In early June, I entered a post noting that baseball is a long season, and that the Milwaukee Brewers’ performance up to that time – then the best record in the National League, with a 3+ game lead on the Chicago Cubs – would only mean something if the Brewers stood up through the summer; what would matter was where the team stood after Labor Day.
We’re now well past Labor Day. As of today, Milwaukee has, through acquisition of additional talent and adroit use of its pitching staff, played incredibly well down the stretch; it is but two games behind Chicago for the NL Central lead while building a four and half game advantage for a post season Wild Card berth.
While it will be validating for Milwaukee to reach the postseason at any level, I’m not a big fan of baseball’s Wild Card playoff. Unlike the NFL, where every playoff game is “sudden death,” it seems odd to me – recognizing the seasonal constraints that Major League Baseball faces when it extends its playoff period — that a Wild Card team that labors over countless series of games to reach the postseason has to win one game or be eliminated.
That said, the system is what it is. There is, however, a way for Milwaukee to avoid the risk of a “one and done”: win the National League Central outright. The team has one game left with the Cubs – tonight. If it wins, it will be only one game behind Chicago, with each team having about 15 games to play; I’ll personally like its chances of winning the Division. If it loses, Chicago’s three-game lead in the Division – while anything can happen in baseball – will be formidable. Chicago has already won a World Championship with primarily the same cast as it has now.
So what will it be for the Brewers? In a phrase that all sports fans have heard countless times (which doesn’t make it less true): If they want to Be the Best, they have to Beat the Best …