Friday, September 16, 2011

State of the Union: Brewers

When the 2011 season got underway for the Milwaukee Brewers, the fans had everything to be excited about. Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio did an outstanding job in the offseason by addressing the issues the Brewers had from the previous season, which was mostly the pitching aspect of the game. Brewers acquired starting pitchers Zach Greinke from the Kansas City Royals (along with Yuniesky Betancourt) in exchange for top prospects which included Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. Brewers also acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a very promising athlete, Brett Lawrie. We also traded for Nyjer Morgan, who we acquired from the Washington Nationals for Cutter Dykstra. The bullpen was still a partial red flag, even with veteran pitcher Takashi Saito being signed from free agency. The Brewers were set, ready to take on the NL Central and all of baseball. They finally had a contending team.

To much delight of Brewers Nation, baseball heard the unfortunate news that Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright was done for the season. Adam blew out his elbow during spring training which required Tommy John's surgery, putting him out for 15 months. Still, the Cardinals had their depth in their pitching staff and remained a contender. The Reds also looked to be promising with their young pitching and their dominate offense. It was off to the races, with the Reds and Cardinals as the heavy favorites to take the NL Central as the season began. Since the Brewers are such a small market team, no one even gave them the light of day on the top sports television networks and shows. But, as you can see, there is a reason a baseball season is 162 games and not merely decided by who looks good on paper.

With the magic number being at just 8, the Brewer get to finish the season out with all teams below a record of .500, and have the last 6 games at Miller Park, where they are a ML best 52-23, one would think that the division is all but theirs. The Cardinals, who have a 4 game series coming up at the Phillies, remain 5.5 games behind the Brewers. The only thing that is holding back the Brewers right now is themselves, who seem to have turned the burners off as of late and seem to want to just coast into the post season. All sides of the ball have been dismal. Batters are struggling to hit, pitchers are getting their pitch counts too high early, and defense has been lackluster. The media hasn't helped either. The Sports Illustrated "curse", Nyjer Morgan's antics, K-Rod complaining to the media about not being used how he wants, and then Fielder announcing that he will likely not play for Milwaukee next year, all come into play at the absolute worst time. The Brewers are about to win the NL Central for the first time since coming over from the American League, and all this negativity affects a surging team like the Brewers. Just a month ago, they were the hottest team in baseball. Now it seems like the morale has deflated.

The news on Fielder probably not playing here next season isn't shocking, its what everyone expects. However, an interview like that should be conducted in the offseason, not when a team is in a playoff hunt. As for K-Rod, I understand we promised him split saves between him and closer John Axford. Nonetheless, Frankie knew coming in he was here to be our set-up guy. Axford is currently on a 39 game save streak. The say goes: "Don't fix what isn't broken." Nyjer Morgan will be Nyjer Morgan. Until he stops producing as a .300 hitter, let him do what he wants, whether its a beast mode pose, or an "Ahhhhh!!" As long as he keeps his cool and doesn't let his temper get the best of him, he will be a great asset for the Brewers in the postseason and into next year, assuming we offer him a contract. I'll save the complete talk of Fielder's free agency for a different blog after the season is over with.

The bottom line is is that the Brewers, in my eyes and in the eyes of the 2,000 plus new season ticket holders, is that the Brewers are the real deal. We have a chance to do great things this year and years to come. We finally have an owner who wants to win, a General Manager who makes things happen and keeps promises, and a head coach who is gutsy yet tactical at the same time. It's a recipe for success. A recipe that could put up a few new banners to hang at Miller Park, and who knows, one could even say "World Series" on it. Time will tell. We just need to ignite one last time this year and not let it run out until mid-October. We defeated the odds so much this year by outlasting the Reds and presumably the Cardinals too. We now just have to prove we can win under the spotlight, when all the cameras are on us. If we do that, engrave the Brewers name on that World Series trophy. We have a team that can do it.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota @TheBIGVrchota

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