Cecil Cooper was ruminating one fine spring day in Arizona on his persistent anonymity. "Maybe it's my fault for picking the wrong years to do well," he said with the merest suggestion of irony. Indeed, when First Baseman Cooper hit a rousing .352 in 1980, an average that would have won him a batting championship in a normal year, George Brett captured the nation's fancy with his quest for a .400 season. He wound up at .390. Cooper put together another sensational performance last year, batting .313 with 205 hits, 38 doubles, 32 homers and 121 runs batted in. He was among the league leaders in average, homers, RBIs, runs, hits, total bases and slugging percentage. He batted safely in 81% of the 155 games he played. Not a bad year. Alas, teammate Robin Yount had an even better one, batting .331 with 46 doubles, 12 triples, 29 homers, 129 runs and 114 RBIs. "There always seems to be someone or something to overshadow me," Cooper said sadly.
Cooper's lament is a relatively common one on a team awash with stars. Centerfielder Gorman Thomas, who tied Reggie Jackson for the league lead with 39 homers—"I thought Reggie tied me,"—complained this spring that "I might be the best-kept secret in baseball." And Third Baseman Paul Molitor, the brilliant leadoff man who hit .302 and scored a league-leading 136 runs, might be justified in grousing about his lack of celebrity were he so inclined. The Brewers are simply a team with too many stars for any one of them, even Yount, the Milwaukee shortstop, to stand out, and they play in a working man's community that holds prima donnas suspect. The stars must be content, then, with merely winning, something they did a lot of last season, missing the world championship by one game.
They'll be hard pressed to do as well this year. The Brewers eschewed offseason transactions, preferring to go with what got them there a year ago. It's General Manager Harry Dalton's not entirely original theory that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." And, as Dalton points out, "We'll have Don Sutton from opening day on, a luxury we didn't have a year ago." Sutton has won 258 major league games and he might well have at least one more big season in his durable right arm, but he's 39 years old. And the Brewers have a barrel of trouble elsewhere on the mound. Rollie Fingers, who saved 29 games in 1982 despite missing the last month of the season with a torn forearm muscle, will start this season on the 21-day disabled list. It was also learned during spring training that Pete Vuckovich, who had an amazing 32-10 record the past two seasons, has a torn rotator cuff and will miss at least two months. It could be a long season, for all the stars in heaven won't save a team without pitching.
Milwaukee's infield of Cecil Cooper (.313), Jim Gantner (.295), Robin Yount (.331) and Paul Molitor (.302) had 84 homers and 349 RBIs. And, defensively, it helped the Brewers lead the league with 185 double plays. But as good as these players were, the Brewers almost blew the division after Reliever Rollie Fingers developed arm trouble, losing 13 of 29 games in his absence.