Falling Weeks for the Milwaukee Brewers

Boris YovchevCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 10: Rickie Weeks #23 of the Milwaukee Brewers slides his hand onto home plate under the tag attempt of Koyie Hill #55 of the Chicago Cubs to score the winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning during the Opening Day game on April 10, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 4-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Here is a curveball at you.

For the Brewers, losing Rickie Weeks in 2009 is a bigger blow than losing Yovani Gallardo in 2008.

I know, at first it sounds outrageous.  How can anyone pretending to know anything about baseball say something so absurd? 

It is not possible that losing a pitcher of ace caliber can be less damaging than losing a second baseman, who throughout his entire career—minus the most recent couple of months—has been under-performing, is it? 

Before I defend my argument as to why I believe this former blasphemous sounding statement is true, I would like to clearly state my position.

I am not comparing the player Weeks to the player Gallardo. 

First, they play at different positions.  Second, Gallardo is an ace type pitcher and up to this point Weeks has been an average second baseman.  And good starting pitching is the winning recipe.

If I am building a new team, and I am given the opportunity to select only one of the two players, I will always opt for Yovani Gallardo.

But this is not a comparison contest.

It is also not simply about the individual player and his class.  It is something that requires a different perspective and consideration for the specific circumstances surrounding the loss of each player in that specific point in time.

I will now take you back to 2008 when Gallardo collided with Reed Johnson in an early season game at Wrigley Field.  When the news came out that Gallardo would miss the remainder of the 2008 season fans were immediately worried that the team's chances for making a postseason push were becoming very obscure.

That did not turn out to be the case for a couple of reasons. 

First, the Brewers still had Ben Sheets.  Second, the team had sufficient financial freedom to afford pursuing a high-profile player of CC Sabathia's caliber.

Let's face it.  Last year, the Brewers made the playoffs because they went and got CC Sabathia.  The team rode his hot hand into the postseason where Milwaukee had not been for more than 25 years. 

And now let's ask ourselves one question.  Would the Brewers have considered trading for Sabathia if Yovani Gallardo had not picked up an injury early in the season? 

I believe the answer to this is no, they would not have gone for Sabathia because on the surface it would have seemed as if the Brewers already had enough weapons to make a postseason push.

We can not speculate whether a healthy Gallardo in 2008 and the lack of Sabathia would have resulted in postseason play for the Crew.  But I have a hard time believing that Gallardo, this early in his career, would have been capable of matching the heroics CC provided.

In addition, in 2008, the team had excess of young talent in the minors.  After Gallardo's sidelining, Mark Attanasio had made it clear that if the Brewers were in the chase in early July, the team would pursue a quality player as a rental for the rest of the season in order to improve Milwaukee's chances of making the playoffs.

In other words, the principal owner of the team, in sync with the GM Doug Melvin, were ready to go for it, and the target was always a starting pitcher.

The acquisition of Ray Durham from San Francisco and the platoon role he fulfilled at second base leveraged the need for more prominent moves to patch the infield last season.

This year the Brewers were the hottest team in baseball until Rickie Weeks went down with what is believed to be a season ending wrist injury.

Immediately after losing Weeks, the team won two more games on cruise control to extend its winning streak. 

But the holes started to show. 

It quickly became evident that there isn't a player on the Brewers roster equipped to replace the early production of Rickie Weeks. No, I am not talking only about his team leading nine home runs, 24 RBI, and 28 runs scored at the point of his exit. I am talking about his entire game this season.

Outside of the slumping Corey Hart I am having extremely hard time recognizing a player who will be a successful leadoff hitter in the long term. 

Rickie Weeks came around to score about 50 percent of the time when he got on base.  No one else is even close to that number. 

And finally, there was visible improvement in Weeks's approach at the plate and in the field.  The game finally slowed down for Rickie who suddenly looked like one of the prime second basemen in the league.

Counsell and McGehee have been taking turns at 2B for the Brewers but the hole is apparent. 

The presence of Ben Sheets and the later arrival of CC Sabathia made people forget about Gallardo for a while.  I don't see how anyone will forget about Rickie Weeks this season. 

Even if the Brewers acquire a player to fill in the gap, they will not be looking for a long-term solution since they already have Weeks.  But acquiring a player would cost money and likely the loss of players from the farm system.

And the Brewers still need—and want—pitching help.  Yet, the financial resources this time around will be more limited. 

The team can not afford to fill in both holes in the same season.  This is the smallest market in baseball and eating extra expenses is simply impossible if the Brewers are to stay afloat.

This year the Brewers again announced their intentions of pursuing a high quality pitcher around the mid-point of the season—but only if the team was still in contention.

Are the likes of Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell going to be enough for the team to still be in the hunt by July?  The way things are going right now—especially with JJ Hardy also being sidelined—that seems questionable.

There are undoubtedly more limited financial resources in front of Attanasio and Melvin this year, and there are two big holes to fill. 

Circumstances dictate that the loss of Weeks may be the event that will tip the boat this year.  Gallardo's loss in 2008 only encouraged Melvin to pursue Sabathia ever so vigorously. 

Only time will tell if I am right or wrong, but losing Rickie Weeks was one of the worst things that could have happened to the Brewers this season.


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