September 25 - Milwaukee's Best
To this day I’m really not sure when it all started. It could have been the shape of Robin Yount’s
perfectly groomed Eighties mustache which got me off on the wrong foot. Or maybe it was the subtle
dirty look I received from the usually jovial Bernie Brewer that left me irritated. Quite possibly it was
the three-day-old bratwurst from Miller Park I ingested that left a feeling of malaise. Whatever the
case may be I have always felt the need to make a mockery of the Milwaukee Brewers.
After years of ridicule that started with using old Teddy Higuera baseball cards to spruce up my bike
spokes, my insatiable disdain of the Brewers came to a culmination this season. In my previous
article last April, I slated Milwaukee as one of the five worst teams in Major League Baseball. Six
months later, in the heat of a pennant race, I realized my comments were not only flippant but dead
wrong. I am admitting my mistakes and, since July, have been openly and happily cheering for
Milwaukee for the majority of their pennant run.
Heading into the season the Brewers seemed destined for a season like the previous playoff-starved
twenty-four years. I figured they would keep Auntie Em on speed dial and make their way to the cellar
in the National League Central without a fight. With a far-from-stellar pitching staff and a feeble lineup
that wouldn’t intimidate the starting pitcher on the Milwaukee Girls Club under-12 softball team, I
assumed Brewers’ players would be screaming, “there is no place like home,” during their
clubhouse naps in hopes to abandon the ship in mid-June.
I was wrong.
Instead, they played miles above their potential and brought to the city what Milwaukee fans previously
read only in books and heard about around a campfire from their elders:a pennant race. Their “far-
from-stellar” pitching staff has won 79 games through Sunday and their “feeble” lineup leads the
entire Major Leagues in home runs this season with 219. (How do you like them apples littlemiss
Ben Sheets has led the way on the mound posting a 3.82 ERA and 12 wins thus far as the teams’
best starter, but Dave Bush (11 wins), Claudio Vargas(11 wins), and Jeff Suppan(10 wins) have also
contributed to the cause. Even rookie standout Yovani Gallardo, (no relation to Enrico Pallazzo, opera
singer from “The Naked Gun”) has pitched brilliantly collecting nine wins thus far.
For offense, Milwaukee has seen the exploding emergence of three budding young stars in Prince
Fielder, J.J. Hardy, and Ryan Braun. Fielder, in just his second full season in the league, will most
likely hit 50 homers and drive in 120 RBI’s by season’s end. J.J. Hardy, in his third season has
added some unexpected power to his arsenal tripling his previous career high in home runs as well
as hitting over 30 points better in average than his previous best. And, last but not least, the most
surprising contributor has been third baseman Ryan Braun (no relation to Lloyd Braun the computer
salesman working for George Costanza’s father in Seinfeld). In just four months the 23-year old
Braun has hit 32 homers, driven in 85 runs and posted a .322 average in an unprecedented rookie
Locked in a pennant race with Chicago for the past two months, the see-saw battle seemed poised
to come down to the final weekend of the season. Entering Thursday’s four-game series with Atlanta,
Milwaukee trailed the Cubs by just one game. Exiting the four-game series with Atlanta, Milwaukee
found themselves three-and-a-half games back and their playoff hopes barely flickering.
Unfortunately they will now need a season finale meltdown from Chicago this last and final week in
order to sneak into the playoffs now.
Nonetheless, it has been a great season for Milwaukee and my hat goes off to them for clearly
proving me wrong. Finally, they have put a winning product on the field and have a nucleus of talent
who may provide excitement in years to come. The Brewers will not be on my top five worst teams
next season and I will be glued to my TV with precarious hopes that they squeeze their way into the
playoffs this year.
It is not over until Bernie Brewer slides down the slide for the last time, the last sausage racer has
crossed the finish line, and the fat lady has eaten her last Polish dog. Keep hope alive. GO