MILWAUKEE -- Until a flurry of December activity that rebuilt the starting rotation and reenergized the fan base, the Brewers' 2010 was mostly forgettable. The team posted its second consecutive sub-.500 season, and, unlike 2009, never competed in the National League Central.Call it an extended CC Sabathia/Ben Sheets hangover. The Brewers tried and failed in 2009 to replace their departed aces from the 2008 NL Wild Card team, and tried again for 2010. The club considered left-hander Randy Wolf the second-best free-agent pitcher in the '09-'10 offseason and aggressively went out and got him, guaranteeing three years when no other club, as far as was publicly reported, offered two. Wolf would slide behind Yovani Gallardo in the starting rotation. Then Melvin made a late-winter grab for lefty Doug Davis, who, other than a cancer scare, had a long history of durability and looked like a nice fit in the middle of the mix. The Brewers might not have had star power beyond Gallardo, who did, in fact, emerge as a legitimate No. 1 pitcher. But they had depth, with Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra and Chris Narveson all vying for the two spots behind Gallardo, Wolf and Davis. As we now know, it didn't work out, and the Brewers finished next-to-last among NL clubs in starters' ERA.
So Melvin went to work again after the season, and, with the December additions of pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, hopes are high again for 2011 and beyond. Before we turn the calendar, though, here's a look back at some of the memorable storylines of 2010:5. Another changing of the guard
Whether Ken Macha ever had a chance with starting staffs that ranked dead last and next-to-last in cumulative ERA among National League clubs remains up for debate, but it was clear to Melvin after a second consecutive losing year that change was in order, so he dismissed Macha and hired a first-time manager in Ron Roenicke. The former Angels bench coach, the latest Mike Scioscia disciple to get his own skipper gig (the Rays' Joe Maddon and the Padres' Bud Black also coached under Scioscia), promises an aggressive approach to the game.
4. Rickie is for real
Rickie Weeks, the second overall pick in the 2003 Draft, had, prior to 2010, shown only glimpses of the impact player the Brewers think he could be. That changed last season, thanks to the first healthy campaign in his Major League career, and Weeks delivered career bests in games (160), plate appearances (754, a franchise record), runs (112), hits (175), doubles (32), home runs (29) and RBIs (83). He was not the only Brewers hitter to have a solid offensive season -- third baseman Casey McGehee and right fielder Corey Hart also deserve mention -- but Weeks' emergence was an important one for the Brewers, who were able to trade away second-base prospect Brett Lawrie this winter to get Marcum for the rotation.
3. More extensions for home-grown players
The Brewers followed a trend throughout baseball of locking up young players for the long term by signing Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo and All-Star right fielder Corey Hart to contract extensions. Gallardo went first, agreeing to a five-year extension on April 8 that will pay him at least $30.1 million through 2014 and could include 2015 as well. On Aug. 2, Hart, who could have been a free agent following the 2011 season, inked a three-year, $26.5 million extension that keeps him in the fold through 2013.
Hart's extension was particularly meaningful, given the way his year began. He was left out of the Opening Day lineup and left off the Brewers' All-Star ballot, but eventually won back a starting job and started in right field for the NL All-Star squad.
2. Hoffman bounces back to reach milestone
Starting pitching was the No. 1 reason for the Brewers' tough season, but closer Trevor Hoffman's unprecedented early-season struggles didn't help. He started the year only nine saves shy of 600 for his career, but was ousted as closer in mid-May after suffering five blown saves in 10 tries. A sore elbow may have contributed, but Hoffman bounced back after the All-Star break and pitched his way back into the late-inning rotation, eventually picking off a few saves from rookie closer John Axford. Hoffman finally became the first man to reach 600 saves on Sept. 7 against the Cardinals, sparking a celebration at Miller Park in which Hoffman's teammates carried him off the field. Such was their appreciation for a man who overcame the worst season of a Hall of Fame-bound career. It was the season's best moment for the Brewers.
1. Stockpiling Opening Day starters
Everybody expected Melvin to do something over the winter to bolster the starting rotation, but nobody expected this. Melvin gambled some of the Brewers' future for the chance to contend over the next two seasons, acquiring Marcum and Greinke in separate December trades that cost Milwaukee its starting shortstop (Alcides Escobar), probable starting center fielder (Lorenzo Cain), a potential future closer (Jeremy Jeffress) and its top pitching and positional prospects (Jake Odorizzi and Brett Lawrie, respectively). The stunning moves gave the Brewers three 2010 Opening Day starters (Gallardo for the Brewers, Greinke for the Royals and Marcum for the Blue Jays) and left Milwaukee poised as a team to watch in 2011, especially considering that Melvin didn't have to part with any of the Brewers' sluggers.
"'Excited' would be a severe understatement," left fielder Ryan Braun said. "It just shows the players [and] the fans, once again, the commitment to winning from our ownership and management. It's really exciting. We just got one of the best players in baseball [in Greinke], and I can't wait to get started."