Just two years ago Corey Hart was an All-Star and the most popular Brewer player behind Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.
Hart has proven how quickly things can change in baseball.
Entering the 2010 season, Hart is coming off an injury filled season that saw a significant dip in most offensive categories. He's also had his battles in the media, criticizing the fan base several times.
Hart made the All-Star game in 2008 as the final member thanks to the fan vote.
The problems for Hart started after the All-Star game, as his production began to slip and he became unreliable at the plate.
He also made news when telling reporters it was easier for the Brewers to play on the road due to the immense pressure the team felt playing at home in the middle of their playoff push. Hart again bemoaned the fanbase last year, complaining of the boos he was hearing due to his poor play.
Somehow Hart forgot he played a game in which the fans paid his salary and had the right to boo him.
The boos only intensified with Hart's poor play. Missing five weeks from an emergency appendectomy didn't help his cause either.
Hart's battle with the fans came to a climax this past winter when he asked for and received a significant raise in arbitration despite his fall in production and injury.
After the arbitration hearing, Hart began to mend fences between himself and the fans. He apologized for his past quotes in the media and said he was as frustrated as anyone with his drop-off in production. He promised a turnaround in 2010, and he hoped that would win back the fans' adoration.
Hart will turn 28 next week, and to be fair, his number weren't as bad as some fans think. He was asked to become more disciplined at the plate, which caused a dip in his power numbers.
He posted a career-high in walks despite playing in only 115 games. The Brewers are now hoping to see a return of power for Hart since he has learned more plate discipline.
It was also discovered that Hart had some vision problems. He was fitted for special eye wear for games, but he hasn't become comfortable enough with it to wear during any games yet.
Manager Ken Macha has yet to decided where Hart will hit in the Brewers' lineup this season. He spent time hitting second, fifth, and sixth last year.
Slotting him behind Rickie Weeks and ahead of Ryan Braun would be ideal if he can continue to improve his on-base percentage. If not, he could be moved behind Fielder to protect the Brewers' top slugger if Casey McGehee falters at all.
No one doubts Hart's ability. You don't hit 20-plus home runs and steal 20-plus bases back-to-back years by accident. The talent is there to be a perennial All-Star, especially since he is hitting in the same lineup as Braun and Fielder.
Ironically enough, the biggest question in Hart's game is his heart. He may indeed have one, but he doesn't always play with it on the field. Someone with his talent just needs to relax, have fun, and enjoy playing the game.
Brewer fans should expect a return of the Corey Hart they saw in 2008 and the first half of 2009. He's far too talented to continue the below average play he's shown since.
Hart seems to have changed his attitude, and his numbers should reflect that. A third 20/20 season in four years would go a long way toward turning Hart back into a fan favorite.
Look for Hart's average to hover around .280 all season. His newly acquired plate discipline should keep his on-base percentage around .340 or .350. His slugging will be key. He'll still hit a lot of doubles and leg out several triples over the year, but the Brewers need at least 20 home runs to consider 2010 to be a successful season.
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