Though in different sports, the current season of the Milwaukee Brewers shares many similarities to that of the 2008 Green Bay Packers. And that is a frustrating fact for cheesehead fans like myself.
In 2008 the Packers were coming off a successful 2007 season that sent them deep into the playoffs. There was great optimism that the 2008 squad would pick up where they left off and have another strong season and be a legitimate title contender.
After a very solid start had the Packers at 4-3 and in first place midway through the season, very few anticipated their collapse into a 6-10 also ran.
A combination of injuries, bad years by key players, and inability to win close games doomed the Packers to a 2-7 finish after the good start.
The 2009 Brewers were coming off a successful 08 season that saw them win 90 games and also win their first playoff game in 25 years.
Many people had the Brewers as contenders to win the National League pennant in 2009.
After a great start had the Brewers in first place in the National League Central Division, 11 games over .500 and amongst the best records in baseball heading into June; those expectations seemed justified.
But what of it now? With the non-waiver trading deadline just an hour away, the Brewers sit at .500 and battling to stay above fourth place.
And the only acquisition? Re-acquiring Claudio Vargas, whom we released before last season because he wasn't deemed worthy of belonging in the Crew's rotation. And that is a scary fact today.
A combination of injuries, bad seasons by key players, and inability to win close games has doomed the Brewers for the last two months and had dropped the Crew from first to fourth by this week. Sound familiar?
Injuries to Rickie Weeks and Dave Bush have hurt significantly. But I don't think that is nearly as bad as the fact that an alarmingly high number of Brewer players are having poor or mediocre seasons.
JJ Hardy, Bill Hall, Corey Hart, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, Jason Kendall, Carlos Villanueva are all underachievers this season. With no knack for bunting or stealing bases, the lousy batting averages are hurtful. If the Brewers don't hit the long ball, they rarely score. And with only two starting picthers having shown any consistency, that is not a good combination.
Yovanni Gallardo and Braden Looper have both pitched well and are earning every dime of their salaries. Beyond those two, the rest of the starting rotation has been, well, dreadful comes to mind.
Brewer GM Doug Melvin had himself and Brewer nation convinced that this team could win after losing two "aces" in Ben Sheets and CC Sabbathia. Gallardo was primed to step up and become the ace. Looper is an innings eater that could earn wins at the back of the rotation.
He was right in both cases. Unfortunately, that is the only thing he has been right about concerning the starting rotation.
The funny things is that the "new additions" Melvin has brought in or promoted have done what is expected of them. Gallardo has elevated his game to being a worthy ace. Looper has been a guy that keeps Brewers in nearly all of his starts and gives them a chance to win. Hoffman has had a phenominal season at age 41. Casey McGeehee and the old war horse Craig Counsel have both had better than expected seasons.
Is Ken Macha underachieving as a Manager? Is Bill Castro in over his head replacing Mike Maddux as pitching coach?
So many questions. Will we see any answers?
Despite all of this, the Brewers sit only four games out of first place. The Crew also has plenty of games left versus St. Louis as well as the Cubs.
The season is not lost.
However, the warning bells are sounding. Whereas the other teams ahead of us in the standings made moves to bolster their weaknesses recently, the Brewers did not. Whereas the Cubs, Cardinals, and Astros are all playing well right now, the Crew is not.
With sixty games left, will the Crew rise up and make a charge? Or, like the 2008 Packers, will the Crew stumble home and finish as major disappointments?
I am not optimistic. I hope the Crew and their players and management prove me wrong.
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