One of baseball’s prevailing and cherished myths is that “it ain’t over till it’s over,” a romantic fallacy that nurtures hope when it should be all but gone.
Don’t let anyone fool you, it isn’t necessarily so and seldom has it been. It’s almost always over for all practical purposes well before the final pitch is thrown and the last bat is swung.
That’s especially true of postseason play, whether World Series, division and league championship match-ups, or tie-breaking playoffs for a pennant or a wild-card berth.
Of course, this could be my cynical malaise talkin' – But it’s not. The fact of the matter is the Milwaukee Brewers are one of the most disappointing stories of the 2009 Major League Baseball season. And their extreme suckage is the result of two things: one, the tremendous preseason hype; and two, the fact that the Brewers couldn't live up to it.
We were still riding high after the Brewers clinched their first playoff spot in 26 years on the final day of the regular season in '08. Let’s just take a moment to reminisce.
One year later, there’s an obvious contrast.
Looking back on Milwaukee’s coveted Opening Day, fans walked into Miller Park with a noticeable swagger. Last year’s taste of the playoffs – albeit a small taste – fueled this unbridled optimism early in the new season. The Brewers haven't played in an atmosphere like that one in a while now.
While the Brewers looked good early in the season, the team was fatally flawed from the onset. The Brewers took a huge hit from unexpected injuries early on. But the affect Rickie Weeks’ season-ending wrist injury had on the team pales in comparison to what not-quite-good-enough pitching can – or should I say cannot – do to a ball club. I don't care how good your offense is, you won't win in the long run with low-grade pitchers. But, in the Brewers’ case, the offense was only mediocre at best in the second half of the season, anyway.
Of course, the Brewers have two elite players in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Sadly, Braun has shown lately that he is not a good defensive left fielder and he swings for the fences way too often. Fielder is a premiere power slugger and is the only reason the Brewers are still within sniffing distance of .500. Take Fielder off the 2009 Brewers roster and you would have the Washington Nationals. That's how close Milwaukee is to being very, very lousy.
With a critical weakness in hitting and a depressing effort on the field, the Brewers spent much of the post- All-Star Game months throwing away a shot at another playoff appearance. The team kept saying all the politically correct things about wanting to play hard and not concerning themselves with what other teams might be playing for, yet it still looked as if their bats and gloves grudgingly consented to another uninspiring game.
There’s less gusto both on the field and in the stands. Neither the crowd’s faces nor their drab blue team jerseys seem very enthusiastic anymore. This was a season of disappointments, one in which they'll now be pleased to modestly finish at .500, and, toward the end, a humbling hoard of awful memories.
Don’t get me wrong, despite the poor results all around on the field, I thoroughly enjoyed all 10 games I attended this year. But still, it's nice to have a purpose, some sort of meaning late in the baseball season. Without that, I’ll just focus on next year, on a better season that will hopefully revive this team and their fans.
At this point, the Brewers have no chance in 2009. It’s over, yes, before it’s actually over.
Photo comes from gettyimages.com.