The Brewers Statement: We are NOT Kansas City (nor Pittsburgh for that matter)

When the Royals traded Zack Greinke to Milwaukee the other day, there was a beautiful symbolism to the move that wasn’t lost on me.

Greinke wasn’t dealt to New York. Forget the spin of “He couldn’t handle New York.” Neither the Mets nor the Yankees have the prospects to have pulled off the trade.

He wasn’t dealt to the Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, Angels or Dodgers.

The Royals, a small market club that ships off all of their stars, sent him to Milwaukee, another small market club that used to ship off all their stars.

Instead of sending Prince Fielder packing and looking to rebuild, the Brewers are going for it and adding a Cy Young contender.

And with that trade, the Brewers are doing something I’ve been urging the Pirates to do for a while and will pretty soon may encourage the Royals to do the same thing.

Go all in and give your fans a reason to be excited.

There is a reason I am bringing up the Pirates in this post about the Royals and Brewers.

From when the Wild Card era began in 1994 until the end of the 2006 season, the Pirates, Royals and Brewers combined for 34 losing seasons out of 36.

Only the 2003 Royals got their nose over .500 ith an 83-79 season.

And those three teams became the symbol of everything unfair with baseball. Their revenue was so much lower than the big spenders… how could they POSSIBLY compete?

This of course ignored the fact that low revenue teams like the Marlins could win the World Series twice in that stretch. And ignoring the fact that contraction worthy teams like the Twins and the A’s could be playoff regulars. And the Expos, despite having no owner nor ANY fanbase managed to contend into September in 2002 and had a winning record in 2003.

Those three teams kept building for a future that would never arrive.

And the mantra of Brewers owner and commissioner Bud Selig (no conflict of interest there) was to change the economics of the game to help teams like his own.

Well, a wonderful thing happened to the Brewers: The Seligs sold the team.

Sometimes that’s what you need. A change at the top could lead to changes in the whole culture of the team. Remember how the Red Sox couldn’t win the World Series all of those years? From the mid 1930s to 2002 they were owned by the Yawkeys.

2 years after they sold the team, they were the World Champs.

After years of putting a losing club on the field under the Seligs, the Brewers finished at .500 in 2005, their first season under Mark Attanasio’s ownership.

By 2007 they had a winning record and contended into September for the first time since 1992.

And in 2008, they did what would have been unthinkable just a few years before and would be sacrilegious in Pittsburgh and Kansas City: They dealt away one of their major league ready prospects for a veteran who was on the verge of free agency.

And even if Matt LaPorta turns into a good player for Cleveland… and even though CC Sabathia bolted town the second the season was over… it was the right move for the Brewers.

Sabathia pitched his heart out in his cameo for the Brewers. And when he pitched a complete game on the last day of the season, propelling the Brewers into the playoffs for the first time since 1982, he did something that no prospect could EVER do:

He gave Brewers fans too young to remember Harvey’s Wallbangers or the great start of 1987 an actual awesome baseball memory of their team.

And guess what happens when you give fans a wonderful feeling about rooting for their team?

You build a FAN BASE!
You get excitement for your team instead of apathy!

Young kids in Wisconsin experienced a thrilling season and even a post season win at home in the Division Series. There isn’t the hum drum “What’s the point of watching them. They NEVER win” attitude.

And those fans who experienced the fun of 2008 have added hope in 2011. A new manager, a powerful lineup (with or without Fielder) and a rotation that now features Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke.

Meanwhile the Royals got more prospects and continue to promise their fans that happy days are just around the corner.

The Brewers aren’t playing that game, at least not now.
They are going for it and saying to their fans “We want you to have more good memories of your team.”

All it took was a change in attitude (and getting the Seligs out!)

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Will by NL Central pick be once again a year early?

This September I pointed out that I am not very good at picking who will actually win the NL Central, but I AM good at figuring out that the consensus pick will probably fall short.

In 2009 everyone and their cow was picking the Cubs to win.
I picked the Reds. The Cardinals won (I picked the Cardinals for the Wild Card.)

In 2010 everyone and their moose was picking the Cardinals to win.
I picked the Brewers. The Reds won.

But with Zack Greinke going to the Brewers, I can’t help but wonder if the Brewers and their solid rotation and terrific line up, should be considered to be the favorites in a very winnable NL Central.

And would my pick be a year premature?
Am I the baseball predicting equivalent to that show Early Edition?

There’s only one way to test it:
I am going to pick the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the 2011 NL Central.
If the Brewers win in 2011 and the Pirates win in 2012, I will be FREAKED OUT!

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Brian Cashman is having a hell of an off season

On December 3rd of this year, Brian Cashman rappelled off of a 350 foot building in Stamford Connecticut. He did NOT fall to his death.

And that is probably the one positive thing that has happened to Cashman this off season.

As of this writing, Cashman’s improvements to the team have been NOT losing two Yankee legends, signing a non tendered catcher from the Dodgers, an adequate lefty reliever from the Mets and a former ace in Mark Prior who, since 2006, is tied with ME for innings pitched in the major leagues.

The Yankees, the big bad Yankees who go and fill every need every off season with their deep pockets and make everyone scream how unfair it is, went into this winter with an obvious glaring need:

Pitching depth.
And the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2008 and the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2009 have both switched teams… yet neither will end up in the Bronx.

As of this writing, Andy Pettite is still unsigned, Phil Hughes is still questionable after a rotten second half, A. J. Burnett still stinks and C. C. Sabathia is still recovering from knee surgery.

Yeah yeah yeah, it is a minor surgery for Sabathia. But anytime a 300+ pound 30 year old man starts to have knee problems, it’s hard to not at least be concerned.

Their bullpen depth is still questionable. And of course the stock of Joba Chamberlain has fallen to the point where he isn’t considered to be a plus for the bullpen nor the rotation.

The pickings are slim in the free agent market (hey, they brought back Javy Vazquez last year. Why NOT Pavano?) And if they had the young talent to trade for a quality arm, that young talent would already be on the team.

Which brings us back to Cashman.
A few years ago, I wondered if his critics were wrong.

It turns out that picking on him that year was kind of foolish as the Yankees won it all in 2009. But some of my criticisms still seem valid.

Since taking more control of the team after the 2005 season, the Yankees have had the 2006 Division Series debacle against the Tigers where their lack of pitching depth was exposed… the 2007 Division Series midge infested ousting by the Indians where they relied on Chein Ming Wang as a #1 starter… the 2008 season where they missed the playoffs… the 2009 World Series Champs… and the 2010 ALCS where their lack of pitching depth was exposed badly.

Now for most GMs, a World Series title in a 5 year run would be enough.
But Cashman isn’t in the situation that most GMs are in.
He never has to make a difficult rebuilding process decision.
He never has to consider moving a popular player because he is arbitration eligible.
He never has to ask “Which superstar can we afford to have?”

He can talk about setting a budget but then it will inevitably be blown up.
He can try to take a stance of not signing veterans to long term deals and going for youth, but then sign Derek Jeter to a 3 year deal when nobody else was offering 2.

So yeah, the standards are different.
And yes, I know that the Red Sox have a bottomless pit of money and since 2005, Theo has only bought one World Series himself.

But I don’t see the Yankees having two homegrown aces like Lester and Buchholz, nor having the trade chips to pull the trigger on a deal for Adrian Gonzalez nor actually get someone to accept their money like Carl Crawford.

The Yankees are still a quality team, but it says a lot that when Cliff Lee wanted to go to the place where he is most likely to win a title, he chose Philadelphia.

There aren’t any legit #1 or #2 starters left out on the market and Petitte might still decide to stay in Texas and count his millions and rings and play with his kids.

If this off season continues to go this badly for Cashman and it translates once again into a season where the lack of pitching bites the Yankees in the rear, he find himself hanging on by a much thinner rope than he was holding in Stamford.
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