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2016 NL Central Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

March 29, 2016

And we’re back!

I kind of stopped paying attention to the Reds last summer around the All-Star Break. Will I be paying closer attention to the Reds this season? I doubt it, but let’s not kill the momentum before I even get started.

But enough of my yappin’! I spoke to the Brewers Bar about their cheese curd-loving baseball team.

Brewers

The Brewers seem to have the same plan as the Reds this season—to do as little damage as possible in the National League. What’s the expected timeline for the Brewers’ to be competitive again, and how much faith do you have in the organization to turn things around?

Indeed the Brewers, like the Reds to a lesser extent, are essentially waving the white flag on the 2016 season. The Brewers have gotten a bit more credit from national pundits, it seems, for tearing down more aggressively than Cincinnati. As a Brewers fan, I like the force with which they’ve pursued the rebuild: They’ve traded nine players and brought in 16 in those exchanges, and have picked up only one major league free agent (first baseman Chris Carter for a paltry sum). Most of the returns in trades have been prospects at the low levels, but they’ve brought in guys like outfielders Rymer Liriano and Ramon Flores in small trades. Liriano and others like him have some upside and are ready to help at the major league level.

In summary, while most of the team’s moves have been for the longterm future, new GM David Stearns has made some savvy acquisitions, it appears, to boost the big league team as well, and has done it cheaply. The expected timeline for the Brewers’ return to contention looks to be 2018 realistically. That year will signify some of their more highly-touted prospects getting established in Milwaukee. 2017 is a possibility, depending on how things progress. But I would think 2018 is a year the organization is targeting for at least getting back in the picture a bit if not actually making the playoffs. Of course 2019 might be even more realistic.

As for how much faith I have, well, I can tell you I have a lot more faith with new GM Stearns in the driver’s seat compared to previous GM Doug Melvin. Melvin took the patchwork approach to trying to field a competitive team for too long. It made some sense for him because he was in the twilight of his GM career, but the Brewers probably needed to tear the club apart as far back as 2012 or 2013. It’s been frustrating to watch Milwaukee settle for mediocrity for so long, and I’m with the many fans who feel a fresh breeze blowing now that the team has decided to seriously rebuild and stop pretending they can beat the Cardinals (and Cubs and Pirates…and the Reds).

It seems that most people have gotten over the fact that Ryan Braun is a big fat cheater who slandered an innocent urine collector and repeatedly lied to investigators. With his recent back surgery, and an inability to obtain HGH on a regular basis, what kind of year are you expecting out of Braun?

If he can stay healthy I expect Braun to post better numbers than in 2015. Last year he put up 25 homers and 84 RBI with a .285 batting average in 140 games. He also stole 24 bases. That is easing closer to his previous quality production. I realize those are conventional stats but one doesn’t need advanced metrics with Braun. He needs to play in at least 145 games and put up big power numbers to be a success.

I know fans of opposing teams, particularly in the NL Central, hate Braun. I get it. But Brewers fans just want him to produce to help the team win as long as he’s still on the team. Yeah, Braun’s not a likable guy. Maybe he’ll get traded eventually. I have no real interest in defending him, but what about 2012 when he was tested a bunch but posted great numbers? All the Braun-haters out there just go hog wild and cherry pick information to attack him, which isn’t that impressive. Most Brewers fans simply tolerate him at this point and will not be upset when he’s finally gone.

I’m assuming you also hate Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta. Because they’re cheaters, too. And there are others. I guess you should just try to put yourself in our shoes…would you expend the energy to harp on this subject for years or just enjoy your favorite team playing baseball? It’s easy to take the occasional pot shot at the Brewers because of Braun. Well, most Milwaukee fans would probably agree with you but they’re not going to go through this whole song and dance over and over. You know who is also a big fat douche? Pete Rose.

I saw the Reds play at Miller Park late last season, and while I was there I ate a sandwich that consisted of bananas and frozen yogurt nestled between a giant glazed donut. While I ended up being underwhelmed by this particular item, I was wondering if you have a favorite Miller Park food item?

For this question, I will bring in my colleague at The Brewers Bar, Enrique Bakemeyer, who is our resident ballpark-food enthusiast.

Enrique:

Here’s my take: The food options kind of took a downturn between 2014-2015 with fewer overall items and the disappearance of the Double Clutch – the booth that had a rotating menu based on the visiting team. I don’t know how Miller Park “Skyline chili” compared to the real thing in Cincinnati, but it was nice to see what they came up with.

In the second half of last year, they brought back a modified version of the Double Clutch at one of the loge level food stands; it seemed to be an acknowledgment that ditching the Double Clutch was a mistake. It wasn’t the same, but sometimes it’s the thought that counts. I remember having a pork chop on a stick from there that didn’t offend my palate. Hopefully they’ll have something like that again this year.

But since I don’t know if Double Clutch v3 will be a thing in 2016, if I had to pick one favorite item that Miller Park has offered consistently in recent years, the carved meat sandwiches – turkey or brisket – on the loge and field levels always hit the spot.

Who is your favorite current Brewer, and why?

If this were last March I would say Jonathan Lucroy, the great catcher who became the de facto face of the franchise when Braun sullied himself. But now Lucroy has gone and opened his yap to the press over the winter about how he’d maybe not like to lose ball games for the next two years while he’s in his prime. I can’t blame him at all for his position, but it’s hard not to reel in the affection for the player at the same time.

You see, what with all the new faces this is a really hard question. Carlos Gomez is gone…he may have been a good choice. I’m going to go with right fielder Domingo Santana, who came over with three other prospects in the Gomez/Mike Fiers trade with the Astros last July. He’s been raking in Spring Training and seems like a cool dude. Lefty reliever Will Smith is also a candidate. But he’ll probably be traded this year, so what the f**k.

Your prediction for the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers.

I’m going to agree with my colleague Enrique, who told Cardinals blog C70 at the Bat recently that the team will finish last in the NL Central but lose fewer than 100 games. Milwaukee finished 68-94 last year and while I don’t think they’ll be much better, they also won’t have Kyle Lohse around to weigh them down with 13 losses and a 5.85 ERA. I will look on the bright side and say 70-92. This season is all about player development though, and perhaps a nice draft pick. So who really cares. I just want to watch some baseball regardless.

Thanks again to The Brewers Bar. You can make “Double Clutch” jokes in the comments section at thebrewersbar.com.

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