Brewers' Rickie Weeks Mired Again in Early Season Slump
While finding his way to a lowly .169 batting average, Weeks’ teammates helped overshadow the second baseman’s early season slump by making history.
Never before in major league history has a team started a season 2-8 and then risen to 11-8. One team, the 1977 Yankees, started 2-8 and then fought back to 8-8. They lost their 17th game, but ultimately went on to win the World Series.
With the Brewers and their fans riding historical highs, it would take an extremely negative attitude to complain about the team's current fortunes. There's also probably no one that feels worse about the Brewers' lack of offensive production at second base than Weeks.
That being said it seems negligent to ignore his performance deficiencies.
Weeks might be best known for his silence. He goes to work day in and day out with the same workman-like attitude. This type of blue-collar approach has always been well-respected in Milwaukee.
It's this type of class that make Rickie's recent struggles at the plate so difficult for many fans to point fingers in his direction. It's also likely why the organization is doing so much to ensure it gives him every opportunity to regain his previous form.
This organizational support was clear a couple days ago when manager Ron Roenicke announced he was shuffling the team's lineup on Monday night against the San Diego Padres. The shock was that instead on benching Weeks, Roenicke announced that it would be Norichika Aoki getting the night off.
If Weeks doesn't improve at the plate, when would you bench him?
Although batting a respectable .260 on the year, Aoki had been struggling through a rough patch in the last couple series. However, benching Aoki in favor of Weeks seems comparable to complaining about a clog in the kitchen sink during a house fire.
Roenicke can't honestly believe he's fooling anyone with regard to which Brewer is struggling the most in 2013.
The reality is that Weeks is being paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million this season, among the top few salaries on the team. Because of that fact, the team is being deliberate in its approach to Weeks on and off the field.
Given the investment they have in Weeks, the Brewers can't easily move him to the bench or the minors. Even if his production warrants it.
Along those lines, the Brewers seem hesitant to single him out for his deficiencies, clearly not wanting to put any additional pressure on the player. Following the team through its closest media partners doesn't exactly reveal the depth of Weeks' struggles either.
According to Tom Haudricourt at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Roenicke said about the recent series with the Chicago Cubs, "Our Nos. 1, 3, 4 (Aoki, Braun and Weeks) really didn’t swing it well.” This was part of Roenicke’s explanation regarding his decision to bench Aoki for one game against the Padres and may indicate the team’s broader strategy of trying to lump Weeks together with other struggling players.
As if to suggest the situation regarding Weeks and his outsized contract isn’t unique.
Although Aoki and Braun might have struggled during that particular series against the Cubs, it doesn’t seem fair to lump players hitting more than .250 with a guy hitting closer to .150. There are different degrees of futility, right?
Unfortunately, Rickie's recent offensive struggles are all-too-familiar from last year. In fact, more of a mirror image from last year—especially during the first half of the season.
With the Brewers on a winning streak, it's easy for the team to overlook an extended slump by one of its favorite sons. However, should the team stumble again for a long period of time, the bright lights and tough questions will once again lock in on the struggling second baseman. Especially if he doesn't right the ship in the near future.
Complicating the situation is the fact that the Brewers have another second baseman in their minor league system that's hitting well. Scooter Gennett, playing second at AAA Nashville, has already accumulated a .386 batting average at that level. This comes on the heels of an impressive 2012 season.
Weeks might well kick his slump and re-emerge as the player many in Milwaukee believe he can still be. With the Brewers piling up wins recently, there isn't much immediate need to tinker with what looks to be enviable team chemistry.
However, should the Brewers' fortunes turn, it might be advisable for the team to make the hard, but necessary adjustments. Just as it did in swapping Jim Henderson for John Axford and Hiram Burgos for Mike Fiers.
The next swap could be Weeks for Gennett or even Yuniesky Betancourt. Another option would be moving him further back in the order once Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart return from injury.
If either change does occur, don't shed too many tears for Rickie. A player with his class probably wants what's best for the team, too.
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