February 2011

On Gallardo and bobbling heads

One of the best parts of this job is figuring out what topics will generate interest and discussion from the fans. You spend a couple of weeks working on a feature story about Yovani Gallardo’s progression from high school slugger to Major League pitcher, and hear very little. Then a couple of years later, you throw together a blog about 2011 bobblehead giveaways and Gallardo isn’t on the list, and you’re slammed with e-mails and Tweets. 

Go figure. 
So, I asked around a bit and here are some thoughts and best guesses about the bobblehead lineup:
– First off, I would bet all of my Marriott points that Gallardo is on the list for 2012. 
– I hear that Gallardo was on the list for 2011, but then the Brewers picked up Zack Greinke and started using him as the poster boy for their marketing efforts. You have to capitalize on the excitement surrounding his arrival. 
– Why didn’t they just bump somebody else to make room for Greinke? The Racing Hot Dog giveaway is sponsored by Klement’s so he’s safe. Craig Counsell is a hometown favorite and he’s also 40 and signed for one year, so you’d better feature him while you can. John Axford and Casey McGehee are coming off career years, so why not give them a little love while they’re hot? Randy Wolf is entering the second season of a three-year deal and is pretty popular after finishing last season so strong. It probably makes sense to get him out of the way now since Gallardo is in a long-term contract and it looks like he’s going to be pretty darn good for the next couple of years. 
– You don’t want to do all of your stars at once. So, Greinke is probably the 2011 headliner and you save Gallardo to headline 2012. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart (so I’m told — I don’t remember a Hart bobble) have all been done since the bobblehead craze began. If you do Greinke and Gallardo this year, who’s your star for 2012? No offense, Jonathan Lucroy.
– Most importantly… I grew up in Wisconsin, so just like you I am genetically engineered to be drawn to free stuff, even if it’s an “I closed Wolski’s” sticker that goes straight into a desk drawer, but why is this something we’re even talking about? I’d rather go to a game and watch Gallardo pitch than go home with a doll that sort of looks like him. 
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Wolski’s has free popcorn.
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Marcum can earn extra $100k for innings

I noted last night that Shaun Marcum’s $3.95 million, arbitration-avoiding contract with the Brewers included performance bonuses that could push him over the $4 million midpoint of figures filed by the sides last month. I learned the details this morning.
Marcum can earn an additional $100,000 for innings pitched — including a $50,000 bonus for reaching 190 innings and another $50,000 for 200 innings. Reaching that first milestone would put him right at the midpoint, and passing it would push him over. 
Last year, Marcum pitched 195 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays. If he does that again, he’ll earn precisely the midpoint.

The deal also includes the usual array of awards bonuses for things like winning a Cy Young Award, but those performance bonuses were the key to reaching a settlement. Marcum filed for $5 million and the Brewers offered $3 million, and until Wednesday’s compromise the sides were poised to go to an arbitration hearing this afternoon in Phoenix.
The sticking point was Marcum’s $850,000 salary in 2010, his first year back from a full season lost to Tommy John elbow surgery. The Brewers argued that he was asking for too big a jump from one year to the next and pointed to the Twins’ Francisco Liriano, a pitcher in Marcum’s same four-plus service class who got a raise from $1.4 million to $4.3 million. But Marcum’s side argued that his ’10 salary was artificially low because of the elbow injury. 
In the end, both sides could point to positives. The Brewers got a settlement below the midpoint, and Marcum got a chance to pitch his way over it. He also earned the largest year-to-year raise in history for a pitcher in his second year of arbitration, according to agent Rex Gary.
I found the details of the negotiations pretty interesting. Marcum, Gary and Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner were all at the Phoenix Hyatt, Gary and Marcum in a work suite rented by the Players’ Association and Werner in one next door rented by Major League Baseball. After the Angels went into a hearing with pitcher Jered Weaver, the lone remaining “four-plus” starter still unsigned, Gary and Werner stepped outside by the pool and were able to get into a “deal zone,” as baseball people like to call it. They went back inside, then negotiated again closer to dinnertime and set the incentive structure in place. 
So, Marcum was not actually standing there as Gary and Werner spoke, but he was only a few feet away, and he was prepared to sit in the hearing room Thursday if necessary. Happily for both sides, since arbitration hearings can be uncomfortable, things never got that far.
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On a side note, Gary’s group also represents two pitchers who will be interesting to follow in camp. Lefty Mitch Stetter was a mainstay of the Brewers bullpen in 2009, but he was leapfrogged by Zach Braddock in a dismal 2010, and now faces an uncertain 2011. Another client is right-hander Zack Segovia, who inked a Minor League deal with Milwaukee in November that included an invitation to big league camp. 
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Marcum signs for $3.95 million, avoids arbitration

Right-hander Shaun Marcum agreed late Wednesday to a $3.95 million contract for 2011, avoiding arbitration and ensuring that the first opponent of his Brewers tenure will be somebody other than the Brewers themselves. 
Marcum and the Brewers faced an arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and by Wednesday representatives from both sides had arrived in Phoenix to make final preparations. Marcum’s agent, Rex Gary, and Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner met in a hotel lobby during the afternoon, then engaged in another, more intense round of negotiations in the evening and struck a deal. 
They settled just below the midpoint of proposals submitted last month, when Marcum and Gary filed for $5 million and the Brewers offered $3 million. Marcum can earn incentives for innings and awards to push his salary past the $4 million midpoint. Those incentives were the final sticking point in talks. 
In that way, Marcum’s deal is similar to the $1.25 million pact between the Brewers and reliever Kameron Loe, who settled just below the midpoint of his figures but can push over by earning $115,000 in available incentives. 
“The goal is always to avoid going to a hearing and coming to an agreement that both sides feel comfortable with,” Werner said. “Sometimes you just have to wait it out.” 
Talks with Marcum moved forward Wednesday after one of his “comps,” Angels right-hander Jered Weaver, went all the way to a hearing with the Angels. Marcum and Weaver both have four-plus years of Major League service, as does Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano, who settled with Minnesota on Saturday for $4.3 million, right at the midpoint of their figures. 
“When Liriano’s deal got done, that brought a little more clarity, and then I think we were just waiting to see how Weaver’s deal played out,” Werner said. “When they went into a hearing room, there weren’t any comparables left.” 
The decision on Weaver’s case won’t be revealed until Thursday, likely after the Brewers would have gone into a hearing with Marcum.
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On eve of hearing, Marcum still unsigned

As the hours tick away, the possibility grows that the first opponent of right-hander Shaun Marcum’s Brewers career will be the Brewers themselves. 
Marcum’s agent, Rex Gary, and Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner have so far been unable to reach an agreement with Brewers on a 2011 contract for his client. If the sides remain deadlocked they would face off in an arbitration hearing that’s believed to be set for Thursday in Phoenix. 
Marcum, acquired from the Blue Jays in early December, filed for $5 million as a second-time arbitration-eligible player. The Brewers offered $3 million. 
Gary traveled to Phoenix on Wednesday and did not return messages this week from MLB.com. Werner said he remained hopeful of avoiding the hearing room. 
“We’ve been working very hard in the event we’re in a position of arguing the case in front of panel of arbitrators,” Werner said. “But I have learned that in a lot of these cases you have to let the process play out. In 2008, I think we settled with J.J. Hardy only 24 hours before a hearing was scheduled. In 2009 with Corey Hart, we settled about day before. Then last year, we went to a hearing with Corey. 
“We have still not come to an agreement with Shaun, but you have to let the process play out. Every negotiation is a separate animal. Right now, we don’t have a deal, but we’re hopeful we’ll put one in place and if not, we’ll go to the hearing room.” 
Like last year’s hearing with outfielder Corey Hart, the Brewers would use outside counsel to argue their case on Thursday. A three-member panel of judges would hear arguments from both sides, then issue a ruling on Friday. They would choose one salary filing or the other, and would not be required to explain the decision. 
The first case of 2011 was decided Wednesday, when the arbitrators ruled in favor of Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf. 
The 29-year-old Marcum cost the Brewers their top offensive prospect, Brett Lawrie, and will be part of a remade starting rotation that includes three 2010 Opening Day starters with Marcum, Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo. After missing all of 2009 while rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery, Marcum bounced-back to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts and 195 1/3 innings in 2010, impressive numbers in the tough American League East. He earned $850,000 last season. 
This isn’t exactly the way the Brewers wanted to begin their relationship with Marcum. But it’s just business, Werner said. 
“In a perfect world, we would have a deal with Shaun before we have to go into a hearing,” Werner said. “We’re still working on coming up with the appropriate salary for him.”
Marcum is one of two arbitration-eligible Brewers players still unsigned. The other is second baseman Rickie Weeks, who has a hearing scheduled for Feb. 17. 
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Single-game sales begin Feb. 26

The Brewers set Feb. 26 for their Arctic Tailgate, an annual event that marks the beginning of single-game ticket sales, and released a full 2011 promotional schedule on Wednesday. 

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Single-game sales will begin Feb. 26 at 9 a.m. CT online at Brewers.com, via telephone or in person at Miller Park, where hundreds of fans have camped for the four previous Arctic Tailgates. It’s the only opportunity to purchase some of the very limited individual tickets to the April 4 home opener — telephone and internet orders will not be accepted for that game. 
The Brewers are asking fans to note new safety regulations for the tailgate: 
  • Participants will not be permitted to set camp prior to noon CT on Thursday, Feb. 24. 
  • No hand-made or hand-built shelters shall be permitted. No shelters made of cardboard or wood shall be permitted. Shelters with a footprint greater than 100 square feet are not permitted unless otherwise approved by the Brewers. 
  • Miller Park power sources are not available for public use and gas generators are not permitted on the property. Only State-Approved gas/propane heating/grilling units with fuel-valve turn-offs and self-contained charcoal/wood units are permitted; provided, however, that they must be a minimum distance of 25 feet from the building or shelters. Activity and items permitted on the premises are subject to the approval of the Brewers. 
  • The Brewers reserve the right to remove any shelter, items, or individuals from the property. 
                                                            
This marks the fifth year that the Arctic Tailgate party will kick-start individual ticket sales. The Klement’s Famous Racing Sausages, Bernie Brewer and Brewers alumni will be on hand to greet the fans, the first 1,500 of whom will receive a hot dog and soda, plus an Arctic Tailgate t-shirt. 
If you don’t want to brave the cold, you have until Tuesday to register at Brewers.com for a lottery to purchase up to four tickets to Opening Day and up to eight tickets to each of the other 15 Marquee Games at Miller Park this season. 
Beginning Feb. 26, fans will also be able to purchase discounted parking passes in advance for all home dates at Miller Park including the home opener.  Parking prices remain unchanged from 2010. 
Brewers.com is open 24 hours a day for ticket sales, but fans can also purchase in-person at Miller Park or via telephone at (414) 902-4000. The box office will be open until 5 p.m. CT on Feb. 26.  Normal box office hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Monday-Friday beginning Monday, Feb. 28, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 

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The promotional schedule includes six Sunday, all-fan bobblehead giveaways: Closer John Axford on April 24 against the Astros (check it out at right), third baseman Casey McGehee on May 22 against the Rockies, Zack Greinke on June 12 against the Cardinals, the racing Hot Dog on July 10 against the Reds, infielder Craig Counsell on Aug. 14 against the Pirates and pitcher Randy Wolf on Sept. 25 against the Marlins. 
Other promotional highlights include: 
– The first homestand in May features the “5-County, 5-Day Celebration.” All residents of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha Counties can purchase tickets at a 50 percent savings on all reserved seats excluding the Miller Lite Beerpen, all-inclusive areas, and the $1 Uecker Seats. 
– “Spring Madness, presented by PNC Bank” runs from May 27-29, with all seats regularly priced at $30 and less available at a savings of 50 percent (excluding the $1 Uecker Seats and all-inclusive Areas). For these three games, small Pepsi products and Klement’s hot dogs will be just $1 each. 
– In addition to the two annual tribute events — Cerveceros Day (June 11 vs. St. Louis) and the Negro Leagues Tribute Night (July 9 against Cincinnati) — the Brewers are adding another special theme night for 2011. On Sunday, Aug. 14, the Brewers will host a German Heritage Day, which will feature both the Brewers and Pirates wearing German-language jerseys (“Bierbrauer” vs. “Piraten”). 
– Little League Night is Monday, June 20, when the Brewers open an Interleague Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. All Little Leaguers in uniform who registered in advance through local youth leagues will have the opportunity to parade around the warning track in a pre-game ceremony. 
– On Saturday, July 30, the 13th Annual Brewers Community Foundation Famous Racing Sausages 5K Sausage Run/Walk will begin at 9 a.m. CT at the Klement’s Sausage Haus at Miller Park, with all proceeds supporting the youth recreation and education programs of Brewers Community Foundation. Participants will receive a t-shirt, a Klement’s hot dog, a bottle of Aquafina and a ticket voucher redeemable for one of 10 specified regular season games in 2011.
For the full list of promotional dates, visit the special section of Brewers.com
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Schlesinger elevated to Brewers COO

The Brewers quietly promoted one of their top front office officials this winter, giving Rick Schlesinger the title of chief operating officer. Schlesinger, who has been with the Brewers for more than eight years, had previously been known as the team’s executive vice president of business operations. 

The team began referring to Schlesinger as COO in January but did not formally announce his new title.
The Brewers have not had a club president since the messy departure of Ulice Payne in 2003, so Schlesinger and executive vice president of finance and administration Bob Quinn are the top two officials on the business operations side of the club. The Brewers hired Schlesinger in December 2002 and Quinn in January 2003, and promoted both men to executive VP roles in 2008.
“I believe our executive management team is among the best in baseball, and Rick and Bob have led us to significant achievements on the business side,” principal owner Mark Attanasio said then. “We have set franchise records for attendance and reached new heights in virtually every measurable category.”
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Kabobs, poutine both win concession contest

Tasty news from the Brewers this morning: 
The Milwaukee Brewers today announced the Klement’s Famous Racing Sausage Kabobs as the winning food item in the “Create a Concession” contest.  Courtney Ring of Sauk City submitted the idea and Ring’s menu creation will be added to the concession offerings at Miller Park in 2011.
Over 10,000 votes were submitted by fans, who voted on four finalist submissions. The Klement’s Famous Racing Sausage Kabobs received 37.4 percent of the vote.  Poutine with Cheese Curds finished second with 23.9 percent of the vote, Chicken Parmesan Sandwich finished with 21.9 percent of the vote and Tilapia Fish Tacos finished with 16.8 percent of the vote.
Although Poutine with Cheese Curds finished second in the overall fan voting, it will also be added to the Miller Park menu for 2011.
“This initiative gave us an opportunity to have fans participate directly in enhancing the Miller Park experience, and their response was phenomenal,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. We had over one thousand suggestions for new items submitted as part of this contest, and given the success of the program, it’s likely that we’ll repeat it in 2012.” 
For submitting the winning recipe, Ring will receive four tickets to Opening Day at Miller Park as well as an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Brewers game during the 2011 season and watch the Brewers take batting practice from the field.  The other three finalists – Chris Fifarek of Wauwatosa (Chicken Parmesan Sandwich), Chris Stoa of Milwaukee (Poutine with Cheese Curds) and Tim Tracz of Hales Corners (Tilapia Fish Tacos) – will all receive receive a Brewers prize package that includes game tickets, an autographed personalized Brewers jersey and an autographed baseball from a Brewers player.
The contest began in late December with online submissions.  More than 1,300 submissions were then narrowed down to ten semifinalists.  In mid-January, a panel of 10 judges gathered in the Sportservice kitchen on the service level of Miller Park to taste and rate those 10 items.  The panel included Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger, Brewers Executive Vice President-General Manager Doug Melvin, former Brewers All-Star Gorman Thomas, SURG Restaurant Group Partner Omar Shaikh,, Nancy Stohs and Jan Uebelherr of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Tom Olson, John Clope and John DiMartini, all of Sportservice Milwaukee.  
The panelists narrowed it down to four finalists and as a part of the festivities at Brewers On Deck on Sunday, January 30, fans were be able to sample their favorites from the four finalists.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Sportservice served as partners in the promotion.
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Mercedes clears waivers

The Brewers just announced that right-hander Roque Mercedes had cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Nashville. In a nice move, the club invited him to Major League camp. 

Mercedes was designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for newly-signed outfielder/first baseman Mark Kotsay.
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Truck day at Miller Park

The Klement’s Racing Sausages earned their keep Tuesday by helping the Brewers load the final moving truck bound for Spring Training. It’s an annual rite of spring that marks a sort of symbolic start to the baseball season — just ask Craig Counsell, who happened to drop by Miller Park on Tuesday morning to use the batting cage.

Here are some photos courtesy of team photographer Scott Paulus.
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Twins, Liriano settle at midpoint

The Twins and left-hander Francisco Liriano avoided arbitration on Saturday by agreeing to terms on a $4.3 million contract for 2011, right at the midpoint of their filings. The deal could have an impact in the Brewers’ talks this week with right-hander Shaun Marcum.

“Liriano is definitely relevant to the Marcum discussions,” Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner said Sunday.
But just how the Liriano settlement will impact Marcum remains to be seen as Werner continues negotiations with Marcum’s agent, Rex Gary. The sides are trying to avoid a hearing that’s believed to be scheduled for Thursday in Phoenix. 
Werner declined to talk specifically about how the Liriano case, or any other involving arbitration-eligible pitchers, could affect Marcum, but it’s easy to see the similarities. 
– Liriano, with 4 years, 104 days of Major League service and coming off a season in which he went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts, filed for $5 million in arbitration and the Twins offered $3.6 million. 
– Marcum, who has four years, 128 days of service and is coming off a 13-8, 3.64 ERA, 31-start season with the Blue Jays, also filed for $5 million in arbitration. The Brewers offered $3 million. 
But it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison. Liriano had a significantly higher salary in 2010 — $1.4 million to Marcum’s $850,000. Liriano also won American League Comeback Player of the Year honors and has pitched in the postseason, factors that could come into play as “special accomplishments” in the arbitration process. 
So, both sides could presumably use Liriano’s settlement as part of their argument if the case reaches a hearing room. Marcum’s side would only have to argue that he deserves a salary above the $4 million midpoint, and Liriano’s $4.3 million meets that. The Brewers, though, could point to those “special accomplishments” and the fact that Liriano started at a higher salary last season. 
Liriano would not be the only “comp” mentioned in a hearing. Marcum’s side would probably point to Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants, who earned a raise from $2.1 million to $4.8 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Sanchez was 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA in 32 starts and one relief appearance during the regular season, then made four starts in the playoffs.
And the Brewers would probably bring up a different Sanchez, Florida’s Anibal, who went from $1.25 million to $3.7 million after going 13-12 with a 3.55 ERA last season.
As usual in this process, it’s difficult to know which way the judges would rule on Marcum in a hearing. That’s why the sides are working to avoid going that far.
Werner continues to characterize his talks with Gary as “productive.” They last spoke on Friday, and will touch base again early this week in the wake of the Liriano deal.
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