Let’s face it, we all want the momentum from 2011 again. Ryan Braun’s back, we’ve got new faces in Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez alongside others and the pitching is still solid. So why exactly is 2012 critical? I know even though Prince is gone, we still have guys who want to play for Milwaukee and not for the money. I’m hoping that a selective few are a part of that and not just money-hungry athletes, I’m looking at you Zack Greinke. There’s a lot of concerns the Brewers face, such as the obvious how does life go on without Prince, will the pitching stay consistent and how can we fare against the Cardinals who won the World Series? There’s a lot more than that, but focusing on the positives, two good years in a row would be great for our ball club and here’s to hoping that doesn’t fade!
So, where to begin? First off, 2011 was a step in the right direction for Milwaukee, but it’s not enough. The NL Central seems to have this weird shift between the Reds, Brewers and Cardinals of who will end up in first. The Cubs have really posed no threat, but with Theo Epstein there things may change, the Pirates are trying to put the pieces together and the Astros are in their last year of being in the NL. Where does that leave us? Well, for starters, we need to be honest here. We’re not the favorites, nor should we be. It’s unwanted pressure that’s built onto our guys which can mess them up mentally. Sure, I don’t mind giving the Cards the favor, for now, but I would never count out the Brew Crew. Sure, sure, the Cardinals won a World Series, but teams collapse. Look at the Giants, they virtually have no offense. Look at the Red Sox, they just haven’t been the same since. It’s funny how teams usually get in this funk after winning a World Series. I’m not exactly saying I want St. Louis to be terrible when we play them because really, competitive baseball is exciting baseball.
Of course division baseball is some of the best, but what makes it competitive is having the star players being able to compete. This is another reason why 2012 is such a critical year. We have TWO free agent pitchers after this year, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. A lot of people thought, myself included, that Fielder would always stay in Milwaukee, kind of like how Chipper Jones has always been with Atlanta, but turns out that didn’t happen. So, obviously Greinke and Marcum are not from the farm league like Fielder, but who’s to say that means anything? If we can, oh I don’t know, perhaps entertain the thought of getting to the World Series, the opinions of Greinke and Marcum may shift a little to stay with the Brewers. Honestly, I don’t know. That’s just mass speculation, but who’s to say it couldn’t work? Between the two, it doesn’t really matter which one we would lose, cause it would hurt the rotation equally. They’re too good of pitchers to just let slip through our fingers. Do we expect Cy Young caliber stats each year? It’d be nice, but of course we don’t. It’s unrealistic. If our rotation can manage an average 3.40 ERA this season, that’d be tremendous. Greinke and Marcum have great help from Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. Keeping Greinke and Marcum’s interests in staying in Milwaukee is another reason why this season is huge.
We’ve touched before on the ‘life after Prince Fielder’ aspect and really, it’s nothing huge. The Cardinals I think have rebounded well after losing Albert, so why can’t we after losing Prince? It’s easy. Mat Gamel is pretty much the favorite at this point for first, but ruling out Taylor Green, or even Corey Hart is a no-no. If Hart plays first, then Norichika Aoki or Carlos Gomez have a fair shot at right field. Life goes on, and there’s no reason why it can’t without Fielder. Braun’s surprising victory in his appeal just helps the Brewers’ offense tremendously. The offense actually gained with guys like Ramirez, Gonzalez and Aoki. In 2011, Ramirez tore it up with a .306 BA, 26 HRs and 93 RBIs. Of course, the unfortunate part of this is that both Ramirez and Gonzalez have age on them. Fear not, the Brewers have younger guys like Jeff Bianchi, Eric Farris and Zelous Wheeler who will take over the reigns someday.
So yes, 2011 was a great jump-start into how the Brewers play ball. 2012 is a year not only critical for success, but to measure out where we stand. Are we just another fluke team, or do we have something real? I’d like to break out of the triad in the NL Central, and be the team to win the division consistently. There’s also the issue of keeping Greinke and Marcum. They are two vital pieces to this rotation and we know that they’re needed. Let’s hope last year wasn’t a one time deal.