Q: The bullpen lost Hawkins and Saito. Among guys like Manny Parra, Mike McClendon, Zach Braddock, Brandon Kintzler, Tim Dillard, Frankie de la Cruz etc who do you see as being a major part of the pen?
A: Hawkins and Saito, while effective were not quite as big a loss as one might think. I think Doug makes a move late in spring, maybe goes out and gets another arm. We have to see how guys like Dillard, Parra and Braddock look. The biggest thing is Doug will say “Ron do you trust this guy?” We are looking for someone in the 6th and 7th inning because we have the 8th and 9th locked up. As far as trying different roles and seeing what works, they did it with me. I started, I relieved, a saved a few games. You see a young kid with a great arm, you have to hang onto him and find out what he can do. I am confident the bullpen situation will work its way out.
Q: Aoki was recently signed to add depth to the outfield. What happens to guys like Gomez, Morgan, and Schafer this year?
A: What I think will be most interesting is how the attitudes in the clubhouse change if the Brewers start losing. Say they are a good 8-10 under by the end of June. .. It’s hard to gauge a player’s personality when the team is winning. When guys like Morgan and Gomez see their playing time and at bats dwindle do their true colors come out? Is there an issue with attitude, distractions, or a so called cancer in the clubhouse? If so, the team might trade one of these guys and Schafer comes up. He is a great player from everything I have heard and seen. I hope he stays healthy this year.
Q: The off season isn’t done yet. The Brewers have things to do and so do the rest of the teams in the division. How many wins are the Crew slated for at this point?
A: If Ryan Braun avoids a suspension and they have somebody who can step up and be a legitimate left handed bat, they win 85-87. With the loss of Prince and if they have Braun out for 50, they are battling for .500. I have heard of at least one sports talk person in town who says they are a legitimate playoff contender no matter what. I say no way. They gotta get it done on the field. You don’t win on paper. The Crew has lots of roster turnover (including three fourths of the infield) and question marks.
Q: Well let’s have a quick look at your thoughts on the teams in the Central Division as long as we are looking at the Brewers roster turnover and their projected fate this year.
A: The Cards obviously lost La Russa and Pujols, but look for Freese to have a great year. They have weapons like Furcal, Berkman and Wainwright. Having Wainwright back after he missed last season is huge. Dotel left, but they have a good closer in Motte, they got Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, and a nice young lefty in Marc Rzepczynski. Let’s not forget the Cardinals are World Series champs and they have some major contributors on this team returning.
The Cubs have Dale Sveum as a stud manager. I used to play with him. Theo Epstein and those boys saw how he handled baseball players. He’s going to be great. I really like Castro, and he fills the hole at 3rd. It will be interesting to see what they do with Soriano. They lost Carlos Pena, and I don’t see them keeping Fokudome.
Pirates, well they are always going to be there, they are continuously working and they are building and getting there….
Cincinnati has a stud closer in Ryan Madson. He is a big addition. They have some bats as well. There have been upgrades throughout the division.
The Astros are definitely looking for a new identity. They will be switching leagues after this season. I have known the Astros coaches for a while. Doug Brocail I played against. Bobby Meacham was a Double A manager when I was up with the big club in Pittsburgh so I saw him in spring. Dave Clark was a teammate of mine with the Pirates.
Houston is working on rebuilding right now. In the past they had guys like Oswalt, Berkman, even Brad Lidge who they have moved to try to build up the roster. They still are saddled with the contract of Carlos Lee, but they do have a nice pawn for a trade in Wandy Rodriguez. At this point, the team doesn’t have a chance of competing. They have to get it done in the draft and with the scouting department. We are talking about going to the bare bones and starting all over again. They have to scan and pick at the college level. Just think back in the day they had guys like Bagwell, Biggio, Caminiti, and Kile. They had good players and were competitive. Those days will come again, just not right now.
The Brewers? Well they made a big step by getting Ramirez. At least they had a plan (to replace some offense), but they sure didn’t plan on losing Braun. I think Lucroy is only getting better. Gamel gets a chance this year. Aoki is a solid stick but temporary. One thing I wonder about is how Rickie and Gonzalez are going to work together in the infield. I think Ryan Braun (and his ongoing PED saga) makes or breaks the team. Maybe K Rod leads to a trade. With a salary of $8 Million, it’s a tradeable number for a closer. We could net something; never know a stud or a number one prospect. Doug Melvin has certainly pulled off some effective and surprising acquisitions in the past.
Q: Finally, the Hall of Fame, just a few random names to toss at you....do they deserve to be in, yes or no?
A: Larkin yes, he is a stud, Palmeiro. Bonds and McGwire no, Bagwell yes, Tommy John should be in due to his longevity, Alan Trammell No, Lee Smith Yes, and Jack Morris Yes. I would have also put in Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines this year… other great players who could be considered later include Dale Murphy, Fred McGriff, Bernie Williams, and Don Mattingly.
Q: Alright Paul thanks for your time. It was a pleasure talking with you.