It's the end of July. We're less than a week away from the trade deadline, that arbitrary demarcation of sink or swim for MLB franchises. In America's Pastime, to buy or to sell, that is the question. It's quite the decision for many franchises this year. In fact, without checking the rest of the internets and relying entirely on my own swiss cheese memory, I can't remember a year with so many teams hovering on either side of .500, nor a year with absolutely no definitively dominant team. (Who is it? Oakland? Name a great hitter in that lineup. The Dodgers? Not even first in their own division. I like the makeup of the Nats and Angels, but they've got flaws too)
So, in a year full of so much parity, there ought to be a lot of teams confused as to whether or not they are buyers or sellers. Several bad teams may consider themselves a solid #2 starter or a big stick away from the World Series. These factors should lead to several bigger than usual-type trades. Trades which will undoubtedly change the futures of franchises in the decade to come. All caused by the pressure of that July 31 deadline, and the imagined outcomes of thousands of possible BABIPS and WARS. Wax on, Wax off.
So... what does any of this mean for our semi-beloved Milwaukee Brewer franchise? What types of hypotheticals are being filtered through Doug Melvin's moustache?
If I'm Doug Melvin's lip foliage, I'm high on a few peyote buttons, thinking in several different directions at once, and trying to calm down a rather frantic Doug Melvin.
DM:I'll tell you one thing, Mr.Sanchez, this Brewer team is rather firmly entrenched in first place. This is not a place we are accustomed to. I understand mediocrity. I understand the beauty of the struggle. I understand the raisin in the sun. But I am not sure I'm ready to handle the luster of this particular pot of gold. How did we get here? Where will we go? Does it matter?
DMM:"Don't freak out Doug Melvin. For God's sake man, you have TWO FIRST NAMES! As your lip sweater, I advise you to remember the last time we did this peyote thing. It was last year, on our Southwestern road swing, where you finally saw the same vision that I have always had tucked in between my whiskers- Starting Pitching wins Championships. Always has. Always will. That was a good day. Those Enchiladas were delicious. I still have some Salsa Verde over here in the left hand corner nook. Doug, you ask how we got here. We got here mostly through building a pitching staff of mostly solid, #2 type, veteran, starting pitchers. Lohse and Garza have been very good additions- you done good there Dougie. Oh yeah, and we also developed most of our offensive talent within our own system, and added a few exciting defensive players like GoGo and Segura. Not to mention, it doesn't hurt having your best players like Braun, Lucroy and Gomez hitting their primes at the same time. Not to stress you out, but where we go from here, and if it matters or not, might just have a little bit to do with what you choose to do here at the trade deadline. Bottom line Doug, we're in first place in the division. First Place! The Brewers! Best record in the National League! Facts!"
Oh jeez. Heavy hangs the crown. Yeah, we're in first, but we just snuck through that rough patch which let the whole Central Division catch up to us. They ALL scare me- even the Cubs. You may not know this, as you are only a dirt squirrel, but human life can be quite filled with anxiety from time to time, and I can't always know for sure which way to go. The fans want me to be perfect. My wife wants me to be perfect. But I'm not. I'm Doug Melvin. Shouldn't I toss in all the chips, and go and get David Price? I hear he's available. I mean, that's what the internets tell me. If you yourself, my household pet which I stow aboard my upper lip, taught me that Starting Pitching wins championships, shouldn't I go trade for the best guy out there... I mean come on you little fanny duster, this is MILWAUKEE, we have a shot at a CHAMPIONSHIP this year! This is beyond once in a generation! This is my LEGACY!
"Relax Doug Melvin. Aren't you Canadian? You remind me of Larry David in that one sketch except he's bald and you have ME on your not very staunch upper lip. You seem so laconic in your interviews with ROCK and MOM JEANS. Maybe that's because you let me take over and do the talking. Jesus, we need to go find some Valium for you to balance this ship. Anyway, let me, your crumb catcher, assuage your fears, and KNOCK SOME COMMON SENSE INTO THAT THICK SKULL OF YOURS! Just kidding there buddy.
OK, first things first. Stop worrying about the NL Central: The Cubs suck, and won't be any good for a couple years. The Reds have some decent starting pitching, but they have injuries across the board, including notorious Brewer Killer Brandon Phillips, and their best player, Joey Votto. I wouldn't be surprised if he's out for the rest of 2014. They also can't hit right handed pitching, and our starters all happen to be right handed.
Sure, the Cardinals seem to be our nemeses year in and year out, and although you can't ever count them out, they are having a rough year. Their two best hitters, Matt Holiday and Allen Craig have both declined this year. More like fell off two cliffs. The whole team is striking out a ton, even sometimes on 4-2 counts, and can't hit for power. And they lost the straw that stirs the drink, Yadier Molina, for most of the regular season. We play them a lot down the stretch, so here's to controlling our own destiny in that regard.
The Pirates scare me a little, but only in the way the Elephant is frightened by the mouse. They've got a lot of speed and some pop in that lineup, but no real power other than McCutcheon and Alvarez- that latter has really underperformed this year. Their pitching, however, has Overperformed all year, getting solid numbers out of guys like Morton and Volquez. They don't have a true ace, unless you count Liriano, he of the 2 wins and mid 4 ERA. However, last year, they were willing to spend on guys like Byrd and Morneau down the stretch, to help put them in the playoffs. So, if they were to go all in and mortgage some future for a guy like David Price, and another someone like AJ Burnett- who is familiar and soft and warm and broken in like your wife's love mitten... well, then we might have something to be worried about.
But that's a lotta what if's Doug Melvin, and I, your Lower Brow, do not deal in other team's whatifs. We deal in our team's whatifs, Doug Melvin, and you seem to be hung up on David Price, as are a lot of teams, as he's really the only difference making arm out on the market. Here's the deal- Unless Tampa Bay receives a Godfather offer for him, they aren't moving him. They've won seven straight, and are right in the middle of the playoff hunt, so Price is likely going nowhere. Even if he is, it's not to Milwaukee. Let's be honest, the minor league cupboards are pretty bare.
DON'T HANG YOUR HEAD LIKE THAT DOUG MELVIN, I can see your gut, but not your shoes! Empty minor league cupboards are what happens when your major league ones are so damn full! Did I tell you lately how much I appreciate the advice you gave Roenicke about the Gennett/Weeks platoon? That thing is really working out. That shirt looks great on you. The vertical stripes are VERY slimming. Oh boy... this pep talk is taking a turn for the worse. Well, why don't you and I go soak your minor league sorrows in a pint, old buddy."
(Two bars & six pints later) Alright Mustache, you have again showed me the error of my ways, mainly by just clinging there to my upper lip through the thick and thin. I can see we're in a pretty good way right now, and I should just enjoy the ride, not just be focused on rampant and delusional self-improvement of my baseball team as a manifestation of my own mortality... and rather short penis. I mean, HEY, we're in first place! FIRST PLACE! FUCK YEAH, TIME TO GO PLAY AMERICAN PIE ON THE JUKE BOX. E-4!
"DOUG, DOUG! That is not a "Juke Box". That is a woman. Those are sequins, not buttons upon which to press E-4. E-4 is what Ricky used to make a lot of before he fell into his destiny as a platoon player. That is a liverwurst sandwich, Doug. Her liverwurst sandwich. Don't take a bite... aw Jeez Doug. Hey Buddy, let's go sit down at the bar and finish talking about what to do at the trade deadline this year. DOUG, DOUG!, let's make an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, and distinguish between our needs and wants."
You're such a frickin' adult sometimes, you Mouth Mirkin, but more often than not... you're right. To be honest... we really don't need much this year. We've got 4 solid starters, each who can dominate on any given night, each who can pitch deep into ballgames. A couple are power pitchers which always plays well in the playoffs. Our lineup is solid, and Roenicke has tinkered with it pretty well, putting hot hitters at different slots in the lineup. Shit, he had Brauny hitting at 2,5 and finally back to 3, all within a week. Yikes! Before the PEDs, that never would have happened. Lucroy is a legit MVP Candidate, and just so Solid on defense. GoGo is still a knucklehead, but he's our knucklehead, and damn if I wasn't right on getting him locked up longterm before he became an All-Star. Speaking of All-Stars, I don't know how Ramirez got to start in the midsummer classic, but let me put it this way, I'm darn glad he's playing in a contract year. I'd like to joke about Jean and his many 6-3 groundouts this year, but there's just no way there's anything funny about a guy losing a kid. He's played good D and is hitting the ball well to opposite field as of late. Khris Davis is Krushing the ball much better than the non-stripper Chris Davis in Baltimore. Heck, even the two-headed Overeynolds is hitting better than that Chris Davis. Unlike him, I think our platoon has over 20 homers on the year, and is definitely hitting over .200. I bet you every sportswriter and blogger in Milwaukee would have had me trade for the other Chris Davis in the offseason, and NOW LOOK. EVERYONE LOOK! FEAST YOUR EYES!
You're starting to rant, Doug.
Sorry, Sorry. So, yeah, combine all that with the Weeks/Gennett platoon, and we're pretty solid on offense. Heck, if I'm honest with myself, I can see we could use an upgrade at 4th outfielder, and maybe a toolsy utility guy to back up Jean. Ben Zobrist comes to mind for both of those needs. Maybe I can get him on the cheap from the Rays and cover all our bases, proverbially speaking of course. Wait, you said the Rays aren't really likely to be selling now, and let's face it, they are more wants than needs, aren't they? Sometimes, you little Molestache, you say the most when you say nothing at all.
What about the bullpen? Aw, you know bullpens, they come and go like metamucil farts. But I gotta say, ours has been pretty darn good this year. Let's start with K-Rod. He wasn't even our closer in Spring Training, heck he was barely on our team. But he's like that girlfriend that keeps coming back, summer after summer, back for more of Dougie's Sugar. Look at him though- second in all of baseball in saves. And that's why you don't break the bank for closers. I'll tell you what-that Will Smith for Aoki trade looks darn nice, considering he might be a darn good lefthanded starter in the future, and he's more than served his purpose this year. Not to mention, Zach Duke. Have you looked at his ERA and WHIP? Are you kidding me? Zach Duke! I found him down in the Arizona Penal League. Where do you think we got these peyote buttons?
What about right handed relievers Doug? Well, the lefties have been getting righties out too, plus, we got Wooten and Kintzler and they've done a real good job for us this year.
No they haven't. They've both sucked. Well, that's just like your opinion, Man. And even if you're right, Henderson and Thornburg coming back from the DL real quick, and those are two guys we can count on. Not to mention the promise of Jeffers.
Are they really, Doug? A journeyman minor leaguer coming off shoulder problems, a second year kid with elbow trouble, and a guy who had the upside of a homeless man's Doc Gooden... before he himself had his own spate of drug problems. Sounds like several beacons of reliability. A handful of Old Faithfuls.
Sigh... When you're right, you're right, you little Cookie Duster. So, we finally get to it. We need a veteran right-hander out of the bullpen for the late innings. But here's the thing- to me, bullpens are a crapshoot. I mean we had a couple of lights out closers in Axford and Turnbow both turn South in a hurry like two-day old Chinese food. How do I know who to trust when all I've got is scouting reports, stats, advanced stats, and video of each and every pitch these guys have thrown in the past decade. It's tough to build a pair of shoes out of a couple of shoestrings.
Dougie Dougie Dougie. All I hear out of your mouth are excuses, and I'm hearing a lot of them here on my perch above your wordhole. You sound like a little baby chicken instead of the robust Walrus everyone can see that you are. You know what you need to do Dougie, and you're not even going to have to step out of your comfort zone to do it. Are you ready? Two words for you- LaTROY... HAWKINS. Just rest for a minute in that little thoughterfall.
You little Son of a Selleck. You've done it again. That makes so much sense it's almost too much sense. He's pitching for a horrible team, in a bad park for pitchers out there in Colorado, yet he's still got a serviceable ERA, solid peripherals, and 17 saves. He's been pitching well, the old codger. Did you know that he and I have remained pen pals since his days with the Brewers? We use the only remaining Pony Express rider, a 103-year old guy named Lightning Jack who carries our parcels back and forth on his Donkey named Stan. Nice Fella, that guy. But yeah, it'd be nice to have LaTroy back. The Rockies are bad, and not going anywhere fast, so it's likely a 41 year old closer doesn't fit too tightly into their plans. He sure would look good in the late innings for us. He pitched real well for us back in 2011, the last year we had a shot to go anywhere. So, I'm comfortable with his track record. You know how it is, you old soup strainer, I can't seem to quit "my guys". Guys like Doug Davis, Yuniesky Betancourt, and K-Rod... I like to give them a second time on the wagon. Now that you've mentioned it, THIS team WITHOUT Latroy Hawkins on it would look a little like my face without you on it.
"Gotta tell you Dougie, I'm not quite sure how to take that last thing you just said. So, I'm just going to hope it's the last nubbin of the peyote talking. By the way, I'm pretty sure Yuni B is available, as he's just over a little sea, playing in Japan... and we do need a utility man... just saying."
(Full disclosure: the author met Doug Melvin in Boston on a roadtrip to Fenway a few years back. He's nothing like the indecisive peyotehead represented here. Except for the Canadian stuff.)