The Baseline: A double-perspective look on the Brewers 2012 season

The+Baseline

Story by Emily Gresbrink and Chris Reinoos

It is a Baseline first! We have another writer at-bat: I’ve brought in a fellow baseball fan and staffer Chris Reinoos to talk about the Brewers.

You may recognize him from The Spectator’s fantasy baseball podcast “Off the Wall,” where he is one of three hosts alongside Frank Pellegrino and Eric Christenson. If you haven’t given “Off the Wall” a listen, do so — it’s good stuff!

All promotions aside, I digress: I’m not a die-hard Brewers fan and don’t give them any special attention. I give them the same amount of attention that any other team in the MLB who aren’t Minnesota get. Fair enough, I think. We all have our loyalties.

Nevertheless, I have been noticing the Brewers performance isn’t quite a mirror of last season’s, ‘What the heck just happened, Wisconsin? DANG!’ I felt compelled to discuss such issues, but not without refute and contrast from a true Brewers fan.

So, all team biases aside: We’ve got a woman on the first and a man on the third baselines — what are their perspectives? (You wouldn’t guess it offhand, but surprisingly similar!)

First Base: Emily Gresbrink
As a neighbor from the West, I can’t lay much bragging right on how baseball is going for Wisconsin. Trust me, Minnesota isn’t doing much better (but more on that next week).

Albeit, they did start the season at home against last year’s World Series winners (sans Albert Pujols, though). But things could be better. Zack Greinke managed to pull out a good second game against the Cards but couldn’t repeat his luck against the Cubs last week.

Regardless, they won that Cubs series (not surprised!) but then went along to have a three-game losing streak to fall in the series against the Braves. Alas!

The Brewers made a few risky decisions during the offseason, including a few big acquisitions that have yet to show. Aramis Ramirez was the big winner during trade season but hasn’t really been playing well as of late.

From a non-Brewers fan standpoint (and normal baseball enthusiast), I think what will be Milwaukee’s saving grace this season is their pitching lineup. They kept all of their starters and held on to their downright phenomenal relievers, including the return of Manny Parra. After being out for all of 2011, I wasn’t quite sure about their decision to bring him back. But, parallel to the Twins’ decision to let a fragile Justin Morneau play, perhaps they see faith in Parra that I don’t.

Then again … there hasn’t even been a full two weeks of baseball yet. And it’s not even May — the season has a good six months under its belt; constructive work can be done.

I will go ahead and predict that the Brewers are going to have a good season ahead of them. I think they have a lot of internal fire (and perhaps a small bloodlust, considering the nail-biter playoffs) from last year that will transfer from returning players to the new team.

I don’t really know if I can predict how far things will go for the Crew as of right now, as it is so early in the season. But I believe these opening series jitters will go away and despite a lot of risky moves in the offseason, Milwaukee will be back on the map for playoffs.

Third Base: Chris Reinoos
The Milwaukee Brewers have gotten off to a slow start in 2012. The starting pitching has been inconsistent, with rough outings from Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. The team’s main offseason acquisition, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, has just four hits in his first 35 at-bats this season. Closer John Axford has struggled with his command, issuing five walks in four innings of work.

But the season is extremely young, and this team should still find themselves in the thick of the playoff race in September. There is tons of pop up and down the lineup, with Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Ramirez and Corey Hart leading the way.

The starting pitching carried the club for long stretches last season, and with the same five starters returning, there is no reason to expect much different.

The team also has a talented group of relievers, including Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe and Jose Veras. A real wild card is Manny Parra, who has always had great stuff but has struggled through injuries and uneven performance is his career. Parra is coming off elbow surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. But a dominant stretch out of the bullpen late in 2010 is encouraging for Parra’s new permanent role as a reliever.

But if the team does somehow fall out of contention this summer, the team will have some interesting decisions to make. Both Greinke and fellow starter Shaun Marcum are scheduled to hit free agency after the season. Last offseason, the Crew gave up four players for Greinke and traded top prospect Brett Lawrie to obtain Marcum, so the club should be motivated to keep at least one of them on a long-term deal.

The two could become trade bait if the team fails to live up to expectations. Both could bring back quite a haul for a Brewers team that is lacking in many impact prospects in the farm system. But obviously, the main goal this season is to get back to the playoffs with Greinke and Marcum.

One thing Brewers fans can count on this year is that their team will be better than the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers took three of four from the Cubs at Wrigley Field last week and should beat up on them in later games as well — now that is music to any Brewer fan’s ears.