While the NL Central standings show the Brewers are still within striking distance with a little more than two months left in the season, they may not be as close as the win-loss totals indicate.
Unless something unexpectedly dramatic happens before the trade deadline — like the acquisition of Roy Halladay or some other top starter — the Crew is toast for this year.
Their offense is inconsistent, especially in clutch situations, the starting pitching is underwhelming aside from burgeoning ace Yovani Gallardo and the bullpen is only being held together with MacGyver-like tools — and Trevor Hoffman.
The couple of weeks following the All-Star break were supposed to be a time when the Brewers would be able to take advantage of a weak schedule and re-establish themselves in the division. Instead, they have gone 4-6 entering a series against the woeful Nationals and are simply a .500 team that is in fourth place, watching division foes surge ahead of them.
Who is to blame for this?
Everyone. The players. The general manager. The manager.
After ending a 26-year playoff drought last year, the expectations for 2009 were that the Brewers and Cubs would slug it out for division supremacy. The Brewers held up their part of the deal for the first three months of the season and, while the Cubs struggled, the Albert Pujols-fueled Cardinals showed themselves to be contenders. July has proven to be a key month, with the Crew wallowing in mediocrity — they haven't won a series this month, nor won back-to-back games — the Cubs gaining a bit of footing and the Cardinals making the biggest deal so far by acquiring Matt Holliday as Pujols' protection. Even the Astros have gotten into the act.
The Brewers' plan has been to trust their players. But the production of some has not matched expectations — J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva, among others. That can ruin a plan in a hurry, especially when there isn't a suitable replacement readily available.
And there isn't anything that can save this season unless the Crew finds a magic tonic.
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Written by Steve Drumwright