McCalvy breaks down Brewers in online chat

McCalvy breaks down Brewers in online chat

MLB.com Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy participated in a live Web chat with fans on Monday. During the chat, he answered questions about the team's struggling offense, the chances of free-agent-to-be right-hander Zack Greinke returning next season and the playing time of outfielder Norichika Aoki.

Adam McCalvy: Hi all, thanks for stopping by this morning. We'll get going shortly.

Adam McCalvy: OK, let's get started. I'm sure everyone is fired up after that terrific Brewers series in Atlanta.

champion_88: Are the Brewers going "all in" this year with the impending free-agent departures of Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Francisco Rodriguez?

Adam McCalvy: I posed that question to principal owner Mark Attanasio on the morning of Opening Day, and he said he is uncomfortable with the notion of "all in," that the long-term plan has always been to have success and then sustain it. But those are three key free agents, and with the news last week that talks had been tabled with Greinke, it sure looks like a key year.

minimeg: Do you think Greinke will be back next year?

Adam McCalvy: A month ago, I would have answered, "Absolutely." I believe Greinke when he says he's found a good fit in Milwaukee, and I know the team wants to lock him up to maximize the investment it made to get him. And there was such a clear framework in place from past deals for starting pitchers in the five-year, $80-plus million range.

Then came Matt Cain and the Giants, and though general manager Doug Melvin has stopped short of talking in detail about the effect on Greinke negotiations, you get the sense that just blew things up. All of a sudden, there was a new bar.

Logic says the Brewers' chances of re-signing Greinke get slimmer with each day he gets closer to free agency. But Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins have shown that it's not impossible to retain a player after he gets to the market. Greinke is a different kind of dude, and if he decides Milwaukee is the right fit, I could still see him staying.

hook42: What did the Crew ever get for Carlos Villanueva from Toronto?

Adam McCalvy: Cash. I'd have to go back to remember the exact circumstances of the deal.

champion_88: If the Brewers are 10 or so games out at the All-Star break, will the team go into rebuilding mode by trading Greinke, Marcum and Rodriguez for prospects at the Trade Deadline?

Adam McCalvy: Do you really see them 10 games out by the All-Star break, in this division? I'd be very surprised, given the parity of the top three teams in the National League Central. I promise you, the Brewers will not finish with the worst starters' ERA in the league. We are very much in "it's early" territory right now.

Even if they do manage to collapse, it is difficult to imagine the Brewers reverting to the old days of selling off. This team has drawn 3 million fans for three of the past four seasons, and is projecting another record year in 2012. It would be a very tough sell to those ticket holders if you start trading away your core players.

Just in time, the Brewers' John Steinmiller just sent an announcement that the team had sold it's 2 millionth ticket on the earliest date in club history. Miller Park attendance is one of the most remarkable stories in baseball over the past five years.

maxels: What do you think it would take for Aoki to get more starts? What are the long-term plans for him?

Adam McCalvy: This is a popular question among Brewers fans, it seems. I get the sense the team's strong preference is to use Aoki as he has been so far; as a pinch-hitter, in mid-game double switches and only as an occasional starter. He has been a pesky out so far.

But if Nyjer Morgan keeps slumping, I could see Aoki getting a shot. Ron Roenicke has shown in his brief tenure as manager a willingness to try different things. But let's not overreact too early -- Morgan was such an important cog for the Brewers last season, and he's going to be afforded the time he needs to get going at the plate.

RI_Brewer: Who is taking more of a leadership/mentoring role this year (since veterans like Craig Counsell are not on the team)?

Adam McCalvy: Rickie Weeks comes to mind. He's a very quiet guy, but I've seen him take a more prominent role with new guys like [Mat] Gamel. It's easy for some fans to get down on Weeks because he has a knack for getting injured, but he is a very impressive guy on and off the field.

djoctagone: Gamel's been OK thus far, certainly not mired in a slump like a number of teammates, and he's been getting ample playing time. Is he becoming relaxed and trusting of the Brewers that he has a long leash?

Adam McCalvy: That's certainly what Melvin and Roenicke hope. Melvin made clear as far back as November that Gamel would be the guy, and Roenicke spoke often in Spring Training that Gamel did not need to prove anything, he just had to play. It was interesting when Gamel told me near the end of spring that he believed he needed to produce to win a spot on the team; I think he was just being modest.

minimeg: Why won't [closer John] Axford get a haircut? He looks like a hippie.

Adam McCalvy: I think Axford himself was the one who described his look as "angry magician." Hey, if he has another lights-out season as the closer, I'm pretty sure the Brewers will let him do whatever he wants with his hair. The guy needs some save opportunities!

djoctagone: Where's Jay Gibbons?

Adam McCalvy: He was released during the final week of Spring Training. I'm not sure if he's hooked on somewhere else.

maxels: How has Johnny Narron's coaching style differed from [former hitting coach Dale] Sveum's? Are the players responding well to his coaching style?

Adam McCalvy: You've hit on a very interesting question. Narron is from the school of positive reinforcement, compared to Sveum's more "tell it like it is" approach. I give Dale and the Brewers a lot of credit for continuing their relationship after Sveum was passed over a couple of times for the managerial job, but it was probably time for both to start anew.

As for whether the players are responding to his style, let's see if they start hitting.

LuckyCo: Why not play Aoki more?

Adam McCalvy: Like I said before: Possible, but not yet. If you make that move and it doesn't work, you've buried both Aoki and Nyjer Morgan. Give Tony Plush a chance to get going -- doesn't he deserve that after what he did last season?

maxels: Is Mark Attanasio going to be able to sustain the kind of payroll the Brewers currently have if they continue to draw 3 million in attendance every year, or will they need increased TV revenue, as well?

Adam McCalvy: The attendance helps, but the game is more and more about television revenue. The Rangers, for example, have become a consistent contender thanks in no small part to their huge TV deal. Attanasio told The New York Times last year that the Brewers are getting a bump in revenue this season, but they are still way behind many of the big-market teams. It makes sustaining a nine-figure payroll very difficult, and I would not be surprised to see the Brewers dial back a bit in future seasons.

RI_Brewer: There was a lot of talk about [Ryan] Braun walking more this year because opposing pitchers no longer have to worry about [Prince] Fielder. Have you noticed any change yet in the way opposing teams pitch to Ryan?

Adam McCalvy: Perhaps the Pitch f/x experts can better bear this out, but I have not noticed a big difference in the way Braun is being pitched. And I think there is a high enough level of confidence in Aramis Ramirez (another "It's early" guy) and Corey Hart, that if opponents want to walk Braun, he'll let 'em. We need a much larger sample to form any conclusions about the impact of Fielder's departure.

hankejp: Hey Adam, when does Ron Roenicke look at possibly putting some other guys in to possibly boost the team batting average?

Adam McCalvy: Translation: Why doesn't Aoki play more? Because you're not going to replace Jonathan Lucroy, Gamel, Weeks, Carlos Gonzalez, Ramirez, Braun or Hart. That leaves center field as the one spot to make a change. Give Plush a chance.

maxels: How has the dynamic in the clubhouse changed when the brewers are playing the Cardinals with the departure of [Albert] Pujols, [Tony] La Russa and [Dave] Duncan? Is there less tension between the teams now?

Adam McCalvy: It sure seemed so in the opening series, didn't it? Corey Hart told me the Brewers actually like many of the Cardinals, so it appears things have diffused from last season. Bummer, because it gave all of us something to talk and write about.

roleplayer: Adam, with the way the team is hitting now, glad we don't see [Dodgers left-hander Clayton] Kershaw!

Adam McCalvy: Yeah, instead they see Chad Billingsley (2-0, 0.63 ERA) in tomorrow's series opener at Miller Park and Aaron Harang (struck out nine batters in a row in his last start) in the finale. They'll draw former Brewer Chris Capuano in the middle game, and it could be interesting. Some Brewers were furious with the Cappy pitch behind Ryan Braun's knees when the teams played at Camelback Ranch last month, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Adam McCalvy: With that, we'll call it a chat. Thanks to everyone for stopping by!