Opening Day is here.
I guess this means it's time for me to stop being a baby and get over the way last season ended. This would be easy if it wasn't for the ___ ____Cardinals winning the ___ ____ World _______ Series and then (and then!) watching them open the season by winning without one of the greatest hitters (and __holes of all time) or their ___hole manager. The Cardinals are in first place right now and that is honestly the last thing I want to hear right now. I'd even rank it ahead of "I'm pregnant" and "Your herpes seemed to have evolved into some sort of super herpes." The Cardinals winning last night was a bigger downer than Daniel Bryan losing in 18 seconds, but....
It's a new season. A new day. Yesterday doesn't matter. Last season is nothing, but a page in the history books because the only thing that matters now is now because we can't change the past. Marty and Doc can't go back in time and make Shaun Marcum go on the DL before game 6. The only thing we can do in this life is move on from our past mistakes and do the very best we can in our present and future. That's why I stopped drinking vodka-Red Bulls. Yesterday is gone, the future is now and guess what? The Brewers are going to be pretty freakin' awesome this year. Our future is looking bright. So bright I gotta wear shades.
(I'm sorry. I had WWE Tickets to Wrestlemania and took a picture with the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and General Manager of Raw and Smackdown. I had to show you. Deal with it.)
The question that you may be asking yourself (or at least the one I want you to ask yourself for the purposes of my writing) is: Sure, they're going to be good this season, but how good? Better than last year?
I say yes. I say we are going to be so good that people are going to be fainting in the stands. I say we are going to kick so much ass that Bud Selig is going to have to quit his job because of all the favoritism accusations. I say that the Brewers are going to be so good this season that Brewers bloggers are going to be getting laid just for being Brewers bloggers. (Somewhere JP Breen and Jack Moore just high fived.) I say we are going to the ___ ____ World Series! And this is how we'll do it.
Oh my god we lost Prince what are we are going to do? We are so screwed! is what you might say if you didn't pay much attention to how baseball works. For the uninitiated I will quickly explain how baseball works.
The goal of baseball is to win games. You do this by scoring more runs than you give up. For a team to score a lot of runs they don't need to have superstars. Superstars help, sure, but the way that a team scores a lot of runs is to add up all the runs that the players on the field score. It doesn't matter what Prince Fielder does or did, it matters what a lineup with Prince Fielder in it did. The total of one through nine, everyday, that's all that matters and one through nine in 2012 will be a lot better than one through nine in 2011. Without Prince Fielder.
We've been through this before, but let's do it one more time.
C - Jon Lucroy: Getting better everyday.
1B - Mat Gamel: He's not Prince, but people smarter than me are predicting a Lyle Overbay-esque season. 15+ HRs, 35+ doubles, .800+ OPS. I will take that all day.
2B - Rickie Weeks: If healthy Rickie Weeks is the man. Last season Rickie Weeks missed 44 games and still hit 20 homeruns. If we can get 140-150 games out of him (a big if, but not impossible) then we are instantly better at second base than we were last year. Maybe even the best in the National League.
3B - Aramis Ramirez: Much, much better than Casey McGehee last season. Better than good-Casey from 2010 too.
SS - Alex Gonzalez: Better than Yuni, but much like Yuni his greatest strength at the plate is hitting homeruns and Miller Park is always good to people who hit home runs.
RF - Corey Hart: 130+ OPS two seasons in a row. I smell a third.
CF - Nyjer Morgan: Destroys righties.
CF -Norichika Aoki: Destroys lefties.
CF - Carlos Gomez: Is fast, owns a baseball bat.
LF - Ryan Braun: He's the defending MVP, he's healthy and he isn't missing 50 games due to a PED suspension. He's also "mad" which probably doesn't mean anything since he is always focused, but it makes a good story.
Yeah, I think this lineup is going to be just fine without Prince.
The story that I seemingly can't stop reading this preseason is the one about how Zack Greinke doesn't have a rib injury and that Zack Greinke is going to win the Cy Young. As much as I ragged on Zack Greinke last season (mostly because of his inability to pitch into the sixth or seventh inning) I can definitely see this being a thing that happens. This is what we wanted when he came here, this is what we felt he was capable of and hopefully it's something that he sets out to make happen. At the end of the day Zack Greinke is the only one who can make this happen. He has the talent, he has the stuff, all he needs is the focus. I want him to do it, but more than that I believe he can do it.
If he can't? Well, he can just repeat last season and we'll still have the rest of the guys. Yovani Gallardo is awesome. Shaun Marcum, despite those playoff games that we're not going to talk about anymore, was arguably the Brewers most reliable pitcher last season; Randy Wolf can hopefully remain ageless and Chris Narveson should continue to be solid. Worst case (non-injury) scenario? We have five solid pitchers who would be a #3 starter on just about any team in the majors. Best case? Zack Greinke wins the Cy Young and Yovani Gallardo starts the All-Star Game. I can handle that.
As for the bullpen, it should be one of the best in the majors due to Axford and K-Rod alone. Anyone else performing above expectations is just icing on the cake and Manny Parra being anything like he was that one time against the Cardinals would be the naked supermodel on the cake. I only have a few worries about the 2012 Brewers and the bullpen is not one of them.
Surprisingly strong. Aoki could be a better hitter than anyone on the bench last season, Kottaras will continue to be a sex machine and great hitting backup catcher, Ishikawa/Conrad should provide a little more pop than Kotsay did last year (added bonus: Conrad or Ishikawa will never be asked to play center in a playoff game) and Izturis should do well as long as he never has to bat.
So, remember last year when Roenicke didn't rest anyone for the last week of the season because he wanted that home field advantage in round one? Then the Cardinals beat the Phillies (the team Roenicke didn't want to play) and a tired Brewers team lost to the Cardinals in six games? Oh, and how he stubbornly started Shaun Marcum in game six despite the fact that Marcum looked clearly worn out and the Brewers absolutely needed to win. Oh, and also how he saved his best pitchers in the bullpen until after the game was out of hand in that same game 6. Yeah, I hope he doesn't do that again. I hope he learned his ___ _____ ____________ lesson from that.
I want to try and sound objective about the 2012 Brewers, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I like everything about them this year. Barring injury I don't know how they won't end up being better than they were last year and I would be truly shocked to see them not at least win one of the two Wild Card spots. Really I'll be surprised if we don't raise another NL Central flag this season. Much like the 2001 Mariners who lost Alex Rodriguez, I see the Brewers being a lot better without our superstar.
Beyond that I think if they enter the playoffs with a lineup like the one they will trot out on Opening Day then they have a lot better chance at succeeding in the playoffs than they did last year because it is a lot more balanced. Will they be able to score more runs than their opponents? It's hard to say, but the potential to shut everyone down is there.