79 win fever...catch it!
It's probably not a good sign that I know more than a few Miller Park beer-tenders. Then again, I hit at least 20 games a season and sit in roughly the same area, so familiarity blossoms amid frequency, both in terms of attendance and purchases.
One of the guys pouring me a cold, frosty early in the season asked me how many games I thought the Brewers would win this season. I said something like 79, the number falling out of my face without much thought and sounding surprisingly pessimistic as I said it out loud. His face fell slightly, wondering why I'd gone so seemingly low.
In hindsight, 79 would almost be considered a salvaged season, the way things are going.
As of this writing Milwaukee is tied for last with the Cubs in the NL Central, both sitting at 29-41 heading into Thursday afternoon's action. The Brewers need 50 wins in the remaining 92 scrapes to get to 79, a rate that's far from daunting but hard to imagine from a team that peaked after this spring's nine-game win streak.
It's been all downhill from there, but it's not a shock. This is a club that didn't look or feel right during spring training, be it because of the Baseball Classic or Aramis Ramirez' knee injuries--he still is playing on a leg and a half. Ryan Braun's neck and hand started acting up, and the young starters the team counted on flamed out both in the Arizona sun and later when the games started to count. Corey Hart's anticipated return didn't materialize as promised on Memorial Day and there's doubt as to whether he'll be ready after the All-Star break. Production at first base falters as five different starters give it a try in Hart's stead. Rickey Weeks gets disproportionate blame for the Crew's faltering offense but holes abound in this lineup, especially now that Braun is on the DL: and Ramirez' protection evaporated.
Those young arms faltered in the early going, and a few got hurt. Wily Peralta shows flashes, but it seems his head gets in the way when the going gets a little snug. Mike Fiers flamed out of the rotation and is done for the year with a broken arm. Hiram Burgos is ailing, as is Marco Estrada. Yovani Gallardo can be brilliant one inning and then watch his pitch count blossom the next. The only thing wrong with spring training free agent acquisition Kyle Lohse is the fact he can't hit--he continues to pitch well as the offense struggles to score for him.
Man cave GM's have all kinds of suggestions for Doug Melvin--trade 'em all except Braun seems to be the consensus--but it's not that easy. Or smart.
First, there's little of value--what do you think a gimpy Ramirez brings? How much would a contender give for a Milwaukee reliever like John Axford of Jim Henderson? The Journal/Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt pointed out the other morning on Brewers 360 that closers/relievers seldom bring big names in return in such deals.
What to do? How about sit tight, let the kids play and write this year off? Let Jean Segura season. Enjoy Gomez and Nori Aoki. Allow Braun to heal--or, if he needs surgery, get it done now. Have Scooter Gennett and Weeks share second--Rickey seems to be hitting a lot better with the push that comes from having a potential phenom down the bench. Bring pitcher Johnny Hellweg up late in the season to see what he has. Hope Chris Narveson works out his woes in the Nashvile.
2013 is a mess, but it's not a shock--few thought they'd crater the way they did in May but then, this club hasn't looked right since convening in February.
50-42 from here on out might be a reach but it's not impossible. 79-win fever. Catch it!