Posted by Steve
Okay. I have taken my much-needed mini-Brewers sabbatical. Sorry about not posting much lately, but can you blame me? The saying “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” does not exclude low-traffic bloggers.
There’s so much to say about this collapse, but I’ll sum it up quickly. The Brewers have burned through an 8 1/2 game division lead and a 14-over .500 mark. Depressingly, the Crew now sits at .500, and has been gawdawful for a couple months. The pitching, once considered a strength, has become their worst enemy. Sheets went down, Capuano imploded, Suppan hasn’t been great, Vargas is bad and Yo and Villy are out of gas. Meanwhile they still can’t play on the road, and they were just swept by the San Francisco Dinosaurs. What a time to be entering the biggest series of the season.
But here’s the crazy part: The Brewers can still make the freaking playoffs.
I’m calling this my last ditch effort. It culminated by me wearing an old Little League Cubs shirt when I played baseball on Sunday (the same shirt that got me my ironic nickname). After Sunday’s creative loss, anger told me the season was over; I didn’t know how else to respond.
But then, something a bit strange happened. I happened to hear the Cubs improbably blow a first-and-second-with-no-outs chance in the ninth against Arizona, and something like rationale began to set back in. As Ron Santo squealed in agony after Jacque Jones grounded into the final out, I started to realize I still have some hope. I’m not sure why, and I’m pretty sure I hate myself for it, but it’s definitely there. I also realized something else: The Cubs aren’t that good either.
Of course, that’s the only reason I have hope. The Cubs aren’t very good. If they were good, the Brewers would be packing it in, and Dale Sveum might soon be interim manager. But as it stands, the division-leading Cubs are only 66-63. Amazingly, if the Brewers can go 2-1 at Wrigley, they’ll be only a half game out of first*.
This isn’t going to be easy. As Rick Braun notes in the JS’s nifty new Brewers Blog, the Brewers have TBA listed for Wednesday and Thursday’s starting pitcher. Braun also correctly notes that this is generally a bad sign.
The biggest reason for my semi-optimism is the impending return of Ben Sheets. When the Baseball Gods struck us down with a blister under a blister on Ben’s already torn middle finger, it just seemed like icing on the cake. But as of late Monday night, reports indicate the Brewers still have hope for Sheets making a start on Wednesday or Thursday. I’d rather not speculate on what could happen if Sheets can’t make that start, because it would be ugly.
Not that the Brewers should want to send out Claudio Vargas anyways, but his back injury could prove devastating if Sheets can’t start. Vargas would have gotten a start in Chicago, but now it sounds like either Manny Parra or Carlos Villanueva will take his spot. They might both have to pitch if Sheets can’t go, which in all likelihood would burn out the bullpen once again. And of course my biggest worry is that the Brewers rush Sheets back only to irritate the blister and keep him out even longer.
Even if Sheets can go (how effective will he even be in his first start back?), the Brewers are going to need some serious offensive output to win the series. The Cubs conveniently send their three best starters to face the Brewers, so that will be no easy task. I’m calling for a big series from Hardy, Hall and Weeks, since the Cubs are sending out two lefties. Braun and Fielder could combine for three home runs; I’d be alright with it.
The way I see it, here’s what the Brewers need to do to give themselves a shot. First, don’t get swept in Chicago. A series win would be huge, but they almost have to win one game. A Cubs sweep and a 4.5 game deficit would be pretty darn devastating. Second, get Sheets back to health. There’s no telling what boost an ace pitcher can give to a struggling team. Finally, stay within three games by September 1. Then call up a buttload of players to the expanded roster. They can add a bunch of relievers, pinch runners (I’m actually calling for Tony Gwynn!) and another catcher so they can pinch-hit later in games.
I thought about coming on here and writing about Yost being fired and potential changes next season, but it’s not quite to that point. There’s over a month of baseball left, and as bad as the Brewers have played, they’re still in it. It’s time for a rally, Brewer fans. Don’t lose hope yet. Dig out your lucky skivvies, hats, socks and shirts. Watch Harvey’s Wallbangers. Listen to “Eye of the Tiger.” Do what ever you have to do to get yourself geared up for the stretch run. And of course, put on everyone’s favorite Brewers jingle. Be like the creepy baby. Let’s hear your rally cry! But most of all, don’t lose hope! This thing ain’t over yet.
*Note: For the sake of my mental health, I am refusing to acknowledge the Cardinals’ chance to win the division. This is despite the fact that the Cards are two games out of first.