They Will Not Be Mocked

On a recent airing of the Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio, Mike Greenberg (he’s the metrosexual “Mike”) revealed that he predicted the Milwaukee Brewers would win the NL Wild Card in 2010.

Mike Golic (he’s the schlub “Mike”) and whatever interchangeable ESPN baseball analyst was guesting at the time immediately set about ridiculing Greenberg for his hilariously misinformed opinion, blasting him as if he had claimed that Jim was the most talented Belushi brother.

Golic and Buster Kurkjian offered up Atlanta, Colorado, Arizona, or even the NL Central’s own Cincinnati Reds as likelier candidates for the Wild Card.

As quickly as my ears had perked up at the mention of Ken Macha’s club, I just as quickly pondered why the prediction was met with such scorn — after all, the Brewers captured the Wild Card just two seasons ago, and it wasn’t as if Greenberg was predicting the Brewers would sweep the 2010 World Series.

The question is, then, have the Brewers fallen that far off from their 2008 season to become a virtual laughing stock at the self-proclaimed Leader In Worldwide Sports?

Let’s explore.

On the offensive side, which has long been the Brewers’ strength, the talent has arguably gotten better. There is no reason to believe that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder shouldn’t continue to attack pitchers like my father attacks a plate of Chili’s baby back ribs.

Casey McGehee proved last year to be a meteoric improvement over Bill Hall at third base. Jim Edmonds, even with a rough debut, seems to be proving a better option than the perpetually slumping Corey Hart. Although music mogul Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds would proabbly be a better option as well.

Rickie Weeks seems primed for a breakout year. If, and this phrase is mandated by law to be included with every mention of the oft-injured second baseman, he can stay healthy.

And players like shortstop Alcides Escobar and center fielder Carlos Gomez – who began his Brewers career going 4-for-5 on opening day – have a ton of “upside,” which is fantasy baseball owner speak for “they might stink, but they might not. In any case, they’ll be better than Jason Kendall.” It remains to be seen, however, if the new Jason Kendall, catcher Gregg Zaun, will be an improvement over his predecessor behind the plate. Early indications are not good.

What the Brewers don’t have in 2010 and what they didn’t have in 2009 in compiling the league’s worst ERA is a stud pitcher like Subway spokesperson C.C. Sabathia. Granted, the Brewers didn’t have Sabathia when the 2008 season started, but by starting seemingly every other game during the season’s stretch run, he ended up being the biggest reason the Brewers were able to make their – albeit brief – return to the postseason.

However, there is much reason to be hopeful about the Brewers’ pitching staff in 2010. Yovani Gallardo, despite being hopelessly overrated (a 2009 3.73 ERA only looks great compared to the rest of Milwaukee’s starters), is a solid, if unspectacular, number one hurler who now, thanks to a $30.1M, 5-year deal announced Wednesday, no longer has to worry about where his next meal or Netflix download is coming from.

And while the continued presence of Dave Bush and Manny Parra makes my heart palpitate even more than one of those new KFC slabs-of-chicken-as-bun sandwiches, the offseason signings of Doug Davis and especially Randy Wolf has to make Milwaukee’s starting rotation at the very least respectable.

The bad news, of course, is that neither was particularly impressive in their season debuts, with Wolf allowing nine hits and four runs in 6-2/3 innings on Tuesday. Davis was even worse, giving up six hits and four runs in just four innings on Wednesday.

The good news is their bullpen thus far has been solid, most notably on Wednesday, when Todd Coffey, Carlos Villanueva, Mitch Stetter, and LaTroy Hawkins all combined to bail out Davis.

Not that any team wants to have to turn to their bullpen in the fifth inning, but it’s a confidence booster for the entire team nice to know that if that unpleasant situation presents itself, the relievers can do the job.

The other bad news? Unless Jeff Suppan ditches his rolled-up towels and starts sleeping on a stack of old Foghat albums, his neck is bound to get better and he is bound to pitch again for Milwaukee.

Oh, the horror.

In short, while I am normally a fan of derision and scorn, I find this week’s mockery of ESPN’s Mike Greenberg completely baseless and unnecessary. There is no reason to believe that the Milwaukee Brewers are NOT a legitimate NL Wild Card contender. In fact, I’ll pick them.

Here are my other picks:

AL East: Yankees. Give me a reason why they can’t repeat. What, they’re too old? Hasn’t baseball proved itself as the sport where guys like Julio Franco and Jamie Moyer can play until they’re nearly as old as Simon and Garfunkel combined?

AL Central: Twins. Yeah, I know they don’t have Joe Nathan. Early indications are they’ll score enough runs that it won’t be as much of a problem as initially feared.

AL West: Mariners. Only if Milton Bradley can stay off the crazy train.

AL Wild Card: Red Sox. Don’t believe the Tampa Bay hype.

NL East: Phillies. Best roster in the National League.

NL Central: Cardinals. Probably the second-best roster in the National League.

NL West: Rockies. Although I haven’t been too impressed thus far.

NL Wild Card: Brewers. See above. And no, I don’t believe that Jason Heyward is the next Henry Aaron.

World Series: Yankees over Phillies. Sorry to not give a shocking prediction, but unlike Mike Greenberg, I have a fear of being mocked.

Enjoy the season.

Go Badgers, Go Bucks.


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