This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
Spring training games are around the corner and the Milwaukee Brewers are still scrambling to patch-up their team. But no one can blame them really. After finishing over .500 in 2005, the first time they’d done that in 13 years, the Brew Crew lapsed into a freakish episode of General Hospital in 2006, where it seemed like everyone was hit by the injury bug.
Their ace, Ben Sheets, and another key rotation guy, Tomo Ohka, suffered shoulder injuries that put them out for more than two months. Three-fourths of their regular infield, second baseman Ricky Weeks, shortstop JJ Hardy, and third-baseman Corey Koskie were all lost for the rest of the year in August.
Manager Ned Yost has stressed all offseason the need to field a healthy team.
We’re really close right now,” ever-optimistic manager Ned Yost said at the Winter Meetings. “We need health. We need J.J. [Hardy] to stay healthy, we need Rickie [Weeks] to stay healthy and we need Benny [Sheets] to stay healthy. The pieces are starting to add up to a pretty nice sum.”
Well, not quite Ned. Koskie, who suffered a concussion during a bizarre play last season (chasing a flyball, he back-pedaled, falling backwards, suffering whiplash), has not fully recovered from post-concussion syndrome. He’s been so out of it, he can’t even read a newspaper, a book, or watch TV. I mean, it’s bad.
In the weeks after he took a whiplash-inducing tumble chasing a pop fly, Koskie couldn’t put sentences together without fumbling the words. Unable to follow the conversations of others, he’d walk away and sit down, trying to clear his head.
Koskie couldn’t read a newspaper or book, couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t get on the Internet, without feeling ill. There were hours at a time when he’d just sit on the dock of his lake home outside Milwaukee and stare into the water.
“I just had constant pressure in my head,” he said.
Koskie tried going to the State Fair with his family, but the blur of rides going around, the blinking of lights, the constant motion of people, were too much. He was forced to retreat to his van and rest.
Since staving off the injury bug has been an exercise in futility, GM Doug Melvin has this offseason’s free-agent exercise in excess to fall back on. After criticizing the multi-year, multi-million deals some ball-players were getting during an mlb.com chat, Mevlin turned around and gave World Series hero Jeff Suppan a big fat chunk of change.
Daren_P: Do you think that some teams overspent?
Melvin: It’s obvious that some teams have overspent.
Yes, Doug, even you!
Granted, the Brewers did make some moves. They acquired catcher Johnny Estrada, starting pitcher Claudio Vargas, relief pitcher Greg Aquino, veteran infielder Craig Counsell and of course, Suppan.
But one of their non-moves – not signing fan favorite Jeff Cirllo – was a mini controversy in Milwaukee. And it was apparently caused by Tony Graffanino’s agent’s amnesia. Well ok, he didn’t forget his client had been offered a contract, he simply took too damn long to get back to the team after they had offered the scrappy utility player a two-year deal. Graffanino had to settle for a one year arbitration deal and the Brewers lost their all-time career average leader to free-agency. (But they signed Craig Counsell).
One of the extra corner outfielders sitting on Yost’s bench (Geoff Jenkins or Kevin Mench) could be moved before the Brewers break camp, since neither player is excited about the possibility of platooning.
And, of course, there’s the question everyone has had in their mind this offseason; from that same mlb.com chat Doug Melvin participated in:
d3ft0ne: Is the Chorizo’s offseason workout program going according to plan and will he be ready by Opening Day?
Melvin: The most recent report is that he’s still a few pounds overweight. We plan to send Brewers’ strength and conditioning coach Dan Wright to Mexico to present the Chorizo with our offseason conditioning program.
Offseason grade: C+
Acquisitions: Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas, Craig Counsell, Johnny Estrada, Greg Aquino.
Losses: Jeff Cirillo, Tomo Ohka, Edward Campusano, Doug Davis.
Projected lineup, rotation, and closer.
2B Ricky Weeks .279 / .363 / .404, 34 RBI
SS J.J. Hardy .242 / .295 / .398
CF Bill Hall .270 / .345 / .553, 85 RBI
1B Prince Fielder .271 / .347 / .483, 81 RBI
C Johnny Estrada .302 / .328 /.444, 71 RBI
RF Geoff Jenkins .271 / .357 /.434, 70 RBI
3B Tony Graffanino/ Craig Counsell
LF Corey Hart .283 / OBP .328 /.468, 33 RBI
RHP Ben Sheets 6-7, 3.82
LHP Chris Capuano 11-12, 4.03
RHP Jeff Suppan 12-7, 4.12
RHP Claudio Vargas 12-10, 4.83
RHP Dave Bush 12-11, 4.41
CL Francisco Cordero, 22 SV, 3.70