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6 Milwaukee Brewers Rebuilding began with a flurry of trades, but none yielded much instant help

March 27, 2000
March 27, 2000

Table of Contents
March 27, 2000

Baseball Preview 2000

6 Milwaukee Brewers Rebuilding began with a flurry of trades, but none yielded much instant help

It's hard to say which is the more daunting construction
project: Miller Park, the Brewers' half-finished stadium, or the
ball club itself. When Dean Taylor left his post as Braves
assistant general manager last September to succeed Sal Bando as
Milwaukee's G.M., he went from the equivalent of a gleaming,
high-rent office tower to a trash-strewn vacant lot. It wasn't
merely that the Brewers have had only two winning seasons in the
last 11 years. The organization's player development program was
also in disarray--only four of Milwaukee's 12 first-round picks
from 1989 to '97 are in the majors--and the franchise was
reeling from the accident last July that killed three
ironworkers at Miller and delayed the park's opening by at least
a year, to Opening Day, 2001.

This is an article from the March 27, 2000 issue Original Layout

To Taylor, however, the project has promise. "I see a lot of
similarities between the Braves of 1990 and the Brewers of
2000," says Taylor, who wears Atlanta's '91 National League
Championship ring engraved with the words worst to first. "They
were a last-place club, morale was low throughout the
organization, and we had to get the players to believe they
could win. We have a significant amount of retooling to do."

So Taylor grabbed a hard hat and shovel and set about a massive
rebuilding job. Over the winter he restaffed the scouting and
player development departments with 22 new faces and gutted the
roster by making six trades that, when all
players-to-be-named-later are named, will mean 12 new bodies
brought into the fold. Sent packing were third baseman Jeff
Cirillo and second baseman Fernando Vina, both All-Stars and fan
favorites; acquired were a bevy of (mostly young) pitchers and a
couple of experienced catchers, two areas that Taylor targeted
for immediate upgrading. "We had to determine which players were
most marketable," says Taylor of trading two of Milwaukee's few
name players. "The Cirillo deal got us two quality arms and
[28-year-old catcher Henry] Blanco, which filled a huge need."

Taylor also hired Davey Lopes--a 12-year major league coach
whose only managing experience consisted of two seasons in the
Arizona fall league--to run the show and create what Taylor
calls "a more structured, professional environment, which had
been lacking here." To that end Lopes has tightened up the
team's dress code while drilling the troops in his
characteristically blunt style. "I think there's a more
professional manner around here," says starter Steve Woodard.
"There's no bullcrap going on."

"I don't care what happened in the past," says Lopes. "All I
care about is how it will be as long as I'm in the seat."

His view from that perch is of a pitching staff in tatters.
Taylor's transactions left Lopes with not only an overhauled
rotation--Woodard is the only returning starter--but also one in
which nobody looks remotely like a future Glavine or Maddux.
Jamey Wright, 25, acquired in the Cirillo deal from Colorado,
was 25-33 with a 5.57 ERA (7.06 at Coors Field, 4.14 closer to
sea level) in four seasons there. He has the most promising
stuff of any starter, but he went down with a partially torn
rotator cuff on March 14 and will start the season on the
disabled list. The A's were willing to unload 27-year-old
righthander Jimmy Haynes for a minor leaguer and cash; righty
John Snyder, 25, was acquired from the White Sox after having
elbow surgery last September. Then there's veteran Jaime
Navarro, back with the Brewers after five years with the Cubs
and the White Sox. Navarro can't even use injury as an excuse
for his recent misery: During three seasons with the Sox, no
American League starter had more losses (43) or a higher ERA
(6.06).

Milwaukee's opponents stole bases on 80% of their attempts last
season, but walks shouldn't turn into instant doubles this year;
for the Rockies in '99, Blanco gunned down 39 of 98 would-be
thieves, almost 40% (fifth in the league). The hyperactive
Taylor left the outfield intact, and with good reason: It
anchors an offense that will score in double figures often
enough to get the sorry staff an occasional win. Geoff Jenkins
in left and Jeromy Burnitz in right combined for 54 home runs
and 185 RBIs in the third and fourth spots last year.
Centerfielder and leadoff hitter Marquis Grissom went on an
off-season workout binge to strengthen his chronically sore
hamstrings. "People don't care if you're hurt, they just want to
see you produce," says Grissom. "I learned that the hard way."

Taylor also signed free agent Jose Hernandez to replace Cirillo.
"We think he can give us power at third base, something this
club hasn't had," says Taylor. "That said, he's not going to hit
.326."

Nor will the Brewers be ready to compete in the NL Central
anytime soon, despite the protestations of Taylor. Even Lopes
admits, "Every building has a strong foundation. We have to
build that."

--S.C.

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA TROUBLE BREWING? Burnitz and his fellow outfielders will have to exert all their power to keep pitching-poor Milwaukee from getting blown outCOLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA

Around The Horn

OFFENSE
[3 1/2 stars]
DEFENSE
[1/2 stars]
STARTING PITCHING
[1/2 stars]
BULLPEN
[2 stars]
MANAGER
FIRST YEAR

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics (NL rank)

Batting average .273 (5)
Runs scored 815 (9)
Home runs 165 (12)

1999 record: 74-87 (fifth in NL Central)

Opponents' batting average .284 (14)
ERA 5.07 (14)
Fielding percentage .979 (9)

next up...

First baseman Kevin Barker is the rarest of breeds in the
Brewers' clubhouse: a homegrown product who rocketed through the
system. A third-round draft choice out of Virginia Tech in 1996,
Barker was the organization's minor league player of the year in
'99 after hitting 23 homers and driving in 87 runs at Triple A
Louisville. Called up in August, he hit .282 with three home
runs in 38 games--enough for the Brewers to hand Barker, 24, the
starting job this spring over veteran Sean Berry. "Kevin's a
tremendously hard worker, a throwback," says manager Davey
Lopes. "He just has to be careful not to pressure himself to hit
for power up here. He's improved at every level. The home runs
will come."

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Davey Lopes (first season with Milwaukee)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

CF Marquis Grissom R 135 .267 20 83 24
SS Mark Loretta R 253 .290 5 67 4
LF Geoff Jenkins L-R 115 .313 21 82 5
RF Jeromy Burnitz L-R 24 .270 33 103 7
3B Jose Hernandez[1] R 146 .266 19 62 11
1B Kevin Barker(R) L 175 .282 3 23 1
2B Ron Belliard R 274 .295 8 58 4
C Henry Blanco[1] R 285 .232 6 28 1

BENCH

C Tyler Houston*[1] L-R 337 .225 10 30 1
IF Luis Lopez[1] S-R 346 .212 2 13 1
IF Sean Berry R 357 .228 2 23 0
OF Mark Sweeney[1] L 362 .355 2 7 0
OF James Mouton[1] R 382 .262 2 13 6

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Steve Woodard 118 11 8 6.3 1.38 4.52
RH Jimmy Haynes[1] 181 7 12 5.4 1.68 6.34
RH Jamey Wright[1][2] 250 4 3 5.9 1.74 4.87
RH John Snyder[1] 198 9 12 5.2 1.67 6.68
RH Jaime Navarro[1] 281 8 13 5.6 1.73 6.09

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Bob Wickman 73 3 8 37 1.52 3.39
RH David Weathers 274 7 4 2 1.51 4.65
RH Curtis Leskanic[1] 293 6 2 0 1.60 5.08
RH Juan Acevedo[1] 317 6 8 4 1.59 5.89
RH Jason Bere 320 5 0 0 1.94 6.08
LH Matt T. Williams(R)[1][3] 336 0 2 0 1.24 3.86

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Combined AL and NL stats
[2]Will begin season on DL
[3]Triple A stats

the book
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Brewers

Davey Lopes waited a long time to get a big league managing job.
Now that he has one, he doesn't have a good team at all.... When
Steve Woodard is your No. 1 pitcher, you're in trouble. Woodard
is not bad, it's just that he's not a No. 1.... Bob Wickman and
David Weathers are reliable relievers, and I like Rocky
Coppinger's stuff. But like the rotation, the bullpen is short
on lefthanders.... The Brewers have a good offense, especially
in the outfield. They should stop platooning Geoff Jenkins in
leftfield and let him get 500 at bats. He's a fearless hitter
and plays hard every day.... Third baseman Jose Hernandez looked
bad at the plate at the end of last season with Atlanta. It will
be interesting to see if he bounces back.... Second baseman Ron
Belliard is recovering from a dislocated thumb. Maybe he'll use
the time to get in shape. After one season in the big leagues he
showed up at camp 20 pounds overweight, and if he's not careful,
his career could slide downhill like Carlos Baerga's.