Brewers, Rockies developing talent key to playoffs
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE – Both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies have seen recent success, with each making trips to the postseason in the past two years as the National League wild card.
Neither manager Brewers manager Ken Macha nor counterpart Jim Tracy were leading the teams at the start of those campaigns.
The success shows that clubs are deeper than just who fills out the lineup card, and each team’s ability to develop talent has kept them in the mix for meaningful baseball each fall.
“One definite similarity is the fact of what both clubs have been able to do with their payroll and the fact that it can be done this way and you cannot only develop a good club, but be a good club and stay that way for an extended period of time if you do it correctly,” Tracy said. “Part of the way you do it correctly is you embrace the importance of a farm system and developing young players.”
The Rockies fired longtime manager Clint Hurdle on May 29 with the team languishing at 18-28 last year and under Tracy, who had made only one postseason appearance in seven previous seasons with the Dodgers and Pirates.
From there, Colorado rocked with a 74-42 record and reached the postseason for the second time in three years after winning the NL pennant in 2007.
“The Rockies, they were in the playoffs last year and they’ve got a good hitting team,” said Brewers opening day starter Yovani Gallardo. “We’ve got work to do as far as scouting.”
Gallardo was drafted by the Brewers in 2004, while Rockies opening day starter Ubaldo Jimenez was signed as an amateur free agent in 2001.
Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki points to the Brewers’ big bats like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, comparing them to Rockies stars Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton.
“We’re both kind of mid-market teams that try to get some players every once in awhile that we can afford, but we try to build from within,” Tulowitzki said. “You look at their side with Prince and Ryan, two guys they drafted and two guys that probably lead their lineup. You look at our side, Todd, Hawpe, myself, a lot of our starting lineup comes from within.
“I think our organizations have to do it that way to be successful.”
The Brewers went 90-72 in 2008 to reach the postseason for the first time in 26 years, despite firing Ned Yost with 12 games to go and replacing him with Dale Sveum. That offseason, they hired Macha.
Milwaukee’s downfall, though, came when the Brewers went from two aces to zero after CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets left in free agency. The cobblestone starting staff struggled to pitch deep into games on its way to a majors-worst 5.37 ERA and overworked the bullpen in the process.
Milwaukee’s win total dropped by 10 games even though the Brewers finished third in the NL in runs scored and homers. Only the 103-loss Nationals allowed more runs to cross the plate in the NL, leading Macha to talk often about balancing the equation of runs scored and allowed.
Milwaukee signed pitchers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis to bolster the rotation and added center fielder Carlos Gomez and rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar for defensive purposes. Veteran Jim Edmonds worked his way onto the team to provide veteran depth.
“We still have a young team, but we’ve been like that for the past couple of years and we’ve done great,” Gallardo said. “We’re still young, but we know what to do in the right situations.”
If the Brewers or Rockies reach the postseason, maybe they can break a shared October curse. Each lost in four games to the Philadelphia Phillies in their last playoff appearances.
“A lot of things have to go right to make it to the playoffs. You’ve got to get on a roll,” Helton said. “Being able to minimize your bad streaks is the biggest thing because every team is going to go through them.”
For Milwaukee, ending one bad streak could begin Monday. The Brewers lost all six matchups to the Rockies last season.
“The key is always consistency and health. It comes down to those two things. For any non-big market team, if you have an injury to a key guy, it’s extremely difficult to replace that guy,” Braun said. “We feel good about our chances going in.”