The clock ticks away toward the start of the Milwaukee Brewers’ regular-season opener against the San Diego Padres March 29 at San Diego, and one can’t help but wonder whether something big could still happen.
As much as the Brewers are being mentioned as a genuine contender this season, especially after the acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, more work remains.
Zach Davies won 17 games last season, but he had a 5.08 earned run average as late as July 14. Chase Anderson was 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA, but how much stock can be put into a 30-year pitcher whose previous three ERAs were 4.01, 4.30 and 4.39? And who knows when the injured Jimmy Nelson will be back?
Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53 ERA last season), Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43) and Alex Cobb (11-8, 3.43) remain on the market, but is it prudent for Brewers general manager David Stearns to open the checkbook for any of those three?
Arrieta, who turns 32 Tuesday, is a particular risk, given his age, declining productivity the last three years and enormous asking price. Lynn, who will be 31 in May, and Cobb, who will be 31 in October, don’t come close to matching Arrieta’s credentials. All three remain unsigned for a reason — they are, rightfully so, holding out for maximum dollars.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs appear to be rounding back into their 2016 championship form and have added pitchers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood (don’t be surprised if Chatwood outperforms the far more celebrated Darvish now that he has escaped the thin air of Colorado). And there’s always the St. Louis Cardinals looming out there.
Continued progress is expected from the Brewers after their surprising 2017 season. And while they have closed the gap on their competition by bringing in Yelich and Cain, it seems that they’re still going to need plenty of luck if they’re going to be a legitimate contender.
As of now, I see the Cubs running away in NL Central Division.
A feel-good story
It’s always a pleasure to see a kid who drove himself mercilessly to succeed be rewarded. That was the case with Jared Krattiger, a senior wrestler for Waterford High School, when he won the WIAA Division 1 state championship at 182 pounds in Madison Feb. 24.
Krattiger, who will be wrestling for the University of Wisconsin next season, lost just five varsity matches in his high school career, but wasn’t rewarded with a state championship until his senior year. He admitted to many restless nights knowing that he had just one more chance to accomplish his ultimate goal and Krattiger now gets to go out on top.
“Nobody deserves it more,” said teammate Jack Trautman III, who finished second at 195 pounds. “He could easily be a four-timer (state champion). It’s just the way that the seedings work out at the state tournament with the matchups.
“He outworked everybody in the state by 50 percent ... I would say 100 percent. Whatever other people did, he did it 100 times more.”
Krattiger finished his high school career with a remarkable 192-5 record.
Speaking of wrestling, what a job Jon Burdick has done at Park, his alma mater. High school wrestling programs in Racine have had their share of challenges in recent years, but Burdick has slowly restored respectability in the Panthers.
The progress Burdick has achieved was underscored when he coached Tre Williams to a fourth-place finish at 285 pounds. It was the first time a Park wrestler medaled at state since Matt Hermes in 2009.
Thoughts on prep basketball
If JC Butler, a third-team Associated Press All-State forward last season, ends up being named the All-Racine County Player of the Year, it will end a long drought for the Hawks. The last boys basketball player from Prairie to be named the county’s player of the year was Jeff Smith after the 1979-80 season.
The Union Grove girls program is fortunate to have a coach the caliber of Rob Domagalski. Despite having a height-challenged team this season, the Broncos won their fourth straight Southern Lakes Conference championship and were ranked ninth in their division in the final AP poll of the season. Domagalski invests himself passionately into his job and, while Union Grove was upset by Waterford in a WIAA Division 2 regional championship, that doesn’t take away from his impressive body of work over the last 15-plus years.
Look out for the St. Catherine’s boys next season. The Angels, who lost four of their seven games by three points and another by four, return all five starters under coach Nick Bennett next season. Case will also return all five starters under coach Jacob Berce and could become a force.
Sometimes I interact with a high school athlete who I could imagine becoming a corporate executive some day. Park junior center Nobal Days is one of those. As impressive as the 6-foot-9 Days is as a player, he is even moreso as a well-spoken, articulate, humble young man. The future is bright for him — and not just as a basketball player.