I had a chance earlier in the week to exchange some questions with Kyle Lobner of Brew Crew Ball, and I managed—with considerable strain—to avoid asking five questions about how cool Norichika Aoki is. A more conventional post is set up for this afternoon, but as we get into the first routine series of the 2012 season—finally—here's where the Brewers stand in April, 2012:
In the wake of his big contract with Detroit does any part of the fanbase still regret failing to extend Prince Fielder?
Kyle: At the moment I'm not hearing much angst, but I think a portion of the fanbase will adjust their opinion via hindsight if the Brewer first basemen (Mat Gamel, most notably) struggle in 2012. There are massive shoes to fill at the position and some fans probably won't be satisfied (unfair as it might be) unless Gamel puts up numbers close to what Fielder would have put up in his place.
With that said, I think most rational Brewer fans recognize that giving Fielder $200+ million was never really an option. He was a franchise cornerstone for a long time, but this team is likely better off without him than they might have been with that contract.
Who's come out of Spring Training looking the best? The worst?
Three hitters really powered the Brewer offense this spring: Mat Gamel, Jonathan Lucroy and Alex Gonzalez. None are expected to be a focal point for the team this season but the fact that the three of them are capable of getting as hot as they were is encouraging. If nothing else, it creates the possibility that this team may still put runs on the board on days when their bigger names aren't producing.
Ryan Braun had a rough start to his spring offensively, but closed it out with a nice run to erase some doubts about his ability to live up to expectations this season without Fielder to protect him in the lineup. Corey Hart and Shaun Marcum are also question marks, as both missed most of camp due to injuries.
How's Shaun Marcum looked?
Marcum started the Brewers' final spring training game on Wednesday, but it was only his second appearance of the spring after some shoulder stiffnees kept him on the shelf for most of camp. Marcum won't be fully stretched out to start the season, but he should be able to throw something like 85 pitches in his first start against he Cubs on Monday.
Who or what are Brewers fans most worried about at this moment?
The bench infield situation is a bit of a mess right now: When Travis Ishikawa claimed the final bench spot it left exceptionally light-hitting Cesar Izturis as the only backup on the bench for second base, third base and shortstop. He's probably going to net a fair amount of playing time this season and there's a strong chance his contributions in this opportunities will be nearly entirely negative.
Beyond that, there's not a lot to be specifically afraid of. This is largely the same team that won a lot of games last year, so a lot of guys come into the season with high expectations.
If I were going to watch only one of the Brewers' new TV commercials, which one should it be?
My thanks to Kyle for setting this up—I'll link to my answers to his questions over at BCB when they're up.