Takeaways from the Opening Series
If there are two things I’ve learned during my 24-plus years on this planet, it’s don’t overreact, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
If there are two things I’ve learned during my 24-plus years on this planet, it’s don’t overreact, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Then again, when it’s your obligation to cover sports for a living, everything is placed under a microscope. In this case, we’re talking about three games, a measly 1.8 percent of the grueling 162 games the Milwaukee Brewers will trudge through this season.
In other words, we really haven’t learned anything.
And yet, it’s easy to exaggerate as we emerge from our winter slumber and are treated to meaningful baseball for the first time in several months. One day, the dream of a 162-0 season feels like a distinct possibility, and 24 hours later, fear creeps in that the taste of victory may never return.
The Brewers have wrapped up their first series of the season, and while it’s an extremely small sample size, here are a few takeaways from Milwaukee’s series against the Atlanta Braves.
All fan bases are the same, so get over it
One of the biggest storylines of Opening Day was going to be the Miller Park crowd’s reaction to Ryan Braun in his first game back following a 65-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use. To what should have been no one’s surprise, Braun received a standing ovation.
Quickly, Twitter was ablaze with national pundits thrashing Braun and the Milwaukee fan base, because of course it was.
I thought about it for a second – would I have cheered for Braun had I been in attendance? I certainly wouldn’t have booed – heckling your own players is simply unacceptable.
But the answer is obvious. Braun plays for the Brewers, and the last time I checked, Brewer fans want the Brewers to win. Of course he’s going to receive a resounding ovation, just as he would if he played for any other team in baseball.
It’s inevitable that Braun will be put through the ringer away from Miller Park, but think about it – it was the Brewers fan base that Braun lied to, and look how he was received on April 1. Perhaps the rest of the league should take notice and move forward, as well.
Francisco Rodriguez at closer isn’t so bad
Speaking of reactions, if you were on Twitter during the opener, you would have thought Eric Gagne was entering the game to close for the Brewers. Turns out it was actually Francisco Rodriguez. You know, that guy who has a 1.09 ERA with Milwaukee last season? Not too shabby if you ask me.
Perhaps it had more to do with Jim Henderson‘s whereabouts, but K-Rod ranks second among active players in career saves. He’s a proven commodity in that role. It was blatantly obvious during spring training that Henderson needed more time to regain his 2013 form, so until then, Rodriguez isn’t a bad filler.
The offense will come along – it always does
As the old adage goes, pitching is almost always ahead of hitting at the start of the season. Pitchers can get away with missing their spots in the early going, but hitters can’t afford to be off on their timing, which is often the case when readjusting to game speed.
Only plating four runs combined in three games could be considered a concern, especially with the kind of lineup the Brewers are trotting out on a regular basis. But again, it’s only three games, and the offense will slowly close in on pitching as we move forward.
Whether the pitching will keep it up is a different story
Pitching and defense win championships. It’s as simple as that, and it explains why the Brewers went out of their way to bring aboard players like Rodriguez, Matt Garza, Will Smith and Lyle Overbay.
While there won’t be much of an improvement offensively at first, the defense Overbay will provide cannot be understated. As for the pitching, we’ve seen it finish strong over the past two seasons. Can it remain strong after a positive start? Having Garza, Smith and K-Rod around should help, and each has looked sharp thus far. Milwaukee will need that trend to continue as it embarks on a difficult April schedule.
Aramis Ramirez’s health will make or break this season
OK – this piece wouldn’t have been complete without at least one bold statement.
A player notorious for starting slow, Aramis Ramirez came out with guns blazing last season before a knee injury essentially derailed his 2013 campaign. Healthy again, Ramirez is putting on a repeat performance.
Ramirez offers Milwaukee a legitimate threat in the cleanup spot – someone who can protect Braun, drive in runs and play plus defense over at the hot corner. If he’s to go down once again, you can kiss a potential playoff run goodbye. But if Ramirez can stay on the field and give the Brewers 145 games in 2014, get your popcorn ready. Even at 35 years of age, Ramirez is THAT important to Milwaukee’s success – or lack thereof.