The Brewers' run to the playoffs was simply because they played as a team and never lost sight of the big picture. Any egos or attitude were left at home, and the team came together and battled the whole way through.
If the Brewers hope to see October baseball again, they will have to do the same thing. The Brewers will be without the services of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, which opens up a huge void.
Jeff Suppan will have to resurrect his career and pitch like the man that was NLCS MVP in 2006. The Brewers bullpen will also have to be lights out. Without Salomon Torres, Guillermo Mota, and Brian Shouse, the Brewers will have to get solid relief from their new acquisitions.
The Brewer bats will have to be hot all year round. Without CC and Sheets, the Brewers will have to win a lot of 8-7 and 10-9 games this year. They will not be able to afford slumps like they had last September. Corey Hart will need to be true to the form that made him an All-Star, and Rickie Weeks needs to finally come into his own.
Some of the biggest changes this offseason have been in the coaching. Ken Macha and Willie Randolph will have to press the right buttons and make good decisions. Their track record of division championships and playoff appearances makes these two look pretty good on paper, but they need to keep on the players.
Perhaps a no-nonsense type of manager like Macha is what this team needs. Ned Yost's flaw was his cuddling nature with the players. If a player needs to be benched, then so be it. In the course of a 162-game season, you only have so many opportunities to get the right combinations and players on the field. I hope Macha makes this known the first day of spring.
There will also need to be a watchful eye on Dale Sveum and Bill Castro, especially Castro, who will handle the pitching. I always felt that hitting coaches don't matter too much. All you can do if a hitter is slumping is to tell him to go out there and keep swinging.
When it comes to pitching, however, the Brewers have been very good the last few years. That was due in part to the never-ending work put in by Mike Maddux. I'm very hesitant to give this job to a man who has just hung out in the bullpen the last decade. He will have to produce, or he won't be around long enough to see 2010.
The Brewers can reach the playoffs, but it will be much harder. Offense can carry you only so far. The Brewers' pitching and defense will have to improve, and certain players will have to step up. If the Brewers do this, the champagne will flow again in '09.