08/08/12 6:40 PM ET
No matter what, Brewers always have the long ball
By Terence Moore / MLB.com
This is amazing, but this also is predictable. That is, if you've been paying attention to the most striking aspect of this franchise since -- well, since the start of its 43 seasons in existence.
Just like there always will be stitches on baseballs, the Brewers always will slam home runs, and they always will do so frequently and often dramatically ... despite everything.
"Well, my knowledge of Brewers history doesn't go back very far, because I really didn't know anything about them before the time I was drafted, to be honest," said Ryan Braun, who has played in Milwaukee for all six seasons in his Major League career. "I grew up as a Dodger fan in L.A."
You know about the Dodgers. You hear the name, and you think of pitching. Newcombe, Podres, Koufax, Drysdale, Sutton, Osteen, Messersmith, Valenzuela, Hershiser, Kershaw.
Ever hear of Tommy John surgery?
He starred with the Dodgers.
"I also think about that long string of Rookie of the Year winners that the Dodgers had when I was growing up," said Braun, referring to a stretch from 1992-1996 featuring Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi and Todd Hollandsworth.
Nearly a decade before that, the Dodgers had four straight Rookie of the Year winners (Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax), to join the six others in their history.
So, pitching and rookies. That's the Dodgers' legacy. Just like you mention the Oakland Athletics, and you think of speed and youth.
The point is, every franchise has something along these lines. When it comes to power, the top of the list spans from the Detroit Tigers to the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees to a Brewers franchise that hasn't been around as long as those other three, but that has continued its bruising reputation this year ... despite everything.
The Brewers have gone from kings of the National League Central last year to wallowing below .500 in the division for most of 2012.
Then again, the Brewers lost the ultimate cleanup hitter when Prince Fielder bolted to the Detroit Tigers as a free agent last winter. Just like that, the Brewers were without the guy who averaged 36 home runs per year during his seven seasons in Milwaukee, and that included the 46 homers he ripped in 2009 and his 50 homers in '07.
They still had Braun, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, but he began this season with a question mark on his previously potent bat after controversy involving performance-enhancing drugs.
Then there was free-agent pickup Aramis Ramirez, a veteran third baseman who was slated to become at least a poor man's version of Fielder in the cleanup spot. Instead, Ramirez was an April bust, with no home runs and a .103 batting average through his first 39 at-bats.
Gone, too, was Brewers manager Ken Macha, and he embraced the Earl Weaver philosophy of living or dying by the three-run homer. After Macha was fired after the 2010 season, he was replaced by Ron Roenicke, a disciple of small ball.
Roenicke began switching the Brewers' offensive mindset to his approach last season, but its roots didn't sprout to their fullest until this season, with hit-and-run strategies and more of an emphasis on stealing.
None of this has affected the Brewers' bottom line. They still pound the ball with the ease of their predecessors.
Heading into Wednesday's action, the Brewers led the NL in homers with 132. And, when it came to both leagues, they were behind only five teams in the power-centered American League: the Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, Orioles and Angels.
For one, Braun has continued to impress. As of the Brewers' game Wednesday, Braun was batting .304 and leading the NL in homers with 29.
Teammate Corey Hart followed with 21 homers, while the rejuvenated Ramirez had 15 and second baseman Rickie Weeks had 12.
The old times live in Brew City.
"Yeah, the 1980s, when the Brewers had Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, guys like that," said Weeks, who joined the Brewers three seasons before Braun.
As a result, Weeks knows slightly more Brewers history than Braun, especially regarding those aforementioned players who comprised Harvey's Wallbangers, named after former Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn.
With Thomas and Cooper joining others such as Ted Simmons, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, Harvey's Wallbangers spent the 1982 season leading the AL in nearly every offensive category -- including home runs -- along the way to the Brewers' only trip to the World Series.
Even before that, when the Brewers regularly had ghastly finishes in the standings, they always had a slew of sluggers.
George "Boomer" Scott led the AL in homers in 1975 with 36, and as a team, the Brewers finished third in the league in that category. Darrell Porter. Dave May. John Briggs. They all crushed pitches for the Brewers, even before Harvey's Wallbangers were preceded by Bambi's Bombers, named after former Brewers manager George Bamberger.
There also was that other ugly stretch for the Brewers during much of the late 1980s and '90s, when victories were few but homers remained high, courtesy of the hard-swinging likes of Rob Deer, Greg Vaughn, Gary Sheffield and Jeromy Burnitz.
You get the picture. This is just more of the same for the Brewers, and given their name (I mean, Brewers), you would expect nothing else. They also reside in a blue-collar city that once featured a Braves team of yore, with Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock and the rest.
So these Brewers must do the home run thing.
It's in their DNA.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.