This season, I am trapped in the land of breweries, cheeseheads, Robin Yount and Bob Uecker. Welcome to Milwaukee baseball! Honestly, I like drinking the Old Milwaukee. I've grown fond of yellow-mustached mascot Bernie Brewer and his celebratory slide after each hometown homer. I've placed bets on the Sausage Race (as of May 16, Italian Sausage and Polish Sausage are tied with five wins each; Hot Dog and Chorizo each have four; and poor Bratwurst has one).
How did I get into this predicament? It started when I kept superstar Ryan Braun in my 14-team keeper league, a no-brain decision. Then things got out of hand. I drafted strikeout artist Yovani Gallardo, settled for the injury-prone Rickie Weeks after all the top second basemen came off the board, grabbed lefty starter Randy Wolf in the 17th round and took a flier on outfielder Corey Hart in the 20th round. Before I knew it, I had become an honorary member of the Brew Crew.
For two months, I've been immersed in 40 years of Brewers history. I've felt the highs: owner Allan "Bud" Selig moving the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in '70; Hank Aaron hitting his 755th homer in a Brewers uniform at County Stadium in '76; a World Series appearance in '82 (though they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games); the opening of Miller Park in '01; and many great moments from franchise legends Yount, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Jim Colborn and Rollie Fingers.
And I've felt the lows: 26 losing seasons, just three playoff berths, lots of Selig bashing, a deadly crane collapse during Miller Park's construction in '99 and the usual backseat to Wisconsin's more-beloved franchise, the Green Bay Packers. This season already looks doomed with the Brewers starting 23-34 and 10 games out of first place. The slogan for BrewCrewBall.com, a fan web site devoted to the team, says it all: "Where we're talking Milwaukee Brewers, no matter how bad it gets."
Still, my commitment to the team is paying off in fantasy terms. Braun has been solid in all categories (.314, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 11 SB) and Gallardo is pitching like an ace (6-2, 2.64 ERA, 77 K in 75 IP). Hart surprisingly leads the National League in homers (14) while Weeks has stayed healthy and produced (.251, 10 HR, 33 RBI in 56 games). Only Wolf has been sub-standard (4-5, 4.66 ERA, 1.582 WHIP in 73.1 innings) though he's still adjusting to a new ballpark.
Maybe it's the cheese talking but I'm willing to stack my entire team with Brewers, thus abandoning my usual rule of never putting all my fantasy eggs in one basket. I already made the mistake of not picking up 2B/3B Casey McGehee from the waiver wire in April and now he's among the NL leaders in RBIs (43). As for acquiring hefty vegan 1B Prince Fielder, his owner isn't biting on my low-ball offers.
I am probably setting myself up for failure with this Brew Crew strategy. However, I've learned if you are going to watch a mediocre team all season, you can't go wrong with beer and sausage races.
Three more Brewers to watch:
Alcides Escobar, SS -- An exciting defensive wizard, Escobar had a promising first year at the plate in '09 (.304 BA, .333 OBP in 125 AB). He has struggled out of the gate in '10 (.247 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI) but his plate discipline is good for a youngster (24 K / 12 BB)
Carlos Gomez, OF -- A major cog in the Twins' trade of Johan Santana to the Mets in '08, Gomez stole a career-high 33 bases his first season in Minnesota. Now with Milwaukee, he's still learning you first have to get on base (.292 career OBP) before you can steal a base.
John Axford, RP -- The 27-year-old righty is getting save opportunities while Trevor Hoffman's Hall-of-Fame career appears finished. Axford has four saves and a blistering 11.3 K/9 this season.