Just like Packers fans had to admit that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy know what they are doing in Green Bay, it's time for Brewers fans to give some credit to Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke. Melvin has especially been maligned the last few years for the Brewers inability to make the playoffs--or win in the playoffs. There was the long-term, big-money contract for a washed up Jeff Suppan, the firing of Ned Yost with two weeks left in the 2008 season, the hiring of the sleepwalking Ken Macha as manager, the big-money contract for a washed up Eric Gagne--the list could go on for the next five minutes.
But this year, Melvin has turned into King Midas, as all of his moves are turning to gold. Remember when Zach Greinke couldn't stop giving up home runs? When Yuni Bettencourt kept popping out on the first pitch? When everyone swore the Crew was going to trade Prince Fielder? When Kam Loe couldn't get anyone out as the 8th inning set up man? All forgotten now as the Brewers have won 13 of their last 14 and have stretched their lead to five games in the NL Central.
For the first time in my lifetime (39 years), the Brewers actually have one of the best pitching staffs in the league. Greinke has straightened himself out. Randy Wolf is actually getting past the 5th inning--and Yovani Galliardo is actually throwing strikes early in the count. And the moves Melvin made to shore up the bullpen have drastically cut down on the gut-wrenching, winning streak killing blown games. The trade for perenial meathead Francisco Rodriguez has been huge--as it has shored up the 8th inning problems and allows the Brewers to play a "7 inning game" knowing the other team will be shut down by K-Rod and the Ax Man the last two frames.
In past years, the loss of Ricky Weeks would have been devastating and started a downward spiral. But thanks to more Melvin moves, the offense has rolled on. Felipe Lopez has filled in at second admirably--and Jerry Hairston, Junior provides depth at several other positions as well. Perhaps Melvin's biggest pick up has been Tony Plush--AKA Nyjer Morgan. The flaky one is hitting well over .300, is creating havoc for the other team on the basepaths and seems to be keeping a team that has choked in the past much looser in the clubhouse this time around.
Ron Roenicke has been a welcome change from recent Brewer managers as well. He actually allows starters to work out of their own jams--instead of overworking the bullpen all season. He is mixing and matching lineups to work around injuries and slumps. And he actually bunts with two runners on and nobody out--long one of my biggest pet peeves about Ned Yost and Ken Macha.
As interleage play proved a couple of months ago, the Brewers likely have little chance of beating the Red Sox or the Yankees in the World Series--but you can honestly say the Crew is a serious threat to actually get there. San Francisco and Philadelphia have slightly better starting pitching--but those two would have to face each other in the first round of the playoffs--so Milwaukee would have to worry about only one of those teams in the NLCS.
We may be getting ahead of ourselves here--there is still six weeks left in the season--but thanks to Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke Brewers fans can at least talk about such lofty goals--and not get laughed out of the room.