Al's Ramblings

Thursday, November 30, 2006

(11/30/2006 07:29:00 PM) - Al

Doug says the Crew is still "trying to decide" whether or not to offer Tony G arby, as they don't want to end up with a player they do not need.

I don't feel it is much of a risk at all, as Tony will have value in trade if he signs a one-year deal for fair value. There might be some hesitation about offering a player arby that you obviously have no intention of keeping, that a potential free agent might not look kindly on this and not want to consider the Crew as an option.

I'd take the picks without a second thought...but I'd have Hall as my SS too.

11/30/2006 07:29:00 PM

(11/30/2006 03:00:00 PM) - Al

It's a sad day in our household today, as my mom passed away last night. It was far from unexpected, but it's still a quite a moment like living on a TV drama when you hear the news, the finalness of it all is tough to comprehend.

And, of course, there's the many things that come along with it, taking part in the many decisions, telling your 4 year-old about his grandma, and talking to your retail cohorts about the schedule and such that have to be covered in this busy time of year.

The schedule of events has not been finalized, but at some point, updates will probably be a bit sporadic. With any luck, a big trade or free agent signing will occur, and Robert or Jason will have time to recap.

11/30/2006 03:00:00 PM

(11/30/2006 11:04:00 AM) - Al

WalMart reports same-store sales down 0.1% for November, the first time in more than a decade that important indicator has been negative for the world's largest retailer.

Being me, I love WalMart for the simple reason most analysts hate it. However, it seems pretty obvious to me that WM is being punished for their own success. They are still opening stores like mad, and it is easy to, imagine that as they get closer to being saturated, they are opening stores that take business from existing stores. For example, they recently opened (or soon will) a store in Chippewa Falls, less than 10 miles from their Eau Claire store which has been around for years. Now, no one that lives in Chip Falls is going to continue to go to the Eau Claire store, and the EC store will suffer a small loss in sales because of this. I can't imagine WM opens hardly any stores that do not affect an existing store somewhat.

Hey, maybe WM is stagnating a bit. Maybe they have "lost touch" a tad with their core customer, the middle class, blue collar American with 2.3 kids. Maybe they missed the mark trying to appeal to Target shoppers, with some higher priced merch and some evening wear. If they did, they'll fix it.

The thing is, WM sells a jillions of dollars worth of stuff every darn day. It's a lot tougher to make sales when you're chasing those huge numbers...WM cannot just spark sales the last couple days of a fiscal month by cutting the price on something and stacking them near the entrance door, like a specialty shop can (and do) if they want to make the month.

As of this second, WalMart is projected to make $3.21 a share next year, and is selling for about $46 a's selling at about 14x future earnings. And despite this bump in the road in sales, WM's earnings have never gone down from year-to-year, at least in the timeframe I can look up.

If you only invest in one stock this year...

11/30/2006 11:04:00 AM

(11/30/2006 09:38:00 AM) - Al

Jeff at the Hardball Times (and of Brew Crew Ball, a fine Brewers' blog), writes his thoughts on Bill Hall's future.

As I have said many times, I'd put him at SS and not look back. I'm a big fan of JJ Hardy, but he is not ever going to match Bill's 2006 production.

11/30/2006 09:38:00 AM

(11/30/2006 09:30:00 AM) - Al

Beating the poor horse to a pulp here, the Reds probably will wind up spending close to $70 million on their 2007 payroll. The Brewers could approach that, too. And the difference between these three markets, in terms of size, stadiums and just about every intangible is exactly zero, which means there remains no visible, explainable excuse for the Pirates to spend in the range of $50 million, as they are planning.

That's from a Pittsburgh writer, so take it for what it's worth. But, if Doug is indeed still thinking of adding another pitcher or two, and possibly keeping either Jenkins or Mench, there's little doubt they will have the highest payroll in team history, and $65-70M would seem far from impossible.

11/30/2006 09:30:00 AM

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

(11/29/2006 02:45:00 PM) - Al

Doug has stated he has not talked to Shannon Stewart, so it's probably all moot, but for a one year, "show me what you have" contract, I wouldn't mind having Stewart around at all for 2007. If nothing else, he's low risk, high reward, as if he can have success and health, he'd be a very valuable trading chip in late-July.

It's tough not to like Counsell's intangibles, and it is probably worth noting the Brewers would have been outbid easily had Craig not been a WI resident. You take advantage of every slight thing you have, and in this rare case, geography helped us sign a free agent.

Finally, as it stands now, 80% of our bench is complete, barring injury to a member of the starting 8:

Damian Miller
Craig Counsell
Jeff Cirillo
Gabe Gross

No trips to Cooperstown are in the future for those 4 guys (without buying a ticket, of course), but all are solid reserves, and in each case, you can argue each could easily find work as a starter elsewhere, or at least as a platoon starter. This is a solid, deep bench, with no Chris Barnwell in sight. That can only be good news.

11/29/2006 02:45:00 PM

(11/29/2006 02:04:00 PM) - Jason Christopherson

I'll stand in line right behind Robert on the Shannon Stewart rumor. Go back in time five years or so and I'm fired up for it. I'd prefer going with what we have currently in center. Of course, if he signs and somehow has a monster year for the Brewers, I'm going to dig up the archives and edit this post.

I really like the Counsell signing. Yes, it's a lot of money, but that doesn't concern me until Mark A. announces a firm "cap" number. All along both Doug and Mark have said they are flexible if the right deal comes along, so I don't see it as having $2.5 M less to spend on another player. I liked Craig when he was here previously. Unspectacular, but certainly a valuable guy to have on the bench. If I didn't think it would get me banned from posting here anymore, I would tout his leadership, professionalism, and "grittiness". He's Cirillo-esque in those qualities. Maybe I'll just get off with a warning from Al if I get through this without mentioning "clutch"...

11/29/2006 02:04:00 PM

(11/29/2006 12:13:00 PM) - Robert R.

You can count me as a vote that's undoubtedly against signing Shannon Stewart. He has injury problems, he's showing all signs of aging, and his defense, by most accounts, is nothing to write home about. He clocked in at slightly below average in left field defensively in 2006 according to Baseball Prospectus.

Stewart is basically Brady Clark at this point of his career. Only differences are Clark can play all three outfield positions and is right-handed while Stewart is more injury prone and carries a higher BA to similar OPS. I just don't see what signing Stewart accomplishes.

Honestly, if I keep seeing rumors like this, I'm going to adopt the position that the Brewers should just go with an outfield alignment of Braun - LF, Hall - CF and Hart - RF and be done with it. Signings like this rumor accomplish nothing towards the goal of making the Brewers a pennant contender.

11/29/2006 12:13:00 PM

(11/29/2006 12:13:00 PM) - Al

Dayn Perry breaks down the worst signings so far.

I usually agree with Perry, but I'm not sure how he can see Pierre as a better (or less bad) signing than Matthews. He seems to be completely ignoring the defensive side of things, which is tough to do for a CF.

11/29/2006 12:13:00 PM

(11/29/2006 11:36:00 AM) - Al

Breaking news, Counsell signs with Brewers, per JS Online.

2y/$6M...heady stuff for a utility IF. The article says some teams offered him starting jobs at 2B or SS, but he chose to end his career in Milwaukee.

I am split here, but my reservations about the money is starting to be much like John Fienstein discussed in the book Hard Courts, as he talked about the top pros getting huge appearance fees, often much more than winning the tournament. He said it was nothing more than "monopoly money", as it was just impossible to comprehend, for a regular person. We're still not at NBA levels, where a 10-12 minute a night role player can easily sign a 5y/$30M deal, and have numerous teams bidding for his services...but we're getting close.

It's not my money, but I can certainly understand the argument that it would be better to spend $500K on a backup IF and have the extra $2.5M to add to a package to land a premier free agent. However, with the history of Weeks and Hardy, not to mention Rickie's slender build, it doesn't take an actuary to do the's unlikely the Crew will not need a guy to play 30+ games at one spot or the other at some point in '07. Counsell may be a stopgap starter, but much like Damian Miller, he's an outstanding addition to the bench.

11/29/2006 11:36:00 AM

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

(11/28/2006 10:35:00 PM) - Al

Expanded JS article about Counsell.

Craig is 36, and that's an issue, but much like Cirillo, he should have no trouble unless he'd be forced to play every day. After all, he's not making noise every time he gets up from a chair like I do.

One minor thing is they act like Graffy is not a SS. Heck, Counsell wasn't either until we handed him the spot because we had nobody else, and he did nicely. I have little doubt Tony G could do the same.

11/28/2006 10:35:00 PM

(11/28/2006 08:56:00 PM) - Al

Rotoworld is guessing Jeff Suppan will end up getting a 4y/$36M contract from "a contender".

I don't have any idea if Jeff has any interest in playing in MIL, but if that 4y/$48M is still available that was offered to Carlos Lee, I'd be all over Suppan. The thing I like about Suppan is in a bad game, or bad year, Jeff will still fight through, and be better than you would expect.

Would Suppan rather be a big fish in a small pond, or go somewhere where he'll be the 4th starter? He does seem like the type that would at least consider some smaller markets...he is supposedly talking to the Pirates, but he does have some history there.

11/28/2006 08:56:00 PM

(11/28/2006 08:19:00 PM) - Al

Spurned by Dave Roberts, the Crew has apparently turned their attention to Shannon Stewart, most recently of the Twins.

I always loved Stewart, but I don't think he can play CF, and he doesn't have the offense to play LF (granted, if Hall played CF, they could afford a bit weaker bat in a corner OF, ala Edmonds). And while I was a fan of Stewart a few years ago, he is older now and has been injury prone of late.

I'm a bit fearful of his injury risk, but a .364 career OBP is mighty tough to turn your nose up at, especially in a low risk one-year contract.

11/28/2006 08:19:00 PM

(11/28/2006 07:58:00 PM) - Al

Rotoworld is reporting the Crew is close to signing Craig Counsell.

Who would have ever thought that might occur?

{pause to go to doctor after hurting arm patting self on the back}

JS Online also is reporting the same thing.

11/28/2006 07:58:00 PM

Monday, November 27, 2006

(11/27/2006 07:38:00 PM) - Al

From Rotoworld, profiles of the 3 highest ceiling Brewers' prospects that played in the Arizona Fall League.

Dennis Sarfate - RHP Brewers - Age 25

Never able to sufficiently harness his control to the point at which he could be taken seriously as a starter, Sarfate was finally shifted to the pen in Triple-A during the second half of last year and got to make his major league debut in September. Sarfate can work in the mid-90s while going all out in relief, and his curveball is a strikeout pitch. If he can just make enough progress with his command so that he walks about four batters per nine innings, he should be a fine middle reliever or maybe a setup man. He probably won't ever be consistent enough to close. He'll likely be a long shot to make the Brewers out of spring training, but he'll have plenty of chances to establish himself.

Vinny Rottino - C/INF/OF Brewers - Age 26

Rottino's ability to catch is a major selling point as he attempts to establish himself as a bench player, but with the Brewers shoring up their catching situation by adding Johnny Estrada, having a third catcher around doesn't figure to be much of a priority when it's time to finalize those last couple of roster spots. Rottino isn't much of an option at second base or shortstop, so he will have to hit in order to be an asset. A career .306 batter in the minors, he's capable of providing a decent average, but he doesn't have the power one wants from a corner infielder/outfielder. He'll be fortunate just to establish himself as a 25th man.

Ryan Braun - 3B Brewers - Age 23

Braun's performance hardly demanded a promotion when he was moved up to Double-A in late June, but the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft turned out to be one of the Southern League's best players in the second half. He later finished tied for second in the AFL in homers and third with a 1038 OPS. So, Braun is quickly proving he can hit. Still to be determined is whether he'll stick at third base or requite a move to the outfield. Braun is athletic enough to handle the position, and added experience might make him acceptable at the position. The Brewers are certainly hoping so, as they'd love to have him ready to replace Corey Koskie in 2008. With Bill Hall set to shift to the outfield, Braun could even be an option next year if Koskie gets hurt again.

11/27/2006 07:38:00 PM

(11/27/2006 04:16:00 PM) - Al

Greg Maddux wants a two-year deal worth at least $9M a year, per this Rosenthal piece.

It's like Rotoworld said, every single free agent is getting one (or two) extra year than they should, and it goes without saying they are getting plenty of cash as well.

Just last year, it's possible the Crew could have used the Mike Maddux connection and swooped in and signed Greg to a 1 year, $5M deal for '07. Now, he'll make twice that, and you have to guarantee 2008 as well.

It's not the end of the world, or the sport, but it is very strange to see Geoff Jenkins go from from being overpaid to a relative bargain in a month.

11/27/2006 04:16:00 PM

(11/27/2006 04:13:00 PM) - Al

Michael Hunt seems to think the Crew made a good deal, and he's the first person I've seen in the media to wonder how Carlos Lee is going to fit in with an NL team in a few seasons.

11/27/2006 04:13:00 PM

Sunday, November 26, 2006

(11/26/2006 08:55:00 PM) - Al

For all the talk about a real estate disaster, hearing that prices fell just 1.2% last quarter is pretty underwhelming. In fact, when you look at the chart at the bottom of the article, you'll see very few areas actually fell compared to those where the prices went up, but there's a few that suffered huge declines, including Detroit, which is mentioned in the article itself.

A home is still a near perfect investment if you plan to live in it, as is a second home, if you can afford it. The fact that they remain excellent long-term investments is completely lost if you only follow the mainstream "the sky is falling" media.

I think many people are waiting for prices to fall so they can "buy more house". That may not be an unwise strategy, but with interest rates low, it's a risk I would not take.

11/26/2006 08:55:00 PM

(11/26/2006 07:42:00 PM) - Al

Well, we've had 24 hours to digest the trade. Some delayed thoughts, or reaffirmations:

---Like my initial feeling, I still hate to see Dana Eveland, a true top prospect, leave the organization. Of course, Davis would not have garnered 3 major leaguers by himself, so we had to add something of value. I hate not being able to make a complete analysis of the trade, because honestly, in 3 years, Dana could be a role player, a solid SP, or constantly injured due to his weight troubles.

---The thing that is difficult not to like about the deal is that there is not a team in baseball, not the Yankees, Red Sox, or anyone else, that has a much better catching duo. The only one that comes to my mind is the Twins, where Mauer and Redmond are outstanding. Of course, Mauer and anyone would be my top choice.:)

---If you scan the message boards, it's tough to find anyone who even thinks Krynzel will be a reserve in the big leagues for any length of time. Some flames burn out much quicker than others, I guess.

11/26/2006 07:42:00 PM

Saturday, November 25, 2006

(11/25/2006 09:37:00 PM) - Al

The JS has an updated link with some quotes by Doug Melvin. He is also afraid Eveland will "come back to bite us".

Vargas is not a free agent until after the 2009 season, by the way. That bit of info makes this a better trade for the Crew than when I wasn't sure.

11/25/2006 09:37:00 PM

(11/25/2006 08:33:00 PM) - Al

If you're wondering how a catcher with a career BA of .280 has been traded twice, you can pretty much sum it up with one word...walks.

In Estrada's case, his lack of walks. He has a career BA of .280 and a career OBP of .327, so a huge part of his success comes from ability to get base hits. Singles are a bit fleeting, after all, the difference between a game-winning hit and a game-ending double play is a matter of a couple inches. That said, I'm not the least bit upset with the catching combo of Estrada and Miller, to say the least. If we could be that solid at every spot on the diamond, I'd feel really excited.

11/25/2006 08:33:00 PM

(11/25/2006 08:21:00 PM) - Al

Aquino's career can be best summed up as a good year, a so-so year, and a crappy year.

He's a hard-throwing groundball pitcher who strikes out more than a man per inning, and also K's twice as many as he walks. That is pretty much the resume of a successful relief pitcher, he just does not have the numbers to support this because of a terrible 2005.

11/25/2006 08:21:00 PM

(11/25/2006 08:21:00 PM) - Al

Aquino's career can be best summed up as a good year, a so-so year, and a crappy year.

He's a hard-throwing groundball pitcher who strikes out more than a man per inning, and also K's twice as many as he walks. That is pretty much the resume of a successful relief pitcher, he just does not have the numbers to support this because of a terrible 2005.

11/25/2006 08:21:00 PM

(11/25/2006 08:12:00 PM) - Al

Claudio Vargas would appear to be a much better pitcher away from Bank One.

'06 home--5.60 ERA
'05 home--5.99 ERA

'06 away--4.12 ERA
'06 away--4.38 ERA

Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come.

11/25/2006 08:12:00 PM

(11/25/2006 07:59:00 PM) - Al

Robert and I posted about the same time on the trade. He's right though, Eveland is a huge wildcard. If he gets his head on straight and shows up in good shape to the D'Backs spring training site, he and Davis might outperform Vargas as members of a rotation in 2007.

In the JS story, Doug doesn't even mention Dana, so it seems likely to me the Crew viewed him as behind Zach Jackson, and felt his weight and injury risk outweighed (no pun intended) his potential, which is high, without a doubt.

11/25/2006 07:59:00 PM

(11/25/2006 06:54:00 PM) - Al

I came downstairs this morning to get a shirt out of the dryer, and quickly checked the JS site, and found that it was likely the Brewers had lost out on Dave Roberts, as he had supposedly chosen the Giants. I only had a couple minutes and was unsure if I was happy or unhappy anyway, so I figured I would just post about it this evening.

Now, that seems like small potatoes compared to the six player trade that took place today, involving 4 major leaguers, one very good prospect, and Dave Krynzel.


Doug Davis
Dana Eveland
Dave Krynzel


Johnny Estrada
Claudio Vargas
Greg Aquino

The centerpiece of this is obviously Davis for Estrada. Estrada is a pretty decent catcher, above average offensively (even though his career numbers are just a bit over what the "average" catcher did last year, in reality, there are about 4 good hitting catchers who skew the numbers a great deal for backstops). Damian goes from being an OK starter to being an outstanding reserve, to be honest, one of the best in the game. I'll have to take a look at Vargas' splits, as ARI plays in a very favorable to the offense stadium (actually, it's the desert air more than the ballpark, but you get my drift). I've been a big fan of Aquino for a while, as he has always been a guy who has kind of flown under the radar. His statsa aren't superb, but he throws very hard.

By far, my dislike of this deal is giving up Eveland, who is still just 23, and would seem to have a future of at least a decent reliever, and quite possibly, a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Dana has been extremely unimpressive of late, as he has never bothered getting in remotely decent shape, and to be blunt, pitched very stupidly last year when he was in the bigs. That said, if he develops at all, he should make a boatload of money, as he seems to have at least a few years as a loogy in him. I hate giving up on young talent, and Dana has a lot of talent.

As for Krynzel, I have not seen such a waste of ability since Sam Okey laced them up for the Badgers. Actually, this is a very valid comparison, as Okey never improved an iota after high school, and Dave barely has. Krynzel has had the exact same weaknesses since the day he was drafted, he needs to cut down on his swing and hit line drives; and more importantly, he needs to improve his plate discipline, take more walks, and swing at fewer pitches out of the strike zone.

I can almost promise you these will still be his shortcomings when he retires, be that in 3 years or 13. He's a good defensive OF, and he runs well...of course, I just described half the OF's in AAA. Dave might have a few years as a reserve OF, but most teams expect their backup OF's to PH once in a while, and Dave simply gets out far too often to have any use at the plate.

More on each new member of the Crew as the night goes on.

11/25/2006 06:54:00 PM

(11/25/2006 06:51:00 PM) - Robert R.

Brewers and Diamondbacks complete a six player swap. The Brewers get RHSP Claudio Vargas, RHRP Greg Aquino, and C Johnny Estrada. The Diamondbacks get LHSP Doug Davis, LHP Dana Eveland, and CF David Krynzel.

I've got a lot of mixed feelings about this trade. Usually there are two ways to outright lose a trade, give up the best player or give up the player with the most long-term potential. I think the Brewers did both in this deal with Doug Davis being the best player and Dana Eveland having the most long-term potential. Of course, there's also risk involved with both Davis and especially Eveland, but playing it safe might result in minimum improvements without actually getting to the playoffs. Again. Dave Krynzel is a non-factor and was done in Milwaukee anyways.

That said, the Brewers got back three players that should help them this year. And only Vargas can be viewed as a step down from the player he'll replace. Of course, I don't think it's an insignificant step down considering the Brewers can't count on Vargas to duplicate Davis's innings and the bullpen, the weakest part of the Brewers, may be called upon to pitch additional innnings. A healthy Sheets could mitigate that factor to an extent, but this can't be the last move of the offseason.

And, it does make sense that since Davis was coming up on free agency, this move makes sense for 2008 and on. It's clear that the Brewers can't count on going out and bringing major pieces in via free agency.

11/25/2006 06:51:00 PM

Friday, November 24, 2006

(11/24/2006 04:48:00 PM) - Al

The Astros also announced the signing of veteran RHP Woody Williams to a 2 year, $12M contract.

This may be the first deal I can honestly say is about right money wise (Jamie Walker was also just slightly overpaid as a top LH reliever), as I would have no problem paying Woody $5M for 2007, even if he is several years older than myself. So, this deal looks to be only slightly too high money wise, and depending on my mood, either a year too long or twice as long as it should be.

11/24/2006 04:48:00 PM

(11/24/2006 04:39:00 PM) - Al

Since (Lee) has a ranch near Houston, the Astros were the favorites right from the start.

What's astounding is, Carlos got about $35M more guaranteed and still ended up with the team everyone knew he would sign with from the start.

It's like someone offered me a raspberry pie, I said "not right now", and out of fear, they upped the offer to 2 pies.

11/24/2006 04:39:00 PM

(11/24/2006 04:06:00 PM) - Al

Free-agent slugger Carlos Lee has agreed to terms on a six-year, $100 million contract with the Houston Astros.

Oof. We had the pleasure of watching Carlos play for the past couple seasons, and while he's a nice player, he isn't anywhere near a $16M a year guy. His career numbers aren't even that much better than an average LF's.

Lee, career--.340/.495, 835 OPS, 168 OXS, 101 simple runs created
Ave LF-------.344/.443, 787 OPS, 152 OXS, 91 src
'06 C. Hart--.328/.468, 796 OPS, 154 OXS, 92 src

I won't even make the argument that Hart will make up a few runs on the bases and on defense, nor will I assume Carlos will decline as he gets older and/or Hart should improve as he nears his mythical peak.

I can only say that HOU is spending $15.6M more and getting 9 runs out of it.

Lee should find Minute Maid Park to be very friendly to him, and his falloff should be minimal, at least for a couple years. As I said the other day, it is very difficult to discuss a free agent signing this offseason without the phrase "too much and too long" coming up, and this is certainly not the exception to the rule.

11/24/2006 04:06:00 PM

Thursday, November 23, 2006

(11/23/2006 11:59:00 PM) - Al

I found this story in a strange place, when I checked my Sharebuilder account tonight.

Since I cannot seem to find a way to link it, as it's account specific, I will reprint it below.

Thanksgiving is a time of celebration, a time to have lots of good-natured fun, share stories and hugs, a time to look past matters of money, investing and retirement plans.

Thanksgiving is about family. Loved ones. Grandma and grandpa. Mom and dad. Kids and grandchildren giggling. A special time to give thanks by sharing the gifts you have, the tears, the laughter! That's the way our creator wants it too.

Be thankful for all we have right now, today. For the family gathering, roast turkey, gravy, stuffing, hot cider and punch, grandma's pumpkin pie, board games, gossip and rumors, football games, movies and naps, family rituals and traditions, and lots of laughs, retelling stories about the good ole days, the neighbors, and all the lovable odd-balls in the family.

But before all the fun begins, let's take a moment to honor all of America's heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me, and for the families left behind who gave even more, for all their kids, siblings, parents, grandparents and friends who are left with fond memories as they sit near an empty chair at their table this Thanksgiving.

One special story captures this moment better than anything I could ever say. I choke up every time I think about it, maybe because I was also a Marine in Korea, although this story's for the families of every soldier, sailor, airman and marine who ever fought to protect our freedoms. The story honors all their sacrifices. It goes to the heart of what Thanksgiving's really about, especially at this unique moment in America's history.

The story is told often. I first heard it in a sermon by Dr. Robert H. Schuller of "Hour of Power" fame at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. You probably know about him through his many books on the "Power of Possibility Thinking." So for a moment, let's share the spirit of Thanksgiving in Dr. Schuller's simple story passed along to him by a dear friend years ago.
A simple story

Here's the story as Dr. Schuller tells it:

Two retired U.S. Marines were a bit overweight and had some creaking in their hips, but they still wore their dress uniforms when they were assigned to take charge of the Marine Corps cemetery. This day they couldn't wait for the day to end. They were ready to close the front gate when they saw a large old Cadillac drive up with an old woman behind the wheel.

This is what my friend writes: "I thought, oh gee, here goes another 15 minutes before we can lock up."

As she pulled her car into the curb, she got out slowly and said, "Son." I said, "Ma'am, can I help you?"

She took a long time to answer. "Yes, can you help me carry some of these flowers?" And she had five little bouquets of flowers. She said, "I move a little slow these days." Then she asked, "Son, where were you stationed?"

I said, "Vietnam, ma'am, ground pounder. '69 to '71." She looked at me more closely. "Wounded in action, I see. Well done! Marine, I'll be as quick as I can."

I lied. "No hurry, ma'am." She smiled and winked at me and said, "I'm 85 years old, I can tell a lie when I see it. My name is Joanne Wieserman and I met a few Marines and I'd like to see them one more time."

"Yes ma'am, at your service." She knew exactly where she wanted to go. She headed for the World War I section, then stopping at a stone, she picked one of the bunches of flowers out of my arms, laid it on top of the stone and murmured something I couldn't hear. But then I read the name on the marble, Donald S. Davidson, USMC France, 1918.

Then she turned away and made a straight line for the World War II section. Stopping at one stone I saw a tear roll down her check. She put more flowers on the stone with the name, Steven X. Davidson, USMC 1943.

Then she went further in the same row and laid another bunch of flowers on a stone with the name Stanley J. Wieserman, USMC 1944. Wieserman - that was her name! She paused for a second, and then said, "Two more, son, and we'll be done and you can go home."

I didn't say anything but "Yes, ma'am, take your time." Then she looked confused, "Where is the Vietnam section? Son, I seem to have lost my way." So I pointed, "That way, ma'am."

"Oh," she chuckled quietly, "me and my age don't get along too well once in a while." And she headed down the walk, stopped at a couple of stones, then she found the ones she wanted and there she placed a small bouquet of flowers at the stone of Larry Wieserman, USMC 1968 (that's her name, too). And then near it, she placed the last cluster of flowers on a stone with the name Darryl Wieserman, USMC 1970. She murmured a few words that I couldn't hear. "Okay, son, all finished. Just get me back to my car and you can go home."

"Yes ma'am. If I may ask, were these your kinfolk?" She paused, "Yes. Donald Davidson, 1917, France, was my father. Stephen Davidson was my bother. And Stanley, you recognized the name -- it's my name, he was my husband. And Larry and Darryl were our sons. All were killed in action! All were Marines."

She didn't say anything more as she kept walking to her car, opened the door, then closed it quietly. I watched. I waited. Then, as her car began to leave I quickly rushed to Kevin, my overweight Marine Corps buddy in his dress uniform. I ordered, "Get to the front gate! Quick. Take the service road. We need to get to the front gate before her. We have got something we must do. So just do what I do. Don't ask any questions."

Kevin could see I was very urgent so we rushed ahead and got to the front gate before her car rounded the cemetery drive and aimed for the front gate. Kevin stood at his post and I stood at mine. As the car came slowly to the gate, I shouted: "Attention! Post arms!" We both saluted and as she drove through, I thought I saw her salute us back.

Duty, honor, service. None of those whose graves she visited had given more than she did.
A thank-you

That's the story as Dr. Schuller tells it. Our thanks to all the Joannes and their families out there today on this special Thanksgiving, as they sit next to an empty chair honoring Donald, Stephen, Stanley, Larry, Darryl and thousands of others who sacrificed so much for our freedom. We salute all of you.

I've mentioned this empty chair idea before, and I will not hesitate to begin my own holiday tradition this year. I have many things to be thankful for this year, and at the top of my list is the simple fact I'm fortunate enough to live in the greatest nation to ever exist.

A special thank you to the men and women who are defending our freedom and interests and are far away from family this holiday.

11/23/2006 11:59:00 PM

(11/23/2006 06:30:00 PM) - Al

A few weeks ago, Best Buy had a 24" TV on sale, so we purchased it, as the TV in my "office" was an older 27" that was secondhand when we bought it for $40 back when we still lived in MN. The color was pretty weak on the old one, as any red or orange near the middle resulted in a shaky, blurred pic.

I like the HDTV's, but not enough to spend a mortgage payment on.

Anyway, earlier today, on our way to dinner, we asked our son what he was thankful for, and he could not think of anything. Tonight, he said he had thought of a few things, and in addition to going to school and crackers (snack crackers that is, like Ritz), he said he was also thankful for the box from the TV that we gave him.

Truly, it is the little things.

11/23/2006 06:30:00 PM

(11/23/2006 06:26:00 PM) - Al

On Dave Pinto's confusing range model, Bill Hall was the 2nd best defensive SS in MLB last year.

Just one more tidbit that convinces me he should be remain at SS.

11/23/2006 06:26:00 PM

(11/23/2006 04:59:00 PM) - Al

My wife, son, and I went to Golden Corral for our feast today, and it was delicious. I enjoyed steak, turkey, and ham along with the traditional side items, though the pumpkin pie was a bit bland (though I ate two pieces anyway). As is always the case on holidays, people who complain about everything seem to voice their opinions loudly. About halfway through our meal, a group of 6 sat behind us, in the far corner of the place (we often sit a bit away from others, as many people don't find loud musings and questions from our 4 year-old as cute as we do. A young family and the grumpy grandma were seated, and we heard the following over the next 20 minutes:

Oh, this is ridiculous. We're clear back here in the corner. We'll have to walk so far to get to all the food.

Personally, since the only exercise I got today was walking up to the buffet and then taking a nap when I got home, I did not mind.

Well, don't they have salad plates?

Yes they do, they just look the same as the regular plates. Of course, a salad before T-giving is as wasted as garnish at a truck stop, but hence, I digress.

After she was told the dinner rolls that had just been brought to the table were hot and fresh, she said, "I don't much care for rolls".

Yet, I can only imagine the disgust if they had been cold and hard.

Why do they have fish up there? It's Thanksgiving.

A couple years ago, I enjoyed a delicious Xmas meal of shrimp and scallops, as my wife's family met in the Milwaukee area, and I did not feel the need to drive 7 hours round trip, since I had to be at work at 7AM the next day. Even with my plain cooking skills, which is basically to heat it up and smother it in butter, it may have been the best Xmas dinner of my life.

One of my co-workers said they were having roast beef today, and I admit, while I want turkey if we had stayed in, roast beef would be a delightful second entree. Nothing wrong with thinking out of the box.

11/23/2006 04:59:00 PM

(11/23/2006 10:35:00 AM) - Al

Because talks with free agent Rod Barajas are moving forward, the Jays may set a deadline for Gregg Zaun to accept their current offer.

Their proposal is believed to be for two years and about $6 million. "Exactly what day, I don't know," GM J.P. Ricciardi said. "But we've got a little bit of a self-imposed timeline and we'd like to have something done relatively soon to know that position is taken care of." If Zaun declines the Blue Jays' offer, he may go to the Yankees as a backup or to Milwaukee to split time with Damian Miller.

Zaun is 35, but has always been a very good OBP man for a C. However, the MIL interest seems to be complete conjecture of the Rotoworld person summing up the article, as the Crew is not mentioned in the actual newspaper piece at all.

The fact a 35 year-old is in such demand should tell you all you need to know about the state of catching in the big leagues and used to be the fastest way to the majors, and it still is.

11/23/2006 10:35:00 AM

(11/23/2006 12:26:00 AM) - Al

Gary Matthews Jr. signs for $10M per with the Angels.

Many folks are shaking their head over the stupidity of this deal, and I must admit, I'm very thankful that the Brewers did not make this move.

Matthews is a very good defensive CF, so that will minimize how awful this particular signing is. Looking at the article I linked, the GM says something to the effect of:

It takes some guys longer to figure it out.

I find it impossible to believe there's a human being alive who doesn't look at Matthews '06 season and see it as an outlier, but apparently, there is...and irony of ironies, he's a MLB GM.

Still, Gary's career line is .336/.419, very close to what the average CF produces, so you could make an argument that with his plus defensive ability, he is "worth" $5-7M.

At the end of the day, it's too much for too long...but that's been the path frequently taken this offseason.

11/23/2006 12:26:00 AM

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

(11/22/2006 11:05:00 AM) - Al

Apparently not eager to go to three years, the Rangers have backed off on their pursuit of free agent Dave Roberts.

Roberts could get his $15 million or more from the Brewers or Giants. The White Sox, Rockies and Braves are also believed to have some interest, but probably not at that price.--Rotoworld

I find it stunning the Brewers have apparently set the market so high on a player others are backing out.

Personally, if Juan Pierre is worth $9M a year, Dave Roberts is worth $10M.

11/22/2006 11:05:00 AM

(11/22/2006 10:35:00 AM) - Al

Doug Melvin was on a radio interview in Milwaukee yesterday. Notes:

---Have a core of good, young players. A scout told Doug that Prince will have 130 homers when he gets to be Ryan howard's age. AL players and Bruce Bochy each told Doug they had nom idea Hall hit 35 HR's last year.

---Players often decide where to go and most teams have no chance.

---A deal is on the table for one free agent, would not say if it was Dave Roberts. Waiting to hear back from that player. Two others they have had continuing discussions with, and still are talking.

---Talked to Juan Pierre, did not pursue after it became obvious the Crew was not on his short list.

---Given a payroll figure, but can go over it if the right deal comes along...did so with Carlos Lee.

---Plan to sign a pair of free agents, and be very close to budget.

---Other teams asking about starting pitching, every pitcher has been asked about. Frank Cordero has been the subject of many calls, not anxious to move any pitching at all.

---Doug Davis may not be a #2 SP, but he's been very durable, lots of teams would love to have him.

---Tony G has been offered a multi-year contract, but Doug feels Tony may well sign elsewhere, as a team may offer him an everyday role. Will look for another utility IF if that occurs.

---Have 8 or 9 major league OF's, need to decide on 5 and go from there.

---Looking for a bullpen guy and maybe one more starter. Doug seems confident that he will add a pair of pitchers.

---Talked about adding a big name, expensive player or two (called the Marlins model) and then tearing it down in a year or two. Did not think that would work in MIL, the fans may not accept it. Doug said the Tigers had to wait for contracts like Fernando Vina, Troy Percival, and Rondell White's to expire before they could sign other guys to make a run.

The one thing I always take from these interviews is how intelligent Doug sounds next to the radio guy interviewing him.

11/22/2006 10:35:00 AM

(11/22/2006 10:32:00 AM) - Al

Seth Speaks has several opinions about the MVP, including my own.

11/22/2006 10:32:00 AM

(11/22/2006 10:23:00 AM) - Al

Aaron Gleeman goes over the ballots of the AL MVP voters, and needless to say, many of them don't make any sense. Much like the Gold Glove awards, which mean nothing, any award that's voted on by beat writers and the mass media is often going to be wrong.

The White Sox writer that voted for AJ and not Mauer is simply hilarious.

11/22/2006 10:23:00 AM

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

(11/21/2006 09:14:00 PM) - Jason Christopherson

Some great posts on BTF on the AL MVP. (Link: here ) This vote seems just odd for so many reasons. For one, Mauer wasn't listed on five ballots, and did not get one first or second place vote. Huh? Also, consider this (copied straight from a post):

Player 1: 566 AB / 30 2b / 35 HR / 113 RBI / .313 BA / .381 OBP / .551 SLUG / .932 OPS / 135 OPS+
Player 2: 592 AB / 37 2b / 34 HR / 130 RBI / .321 BA / .375 OBP / .559 SLUG / .934 OPS / 140 OPS+

One of these players is the MVP. The other received a seventh place vote and therefore garnered three MVP points. Both were first basemen. And yet, I don't hear a lot of people complaining that Paul Konerko should have been MVP.

So the pro-Morneau camp argues to go off the "stats" and into "most valuable to the team". Al nailed it--Mauer is likely the most valuable to the Twins, with Santana a close second. Heck, had Liriano stayed healthy...

11/21/2006 09:14:00 PM

(11/21/2006 08:37:00 PM) - Al

Aaron Gleeman is unhappy with a player from his favorite team winning the MVP...that should tell you all you need to know.

I feel the best player in the AL was Joe Mauer myself, but there really wasn't one superb campaign from anyone (unless you feel Mauer had one), so you could make an argument for any of a dozen guys. I just think it's too bad the voters basically said there's no way a catcher can win unless they play 150+ games, which is not in the best interests of the player or the team.

11/21/2006 08:37:00 PM

(11/21/2006 07:46:00 PM) - Al

If the Phillies signed Lee, they'd then trade Pat Burrell, something that isn't much more than sideways move. Lee is probably the slightly better bet going forward, but the Phillies would have to pay Lee at least $15 million and likely eat a portion of Burrell's contract to get him moved. They'd also lose their first-round pick in the process.

I'd rather have Pat Burrell at the same money, never mind less.

Lee-----.340/.495, 835 OPS, 168 OXS
Burrell-.362/.479, 841 OPS, 173 OXS

Burrell is also a year younger, and neither is considered anything but a passable defender, though I would give the edge to Lee. If PHIL thinks that this would improve the team, I wonder what they'd want for "The Bat".

11/21/2006 07:46:00 PM

(11/21/2006 08:20:00 AM) - Al

This America's Most Wanted capture took place about a block from our home. The police actually used our cul-de-sac, which is behind the back yard of the house he was staying at, to stage the many police cars and officers.

One of the neighbors actually saw the barrage of people run across the lawns toward the house, shotguns drawn, helmets and vests on. When my wife got home, the neighbor told her he had been told to stay in the house...which he had ignored, of course.

Yesterday, they were back filming a reenactment of the whole thing.

11/21/2006 08:20:00 AM

Monday, November 20, 2006

(11/20/2006 10:24:00 PM) - Al

And you know what? The new dollar coin will also be about the same size as a quarter.

Why don't they just save their time and reissue the old ones?

One guy said it best, there will never be a successful dollar coin as long as they are making a dollar bill.

11/20/2006 10:24:00 PM

(11/20/2006 09:01:00 PM) - Al is reporting that the Dodgers and outfielder Juan Pierre have agreed to a five-year, $45 million contract.

Oof. It's not as bad as some, but it's awful. Juan Pierre doesn't do a thing well other than run and stay healthy. I'd much rather have Dave Roberts, so I'm not sure if that will push his cost out of the Crew's price range or not.

11/20/2006 09:01:00 PM

(11/20/2006 08:50:00 PM) - Al

The Brewers fill out their coaching staff, with 2 guys I'm unfamilar with.

11/20/2006 08:50:00 PM

Sunday, November 19, 2006

(11/19/2006 10:47:00 PM) - Al

Alex Gonzalez is a .246 hitter with only a .292 on-base percentage for his career and has a high strikeout rate. He signs with the Reds for 3 years, $14M.

Oof. Never mind what I said about the Cubs' horrific signings. This will not cripple the Reds financially, but to be honest, it makes JJ Hardy (and Tony G) both $6M a year players, at least if Wayne Krivsky has a checkbook in hand.

11/19/2006 10:47:00 PM

(11/19/2006 10:41:00 PM) - Al

I honestly do not know how anyone can look at the NFL with anything but pity. I just saw the Chargers take two insanely stupid penalties and do absolutly everything they possibly could to give the Broncos a chance to tie the game in the final minutes.

I once said that the NFL was a video game played by incredibly ignorant, muscular human beings, officiated by part-timers who often have less than no clue.

It is an embarassment beyond all explanation. Every time I flip past, I can't believe what I'm witnessing, and yet, some folks take it seriously.

11/19/2006 10:41:00 PM

(11/19/2006 08:34:00 PM) - Al

I just saw an ad for the movie I briefly discussed here about 3 months ago. Wil Smith plays a man who pulls himself up from the depths of despair and makes himself a success.

The trailer looks hilarious, by the way.

Also in movie news, the best reviewed Bond movie in ages is going to open behind an animated penguin flick.

I still think Pierce Brosnan was a perfect Bond. I loved the way he delivered such terrible puns as if he was a college thespian trying to impress the prettiest girl in drama class.

11/19/2006 08:34:00 PM

(11/19/2006 07:54:00 PM) - Al

The Cubs have replaced Matt Murton in LF with Alfonso Soriano. Hmm...

Murton--.370/.462, 832 OPS, 171 OXS, 25 in '07, $350K
Soriano-.325/.510, 835 OPS, 166 OXS, 31 in '07, $16M??

Needless to say, this is not a move that does anything for me. They could have had $15M+ to spend on improving the pitching staff, or anything else, but instead chose to tread water in LF.

Of course, they might trade Murton and still improve a weak spot, and money isn't really much of an object for the Tribune Company, who may actually be trying to spend a lot of money this offseason to "brand" the Cubs as a big spending franchise.

That said, spending a small fortune to get older in LF in hopes that Soriano did not have a career campaign in 2006, and instead "learned how to hit" at the tender age of 3 decades...this reeks of being the worst move of the offseason. The only one I can compare it with thus far is the DeRosa one...who was it that spent all that cash on a player that can't hit RHP?

UPDATE: The Cubs seem to have signed Soriano to play can almost hear the Looney Tunes theme. Actually, Jacque Jones used to play a decent CF, that would seem smarter than this plan. I would look for more deals to be made.

11/19/2006 07:54:00 PM

(11/19/2006 01:45:00 PM) - Al

The Cubs are close to overpaying for Alfonso Soriano by about $10M a year.

The ironic thing is, folks are going to be shocked when he reverts back to his career norms.

11/19/2006 01:45:00 PM

(11/19/2006 01:22:00 PM) - Al

Dale Sveum becomes the new bench coach, and it seems quite likely Frank Kremblas will take over as the 3B coach.

Also mentioned is it seems unlikely Graffy will be back, as other teams are offering him more playing time.

11/19/2006 01:22:00 PM

Saturday, November 18, 2006

(11/18/2006 09:43:00 AM) - Al

Tickets up 7% next year, unless you buy a season ticket package of some sort.

They finally added Opening Day to the list of marquee games as well

11/18/2006 09:43:00 AM

Friday, November 17, 2006

(11/17/2006 10:33:00 AM) - Al

I'm not sure which of these groups is more incredibly, off-the-charts bothersome...

...Bono and Pearl Jam (both wealthy beyond imagination, of course) picketing against...capitalism, as they hope to eliminate poverty, and create a utopian society that has never existed.

...Or, anyone who would take part in a lavish, money-burning cult wedding in Italy, on which the over/under is probably about 15 months. I have no idea how much is being spent on this affair, but I'm sure it would make the communists gathered in Melbourne ill, as it's probably more than the GDP of many nations.

I wish some of the folks who have nothing better to do would contact the USO and see if there is a tour they could take part in.

Finally, while it may not be politically correct, why does the Cruise/Holmes offspring appear to be Asian-American? Just wondering.

11/17/2006 10:33:00 AM

Thursday, November 16, 2006

(11/16/2006 09:12:00 PM) - Al

---Barry Bonds is in discussions with the A's, which, of course, simply makes too much sense to ever happen. If he would DH for 2 more years, I would guess he'd end up with over 800 home runs, easily. It's been painful to watch Bonds play LF, and as long as one league uses the DH, he should never step foot in the OF again.

---ATL had dropped out of the Dave Roberts sweepstakes, leaving "only" about a half-dozen contenders. The ironic thing about this is, at the moment, without exception that I've seen, the Crew is considered the frontrunner.

---Jaime Walker signs a 3y/$12M deal with BAL. He was easily the best LH reliever on the market, and while he is 35, is coming off 5 solid seasons and might pitch another decade. I thought his age might hold down his price a bit, but overall, in a weaker free agent market, the O's didn't overpay all that much.

---I got an e-mail asking if the high price the Cubs paid DeRosa will increase the price Graffy gets. I'll say this, it won't lower it at all, but Tony G may well have to decide whether he wants to play every day or take the most money. If I were Doug, I'd be contacting Craig Counsell as a possibility. He bats lefty, so he should be a perfect complement to Weeks and Hardy, and he is a solid OBP man if one of them goes down.

This is assuming that Hall will be an OF next year.

11/16/2006 09:12:00 PM

(11/16/2006 08:30:00 AM) - Al

Frank Thomas expected to sign with TOR, 2 years, $23M.

I would have guessed $9-10M per, but I'd expect more if I were to play in Canada as well.

11/16/2006 08:30:00 AM

(11/16/2006 08:28:00 AM) - Al

According to's Ken Rosenthal, the Giants, Orioles, Astros and Rangers are showing the strongest interest in Carlos Lee.

Only 2 of the 4 are AL teams, an absolute travesty. And, he's a decade too young for the Giants, isn't he?

HOU is the favorite, he may well just be playing the others to sweeten the bid.

11/16/2006 08:28:00 AM

(11/16/2006 08:25:00 AM) - Al

The Twins are looking at adding veteran pitcher Jason Jennings.

He's coming off a fine 2006, 3.78 ERA. He'd be a fine addition to anyone's rotation.

11/16/2006 08:25:00 AM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

(11/15/2006 07:32:00 PM) - Al

The Phillies and Wes Helms have reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth $5.5 million-$6 million.

Helms is almost as mediocre as any 3B out there, matching up the average 3B stats almost perfectly. It's almost getting to the point where you have to look at payroll the same way as you do the NBA. There are role players with 6y/$36M contracts in the NBA and that's simply the going rate.

I can easily imagine being a GM on a team with little financial leeway, and I feel I could find a AAA veteran who could at least come close to Wes' stats for 15% of his cost, but it's getting to the point where $2.75M isn't even considered anything but a standard salary. If the Phillies use Helms properly, resting him against a tough righty or two each week, they should be plenty happy with Helms.

11/15/2006 07:32:00 PM

(11/15/2006 11:17:00 AM) - Al

I wouldn't dream of touching a Japanese arm unless they were available at a discount, which the fella Jason refers to below most certainly is not.

1. They throw ALL THE TIME. They throw far too many pitches in games, and several times between starts.

2. If this guy is 26, his arm is probably about 32.

3. His stuff does look superb, but the much talked about "gyroball" isn't nearly as good as many breaking balls you see on a daily basis here. From the video I saw, his success comes from a 93 mph fastball placed perfectly on the black and the corners.

While the playing field is as level as it's been for ages, it is far from even. Most teams cannot dream of paying $51M for a chance to pick up a guy who looks to be a solid SP, but as Jason points outs, is more likely to hear a "pop" than nearly any young pitcher.

I agree that the Red Sox would have been better off going after a combination of Zito, Schmidt, and Suppan. Not only could they possibly have filled 400 innings rather than 200, they could have avoided the minor headaches of an Asian reporter filled locker room, and needing a translator.

11/15/2006 11:17:00 AM

(11/15/2006 09:39:00 AM) - Jason Christopherson

A few random, outside-looking-in comments on the Red Sox getting the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka for $51.1 Million:

*Does that bid imply they thought the Yankees would go to $50M? I bet Theo and Co. are really good at getting stuff on eBay.

*I would speculate a contract to be somewhere between 3 and 4 years at $11-13 Million per. That might be high as Boras doesn't have a lot of leverage here. I know, Matsuzaka, the man with the fictional "lamb and sauce on a pita" pitch, will generate some marketing dollars for Boston. And I know the posting price probably shouldn't be added in to the mix. But accounting details aside, it will probably cost anywhere from $24M to $30M per season, averaged out over the contract, to bring in a man who could be the next Hideki Irabu (though admittedly not likely--the guy looked great at the WBC).

*Wouldn't that money be better spread out among a couple of different options? It may cost a little more per season, but if Boston signed both the big name FA pitchers out there in Zito and Schmidt they would at least spread the risk out a bit. What if Matsuzaka feels a "pop" in May due to not being used to the way pitching is in the Majors (if I recall correctly, a six-man rotation is used in Japan. However, pitchers tend to be allowed to throw more pitches in a game)? Granted, a GM could not function long in the game if he worried about that sort of thing from a historically healthy player--which is why I wouldn't do well as a GM. Also, pitchers like Nomo seem to have adjusted fine. But at least you would have someone to fall back on if that happened to Zito or Schmidt. Plus, if health isn't a concern, wouldn't you want a true #1 taking up a #2 spot in the rotation?

11/15/2006 09:39:00 AM

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

(11/14/2006 08:00:00 PM) - Al

Realistic solutions in center field are Angels veteran Darin Erstad, Astros utility player Chris Burke and Brewers center fielder Brady Clark, who will become expendable if Milwaukee, as expected, signs Dave Roberts.--Rocky Mountain News

Tracy Ringlosby was the one who reported a fictional CBA had been reached, eliminating compensation for free agents, so it is far from fact. Still, I think it is safe to say Dave Roberts was sighted early as a target and has been chased relentlessly by the braintrust, which is exactly what a small market team should do.

Roberts would fit in almost perfectly platooning with Brady, but in reality, if Clark was dealt, his salary would almost cover Dave's '07 estimated $5M paycheck. Also, I would think with a dozen teams interested in Roberts, he has a handshake agreement that he will be an everyday starter. I'll have to take a look at his splits, as many slap hitters like Dave don't suffer versus LHP's, as they don't have much power to lose.

EDIT: Dave has a .310 OBP versus lefties the past 3 years, but only in 180 AB's, so he obviously hasn't faced many of them.

11/14/2006 08:00:00 PM

(11/14/2006 07:40:00 PM) - Al

I feel Robert is undervaluing Lopez a bit, as he's a classic innings eater, bottom of the rotation guy. I'd project him at somewhere around 4.75 ERA in the NL next year, and 200 innings of 4.75 ball would have plenty of takers. I like Mench, but right now, he's a bench bat who'll make about $4M in arby.

The ironic thing is, Geoff Jenkins sounds as if he has plenty of interested parties this offseason. Geoff's $7M salary is going to look mighty paltry compared to Soriano making 2.5 times that...for not much better career numbers.

As for Davis, I suggested ages ago a package of Davis plus another player...or a prospect that is blocked, might be enough to pick up an upgrade for the rotation, especially if the Crew is willing to pick up some salary.

11/14/2006 07:40:00 PM

(11/14/2006 04:31:00 PM) - Robert R.

Some notes from the GM meetings with the Brewers figuring in several rumors.

A couple of thoughts.

Re: Kevin Mench for Rodrigo Lopez
While I like the idea of picking up pitching, the Brewers can do better than that. Lopez projects to make substantially more than league minimum and he wasn't better than replacement level last season. The Brewers likely can get someone with expected productivity for what Lopez would cost. Heck, you could spend that money on resigning Tony Graffanino.

Re: Shopping Doug Davis
I'm not against it, but I hope the plan isn't to replace Davis with someone like Lopez, Benson, Clement, etc. Doug Davis was still fairly valuable even in a down year, about equivalent to Greg Maddux according to Baseball Prospectus, and you don't just replace 200+ innings off the scrap heap very often.

Re: Geoff Jenkins
Sounds like there's some interest, but nothing pending. Makes sense to me. We'll see who loses out on Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano, J. D. Drew and other free agents before the market will likely heat up. I'm not convinced that the Brewers need to trade Jenkins, but I think there will be a market.

Re: Dave Roberts
I'm very underwhelmed by the potential signing. Why commit multiple years for a non-difference maker? Is he better than Hardy? Hall? A Gross or Jenkins platoon? Graffanino? Braun? I don't think it would be an awful signing, but I don't see how it really makes a difference to the Brewers in 2007 or beyond.

11/14/2006 04:31:00 PM

Monday, November 13, 2006

(11/13/2006 11:17:00 PM) - Al

Friend of Ramblings John Strain had a wonderful Veteran's Day post, so forgive the belated link.

We are indeed very lucky we have such men (and women) defending us and our interests.

11/13/2006 11:17:00 PM

(11/13/2006 08:28:00 PM) - Al

Rotoworld predicts where the top FA's will end up, and how much they'll be making.

They have Dave Roberts signing with the Crew...for 3 years and $16M. I would have guessed about $12-13M, so as usual, there seems to be a markup of about 25-30% on free agents this year.

I really like Roberts, and have no problem with him ending up in Milwaukee. That said, it's tough to imagine Tony Gwynn Jr. not producing 85-90% of what Dave does...for 10% of the expense.

After a 6 ERA campaign, they have Jason Marquis getting 2y/$12M, while I would have guessed $4M for '07, or maybe 2y/$7M.

The one thing I saw that I liked is they predict good relievers will only make $2-3M, down from the $4.5-5M that the Cubs signed Howry and Eyre for last offseason. We can only hope. All things being equal, I'd rather see Dave Weathers and Jaime Walker in the bulpen for $5M a year than Roberts in CF.

11/13/2006 08:28:00 PM

(11/13/2006 07:51:00 PM) - Al

TPA compiles a top 10 list of Brewers' prospects...Dana Eveland is very conspicuous in his absence.

11/13/2006 07:51:00 PM

(11/13/2006 03:17:00 PM) - Robert R.

Hanley Ramirez wins NL rookie of the year. Prince Fielder finishes tied for 7th.

Neither of which is really a surprise. This has to be one of the strongest rookie classes ever, especially from a depth point of view. Prince Fielder's numbers were good enough to win the award in several years.

I haven't checked, but I'd imagine that this is the best showing by a Brewer's rookie since Pat Listach, which pretty much tells you the quality of the farm system under Bando.

11/13/2006 03:17:00 PM

Sunday, November 12, 2006

(11/12/2006 07:35:00 PM) - Al

One thing Robert may be looking past in his critique is the improved defense that would come from the Hall/Roberts/Hart OF and the Koskie/Hardy left side of the IF. Also, I'm sure on Doug Melvin's desk, or maybe his computer, is 2007 projections from his "stat guy", which probably have Corey, Rickie, and Prince all showing some improvement, if not breakthroughs to the next level. He also seems very optimistic about Hardy's offensive potential.

We always hear that the defense is below average, but little is done to improve. Billy Beane played with 3 CF's last year in his OF, and seems to believe D is a bit of the last frontier of inexpensiveness.

Personally, I'd rather see a bunch of mashers, but it is another way of looking at it.

11/12/2006 07:35:00 PM

(11/12/2006 01:08:00 PM) - Al

Though the acquisition of Jaret Wright gives the Orioles six starters along with Erik Bedard , Daniel Cabrera , Adam Loewen, Kris Benson and Rodrigo Lopez , the Orioles will likely trade Lopez (the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers have inquired) or use him in the bullpen.---Baltimore Sun

Hat tip to Jim at

Lopez is far from a star, but I do like the fact the Crew continues to hunt for SP depth. Lopez is also coming off a down 2006, much like Jason Marquis, who I discussed here. He had a very good '05 and a decent '04.

{Note Marquis and FA Ted Lilly are both on Lopez's "similar" list near the bottom of his BR page.}

BAL is looking for some OF pop, so a deal involving Jenkins or Mench might work out dfor both teams.

11/12/2006 01:08:00 PM

Saturday, November 11, 2006

(11/11/2006 11:56:00 PM) - Robert R.

Let me get this straight based on latest rumors. The Brewers are considering moving Hall to LF and signing someone like Dave Roberts to play CF. Essentially replacing potential platoons involving Jenkins and Gross with J. J. Hardy and Dave Roberts.

I thought the idea was to get better offensively, not worse.

I hope this is just a rumor and someone is misunderstanding. Bill Hall belongs in the middle infield or centerfield, not in a corner outfield spot where his value is severely diminished. If you sign Dave Roberts, Hall is your everyday SS. If you give Hardy the starting SS job, Hall is your centerfielder. Trying to be cute with the situation is just asking for it to blow up in your face.

11/11/2006 11:56:00 PM

(11/11/2006 10:03:00 AM) - Al

Right now, every time you see an article discussing the impending free agent market, you see a reference about teams being flush with cash, and a lack of "big ticket" names this year.

It isn't difficult to imagine very mediocre players being overpaid, that's for sure. Jeff Suppan is a nice pitcher, but is he a $10-11M man? Well, he will be when the dust settles.

I would not ignore this opportunity to shore up some weak spots on the team, as Mark A pointed out in that radio interview he did, sometimes you overpay for a free agent because you don't have to give up a player like you do in a trade. Let's say that Melvin has his eyes on two relievers, Dave Weathers, who is a free agent; or Eugene Everyday, a rubber-armed reliever who has fallen out of favor with his club. Eugene is under contract for 2 more years, at $2M per. I would estimate Dave Weathers will get a 2 year deal worth somewhere around $3M per. Your first thought is that you'd prefer Eugene, as he costs $1M a season less...but, what's worth more, $2M in extra salary, or a young player like Dana Eveland or Zach Jackson, which is what Eugene's club would ask for in trade?

That said, Doug needs to identify his targets and go after them like perky on a cheerleader. This is not a market where talent will be signing minor league deals with invites to camp, unable to garner a big league contract. Remember how we scoffed at huge offers to mediocre talent? I don't think we've seen anything yet.

11/11/2006 10:03:00 AM

(11/11/2006 12:46:00 AM) - Al

Link from the JS, indicating interest in Dave Roberts (and Juan Pierre), no FA expected back other than hopefully Graffy, and Hall is, as expected, probably headed toward the OF.

Difficult for me not to comment on how bad Juan Pierre is, except for his speed and some OBP ability. Over his career, he has managed to "not get out" 35% of the time, which is OK, of course. His complete lack of power and his 6th grade girl like arm (disclaimer, no disrespect intended to 12 year-old girls) that allows all but the most plodding of baserunners to go from 1st to 3rd on a single to CF makes this guy a very weak starter to me.

11/11/2006 12:46:00 AM

(11/11/2006 12:41:00 AM) - Al

Others will say it better and more eloquently, but Happy Veteran's Day to all, and a special thank you to those who are serving or have served in the armed forces.

11/11/2006 12:41:00 AM

Friday, November 10, 2006

(11/10/2006 11:14:00 PM) - Al

---I was flipping channels today and when I came to CNBC, I was surprised to see a moment of silence at 11 Eastern, in honor of Veteran's Day. They said it was the only time of the year they shut down live trading.

---I also saw on the ticker of my local news that the Arizona Cardinals are going to induct Pat Tillman into their "ring of honor", or something like that. I still recall seeing Ted Rall's cartoon that called Tillman an idiot a few hours after Tillman had been killed serving his country. What's funny is, Rall was interviewed on Nightline, or some show like Nightline, and Rall could barely speak in complete sentences, basically an adult who acted like a 12 year-old. Obviously, the "idiot" label had not fallen far from the tree. I still see Rall's "work" every once in a while, and I'm always puzzled as to how such a buffoon would still be carried anywhere. I'm all for freedom of speech, no matter how stupid it is, but I also would not dream of supporting any outlet that would carry Rall's garbage.

---I usually watch Frasier after the local news, and usually catch the first few minutes of Nightline before shuting off the TV. The show seems preoccupied with convincing the viewer that home sales are in some sort of once in a century decline. What's happened is the end of a record run of rising home prices. Many speculators bought houses they could not afford, and are now suffering the consequences. Of course, for regular people, this is fine, it may even allow you to upgrade to a nicer home, or if you have the desire, maybe buy a second house, for investment, vacation, or rental purposes. Unless you're selling your house, who cares? Granted, a few folks have to move, because of their work or medical reasons, but for the most part, a temporary slump is a good thing, and long-term, makes no difference in the appreciation of the house you own.

---Most of the reaction to the Ramblings' roundtable, besides the many kudos it always gets as many of the regulars favorite feature, by far, is negative thoughts about Jason Marquis. Marquis is coming off a poor year, which he finished with a 6ish ERA. Thta is a bit of an artificially high number, as Jason was left in 2 blowouts to eat up some innings, which he did without complaint. I seem to recall reading that his ERA was in the 5-5.25 range if you remove those two games, though I'm not certain if that is removing the entire poor outing, or just his last few innings of work.

Regardless, Marquis' two previous seasons were outstanding, 3.79 and 4.10 ERA's, and if he was coming off one of those campaigns, he'd be mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Suppan. But, memories are short, and the idea of buying at a time of low value is met with scorn; just like it's perfectly acceptable for someone to pay Soriano for what he did in 2006, not what he's done in his career. He's just 28, and has thrown at least 194 innings in the past 3 years.

UPDATE: Thanks to game log from ESPN, if you take out those two starts, two 5 inning outings in which he gave up 13 runs once and 12 in the other, his ERA would have been 5.16...quite a difference from the 6+ he ended up with. Marquis certainly looks like the sleeper of the FA SP class this offseason.

Of course, those 2 outings did count in the standings, so it really is not fair to "throw them out". However, to me, they certainly qualify as outliers, as LaRussa chose to rest his bullpen and left Marquis out there to suffer... a strategic move that's difficult to do, but sometimes is necessary for the good of the team.

11/10/2006 11:14:00 PM

(11/10/2006 07:29:00 PM) - Al

No surprise that Robin Yount will not return as the bench coach. I don't think it's reading between the lines a whole lot to figure out his wife is not a big fan of living anywhere besides Arizona, even without her kids still living at home.

Call me a contrarian, but Alan Trammell's name jumped out at me, for one of the two coaching openings. He did not have a lot of success in Detroit as a manager, but to be honest, he developed most of the talent that took the Tigers to the Series. He was a fine SS and a great hitter for years. His downside is he said a lot of stupid things in Detroit, discussed "toughness" and "learning how to win", but I feel he'd probably be a sensible choice as a teacher.

UPDATE: Trammell has signed on to be a coach for the Cubs.

11/10/2006 07:29:00 PM

(11/10/2006 10:28:00 AM) - Al

It's tough to argue that JD Drew is not a better player than Carlos Lee, but Lee's durability makes that a tough call, if I had to state my preference. Drew is about as fragile as they come, and he is unlikely to prove more durable in his 30's making $15M per year.

Robert is probably correct though, as a one year "wait and see" rental, LA might see more value in Jenkins than most.

11/10/2006 10:28:00 AM

(11/10/2006 10:07:00 AM) - Robert R.

J. D. Drew opts out of his contract and is now a free agent. He's another player I'd rather have than Carlos Lee.

I think this potentially impacts the Brewers. The Brewers are unlikely to pursue Drew, but I don't think the Dodgers will resign him either and that leaves a hole in their outfield. It wouldn't surprise me if this creates some interest in USC graduate Geoff Jenkins on the Dodgers part as a potential replacement.

11/10/2006 10:07:00 AM

Thursday, November 09, 2006

(11/09/2006 11:53:00 PM) - Al

Once again, it's time for a Ramblings; favorite, the season-ending roundtable. The participants are fellow Ramblings' contributors Robert and Jason, frequent roundtabler Greg, and first-timer JR, who is a preps sports reporter in the Milwaukee area who is lucky enough to freelance for on occasion, often covering the visiting team at Miller Park and sometimes the Brewers. With no further ado...

AL: It is my continued contention that a healthy Brewers' team that finished the season on the 25 man roster and the DL is more talented than the NL's World Series representative, the St. Louis Cardinals. What's your feeling on that view?

JASON: I know, Al, that you and many folks do not believe in intangibles, so let's just call it "luck" that the Cardinals are in the World Series in 2006. Your argument is entirely plausable. Let's go through by position.

Catcher: Edge-Milwaukee. The situation as is is just fine with me. Nothing spectacular either way, but the offensive productions of Miller and Rivera I feel more than offset the defensive advantage Molina brings. I'm not certain about the future, but that's not the question here.

1B: Edge-St. Louis. Pujols is my pick for best player in the game right now. While Prince couldn't have had a much better rookie season, Albert has to get the nod here.

2B: Edge-Milwaukee. A healthy Weeks makes a comparison to St. Louis' group laughable. Belliard was a nice pickup, but Weeks was really starting to put together his complete game.

SS: Edge-Milwaukee. This assume Hall would be/should be the starting SS all along. Hall was among the best shortstops PERIOD, and ranked right up there on historical levels for hitting as a SS, though Mr. Sutton might disagree as Eckstein's hustle makes him the best ever.

3B: Edge-St. Louis. Rolen is worth nowhere near his big contract, but I would take him over a healthy Koskie in a heartbeat if money isn't a consideration.

OF: Edge-Even. The OF situation really was thrown into a tizzy with injuries and the Lee trade. While overall I think the Cards may have a bit of an advantage, properly managing the players the Brewers had could have made a difference. This was perhaps my biggest knock on Yost this year. Platooning Mench and Jenks in right while giving Hart left and the healthy or hot stick between Clark/Gwynn/Nix in center could have optimized the situation.

SP: Edge-Milwaukee. The Cards have the bigger names, but the Brewer starters really did well and if completely healthy for the season I believe would have outperformed them. The overall pitching stats for the season are quite close (Brewers WHIP, I believe, was slightly better), and we know of the struggles many of the Brewer relievers had.

RP: Edge-St. Louis. Hands down. There are some bright spots for the Brewers (Shouse was one, and of course CoCo was as well), but the Cards seem to be much more consistent.

So, overall, yes, I think the Brewers certainly were at least on par with the Cardinals.

ROBERT: I tend to agree that the main things seperating the Cardinals from the Brewers are Pujols and the bullpen. I'd throw in a healthy Edmonds (if we're going to assume good health for the Brewers) and I'll take Tony LaRussa, annoying quirks and all, over Ned Yost as well. Tony LaRussa may not be a sabremetrician, but he's certainly aware of players' splits and wouldn't allow Jenkins to play against left-handers as much as he did.

Still, a superstar, a solid bullpen, and an above average manager are not small things. And durability is a quality to be valued. So, I don't quite go along with the reasoning. Sure, in ideal circumstances, the Brewers match up well, but the season is a test of how you do in non-ideal circumstances. And there's little question in my mind that the collapse of the bullpen led to all sorts of problems. Perhaps moreso than the injuries. That's a talent problem.

GREG:Leaving injuries totally out of the equation, I'd say the Brewers' roster is almost as strong. The Brewers have a better balance of talent, and our players have much greater potential to get better. I would take a healthy Sheets over any pitcher on either team. The Cards, however, have the two best players (if we're talking about value right now) between the two teams: Pujols is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer if he sticks around just a bit longer, and Rolen, while far behind Pujols, is also an elite talent. Fielder or Weeks could be that good very soon; even Hall could end up in Rolen territory with one more step forward. But it's hard not to give the comparative edge to the team with the two superstars.

JR: I don't, actually. While I find it entertaining the Cardinals have gotten huge postseason contributions from players such as Jeff Weaver, Anthony Reyes, So Taguchi and Yadier Molina, I like the Cardinals' core better than Milwaukee's. The Brewers have no peer to St. Louis' best hitter and pitcher, and it's hard not to like the Cards' stable of young arms in the bullpen. Neither outfield is anything to get excited about, with the infields about even. You could certainly argue better starting pitching depth in Milwaukee's favor, but St. Louis has obviously found ways to maximize what it has. This wouldn't be a question if Jason Isringhausen, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Mark Mulder were healthy and performing according to career norms.

Unless I miscalculated, the Brewers current roster (including pitchers) had about a .326 on-base percentage this season, and the current Cardinals are right around .339. So even if that's not much, you're still talking about a lineup with a better knack for reaching base.

AL: I'll give you Pujols, but Rolen is certainly well into the second, less productive half of his career. I think a better way of putting it might be "The Brewers' roster that ended the season is as talented as the Cards, and moreso if you take their potential into account". I still think a healthy Brewers' team, or even a healthier one, takes the division.

Moving on then, do you see the Brewers as 2007 contenders or not?

GREG: If everyone is reasonably healthy, and if DM can make a few moves that
are no trickier than what he has pulled off before, then yes, absolutely. If we're hurt again like this year, it will be tough but not impossible, requiring some young pitchers can step up stronger than they did this year.

JR: Doug Melvin will tell you the team was a contender this year, up until the big losing streak near the end of the season. If you believe the National League Central winner will have around this many wins next year, then it would be irresponsible not to mention them as a team with as good a shot as anyone, assuming they avoid he disabled list exodus. With perhaps another outfield bat and starting pitcher, next season's team will be among the most capable of 85-90 wins in a long time.

JASON: I saw them as contenders for 2006, and there isn't a whole lot that is changing my mind about this team for next year. I'd like to see the outfield situation stabilized and the addition of a mid-level reliever or two. But if nothing changed from this moment on (I know, impossible with free agents, etc.) and everyone comes back healthy I would still believe the playoffs are well within reach.

ROBERT: I don't see the Brewers as serious contenders until they fix the bullpen. Their starting pitching is fine and projects to be one of the better rotations next year, their offense projects to be average to slightly better than average if healthy and properly deployed, but there's about 250 IP of uncertainty in the bullpen beyond Cordero (an elite closer), Capellan (who's merely o.k. at the moment), and Shouse (who's effective, but really shouldn't be used as much more than a LOOGY as right-handers put up a .942 OPS against him). That's about 28 games worth of pitching that I have no assurance for. Right now, I think that's what separates the Brewers from the post-season. Sure, Turnbow may bounce back, Sarfate and Eveland may step up, and Wise may be mostly healthy, but that's a lot of ifs.

AL: To sum up the views of the others, with good health and a nominal OF/bullpen upgrade, they can easily imagine contending in '07. Me too. Heck, if they are able to maintain their current depth (Graffy as a utility IF along with the lefty-masher Cirillo, Gross as a reserve OF, Ryan Braun at 3B, effectively backing up the fragile, yet still producing Koskie), I can see them having as much protection as any NL team.

All right then, Jenkins/Turnbow/Ohka...what would you do with them if you were in charge?

JASON: I keep Jenkins as the outfield is a bit of a jumbled mess right now. Never, ever have him face a lefty starter and he will be set up to succeed. If that happens, the Brewers have the option of flipping him at the deadline depending on their situation.

I'm not ready to give up on Turnbow long term just yet. If another team wants him, fine, but I'm not actively shopping him. I keep him in a middle relief role until/if his confidence and slider return.

I like Ohka a lot, but he's going to command more money than I think he is worth. For a fraction of the price we could get probably lesser, but similar production from Villanueva or Jackson. Use the money savings to improve the bullpen.

JR: Tomo Ohka could be among the most talented fourth/fifth starters in the league, but I think Doug Melvin knows better than to overpay for that spot on the roster, especially after an oft-injured season and the apparent development of Carlos Villanueva. I assume he'll be offered arby anyway. Turnbow will certainly be back, as the coaching staff still loves his velocity and will again give him numerous opportunities to reclaim a role. I was pleased Geoff Jenkins was shown some fan appreciation during what appeared to be his final tour of duty with the club, as it is always endearing when a player truly wants to play in Milwaukee and loves the organization.

ROBERT: I agree with Jason.

Jenkins is overpaid at $7 million, but $7 million for 1 year of a solid left-handed platoon player isn't that bad considering Jacque Jones, a comparable player, has 2 years left on his contract at $5 million per year. Considering this year's free agent class, I don't think you can do better on the open market and you'd certainly have a longer committment.

That said, if the Brewers can come up with a solid centerfielder in some way, then I'm all in favor of shipping Jenkins out and moving Gross to leftfield. Gross seems to be comparable to Jenkins at the moment, and at a fraction of the cost.

Turnbow is a guy I'm actively shopping. I'm not giving him away, but there's a lot of uncertainty in the bullpen already and there are only a few bullpen slots in play. Roster spaces and playing times are valuable resources for a team on the verge of contention and you honestly can't count on him in your offseason plans. Yost's handling of him after his implosion didn't solve the problem in season.

Ohka is gone. I like Ohka, but he's probably going to get a 3 year contract and I'll bet on Villanueva being better over those 3 years, at a fraction of the price.

Although not part of the question, I'd also actively shop Mench, Clark and Wise. Mench is going to be expensive for a right-handed platoon mate, Clark is showing his age, but could help a contender as a 4th outfielder, and Wise is simply undependable day-to-day due to injury concerns. Mench is the only one that really projects to be overpaid, but the Brewers could use those roster spots and salary in more productive ways.

GREG:Ohka is easy; offer arby and take the draft picks. Turnbow is a talented player with zero trade value at this point, so you have to figure out a role in which he can help you. (For the record, I would have entertained offers last winter, and I said so then.) Jenkins is really tough. He would be tough to trade, but you might be able to move him in a challenge deal for another highly paid vet in decline. The
problem, though, is that he may be the second-best outfielder on the 40-man, obviously trailing only Hart, who doesn't even have a full year of MLB under his belt. (I'm not counting Hall as an OF yet.) I have no faith at all in Mench, Clark (as a starter; love him as a 4th/5th OF) or Nix, and I have no idea what makes people think Tony Gwynn Jr. is anywhere near a starting MLB OF right now. I like Gross, but he (like Mench) strikes me as a platoon guy; so does Jenks, but neither of those
guys is clearly a better platoon guy than he is. So if DM can't find a real OF via trade, Jenks may actually be a better bet going into next year than most of the alternatives.

AL: The consensus is Tomo will be offered arby, refuse it, and sign a 3 year deal for too much money. Methinks so too. Turnbow has a fraction of the value he had before the all-star break, and a fraction of what he'll have shall he either find his breaking ball again or even settle in as a decent middle relief guy. He's almost certain to open the '07 campaign on the 25 man. I feel Jenkins should open next year with the Crew, and not at all because of his longstanding service to the team. As Robert pointed out, Jenkins is not that overpaid compared to other LH OF's, Jacque Jones being one of them. His stats versus RHP still puts him at an above average level for a RF. It's easy to find a RH platoon partner for him, my goodness, they currently have a pair of them in Clark and Mench. Unless the Crew manages to pick up a replacement for Geoff in a trade involving Geoff, I don't see an improvement forthcoming.

All right, he's so good, he deserves his own question...what would you do with Bill Hall, and what will the Crew do?

JASON: I think it's important to keep Hall happy, and if I recall correctly he indicated he would like to have one position if possible. Does JJ Hardy have the ability to play third or second? I have this feeling that Koskie will not be back, and Hardy is a better fit of the typical "super-sub" type player. So, ideally I'd like to have Hall as my starting shortstop with Koskie at third and Hardy as my utility guy. I don't see Graffy back, so Hardy fills his role along with Cirillo. If Koskie doesn't come back, I put Hall at third and JJ at short.

GREG: I want Hardy, if he's healthy, to get first crack at starting SS.
People keep talking about that dynamic like it's a competition between Hardy and Hall that Hall deserves to win. He does, but it isn't. The point is to field your best team, and if Hardy can get healthy and on track, SS is where he helps you. Hall can help you all over. I still like the idea of Hall as a super-utility guy who gets 600 PAs, a disproportionate number against lefties -- but that doesn't appear to be how the world works. Assuming Koskie comes back healthy, and assuming DM can't land a starting OF, Hall is the best OF we have. The team doesn't seem to think he can play CF, but I can't see how he's worse out there than Clark. So, SS if Hardy doesn't make it (which would take a while to determine); 3B if Koskie is done; CF if Hall can play it; RF if he can't; and, the dark horse choice, 2B if they don't think Weeks will stick there, although I can't see why they would think that.

ROBERT: Hall's a starter, the question is just what spot? Right now, I'd make Hardy a utility infielder or start him in AAA to shake off some rust and I'd have Hall as the starting SS. I'd even shop Hardy if someone, Toronto or Washington, perhaps, had interest and still think Hardy projects well. Unless Koskie can't come back, I don't think Hardy projects to outhit anyone currently on the team who's projected to start. And even in that case, I'd be hard pressed to choose Hardy over Ryan Braun.

Really, the only long term spot that I think is open is centerfield. I'd consider moving Weeks or Hall to centerfield and using Hardy at SS if the alternative is Gwynn starting. And I'd also think that Melvin mismanaged the offseason if that came to pass. Right now, Hardy has something to prove before the Brewers make space for him, while Hall has proven that he can be a star.

JR: I would do what I think the team will ultimately do...put him in center field. Doug Melvin seemed pretty clear at the postseason press conference that Hall will be playing in one spot every day next season, with outfield being an option. He did say, however, that players seldom make a smooth transition from infield to center field, even if there are cases where players have gone to corner outfield spots and succeeded (Soriano, Holliday, etc.).

The team won't get much in return if they tried to move J.J. Hardy after an injury-riddled 2007, so their best bet would be to keep him and try to get the production they expect from him. Hall would prefer to play shortstop, but his bat maintains its same value if he moves to center, and he's clearly athletic enough to do it.

AL: I'd leave him at SS and sign him to a long-term deal, hopefully eating up a year or two of free agency, locking him up for his seasons of 26-29, and maybe 30. Hey, I've defended JJ many times, but the idea he'll ever put up a season like Bill's past two is ridiculous. Putting Hall at SS makes the 2nd toughest offensive position a huge plus for the Crew. What will the Brewers do? I think their actions make it clear they intend to move Hall to the OF. The only benefit to that is Hall is likely to enjoy better health and may be able to stay fresher. I disagree, but as of right now, no one has asked me my opinion.:)

OK then, what moves do you feel Doug and Gord will make this offseason?

GREG:I don't see a rotation move. Given the cost factors, you just don't have a very good likelihood of improving over Sheets/Capuano/Davis/Bush//Villanueva/Eveland/Yo/Jackson. Obviously he's going to shake up the bullpen, although with Cordero in the fold I hope he doesn't pay much in salary or players. The infield, one way or another, looks stacked, although finding a youngish utility IF to replace Cirillo and Graffanino certainly has to be on the agenda.

The biggest needs I see are in the OF and behind the plate. This winter, like the past two or three, I would love to see DM roll the dice on a youngish catcher who has fallen behind on his organization's depth chart. Those guys tend to develop unpredictably; it's a good place to gamble. As for the OF, that should be easier; I fully expect DM to target somebody better than Mench in a trade. Exactly who that
somebody might be I'm not sophisticated enough even to guess.

JASON: I think we're going to see a relatively quiet offseason, as I think they are under the impression that injuries were the real downfall of this team last year. I alluded to it previously that I would like to see some relief help come in, but I'm torn between getting proven relievers or giving kids like Eveland, Sarfate, and Hendrickson a shot. Well, maybe the "shot" for those guys will be with another team as part of a trade.

An outfielder with some thump would be nice, but I don't see the Brewers overpaying for one as much as they would a reliever or PERHAPS another starting pitcher if Okha goes. Can you imagine a Sheets/Cappy/Schmidt/Davis/Villy rotation?

It's fun to dream, but I think outside of some minor moves it's going to be silent.

ROBERT: I'm expecting a lot of talk, but not much action except in the bullpen. The offensive core of the team is in place and the rotation is in good shape.

I'll throw out one name that I think would make a lot of sense for the Brewers to explore. Vernon Wells. He'd cost a lot, in terms of minor league talent and money to sign him to an extension, but I'd think he would be worth it and could hold down centerfield for years. He's much more attractive as a long term option than Carlos Lee ever was, combining offense and defense.

JR:I sense the time is coming where the team finally does pursue a free agent pitcher, even if it means overpaying a touch. Schmidt is among the best names out there, and I hope I'm not being too optimistic in thinking the Brewers will seriously speak to someone like him. That said, the crop of free agent pitching never seems to be that good, and the asking prices always seem to be too high. Perhaps they will spend some of that cash on a few bullpen arms instead, as there are several decent middle-grounders available.

Trades will still be the primary means by which the team attempts to address its perceived needs, and to speculate on who makes a good trading partner seems foolish, given the surprising nature of past trades.

AL: I have no interest in talking to Schmidt, he and Zito are the class of the FA crop, and will be overpaid accordingly. I'd go after a 2nd tier pitcher much like Ohka, maybe more of a ground ball guy, and one who has enjoyed durability. I'd take the Billy Beane approach, while the big market clubs are fighting over the top 3-4 fellas, you go right after your pick of the next level. Jeff Suppan may get paid some sort of bonus for suddenly being a "winner", but he'd be the guy on the top of my list. Below him would be Jason Marquis, who is coming off a poor '06, which will keep his salary lower, but who is still a durable 28 year-old sinkerballer, as well as older vets like Greg Maddux and Woody Williams. I'd pick one or two of them, and go after them as if they're the head cheerleader and next week is the prom (assuming, of course, I would have interest in attending a prom). I'd go after a pair of relievers, as the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I've stated I like Dave Weathers and JC Romero as options, and I still do. I'm hoping they overpay Graffy a bit, as Weeks and Hardy are unlikely to both remain healthy, and if not, they need another capable utility man, and Craig Counsell does stand out as a person of interest.

To be honest, I'd look for a high salaried player to be picked up in a trade...much like Carlos Lee was, with some role players picked up via free agency.

Finally, are you as optimistic as I am about the next few years? I feel this team is on the brink of a half-decade long run of success.

JASON: I never thought I would be compelled to follow the "Minor League" forum on more than I do the "Major League" forum, but that's exactly what has happened over the last couple of years. The true stars of the major league squad are young, and the talent is still bubbling up from the minors. It's amazing to think about how good this team could be for a decent amount of time if the injury bug doesn't take it all away. We begin to change realistic expectations (like if Yo gives up a run or two in a start), and that's when optimism takes a back seat to all-out excitement. Fans of this team have suffered for a long time, but that makes the reward that much sweeter.

ROBERT: There's no reason not to be optimistic. Sheets, Capuano, Gallardo, Bush, Villanueva, Fielder, Weeks, Hall, Braun, Hart, and Hardy repesent a core of talent in their prime or upcoming that's as good as any in recent history. Zach Jackson, Eveland, and Sarfate have legitimate promise as well and could play significant roles as soon as 2007. Centerfield, catcher, and leftfield are somewhat open, but no team fills all of their needs strictly through minor leagues and the Brewers have talent to trade.

And it's not like the rest of the division looks much improved. The Cardinals are aging, the free agent market doesn't look like it will supply much help, and their minor league system is barren. The Astros will have some money to spend, but they have lots of holes on offense and will have to rebuild their starting rotation. The Cubs have more holes than they perhaps realize. The Reds made some silly trades to unsuccessfully shore up their bullpen. And Pittsburgh has a lot of holes to fill. The division is very winnable in the near future.

The key question to me is exactly how agressive are the Brewers going to be? What's their timetable, 2007 or 2008?

JR: Of course, but most teams have similar optimism in their next five seasons, unless you're the Royals. It would be nice to see Weeks, Fielder, Hardy and Hall healthy at the same time, as it's pretty clear they could make an exciting core, and it would be nice to have a healthy pitching staff all season long. The fruits of the Zduriencik architecture have always appeared promising, and now that they're filtering into Milwaukee, we'll see just how good the minor league plan was executed. I know I'm excited, as anything less than a playoff run next year will bring significant disappointment.

GREG: Depends how optimistic you mean. But yes, I'm feeling very good about
the team. We still need some breaks: good health, especially on the part of Sheets; development into starters of two out of Villanueva/Eveland/Yo/Jackson/Hendrickson (maybe?) and bringing-up-the-rear Inman; and good health and performance from at
least two of Weeks/Hart/Hardy. I don't think those are unreasonable expectations, except that I'll be way nervous about Sheets until he notches 30+ starts -- without that homegrown ace, I worry that somebody will always be better than we are.

AL: I think Fielder and Weeks are light years away from what they'll be in 3 years, as people forget how young and inexperienced they are. Look where Billy Hall was in 2003, for example. The minor leagues are so loaded, even after the first wave has graduated, that a youngster like Dana Eveland, still very young, LH, and very successful at AAA, is scorned because of a small sample in the bigs. Dana may well have a very nice big league career, and is barely a top ten guy in the Crew's system.

In the immortal words of that wascally rabbit, that's all folks. Please, if you have any feedback, send me an e-mail, and thanks for stopping by.

11/09/2006 11:53:00 PM

These are the good old days. Some folks are just too busy wishing the streets were paved with gold to enjoy the good times.

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