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Brewers, Rockies on similar path

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April 5, 2010
— Excuse Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha and Colorado Rockies counterpart Jim Tracy if they’re looking over their shoulders to start the season.

Their respective franchises are the most recent National League wild card representatives with Milwaukee’s 2008 appearance and Colorado’s push last year. But neither of the managers at the start of those campaigns were around by the time the wild seasons reached the playoffs.


The success shows that clubs are deeper than just who fills out the lineup card, and each team’s ability to develop talent has kept them in mix for meaningful baseball each fall.


“One definite similarity is the fact of what both clubs have been able to do with their payroll and the fact that it can be done this way, and you cannot only develop a good club, but be a good club and stay that way for an extended period of time if you do it correctly,” Tracy said. “Part of the way you do it correctly is you embrace the importance of a farm system and developing young players.”


The Rockies fired longtime manager Clint Hurdle on May 29 with the team languishing at 18-28 last year and under Tracy, who had made only one postseason appearance in seven previous seasons with the Dodgers and Pirates.


From there, Colorado rocked with a 74-42 record and reached the postseason for the second time in three years after winning the NL pennant in 2007.


“The Rockies, they were in the playoffs last year and they’ve got a good hitting team,” said Brewers opening day starter Yovani Gallardo. “We’ve got work to do as far as scouting.”


Gallardo was drafted by the Brewers in 2004, while Rockies opening day starter Ubaldo Jimenez was signed as an amateur free agent in 2001.


Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki points to the Brewers’ big bats like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, comparing them to Rockies stars Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton.


“We’re both kind of mid-market teams that try to get some players every once in a while that we can afford, but we try to build from within,” Tulowitzki said.


The Brewers went 90-72 in 2008 to reach the postseason for the first time in 26 years, despite firing Ned Yost with 12 games to go and replacing him with Dale Sveum. That offseason, they hired Macha.


Milwaukee’s downfall, though, came when the Brewers went from two aces to zero after CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets left in free agency. The cobblestone starting staff struggled to pitch deep into games on its way to a majors-worst 5.37 ERA and overworked the bullpen.


Milwaukee’s win total dropped by 10 games even though the Brewers finished third in the NL in runs scored and homers. Only the 103-loss Nationals allowed more runs to cross the plate in the NL, leading Macha to talk often about balancing the equation of runs scored and allowed.


Milwaukee signed pitchers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis to bolster the rotation and added center fielder Carlos Gomez and rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar.


If Macha or Tracy can reach the postseason and survive the 162-game schedule in the process, maybe they can break the October demise the franchises also share. Both lost in four games to Philadelphia in their last playoff appearance.


Milwaukee lost all six games to the Rockies last season.


“The key is always consistency and health. It comes down to those two things. For any non-big market team, if you have an injury to a key guy, it’s extremely difficult to replace that guy,” Braun said. “We feel good about our chances going in.”



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