It doesn't look like spring, but Brewer baseball starts next week
Are you ready for some baseball? I know I'm ready to put winter behind us. So let's ignore that light white coat outside today and consider the Milwaukee Brewers, who open their season Monday at Miller Park.
Given that Tim Thompson has stopped writing his “Peace and Glove” blog, why not join me in contemplating the Brewers and their hopes to contend for a pennant this season.
Are you optimistic? Will “Hank,” that stray dog that wandered into the Brewers' Arizona spring training facility and was quickly adopted by the team, a club official's family and adoring fans, creating a media and marketing sensation, help you forget about that ugly Ryan Braun problem?
What do you see as the keys to success for the Brewers?
If you ask me, it again starts with good health. The Brewers, like every small-market team, have limited depth and must enjoy an injury-free season to stand a chance to compete. Can newly signed flame-throwing pitcher Matt Garza avoid the injury bug that has plagued him in recent years? Is Aramis Ramirez capable of playing all season without ailments?
Other key issues: Can Braun play like an all-star without steroids? Can second baseman Rickie Weeks rebound from a dreadful season, be productive and earn his pay? Will Jim Henderson shake off a shaky spring and become the steady closing pitcher the club needs, and if not, does Francisco Rodriguez have enough left in his tank to step in? Can Carlos Gomez be a strong leadoff batter in place of departed outfielder Norichika Aoki? Can Yovani Gallardo and the team get off to a fast start instead of stumbling out of the gate like last year?
Here's my take: Given good health, the Brewers might have enough players to contend for the division crown but probably not enough to come out on top given the talent of the Cards, the Reds and the Pirates. Even though the Brewers booted the ball repeatedly in some recent spring training games, they could be better defensively this year with Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds sharing duties at first base.
Whatever the team's fortunes, that first tailgate outing to Miller Park is going to feel pretty good and help erase the memories of the brutal winter we've endured.