Wednesday, October 12, 2005

WisBiz In-Depth: Brewers profit from break-even season

By Gregg Hoffmann

MILWAUKEE – Breaking even on the field has led to a profit for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005.

Although exact figures have not been released, the 2.2 million fans who went through the turnstiles at Miller Park this season did net the Brewers a profit. The 81-81 mark – which broke a string of 12 losing seasons -- also has excited fans and should help the Brewers sell tickets over the winter.

“Witnessing this excitement were over 2.2 million fans at Miller Park—close to a 10 percent increase in attendance over last year and the third highest in team history,” owner Mark Attanasio said in a season-ending statement.

“With the profits from this turnout, we can increase Major League payroll next year, allocate additional resources to develop our Minor League players, and make improvements in the ballpark.”

The Brewers’ payroll was believed to be slightly over $40 million this season. Attanasio did not give an exact figure for next season, but many speculate the team could get closer to $50 million.

Attanasio has said any increases in payroll will be justified from “a baseball standpoint,” not just a business standpoint.

Some of the payroll increase will come from keeping current players. The club is expected to pick up outfielder Carlos Lee’s option, said to be around $8.5 million. Other players who had good years will be up for a raise.

Most observers also expect the Brewers to pursue at least one starting pitcher, perhaps through free agency or a trade of first baseman Lyle Overbay.

Attanasio also said he wants to keep upgrading the overall entertainment experience at Miller Park. “As part of our ‘Best Practices’ study, I visited 11 other Major League ballparks this season and found that the fan experience at Miller Park was comparable to any,” he said. “Sports Illustrated confirmed this by recently naming the Brewers as the "Best Fan Value" in Major League Baseball. I am committed to keeping it that way.”

Some repair to the roof structure is scheduled for this off-season. Improvements to concession areas, sound systems and other amenities also are expected.

Attanasio made points with the fans by giving away tickets to the last home game on Sept. 29. A total of 30,000 tickets were given away, even though the attendance at the game was around 27,000.

There are other signs that Attanasio intends to keep momentum building on several fronts. FSN North, which carries Brewers’ games, likely will expand the number of games it shows next season. The network showed the minimum of 115 games this year, but Attanasio reportedly has pushed for more in 2006.

The club also has brought aboard a new vice-president of communications, Tyler Barnes, and vice-president of corporate marketing, Tom Hecht.

On Oct. 5, Milwaukee Admirals President Jon Greenberg, the former media relations director of the Brewers, announced that the Admirals and Brewers organizations had agreed upon a corporate partnership deal for the 2005-06 season.

In the deal, the Brewers will be the official jersey sponsor of the Admirals uniforms and will have a Brewers logo on the sweaters for all AHL regular season games as well as all Calder Cup Playoff games. Also included in the deal is dasher board advertising for the Brewers as well as an advertisement in the Admirals Official Souvenir Program and radio ads during the Ads' game broadcasts.

"We are excited to have the Brewers as our exclusive Admirals uniform sponsor," said Greenberg. "This 'outside-the-box' concept is unique within professional sports and a great opportunity for both the Brewers and the Admirals to share our branding throughout the country."

The deal is believed to be the first time a team from one of the four major professional sports has been the official jersey sponsor for another professional sports franchise.

"This is a creative opportunity to market the Brewers through an initiative that is new to the industry," said Brewers Executive Vice President - Business Operations Rick Schlesinger. "We already have very strong synergies with the Admirals and we see this as an extension of our efforts to work together to benefit both organizations."

Attanasio, Brewers’ board member Harris Turer, assistant GM Gordon Ash, pitcher Ben Sheets and others with Brewers’ ties also are investors in the Admirals.

An admitted devout baseball fan, Attanasio almost gushed about his first season as owner in an open letter to the fans. “Wow, what a season! It seems as if just yesterday, I greeted the team at the opening of Spring Training in Maryvale, Arizona.,” he wrote.

“With the hope that spring brings, I eagerly awaited the start of the baseball season having several goals in mind: to create a winning culture on a team that had suffered through 12 losing seasons; to establish a ‘Best Practices’ standard so that uniformly excellent business operations could fund a perennially competitive team; to develop relationships with the players, management, and employees of the organization; to provide our fans with the optimal experience at Miller Park; and to remember throughout all of this to have fun. I believed we could make tangible progress in these areas this year, and that improvements in the typical objective measurements of the team's success—wins and losses, profitability, and attendance—would follow.”

Attanasio also is an experienced businessman, who does his research and conducts quantifiable studies. “Through constant statistical updates, I learned that the Brewers are blessed with strong management on both the baseball and business sides,” he said. “Virtually everyone in the organization has an outstanding work ethic, wants to succeed, and is willing and happy to do whatever it takes to be a winner.”

The baseball operations management team was singled out by Attanasio. “Importantly, our players formed a cohesive clubhouse where they were supportive of each other, giving us terrific chemistry and a foundation for the future,” he wrote in the open letter.

“General Manager Doug Melvin, Manager Ned Yost, and Assistant General Manager Gord Ash—as well as our dedicated coaches—provided leadership, direction, and a steady hand to guide our talented ballplayers, veterans and rookies alike.”

Attanasio gushed again in his closing statements of the open letter:

”This, my rookie year as the Brewers' principal owner, would not have been as successful without the enormous support of the community, our sponsors and marketing partners, and our employees. However, my most heartfelt thanks are reserved for you, the greatest fans anywhere, for welcoming my family and me to Milwaukee, encouraging my efforts to improve the team, and making home games such an electric experience throughout this breakthrough season. I look forward to seeing you on April 3, 2006 at Miller Park—our first home opener in a decade—against the Pirates, just 144 days from now.”

OK, so it's been a long, long time since I did anything to this blog....I've had things to do, sorry. If you haven't already noticed, and I'm sure most of you have, Drew Olson of the JS is a moron. So with that said, I'm going to re-answer his questions during a recent chat last week about the Brewers. Just look at how different the nimrod's answers are compared to a Hot Rod's version!!

Q: Mark of Oshkosh - Drew, I'm sure you'll get asked a lot about whether or not the Brewers should trade Overbay, and I am interested in hearing the answer; but my question is in regards to Corey Hart. In your opinion, could he be an everyday centerfielder next season, and if so, would Doug Melvin consider trading Brady Clark while he has good trade value?

A: Drew Olson - Mark - I think Hart may be headed for the Bill Hall utility role next season, moving around and seeing action in the outfield and maybe first base. I don't think the Brewers will trade Clark, because they don't have a viable candidate to replace him as the leadoff man. In an ideal world, I just don't see Corey Hart as a starting CF on a contending team.

A: Hot Rod - I think Corey Hart will actually get to see most of his ABs as a potential platoon partner w/Fielder at 1st base next year. There is no way he even sniffs an inning at 3B next year. For those of you that know me....Bone.....picture a right handed version of me at 3B -- not gonna happen. As far as CF, he can't be much worse than Clark is defensively.


Q: PJ of La Crosse - Drew, I enjoy your chats. There's been some talk about the possibility of bringing in Jarrod Washburn next year. 1) What do you think are the chances that he'll be a Brewer next year? 2)How big of a contract could he demand on the open market?

A: Drew Olson - PJ - Jarrod has made noise about wanting to come here, but his agent is Scott Boras so there won't be any "hometown'' discounts. I'm sure he'll be looking for three years at around $25 million or so. It's a thin crop of FA pitchers and Boras represents a few. If I had to guess, I'd say the Brewers will look elsewhere. Also remember that if the Angels do well in the post-season and Washburn helps, they may feel compelled to keep him around.

A: Hot Rod - I actually agree w/this answer. Plus, the Brewers will be in no position to add that much payroll either.


Q: Dale of Pleasant Prairie - Hey Drew, Thanks for the great Brewers coverage this year. Do you expect Jeff Cirillo to be back in a reserve role again next season? Also, do you know if Cirillo ever offered Damian Miller anything in an effort to get his old #26 jersey back before the season started?

A: Drew Olson - Dale - Thanks for the note. I think Cirillo will be back next year. He provides insurance at third and gives quality at-bats late in the game. As for the uni number, I think Jeff was just glad to have a jersey last spring period. I don't think he was worried about the number.

A: Hot Rod - Good answer....Cirillo should count his lucky stars that he was kept at the beginning of the year as the 4th thirdbaseman last year.


Q: Douglas of Milwaukee - Love your work man! Here is the question: Do you think Overbay will offer us some good trade oppurtunities? He wasnt that spectacular this year, but his semi-star status could maybe get us something decent. Also, which teams do you think would be intrested?

A: Drew Olson - Douglas - You've hit on the most important question facing the team this winter. Mark Attanasio has said, publicly and privately, that the he isn't stoked about trading Overbay. That could be a smokescreen. If they make it clear they're going to trade Lyle, it would depress his value. Put it this way, they will consider offers. As for suitors, look for the Mets, Red Sox and possibly Houston to show interest.

A: Hot Rod - Interested teams: Boston, Chicago, Minnesota, San Francisco, and NY Mets. Overbay will not net the Brewers very much, so don't expect a top flight starting pitcher. Look for a young catcher.


Q: Steve of Menomonee Falls - I heard the Brewers might have a payroll of $60 million next year... that is enough money to sign two second tier players. What do you think their focus will be? I was thinking third base but Bill Hall might be the answer. A starter and a catcher?

A: Drew Olson - Steve - I think the plan is to take the payroll closer to $50. Some of that will go to built-in raises. Damian Miller will be the catcher. They may change backups, but it won't be a big expense.

A: Hot Rod - Not a chance in hell payroll is at %60M...Moeller will be replaced at the backup catcher and Overbay plus a PTBNL will net a starting pitcher.


Q: Scott of Madison - What players that played mainly in the minors this year do you see as major leaguers next year?

A: Drew Olson - Scott - Prince Fielder, for one. Maybe Jeff Bennett, if he looks good in spring training. Helling is in that mix, too.

A: Hot Rod - Hello Drew!!! Perhaps Corey Hart, who you just stated would be the Bill Hall of '06? What about Jose Capellan?? Justin Lehr??


Q: Robert of Milwaukee - I enjoy your stories in the paper. Who on this team would you call the veteren leaders? I think leadership in the clubhouse is an important ingredient for a successful team (which I think this franchise has sorely lacked since the days of Robin etc).

A: Drew Olson - Robert - There has been a void in this department. I think people look to Jenkins, because of his tenure w/ the team and contract. I think Cirillo adds some leadership. Down the road, I envision JJ Hardy becoming the point man. As his confidence grows, players will gravitate toward him.

A: Hot Rod - I don't think you can get a better leader than C LEE.


Q: D-List Fan of Madison - Hey Drew. Love the D-List. Who's your favorite co-host?

A: Drew Olson - Dan Needles and Bill Johnson are the regulars on the D-List, which can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon on Milwaukee's ESPN Radio 1510 days/1290 nights and Madison's Fox Sports Radio 100.5 FM. I'll have to go with them, because Jessica Alba hasn't been in studio ----- yet.

A: Hot Rod - I refuse to listen to such garbage. I've heard you spew untruthtitudes on Bob & Brian every week and want to strangle you.


Q: John of West Allis - Why was Rich Dauer let go? I understand Donnellys demise (terrible decisions on when and when not to send runners) but i thought Dauer was the reason for there great defensive positioning? what gives....

A: Drew Olson - John - Something happened between Dauer and Ned Yost. Maybe it was related to the fact that Rickie Weeks didn't show marked improvement despite Dauer's tutoring. I thought Donnelly was exceptional at third base. If a 3B Coach doesn't get guys thrown out occasionally, he's not taking enough chances. I think the Brewers just wanted to shake things up a bit.

A: Hot Rod - From what I've heard, Dauer wasn't even responsible for coming up w/the alien defense, it was Doug Melvin. Dauer just told players where to go. Hell, I can do that after looking at charts. He also was a grumpy old man whose attitude did not mesh w/the up and coming youngsters. So that's what happened, Drew. In terms of Donnelly, he's Leyland's right hand man and will end up on the Tigers. He could have actually asked to have not been retained for all I know.


Q: Bill of Shorewood - Other than worried about making Ben Sheets angry, is there any logical reason for the Brewers to keep Chad Moeller, his performance has been very Ueckerisq?

A: Drew Olson - Bill - The reason for keeping Moeller is that there aren't a lot of candidates to replace him. He's not much worse than GAry Bennett, Henry Blanco, Keith Osik, Paul Bako and the others who have been around here in recent years.

A: Hot Rod: - Moeller isn't THAT awful. Like the guy said, there just isn't anything out there that is better than Chad.


Q: Kyle of Detroit - Before I go ahead and drinking the Brewer Kool-Aid I want to get an objective opinion from yourself. Are the Brewers truly ready to make the leap to Wild Card contender or did they some players simply have career years this season (Clark, Cap, Hall, etc.) and they will once again be fighting for .500 next year?

A: Drew Olson - Kyle - I don't blame you for being guarded. But, there is more reason for optimism than there has been in years. I think you'll still see some growing pains and the playoff hunt may be a few years away, but they appear to be on the right track.

A: Hot Rod - I wouldn't worry about Clark, his numbers were right in line w/his career averages. Cappy's performance was not as solid as it initially looks -- sure, 18 wins was nice, but he had some great run support which helped to mask up other inefficincies. I would expect Hall to keep on the same track and improve at the plate as well as the field next year.


Q: Chris of Wauwatosa - Hiya Drew (Media Mogul), So is Frank Kremblas going to be the third base coach or the bench coach next year? Who do you think is a candidate to take the other open position?

A: Drew Olson - Chris - I don't know that Kremblas is a favorite, but he's a candidate. I think Ned may tap into the former Brewers pool (making the obligatory run at Yount and/or Molitor) and may have someone in mind from his Braves days.

A: Hot Rod - Kremblas takes one of those spots....Yount nor Molitor will take the other. Coaches are highered to be fired. Who wants to see Melvin fire Pauly or Robin? Not me.


Q: Tom of West Allis - Drew, with most of the brewers highly touted prospects like prince and rickie in the majors, who do you see in single A or double A ball that may help the brewers in a couple of years? Do Brewers have another impact player in the minors?

A: Drew Olson - Tom - That's a question for Tom Haudricourt or Jim Powell, but I would say keep an eye on Charlie Fermaint, Hernan Irribarren and Angel Salome - in addition to the injury guys like Mike Jones and Manny Parra.

A: Hot Rod - How can you not answer this, Drew? How about the last 2 1st round draft picks, Mark Rogers and Ryan Braun?? Rogers will be in A+ and Braun will be in AA. Just a pathetic attempt....


Q: Keith of Milwaukee - Hi Drew, Thanks for taking my question. I've heard a sportstalker recently say he thinks the Brewers should look at moving Hall to 2B and Weeks to 3B, since there are generally fewer fielding opportunities at 3B, and Weeks should have enough power at the plate to support such a move. What are your feelings on this? Do you know if the Brewers may be entertaining such a move?

A: Drew Olson - It's not out of the realm, Keith, but I think they're going to give Weeks every chance to play second. Many longtime fans may recall that Bill Hall was a pretty shaky fielder a couple years ago. I remember Jerry Royster getting back to basics with his throwing motion. Hall has made HUGE strides. If Weeks improves half as much, he'll be OK.

A: Hot Rod - If Weeks moves'll be to CF in a few years, not to 3B.


Q: Lisa of Sheboygan - I think Mike Maddux has been a miracle worker with the pitching staff. I hope the Brewers can hang onto him for a long time. Does he have aspirations of being a manager someday? Also - what's up with the goofy music they play at Miller Park every time he goes to the mound? Don't you think they could change that up once in a while?

A: Drew Olson - Lisa - I asked Mike about this. He's happy working with pitchers. Unlike Orel Hershiser, he appears to have no managerial aspirations. As for the music, that's controlled by the scoreboard guys. I haven't figured out what it is. Maybe our fellow chatters can help. It reminds me of the theme from the old "Emergency'' show.

A: Hot Rod - Ok....


Q: GB of West Allis - Drew, saw the line after your name "Brewers beat writer". Sorry to hear that, which Brewers beat you & how bad were you hurt?? Hope you recover soon. Good job on the D list by the way.

A: Drew Olson - GB - I was beat down for years by the likes of Chuckie Carr, Jeff Juden, Sid Roberson, Mike Potts, Marshall Boze, Sean Berry, Jim Rushford.... the list goes on and on.

A: Hot Rod - And sadly, those of us who read the JS Brewer's coverage have been beat down by your lack of thoroughness for years. You mock the Sean Berry's and Chuckie Carr's, when in essence, you are about as talented as they were. Sad.


Q: Squid of Milwaukee - Do you think the Brewers took a step back by firing Bench Coach Rich Dauer? His infield shifts/positioning were spectacular and took many hits away from opposing hitters. Do the Brewers have someone else in mind already (who?) that can also mull over the endless team reports like he could.

A: Drew Olson - Squid - I think Ned kept a copy of the charts, so it will be OK. The bench coach's main job is to be an extra set of eyes for the manager. "We should get Squid ready to pinch-hit,'' etc. He also serves as a buffer between the manager and players. It's a consigliere type relationship. They have to get along and put up with each other. Maybe Ned and Dauer just got sick of working in such close quarters. That happens sometimes. As for replacements, I'm sure they have some folks in mind..

A: Hot Rod - Geez, another great answer. Melvin was responsible for the alien defense!!! Interns gathered the data and analyzed it, not Dauer!! All he had to do was look at the computer print outs and tell Rickie, Billy, and JJ where to position themselves. Tough, real tough.


Q: Steve of Franklin - Hi Drew, What is the status of Ben Sheets injury, will he be ready for next year?

A: Drew Olson - Steve - There were concerns about Sheets last year as he came off back surgery, and there will be worries about his lat next spring. Word is that he'll be OK, but I think the injury will end his chances of pitching for the US in the World Cup - or whatever they're calling it.

A: Hot Rod - He'll be fine, end of story. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q: Jon of Madison - Drew, From what you've seen, do you think Fielder can handle the every day 1st base job defensively? I think he is ready offensively, but it worries me having Weeks and Fielder on the right side of the infield every game.

A: Drew Olson - Jon - I don't think Fielder will ever be gold glove caliber, but he won't be a total disaster.

A: Hot Rod - The only thing that even remotely worries me is Prince take throws at the base as he is not the tallest of targets. Remember, Overbay was no world beater over there either by letting routine grounder after grounder go through the wickets.


Q: Drew of Madison - Hey namesake, last year Melvin said that Sheets was the one untouchable on the roster. Do you still think Sheets is untouchable? Or might he be available considering he's yet to prove he can pitch a whole season without injury?

A: Drew Olson - If Doug Melvin said he wanted to trade Sheets, the phones at Miller Park would melt down. I don't think it will happen. Sheets is the type of guy teams look for.

A: Hot Rod - Ol' Number 15 ain't goin' nowhere.


Q: Otis of Orchard Falls - Hey Drew, how do those baseball rankings that you guys work up differ from the standings? Also, why is Uecker not on TV broadcasts? No offense to Daron and Bill, but the Ueck is a Hall of Famer and heck he's known as Mr. Brewer, right?

A: Drew Olson - Otis - Tom Haudricourt and I do the "power rankings'' based on how teams are playing of late. Sometimes, particularly late in the season, they do reflect the standings. As for Ueck on TV, I'm all for it. I think he'd be great. Maybe the Brewers should have Bob and Jim do two or three innings of TV a night and send Daron and Bill to the radio side. That could be cool. I just know that Ueck loves doing radio and he's one of the best.

A: Hot Rod - Tom and Drew throw darts at a board -- that's how that list is compiled. Ok, do you want to hear Daron and Bill do EVERY SINGLE GAME on the radio?? Not me, not now, not ever.


Q: Andy of Brew City - Drew, Who do think the team will use as their #5 starter next year? If not anyone currently on the team, do you think they'll make a trade for a #5 starting pitcher? Also do you think Ohka will remain #4? Off the subject, I have a wedding to attend this weekend, and i'll be sure to pass that zinger (the day I met my wife I finally realized what true happiness is.......) you told today on Bob and Brian onto the best man so he can use that in his speech. Keep up the good work.

A: Drew Olson - Andy - If Ohka is the NO. 5 starter, I think the Brewers will feel good about their rotation. I don't think they'll necessarily go out and seek a fifth starter. What you like to do is have a pool of five candidates and let them duke it out. As for the toast, feel free... "I didn't know what happiness was until I got married and started a family... by then it was too late!'' (CAUTION: That joke can be hazardous to your health. My wife, a saint for putting up with me and this crazy job, has heard that one before and usually laughs.. )

A: Hot Rod - I'm fine w/this.


Q: Smoove D of Milwaukee - Hi Drew- I read the JS interview with Mark Attanasio yesterday. He says he knows all the players and their families personally. Is that true or just a bunch of BS? Also, from what you've seen in other cities, how does he compare to other teams' owners when it comes to his relationship with the players and fans?

A: Drew Olson - Smoove - I'm not sure he has them over for dinner, but he talks to them when he sees them.

A: Hot Rod - As much as he's been around the team this year, I'd fully expect to be in the know of all the players and their immediate families if they are present.


Q: Jason of Athens - Drew, currently, who is the leading catching prospect in the Brewers' Minor Leagues? I know catching talent is extremely low all across MLB, but is there anyone in the Brewers' system that can add a bat behind Damian Miller, and perhaps take the reigns from him in a couple of years? Chad Moeller has a great rapport with the pitchers, but it has become obvious that the talent level of our backup catchers are waning. Is the Brewers' hope within the farm system, or is that weak as well? Thanks.

A: Drew Olson - Jason - The top names are Lou Palmisano and Angel Salome. Neither is close to prime time yet, though. It'll be Moeller or someone like him next year and maybe even in '07, the last year of Miller's deal.

A: Hot Rod - Coach -- Frank Kremblas. Catcher who could replace Moeller next year -- Mike Rivera from AAA Nashville.


Q: Devon Bach of Milwaukee - Drew, What is your opinion on the Brewers going after free agent AJ Burnett? If they did acquire someone of his starting pictching ability, would they move Rick Helling to the bullpen as a lefty reliever that can also spot start when necessary?

A: Drew Olson - Devon - I think Burnett will look for more $$ than the Brewers can or will offer. He'll also look for a team that is on the cusp of competing for a title. As for Helling, last I checked he was right-handed. That said, he's in the mix for a return as a swing guy. He threw the ball much better than I expected this year and is a gritty, old-school competitor and good guy to have on the staff.

A: Hot Rod - Burnett=not a chance in hell.


Q: Tim of Madison - If you could improve one aspect of the Brewers, what would it be? I would have to go with catcher, keeping Damian Miller as a backup. Any chance for them to get Ramon Hernandez of SD?

A: Drew Olson - Tim - I'd move the media parking lot closer to the press box and have La-Z-y Boy recliners up there, too. I don't know that catching is a big priority, but it may be. The backup catching carousel in MLB doesn't thrill anybody. How many teams aren't looking for a better backup?

A: Hot Rod - Classic jackass answer. Improve the pitching staff, particularily starters.


Q: Mike of Mount Pleasant - Hi Drew, I am thinking 86-76 for the Brewers next year, second place, and just falling short of the wildcard by a few games. How many wins do you see for the Crew in '06, if everyone stays healthy?

A: Drew Olson - Mike - It depends on what they do this winter. I don't make projections like that until the last week of spring training.

A: Hot Rod - Thanks for not even taking a stab....I like the 86 win projection and no wild card


Q: Kyle of Oak Creek - Nelson Cruz really surprized a lot of people last year in the minors. Where do you see him as a part of this team's future? Also I heard his arm is even better than Jenkin's, is that true?

A: Drew Olson - Kyle - I think Cruz is a potential stud who will make the Ginter trade look as lopsided as the Sexson deal (almost). He has a stronger arm than Sexson and some scouts tell me he has the wheels to play center. He's a guy to watch. He probably deserved to go to AAA out of camp this year, but they sent him to AA instead. They may do the same thing with him next year --- send him to Nashville out of camp and have him "earn'' his way up. They'll say "We love what you did, now do it again.'' He's not far way, though. Seems like a great kid who was a tremendous addition to Weeks-Hardy-Fielder, etc.

A: Hot Rod - He has a stronger arm than Sexson?? What?? When did Sexson start playing in the OF? He was a 26 yr old playing in AA, I sure as hell hope he would succeed there, as well as AAA. I don't expect much from Cruz at this point. Nothing really screams blue chip prospect to me.


Q: John of Austin, TX - Did you or Tom get any indication from the Brewers brass that they can get to the playoffs without upgrading 1B (i.e. Prince). While Overbay has been a fan favorite, he is definately not a star. Fielder will likely be a star, maybe not in 2006 but probably by 2007. In my opinion, the Brewers need a couple star (i.e. > 0.900 OPS) players to emerge to have a legit shot at the playoffs. Overbay, Jenkins, and Lee aren't it but Weeks and/or Fielder could be. A: Drew Olson - John - I don't think the Brewers are in "win now'' mode. They know it's a process - a gradual evolution. Now that they've won 81 games, the next step is to keep improving and try to win 85 or 86. Remember the Twins model - it took awhile for their core of guys to learn to win. IT might be the same way here, but the Brewers are mixing in some vets like Lee and Jenkins to speed the process. I agree that PRince is a potential star.

A: Hot Rod - What??? Did that even come close to remotely answering the question? NO, it did not. I couldn't agree more with you, John.


Q: Gary of Milwaukee - Why such a low grade (C-) for Wes Helms? He finished the season batting around .300, and had an exceptional average as a pinch-hitter. I'm surprised he wasn't used more as a starter as the season progressed, especially compared to Branyan.

A: Drew Olson - Gary - Tom and I split up the grades and Helms was one of his guys. I didn't have much problem with it, though. He was given a chance to win his job back, but couldn't. Hats off to Wes for not becoming a cancer and for continuing to be a productive pinch-hitter, but it's hard to say he exceeded expectations when we kind of expected him to be on the field more.

A: Hot Rod - Who the hell expected Helms to be on the field more? It was painfully clear that he was only on the roster from day 1 thanks in part to his large contract. He was never considered a starter at 3B, even from the start of Spring Training. He was given a role to do this year - pinch hit - and he was one of the top 2 or 3 in the entire league at it. That is not worthy of the C- grade he was given.


Q: Steve of La Crosse - Hey Drew. Haudricort's wrap-up column says Overbay will probably stay. What's he basing this on? Is it just his opinion, or has something new come up? The plan all along has been to make room for Prince once he's ready, and he clearly is.

A: Drew Olson - Steve - Management has said there is no compulsion to trade Overbay. If Overbay makes $3 million in arbitration, the Brewers will have two decent first baseman on the roster for $3.316 million. That's pretty good. We'll see how it plays out. Right now, the Brewers are saying they won't trade Overbay. But, they may be forced to say that in order to avoid depressing his value. Time will tell.

A: Hot Rod - Here's the deal...Brewers' management must have informed all staff, beat writers, anybody in the know, ect. that they will not trade Overbay. If they all come out and say he's good as gone, that will hurt his trade value and hamstring Melvin since other teams know he will be shipped out. End of story.


Q: David of Las Vegas - Other than Washburn, what starting pitchers might the Brewers target this off-season? Is there any chance that Ben Hendrickson returns to his 2004 AAA form?

A: Drew Olson - David - It's hard to say what free agents the Brewers will go after. I think they may look to get their pitchers through trades and even waivers. Doug Melvin has a pretty good record when it comes to dumpster diving, wouldn't you say? As for Hendrickson, I think time could be running out. He's a great kid, but I'd say the odds of him having a big impact on the staff are pretty long.

A: Hot Rod - I wouldn't expect any free agent signings for starting pitchers, I also wouldn't expect to see Lil' Ben get any meaningful playing time w/the Crew in the near future.