NEW YORK -- For the Milwaukee Brewers, very little went according to plan during the 2013 season.
Things went awry early, then got worse and all looked hopeless before some stabilization saved everyone's sanity. Sort of like the "Homeland" version of a baseball campaign, with disaster lurking around every corner.
Here's a look back at what went right, what went wrong and what went really wrong, using the tried-and-true themes of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:
Not short at short: When the Brewers acquired Jean Segura in late July 2012 from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade, they merely hoped the squatty fireplug would hold his own at shortstop, a position of need. Segura did much more than that, becoming an offensive dynamo with both speed and pop while showing doubters who had him pegged as a second baseman that he could excel at short. The Brewers now feel the position is covered for many years with a player who never has to perform better than this year to make them happy.
Center of attention: When the Brewers gave Carlos Gomez a three-year, $24million contract extension during spring training, this was the question on the minds of many: "What were you thinking?" Yes, the talented but unpredictable Gomez had made strides in 2012, but was this really a player who deserved that kind of commitment? As it turned out, Gomez was just that.
Making tremendous strides at the plate -- yes, he still has his wild-swinging, strikeout sprees -- Gomez contributed more frequently on offense and no longer was buried at the bottom of the lineup. In center, he became a human highlight reel, robbing one homer after another with sensational leaping grabs. He is a candidate to end the Brewers' 31-year Gold Glove drought and figures to continue to improve as a player.
Youth is served: The Brewers' farm system has been much maligned, and it indeed was thinned by trades and a few hollow drafts. But when injuries wiped out a significant portion of the club, young players were summoned from the minors and proved they not only could fill the gaps, they could be counted on as part of the team's future plans.
Rickie Weeks has a year and $11 million remaining on his contract, but how can you deny Scooter Gennett the starting second base job the way he has performed? Better in the field than advertised, Gennett is a free swinger who just collects hits, making his lack of walks a minor issue at present.
When Ryan Braun's ailing thumb and second-half suspension for PED use unexpectedly opened playing time in left field, Khris Davis proved he was up to the challenge. Davis' power potential already had been put on display in spring training, but when he showed he could handle prime-time duty, the Brewers began mulling ways to get him in the lineup in 2014.
Better late than never: When the starting pitching made train wrecks look tame during the first half, the Brewers appeared headed for tear-down mode in that department. But Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and erratic rookie Wily Peralta staged second-half comebacks, making the rotation an actual strength over long stretches. The consistency of veteran Kyle Lohse, whose 11-10 record is most deceiving, certainly didn't hurt.
Yes, the turnaround came too late in terms of making the Brewers a division contender, but the decision-makers feel better now about augmenting the rotation rather than ripping it apart. It was a welcome turnabout after the team was constantly forced to play from behind -- often, far behind -- in the early months of the season.
Rest of the best: There were other positives in an otherwise disappointing season, such as the offensive production of catcher Jonathan Lucroy; the yeoman work of an overtaxed bullpen that finally, and predictably, began to fray in the latter weeks; the underrated contributions of rightfielder Norichika Aoki; and last, but not least, the strong fan support that allowed the Brewers to reach 2.5 million in home attendance despite falling out of the race almost from the start.
The casualty list: Injuries came early and often, decimating the middle of the batting order and forcing manager Ron Roenicke to fit square pegs into round holes on a daily basis to put a lineup together. When Yuniesky Betancourt sees action in more than 130 games, you need to put the crisis hotline on speed dial.
When Corey Hart, Mat Gamel and Taylor Green were lost before opening day, first base became a quagmire. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was a mere shadow of himself after spraining his left knee in spring training. Braun's thumb issue robbed him of his power before he was sent home for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. Weeks was done after tearing a hamstring in early August while trying to avoid tripping over his bat in the base line.
And on it went. Hamstring strains became the injury du jour for the pitching staff. Gomez was hurt twice smashing into the center-field wall. Even Segura finally went down with an ailing hammy. What a mess.
Off the grid: What has happened to Weeks' offense? He was an all-star performer in the first half of 2011 but hasn't been the same since damaging an ankle in the second half of that season. With hopes of bouncing back this season from a subpar campaign in '12, Weeks went into a steeper decline at the plate.
It's difficult to say what was more alarming in the 104 games he played -- the .209 batting average, .306 on-base percentage or .357 slugging percentage, resulting in a career-low .663 OPS. Weeks isn't going to win games on defense, so he has to be an offensive force or can't help the Brewers. One of the team's biggest questions moving forward is what to do with him.
A stumbling start: The starting rotation's woeful showing in the first two months quickly knocked the Brewers to the bottom of the National league Central. Gallardo's stuff was in decline, Peralta couldn't avoid early meltdowns, Estrada couldn't get going and Lohse received no run support. Mike Fiers became a mirage, turning the fifth spot in the rotation into a revolving door.
It didn't help that Mark Rogers had more injury problems and never entered the picture. As encouraging as it was that the rotation later stabilized, its horrible work in the early going sent the Brewers plummeting far below .500.
Burned-out clutch: With injuries robbing the Brewers of the one thing the offense was known for -- power -- scoring runs became a chore at times. Situational hitting often was brutal, and fans rightfully came to dread the contact play that resulted in one rundown out after another between third base and home.
For the first time since 2006, when Bill Hall led the club with 85 RBI, the Brewers won't have a hitter knock in 100 runs. Forced to push the envelope on the bases, the Brewers too often crossed the line from aggressiveness to recklessness and ran into silly outs.
A short leash: It didn't take long for John Axford to lose his job as the team's closer. Unable to keep the ball in the park -- four homers in his first three appearances -- Axford quickly was shuffled off to low-leverage situations. But clubs such as the Brewers cannot afford a $5 million middle reliever.
The good news was that Axford's best friend, Jim Henderson, became a reliable closer when all was said and done. No longer in the club's plans, Axford eventually was dealt to St. Louis, with folks barely remembering his sensational 46-save season in 2011.
Suspended belief: Despite winning his appeal of a positive drug test on a chain-of-custody issue before the 2012 season, Braun never really escaped the PED taint. And when news broke that his name was in the logbooks at Biogenesis, his eventual suspension became inevitable.
All the denials, the lying, the maligning of urine sample collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. came home to roost for Braun, who knew he was finally caught and accepted a season-ending 65-game suspension. Now, the Brewers must make the best of a $133 million public relations nightmare who went from face of the franchise to pariah.
One of the huge baseball stories in 2014 will be whether Braun can salvage his career and receive at least partial forgiveness from Brewers fans. But he will never be looked at in the same light again.
A motley crew: When you open the season with utility infielders Alex Gonzalez and Betancourt as your primary first basemen, you're in big trouble. The position became a revolving door, with seven players starting there for the first time in the majors, including Blake Lalli, Sean Halton, catchers Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, and strikeout-prone Juan Francisco.
The lack of offense at the position soon reached historic proportions. Entering the final weekend, Brewers first basemen had a .638 OPS, worst among the 30 major-league clubs, and were 28th with a .376 slugging percentage. How the Brewers fill that position for 2014 is the biggest question mark on the club.
Not-so-merry May: How do you win only six of 28 games in a calendar month? That's what the Brewers did in May, putting them a whopping 151/2 games out of first place in the NL Central by June 1. Season over. Thanks for playing.
A look at how the top three pitchers in the starting rotation fared tells you why victories were so scarce. Gallardo was 1-4 with a 5.97 ERA; Peralta 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA and Lohse 0-4 with a 6.51 ERA. Consequently, the Brewers played from behind more than a blindfolded jockey.
Other than May, the Brewers played .500 baseball. Not great but at least palatable.
Daytime nightmares: The Brewers have to figure out this day-game thing. Why do they stink so bad under the light of day? They enter Sunday with a 18-34 record in day games, including 8-20 at Miller Park. Perhaps the answer is a schedule including only night games.
The Brewers have begun experimenting with tinted glass in the windows under the roof on the first-base side to try to lessen the glare and ease the issue of shadows plaguing hitters at the plate. Perhaps they should just issue rose-colored glasses to fans attending matinees.
Not in the Cards: The St. Louis Cardinals should send flowers and candy to the Brewers bosses after treating them like a doormat throughout the 2013 season. At the very least, a Pie of the Month Club membership.
In 19 meetings with the Cardinals, the Brewers managed to win a total of five games. If you want to swim with the big boys, you need to remove the concrete block and rope from your feet. Almost every time the teams played, the Brewers were reminded how large the gap had grown in returning to contender status in the division.
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