Sunday, July 8, 2007

Baseball At The Break

It is just past mid-season in Major League Baseball, time for the All Star game and for those players who aren't going to be in San Francisco for the game to go lick their wounds and prepare for the Dog Days.

It is a long season. I think I would hit a wall sometime in June were I playing professional baseball. And this is often what happens to young players who are more used to a shorter minor league season, or a college season, and less pressure, less bite on the curveball, less exposure to huge crowds. Just the constant pressure of playing against the best in the game day in and day out must take its toll.

Enter the Milwaukee Brewers. This is one of baseball's youngest teams, and so may be susceptible to the kind of burn out I've described. They currently are in first place in the division, but just completed a 3-7 road trip which was disappointing and made me wonder if they are ready to be successful in the second half. As it stands today, their entire infield and two thirds of their outfield have less than two years of regular playing experience on the big league level. The vets are Jeff Jenkins in left and whoever is catching that day. Their starting pitching is a nice mix and has done a commendable job, in my opinion. of keeping them in games. Their offense, when tuned, rested, focused, is explosive and really wonderful to watch.

The biggest surprise offensively has been Ryan Braun at third base. In just over 30 games in the bigs, he's hit 11 homeruns, is batting over .340, and has been a major offensive contributor, batting in the three-hole between JJ Hardy and the very impressive Prince Fielder. But so young! Do these guys have the character and maturity to finish out the year the way they've started it? I'm wearing a hair shirt these days; fasting, flogging, chanting, spiritually preparing myself for the famous Second Half Collapse. Ashes and sack cloth.

One mediating factor is the division the Brewskis are playing in, which is mediocre. The Cubbies show real signs of life, but gosh. They're the CUBBIES! The Lovable Losers! Yet if I were the Cubs right now, I'd wish there were no All-Star break, as hot as they've been. It may be the All-Star break that cools them off, and gives the Brewcrew a chance to regroup. This is comparable to dusk arriving at Gettysburg, for both sides. If the Cubbies stay strong, we are hopeful that the Brewers will be stronger. It has been a long, long time since 1982.

So baseball fans. Sit back, enjoy the All Star Game Tuesday night (Four Brewers players made the team!) and get ready for whatever the second half brings. The horror, the horror!

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