The Milwaukee Brewers have three critical series in a row to start the second half of the MLB season against all divisional opponents ahead of them in the National League Central standings. If the Brewers are unable to make a dent over the next nine games then they will be forced to trade certain players.
The good news is Milwaukee has the fate of their season in front of them. They can decide whether they will be contenders or pretenders, buyers or sellers. If the Brewers can win against the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals at home and defeat the Cincinnati Reds on the road, then general manager Doug Melvin will not be forced to make trades he does not want to have to do.
“As players, ultimately, we dictate our own fate as a team,” Ryan Braun said. “If we go out there and have success and do well, every team can become buyers. And if you don’t play well, there are going to be results, there are going to be consequences.
“For the most part, we don’t focus on those things because we don’t make any of those decisions, but at the same time, every team controls its own fate. For us, the first nine games out of the break we play the three teams ahead of us in the standings, and those nine games ultimately could dictate our fate as a team.”
If the Brewers can man up and come together as a team, they will have a running shot at the division. Baseball is all about momentum and Milwaukee has a realistic chance at getting some. How do the New York Yankees always pull ahead in the AL East? They will lose their fair share of games but then go on massive winning streaks where they do not get beat for weeks. Next thing you know, they are leading the division by seven games at the All-Star break.
Eight games back is a tall task but it is not impossible. The Brewers have plenty of time to make up some ground but that is only if they win key series. If Milwaukee is unable to move up in the standings over the next week or so then Melvin will entertain offers for starter Zack Greinke and reliever Francisco Rodriguez, among other players.
The Brewers would like nothing more than to sign Greinke long-term and keep everyone together while making another playoff run. It is up to the team whether or not that happens. Greinke made it very clear he wants to pitch in a comfortable environment, but more importantly, he wants to play for a winner. If Milwaukee can convince him they are contenders, then there is a good chance he will sign for a few more years.
In order to do this, key players must forget about the first half and get mentally prepared for a fresh start in the second part of the season. Rickie Weeks must ignore the media about having a historically bad season and play baseball the way he knows how to play. It is critical he take pressure off some of the big hitters in the lineup. Braun, Aramis Ramirez, and Corey Hart cannot slow up one bit offensively and in some cases, they must get better. Everyone in the lineup must pull their own weight or watch the team self-destruct.
Most importantly, the bullpen needs to get their act together. The entire team is to blame for the poor start but the bullpen has cost the Brewers far too many losses in recent weeks. John Axford and Rodriguez need to realize they are the leaders of the relievers. They need to be shut down pitchers like they were last year during the second half of the season and the rest of the bullpen will follow in their footsteps.
The starting pitching has been great considering the injuries they have endured. If they can continue giving solid performances game in and game out, then I believe the Brewers will have a real shot at putting together some winning streaks. Milwaukee has a team full of talented players and there is no reason why they cannot fight for one of three playoff spots come September.