I haven’t paid much attention to baseball in the last month or so, because that’s what happens when you’re a Cubs fan.
However, I have watched enough games this season to realize the Milwaukee Brewers ascension up the standings came out of nowhere. Suddenly a team that was just a notch better than the Astros and Cubs in July is in the midst of the wild-card race. Considering that the Brewers all but raised the white flag when they traded pitcher Zack Greinke to the Angels before the deadline, the run is all the more impressive.
Since I have no idea how Milwaukee is doing this, I looked up the team stats. Certainly there had to be a factor outside of Ryan Braun putting up MVP-type numbers in a presumably steroid-free fashion. After all, there’s no Prince Fielder anymore. Somebody, maybe a pitcher, surely must be on some insane tear.
Alas, the stats just left me more confused.
Nearly two months after his last game in a Brewer uniform, Zack Greinke is still second on the team with nine wins. That’s what Bud Selig’s second wild card system has gotten us — a team whose second-best pitcher isn’t even in the same league right now sitting 2.5 games out of a playoff spot with two weeks to go. The crazy thing is that Milwaukee would most certainly be tied or ahead in those standings had it kept Greinke, although it presumably gave itself a better shot in future years with the trade.
In the most improbable sentence that could have been written circa 2003, the Brewers will be taking on the Pirates this week in a series vital to both teams’ playoff hopes. I suppose that was the primary intended consequence of Bud’s playoff expansion — bringing pennant fever to places that aren’t used to experiencing it.
Fans like those in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee who have suffered over the years certainly deserve it. However, I’m not sure the same can be said of their barely-.500 teams.