Like my lawn, it's "wait 'til next year" for the Brewers
The Brewers' lost weekend in Cincinnati is prompting many who know more about baseball to proclaim the death of any Milwaukee playoff hopes.
The numbers certainly back up any such claims: the Crew is six games under .500 and ten and a half games back in the National League Central. Worse yet is the geography: three teams sit between the Brewers and first place, meaning you need all three to falter.
And, the only thing more unlikely than a mutual collapse by the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals is a Milwaukee resurgence, at least judging by what we've seen the first four months of the season.
Many will say injuries doomed the Brewers, the two to Alex Gonzales and Mat Gamel just days apart during an early western road trip being key. Truth is, Milwaukee stumbled out of the gate even with their original starting shortstop and first baseman. The club never did find a replacement at short, but Corey Hart filled the Gamel void with aplomb, and his move to first opened up an outfield spot for Nori Aoki who's been one of the few bright spots. Even the loss of starting pitchers Shawn Marcum and Chris Narveson didn't prove fatal as Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers stepped up ably--Fiers pitched great Sunday, but the offense couldn't support him.
More critical: the failure of the bullpen and Rickey Weeks. No one could've predicted John Axford's failures or K-Rod's hiccups. Manny Parra, Kameron Loe and the rest of the relief corps simply let too many games get away for the Brewers to be serious about contending. Weeks' season-long struggle at the dish is another unforeseen issue, and it shows no sign of abating: he's still fighting to crack .200, having struck out in the first Sunday with the bases loaded and two out.
History shows that, no matter how dire the math, a team thought to be dead can bounce back: the Cardinals and Rays both did last year, with St. Louis winning it all after falling ten back in late August. The record also shows, though, that you have to have the talent to muster such a charge, and this fan isn't seeing anything in this current Brewer configuration that portends any ten-game winning streaks happening. Breaks aren't happening, bounces are going the other way, one-run games are consistently lost and once-reliable performers are inconsistent at best or too often unreliable.
Hope I'm wrong--I'd love to eat this words, but I'm afraid Miller Park won't be the home of meaningful September games. It'll be a great place to kill a summer night, and one of the few remaining places to see green grass in Southeastern Wisconsin. Like my lawn, I'm afraid it's a case of "wait 'til next year" for the Brewers.
Such a realization doesn't make those who think this way any less of a fan--quite the contrary. Being a fan means being critically aware of your club--it's plusses and minuses. It means being honest enough to say there are too many pieces missing, an exercise that shouldn't bring anyone's loyalty into question. Truth is, it reaffirms their sanity. I, for one, will keep going to games, watching on TV and listening on the radio. I'll read every JS story, and search out reliable bloggers for insight. And, I'll commiserate with other fans about what went wrong, while hoping against hope for some sign of a playoff pulse.