Kyle Lohse Makes Sense, In An Alternate Reality

By Nathan Petrashek

If we lived in a reality in which the Brewers were expected to win 89 games and a wild card, I could perhaps understand the Kyle Lohse signing.  He makes the Brewers better in the short-term, but only marginally.  Pencil him in for an extra couple wins over, say, Chris Narveson.

That’s not the reality we live in, though.  The Reds are the clear frontrunners in the division, with the Cardinals close behind.  Under the guise of giving their young pitchers an opportunity to showcase their stuff, the Brewers had cut costs dramatically from a 2012 payroll approaching $100 million.  It was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year.

That approach was completely thrown out the window on Monday, when the Brewers signed 34-year-old RHP Lohse to a 3-year, $33 million deal.

The dollar value is shocking enough.  Lohse is coming off career-bests in just about every category: wins, ERA, WHIP, hits per nine, walks per nine, strikeouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio.  He was pretty good in 2011, too.  Before that?  Over a 10-year career, Lohse sports a 4.79 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and averaged just 157 innings per season.  Even with the extreme improvement of the last two years, Lohse sports a career 4.34 FIP.  If you like the Lohse signing, you believe Lohse suddenly figured things out as a 32-year-old.  And you must also believe his stuff (which includes a high-80s fastball, with a decent slider and change) will play well in hitter-friendly Miller Park.

But Lohse isn’t just a liability on the payroll sheet.  The Cardinals made Lohse a qualifying offer last year, meaning he costs the Brewers a draft pick to sign (#17 overall).  Even more damning, the Brewers also lose the slot money associated with that pick, around $2 million.  Conversely, the Cardinals will gain a pick in the late first round, adding about $1.5M to their draft pool.  The Brewers don’t just lose a high pick; they potentially lose the ability to snag a player later who falls due to signability concerns, and help out a division rival whose farm system is already stocked.

Even Lohse’s salary structure is puzzling.  The Brewers apparently remain intent on cutting costs in 2013, as they’ll pay Lohse just $4M of his $33M deal this year.  The remainder of the deal will be paid between 2014 and 2018:  $11M in 2014 and 2015, and $7M over 2016-18, when Lohse won’t even be pitching for the team.

I’ve heard a few arguments in favor of the deal, but they all fall short.  Some say Lohse will help the team immediately; that’s true, but they really weren’t expected to compete anyway, and Lohse doesn’t push them over the top.  Some say Lohse is a veteran innings-eater.  Maybe.  Lohse has surpassed 190 innings pitched in 5 of his 12 seasons.  That doesn’t exactly classify as “reliable.” You could flip a coin as to whether he’ll surpass 180 innings in any given year.

Some point to the fact that the young rotation has struggled in spring.  If anything, that’s a reason for caution; why go out and spend $33 million amid such uncertainty?  And it isn’t as if Lohse is an ace, riding in on a white horse to save the day.  Indeed, even in the formal press conference, Doug Melvin used buzz words like “experience” and “competitiveness” to describe Lohse’s primary attributes.  That’s pretty lukewarm praise.

It’s hard to fault Melvin for the signing.  For all outward appearances, he’s seemed disinterested in forfeiting a high pick to sign Lohse.  Instead, Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras has reportedly been courting Mark Attanasio personally.  This looks for all the world like meddling by the Brewers’s principal owner.  If that’s true, Attanasio should be prepared to pay the price for ignoring his baseball minds, a price that the team will feel all the way into 2018.

Addressing Milwaukee’s Dependence on the Bandwagon Fan

By: Ryan Smith

The term “bandwagon fan” is one that carries a negative connotation. The bandwagon fan only starts to support a team when that team is having some level of success. If the team is a historically bad team or is a team that is experiencing tough times, the bandwagon fan is nowhere to be found. To be labeled a bandwagon fan is often meant as an insult. The “true fans” have a sort of animosity towards the bandwagon fans because, well, they’re bandwagon fans.

I grew up a fan of two teams: the Milwaukee Brewers and the Boston Red Sox. I was a fan of the Brewers because I grew up in Wisconsin and was lucky enough to attend a game or two every year at County Stadium. I was a Red Sox fan because I actually got to see them play of television occasionally. I also wanted to be a pitcher when I was young, and Roger Clemens became my favorite pitcher for quite some time. When he bolted to Toronto, I stayed with Boston. To this day, I cheer for Milwaukee and Boston. It’s what I’ve always done, and while I may be more of a die-hard for Milwaukee as I attend more and more games each year, I assume I’ll always root for both teams.

Boston and Milwaukee. I’m not sure if there could be two more opposite markets outside of New York than those two. Red Sox Nation spreads far across the globe, with many lifers and bandwagon fans sporting Boston gear on a daily basis. Even when Boston struggles from time to time, they still sell out every game and do very well when it comes to merchandise sales. Frankly, Boston is such a large market naturally that the bandwagon fan does not make much of an impact to the day-to-day and season-to-season operations of the Red Sox front office.

I’m pointing all of this out because the Milwaukee Brewers are getting very close to the point where the bandwagon fans are going to disappear. And I have one message for Brewer Nation:

The Brewers need the bandwagon fans.

Without bandwagon fans, Miller Park might start looking like it did back in 2003.

It’s no secret that Milwaukee is the smallest of the small-market teams in Major League Baseball. From 2002-2006, the Brewers ranked no higher than 17th in total attendance in any of those seasons. In 2007, when Milwaukee finished above .500 for the first time since the ’92 season, Milwaukee’s attendance jumped to 12th in all of baseball. After that, the Crew finished 9th (2008), 9th (2009), 11th (2010), and 7th (2011). In 2012, the Brewers are currently sitting in 11th place once again.

It should be no surprise that as the Brewers started to find more success on the field, they also found more success at the ticket office. That’s how this whole system works. If the team is winning, the bandwagon fans will find their way to the ballpark. And when the team starts to struggle, the bandwagon fans will scatter.

Without the bandwagon fans, the front office might not spend the way they have in recent years.

But as those attendance numbers so clearly point out, those bandwagon fans are immensely important when it comes to stimulating the Milwaukee Brewers economy. And when the Brewers are selling more tickets, more jerseys, more concessions, more everything, the front office is going to be more inclined to spend some of that money they are making. When those attendance numbers drop, so will the payroll of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here’s my point: the self-proclaimed “true fans” of the Milwaukee Brewers should not be so quick to vilify the bandwagoners when they jump ship because, unlike Boston, we need them.

The cold, hard truth is that the next few years could be very lean ones in Miller Park. Zack Greinke could (and should) be traded in the next few weeks. Shaun Marcum’s recent trip to the DL should be seen as a blessing to Doug Melvin, because Marcum was quickly pitching himself out of Milwaukee’s comfort zone as far as his next contract is concerned. Rickie Weeks hasn’t been Rickie Weeks ever since he legged out an infield single last July against the Cubs, spraining his ankle in the process. The farm system has some decent pieces, but there’s not a lot that’s ready to be harvested for a while yet. Outside of Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, and The Jonathon Lucroy, Milwaukee doesn’t have a lot of long-term promise on the current roster.

And if the bandwagon fans don’t find their way to Miller Park every now and then, things might not get much better any time soon.

So, to the bandwagon fans out there, I would just like to remind you about the fun times we’ve had these last few years. Remember the Sabathia craze? Prince’s monster shots? Braun’s MVP? T-Plush and Beast Mode? The NLCS? The tailgating? Even though times are rough right now, that can’t erase all of those memories, can it?

And to the “true fans” out there, I just want to remind you to invite those bandwagon fans out when you go to catch the game at a local sports bar. And when you are planning a weekend trip to Miller Park, remember to include those same bandwagon fans in your evite or your Facebook event. Above all else, do whatever you can to keep those bandwagon fans from straying too far.

Bandwagon fans, don’t be strangers to Miller Park. On behalf of Brew Crew Nation, this die-hard member wants to let you know that you are always welcome here.

What Can We Learn From The Ryan Braun Case?

By Kevin Kimmes

When the decision came down yesterday that Ryan Braun would be exonerated of the charges against him for allegedly testing positive for a banned substance, I honestly was the happiest I had been since the initial announcement regarding the test had come out in December. That elation, however soon soured as I began to see that despite being found not guilty, the fight was far from over. So, what have we learned from all of this?

There’s a Reason That Testing Results are Supposed to Remain Confidential Until a Final Outcome is Determined

In a perfect world, we would not even be addressing this issue, and Ryan Braun would have reported to camp today with the public none the wiser to what had gone on in the offseason. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Instead, we were treated to a 2+ month long circus as everyone and their mother tried to weigh in on whether Braun was guilty or not of violating the league’s banned substance policy despite not having any of the facts regarding what had transpired. Here’s the long and the short of it, baseball in many ways is an allegory for life in America. In this case there was a labor dispute between a worker and his employer over a test result, the employee invoked his legal right to appeal the finding, he had his day in court and was exonerated of the charge due to a testing inconsistency. If this had been Joe Six-Pack who worked for XYZ Company, this wouldn’t be considered news. The HR department would have handled the proceedings, end of story. Unfortunately, there was another court at work here, The Court of Public Opinion, which brings me to my next point.

The Court of Public Opinion Hates to be Wrong

Despite, a 3 person panel ruling 2-1 in favor of overturning the initial decision (and the 50 game suspension that it carried), some people just can’t accept the outcome. Some people just want to belong to a cause, no matter how ridiculous or unfounded the cause may be. This is what happened here as a (metaphorical) pitchfork and torch wielding mob took to the internet to let everyone know that no matter what the decision was, it was wrong because…well…because that’s what they had heard from someone.

Well, who told you that?

Uhmm…you know the guy, the one with the…face…yeah, and he has that show on that one channel (or maybe it was the radio)…well, he said he was guilty, so it must be true…right?

Again, without all the details who can say if the correct decision was rendered or not, but here’s what we know:

1) Braun has insisted from the beginning that he was innocent and that he was going to leave it up to the arbitrators to determine this based on the information that he planned to present.

2) Based on said information, Braun is exonerated of the charges.

3) Life goes on no matter if you agree with the decision or not. Kicking and screaming because you didn’t get your way will not change this no matter how long or how loud you do it. It’s like the Beatles said, “Let It Be”.

People Love a Good Conspiracy Theory

It’s amazing the leaps in logic that some people are willing to make in order to justify an opinion that is not factually sound. With this said, I would like to debunk several theories that people have used to justify why Braun was the only player in MLB history to successfully appeal a positive test result. And yes, I found all of these gems in the comments section of various articles today.

***Warning*** the lack of logic that follows may cause readers to believe that we have entered the times portrayed in Mike Judge’s film Idiocracy. Consider yourself warned!

1) Braun must be related to Selig. – Nope. There is no factual evidence to back up this claim what-so-ever.

2) Braun got his appeal overturned because Selig’s daughter owns the Brewers. – While it is true that Bud Selig sold the team to his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, in 1998, it is also true that she sold the team to current owner Mark Attanasio in 2004. At this time, the Selig family has no vested financial interest in the team.

3) Braun got off the hook because he’s white. – Ah, the ever present race card. Too bad the PED issue has no bias when it comes to race. See Roger Clemens and Mark McGuire if you need further proof.

When the Deck is Stacked Against You, Face Adversity Head on and Keep It Classy

The final thing we should take away from this case is that despite all of the name calling and accusations that have been strewn around since this started, Braun has been a class act the entire way through. He could have easily come off the rails and started his own counter assault against his accusers, yet he took the high road and didn’t stoop to that level, maintaining that the truth would prove what he said all along.

And that is the most important lesson that we can learn from all of this. No matter how bad things may get, no matter how dark the road ahead may look, never loose sight of who you are and what you stand for. Braun has refused to let himself be dragged down by this mess, and stuck to his convictions and morals the entire way, and guess what, in the end he prevailed. It’s a lesson that we all can learn from.