four games out of first. Do the math. Flush that $10 million down the toilet, Milwaukee, and just win games.

Doug Melvin Has Deathwish: Sticking with Eric Gagme

When this subject was first broached in an email by JS, I tried to give Gagne the benefit of the doubt: he had been pitching for the fourth straight day when he blew a save to the Reds, his third of the year. One was a start, two was a trend … but five? Five and we just started May? Maybe it is too early to give up on him if you’re the Brewers and paid what, like $10 million for the season? But this guy is straight killing them. Eric Gagne has blown five saves now in only 14 chances. It’s been about a month since he’s had a 1-2-3 save. His WHIP is 1.70 and hitters are batting nearly .400 against him. That’s just awful. So honestly, what do you do if you’re Milwaukee? I guess your only options are to stick with him, demote him, or cut him.

If I were the Brewers, maybe I would baby Gagne, give him the Joba rules. I wouldn’t let him pitch on back-to-back nights, only let him close like half the games. That way you still get some effectiveness from him hopefully. At the least, he won’t be able to screw up two games in a row for the team. Milwaukee’s gone through with this recently with Turnbow and they stuck with him for quite some time before making a change. I think they certainly have shown that they’ll have patience. What options do they really have anyhow? Going closer by committee’s probably the best thing. If they want to compete this year, they’ll have to deal for another closer like they did with Francisco Cordero two years ago. Gagne just isn’t cutting it.

Could Ryan Braun Win ROY AND MVP?

(AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

I guess I haven’t quite touched on the depths of my attachment to one Mr. Ryan Braun, rookie third baseman of the Brewers. See, Ryan is probably the trunk of the far-reaching San Fernando Valley baseball tree through which I am connected to several current major leaguers. I was a year ahead of him in school, and pitched against him when his name topped several city statistical categories. As an 11th grader, Ryan could crush a fastball, but he really hadn’t seen too many good breaking balls. Being the junk baller that I was, I gave him a steady diet of the slow stuff, causing him to take an ofer against me — 0-for-4 without hitting a ball out of the infield. Clearly, I will be rooting for Ryan to have a Hall of Fame career; the better he does, the better I look, and the more I’ll be able to brag about my Al Bundy-like moment. Now that I have gotten my disclaimer out of the way, onto the actual baseball analysis.

There is no player in the NL dominating offensively as much as guys like A-Rod, Magglio, and Morneau are in the AL. Furthermore, none of the current above .500 teams in the NL have any one single offensive stud that is carrying the team. Team-by-team, the MVPs are probably Jose Reyes, Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, Aramis Ramirez, Russell Martin, Eric Byrnes, and Chris Young (the pitcher). Which brings me to the first place team in the Central — the Brewers.

There was a point in late May/early June when Milwaukee began to sputter. It was around that time when JJ Hardy started to cool off offensively, Rickie Weeks was hurt, and the dynamite platoon of Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino fizzled. Enter top prospect, Ryan Braun. Since being called up, Braun has posted Pujols-like rookie numbers. He’s batting .345, slugging .670, and OPSing 1.062. He has 16 home runs, 43 runs scored and 43 RBIs in just 51 games. He’s also stolen 8 bases for good measure. Sure, his defense has been spotty, but his studly offensive has more than made up for the fielding woes.

With 63 more games left on the Brewers’ schedule, Ryan has the chance to put together a pretty complete season. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll wind up with a 30-home run season, all the while carrying the Brewers offense. If they’re able to hold the Cubs off in the division with Braun continuing to carry the offensive load, then not only will he be the runaway Rookie of the Year (which he’s already locked up now that Hunter Pence is hurt), but he will be a top MVP candidate. Amen for the Jewish brethren.

Also check out all my other 2007 baseball predictions.

Ned Yost Should Take Blame for No-No

I’m not one to take a leak on another man’s greatest accomplishment, but that’s exactly what I’ll be doing here. Justin Verlander’s good, actually really good. But he did not have to be no-hitter good on Tuesday night. The probability that he would have held the Brewers to no hits could’ve been lowered. And dare I say avoided. See, when I look at the boxscore for the game, something stands out to me almost as much as the actual no-hitter — the Brewers lineup. Take a look at it:

Sorry to say it, but Milwaukee can field a better lineup than that. Come on, Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino hitting one and two? Phil Garner’s 7th and 8th spot of Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus are laughing at that top of the lineup. Plus, Yost gave third baseman Ryan Braun the day off. Braun has been arguably Milwaukee’s best hitter since his callup a few weeks ago, making Tuesday night’s day off ill-timed. Additionally, Yost used Gabe Gross for the DH spot, leaving the great Kevin Mench on the bench, another poor choice if you ask me.

Hey, it may seem like I’m nit-picking here, but I really feel like this whole situation could’ve been avoided if Yost did a better job of choosing his lineup. Then again, if every important baseball decision were left up to me, then these poor men would be out of jobs. So I guess it’s kind of like my community service or something. In the end, I’ll say it was an impressive no-no for Verlander that could have been avoided.

Oh, what do you know? It’s Doug Melvin on the phone for a conversation. Sorry guys, don’t expect the morning paper and usual posts until later today, I have an interview to prepare for.

Baseball Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Milwaukee Brewers (75-87, 4th in NL Central) +4 games

Get Crunked: Ben Sheets is a fireballer and dominates when he’s not dealing with his bad back. Francisco Cordero came over in the Carlos Lee deal from Texas to shut NL teams down as the closer last year. Bill Hall surprised people by slugging 35 HRs (35!) in ’06, and has been moved to CF. Rickie Weeks appears to be on the cusp of stardom as long as he can shake his wrist injury and defensive woes from a season ago. Prince Fielder is a slugger in the making, who isn’t as stationary as his father was.

Party Foul: Geoff Jenkins’ power fell off completely last year, he’s a crucial bat for this team and needs to turn it around. Derrick Turnbow imploded last year as the closer, now he must find himself as one of the setup men. Youngsters J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart must seize their opportunities in the everyday lineup.

Ben Sheets is dominant when healthy

What’d my GM do: Signing World Series star Jeff Suppan to a 4 year $42 million deal was expensive but it shows Doug Melvin is committed to fielding a competitive team. He traded Doug Davis and Dana Eveland to Arizona for Johnny Estrada, Claudio Vargas, and Greg Aquino, which should work out well for both teams. Craig Counsell was signed to a two-year deal, and his experience makes him a good insurance policy in the infield.

Lay it on me Straight: This is a very solid squad all the way around. The rotation is good, the fielding is pretty good, the bullpen is decent. The only problem is nothing about the offense really wows you, and the pitching isn’t dominating enough to the point where it can overcome a lack of run support.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: Near the .500 mark, but probably a bit below it, closer to the ’05 finish rather than the ’06 one.

Can we be better than that: If this team turns it on somehow (Hardy, Weeks, Hart), they could easily do better than the projection. Like I said it’s a very solid squad that’s been built nicely given the payroll, just don’t expect the playoffs.