Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for September 23rd, 2011

Milwaukee Brewers win NL Central Title

leave a comment »

Finally, the Milwaukee Brewers have won the National League Central Division in 2011.

After weeks of uncertainty, the Brewers beat the Florida Marlins, 4-1, while the St. Louis Cardinals lost 4-1 to the Chicago Cubs.  As the Cardinals were the lone remaining obstacle to the Brewers winning their division, I was hoping the Cardinals would lose now rather than wait a few more days for the Brewers to win another game, as starting tonight’s action the Brewers “magic number” was down to only two games — meaning a win by the Brewers and a loss by the Cardinals tonight would win the Brewers the NL Central Division title.

This is the second time in three years that the Brewers have advanced to the playoffs, as they were the Wild Card seed (fourth-best team in the league, roughly) in 2008.  At that time the Brewers did not do very well, being eliminated in four games by the eventual World Series champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.  But this team will probably do a little better as there are many players remaining from the ’08 season, plus there are some crafty veterans like Jerry Hairston, Jr., and Mark Kotsay who weren’t on the ’08 squad, plus the ever-reliable, ageless Craig Counsell, who was.

This is the first time since 1982 that the Brewers have won their division; at that time, the Brewers were in the American League Eastern division (there being no “central” division at that time, the AL East was a seven-team division and a notoriously tough nut to crack).  The Brewers eventually won the AL pennant and advanced to the World Series, where they lost after seven hard-fought games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This time, the Cardinals were in our own division, so perhaps it was a bit easier to beat them.  (Or not, as the Brewers split the season series with the Cardinals, 9-9.)  And now, unless the Cardinals are able to win the Wild Card (as the Brewers did in ’08), the Brewers will not have any chance of playing the Cardinals again until next year, which I find a particularly inspiring thought.

I am happy they Brewers are the Central Division Champions, but I do not believe they have fulfilled their potential as of yet as there’s still a great deal more work to be done before they get a chance to advance to the World Series. 

I appreciate this team for what it is (a very good hitting team that finally has good pitching to complement that hitting) and appreciate the ’82 team for what it was, too — oddly, both teams featured very good hitting for several years, yet needed a few more good pitchers to advance to postseason play.  In 1981 and 1982, the Brewers had added Pete Vuckovich and relief ace Rollie Fingers before the final piece of the puzzle, Don Sutton, was brought on board via a trade, whereas this year Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke were brought on board via trades while Randy Wolf was signed to play for the Brewers last year and reliever John Axford learned last year from relief ace Trevor Hoffman before taking over for good this year.

What both teams (the ’82 version and the ’11 version) show is that you need both good hitting (in ’82, the hitters were Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor along with Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas, Charlie Moore and Ted Simmons) and good pitching to win a divisional crown.  (If you don’t know who this year’s teams good hitters are, well, here they are: Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan are the most feted.)

There are a number of other parallels from the 1982 season to this one; while none are exact parallels, there are enough of them for me to appreciate the resonance though it’s been twenty-nine years since I last heard this particular harmony.

Way to go, Brewers!  Now, let’s win some more games, kick butt in the postseason, and continue the journey onward.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 23, 2011 at 10:40 pm