Our guest this week is one of the most respected Brewers’ bloggers out there, Jim Breen.  Jim is the person behind Bernie’s Crew, which was part of the Sports Bubbler community and is now the flagship of the JSOnline Fan Blogs.  You may also know of Jim as he was the person who broke the story of the Brewers’ Zach Greinke trade, beating out all of the other media outlets. We cover a lot of ground with Jim so let’s find out what he thinks of the 2011 ‘Crew and more.

Take us down memory lane and share how Bernie’s Crew began and how you started blogging about the Brewers in general.

I began blogging about the Brewers back in 2008 as a personal hobby — a way to more closely follow the team and have an outlet for my borderline obsession. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked me to move my blog to SportsBubbler a few years ago, but when that went under, they invited me to move the site to the main JS site and add a couple of the other smart guys that were also on the Bubbler.

It is a bit hidden within the site, but we do our best to give the best Brewers coverage anywhere. And it seems we’re getting more and more noticed as time goes on, especially from larger media sites.

Simply have to ask this next question. You broke the news that Zack Greinke was being traded to the Brewers. How did a fan blogger happen to out-scoop the paid professionals who cover the team and other “old media” types?

Just a matter of making connections and treating everyone with respect. I was contacted about the trade about seven or eight hours prior to coming forward with the news and publishing it on the site and on Twitter, but spent the interim attempting to confirm the news. Once I felt comfortable, I came forward and apparently put my entire “reputation” on the line. Thank goodness my couple sources had good information.

Doug Melvin went ‘all in’ this off-season, moving boldly and effectively to address the holes in the Brewers starting rotation. Do you think Melvin has taken himself off the hot seat or does the team need to reach the post-season to guarantee him another season as GM?

I don’t think any GM is ever comfortably off the hot seat. Fans and media types quickly forget the past, and any success can quickly be overshadowed by disappointment and failure. Even if the Brewers make the postseason this season, Melvin could once again find himself treading water and feel the sharks nipping at his feet after a couple of non-playoff years.

The story of Spring Training for the Brewers seems to be a Packers-like string of injuries, many to key players. How much will injuries to Lucroy, Braun, Hart, Parra, Grienke and Marcum impact the team and will it cause the Brewers to get off to a slow start that will put them in catch-up mode by May 1?

Luckily for the Brewers, none of the injuries appear to be significant. Any team can catch fire for a couple weeks, and the organization is just hoping that the rotation can hold it together for a month until Greinke can return.

Of course, even with Greinke on the DL, the Brewers’ starting rotation is already better than its 2010 counterpart due to the addition of Shaun Marcum and the expected progression of Yovani Gallardo.

It is only one month of the season, so anything can happen in that short of a sample size, but I do not expect to see the team struggle too much. After all, the Brewers have the #1 offense in the Cactus League, and while spring numbers mean next to nothing, it has been without Hart and Lucroy for the entire spring.

Staying on the injury topic, there seems to be some rumblings that Greinke’s injury may be a bit more serious than originally thought. Any validity to those based on what you may have or have not heard?

I don’t think the injury is any more or less serious than previously believed. I had originally heard that Greinke was thought to be out until late-April, early-May — and that is still true. The “rumblings” are just the facts being made public and the “absolute best case scenario” becoming more and more remote.

The idea that Greinke could simply pick up a baseball and begin throwing in a game environment in two weeks with a broken rib is ridiculous.

Last year a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen was John Axford, however so far in Spring Training he’s had some struggles. Are you concerned about this and is there a Plan B if Axford can’t anchor the bullpen?

Teams should always have a Plan B for a closer. Closers are inherently inconsistent and should be considered combustible at any time. There is a reason they are in the bullpen, after all. Ultimately, I believe John Axford will remain the closer for the Brewers the entire season and be just fine, but the organization should absolutely have a Plan B ready — and his name is either Takashi Saito or LaTroy Hawkins (if healthy).

Another new face on the team this year, one that isn’t a pitcher, is Yuni Betancourt.  Is Betancourt truly as bad a player as some of the statistical analyses have suggested? What does he have to do, offensively and defensively, to do his fair share toward the team’s overall success?

Betancourt provides some value with the bat due to his average power, but his lack of discipline at the plate largely mitigates that value. Putting the ball in play just to put it in play is not a good approach at the plate. It simply gives you a better chance of getting out more times than not because he readily admits that he can make contact with bad pitches. That causes poor contact and weakly hit balls.

As far as his defense is concerned, yes he is a bad defender. He has intriguing tools, but they have not come together. If he were a 23-year-old shortstop with the skills he has, sure, I could get behind him as a player. As a 29-year-old in the prime of his career, however, it seems his skills are exactly what they are — which is undefined and undisciplined.

Every spring there are articles about how certainly players have remade themselves and are poised for a breakthrough season. This spring, that player seems to be Carlos Gomez. Can this leopard really change his spots?

At the plate? No. He is hitting .348 this spring, but has not yet drawn a single walk in 23 at-bats. The swing may be a bit better. The approach is not, however, which leads me to believe the “real” Carlos Gomez will emerge during the season.

With that said, Gomez is not a player without value. He is a premier defender in center field and provides real value to a below-average defensive team in that regard.

What are your feelings about Manager Ron Roenicke’s stated intention to be aggressive on the bases this year? Is it a sound strategy for scraping out a few runs or does it introduce unnecessary risk for a power hitting club like the Brewers?

It is unfortunately not that simple. Many fans want the excitement the running game brings, while “stat-heads” deem running as an unnecessary risk. Aggressiveness on the bases is always welcome, but only controlled and smart aggressiveness. Running just to run is not a sound strategy. Being aggressive and taking the extra bag when it makes sense within the game, however, is always something to get behind.

Will the Brewers be playing ball in October and if so, for how long?

I will go out on a limb and say yes, the Brewers will be playing baseball in October. Once in the playoffs, though, it is a complete crapshoot and is impossible to predict. The Giants were not the best team in baseball last season, but they played well when it mattered most — and that is all that matters in the playoffs.

…and now for the lighting round.

Your all-time favorite Brewers player is:

Chris Capuano

Your favorite Brewers blog to read that is not named Bernie’s Crew is:

The Disciples of Uecker

If there were no Brewers, you would have a blog about:

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball

If you were a pro baseball player, your position would be:

Right-handed LOOGY coming out of the bullpen.

Should I ever run into you at a bar, I should buy you a _____________ for taking the time to answer these questions.

Burger and Fries. Gonna get an $8-9 dinner out of you, rather than a $4-5 beer.

Thank you Jim and you can find Bernie’s Crew here in the JSOnline Fan Blogs section , a must bookmark read especially heading into the 2011 campaign.  You can also follow Jim and Bernie’s Crew on Twitter .

Would you like to be the guest for a PocketDoppler.com Thursday Q & A? Let us know!

 

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