The Milwaukee Brewers are for real. I have been slow to come around, slow to gain appreciation for the fact that what the Brewers have going for them is team chemistry with just the right mix of talent to capture a World Series in a year where one-by-one the biggest spending teams are collapsing like sand castles disingegrating in a strong wave.
What baseball fan would have gone to his piggy bank and bet that when the American League and National League championship series began that the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies would all be going to the neighborhood bar to share a few brewskis with friends and watch on the cable feed, just like him? Like nobody.
During the regular season there was a tendency to think of the Brewers as a generally low-budget outfit with two big-gun hitters in the middle of the lineup surrounded by little-known players. Both left-fielder Ryan Braun and first-baseman Prince Fielder produced Most Valuable Player-caliber seasons and one of them will surely win the award. But the help they received is what separated the Brewers from the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, and oh yeah, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Of course, if I had dressed out I could have helped the Brewers separate themselves from the Cubs and Astros, so forget them.
Lest we forget, in mid-summer, the National League Central was so bunched that on one day there was a virtual deadlock between all four of the non-Chicago, non-Houston teams. Even Pittsburgh. Naturally, that didn’t last. On July 25, Pittsburgh was tied for first with St. Louis. Then the Brewers won 27 of their next 32 games and Pittsburgh, as it has for 19 straight seasons, went into decline and finished below .500. The Reds, everyone’s pre-season favorite to repeat as the division crown winner, got stuck in the mud and never made any progress again. And while the Cardinals rallied at the end of the season to slip into the playoffs, they were never a threat to Milwaukee down the stretch.
No one compared Milwaukee’s starting rotation to Philadelphia’s, but Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke, and Shaun Marcum did the job. I have to confess that I had to look up closer John Axford‘s resume to discover what he did before recording a summer good enough to accumulate 46 saves and relegate Francisco Rodriguez to 8th-inning duty. Axford was 8-2 with 24 saves last year.
Braun’s and Fielder’s lineup helpmates like Richie Weeks (when healthy), Corey Hart, Yuniesky Betancourt, and especially Nyjer Morgan, kept the runs coming. Morgan was added this season and turned in a career year, batting .304 and making things happen on the bases and in the outfield. Morgan is no young pup, either. He is 31 and bounced around the majors since 2007 with Pittsburgh, Toronto and the Washington Senators before finding a home base where he is so popular he might get a beer named after him.
One by one a number of serious contenders have flaked off and as I look around at the last teams standing, I am ready to predict that the Brewers will win the World Series and make Milwaukee happier than it has been since the old Braves of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn copped the crown in 1957.
Tags: Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Corey Hart Eddie Mathews Francisco Rodriguez Hank Aaron Houston Astros Milwaukee Braves Milwaukee Brewers New York Yankees Pittsburgh Pirates Prince Fielder Rickie Weeks Ryan Braun Shaun Marcum St Louis Cardinals Warren Spahn Yovani Gallardo Yuniesky Betancourt Zach Greinke