The imitation MLB franchise in Milwaukee

It is spring, or whatever passes for spring, in Wisconsin, and so Wisconsin sports fans ask …

… when does Packer training camp begin?

That’s because the Brewers’ season began Monday, and already the Brewers look, if that’s possible, worse than they’ve been the past two seasons. Thursday afternoon’s loss to Colorado puts the Brewers at 1–3, with two losses due to bad pitching and one loss due to no hitting.

After four games, the Brewers have 45 strikeouts, which puts them on pace to obliterate the season record for strikeouts. (What’s the record, you ask? It’s 1,535 by the 2013 Houston Astros. The Brewers are on pace for 1,823 strikeouts.)

Truth be told, strikeouts are slightly less important than you might think. In order, the preference for outs is (1) outs that drive in a run(presumably deep flyouts or groundouts behind the runner), (2) outs that advance a baserunner, (3) outs that don’t advance anyone (whether strikeout, groundout or flyout) or outs with no one on base, (4) double plays and (5) triple plays.

But then there’s pitching. Alleged number one starter Junior Guerra is now on the disabled list, which might be a good thing given that he gave up two runs in his first start, which comprised all of three innings. (That gives you an earned run average of 6.) Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview noted that Guerra would be any other team’s number four or five starter, but there is apparently no one better in Milwaukee. Zach Davies is not on the disabled list, so there is no excuse for what he did in his first start, giving up six runs in 4 1/3 innings. Both Guerra and Davies pitched, if that’s what you want to call it, against a team not expected to do anything this year, Colorado; when the Cubs come to town starting tonight, the Brewers are likely to exit their first home stand with three more losses. Then Thursday, Neftali Perez entered a tie game in the ninth and left with a loss due to giving up a home run to Nolan Arenado, who hit 41 of them last year. (Which means, maybe, don’t throw a hittable ball to him?)

You may be saying that four games is a small sample size, and it is. You may also quote me quoting Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver that every team wins one-third of its games and loses one-third of its games, so what happens in that third third of the season determines how their season will go. That was the case in 2014, when the Brewers won all their games early and lost all their games late in the season to spectacularly crash, and they’ve never recovered from that.

This is a team predicted to do nothing this year. SI ranked them 13th in the 15-team National League. This team did nothing last year (30.5 games out of first place, 14 games out of the wild card), and will do nothing this year and for the foreseeable future, since they have decided to get rid of every player they have with any talent who doesn’t have a contract no one else will take (see Braun, Ryan) to apparently stock their minor league system. Readers will remember that didn’t get them much in the minors last year in terms of team success. (Class AAA Colorado Springs was 67–71, Class AA Biloxi was 72–67, advanced-Class A Brevard County was 40–97, Class A Wisconsin was 71–69, rookie-league Helena was 28–46, rookie-league Arizona was 24–29, and their Dominican Republic rookie team was 28–44. Wisconsin was the only playoff team out of that batch, and their postseason ended with two quick losses.)

The minor league system is apparently ranked number one by Baseball America. That may be good news to Sky Sox, Shuckers, Manatees and Timber Rattlers fans, although notice the lack of correlation between Baseball America rankings and team records. And that does nothing anyway for this year’s Brewers fans. Some Brewers fans will die (and let’s hope 82-year-old Brewers announcer Bob Uecker isn’t one of them) before the Brewers become a major-league contender. The Brewers have some nerve charging major league prices for what is not a major-league-level effort.

The Brewers exemplify one of the many things wrong with Major League Baseball. (Another: So many rainouts because baseball stupidly has about 40 games more than it should in its regular season.) Because baseball teams don’t share local broadcast revenues, there is much more difference in team revenues between, say, the Yankees and, say, the Brewers. Among other things, that means that teams that lack revenue like the Brewers have to do what the Brewers are allegedly doing right now — building through drafting and developing, which (1) takes a long time (2) with no guarantee of success.

On Sunday CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” will profile Shohei Ohtani, dubbed the Japanese Babe Ruth because he pitches like Yu Darvish and hits like Bryce Harper. Whether his Japan League statistics would translate to MLB or not is a moot point for Brewers fans because there is zero chance the Brewers could sign him, even if they wanted to sign him. Ohtani will go to the Yankees or Dodgers or Rangers or some other big-market franchise. The Brewers and similar small-market teams cannot compete in today’s baseball. Period.

Those Brewers fans who have lived longer than they’re going to live will not like the approach owner Mark Attanasio takes according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

With the Brewers in the midst of a large-scale rebuilding plan, Attanasio has learned to shift his focus, even more so than general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell, he believes.

“Probably, of the three of us, I’m probably the least concerned about wins right now,” Attanasio said Sunday during a break at the “Brewers On Deck” fan festival at the Wisconsin Center.

Attanasio then smiled and quickly added, “By the way, there will come a time when I’m very focused on wins.”

That time is not 2017, the second full season of the Brewers’ rebuild. The team went 73-89 last season – better than expected while in so-called “tanking” mode – but there is no guarantee there will be more victories this time around.

So, what exactly does Attanasio want to see to assure him the Brewers are headed in the right direction?

“You want to see players who pleasantly surprised us last year continue to perform,” he said. “You want to see players who disappointed us a little turn it around. And you want to see the team pull together with the energy they had last year and maybe make fewer mistakes.

“In my mind, if we have all of that, what (number of games) we win isn’t really paramount.”

So far, not so good. So don’t spend your hard earned money at Miller Park expecting to see good baseball, unless it’s played by the Brewers’ opponent.

 

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