I'd like to say I knew it was going to happen. I'd like to say my confidence never wavered. I'd like to say that my opinion on the firing of Ned Yost wasn't that it was an act of desperation. But I'd be lying if I said those things.
I'll admit that the Yost firing gave me the impression that the Brewers were not only desperate, they were conceding the season.
But two weeks later, I'm writing this to (gladly) eat many of the words I said since then.
Yesterday was one of the best days of my sports life, falling just short of the Packers' Super Bowl victory in 1996 (because nothing compares to a World Championship, no matter how much bigger a fan of baseball I am). I hugged people. I got choked up. I got extremely jealous of my buddy who was on the field with the team celebrating (he works for the organization).
I nearly slept in my Prince Fielder jersey.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't enjoy seeing the Mets lose. I didn't come here to gloat. I would expect articles like this from Mets fans had the reverse happened.
I'm writing this because I had a couple thoughts about the Brewers' postseason. It may be a little longwinded, but the Brewers haven't made the playoffs in my lifetime (born in '84) and it may be another 26 years before I get to write it again.
- Yost's firing did not ignite the Crew. Remember, the Brewers lost four of the first five games under Dale Sveum, so it's not like the firing lit a fire you know where. What happened was a transition period. Sveum just knew how to adjust things better than Yost. To use one of Yost's favorite expressions, Sveum just understood the gravity of the situation better. Sveum knew the urgency. It's not as if putting Mike Cameron into the leadoff spot in place of Rickie Weeks is much of a change -- two right handed hitters who strikeout a lot. Yost would've never done that. Sveum knew there was no time for patience.
- The Brewers adjusted to the new lineup, and the pitching came back just in time. And speaking of the pitching...
- ...C.C. Sabathia deserves an award, no matter which one it is. I could see maybe giving the Cy Young to someone else -- Tim Lincecum or Brandon Webb for example -- but nobody deserves the Most Valuable Player award more than C.C. because nobody was more valuable to the team. I don't believe too many people would argue that the Brewers would still be in the playoffs without him, especially with Ben Sheets having his annual breakdown.
- Besides, who else do you give it to? Ryan Howard? Sure the homers and the RBIs stand out, but the average and the strikeouts are serious red flags for me. Nobody stands out on the Cubs. The same is true with the Dodgers. No matter what happens, it should go down as the best midseason acquisition ever, and he deserves every penny he gets this offseason.
- Yovani Gallardo might be the X-factor of this series. The guys on Baseball Tonight insist that Brad Lidge is the X-factor, but let's be honest, he's only good for you if you have a lead. To fit the moniker, you need a guy who is guaranteed to step on the field. It's been announced that Gallardo will pitch the first game of the series. Yes, that's right, a 22-year-old who made just four starts during the season will be relied on to start the first Brewers' playoff game in 26 years.
- And guess what. I'm not the least bit worried. Why? The kid's a stud. In those four starts, he has a 1.88 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. What worries me about it is the fact that he won't be on the mound the entire game. It's just his second start after returning from an ACL injury and he threw only 67 pitches in his first start back. The Brewers bullpen isn't the greatest, and I'm more comfortable with a rehabbing 22-year-old on the mound than several of the Crew's relievers.
- I just have to say, seeing Robin Yount back in that dugout puts a smile on my face. Here's to hoping he becomes the next manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.
- There's a much better chance for Sheets to re-sign with the Brewers. Not that I'd be terribly ecstatic about this given his injury troubles, but his stock has no doubt plummeted. In the two biggest starts of his career, he faultered. Seven years on pitiful teams and he can't rise to the occasion when the playoffs are on the line. The last two weeks of Sheets' tenure with the Brewers have been the most frustrating, and I'll gladly crown Gallardo as staff ace for the 2009 season.
- Watch out for Ryan Braun. He's busting out of a lengthy slump and not a moment too soon. By hitting two of the most important home runs in Brewers' history in the same series, he solidified himself as the clutch hitter in the Brewers lineup -- as if followers didn't already know that after the game-winner in St. Louis several months back. Now if only Corey Hart could do the same...
Make no mistake, the Brewers do have a chance in this series. I'm not about to predict a win, but Sabathia is pitching Game Two in Philadelphia, and if the Brewers return to Milwaukee with a split in Philly, it obviously gives them a much better chance. The Brewers need to find a capable third starter. With Sheets' status up in the air for the entire series -- and with the way he's pitched the last two outings, his status can stay there -- the Brewers will have to turn to either Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan or Manny Parra, and I would instantly rule Parra out. Suppan brings experience (2006 NLCS MVP) but a horrible record in the last couple weeks. Bush is inexperienced but has been phenomenal since the beginning of August -- with the exception of one game against the Mets on September 3. Who do you give the ball to? I'm not sure. But expect Sveum to show the sort of impatience that I talked about before. One rough inning cannot be tolerated anymore.
As for the offense, you have to be encourage if you're a Brewers fan. The Phillies are slated to start two lefties in the series' first three games (Hamels and Jamie Moyer), and the Brewers hit lefties exponentially better than righties. Hamels was decent in two starts against the Crew this year, but by no means untouchable (1-1 with a 4.72 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched). Brett Myers, who is scheduled to start Game Two, made one start against the Brewers this year and tossed a complete game two-hitter, but I needn't remind Phils fans of his midseason demotion to Triple-A or who he will be facing in Game Two.
I won't give my prediction, though I will say this could be the most exciting series in the Division Series round. Two homer-happy ball clubs playing in two homer-friendly ballparks. And definitely, don't count the Brewers out. My guess is they won't want to be one-and-done after 26 years. I sure as hell hope not, at least.