“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
No baseball in winter? Yeah, right!
Alright, maybe no actual MLB games. And trips to the ballpark for me are reserved for meals at Friday’s Front Row or sales at the Brewers Team Store. And I suppose my TV schedule is freed up quite a bit. But there is plenty of baseball in the winter.
True, I wish I didn’t have to go through this period of cold, blustery days of shoveling the driveway (although I do love wearing cute cold weather accessories), worrying about getting in car accidents (which happened for the first time last winter and now I’ve developed a slight phobia of driving in the snow) and waiting for snowman snow (it’s the only kind of snow I actually enjoy). But without those days, what would there be to look forward to except for spring and baseball?
Okay, so winter doesn’t technically start for 25 more days, but for all intents and purposes, it’s already here. And I’ve had lots of baseball to occupy myself with. For starters, shortly after the World Series wrapped, the free agency buzz began. There were a bevy of awards to be given away and the Hot Stove has only begun to cook.
I’ve kept myself busy so far wondering if the Baseball Writer’s Association got everything right. For the most part, I think they did alright. Top 10 Hottie Joe Mauer most definitely deserved the AL’s MVP with just an incredible season for the Twins. But I do have to say that the award is Most Valuable Player, not hitter. To be fair, Albert Pujols had a great year offensively. Again. But as far as all-around players go, how the H did Prince Fielder finish fourth?
Of the top 4 (Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard and Fielder), Prince was the only one to start all 162 games, had only 7 errors, giving him the highest fielding percentage at .995 and, if you ask me, he’s come a long way at first base as a defensive player. And that all goes along with his league leading 141 RBIs (albeit tied with Howard) and he only trailed Pujols in homeruns by one with 46, not to mention his career high .299 AVG. So what if the Brewers finished out of contention and below .500? If it weren’t for Fielder, they would’ve done considerably worse.
Tim Lincecum of the Giants won the NL Cy Young for the second year in a row, although that’s been a sore subject for some. There were quite a few pitchers in the NL that could’ve won and with the way votes are tabulated, there was bound to be some controversy. Zack Greinke completely deserved his Cy Young and both Rookies of the Year were right on (sorry, Casey). The Marlins’ Chris Coghlan hit the ground running and led all NL rookies in batting average and runs and Oakland’s closer Andrew Bailey had an amazing first season with 26 saves in 30 opportunities, not to mention the crazy low ERA and WHIP, 1.84 and .88, respectively.
As for managers, I couldn’t agree more. I voted for Jim Tracy in TYIB and he did a great job taking over a slumping team in the Rockies and leading them to the National League Wild Card. Mike Scioscia overcame the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart and kept the Angels’ heads up, all the way to the ALCS where they eventually lost to the Yankees in 6, but not without putting up a damn good fight.
I’ve already touched briefly on Milwaukee’s free agent situation in an earlier post, but since the market officially opened last Friday, I’ve become a Hot Stove junkie. Well, a Brewers junkie, at least. Now, I know I can’t believe everything I read, but can I please have John Lackey, Carl Pavano, Roy Halladay, Derek Lowe and Jarrod Washburn and just start with a clean slate in 2010? Please? That would be super. Oh, wait… stupid Jeff Suppan still has another year on his contract. And I am okay with Yovani Gallardo in the Brewers rotation. And I wouldn’t be totally opposed to giving Dave Bush and Manny Parra another shot (because I do love them so). Okay, fine. I’ll settle for any one of the aforementioned free agent pitchers. Although we all know there are quite a few teams that are going to be contending for starting pitching and that can afford WAY more than Milwaukee can. I guess I’ll hold out a bit longer and see what happens. Hopefully Doug Melvin makes some smarter decisions this off-season…
So anyway, Mr. Hornsby, whoever said there’s no baseball in winter was clearly wrong. There’s a ton. But you’re right. I can’t wait for spring, either.
I’m not dwelling on JJ Hardy’s departure. Sure, the Brewers lost a true hottie, a Top 10 Hottie no less, but here’s to hoping they gain much more. Much more by way of speedy, young center fielder Carlos Gomez.
2009 had been a horrible year for Hardy offensively. His career-low .229 AVG helped earn him an extended stay at Triple-A Nashville and it’s no surprise that with the way Alcides Escobar stepped up at shortstop that Hardy was on his way out of a Brewers uniform before the 2010 season could get underway. The move came quite quickly after the end of the World Series, sending Hardy to Minnesota in exchange for Gomez.
So what the H do I know about Gomez? Not much other than what all the articles are telling me. He’d been spotty offensively for the Twins, losing his leadoff role and receding his time in the field. Although he’ll likely be the everyday center fielder for the Crew, as the Brewers have chosen not to pursue Mike Cameron, Gomez will have to be content with another spot in the lineup. Milwaukee recently reinstated second baseman Rickie Weeks and believe that with the way he started out last season, the leadoff spot will belong to him once again. I’ve read Gomez is quite fast, both on the base paths and in the field, so hopefully he’ll be a sufficient replacement for Cameron.
I am a bit sad to see, that because of this move, Mike Cameron will no longer be a part of the team. Although he never actually won any of his Gold Gloves with the Brewers, he sure showed us all why he’s earned them. I do not mind, however, him taking his strikeouts elsewhere. When Cam hits, he hits hard, but when he doesn’t, well… We’ve all seen the strikeouts. There have been far too many. I will miss his ginormous, infectious smile and the great attitude he brought to the team, though. I wish him nothing but the best wherever he ends up.
Infielder extraordinaire Craig Counsell filed for free agency yesterday. I would like to see the Brewers make him an offer for 2010. At 39, he had arguably his best season to date (even though he does have that 2001 World Series under his belt) and was seemingly able to come through in the clutch every time his team needed him. As a Wisconsin native and resident of Whitefish Bay, I’d like to see Counsell round out his career with the Brewers. That’s not to say he’s anywhere near done, but if he continues to play the way he did last season, Milwaukee should be sure to hang on to him as long as they can. He’s just an excellent utility man.
Now, I don’t really know who Adam Heether is, but he’s been added to the 40-man roster. Heether is another all-around infielder (who’s also played a bit of left field) that batted .293 last year in Nashville with 16 HRs and 59 RBIs. We’ll see what he can do come Spring Training, I suppose.
Now on to the rest of Milwaukee’s free agents…
Aside from Cameron and Counsell, right-handed relievers David Weathers and Claudio Vargas have officially filed, although Weathers’ filing was simply a formality, as the club has already declined his 2010 option. As far as Vargas goes, if anyone in the Brewers organization listens to what I have to say, stay away. He’s been on this team twice now and both times I feel like he’s just been mediocre. If the team wants to get back to that winning record and another shot at the playoffs, dumping sub-par pitching needs to be done.
Corey Patterson, you suck. Good luck out there. You’re now free to strikeout anywhere other than in Milwaukee.
Frankie C, I’m gonna miss laughing at your name not fitting on the scoreboard if the Brewers don’t pursue you. Although, Catalanotto did do a relatively good job filling in for Corey Hart in right field last season and also did a fair job when called upon to pinch hit. I suppose I wouldn’t mind seeing him back next year.
Felipe Lopez did great while filling the hole left by the injured Rickie Weeks. But since Weeks will be back in 2010, it’s highly unlikely the Crew will be able to find an everyday job for Lopez. Weeks is set to take over at 2B and as leadoff, thus Lopez’s services probably won’t be needed. Awe. It’s really too bad. I’ve been pretty much in love ever since his 4-4 first game in a Brewers uni.
Jason Kendall is still one that I’m up in the air over. Kendall really likes Milwaukee and has said he would like to continue playing with the team. And I don’t necessarily disagree with keeping him here. I think he brings experience and has the ability to call a great game. On the other hand, what would losing him mean? I don’t know if Mike Rivera is an everyday catcher and I really have no idea what Angel Salome is capable of. I do really like Kendall. I think the Crew should definitely keep that door open.
So, the Brewers have a lot of decisions to make before Spring Training. (Duh.) The most daunting task will be to find quality starting pitching. But since the 15-day deadline to file for free agency has really just begun, a bevy of pitching should become available in the coming days. I dare not make any big predictions here, but Milwaukee is in desperate need of at least one starting pitcher (ahem, John Lackey??) and should definitely make that their primary focus. As if it weren’t already…