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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012

Firing Up the Stove

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Baseball's winter frenzy of player moves will soon be in full swing. And the "hot stove league" that discusses, debates and dissects those moves always has the burners going.

 

Frank: The Brewers have done a lot of subtracting lately. Farewell to Nyjer Morgan, Travis Ishikawa, Kameron Loe, Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez...

Artie: Although “K-Rod” may be returning to answer that domestic-violence charge in Waukesha County.

Frank: But they haven't yet cut their ties to another bullpen underachiever, Manny Parra.

Artie: They must think he could be a throw-in for some trade.

Frank: That makes sense. As my friend Matt Phillips said at our last hot-stove session at Paddy's Pub, “He's a left-hander with a pulse.”

Artie: Also a career ERA of 5.12 with a 1.645 WHIP. But he just turned 30, and at that age a lefty has another decade to knock around the majors. But I can't see the Brewers letting him go to salary arbitration in December. Of course, in another place he'll probably go from consistently infuriating to consistently reliable.

Frank: As we've always said, the ups and downs of relief pitchers are baffling—though usually not as incomprehensible as the Brewers' mass meltdown for six weeks in July and August.

Artie: Now it looks like John Axford, Jim Henderson and four or five question marks heading into Arizona in February. Who knows, the minor-league guys they've added, like Arcenio Leon and Michael Olmsted, could be on the upswing of their personal roller-coasters in 2013.

Frank: How about the starting rotation? The home-grown young arms—Mike Fiers, Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg—showed enough this year to be candidates to join Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. And if Chris Narveson makes it back from shoulder surgery, he's in the mix.

Artie: But there's hot-stove gab that Doug Melvin might go after a proven starter. One free agent mentioned is Ryan Dempster.

Frank: He won't come cheap, and Mark Attanasio says the plan is to reduce the payroll. Dempster made a cool $14 million this year, and though he had a 2.25 ERA for the Cubs in 16 starts, he more than doubled that to 5.09 in 12 starts after going to Texas.

Artie: Plus he'll turn 36 next year, and he must want a long-term deal. This has the aroma of “Soup” to me.

Frank: And Wolf Soup, at that, although Randy Wolf did have two decent years before getting released in August. Jeff Suppan, however, produced nothing but frustration for his $42 million in three-plus years.

Artie: There's something else. Of course Dempster looks good to the Brewers; he's 16-6 with a 2.65 ERA against them. But he's 124-124 and 4.33 overall, which means he's sub-.500 against everybody else!

Frank: Shades of December 2006 when they signed Suppan. At the time he was 12-2 against Milwaukee and 94-99 against everyone else.

Artie: And now he's 13-2 against the Crew, thanks to that five-inning luck-fest he had in San Diego last May.

Frank: The other big name attached to the Brewers is Josh Hamilton. Several sources say Milwaukee is the "best fit" for the talented but troubled outfielder, assuming he's done in Texas.

Artie: The reason, apparently, is that Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron was Hamilton's “accountability coach” in Texas—in charge of keeping him from reverting to substance abuse. But I can't see why Attanasio would pay what Hamilton seems to want, like $175 million over seven years.

Frank: Melvin told the Journal Sentinel, "We've got the connection with Johnny Narron, but we don't have the connection with U.S. Bank.” And in any case, the Brewers led the National League in runs and homers with no help from Hamilton.

Artie: Plus Carlos Gomez seems to have turned into a reasonably productive centerfielder, and Logan Schafer should be a pretty good backup next year. Hamilton will turn 32 in May, he's been getting hurt in recent years and his production really dropped down the stretch this year. A lot of this rumor stuff is that writers just need something to write.

Frank: Whatever keeps the hot stove smoking. One last topic: The league MVPs will be named this week. Should Ryan Braun be a repeat winner, and if he isn't, will his drug-test controversy be a factor?

Artie: Braun had terrific stats—.319 average, 41 homers, 112 RBI, after last year's .332, 33 and 111. But the Crew didn't make the playoffs this time, and that's often a big factor.

Frank: Buster Posey of the Giants looks like the MVP favorite with his league-leading .336, 24 homers and 103 RBI. Plus he's the likely comeback player of the year after that horrific injury in a home-plate collision last year. And his team won it all, although the MVP voting is done before the postseason.

Artie: An MVP can come from a bad team; Ernie Banks won twice in the ’50s with the Cubs. But I'd vote for Posey. He's a compelling story and he did win the batting crown. If he'd hit .280, maybe it would be different. But he's got the numbers.

Frank: I agree. We may never know how much Braun's drug-test mess affected the voting. He claims exoneration, but no one may ever know the real story about the positive test—partly because all of the parties want people to just “move on” and forget about it.

Artie: But the suspicion might always be there.

 

Unexpectedly Condensed

Frank: The weekend's competition turned out a little less extensive, thanks to a slippery basketball court.

Artie: Whose idea was it for Marquette and Ohio State to play their aircraft-carrier game in Charleston, S.C.? San Diego's a big Navy town; it's gotta have a carrier sitting around, along with a pretty strong chance that the nighttime temperature will be above the 40s, ain'a?

Frank: Apparently the threat of too much condensation was known the night before, but the person in charge of the event, who could have moved the game indoors, wasn't even on site until Friday. Anyway, MU's opener changed from a major test to a predictable romp at home against Colgate. The night before, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the Bucks almost grabbed a second straight win over the Celtics but faltered at the end. That made them 3-2; your impressions?

Artie: You can't really tell much after five games. But I can say I'm wondering why Drew Gooden hasn't been on the court for a single second.

Frank: He was in uniform for the first three games and inactive for the next two. Scott Skiles told the Journal Sentinel, “It's just the way we've decided to go,” with younger guys at power forward.

Artie: But not using him at all? Of course, who knows why Scowlin' Scott does things? They may be keeping Gooden out to avoid injury because they’re looking to trade him. Or somehow he may have made it into Skiles' well-populated doghouse.

Frank: Whatever the reason, it's odd to ignore a guy who averaged 13 points last season while forced to play out of position at center.

Artie: And a guy who's making almost $7 million this season. But that's Skiles for you.

Frank: The other big weekend news was Wisconsin's march through Indiana to a berth in the Big Ten title game. And I do mean march, as in 564 rushing yards.

Artie: Pretty impressive. Even the new starting quarterback, Curt Phillips, who's had all those knee injuries, ran for 68 yards. And the UW defense shut down the Hoosiers, who were No. 2 in the Big Ten in offensive yardage.

Frank: Now comes a true test against undefeated Ohio State at Camp Randall.

Artie: I'll take half of those 564 against the Buckeyes.

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