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Simple approach paying off for McGehee

June 1, 2010

MILWAUKEE — As he walks up to the plate during home games, the chorus of “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd plays on the Miller Park speakers. While he may not have planned it that way, the song perfectly exemplifies Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee.

With the way he’s performed since becoming an everyday player for the Brewers, it would be easy for McGehee to get caught up in the numbers he’s put up at the plate. Instead, he just does what he’s always done, use the entire field to produce at the plate for the Brewers.

Before and after a game, it’s easy to find McGehee: he’s nearly always at his locker. Ask him just about any question about himself or the team and he’ll give an honest answer.

But despite being the National League’s RBI leader through the first two months of the season, McGehee still has trouble evaluating his own performance. That’s because he said he tries to take things on a day-to-day basis as much as possible.

“I try not to get too excited or too upset about anything,” McGehee said. “I just try to get to the next day and focus in on that rather than looking back. Because what I’ve done one day really has no bearing on anything that’s going to happen today or the next day.”

A year ago at this time, McGehee was splitting time with Craig Counsell at second base while getting the occasional start at third. In the batting order, he bounced around, hitting everywhere but fourth and ninth during the 2009 season.

When McGehee started playing everyday toward the end of June, he provided two things the Brewers had been lacking: an everyday third baseman and consistency in the five hole.

“Our biggest two holes last year were the No. 2 and the No. 5,” manager Ken Macha said. “McGehee’s doing a nice job in the five hole.”

With Mat Gamel and Bill Hall ahead of him, McGehee was expected to be a backup infielder for the Brewers after making his first career Opening Day roster. But with a season-ending injury to Rickie Weeks, and as Gamel and Hall struggled at third, McGehee stepped in where he was needed.

McGehee batted .301 with 16 homers in his rookie season, while his 66 RBIs led all rookies. His .859 OPS was also third on the team behind Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.

After a surprisingly strong rookie campaign, which left him fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, expectations were much higher entering McGehee’s second big league season. But while some expected more from him in 2010, many suggested McGehee could be a prime candidate for a sophomore slump.

“I felt like there was pressure to continue to warrant being written in the lineup every day. That pressure’s always going to be there,” McGehee said. “But I think that in some ways having some success last year took a little bit of pressure. With that, I had confidence from the beginning and I knew what to expect as far as what I was capable of contributing.”

Not only has McGehee proved those doubters wrong, he’s nearly matched his season total of a year ago with 41 RBIs through just 48 games. Additionally, McGehee is second on the team with nine home runs and second only to Braun with 22 extra base hits.

True to his simple approach, however, the only opinion that really matters to McGehee is that of his teammates and coaches.

Based on recent lineups posted by Macha, the team’s confidence in McGehee is high. On Sunday, the California native became the first Brewers hitter not named Braun or Fielder to bat cleanup since July 1, 2008.

“I could care less what people want to write and say and what people around the league want to think,” McGehee said. “As long as the guys in here feel that I can do the job, you can write and say and tell me I’m terrible as much as you want. It doesn’t bother me a bit.

So even if someday the critics are proven right, McGehee isn’t worried about it.

“If I have it my way, I’ll be playing this game a long time. And they can keep waiting for me to fall on my face,” he said. “What’s the worst that happens? I fall on my face and everyone is right?”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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  1. Derek
    June 24, 2010 at 12:12 am

    BTW, the version that is played is not actually Lynard Skynard. It is the shinedown cover of simple man.

    • June 24, 2010 at 12:18 am

      Yeah, I’ve figured that out. Thanks for the heads up though.

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