Milwaukee Brewers 2012: Will the 3B Curse End with Ramirez?
Even as a hardcore Brewers fan, I had trouble remembering names like Wes Helms and Tyler Houston.
Those guys played for the Brewers?
Here's a list of opening day third basemen from 2000-2007 that reads almost like a list of starting quarterbacks on moribund NFL teams.
Jose Hernandez (the Human K), Houston, Helms, Jeff Cirillo, Bill Hall and Craig Counsell.
This article takes a look at this position and the possibility that a curse may have been put on it over the last twelve years and particularly in recent years.
The slideshow of these recent Brewers' third basemen features either a profoundly manic fall from grace or in one case, a needed position switch to survive the curse as a rookie.
The Cubs have their well-known curse, and maybe Ramirez coming to Milwaukee means the two curses cancel each other out for the Brewers third base position to finally maintain effectiveness.
Bill Hall: From Team MVP to Ran out of Town
In 2005 and 2006 Bill Hall was a star player on a rebuilding team earning him team MVP.
Hall smacked 35 home runs in 2006 while batting .270. In 2005 he was hitting .291 as a full time starter.
The guy averaged 38 doubles over three seasons between 2005-2007.
As highly-touted prospects such as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun were about to become household names, many in Brewer-nation thought it was a great bonus that we had this veteran star in Bill Hall, a standout guy who could nurture the young guys development.
And in all fairness, Hall remained a stand-up teammate in all his time in Milwaukee.
That said, how did the man go from an all-out, top-tier slugger who could field multiple positions to a guy who struggled to barely bat .200 in his final 76 games with the Brewers in 2009?
Soon thereafter Hall floated between four other MLB teams as a utility man never to crack a .225 batting average throughout 2011.
It's quite possible Hall's downfall was one of the most drastic in the Brewers entire history and he may have been victim to what I am coining "the third base Brewer hangover" curse.
Ryan Braun as a Rookie Thirdbasemen
Now that Braun has been a star and appeared in all-star games as a left-fielder, few fans in the national audience recall that he came up as a third basemen.
While Braun's offensive outpouring earned him a rookie of the year trophy, it was clear as day that he wouldn't last as a third basemen.
Braun has immense talent and willingness to help his team at wherever he could (which ended up being left field) but he had some real issues that were beyond the "typical rookie learning curve" in the field.
In only 113 games, Braun managed to commit 26 errors as a rookie in 2007.
Now, as an all-around star who was recently among the top three vote-getters in the gold glove award as a left-fielder, it's hard to imagine Braun having any weaknesses.
But in 2007, perhaps just to prove he's human and not a superman from another planet, he failed at third.
Braun's position switch left another question mark at third for the future, where a surprise Cubs cut took over...
Casey McGehee, How the Mighty Casey Struck out in Bushville
As another underdog story of a high-character ballplayer much like Bill Hall, it's hard to root against Casey McGehee.
Enetering 2011, I was proud to say McGehee was one of my favorite players and still will root for him in on the division-rival, Pittsburgh Pirates.
McGehee went from not being worthy of the Cubs roster as he was cut towards the end of spring training in 2009 to a starting Brewers thirdbasemen who probably should have won rookie of the year.
In 116 games in 2009, McGehee had 16 home runs and was batting .301.
In 2010, Casey was a rock on a disappointing Ken Macha club, batting .285 with 23 homers and 38 doubles.
It should be noted that this unknown, underrated, waiver wire cut, led the team in RBIs in 2010 on a squad that featured all-star sluggers Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks.
What happened in 2011 was beyond mechanics, beyond explanation, only attributable to the hangover curse.
McGehee's slugging percentage fell by over 100 points in 2011 and is on-base plus slugging went from .801 in 2010 to .626 in 2011.
McGehee is a great clubhouse guy who also thanked Milwaukee fans in a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and I'm sure the majority of Brewer-nation wish him well in the future.
Another Interesting Twist: Mat Gamel
Mat Gamel was drafted to play third base.
Soon after arriving in his first Brewers spring camps, just about everyone realized it would take a miracle for Gamel to field the position. His arm was incredibly erratic and he arrived in camp overweight and out of shape on more than one occasion.
Today, some might attribute Gamel's position switch solely to the hole left at first by Prince Fielder's departure, but the truth is a bit more complicated than that.
For one, Gamel didn't want to make the switch initially.
In addition, he was already showing signs that he couldn't play third long before it was certain Fielder would be gone.
Is it Doug Melvin's draft strategy that focuses more on the offensive slugger than the fielder that is contributing to the curse at third?
Or is it just dumb luck?
2012 Hot Corner Preview: Can Aramis and Taylor Green Break the Curse?
As a 14-year vet whose solely played 3B, you can't find a more tried-and-true option at third than Aramis Ramirez.
Ramirez won't suddenly become a gold-glover or anything but his steady and powerful bat will certainly provide stability to the Brewers in 2012 without Fielder.
Furthermore, Ramirez's frame and experience makes him a slightly better defender than McGehee in terms of anticipation and throwing over to first base.
If Ramirez merely mimics his typical career averages, the Brewers will be very happy.
At 35 years of age however, the Brewers will continue to have to find a third base replacement in the coming years.
Taylor Green has shown immense production in the minors and seemed to fit in well as a reserve on the Brewers late-season roster. Time will only tell if Green's production in the minors can translate to MLB power and average while many in Brewers management remain high on Green.
Luckily for Green, if he earns a roster spot, he won't be thrust into a high-pressure position to adjust to MLB life so fast as he learns as a bench player behind a great hitter in Ramirez.
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