by Troy Sparks
Milwaukee sports fans. We have a problem on two fronts. One problem is how to get a team to play for pride without the players looking over their shoulders and wondering who will still be on the roster at the end of the season and the other is how to inject a positive spin on a frustrated pro basketball player.
Let’s start with the Milwaukee Brewers. We know that they are sitting in last place in the National League Central Division behind the Chicago Cubs. It doesn’t look at this point that the Crew will catch anybody in their division. Too bad, so sad.
There will be no second half miracle for the Brewers as it was last year. With the extra wild card spot being added for the American and National Leagues in 2012, it was the motivation for several teams in the AL and NL to compete for that last spot, which is a one-game playoff against the other wild card team, but hey, it’s still considered the playoffs.
In 2012, the Brewers took a 40-45 record into the all-star break. They won four of their first 10 games after the break and followed that with a 7-game losing streak. On August 19, pitcher Randy Wolf lost his 10th game of the season against the Philadelphia Phillies at home. That defeat put the Brewers 12 games under .500. The team released Wolf a few days later.
With that extra wild card spot on the horizon, the shocker came out of nowhere for the Crew. The light bulb came on and they started playing some baseball. In the last two weeks of August, the team sported a 10-4 record. In the last month of September, they staggered across the finish line with a 19-11 mark. They were 31-15 from August 16 until the end of the season on October 3.
In a furious pace toward the end, the Brewers pulled themselves even with a 71-71 record on Sept. 11. They went a game over the .500 mark with a win and a 3-game sweep of Atlanta at Miller Park. After a loss to the New York Mets in the first game of a 3-game series at home that left the team with a 72-72 record, a six-game winning streak in the home stretch guaranteed a winning record at 83-79, just missing that last wild card spot in 2012.
This year, lots of enthusiasm and money spent to return the Brewers to respectability and another march to the playoffs was supposed to go according to plan, right? How’s that plan working now?
At the all-star break in 2013, the Brewers stared at a 38-56 mark. It was not the results the Crew was looking for. Now the question is whether the organization will trade some of their key veterans who are either injured at the moment or performing below expectations. If that’s the direction the Brewers are going, they better make a break for it before the trade deadline at the end of July.
We could say goodbye to Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and who knows what other players the Brewers can get rid of by then. It’s obvious that the team is going nowhere this year. It’s time to bring the young guys up from Triple-A and play them now. We can worry about what to do with Ryan Braun and his situation sometime next year when Major League Baseball looks to suspend him for his role in taking illegal substances.
Principal owner Mark Attanasio is pretending not to be in panic mode, but at the same time, his pocket is burning small holes. That $80-plus million payroll to put a good product on the field is looking bad right now. If Attanasio wants to cut his losses, he should let general manager Doug Melvin pull the trigger and cut ties with some of the longer-tenured guys that grew up with the organization. We shall see a newer and younger team next year. No one likes to bring up that word “rebuild” around here.
And no one wants to hear that word at the downtown headquarters of the Bradley Center regarding the Milwaukee Bucks. What is Brandon Jennings supposed to think when he’s left without the comfort blanket that was taken away from him?
Stripping that layer of protection leaves the point guard in the cold. Jennings rolled the dice to test the free agent market as a member of the restricted class. While navigating the waters in a life jacket and stretching out the life rafter to other teams looking for an established PG, Jennings probably was unaware that he was being shopped around.
Monta Ellis, the other starting guard for the Bucks last season, rejected the player option to stay with the team. Jennings waited for another team to match the Bucks’ $4.5 million offer. The Bucks went after guard Jeff Teague, another restricted free agent, who wanted to reunite here with new head coach Larry Drew, but Atlanta matched the deal from the Bucks to keep Teague there. Drew coached the Hawks last season.
Since the Bucks couldn’t get a disappointed Teague, they may have to live with Jennings for one more season. But what kind of guy would Jennings be? He was well aware that the team was trying to play hardball. And that security blanket we talked about, it makes the trust issue go right out the window.
Andrew Bogut, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden, Ellis, Mike Dunleavy and Samuel Dalembert are all gone. If Jennings stays, what kind of chemistry will he have with Coach Drew? Now Drew says that he’s a player’s coach, but if the team goes on a five-game losing streak next January and fall about three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, will the patience be tested? Will the locker room get out of control if the team is playing rotten and the fans are on their case? Only time will tell.
The Brewers should play the youth and Jennings should play nice and stick around and there shall be peace and harmony with both teams in Milwaukee.