Week three of the MLB season is in the books and the Brewers continue their battle to remain relevant in the most competitive division in baseball. I got to watch a couple games from start to finish this week, including a nice solo trip to Miller Park on Thursday afternoon. Here’s your weekly quick-takes.
The addition of restaurant sponsored concession stands at Miller Park really is a game changer
Now I’m not here to make anyone angry with these comments, but I’ve just never been a popcorn and brat kind of a guy. A couple of years ago, local restaurants started opening pop-up stands at Miller Park; but it wasn’t until this year that I started to wander as opposed to waiting in line for my hot dog. On Opening Day, I finally took the plunge and stepped into the AJ Bombers tent located on the first base side in the lower level terrace: it was a game changer.
Predictably, the prices are outrageous, but that’s par for the course at a professional sporting event. Still, for a couple of bucks more than what you’d spend at a normal stand, you can feast on the same Milwaukee Burger that made AJ Bomber’s famous on Water Street. What solidified my status as a returning customer were the Buffalo Chicken and Kansas City BBQ egg rolls, which are exactly what they sound like: cheese, meat, and sauce wrapped in a flaky won-ton and fried to perfection. To get an order of both and a beer will run you $20, but so will a brat and two beers anywhere else in the stadium.
As “fast casual” chains like Panera and Chipotle start to challenge McDonalds and Taco Bell outside the walls of Miller Park, I hope that the popularity of these local, pop-up restaurants continues to put the pressure on professional sports venues to up their concession game. A $5 brat should be the best damn sausage in the world, and yet I continually find better food in the parking lot. If they don’t improve the food quality, at the very least, they should lower their concession prices so they can better compete. Only time (and macroeconomics) will tell.
Ryan Braun might just be back
Last week, I wrote about how the individual performances of Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy may be more important than the wins and losses of the team. I stand by that point, and am elated to see Braun performing at a level comparable to his MVP season in 2011.
Braun’s numbers thus far have been outstanding. His .364 batting average ranks 4th in the NL, as do his 15 RBIs – he’s also hit 5 home runs. For the first time in years, Braun appears to be healthy; he’s stopped the defensive swings that we’ve seen from him over the past two years, as his injuries caused him to compensate and limited his ability to swing freely. Knock on wood, but those swings seem to be gone, and Braun is crushing the ball to all fields this year. It almost makes me want to dust off the old #8 jersey that’s assumed a permanent position in the back corner of my closet.
While many Brewers fans may not care for Braun because of his antics during the PED scandal, I don’t think MLB general managers could care less now that we’re nearly three years removed from the whole ordeal. If Braun is healthy and hitting like he’s been hitting, I promise you the Brewers are fielding phone calls from some of the richer clubs. Dealing Braun would be a MASSIVE win for this team. It’s honestly the single event I am cheering for the most this season. The Brewers have $100 million dollars committed to Braun over the next five years; to put even some of that back in the bank and get a prospect or two would do a lot to position this team for success in the next 3-5 years.
The Brewers should probably be a lot worse than 8-11
To say the Brewers’ starting pitching has been dismal would be an understatement. Entering play today, Brewer’s starters had a major league worst ERA of 6.22: you’re not going to win a lot of games that way. Earlier in the week, Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy concluded that this staff is statistically among the worst in Brewer’s history, and that was before the Brewers lost 8-1 on Thursday afternoon.
You can look at this one of two ways. The more realistic way is that the Brewers can’t possibly continue winning at this rate while pitching this poorly. When the Brewers win, it’s because the bats are dominating the game. When the Brewers lose, it’s because they are down 5-0 before most people can even tune into the game! Big losses breed negativity; baseball players do not enjoy playing out games when they have little-to-no chance of coming back. Negativity breeds laziness, and we’ve seen it in the defensive gaffes in the later innings of these blowout losses. In a sport that has 162 games, laziness starts to linger. Momentum is a big part of this game, and it’s hard to tell hitters to simply “turn it on” after taking a 10-1 thrashing the day before. The Brewers are going to struggle mightily to find any sort of momentum if three of their five starting pitchers are simply not ready to be pitching at the major league level.
The other way to look at this situation is more positive. To get eight wins with a pitching staff this bad speaks volumes about the resiliency of the hitters and the focus of this coaching staff. Say what you want about momentum, focus, and laziness, but the Brewers have yet to get swept in a series, even though they’re losing games by an average of five runs. While the starting pitching will likely be the reason we see this team lose in bunches, I’m pleased that this club still finds ways to win games despite being out of so many of them.