I spent the majority of the past two days packing up everything I own and calling in favors with friends to help me move it across town to my new crib (thanks Joe). For baseball purposes, that meant a lot of Uecker, something I will never complain about. After watching the Crew go 4-1 on the week and head into today’s opportunity to earn a sweep against the Mets, I didn’t think too much of it as they fell behind early in the series finale. I figured it would be easy to optimistically cover a couple of solid series wins as the Brewers continued to hang around in a crowded NL Central.
I don’t know what happened, or why it happened, but I promise you what I’m about to tell you is a true story. As my dad and I took trip after trip up the stairs with all of my furniture, I stopped for a minute whenever I could to listen to an at-bat and catch my breath. By this point in the afternoon, the Brewers were down 1-7 in the fifth inning, and I was admittedly preoccupied as I started to think the move was never going to end. But as I paused to listen to Keon Broxton’s at-bat with one runner on in the bottom of the sixth, I had a thought cross my mind that in hindsight, given everything this franchise has been through over the past couple of years, was admittedly crazy: “I feel like they’re about to come back”.
On the very next pitch, Broxton took a 2-2 change-up yard; 7-3.
What transpired over the next hour and a half was incredible, and ended with me losing my mind in a Budget rental truck in the heart of West Allis, fighting every urge imaginable not to tweet and drive. As Manny Piña homered to put the Brewers ahead 11-9, a lead they would keep en route to a 5-1 week and a series sweep, I felt something I haven’t with the Brewers since 2014: joy.
It’s the middle of May, the Brewers are 21-17, and if the season ended today, they’d be playing in the Wild Card game. And while Joe Madden and the Cubs respond to their sub .500 record by “welcoming a tight NL Central race” (you win one world series in 108 years and suddenly the division is yours to ‘welcome competition’ into), the Brewers keep winning. As noted in one of the many articles written about the Brewers by the national media this week, the Brewers 2-8 hitters all rank in the top half of the MLB in OPS; the only one missing from that group is Jonathan Villar, who is starting to show signs of life. They won five of six without Ryan Braun, and they’re four games above .500 without their Opening Day starter. In theory, this team could get even better before the end of the month.
Non-emotional skeptics will point to the Brewers dismal bullpen and subpar starting rotation as a reason not to jump on the 2017 playoff bandwagon. Fox Sports ranked the Brewers the “least likely to contend of the MLB’s 5 most surprising teams“… desperate for content, much? Even loyal followers of the Sunday Cycle will note that just last week I wrote about how it wouldn’t be wise for the Brewers to get distracted by their winning ways and abandon the rebuild for short term glory. And if I wasn’t surviving on a diet of Miller Lite and Papa Murphys, I’d probably have enough sense to check my optimism for just a second. But screw it- this team is unbelievably fun to watch. Did anyone else see Eric “glasses” Sogard hit a go ahead home run Friday night in his first MLB game since 2015? You can’t make that stuff up!
So what would it take for the Brewers to keep winning? In my opinion, they’d need three things to happen to realistically make a run:
- Junior Guerra needs to make a healthy return to the starting rotation, and pitch like he did in 2016.
- They need to rely on their top AAA pitching to fill some huge gaps in their bullpen; it’s a TERRIBLE idea to trade prospects for relief pitching.
- They need a true ace in their starting rotation, and they’re going to have to part ways with a couple of top prospects to get it.
If the Brewers continue to hit the ball at this rate, and the first two items above start to fall into place by the All Star break, then consider me all in. We’ve already got the number one ranked minor league system, the lowest payroll in all of baseball, and a 31-year old GM who’s only misstep in recent memory seems to be Neftali Fe-lose (get it? *elbow nudge*). Why wait if you don’t have to? The longer the Brewers continue to hang around in the NL Central race, the stronger the case will become for going for it this year. Never in a million years did I think we’d be in this position at the quarter mark of the season, but man is it fun to be wrong. If the Brewers can snag a series win in San Diego, it’s going to set up quite the series next weekend at Wrigley.
I love you, Mom!