We are coming up on the second weekend of the season, and the Brewers just finished their first homestand. It was a forgettable six games, as the Brewers went 2-4 against the Cubs and Reds. They now embark on a three-city, nine-game road trip that takes on added importance due to their lackluster effort in Miller Park.
Sure, the pitching struggled and at times looked more like something out of the movie Major League, as opposed to actual Major League pitchers.
A lot of the blame should fall on the Brewers' top two young stars, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They have both signed star contracts in the last year, and they both need to realize that expectations have now changed.
Braun is still slated to make under $1 million this season, but he is in the second year of his eight-year, $45 million contract. On the season, he is batting .212, with no home runs and only two runs batted in.
Many have speculated that Braun is still having issues with the intercostal muscle strain, but he has said numerous times that he is healthy. If he is healthy, then he needs to step his game up. If he is trying to hide the injury, he shouldn't. Take a few days off, and then come back when it feels better.
I would rather lose Braun for a few games every couple of weeks to rest than have him look horrible at the plate the way he has.
Fielder isn't much more productive than Braun at the moment. Although he has hit a home run and had another one robbed in the Cubs series, he has only knocked in six runs and is hitting .200. Fielder came up in three straight games with the bases loaded and could not come up with a big hit to help the club.
Fielder signed a two-year, $18 million deal this winter and showed up to Spring Training happy and in much better shape than the last couple seasons. It was thought that a happy Fielder would mean a Fielder that would mash the ball all over the field. We are all still waiting for the mashing to begin.
I have no doubt that both Braun and Fielder will both end the season with the numbers we all expect. Luckily, Rickie Weeks, Mike Cameron, and Corey Hart have all stepped up and had good starts to the season while Braun and Fielder struggle.
If the Brewers are going to repeat their 2008 success this season, Braun and Fielder must find their strokes sooner rather than later. This team can't afford a prolonged slump for either player, and an injury to either would be devastating for a 2009 playoff run.
They must shoulder a lot of burden and pressure for this team, but it's the price they pay for being the star players everyone thinks they are.