So, as I've mentioned previously, 2009 is scheduled to be Rickie Weeks' breakout year, for the third consecutive season. It could be the year when Corey Hart puts it all together and becomes a perennial All Star. It could be the year Dave Bush makes the transition from inning-eater to ace. It could be the year Manny Parra and Yovani Gallardo exchange their "young and talented" label for "franchise cornerstone."
There are a lot of cliches that normally go into predicting the keys for a season. Any pundit can tell you that the 2009 Brewers need to stay healthy, get big performances from their superstars and find production from unlikely sources and breakout performances. Certainly, health issues could derail this team, an MVP caliber season from Ryan Braun would propel it to the next level and a resurgence from Bill Hall or Jeff Suppan could provide a major boost. You could change a handful of names and the same would be true for all 30 teams.
So, with that said, here's a more unique factor that I think will play a large role in the fate of the 2009 Brewers: management. Ken Macha's ability to distribute opportunities, keep players fresh and supplant underachievers make him my key to the Brewers' successes in 2009.
Expectations are all over the map for several players expected to contribute to the 2009 team. Rickie Weeks could break out in 2009, but his career numbers are not impressive and he can be streaky. Corey Hart shows superstar potential but his .300 2008 OBP is much too low for a regular corner outfielder. Jeff Suppan has pitched very well in his last few starts this spring but his ERA has increased each of the last three seasons.
All of these players, and some others with a wide range of possible outcomes, have enough upside to warrant an opportunity to contribute to this team. But the Brewers have enough organizational depth to replace any of them if they don't.
If Bill Hall or Rickie Weeks fail to live up to expectations, Casey McGehee is capable of filling in at either position, and while he may not be an All Star, he's shown enough to be given a shot in that situation. If Corey Hart's approach at the plate doesn't improve, Brad Nelson's bat is big league ready and waiting for an opportunity. If Jeff Suppan can't get hitters out, Seth McClung, Chase Wright, Nick Green, Lindsay Gulin and Mark DiFelice will all be fighting for the opportunity to prove they can pitch league average innings.
Coming off the Yost era, Brewer fans have seen enough of a manager who will be stubborn and stick with his regulars at all costs. Macha's willingness to make a change could make a major difference for this team.