Last week my wife and I were walking through the mall and I noticed a stand has already popped up selling 2014 calendars. 2014 is a long way away in my head, but I guess some people can never be too prepared.
As we walked past I noticed that they've already got 2014 Brewer calendars printed. I didn't pick one up (I probably should have) but it got me wondering: If you printed next year's calendar today, who would you put in there?
There are a handful of players I think you have to treat as near-givens at this point. Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy obviously make the cut, and I suppose you could make a case for Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada or Jim Henderson. Even taking all of those suggestions leaves six pages to fill, though, and presumably you can only use the Racing Sausages and Bernie Brewer to fill two more.
I have a 2013 Brewers calendar near my desk (unopened, oops). It has Lucroy, Gomez and Estrada, but also former Brewers John Axford and George Kottaras, injured current Brewers Rickie Weeks, Mat Gamel, Chris Narveson and Corey Hart, potential offseason trade bait Yovani Gallardo and Aramis Ramirez and disgraced superstar Ryan Braun.
So, if you were putting together a 2014 Brewers calendar, who would be inside? Here's my suggested lineup:
January: Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez is likely to be one of several Brewers to draw a lot of attention on the trade market this winter, so by getting his month out of the way early you eliminate some of the possibility that a midseason month will feature a player who was already traded or who has aged poorly and caused his contract to turn into an albatross.
February: Kyle Lohse. Like Ramirez, Lohse has the potential to be a cornerstone of the 2014 Brewers but could also have been traded months before you even put this calendar on your cubicle wall. Also like Ramirez, he has a strong chance to show his age next season and quickly shift public opinion on his value. Get his month over early.
March: Marco Estrada. "Who is the real Marco Estrada?" will probably show up on everyone's list of five burning questions for the Brewers next spring, and for good reason. Estrada has put himself back into the organization's good graces recently, but had a 5.32 ERA when he went on the shelf in June. Getting him onto a page before the games start to count lets us all focus on the positive.
April: Jean Segura. Get him out of the way in one of the year's early months to capitalize on one of the best career-opening campaigns in franchise history and avoid the risk that the .263/.296/.327 batting line he's posted in his last 65 games is a fair approximation of his future performance.
May: Jim Henderson. There's a strong chance the Brewers will replace Henderson in the closer role this winter and the ever-present possibility that he, like many other relievers, will turn back into a pumpkin at some point. Henderson will almost certainly be the most notable holdover from a pretty good 2013 bullpen, though, and his 2.19 ERA and 24 saves certainly merit some mention.
June: Yovani Gallardo. There's a big risk here, because Gallardo could be dealt over the winter and that'd make this whole month look pretty silly. Assuming he's still with the team, though, June has been Gallardo's best month (a 2.86 ERA with 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings over 29 appearances).
July: Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy was a .333/.388/.667 hitter this July, turning what had been a disappointing season into one of the best by an NL catcher. He probably (hopefully) won't be the Brewers' #3 hitter anymore when this calendar comes out, but he's a likeable long-term Brewer and that makes him an easy choice for a prime month.
August: Carlos Gomez. Like Lucroy, we're talking about a likeable long-term Brewer and one of the team's most recognizable faces that doesn't have an obvious drawback. Even if he has a down year in 2013, his back-to-back breakout campaigns in 2011 and 2012, his defense and his infectious energy will likely allow Gomez to remain a fan favorite.
September: The Racing Sausages. Obviously we're all hoping for more, but there's a strong chance the only relevant stretch run in Milwaukee next fall will feature the Hot Dog trying to pass Chorizo on the outside on a the final steps of a beautiful day's race.
October: Wily Peralta. While the depth of his role has yet to be determined, it's probably safe to assume that Peralta is a key part of this organization's future in 2014 and well beyond. By this point we're already starting to talk about 2015 Brewers, and Peralta is one of the best bets to be a key player on that team.
November: Bernie Brewer. There are probably a lot of changes facing this team over the coming year and a half, so let's take an opportunity here to highlight something that probably won't change: The Miller Park stadium experience. No matter how great or terrible the 2014 Brewers are, Bernie Brewer will still polka to Roll Out The Barrel and his slide will be just a home run away.
December: Ryan Braun. By this point we'll have passed a bunch of turning points in Braun's return from his season-ending suspension. We'll have seen him return to Maryvale and Miller Park for the first time. We'll probably have seen his sit-down interview where he tells his side of the story and expresses a desire to move forward. We'll have seen the boos in road ballparks fade from "Public Enemy #1" to "some guy we don't like."
Eventually it will all become normal. And in that new normal many of us will likely come to accept that Braun is still going to play half a dozen more seasons as a member of our favorite team, a team that is most certainly better with him than without him. That realization and acceptance will take time, though, so let's wait until the end of the year to count on it.
What do you think? Who's on your 2014 Brewer calendar?