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Feature
 
 
Q&A with Jim Powell

Kapellusch
on 06/04/2002

 

POWELL: I believe I answered every question that was submitted. I figured I would delete some because there were so many, but after a while it became a challenge to try to get them all done. If there was a question lost somehow in the translation, I will be happy to answer it if Brian will forward it my way.

Brewerfan.com is an impressive site, mainly because of the quality of fan that hangs out here. I have it bookmarked and stop by frequently. I want to tip my cap to Brian, of course, and to Toby and MassBrew too. There are a lot of other fans here whose opinions I respect and I think of this site as a great place for me to find out what the water cooler buzz is with regards to Brewers' baseball. I don't read everything but I read enough to know that the fans here are informed and passionate and unafraid to offer their two cents on everything from how to build a stadium, to how I should do my job. That is the way it should be.

Brian sent me the questions, and here they are with my best guesses.


Why is Sanchez being given a green light when the stolen-base numbers are below what some would consider the break-even point (66% success rate)?

POWELL: Legitimate question. If Sanchez was a 5 year veteran and the team was contending, there is no doubt that his green light would be changed to red because his success rate (especially considering pickoffs) is not good enough. But he is a rookie and the team is not in contention, so the objective is to develop the talent that is on hand. He has shown DRAMATIC improvement defensively and at the plate from last year, and he has made significant improvement in those areas from spring training to the beginning of June too. His approach at the plate made a 180 degree turn after the season's first month and the Brewers are encouraged by his ability to absorb instruction and make improvement. That said, he still has a lot to work on, and we probably won't know what kind of commodity he is until the season is over. Sanchez may end up being Lance Johnson (someone Alex told me he has admired and tried to emulate) or Kenny Lofton, or he could be back in the minors. The only way to find out is to stick him out there and see how much drive he has to become great. Because he is out of options, the Brewers can't send him down unless they become willing to lose him. It will be frustrating to Brewers' fans at times, but Sanchez will be a storyline for this team all season. If he has the heart to match his talent, it will be worth it.


What was the reasoning for apparently not trying to sign Jason Costello, who appears to have had a good year as a DFE from the 45th round of last year's (2001) draft?

POWELL: Jack Zduriencik told me that they signed both draft and follows that they cared to sign. Costello was scouted and it was decided that he needed more seasoning. Not wanting to criticize Costello (or any of the other potential signees), Zduriencik left it at that.


"Guys like Ricky Henderson and Tim Raines earned the right to steal bases anytime they wanted by proving that they were intelligent and productive baserunners. While Alex Sanchez might be the fastest player in baseball right now, it is clear based upon his production that he has not earned the right to try to steal a base whenever he wants (which is usually within two pitches of reaching first). Wouldn't it benefit everyone if the coaches took away the 'green light' from Sanchez and were a little more selective in his attempts to steal bases?"

POWELL: Just a small follow-up to the previous answer: The Brewers are intentionally encouraging Sanchez to be aggressive, even to a fault. They want him to push the envelope with his ability, make mistakes on his own, and learn from them. Sanchez is not a naturally instinctive player, so the Brewers want him to push for the boundaries of his own abilities and develop instinctive skills. It means it will look ugly at times, but that is the way the Brewers believe it has to be done to get him to fulfill his potential. A month ago I had a lot of questions about this strategy and, like everyone else who was watching him make so many mistakes, wondered if he should even be playing regularly. Then he hit .345 in May, stole 9 bases, and dramatically increased his walk rate and OBP. Now I see the value in letting him play and seeing how much more improvement he can make.


"While Dean Taylor and his staff have done a good job rebuilding the farm system, their management of the major league roster leaves a lot to be desired. Building a bench consisting of high-priced players like Mark Loretta, Alex Ochoa and Lenny Harris is an interesting approach for a franchise that is living within a strict budget.

POWELL: You are assuming that there were much better options available. I didn't see any 26 year old, inexpensive, high ceiling players available on the free agent list last winter and, trust me, they weren't available on the trade market either, not for what the Brewers had to offer. Keep in mind that the contracts of those three players (and 5 others on the roster) run out at the end of the season, freeing up a lot of payroll flexibility. There wasn't much Dean Taylor could do about Loretta because of his price and his health. Ochoa and Harris are not all that expensive, relative to the salary structure in baseball these days. Some salary had to be taken back in the Burnitz deal or it wouldn't have been made.


Given Dean and Co's intelligent management of the minor leagues, can you explain their apparent inability to manage the major league roster?

POWELL: When you are operating on a payroll budget with little flexibility, there is no margin for error. When Rondell White breaks down for the Yankees, they just go get another 8 million dollar player. When Jeffrey Hammonds and Mark Loretta and Jamey Wright get hurt, there is no budget room with which to replace them. So they have taken some chances and some have hit, some have not. I think a lot of fans think it is easier to make trades and revamp rosters than it really is in the real world. This winter there were very few teams willing to take on any salary and it was a crowded marketplace for those looking to get younger and build for the future. It is always easy to say that move A was bad and move B didn't work, but you have to also consider what the other options were. Maintaining status quo was unacceptable, and they called every team in baseball trying to make trades to better the team. They made the deals they felt were the best available. Since I don't know what deals they left on the table, I can't criticize what they did. This is yet another reason why it is imperative to develop your own players, so you aren't at the mercy of the trade- and free agent- markets.


How much influence does ownership have on the on the field product in Milwaukee?

POWELL: Like all teams, ownership sets the budget based on the business side of it, and tells the baseball side to be imaginative and innovative in maximizing the resources that are available. Dean Taylor has autonomy to work within his budget, as far as I know.


With the struggles of others at 2B and 3B, and considering his age and apparent reclamation of his batting eye, with more BBs than Ks, is Ronnie Belliard close to regaining his spot as a regular starter?

POWELL: I like Ronnie Belliard and think he's a good player. The Brewers prefer Eric Young at second base. I am surprised that no trade has been made, but again, I don't know what trade options have been available.


Who is the All Star representative?

POWELL: I think Richie Sexson is a major star. He is an outstanding, productive hitter and eventually the rest of the league will realize that he is a Gold Glove first baseman. He is an All-Star, as far as I'm concerned. I think Jose Hernandez is one of the top couple of SS's in the league and deserves All-Star consideration too. Ben Sheets will be back on the All-Star team in the future, too.


Are there any bright spots on this team that they can build on for the future?

POWELL: Sure. I just named three of them, although Hernandez is a free agent at season's end. I think Nick Neugebauer has a higher ceiling than Sheets does (a considerable statement), but we'll have to see how his shoulder holds up. I still think Geoff Jenkins is a really good player who you can win with, but he is going through a rough stretch right now. Even great players can have bad years, especially those coming off shoulder surgery, but it is only June 3 so there is hope yet for this season. Hammonds is a really good hitter, better than I thought he was. Rusch is an asset. There are others who could help most any team, but a lot of the players on this team are veterans and I don't know that I think of them as players you build on. I hope that some of these last- year-of-contract players can be dealt to contenders for young building blocks, but the labor strife comes at a bad time for this organization as it may deflate the trading deadline market.


Does the organization have a credibility problem?

POWELL: That is for you to decide, not me. Ultimately the fans will make their own judgments. Do I believe that Dean Taylor knows how to build a top organization? My personal opinion is "yes". You have to make up your own mind. Just keep in mind that his regime is just about to run its THIRD draft. It is still very early.


The owner of the Pirates recently called their decision to raise ticket prices "a mistake". Did the Brewers make a mistake with their decision as well?

POWELL: Again, that is a question that only the fans can answer.


We're in the third year of the Taylor regime, what's your assessment of Taylor's strengths and weaknesses?

POWELL: I don't presume to pass judgment on people who have been in the game three times longer than I've been calling Major League games. Some will think that is evasive on my part, but I'm just being realistic. I have no problem with fans who have their opinions about anything related to baseball. That is your absolute right. When I was just a fan, I was as emotional and opinionated as anyone. But my job now is to call the play by play of the Milwaukee Brewers and report on the organization as an employee of WTMJ, the Brewers Radio Network, and Journal Broadcast Group. If I was a columnist for the newspaper or a national commentator, my role would be different and my approach would reflect that. If I was a talk show host (and I WAS, for a long time), I would be paid to formulate and offer educated opinions as best I could. That is not my current role, however. Sure, I will give some opinions on the air and on the internet on some things, but it is a serious matter to start critiquing people's job performance, especially when I have no experience in doing their jobs to begin with. I'm not going to presume to tell you that people like Wendy Selig- Prieb, Dean Taylor, David Wilder, et al, are the best in the game at their jobs, nor will I presume to tell you that they are the worst. I can tell you that Dean Taylor is well-respected by his peers and has certainly earned the chance to show what kind of a GM he can be. The rest is for you to debate.


Dean Taylor was hired without a plan to "be competitive and rebuild the farm system at the same time". Considering that the Brewers have averaged 90 losses over the previous two years and have the worst record in MLB, is it fair to call the first part of that plan a failure? Have the resources spent on the major leagues possibly delayed the rebuilding of the farm system and the long-term improvement of the club?

POWELL: Most people who inherited what Dean Taylor inherited would have just announced a 5 or 6 year rebuilding plan and relieved a lot of pressure on themselves. The Brewers have tried to do what they could to stay competitive at the Major League level while they build the farm system. So far it hasn't worked... there is no denying the won-loss record (being mindful of the fact that only a third of the '02 season has been completed). However, I have seen no evidence that anything that has transpired at the big league level has had a negative impact on the real storyline, which is the construction of a top farm system. With a great minor league system, any success at the Major League level would be fleeting, anyway. The Brewers' emphasis on the farm began to increase when the steel beams started piling up on the Miller Park construction site. They started drafting the best, highest-ceiling players they could without regard to what their price would be beginning with the '98 draft (Gold in the first, Neugebauer in the second). They made major investments in the Dominican program and in their training facilities in Arizona. They have poured a lot of money into scouting and player development, making dramatic changes in the last several years. I have said before that I think the Brewers have not done a good enough job communicating all these investments to the fans. If I thought that the club was foregoing certain things in player development so that they could have a more expensive bench or bullpen, I'd tell you. Farm Director Greg Riddoch tells me that they have given him everything he has asked for since he went to work for the club. That should be heartening to Brewers' fans.


Are we looking at changes to the club soon? Are there some veterans in danger of being outright released?

POWELL: Well, something still has to be done to address the glut of infielders on the roster. Hey, it would be easy to just give one of them away. Wisely, the Brewers are patiently waiting for the best time to cut the best deal possible and avoid giving away precious assets. I don't know of any imminent releases or deals, but they don't consult with me in advance.


If the Brewers do make some trades, what will they be looking for in return?

POWELL: Good question. Clearly they are looking for young players they can keep and build around. Their major trades have netted longterm assets like Sexson and Rusch. They have made some minor deals which have turned out great too, like acquiring Ray King for Doug Johnston and getting Luis Vizcaino for Jesus Pena. It is pretty clear that they have not identified the longterm solution at 3B at this point and there is no obvious prospect at 3B in the organization at this point. Obviously the catching situation needs to be addressed on a longterm basis. There is always a need to stock up on starting pitching.


Who are the "untouchables" in the organization?

POWELL: The top prospects aren't going anywhere. The young starting pitchers are not going to be dealt unless they are swapped for young starters that they like even better. Sexson is staying in a Brewers' uniform, I'm sure. All that said, there is no such thing as a true untouchable in the world of baseball. If the Cardinals call and offer Albert Pujols or if the A's check the Brewers' interest in Mark Mulder, I'm sure all kinds of names would come up.


Are the Brewers willing to "eat" some salary in order to make a trade?

POWELL: With attendance down and a labor shutdown of the game possible, I don't see the Brewers taking on a bunch of salary at this time. But I am not privy to the discussions in their budget meetings.


What is a typical day like for a broadcaster?

POWELL: I spend hours per day on the internet, reading newspapers and columns from all over the country. I swap a lot of email too, gathering information and getting perspective from people whose opinions and expertise I trust. When I get to the park I go to the clubhouse and try to get answers to the questions that I am guessing the fans have on a given day. Some of the conversations I have I put on tape for the pregame show, but most of them are strictly for background. I hate to count up the number of hours I spend on a typical day on baseball, but most of it doesn't feel like work to me. During homestands, I carve out as much time for family as possible. My family is my priority, and no matter how much I love my job, I work a job so that I can support my wife and three daughters. If I was a multi-billionaire, I would quit my job and buy season tickets.


What's the balancing act in terms of being a Brewers employee and being critically objective?

POWELL: Another good question. First of all, I am not directly employed by the Brewers. I work for Journal Communications, which has purchased the radio rights from the franchise. The ballclub does retain the right to approve the announcers. I feel a close relationship with the team and am proud to be associated with them, especially since I was originally hired by the Brewers seven years ago at a time when they retained the radio rights in-house. Journal got involved a couple of years later and I became an employee (and a stockholder) of that great company. That said, my philosophy is this: I work for the fans. I was a wacked-out baseball fan before I got into the game myself, and my loyalties are with you. If the fans don't like my work, I won't last no matter how much my bosses at Journal or the folks with the Brewers like me. I see myself as one of the conduits between the team and its fans. In order to build and maintain credibility with the fans, I have to give them what I know they want: A fair, honest, and accurate portrayal of what is going on with the game and with their favorite team. I get excited when the team does well and frustrated when it doesn't, just like you fans do. However, I will not let slant my commentary in a biased way, even if that means I have to be critical of a team that I want to see do well. If I can't tell the fans that the team is playing badly, then nobody will believe me when I tell them it is playing great. If the Brewers get a break they didn't deserve, I report that. If they have a call go against them unfairly, I report that too. I will not say things that I don't believe just because of where my paycheck is written, I assure you. Of course I have to be careful when I'm offering subjective commentary and I don't presume to be an expert able to pass judgment on anything and everything, nor is that my job. But I am a believer in telling it like it is , to the best of my ability and knowledge. I try to be a first-guesser , not a second guesser, and I make sure I am being fair with anyone I am offering critical commentary on. So far the only player who has ever objected to the fairness of my commentary was Jeff Juden. I took it as a compliment.


Was the Eric Young signing a mistake or is it still too early to judge?

POWELL: I think it is too early. Plus we have to see what happens with the players who were supplanted by Young, namely Belliard and Loretta.


What's your favorite movie?

POWELL: "The Sting". "The Natural" is my favorite baseball movie.


How did you get interested in minor league baseball?

POWELL: When I was in college and started playing rotisserie baseball for the first time, I was in a league with some really serious baseball guys. A couple of them went on to make their living doing jobs related to baseball. Our league(s) went deep with minor league prospects and finding the players early was the key to winning. I am competitive way beyond what is normal or healthy, and as a consequence being able to identify the right prospects became an obsession. Shortly thereafter I finagled my way into the Sports Director's job at WUOG, the campus station at the University of Georgia, and my first act as Sports Director was to hire myself to be the play by play man for the UGA baseball team. A few years later I landed the job as PBP man for the Columbia Mets (now the Capital City Bombers) of the Sally League (where I first met Fernando Vina and Bob Apodaca, among others) and I've worked in pro ball virtually ever since. I've been following walk, strikeout, and slugging numbers (among other things) for minor leaguers ever since those early days at Georgia.


What is the Brewers interest in Prince Fielder? Is there more to the kid than his plus plus power and are the Brewers SERIOUSLY considering him as a 1st rounder?

POWELL: Power is all I've heard about when talking about Fielder, but when you have a 80 on the 20-80 point scouting scale, EVERY team is considering you as a possible first rounder. Yes, the Brewers like him.


What's the best thing to eat at Fridays?

POWELL: I like the wings.


Have you ever thought about doing tv as well as or instead of radio?

POWELL: Radio is a better medium for a baseball announcer. You can take the broadcast in any direction you want at any time, and you can paint the picture as you see fit. In TV, there are directors and producers to accommodate and the pictures dictate most everything. There are aspects to TV play by play that I like, and I have done baseball, football, and basketball on television, but radio is definitely more fun. That said, my dream is to have the best of both worlds and do part of each game on each medium. A few teams have their broadcasts set up like that, but the Brewers aren't one of them.


What are you looking forward to during all star week? Game? HR Derby? Fan Fest? etc.

POWELL: To be honest, I'm looking forward to the three days off. I get all the baseball I can handle doing 180 broadcasts per year.


Do you think some of the players really will boycott the All-Star Game?

POWELL: No, I do not.


Do you think it's a sure bet that some will boycott the All-Star activities (home run derby, etc.)?

POWELL: I don't think there will be any boycott of anything at all.


If the worst case scenario comes true and many players do boycott the All Star Game, what do you think the fan reaction will be in Milwaukee and the rest of the country?

POWELL: Academic question, because I don't see it as a real possibility.


If you could be one baseball player for one day, who would you pick and what day?

POWELL: Hmmm, another one I've never been asked. I would love to go back in time and spend a day as Babe Ruth. Barring a time machine, how about being Shawn Green on the day he hit four homeruns? I would have loved to have been a homerun hitting baseball star, but alas I was a light-hitting second baseman/center fielder.


It must be difficult trying to present a positive outlook for an organization that makes losing an art form. I'm sure that you've wanted to rip apart some stupid play or inconsistent strategy, but as a professional you kindly point out the problem without going over the top. How many times have you wanted to go off on someone/something on the air, but have held back? How many times do you and Ueck just look at each other and shake your heads?

POWELL: LOL, yeah, there have been times when the emotions threaten to overload my mouth. I just keep in mind that no player WANTS to screw up. You can't take it personally. I get the most critical when I see a total lack of effort. On behalf of all of us who would have lopped off an arm for some big league service time, and ran out every grounder even in meaningless games from our high school days, I don't mince words when I see a Major Leaguer loafing.


EY is having an extremely tough beginning to the year. He appears to have a slow bat and he may have lost a step. Do you think the benefits of signing a 34YO free agent at a position where you have a statistical equal who is younger and cheaper outweigh the risks that the players skills may drop off dramatically due to aging? Can leadership overcome a 0.180 BA?

POWELL: That is a loaded question, obviously. Young is playing a lot better in the days since you submitted this question. I still want to see what happens with Belliard and Loretta. I remind again that there were not many attractive options on the free agent market so there were limited ways to add talent to a team that needed more of it.


The on-air time can be extremely long, but you and Ueck seem to have a good rhythm and keep the conversation flowing. Do you spend a lot of prep time before or after the game going over different topics to discuss?

POWELL: Not much as all. We both prepare individually and then the broadcast becomes a spontaneous collaboration. That works well with our personalities and strengths.


Do you read the sabermetric articles at brewerfan.com and other sites? Are you a believer in the use of statistical analysis to evaluate players and baseball tendencies? Would you put more emphasis on intangibles or raw statistics to evaluate a player?

POWELL: I am well-versed in sabermetrics and spend a lot of time reading the analysis and theories of the leaders in the field. I do see a lot of value in statistical analysis, without a doubt. The problem I see in the field is a lack of respect for scouting and visual evaluation of talent. People get so into the numbers that they forget about the human elements, and many in the field have too much arrogance to seek a more balanced picture. Those people get stumped when presented a case like the trade of Jeremy Giambi to Philly for a bag of chips and a bottle of pop. Billy Beane is the current sabermetrics poster boy because of his public comments about OBP (among other things), and here he goes and gives away a real life player whom the stats people like. Not talking about Giambi specifically here, because I don't know the behind the scenes circumstances and scouting reports that Beane was privy to, but the stats don't allow for drug and alcohol problems, bad personalities, girlfriend or family problems, etc.. I think the best evaluators use the numbers AND the scouts to build a complete picture about the human beings who play the game.


Obviously the teams record speaks for itself, but can you point to any qualifications (other than being Bud's daughter) that justify Wendy Selig- Prieb's position as president/CEO of this organization?

POWELL: Another carefully phrased question, eh? Let me turn it around for you to ponder. What are Kevin McClatchy's qualifications in Pittsburgh? What are George Steinbrenner's qualifications? What does John Moores' resume look like? Jerry Reinsdorf? Carl Pohlad? Actually, if you consider that Wendy was born into a baseball business family (as opposed to the industries that other CEO's come from), you could make a case that she is one of the MOST qualified CEO's in the game. She is well-educated and has been right in the middle of the baseball business her entire life. Most of the other owner/CEO/Presidents in the game made their money in some other business and bought their way into baseball with no background in the sport whatsoever. A good CEO/President will hire a smart baseball man who knows how to win and get out of the way. That is what Wendy has tried to do with the Dean Taylor regime. Dean is the first GM she has ever hired. Let's see how it plays out. Baseball is an inexact science. If there was an automatic formula for how to make a franchise win, every team would be using it.


Having some insider information into this organization, when do YOU think this team will be competitive?

POWELL: It depends on how you define competitive. In my mind, the only worthy goal is to win the World Series. It will be awhile before that is a realistic goal for this team. The first wave of talent in the farm system overhaul project is in the Cal League. It won't happen overnight. That doesn't mean that there can be no joy in following the Brewers in the interim. I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan, and they were terrible my whole life (with the one-year exception of 1982). Finally, Ted Turner got it right. Bobby Cox was installed as the GM and the focus was on building the best farm system in the game. I had a great time watching the prospects ripen on the vine as Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker, Tom Glavine, Tyler Houston, John Smoltz and others came up through the minors. The big league club was still losing, but I was excited about the future. Not all of those prospects fulfilled their promise, but once they got to the Majors, Bobby Cox went to the bench and John Schuerholz (with right hand man Dean Taylor) added a couple of veteran free agents (Ronnie's cousin Rafael Belliard and Sid Bream) and overnight in 1991 the Braves went from worst to first and haven't left first place since then. I followed the team as closely when they were building as I did once they started winning, and I always felt that I got a much deeper satisfaction out of the success the team achieved than all the bandwagon- climbers did, because I stuck with the team in the lean years. The goal in Milwaukee right now is similar to what it was in Atlanta in the late '80's: Do the best you can at the Major League level while you build a foundation for the franchise that will hold up over time. Will Ben Sheets, Nick Neugebauer, Mike Jones, Matt Yeatman, Ben Hendrickson, Manny Parra, Dave Krynzel, Corey Hart, JJ Hardy, Brad Nelson, Jason Belcher, Bill Hall, and the other young Brewers do for this club what the Braves' prospects did for Atlanta? There is no way to know, but it will be fun to find out.


Do you understand the frustration of the fans when we are promised season after season that this team will be better and it fails to meet even the more pessimistic expectations? What would you say to the fans to help relieve the frustration?

POWELL: I do understand the frustration. Everybody is surprised by the results to date from the '02 Brewers. On opening day I walked around the press box and surveyed the opinions of everyone I could find, getting projections for this year's team. Not a single person predicted 90 losses or more, not even the most cynical of press corps members. All but one or two projected a record within a few games of .500. Nobody saw this coming. What do I say to the fans? Pray for a labor deal that installs sanity to the economic and competitive system in MLB and levels the playing field between the Yankees, Braves, Royals, and Brewers and everybody else.


How do you like your brewerfan.com T-Shirt?

POWELL: I like it. Its sharp.


Continually painting a rosey picture could backfire big time for this organization, do you think with the growing dissatisfaction of the fans that the top brass needs to be more forthcoming about the true state of the team?

POWELL: Its not like anybody was saying the team would win the World Series this year. The front office felt the club would be competitive and could play .500 ball and that's what they told people. The club got off to a horrible start so people want to characterize those mildly optimistic words as being intentionally misleading, like Dean Taylor knew all along that Geoff Jenkins would hit .230 for two months and the club would struggle through April and May. Last year I thought the Cubs were horrible and they darned near won the division. Who saw the Reds leading the Central in June? Was Ed Wade lying to the Phillies fans when he said he thought they could contend, or did his team just play bad? This is an unpredictable game! I think there is more talent on this Brewers team now than there was when the club swept the Cubs and moved into position to challenge for the top of the division near the mid-point of last season. I don't think anyone has intentionally misled the public about the ballclub.


Supposing Royster does not return, who is on your short list of candidates for manager?

POWELL: That is the kind of academic question which is perfectly normal for you to think about, but it is not appropriate for me to speculate on. I hope the team wins 50 games in a row and Jerry is signed to a longterm contract.


Is upper management quietly looking at potential managers?

POWELL: I haven't asked. But it would be irresponsible for any baseball organization to NOT have a list of potential farm directors, scouting directors, managers, trainers, etc., on hand in the event that circumstances dictate a need to hire someone.


How close are the Brewers to signing Parra?

POWELL: You wrote this before he was signed so you know the answer now. Manny will be in Milwaukee on Monday and I would hope the radio guy would get some sound from him for the pregame show.


Does the organization have a long- range plan or vision for this ball club? We always hear how the team is building from within, from the bottom up. If the idea if to be patient until that talent reaches the major leagues, why is the team bothering with moves that merely patch holes? Does the club truly believe such patchwork will make the team competitive?

POWELL: Of course they are trying to make the big league club as good as they can under the circumstances. Just because you are building a farm system doesn't mean you can't try to capture lightening in a bottle and have a good year. Every year some team that you don't expect to win DOES win. If the team was signing old veterans to 5 year deals at the expense of player development, I would see that as a cause for concern. All of the recent contracts signed have been 2 year deals that keep the team within the budget set for the Major League payroll.


Is Dean Taylor's job in jeopardy? If so, would the team gut the entire staff including the player development people? I realize you may be somewhat limited in your response to this next question, but do you perceive management and/or ownership to be part of the problem with the Milwaukee Brewers?

POWELL: No, Dean Taylor's job is not in jeopardy. I think the biggest problem with the Brewers is the fact that they are trying to win with a payroll less than half that of the elite teams in the game. Imagine joining a rotisserie league where you had $130 to spend and half the league had $260? You would hate to have to talk to the media about it, but it would obviously be a factor in why you didn't win year after year. I give the Brewers a lot of credit for NOT talking about finances and payroll when trying to explain why they have not had a great year for the last decade. They are trying to be as positive as they can be and not make excuses, but the reality is that MLB needs a major overhaul of its system.


Has the team considered a complete & full fire sale? If no, why not?

POWELL: If there is a deal to be had that would benefit the Brewers on a longterm basis, they would turn it.


As much as I understand how hard it is to build & maintain a ball club on limited resources, the Brewers haven't exactly been very wise in limiting their mistakes when small market clubs have virtually no margin for error. Do you feel the public deserves some complete & utter honesty instead of always being fed the same financial excuses?

POWELL: Actually, I think they have limited their mistakes pretty darned well. It is impossible to make moves and NEVER make a bad one. On a team with no margin for error, the moves that don't work out get talked about for a long time. I'm trying to think which moves have had a major negative impact on the team. People like to go back to the Cirillo deal, but as much as I like Jeff, if you look at his non-Coors Field numbers I don't think you would complain too much about the trade even though Jamey Wright has not come into his own like they hoped. The Vina deal looks bad to some but Acevedo was cashed in for Dejean, and he is a definite asset. The Jose Hernandez signing looked shaky but he ended up at SS and became a bargain. There are lots of really nice moves that this regime has made. It is just too bad they can't turn a Wickman-type into a Sexson-type every week, but it takes two to tango.


What happened to Billy Hall so far this spring and is the club concerned with his struggles at AAA?

POWELL: He was in the Cal League a year ago at this time. I don't know that the first two months in Indy have proven anything, except that his defense is still a concern and that he isn't ready for the Majors yet. Hall is only 22 years old and has great tools and has made AAA. Be patient and see how he develops.


Will Cristian Guerrero ever truly break out?

POWELL: No way to know at this point. He is 21 and is still raw. He has the tools to succeed. The rest is up to his physical and mental maturity.


As much fun as it must be to be on the road having one of the coolest jobs in the world, you must spend a significant amount of time away from your family. While you do have the entire off-season to spend at home, do you & your family try to do anything creative to bridge the gap? Do they ever join you on road trips, etc.? Long home stands like the current one the Brewers are on must be incredibly rewarding.

POWELL: My kids are so young that the family doesn't travel too easily at this point. My wife meets me on the road when we can work out the logistics with the grandparents, but for the most part the road is the major downside to this job. I love the homestands and I don't seek any additional work in the offseason at this point to maximize our family time. There are lots of people who have it worse and I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but I wish all 162 were at Miller Park!


Could you please offer us your very own Brewers top 10 prospect list.

POWELL: Okay, Brian didn't tell me who sent what question (although I plan to look at the thread after I finish), but I'd bet a solid short-season prospect that this one is from Toby. Regardless, let me give my kudos to the Power 50, which is always thought-provoking stuff and is quite a thoughtful list. I'll go off the top of my head here but will use this question on the next "JP's Mailbag" and will devote a little more time to it. I preface this list with the caveat that I am well aware that it is easier to project hitters than pitchers, so if there is a hitter I feel good about he might be ranked ahead of a pitcher that is an outstanding prospect. Once they are successful in the big leagues and have proven their arms are sound, I always favor pitching. But in terms of ranking minor league prospects, I am biased toward the position players.

1-Corey Hart, 1B: This guy has been absolutely raking since he got back to Ogden last year. Dean Taylor first alerted me to Hart on a bus ride to Pro Player Stadium shortly after the '00 draft, where Hart had been picked in the 11th round. The Brewers had brought him in to County Stadium for a pre-draft workout and Hart was awe-inspiring. His numbers last year and this year are incredible. They are tinkering with him at 3B and if he could man that spot, well, I can't move him up any higher.

2-Dave Krynzel, CF: Slumping right now in terms of his batting average, Krynzel has shown plenty that far outweighs that: He can learn and make adjustments. His OBP has climbed over .400 despite the recent scarcity of hits as he has made a huge advancement in his ability to draw walks. He is still raw in some areas but his make-up is off the charts, which is why the Brewers threw him into the Cal League at such a young age.

3-JJ Hardy, SS: Yes, I have last year's second rounder higher than the first rounder. Hardy clearly should have been taken in the first round by somebody. As what I believe to be the youngest player in the Cal League, JJ has shown that he will be an outstanding defensive SS in the big leagues someday. His bat, less than a year from the time that he first got started with the wood, has been solid if unspectacular. Just holding your own in that league at that age in your first wooden bat year with that defensive ability is very impressive. And if you thought Krynzel's makeup was good...

4-Brad Nelson, 1B: And when was it that the Brewers didn't seem to have ANY position player prospects? Nelson was in a cold weather HS one year ago. He is ripping up the cold weather Midwest League and is keeping the Klesko labels alive and well.

5-Ok, time for some pitching. Ben Hendrickson, RHP: Has a low- to mid- 90's fastball and a knee buckler hook. If your ERA is under two and a half in the Cal League, you have a good chance.

6- Tie: Mike Jones and Matt Yeatman, RHP's: Both are Rh'ers, both can throw hard, and both are faring pretty well in the Midwest League. Yeatman's numbers are better but May/June numbers in the Midwest League can be misleading. Both are outstanding prospects. Neither is throwing as hard as they did last year, but both have nice K/IP ratios and they are young. Either might move to #1 on this list later in the summer. Good sizes, good deliveries, great potential.

8-JM Gold, RHP: This is why I rank pitching low. He has survived Tommy John and a spring elbow scare and is throwing 92-95 for High Desert now. He has barely pitched in 3 years, so the fact that he is throwing this well is a real positive. Only 22 and everybody has Tommy John sooner or later, right? Cross your fingers. He has had stiffness again even in the last couple of weeks, but hopefully that is just part of the process of getting back to throwing every five days.

9-Bill Hall, SS: Don't sweat his first two months in the IL too much. He is 22 and has serious bat speed and tools. I think he wants to be a great player and he has the tools to achieve that, but there is work to be done.

10-Froilan Villanueva, C: The best catching prospect at the position which has the biggest shortage of talent in the organization. He is a bit raw too but he is slowly finding his sea legs at High Desert.


Thanks for taking the time Jim, and for the broadcasts with Mr. Uecker each & every day.

POWELL: Thank YOU. If you like what we do, please patronize the Brewers Radio Network sponsors. They make sure the broadcasts on radio remain free for you.


How sensitive are the microphones that are used for the Brewers broadcast?

POWELL: They are excellent unidirectional microphones.


Do they have "popper-stoppers" to prevent a lot of vocal pops?

POWELL: We call them "wind-screens", but yes, they are designed to prevent the popping of P's and help make it sound clean.


Also are they multi-directional so you have to be careful not to make a lot of rustling noises around them or are they limited to uni-directional?

POWELL: Uni-directional is best for the announcer's mikes. Omni-directional is the best for crowd mikes.


I have been curious as how you can pull up stats, or take a drink without getting all the secondary noise on the air?

POWELL: The crowd noise drowns out some of the extraneous booth sound. We also have "cough" buttons, which we use A LOT. If you could only hear what goes on while the cough buttons are pushed...


How did you crack into broadcasting? I realize it was in the minor leagues etc., but did you just fill out an application for an announcer and get the job? Or perhaps you did a little networking to swing your first gig?

POWELL: My first experience in broadcasting came during my junior year of high school. I did well in school and was taken into the TAG (Talented And Gifted) program in Atlanta. The main benefit of making the TAG program was that they let you pick what job you would most like to "job-shadow" as an internship. I chose the Braves' broadcast jobs, of course, but they couldn't swing an internship with them, unfortunately. As an alternate, they placed me with WGST, one of the top radio news/sports AM stations in the country. I spent a summer learning at the knee of people like Brad Nessler, now a national PBP man, and Steve Holman, who has been an Atlanta PBP man for a long time. I also spent a lot of time in the news room and was there the day that Reagan was shot. With the guidance of those outstanding professionals and the behind the scenes people who do the real dirty work, I chose Georgia as my college based in large part on their excellent campus radio station and the School of Journalism. I went to work for WUOG my freshman year, but the competition to get on the sports staff was so fierce I had to "settle" for the news staff. The departments' Directors' jobs were awarded through an interview process with the faculty and the upperclassman staffers, so my sophomore year I went after the Sports Director's job, even though I had not been in sports at all with the station. In my interview I outlined a plan to expand the staff of volunteer students and to provide comprehensive coverage of all UGA sports, regardless of their stature. As I mentioned before, I won the job and that was the official start of my career. I remain very proud of the staff I had at Georgia, which included some talents like Chip Caray, who made it big, and some talented people like Mike Sammond who got a taste of the business but went in other directions. My wife is a UGA J-school grad. Go Dawgs!


Would you agree that the worst part about the EY signing wasn't EY himself (I'm still hopeful he can be useful), but the fact that the signing was finalized and announced prior to moving any of the extra infielders, thus significantly limiting Dean Taylor's trade leverage?

POWELL: It sounds good to say that it hurt his trade leverage and at the time I might have thought you were on to something, but the truth is that there are 29 other teams, and enough time has passed that we are well beyond the leverage stage. Loretta's contract is too big, Lopez doesn't have enough value, and nobody has offered enough for Belliard, or so it would seem.


Jim, can you give us some injury updates on some minor league guys? I am most interested in knowing about Kade Johnson, Terry Mayo, Ryan Poe, Jeff Robinson, Al Hawkins, Jose Mieses, Judd Richardson, Eric Henderson, Mike Shwam and Mike Adams. Ok, I guess that's a lot of guys...

POWELL: Kade Johnson is a story unto himself. Johnson was a 2nd rounder in '99 as a catcher and has been hurt virtually the whole time he has been with the organization. He has been in AZ lately rehabbing after more elbow problems, and the organization (as well as Kade) has been debating moving him to the OF, at least as a trial. Every time he gets ready to play, he gets hurt again. He pulled his quad, rehabbed it, and then pulled it again last Friday. The ball jumps off his bat still but his injuries have left him on the outside looking in. Mayo had a groin strain but should be fine for shortseason ball. Hawkins, Poe and Mieses should be back after the A-S break. Mieses had a major shoulder reconstruction, including the dreaded capsular shift, and you should curtail your expectations accordingly. Richardson had labrum surgery but could pitch for Ogden in the second half. Eric Henderson had an elbow surgery right after he signed and now has shoulder problems. More surgery has sidelined him for the year. Schwam had rotator cuff and labrum repairs and should be back on the mound in the fall. Adams is back in action.


Have you heard any good things about any of the young Latin American players that have been brought over to the States to play short season ball in Arizona? Anyone in particular?

POWELL: Not yet. Check with me in the second half.


Are we likely to see Izzy Alcantara or Jim Rushford on the major league roster any time soon? Anyone else that we're likely to see called up before September?

POWELL: There isn't a mad rush to make room for anyone since Hall is the only longterm prospect at AAA and he clearly isn't ready. Alcantara, Thompson, and Rushford could help the bench, but it will depend on what roster moves are made. You have to make 40-man room for them if you want to bring them up.


Two years ago, before he had pitched his first pro innings, you mentioned Ben Hendrickson as looking very good, and he has obviously come on strong since then. Of the guys already in the system who will playing for Ogden and Maryvale this year, who should we be looking out for in your opinion? In particular, any thoughts on pitchers Hubert Pruett, Greg Moriera, Dennis Sarfate, Calvin Carpenter from the '01 draft?

POWELL: Sarfate had elbow surgery. Could be back after the A-S break. Carpenter has been okay pitching this spring in Maryvale and will pitch in short season ball. Pruett should be recovered from a freak accident where he hurt his arm on a fence and we should see him in the second half too. Moreira is in AZ and will get a shot at short season ball as well. I don't have any hot leads on any of them at this point but I am always nosing around and will let you know.


Do you feel professional broadcasters should be more removed from the organization in which they are supposed to be covering?

POWELL: Some broadcasters get too close to the players and/or their organization and their objectivity is compromised. Many or most do not. I think it depends on the broadcaster.


Okay, that is the last question that Brian has forwarded to me. I will be happy to interact with you guys again in the future, but next time let's do a chat so it won't take me 8 hours! I enjoy talking ball so it won't be hard to rope me in sometime in the future.

 




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