HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
May 14, 2006

Look out for the new Brew Crew

By Matt Kane

Wow, a lot of crazy stuff happened in Major League Baseball recently.

The bloody sock scandal; Roger Clemens signed a trillion-dollar deal to pitch five months for the New York Yankees; Curt Schilling sounded off about the Clemens signing, and then he sounded off about Barry Bonds, and then he sounded off with an apology (remember when he was just a good pitcher?); and congress wants to invade several players’ privacy by requesting their medical records.

When I go home from lunch, I often get confused as to whether I’m watching SportsCenter or Days of Our Lives.

Unfortunately, in the sensationalized world we live in today, steroid investigations, controversial blogs, and high-price signings are the days of our lives.

There is one story in baseball that brings a legitimate smile to my face: the Milwaukee Brewers.

Let me start my Brewers talk by saying I hate supporting anything cheese-head related — the only good thing to come out of Wisconsin is I-94 — but I will admit it brings a smile to my face to see the Brew Crew atop the National League Central standings with the best record in baseball. As of Thursday, the Brewers were 24-10.

I think my pleasure comes from the fact that the Brewers are pretty much a carbon copy of the Twins when the Twins starting winning American League Central Division championships in 2002.

The Brewers are a small market team with a bunch of players an average fan has not heard of. They have a good pitching staff, which is the main difference from previous seasons.

Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Chris Capuano, Claudio Vargas, and Dave Bush make up the starting rotation. Sheets has been one of the better strikeout pitchers in his seven major league seasons, and Suppan became nationally known last October as the ace of the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals, but the average baseball fan probably never heard of these guys.

Back during the 2002 season, what casual fan outside Twins territory heard of Eric Milton and Joe Mays? Brad Radke was the Ben Sheets of that Twins team. Radke was known as a good pitcher, but he wasn’t a headline grabber.

Back to the Brewers.

The players are a scrappy, blue-collar team, just like the city they represent. And how can you not like a team that has a mascot who slides down a twisty slide and lands in a vat of beer after each Brewers home run?

Bernie Brewer is truly a baseball icon, and don’t forget about the Sausage Race that happens after the sixth inning of every Brewers home game at Miller Park.

Like the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL, in recent years, the Brewers have been the popular pick to win the Central Division. But, also like those Cardinals, the Brewers have faltered each season.

The Brewers haven’t reached the postseason since 1982, when they won the then American League East. That laid-back, hard-hitting Brewers team, known as Harvey’s Wallbangers, defeated the California Angels in five games. Angels’ outfielder Fred Lynn was named the series MVP, but it was guys like Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Jim Gantner, Cecil Cooper, Ten Simmons, Gorman Thomas, and Ben Oglivie who were more than happy to trade a MVP trophy for a trip to the World Series. The Brewers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

I don’t know if this year’s squad, with Prince Fielder, Geoff Jenkins, Rickie Weeks, Bill Hall, and Craig Counsell, will get to the World Series, but with a weak Central Division, the Brewers have a shot at a division title.

The Twins travel to Milwaukee for a three-game series May 18-20, in what has become an annual series since interleague play started.

I was never a huge Brewers fan growing up, but I always loved watching Puckett, Hrbek, and Gaetti at County Stadium against the likes of Molitor, Yount, Gantner, Glenn Braggs, Rob Deer, Dale Sveum, and B.J. Surhoff.

There was something about the Twins/Brewers rivalry. Each park would have a good showing of fans supporting the visiting team, making the rivalry mean something.

It’s too bad the Twins and Brewers don’t play more often today, but that is the way it is. Since they are in different leagues, that means I can actually root for the Brewers. Even though they are from Wisconsin — where I-94 goes to die.

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