Ryan Braun won’t know for sure until February or March, after he begins the grind of another baseball season and fends off a few 95 mph inside fastballs. But so far, it appears his October thumb surgery was a success.
“It definitely worked,” Braun said Wednesday, when the Brewers right fielder took part in a Thanksgiving food drive at Miller Park. “It made a huge difference.”
Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a troublesome nerve that forced Braun to alter his mechanics throughout 2014, contributing to the least productive season of his career.
Ten days later, Braun swung a bat for the first time and was relieved to find the pain had disappeared.
“Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years,” he said. “I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing — you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited.”
His optimism came with a dose of caution.
“I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into Spring Training and see how it responds,” Braun said. “But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time.”
Braun said he had 100 percent medical clearance for all offseason activities, but has been taking a break from baseball since his initial round of hitting following surgery. He will resume his regular offseason routine in late December.
“I’m excited,” Braun said, “but at the same time, I went into last year and felt really good in Spring Training. For the first four of five weeks, it felt great, I played great, and then kind of re-injured it. But last year we also just rested it. We didn’t do a procedure. So I’m optimistic and excited. I feel like I have to be somewhat cautiously optimistic until we start playing a little bit. …
“I don’t think there’s enough information out there on the procedure to have any specific knowledge of how it’s going to respond or how long it will work or anything like that. We’re just trying to figure it out as we go.”
Considering the swift and dramatic improvement, Does Braun wish he had done something in-season?
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Braun said. “It’s easy to say that now. At the time, I definitely wanted to do it, but I understood why we decided not to. I’m just thankful we were able to do it after the season, and it feels a lot better now.”
A better Braun would mean a better Brewers offense compared to the group that slumped to the finish of 2014. After ranking second to the Rockies in most offensive categories before the All-Star break, only the Braves and Reds scored fewer runs than the Brewers in the second half.
Braun knows he played a significant role in the slump.
“We should be significantly better,” he said. “I said it last year a few times, I really believe if I was anywhere near healthy, the season ends up differently. Hopefully, this thing continues to feel good like it does right now, and I can get back to being one of the best players in the league.”
Braun also discussed other matters:
– On the trade for first baseman Adam Lind amid an otherwise quiet Brewers winter to this point:
“It’s early in the offseason,” Braun said. “Sometimes it takes time for any big moves to happen or occur, but I think getting Adam Lind is huge for us. Adding a left-handed bat to the middle of our lineup should be something that really benefits us. It’s probably been one of our bigger issues over the last couple of years is that we’ve been a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup, and our division has really good right-handed pitchers.”
– On the Brewers’ second half collapse sinking in:
“I think it’s like that every year, there’s years that are far more enjoyable to digest than what happened in this year,” he said. “For all of us, it was a disappointing finish, so I think you take some time to reflect and try to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and how we can avoid having it happen again.”
– On the addition of hitting coach Darnell Coles:
“It’s great, because a lot of us are familiar with him, especially a lot of the young guys,” braun said. “He has a relationship with a lot of the younger guys. It’s a really difficult and challenging position. If you’re a hitting coach, you’re basically a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so having a relationship with a lot of the guys will be really beneficial for him or for us.”
– On fatherhood:
“The whole experience is indescribably beautiful,” Braun said. “So much fun. Every day is a unique adventure. A couple of days ago, she figured out how to stick her tongue out. It’s her new trick, so every time she does it she gets a reaction out of us. It’s so much fun.”
He was outside Miller Park on a 25 degree day accepting donations at a Thanksgiving food drive staged by the Hunger Task Force and Brewers Community Foundation. Braun attended the same event on a much colder day last year, making his first public comments since being suspended by Major League Baseball for the final 65 games of the 2013 season.
“It’s a rewarding feeling for all of us volunteers who are out here,” Braun said. “Hunger Task Force does an incredible job and Brewers Community Foundation does a great job being involved. It’s just a really special time of the year to have an opportunity to give back.”
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For the music fans among you:
The Milwaukee Brewers today announced the artists for the brand new Brewers Postgame Concert Series presented by Miller Lite in 2015. The series will feature three postgame concerts performed by nationally acclaimed artists Joe Nichols, O.A.R. and the Goo Goo Dolls.
The series begins with Grammy Award nominee country artist Joe Nichols taking the stage after the Friday, May 29 game vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. Nichols has entertained fans all across the country for over 15 years and has reached the charts with over a dozen singles, including “Gimmie That Girl,” “Yeah,” and “Sunny and 75.”
On Saturday, June 13, following the Brewers game against the Washington Nationals, rockers O.A.R. will take the stage for the second concert in the Brewers Postgame Concert Series. O.A.R, which formed in 1996 in Maryland, released their eighth studio album, “The Rockville LP” in June of this year. They are best known for their hit singles “Hey Girl,” “Love and Memories,” and “Shattered (Turn the Car Around).”
The Goo Goo Dolls will round out the inaugural Brewers Postgame Concert Series, on Saturday, August 15 after the game against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Buffalo, New York natives have recorded 10 albums including 1998’s “Dizzy Up the Girl,” which featured Grammy nominee for Record of the Year, “Iris.” The band has reached the charts with singles including “Slide” and “Name,” which both ranked on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop Songs from 1992-2012. The Goo Goo Dolls are currently touring in support of their 10th studio album, “Magnetic.”
All fans who purchase tickets to one of the three games will automatically have access to that night’s free postgame concert. Single game tickets will be priced according to the Brewers demand-based pricing model, and will be available when 2015 single game tickets go on sale.
In a special Black Friday offer, 300 tickets for each concert date – each priced at only $129 – will go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, November 28. Tickets will be available ONLINE ONLY at Brewers.com/blackfriday.
This exclusive Black Friday ticket package includes a ticket to the game in the Dew Deck, a delicious buffet and postgame field access for the concert. Only fans who purchase a ticket through this unique offer will be guaranteed postgame field access.
In addition, fans will also have the opportunity to purchase a limited number of Field Outfield Box seats for $49 through this Black Friday sale. That ticket will gain them access to the postgame concert, however it will not grant field access.
The Dew Deck ticket package and Field Outfield Box ticket offer will be available for 24 hours, or until they are sold out. Season ticket packages including the three postgame concerts, Opening Day and all 20 of the All-Fan Giveaways are on-sale now. For additional ticket and other info, fans can call (414) 902-4090 or visit Brewers.com.
Remaining individual tickets for the postgame concert dates will go on sale at the Brewers annual Arctic Tailgate event in February
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Former big league infielder Craig Counsell said he had removed himself from the running to be the next Tampa Bay Rays manager, in part because he’s enjoying his role as a special assistant to the general manager for the Brewers.
“It’s multiple reasons, and that’s one of them. I’m happy here,” Counsell said. “I don’t really want to go into all of the reasons and make a big story, but basically I’m happy here and I want to keep working here.”
Counsell had been one of 10 candidates to replace departed Rays manager Joe Maddon, and took part in a formal telephone interview as well as a more informal meeting with Tampa Bay officials during General Managers Meetings in Phoenix before informing those officials of his decision to remain in his current post.
Other candidates to interview for the position included Dave Martinez, Ron Wotus, Kevin Cash, Doug Glanville, Charlie Montoyo, Manny Acta, Don Wakamatsu, Raul Ibanez and Barry Larkin.
Counsell, who was raised just north of Milwaukee and whose father worked in the Brewers’ front office, was extremely active in the Major League Baseball Players Association during a 16-year playing career that ended with the Brewers in 2011, then joined GM Doug Melvin’s staff in January 2012. In his new role, Counsell has immersed himself in the workings of a front office, toiling extensively in everything from the First-Year Player Draft to free agency and trades to player development.
This was not his first opportunity to leave the job for a field position. Counsell also interviewed to be the Red Sox hitting coach following the 2012 season before removing his name from consideration and remaining with the Brewers.
He remains open-minded about whether his long-term future is in the dugout or a general manager’s suite.
“I don’t like to answer that question because I don’t know why I have to choose,” Counsell said. “I’m working for the Brewers and I’m trying to help us win, and whatever role that ends up in baseball, that’s what I’m hoping for [to win].”
Melvin’s current contract expires at the end of next year, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is under contract for next season with a club option for 2016.
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UPDATED at 7:30 p.m. CT — The Brewers just announced they’d also added right-hander David Goforth to the 40-man roster, which is now full.
Former collegiate star and first round Draft pick Taylor Jungmann moved a step closer to the Major Leagues on Thursday when the Brewers added the right-handed starting pitcher to their 40-man roster.
Jungmann was one of four players, with relievers David Goforth and Mike Strong and shortstop Yadiel Rivera, who was added to Milwaukee’s roster ahead of the deadline to protect eligible players from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. As a result, all four will be in big league Spring Training camp, and if they are sent to the Minors to begin next season as expected, the Brewers will have to spend one of three options allotted each player.
With the additions, the Brewers 40-man roster is full.
Jungmann, who will turn 25 next month, was 12-10 with a 3.57 ERA in 27 starts and one relief appearance between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville in 2014, with a significant jump in his strikeout rate to 8.6 per nine innings. His previous best was 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings in the advanced Class A Florida State League in 2012, Jungmann’s first professional season.
The former University of Texas standout spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he was 8-4 with a 3.98 ERA in 18 starts plus one relief outing. He struck out 101 batters in 101 2/3 innings at Nashville.
Plenty can happen between now and the time rosters are set, but Jungmann appears positioned to follow in the footsteps of another big right-hander, Jimmy Nelson, who pitched the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014 at the Triple-A level before the Brewers needed him in the Majors at midseason. If Jungmann is indeed sent back to Triple-A to begin 2015, he would lead the starting rotation at the Brewers’ new Colorado Springs affiliate.
Strong, 26, has struck out 242 batters in 209 innings over the past three seasons and earned a trip to this year’s Arizona Fall League. With the free agent departures of Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny, Strong is one of only two left-handed relievers (Will Smith is the other) on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster. Another lefty, Wei-Chung Wang, will convert back to a starting role in the Minor Leagues in 2015.
Goforth, 26, logged 27 saves as Huntsville’s closer last season and could reprise the role next year in Nashville if he doesn’t make the cut in Milwaukee. Goforth’s name was absent when the three other roster additions were announced on Thursday morning, but was informed later in the day that he would be added as well. GM Doug Melvin said he was simply waiting for input from club decision-makers who had seen Goforth pitch.
Rivera is just 22 and a superior defensive shortstop who split last season between advanced Class A Brevard County and Huntsville, batting .258 with five home runs, 30 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Among the notable players left unprotected on Thursday was right-hander Drew Gagnon, who was 11-6 with a 3.96 ERA in 28 Double-A starts. Others who could draw interest in the Rule 5 Draft include former first round Draft pick Jed Bradley and right-hander Tyler Cravy. Cravy was also left unprotected last season.
Any of those players could be had by another team at the Rule 5 Draft, to be held on Dec. 11 on the final day of the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player, and if that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
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Registration for Brewers Fantasy Camp is open at Brewers.com/fantasycamp, and includes round-trip coach airfare to and from Milwaukee and Phoenix, along with hotel accommodations (double occupancy). Travel dates are set for Sunday, January 18 and Sunday, January 25.
Fantasy campers will receive an authentic Brewers uniform and batting practice jersey. They will be separated into six teams and will participate in daily baseball drills under the instruction of a number of Brewers greats, including Schroeder, Jerry Augustine, Chris Bosio, Jeff Cirillo, Brady Clark, Cecil Cooper, Rob Deer, Jim Gantner, Darryl Hamilton, Pete Ladd, Greg Vaughn and Fernando Vina.
Two games will be played at Maryvale Baseball Park during each day of camp. A daily newsletter with player stats and information will be distributed and a nightly happy hour and Q&A session with the coaches will conclude each day.
Also included in the package is a daily hot breakfast at the hotel, catered lunch each afternoon in the clubhouse, care from professional clubhouse staff members and athletic trainers, a professional massage therapist and a farewell awards banquet. Participants will also be introduced on the field prior to a Brewers 2015 home game and will be invited to play a game at Miller Park next summer.
Packages are $4,199 for each participant. Camp is open to men and women ages 30 and above. Fans can register online at Brewers.com/fantasycamp. Fans can also follow updates on Twitter at @BrewersFanCamp.
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The Brewers on Tuesday unveiled a 31-game Spring Training schedule that includes a first-ever exhibition against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and six weekend “home” games at Maryvale Baseball Park leading up to the 47th season in franchise history.
The spting slate begins Wednesday, March 4 against UW-Milwaukee, marking the first time the Brewers will face a collegiate team since playing Arizona State University in 1983. It will mark the first-ever contest between the Brewers and Panthers, who over the years have played select home games at Miller Park.
Other highlights include a March 14 game at Maryvale against the Cubs, a St. Patrick’s Day game at Peoria, Ariz. against the Padres, and three night games — March 13 against the Mariners in Peoria, March 24 against the D-backs in Scottsdale, Ariz. and March 27 against the Reds in Goodyear, Ariz.
Brewers pitchers and catchers formally report to Spring Training on Feb. 20 and position players must report by February 25. The first full-squad workout, which is open to the public, is scheduled for Thurs., February 26.
Tickets for the Brewers home Spring Training games will go on sale at 9 a.m. CT on December 8 at Brewers.com and other outlets. Tickets are available in four seating areas: Field Box ($23), Infield Reserved ($17), Outfield Reserved ($13) and Lawn Seating ($8). In addition, there will also be a limited number of advanced parking passes available for $5.
BREWERS SPRING SCHEDULE
(all times local, home games in bold)
Wednesday, March 4 1:05 p.m. vs. UW-Milwaukee Maryvale
Thursday, March 5 1:05 p.m. at LA Angels of Anaheim Tempe
Friday, March 6 1:05 p.m. vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Maryvale
Saturday, March 7 1:05 p.m. vs. Texas Rangers Maryvale
DAYLIGHT-SAVING TIME BEGINS MARCH 8
Sunday, March 8 1:05 p.m. at Los Angeles Dodgers Camelback Ranch
Monday, March 9 1:05 p.m. vs. Kansas City Royals Maryvale
Tuesday, March 10 1:05 p.m.vs. Cincinnati Reds Maryvale
Wednesday, March 11 1:05 p.m. at San Francisco Giants Scottsdale
Thursday, March 12 1:05 p.m. vs. Colorado Rockies Maryvale
Friday, March 13 7:05 p.m. at Seattle Mariners Peoria
Saturday, March 14 1:05 p.m. vs. Chicago Cubs Maryvale
Sunday, March 15 1:05 p.m. vs. Oakland Athletics Maryvale
1:05 p.m. at Texas Rangers Surprise
Monday, March 16 OFF DAY
Tuesday, March 17 1:05 p.m. at San Diego Padres Peoria
Wednesday, March 18 1:05 p.m. at Kansas City Royals Surprise
Friday, March 20 1:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks Maryvale
Saturday, March 21 1:05 p.m. at Texas Rangers Surprise
Sunday, March 22 1:05 p.m. vs. Chicago White Sox Maryvale
Monday, March 23 1:05 p.m. at Colorado Rockies Talking Stick
Tuesday, March 24 6:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks Talking Stick
Wednesday, March 25 1:05 p.m. vs. Oakland Athletics Maryvale
Thursday, March 26 1:05 p.m. vs. Seattle Mariners Maryvale
Friday, March 27 7:05 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds Goodyear
Saturday, March 28 1:05 p.m. vs. Cleveland Indians Maryvale
Sunday, March 29 1:05 p.m. at Oakland Athletics Mesa
Monday, March 30 OFF DAY
Tuesday, March 31 1:05 p.m. vs. Cincinnati Reds Maryvale
Wednesday, April 1 1:05 p.m. at Chicago Cubs Mesa
Thursday, April 2 12:05 p.m. at San Diego Padres Peoria
Friday, April 3 1:05 p.m. at Cleveland Indians Goodyear
Saturday, April 4 12:05 p.m. . vs. Cleveland Indians Maryvale
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Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will be back for the final year of his contract in 2015, but will oversee an altered coaching staff.
The team on Friday dismissed hitting coach Johnny Narron after three seasons in the role, and first-base coach Garth Iorg after four seasons. The rest of the staff, including Roenicke, will return.
The decisions were delivered after a week of conversations between Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin and Roenicke, who met for eight hours at a Los Angeles restaurant on Wednesday and followed-up with telephone talks Thursday and Friday, all aimed at identifying areas of improvement for a club coming off an historic collapse. The 2014 Brewers became only the fifth team in the divisional era (since 1969) to spend 150 days in first place but miss the postseason.
“The plan was to take a week and let those emotions get out of the way,” Melvin said. “And to take the week to analyze the ballclub offensively, defensively, baserunning, leadership — all the things that go into our decision-making. It came down to two areas we talked about a lot: We had to have better at-bats, and we talked about some mistakes we make on the infield. We have two young infielders [shortstop Jean Segura and second baseman Scooter Gennett] we want to see continue to develop.
“That said, it’s not all the responsibility of the two coaches. They’re both good people, and they work hard at it. It’s unfortunate that sometimes when these things happen, it affects coaches as much as anybody else.”
Said Roenicke: “I like the guys we let go, and I’m never going to say it’s their fault. It’s all of our fault. It’s the players, it’s myself, and it’s the coaches. When you don’t perform in different areas, sometimes that falls on a coach or the manager. Johnny worked hard at what he did and the guys liked him, and we didn’t get it done the way we wanted to. Garth worked hard at his job, and I liked what he did also.”
Melvin declined to say when he and Attanasio reached this conclusion, but at some point they decided Roenicke remains the right man to lead the coaching staff. The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series in Roenicke’s first season (2011), but have fallen short of the postseason each year since.
In three of Roenicke’s four years, Melvin noted, the Brewers have produced a winning record. The one losing season, Melvin noted, was 2013, when Ryan Braun was suspended for the team’s final 65 games.
“[Roenicke] is only in his fourth year of managing, and he does have a reputation for winning,” Melvin said. “If you look at managers’ winning percentages, there’s 13 managers that have managed less than five years and [Roenicke] has the fourth-best winning percentage. Then look at managers [overall] — Buck Showalter has a .520 winning percentage. Roenicke, .517. Joe Maddon, .517. Bob Melvin, .516. Bruce Bochy, .502. Those are pretty good managers that he’s in company with when it comes to winning percentage, and that’s early in his career.
“He knows our organization, he’s won with our organization. The one thing that comes out of this year is winning is no longer acceptable anymore. It’s playoffs. We have to get to the playoffs.”
A vanishing offense was largely to blame for the Brewers missing that mark in 2014. After running second among National League clubs to the high-altitude Rockies in every major offensive category during the first three months of the season, the Brewers struggled to score from July onward. They fell from 4.56 runs per game in the first three months to 3.42 runs per game in the final three. Among the 30 Major League teams, only the Reds struggled more to score down the stretch.
But rather than make snap decisions in the midst of the slide — the Brewers lost 22 of their final 31 games — Attanasio and Melvin opted to spend the first two weeks of the offseason analyzing what happened.
“We talked about what we can do as a leadership team,” Melvin said. “We talked about meeting a little bit more during the season, whether we’re winning or losing. And then we talked about changes. I addressed some areas I think I can get better at to help us. I think we can be more accountable to the players if guys aren’t performing. Maybe we give them a little too much rope. Some of that is my responsibility. We talked about things we all can do — Ron, specifically, addressed a number of issues, some things he feels he can do better as a manager.”
“Anything that we discuss as a team, obviously it relates to me and what I can do better,” Roenicke said. “They had some points they wanted to run by me, and wanted my thoughts on, and to see how we can get better in those areas.”
Did it feel like he was fighting for his job?
“No, I didn’t feel like I was fighting for my job,” Roenicke said. “They wanted me back, and if they didn’t want me back, I wouldn’t have been in that meeting.”
One of Melvin’s top lieutenants, Craig Counsell, will play a prominent role in the Brewers’ search for a new hitting coach but is not a candidate for the job himself at this time. Roenicke already submitted a list of names to Counsell for review. The Brewers could actually discuss hiring two new hitting coaches if they opt to move Mike Guerrero, who joined the staff for 2014 as an extra coach, to the first base role.
Asked to identify the qualities he will seek in a new hitting coach, Melvin said, “I think you have to have someone that can adapt to the personnel that you have. You’d like to get someone who can get hitters to work the count a little bit, but sometimes that’s up to the hitter.”
“We’re dealing with a very strong-minded athlete who gets to this level,” Roenicke said, “and you have to have a personality that can get to these guys and they’ll trust and listen to you. A lot of them have made it on their own by raw ability, and they need to make changes.”
Returning staff will be bench coach Jerry Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, third-base coach Ed Sedar, outfield coach John Shelby, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and Guerrero.
Roenicke’s contractual status did not change. His deal runs through 2015 with a club option for 2016.
“We’re comfortable with his, and I talked to Ron about that, too,” Melvin said.
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Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on Sunday morning addressed his uncertain job status. The day before, principal owner Mark Attanaaio told reporters that GM Doug Melvin’s job was safe, but could not offer similar assurances to Roenicke or the coaches.
Those comments were covered over on the site. Here’s the story about Attanasio’s general disappointment about the Brewers’ collapse, and here’s the story about Roenicke’s uncertain future.
“Yeah, I don’t know where we stand,” Roenicke said on Sunday. “Doug, I know, is meeting with Mark, and then he’s going to come down and talk with us today. So I don’t know if it will be a week or a few days, or what it will be.”
Did that make Sunday’s season finale a bit uncomfortable?
“Yeah, it’s always uncomfortable when you’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Roenicke said.
Asked to asses his own job performance this season, Roenicke said, “I’ve worked my tail off. I did the best that I thought I could do. I’m always wanting to do things better and get better at what I do, and sometimes it helps to have conversations afterward on what myself of as a group that we need to do better. You do the best you can do, and you know when you’re a manager, that sometimes if it doesn’t go well, that you’re the guy that’s going to get blamed for it.”
What would he do better?
“I don’t think there is anything that I can just come up with that I need to do better,” Roenicke said. “There are things, without a doubt, but they’re little things here and there that you listen and you think about, that maybe you can do better. But when we’re thinking about trying to figure out what happened in the season in the end, we’ve talked about everything, and I can’t give an answer on what happened. Like I told you guys yesterday, you can point to what happened, but the ‘why’ is what we really need to figure out.”
Is it possible they might never know?
“Sure,” he said. “There’s been a lot of teams I’ve been on through the years that — you can’t figure out why you do so well sometimes, also. It’s not always the negative part. At the beginning of the season, we were winning a lot of ballgames and I was coming in here saying, ‘How did we win that game,’ because maybe we made a few miscues. We were getting away with some things, but we were winning, and you come in and go, ‘Wow.’
“If you don’t score runs, it’s always down to a small thing. ‘What did we do wrong somewhere?’ Did we give somebody an opportunity score another run because we didn’t make a play? Did we not bunt a guy over to try to get that one run. All the little things come into play, and it’s easy to see what happened in a game when it’s 2-1, 1-0. It’s pretty easy to see what could have gone wrong in those games.”
Asked whether he worried the Brewers could make changes to the field staff just for the sake of change, Roenicke said, “I can’t make a comment that way. I think you always try to improve on what you’re doing. If they think I’m not doing the job that I should be doing, then you try to make an improvement. And same thing goes for the coaches. Same thing goes for the players. If there are some things we can do different with the players in improving this, then we need to do it. If it’s taking the same personnel, players, and working with them and trying to get them better, then that’s what we have to do.
“And we do have to do something. We can’t fall in a skid this long offensively and not figure that we need to try to do something a little different. I know you guys have heard me say it a lot of times — first-pitch-swinging, yeah, we may have scored a lot of runs because of it. But it hasn’t obviously worked here in the last whatever. So that’s something that needs to be addressed. Can everybody be a little better in it? Yes. Guys can’t go from first-pitch swingers to 100 walks a year. I don’t think that happens. But we can all get better at what we do — the players included, me included.”
Roenicke will remain in Milwaukee for a few days after the season, and said he would continue to operate under the assumption he will be back for 2015. He is, after all, under contract.
Near the end of his Sunday morning media session, Roenicke was frank in answering a basic question:
Did he think the pressure of trying to hold first place simply burned some players out?
“Yes, I do,” Roenicke said. “I think, especially for some younger guys, I think it’s very difficult. It may be [the answer]. It’s a grind to be in first and having teams trying to catch you all the time and trying to maintain that. If you go into a slump, you think ‘we have to hold on and get it back again.’ It’s a grind. That’s part of it, though; do you have grinders on your team to get through that part? Do you have grinders on your staff making sure guys are doing the right things and staying positive? A lot goes into that.”
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The highlights will be distilled into a story at Brewers.com as soon as possible, but here is the entirely of what principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin told reporters in a passionate question and answer session this evening. The bolded sections stood out to me; let me know in the comments what stood out to you:
Melvin began by jumping the inevitable questions about the job status of manager Ron Roenicke and his coaching staff, saying. “I think what you guys want to address is the manager and coaches. We have a process of going through that at the end of the year. This year has been a little different because of us playing the way we have here, and hoping to get in the playoffs late. Those are coming a little bit later, our interviews.
“There’s nothing I can answer in regard to the manager and coaches at this time. We’ll talk about the team and the performance of the team.”
When Attanasio was asked about Roenicke’s performance, he turned to Melvin, who said, “I think he’s disappointed. We’re all disappointed in a lot of our responsibilities to the club. I can look back at myself and say, with some of the decisions we made, did we make the right ones?
“We played very well for a period of time. I would hope that Ron and the coaches, and would hope the players also feel there’s a responsibility for them because we thought we had a good enough team to go to the postseason. When we started out the way we did, we thought we did.
“My biggest concern about the entire season is these losing streaks. Why did we go 2-11 before the All-Star break? We went 6-22 last May. In the end, we’re going to be 81, 82 or 83 wins. That’s probably six or seven wins away from making the playoffs. Over the course of 162 games, it seems like a small amount. What makes it tougher is identifying the issues and the problems because we’ve got a small difference in games winning to go to the postseason. If we won 65 games, it would be easy to identify the problem. You probably stunk in every category doing that. We did have some issues in a lot of categories. You can’t pinpoint anything specifically. If I had to, we’d probably say the offense in the second half of the year was the biggest problem. We’re wondering why did we perform well offensively in the first half of the year and not the second half.
“The old cliché, you want to get off to good start. Well, we did. We didn’t finish strong. I don’t know if next year we’ll be hearing, ‘You guys have to finish stronger.’ There’s a lot of areas we didn’t perform up to expectations. For short periods of time and short spurts. The extended losing streaks are my big concern.”
Asked about Melvin’s job status, Attanasio said, “Doug’s standing here so obviously he’s coming back.”
More Attanasio: “On Aug. 25 I was in San Diego. We won the game, 10-1. The clubhouse was buoyant; the team had an unmistakable swagger on the field. So much so that the Padres owners were coming by and saying, ‘You guys are so big, so strong. Everybody can hit the ball out of the park. How did you guys put this team together?’ From that day, we’ve kind of gone backwards. It’s a mystery in sports.
“The short answer is I haven’t handled it well. Honestly, I haven’t slept. Going into September, Doug and I were still working on everything we could to get the team to the playoffs. We [traded for] Jonathan Broxton. That was upwards of an $11 million commitment at the time, if you look at increasing the buyout with his trade option with what he’s owed this year and next year. We thought we were making the playoffs at that point in time. Frankly, even into mid-September I believed in this team and thought they were going to turn it around. They just didn’t. And, so, you can pick the adjectives — frustrated, disappointed, catatonic. Very disappointed.
“In fact, I’m disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They’re better than this and they didn’t show it.“
What will he say to the team?
“We talk about team meetings, typically, team meetings aren’t effective in major-league baseball,” Attanasio said. “One of the reasons I’m going to deal with it is this is going to be the first year I don’t address the team as a team at the end of the year. This will be the first time I don’t because I’m just too unhappy, and what’s the point of another meeting to dwell on things? I’m going to talk to some players individually. I’ve started that already and I’ll finish that today”.
Does the team lack heart?
Attanasio: “Again, there’s a lot of euphemisms. We’ve heard heart, we’ve heard leadership, we’ve heard urgency. Just didn’t get the job done. There was a job that needed to get done and it didn’t get done. I actually think what Doug said is accurate — it started with not hitting. The one thing I’ll say that the athletes always say, ‘It is what it is.’ I think they played hard; I don’t think that was the issue.
Was it a lack of focus?
Attanasio: “One of the things Doug’s going to do over the next couple of weeks — and he’s already started on this — is he’s evaluating everything that got us to this point. There were some good things this season, too, so we’re going to try not to forget those. When you have a 162-game season, it’s a marathon, so at Mile 21 we were in the lead and looked strong. So we want to make sure we want to embrace what got us through those first 21 miles and change out what happened the last five.”
Melvin, asked whether the Brewers’ 150-day stint in first place was a mirage: “At the end it’s going to be 8-9 games difference. Doesn’t matter when you win or how your streaks are. You have two good months, three bad months, two good months. Same as hitting streaks – it’s the end; what’s the difference? In the end we’re probably going to fall 7-8 games short. I hear that, I buy that but again, it goes back to, ‘You get off to a good start and finish strong.’
“We went into that San Diego series 13-8 for the month of August and lost six in a row. I thought for sure if we split in San Francisco and the Cubs, you’re still going to have a good winning streak and we didn’t. So, again, I go back to those individual streaks — that prevented us from having a good month. We’re going to take a good look and analyze our ballclub. Offense is down in all of baseball, but I know I just felt when we were successful we had an offensive swagger to us. We hit a lot of home runs. This is the fewest home runs we’ve hit since 2004. But we’ve lost talented players that hit home runs — Rickie Weeks was hitting 21 homers, Corey Hart was hitting 30 and Ryan (Braun) was hitting 41. Home runs are down in baseball, but we had an offensive swagger and teams would come in here and hate to play us in our ballpark.
“Then people like to do different things, ‘We’ve got to run more and all this stuff,’ and we got away from, ‘We only win games when we hit home runs.’ Well, that’s a nice thing. ‘We only win games when we hit home runs.’ I’d like to do that again, ‘We only win games when we hit home runs.’ That’s something that we haven’t done in the last two years. We’re giving up more home runs than we hit. We played the Marlins here; we gave up seven homers and we hit three. So we’ve got to take a hard look at the kind of club you want to be. And that can change. Your personnel forces you to change sometimes. Your philosophy sometimes might force you to change it.
“But I’m a big believer in how you play in your ballpark. The Kansas City Royals are going to the playoffs and they had the fewest walks and the fewest home runs in major-league baseball because they have good pitching, they have an athletic outfield and the largest square footage of outfield in baseball. But they’ve got Dyson, Gordon and Lorenzo Cain who run and catch everything and prevent doubles and the ballpark prevents home runs. So, they win in that ballpark. The Yankees in the past have always built with left-handed pitching and left-handed hitting. So it’s something we’ve really got to sit and think about with our ballclub, what we want to do for our ballpark.”
Could the Brewers be in for more of an offseason shakeup than many expect?
Melvin: “First off, I want to find out who cares about winning and losing in the clubhouse. If there are guys in there that don’t care about winning then they probably won’t be there. As far as shakeup, it could be. We might turn the roster over a little bit. We might have to do that. It’s too early to say that. We haven’t even finished the season. Sometimes you can’t force yourself. There was a particular team that shook everybody up and now they had to shake their front office up. You have to be careful with what you do and think through the process. We’ve had a lot of changes here recently. If you look back at what your team looked like four years ago — teams are altogether different. Your roster, just through the natural causes of the system that we are in with arbitration and free agency, changes quite a bit anyways.”
Was he suggesting some players didn’t care?
Melvin: “I’m not saying that. We’ll find out. I think guys care. Our guys work hard. Maybe they put too much pressure on themselves through the streak. I’m just saying that in general it is a tough business. We’ve had guys in there on winning teams even, even our own players. You have to find out that guys want to be here. Most of them want to be here, but I want to make sure that it is not too comfortable though. We’ve got a nice ballpark and a great fan base, but it can’t be comfortable. Losing and not going to the postseason can’t be comfortable.”
More Melvin: “Power hitters and power pitchers are all very expensive. [Offense is] down in the Minor Leagues, too. The game has changed a little bit. The ERA that was first in the major leagues in 2008 was 18th in the major leagues this year. Hitting is really down. There are trends in the game that you have to be on top of. There are enough statistical numbers in there that we will take a look at everything. We didn’t play good defense either this year. Our defense disappointed us at times. We’ll take a hard look at everything. We look at players individually, we’ll look at the coaching staff, we’ll look at Ron, I’ll look at myself to see if we can put things together to come back here and get into the postseason. It’s a tough division to play in, and the Cubs are going to get better, the Pirates will be there, the Cardinals are always tough and the Reds will get healthy. I still think it is one of the toughest divisions in baseball. That’s a challenge that we are all faced with.”
Attanasio was asked about accountability: “It’s always important to be accountable, and obviously that gets sharpened in a situation like this. It’s a very difficult circumstance. It hasn’t happened that often. It’s happened with more frequency though, teams that were in first place for 150 days and then have slipped. There was one back in ’69 with the Cubs, but then in ’07 and ’08 and ’09, so it happens a little more. Does the nature of the game have to do with that or not?
“It’s not that easy to really understand what happened here. If it were, we would have a quick response today. it’s not like we’re delaying the decision because it’s uncomfortable. We are delaying the decision because we need to do the work to sort through what happened. Some the things Doug said to you all, relative to things we’re looking at, it doesn’t mean we had a problem in those areas, but we are going to look at everything. We are going to look at players and there performance. We are going to look at players’ motivations. We are going to look at field staff. Doug is going to examine what he’s done.
“And frankly, there’s nothing to do about it this season, but if you go back to the four things that I’ve always stressed since I bought the team, No. 1 is being perennially competitive. Always being competitive. The good news is we have been, and frankly, I went back and looked a couple days ago no. This is little solace to me, much less anyone else who is a fan, we actually were 11th during those 10 years in wins. Actually, more wins at that point earlier this week than the San Francisco Giants. We were tied with the Rays at that point, one less loss. Now, that means we never draft low. I’m not making excuses for where we are. Never have. The Pirates had 20 years of losing, a lot of low draft picks, now they are killing it. And I respect that. I always said, ‘We gotta win, we gotta win, we gotta win.’ And we’ve got 2.8 million fans here supporting the team, we we better damn well win. Maybe that wasn’t the right approach. Maybe I should have directed that we take a step back here, which we never have. I am certainly not looking to do that now, by the way. But I do have to examine from the top, is it the right thing?
“I’ve always felt that trying to compete — trying to provide these fans, that I do believe we put them through a lot these last couple of years. By the way, this year, for me, was as tough as last year. I know last year was misery with everything that went on, this was as difficult to disappear like this at the end of the year. is it the right thing to always try to compete? Again, I think the answer is always going to be yes, because we have 2.8 million reasons to say that. We have 2.8 million reasons to spent $110 million. But you see teams that occasionally retrench, and they seem to be doing a little better right now. We’ll look at all of that.”
What needs to happen to get the fans back next season?
“I think we need to give the fans a reason to come back,” Attanasio said. “That means we have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we’re fixing it, and if we’re not making any changes, we’d better have a damn good reason for why. And I mean changes broadly speaking — same roster, same manager and coaches, same everything — we’d better say, ‘Well, it was this, and that’s why we’re not changing.’ And that’s an option. One of the things we really tried hard to do this year is build a club that we can bring everybody back. If we spent $110 million, we can being everybody back next year, including Gerardo Parra, including Jonathan Broxton. So even guys we traded for, we can bring back. The question is whether Doug and his group will recommend that we do that.
“I wouldn’t say we’re quite at a crossroads, but we’re at [the point] where you can take a path in the woods, and you take one direction or the other. We do have a lot of talent, we have experienced players. We need to identify what’s missing. Is it more power hitters? Is it more players with an edge? Is it, I don’t know. Whatever it was, it worked like gangbusters the first half of the year, and didn’t work in the second half.”
Any changes to the offseason process?
“One of the things you need to do is bring the same — if you have a good process, you have a good result,” Attanasio said. “Our processes are good. There is no issue at all with our decision-making process, and we’re just going to follow through on it. I think we take an appropriate level of risk. We have very few if any — I don’t think we have any bad player contracts. There’s a lot of things we’ve done well as a result of our process.”
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Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Jonathan Lucroy did their best Sunday morning to dispel the theory that Lucroy signaled for the second plunking of Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen the night before.
Brewers starter Matt Garza was ejected after hitting McCutchen twice in the span of three innings, and said anyone who believes he would do so the second time with a 1-2 count and two outs in the fifth inning of a scoreless game was an “idiot.” That didn’t stop a video clip from spreading around social media of Lucroy touching his facemask, then tugging on the left sleeve of his undershirt, before Garza threw that pitch.
“I don’t know if people don’t watch the games, but I do it all the time,” Lucroy said. “My sleeve gets caught around my elbow and I pull it up. You can go back and watch film from the first game of the season, and I was doing it.
“Look, you’re going to see what you’re going to see as a fan. And whoever thinks that – I’m not really worried about it. I don’t even need to say anything, because I’m in the right, so that’s it.”
Roenicke went further.
Asked whether Lucroy’s sleeve tug meant anything, Roenicke said, “It means what exactly what Garza quoted last night when you guys asked him about hitting McCutchen; If you think that, you’re an idiot. If you’re thinking he’s calling for that, you’re an idiot. It was a great quote, and it’s appropriate for anybody who thinks ‘Luc’ was doing that.”
Roenicke suggested there was too much at stake for both teams to have any spillover into Sunday’s season series finale.
“They understand that Garza wasn’t hitting him on purpose. Thetre’s no doubt,” Roenicke said. “That’s a smart crew over there. They understand. But they also understand that they’ve got a guy that they can’t lose out of their lineup again. I get that. I understand it. So I understand why they’re upset about it; we would be too. Regardless of whether it’s on purpose or not, it still can put your guy out of the game.
“They hit [Carlos] Gomez twice the day before that. We knew that wasn’t on purpose. One was on the foot, and one on the elbow. They pitch Gomez inside, they’re going to hit him. Gomez has been hit more than McCutchen has.”
Roenicke also was aware of the fact Pirates pitchers had hit 85 batters this season – 20 more than any other team in the Major Leagues (the Phillies and White Sox were tied for second). Brewers pitchers had hit the third-fewest number of batters (41) in the National League.
“The way [the Pirates] hit people, the way they pitch inside, they shouldn’t be complaining about anything,” Roenicke said.
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