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Archive for February, 2012

Roster Forecasts

After seven seasons of calling games at the Single-A level, one of the biggest changes for me in a move up to the Triple-A level is that it’s much easier to predict at this time of year who’ll be on “my” team’s roster. In previous years, someone would ask me at this time of year, “How’s the team looking for this season?” I’d have to respond, “I really have no idea,” and I would be half-serious. Of course, predicting baseball at any level is a foolish man’s game, especially during Spring Training. Nonetheless, here on February 26, I and the rest of the Sounds’ front office have a fairly good idea of how things could shake out by the time the Brewers head northeast from Phoenix and the Sounds head southeast from Phoenix in just over a month. What aids that sense of predictability is the success the Brewers enjoyed last season. When you’re the reigning Division Champion, typically there are not a lot of changes on the roster for the ensuing season, which directly affects the minor league rosters. If you compare the Sounds with a couple of their fellow PCL teams like the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland) or the Oklahoma City RedHawks (Astros), for example, chances are those rosters are a little more tenuous this time of the year because more spots seem to be up for grabs on the major league rosters.

Let’s take a look at what we  think we know about the Brewers roster before looking at the Sounds. (Reminder: this is very unofficial and is merely the personal opinion of yours truly).

Starting Lineup
Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy
First Base: Mat Gamel
Second Base: Rickie Weeks
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez
Third Base: Aramis Ramirez
Left Field: Ryan Braun
Center Field: Nyjer Morgan
Right Field: Corey Hart

Bench
Catcher: George Kottaras
Infield: Taylor Green, Cesar Izturis, Travis Ishikawa
Outfield: Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki

That’s 14 position players, and Ishikawa and Izturis are the only guys listed above who are not on the 40-man roster, so something would have to give elsewhere on the 40-man for them to make the team. But I would think the Brewers would like to have a true first baseman (Ishikawa) break camp as a back-up for Gamel, even though Green and Hart reportedly are taking some reps at first base this spring. Green, who was the Sounds’ Player of the Year in ’11, is very valuable to the Brewers because he can play just about anywhere on the infield. Jeff Bianchi is a possibility instead of Izturis and is already on the 40-man roster but hasn’t played in the major leagues, and Izturis, to me, seems the unlikeliest of the guys listed above to make the team.

Starting Rotation
Yovani Gallardo
Zack Greinke
Shaun Marcum
Randy Wolf (L)
Chris Narveson (L)

Bullpen
John Axford (closer)
Francisco Rodriguez
Jose Veras
Marco Estrada
Kameron Loe
Tim Dillard
Manny Parra (L)

All of these pitchers are on the 40-man roster, and it’s a total of 12, which is a working number if Izturis doesn’t make the roster as a reserve infielder. A side note regarding Parra: Zack Braddock is the only other left-handed reliever on the Brewers’ 40-man roster. Wow, it’s amazing how quickly 25 spots can fill up. See what I mean about Division Champion teams not having a lot of open jobs?

I think it’s important to remember that if non-roster invitees (i.e. not on the 40-man roster) don’t make the major league club out of Spring Training, they’re not locks to go to Triple-A. Many times these players will be released or traded so they can try to latch on with another team, perhaps one that suffered an injury late in Spring Training.

IF that’s how things shake up with the Brew Crew (again, IF), who would seem ticketed for Music City at this point? (* indicates player is on 40-man roster)

Catchers: Martin Maldonado*, Mike Rivera
First Base: Erick Almonte (Rivera can play 1B)
Second Base: Eric Farris*, Brooks Conrad (Conrad is in the mix for a back-up job in Milwaukee)
Shortstop: Edwin Maysonet
Third Base: Zelous Wheeler*
Left Field: Corey Patterson, Jay Gibbons
Center Field: Logan Schafer*
Right Field: Caleb Gindl*

Other/Bench Possibilities: Brock Kjeldgaard*, Jeff Bianchi*

Pitchers
Wily Peralta*
Mike Fiers*
Josh Butler
Dan Meadows
Dan Merklinger
Cody Scarpetta*
Mark Rogers*
Zack Braddock*
Amaury Rivas*
Brandon Kintzler*
Mike McClendon*

This doesn’t add up to a 25-man roster, but it leaves room for something that happens every spring — a guy surprising his coaches and “playing his way” onto the roster of a club for which he wasn’t originally ticketed. I’m sure there are a handful of players that seem headed to Double-A Huntsville but could change some minds. In a couple of weeks this entire picture will seem much clearer, too. I’ll re-visit it at that time.

After spending the last hour putting together this roster forecast, I am sure of these three baseball-related things:

1. It’s a lot of fun to picture lineups, rotations and rosters on February 26.
2. We are 26 days away from 2012 Opening Night (April 5).
3. I am excited for 2012 Opening Night (April 5).

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

Follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
Send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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News and Notes

I don’t know how long it will last with the baseball season fast approaching, but for now my streak of blogging daily can continue…

The big news of the day in baseball was the announcement that Brewers star and former Sound Ryan Braun became the first player to successfully appeal a performance-enhancing drug violation in Major League Baseball. Man, how did baseball media members survive before Twitter? I’m new to that medium, but I couldn’t believe how many tweets were flowing within a matter of seconds when the announcement came down. People were in such a hurry to get it first that the Associated Press initially got it wrong. What does it mean for the Sounds? Well, for one, had Braun lost the appeal and been forced to serve a 50-game suspension, he likely would have played a few games for the Sounds toward the end of the suspension. Players are eligible to play up to 10 games in the minor leagues as a tune-up for their return to MLB. Believe me, it’s not as though the Sounds were rooting for Braun to be found guilty just so he could come to Nashville. But like everyone else, the organization was following the story with great interest in the outcome. Braun’s assured status on the major league roster, though, does increase the likelihood that someone else will be in Nashville instead of Milwaukee. If you figure the Brewers have Braun, Corey Hart, Norichika Aoki, Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez currently ticketed for the Opening Day roster as outfielders, guys like Corey Patterson, Caleb Gindl, and Logan Schafer now are even likelier to head toward Greer Stadium in early April.

***

How great did the Nashville weather feel today? At one point I went on weather.com, and it was just as warm in Nashville as it was in Phoenix where the Brewers were training. By the way, today (Thursday) marked exactly six weeks from Opening Day. That’s April 5, by the way. (I think I’m the only person in the Sounds front office who is counting down to April 5 instead of April 13, as the team opens the season with an eight-game road trip before the home opener at Greer Stadium on the 13th. Either way, it’ll be here before we know it.)

***

I didn’t attend the event, but last night the Sounds took home a pair of awards at the annual Celebration of Champions fundraiser hosted by the Nashville Sports Council. The awards were part of “Middle Tennessee’s Top 10 Sports Moments of 2011.” I strongly urge you to check out the story on the Sounds’ website. It includes video of the winning performances, one of which was a triple play that started with a flyball that hit off the head of Sounds outfielder Logan Schafer. You can see it HERE. Moreover, it wasn’t the only triple play turned by the Sounds last year! They had two, which was two more than the rest of the Pacific Coast League combined. You can’t beat the you-never-know factor in baseball!

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

Twitter: jeffhempbp
Email: jeffhem@nashvillesounds.com

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There are a lot of reasons why broadcasting baseball for a living, particularly on radio, is fun for me. One of the most enjoyable parts is the challenge  that you create for yourself to make someone who is not at the ballpark FEEL like they’re at the ballpark. The phrase “paint the picture for the listener” can be used so often in this line of work that sometimes it loses its luster. But that truly is what you’re supposed to do with the game on radio. I had two experiences just yesterday that reinforced the power of radio.

First, in the middle of the workday here at the ballpark I received a phone call from a loyal Sounds fan. Initially I wasn’t exactly sure why he called, but he proceeded to welcome me to Nashville, ask about my background, talk about the Sounds, etc. Late in the conversation he told me how much he looks forward to listening to the Sounds radio broadcasts this season. He said he listens to almost every game, even the few games he’s able to attend in person (side note: want to compliment a radio guy? tell him you bring the radio with you to the games). He said that he has vision problems and can’t track the ball very well, and he relies on the radio broadcast to tell him the story of the game. Trust me, there are few greater feelings for a sports announcer than to be told by a die-hard fan that they literally are relying on you to bring them the game and paint the picture for them.

Then yesterday afternoon I was in a meeting with a potential Sounds corporate sponsor. We were discussing some of the different ways a company could market its product via the Sounds, and the subject of the radio broadcasts came up. Naturally, as the team’s announcer, I was hoping this avenue would seem appealing to him. Well, I didn’t have to sell it very hard. One of his comments sort of summed up, to me, the value of radio over something like television in terms of advertising. We were talking about hamburgers, and I said sometimes talking about food on the radio has a greater effect than seeing food on the television. The client said, “Totally! If I start hearing someone describe hamburgers while I’m in the car, I think, ‘man, a burger sounds good right now.’ If I see it on TV, I might think the picture doesn’t look good or that I’m full.”

I was glad to hear from two people yesterday who, for very different reasons, believe in the power of the imagination.

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

Twitter: @JeffHemPBP
Email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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Welcome! (To you…and me)

Greetings from Music City! And thank you for visiting the blog. So many new things have happened to me in the past couple of months, that I figured it was appropriate to venture into two more new things these past couple of days — Twitter and the blogosphere.

I want to begin by saying that while I hope this blog will become a regular in your Websites I Have to Visit Often rotation, I will admit to you that I have no idea exactly what this blog will become. Blogging is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time…not because I think I have tremendous insight that I simply must share with the “world,” but rather I really enjoy writing and do not do it as often as I’d like. So, I think this blog will satisfy my craving to write. What will it do for you? I have no idea, and I’m excited about that. It would be very easy to say this blog will be where you can go to read strictly about the Nashville Sounds, the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate for whom I began working last month. Or it could be a blog specifically about baseball broadcasting. Or about the Pacific Coast League and the cities and stadiums the Sounds travel to this season. Or about working in Minor League Baseball. Or about news and notes from around the major leagues. My hope, though, is that on some level you want the blog to be about all of those things and more, not just one. If that’s the case, then we’re on the same page. While I haven’t written a blog before today, I’ve certainly read those of others, and my inspiration was to create a blog that, while you’re waiting for the latest post to load, has you thinking, “I wonder what’s on here today.” If it were one dimensional, my guess is you’d have little interest in returning.

Overall, the blog will be centered around three of my greatest passions: baseball, radio and baseball on the radio (hence the blog title and the background image). I hope you enjoy it, and I hope from time to time you’ll leave a comment, ask a question, suggest a blog topic, etc.

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

Twitter: @JeffHemPBP
Email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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