Can it really be true?

first_imgNothing. That’s what the Milwaukee Brewers have given their fans over the last, ah, let’s say … 12 seasons. Well, I guess heartache does qualify. There sure has been plenty of that.Rickey Bones.Steve Woodard.Matt Mieske.Turner Ward.Marc Newfield. Quick, somebody stop me before Jack Voigt’s name comes up … oh, too late.Each name is like a dagger for Milwaukee supporters, a name that triggers a face that forces the recall of yet another tragic team in what has been an ongoing saga. Another brief flirtation with the .500 mark that tricked the Crew’s fans in the cruelest way. A promising summer gets them hooked on the thought of truly competitive baseball like a cheap drug until a late August/early September swoon sends them crashing back down. The drug wears off and suddenly the victim in all of this can see that John Jaha isn’t really the slugger he or she once believed him to be. Jeff D’Amico will always be hurt. The truth finally emerges in a manner similar to a drunkard waking up next to a member of the opposite sex and realizing the horrors of the last eight hours.For now, though, it looks like Milwaukee is legitimately producing a show of competitive baseball in 2005. And, refreshingly, they’re doing it the right way. General Manager Doug Melvin has avoided going for the quick fix and sacrificing the bright future that is just being scratched currently. Melvin hasn’t rushed prospects to the majors; there is a reason why Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder didn’t make the club out of spring training. He has supplemented the limited number of talented regulars on the team with a number of scrap-heap bargains (see: Derrick Turnbow, Doug Davis and Brady Clark). He hasn’t overspent for marginal free-agent talent, like, oh I don’t know, Jeffrey Hammonds. Now that Milwaukee’s initial wave of prospects is finding its niche, winning seems actually possible. Left-hander Chris Capuano has turned from an enigma as the result of nagging injuries into a front line starter. Geoff Jenkins is hitting somewhere near his contract value (though it should be noted his defense has been there all season). And J.J. Hardy is playing like the second coming of Robin Yount ever since the All-Star break hit.Most impressively, though, is the fact that Milwaukee is managing to stay afloat despite losing staff ace Ben Sheets, posting an 8-7 mark since the hard-throwing right-hander suffered a torn back muscle.Entering tonight’s action (stupid West Coast late night games), the Brewers’ record stands at 72-72, and for a Milwaukee club that entered the year with low expectations from the outside, that is a pretty damn good performance. In fact, Sept. 14 is the latest in the year a Brewers team has been at or above the .500 mark since 1992. Yes, 1992, as in Pat Listach and Tom Trebelhorn. And the scary part is that they have a real shot at finishing the year with the franchise’s first winning season since Listach and the likes of Cal Eldred helped to churn out 92 wins 13 years ago. Here’s how the rest of the schedule lines up for the Crew:Two games at Arizona (including tonight).Three games at Houston.Three games at home against Chicago.Three games at home against St. Louis.Four games at home against Cincinnati.Three games at Pittsburgh to finish the season.Now, keep in mind one of those games features Rick Helling taking on Roy Oswalt in Houston. But, other than St. Louis and Houston (who the Crew took two of three from last week), Milwaukee is not scheduled to face a team that, as of now, has a better record than its own the rest of the way. In short, this year there is no excuse for the Brewers to fade.And to most teams a winning season is no big deal. But for this young Milwaukee club, re-instilling the same sort of pride and swagger present in the franchise in its ’80s heydays is vital. Breaking out of a losing tradition of 12 seasons takes, to borrow a line from “What About Bob?,” “baby steps, baby steps.” And hey, a winning season to go along with a load of young talent provides a little hope for the future. That’s something at least. And something’s better than nothing.last_img

Leave a Comment