Harvey's Wallbangers are ancient history even though Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie and Jim Gantner are still around. The rebuilding program of general manager Harry Dalton is just starting to produce some new names for manager George Bamberger, and more reinforcements are expected to show up over the next two years.
But when Dalton says that "we should be .500 or better," he's dreaming. The Brewers' starting rotation features four pitchers with a total of one and a half year's major league experience. The bullpen begins with Ray Searage and ends with Mark Clear. The offense is a near lock to finish last in the AL in homers for the third straight year. (That hasn't happened for 21 years.)
Let's begin with the closers. The Brewers thought Rollie Fingers was through, so he was not asked back despite his staff-high 17 saves. Enter Clear, given away by Boston after only three saves in '85. His problem: control. He has walked 120 in 123 innings in the last two years. Clear's ERA this spring was 4.67. Searage, the lefthander, had a spring ERA of 3.60.
At least Bambi's starting pitchers make him smile. There's Teddy Higuera, 15-8 as a rookie (and 11-3 after May); Tim Leary, who seems over the physical problems and emotional traumas of his days with the Mets; Juan Nieves, a 21-year-old lefty with a 33-9 record in three years in the minors; and Bill Wegman, another rookie, who went 2-0 in three September starts with the adults.
The Brewers still have some offensive threats: Yount, Molitor and Cooper, who'll be back as the DH in mid-April. Surrounding Yount in the outfield will be two unknown quantities, rookie Mike Felder and big swinger Rob Deer. Billy Joe Robidoux, the rookie with the magical name, will be at first.
Bamberger was hoping Bill Schroeder could catch every day and hit 20 to 25 homers, but Schroeder's surgically repaired right elbow is acting up, and Rick Cerone, acquired from Atlanta, will catch on Opening Day. The Brewers do have help coming. They have this kid catcher named B.J. Surhoff...no, not yet. But wait till next year.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
Has a career rate of one HR every 12.6 at bats against lefthanders.
BILLY JOE ROBIDOUX
Lefthanded batter hit an astonishing .329 vs. lefties, .220 vs. righties.
George Bamberger thinks he's a great two-strike hitter; 54 times, though, he wasn't.
Mr. Bases-Empty Homer: Of his last 23 HRs, 22 have been solo shots.
One of two players with a decline of 10 or more points in BA each of last three years.
1985 LIP batting average with runners on base was .452, an increase of 306 points over '84.
Highest winning percentage in majors (.652) among pitchers for losing teams.
Career rate of 8.86 Ks per nine innings is 3rd among active pitchers; 6.33 walk rate highest.