That's what 2012 SHOULD'VE looked like
Yovani Gallardo, his dominant self.
Ryan Braun, a single shy of the cycle.
John Axford, unhittable in the ninth.
For three or so sun-drenched hours at Miller Park Wednesday, the fans who showed up saw a Brewers club perform the way we thought it would during the slate-gray days of February.
Okay, no one could've pictured that Corey Hart would be at first base or that someone named Cody Ransom would be holding down the fort at short. And who is Jim Henderson and what is he doing in the set-up role in the bullpen?
But otherwise, this was what the faithful thought they'd be seeing on a regular basis this season but that's hardly been the case.
Ryan Braun has been his reliable, incumbent MVP self even after his winter of discontent, one that had him fending off doping allegations. Seam-heads wondered how he'd fare in a Milwaukee batting order devoid of Prince Fielder, but he's hardly missed a beat.
Gallardo had nine K's Wednesday afternoon and was fairly untouchable after starting his workday by giving up a lead off home run to an obscure Chicago outfielder. Few think Gallardo is a number one guy in a rotation but he's as close to one as the Brewers have, what with Zack Greinke's trade to the Angels. And, he's the one hurler sure to be part of the 2013 aggregation.
John Axford's problems are well-documented. He was dominant in the ninth Wednesday, and seems to be back among Manager Ron Roenicke's late-inning options. Too bad Axford's trade-mark chin spinach had to pay the price for his mid-season stumbles. May his dominance and facial hair both flourish as Milwaukee plays out the slate.
The only thing missing at Miller Park during the final game of this home stand was buzz. A Cubs/Brewers game in late August would, in theory, mean a packed house (even on a weekday afternoon), hard play between the lines and conflicted loyalties in the seats.
Wednesday's gathering of roughly 31,000 souls is nothing to sneeze at but the energy just wasn't there. Sure, there were plenty of folks in Chicago garb, but the lamb was lying with the lion as fans of both teams knew that this was a game that means nothing except for those playing for 2013 roster spots. And, rumor had it that scalpers were getting all of 40 cents a ticket for those empty terrace level chairs before the first pitch.
That's 40 U-S cents.
This is the Brewers lot as the season plays out: a team out of contention that'll be giving plenty of young guys a chance to eat a big-league spread while trying to prove their MLB bona fides in September. Hard core fans will love it--guys who ingest "Baseball America" like the rest of us down nachos For others who find themselves holding tickets to what are now tilts that mean little well, rest assured that the Miller Park lots are still a fine place to party yourself into the mood.
Sure, the Brewers have needs--starting pitching and reliable relievers among them. They're pretty solid elsewhere, provided Jean Segura is the answer at short and Rickie Weeks hits next year the way he's batting since Milwaukee's playoff chances died. Hart is great a first, Aramis Ramierez delivered as advertised and the outfield is fine. And, the Brewers are blessed with two, count 'em two, more than able catchers. Most teams are lucky to have one.
For a few hours Wednesday afternoon, all seemed well in Brewersland as the home club held off the Cubs 3-2. Few will remember what happened at Miller Park this day, but a great day at the ballpark always trumps a great day at work. The Brewers have to punch in, no matter what, until the final out is made sometime in October. How they use that time will help dictate whether or not we're watching meaningful games at this same time next year.
No matter how nice it was to see what 2012 COULD'VE looked like Wednesday afternoon, it doesn't top seeing your team in the playoff hunt. And, nothing sells tickets like success.
Even when they're going for 40 cents a piece.