Major League Baseball is coming down the home stretch in this year’s playoff race. And it’s every bit as exciting as ever. During this time, many baseball fans like to reflect on how it is they got to this point – as I’m sure many players like to reflect on their own road to postseason glory.
With that in mind, we would just like to take a small amount of time to reflect on the players that have come and gone from our Milwaukee Brewers and found themselves once again in a playoff race in 2012.
There is no better place to start then with former Brewer and current Detroit Tiger first baseman Prince Fielder. Prince left Milwaukee in the off-season to search for greener pastures (greener being the operative word to many who viewed the proceedings) and found it in his boyhood home away from home, Detroit.
All he did after that was put together a season where hit .309, hit 28 home runs, and drive in 108 runs to help Detroit battle through a tough season and finally nab a lone first place spot in the AL Central. He even stole a base. Seriously. If the lead holds, it will be Prince’s third trip to the playoffs in his career, where he will undoubtedly continue to help his team win. Although his career batting average in the playoffs is not very strong at .178, he did hit four home runs, four doubles, and drive in eight runs when he helped take the Crew into the postseason.
Brewers in other teams around the American League are also making an impact on theirteam’s playoff races. Just yesterday it was announced by the Baltimore Orioles that veteran lefty Randy Wolf was moved to the 60-day DL where he might have to undergo Tommy John surgery. Who did they recall in Wolf’s place? Bill Hall, the former Brewers infielder. Now, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Hall in the Brewers Blue, but he was a major part of the early rebuilding process in Milwaukee, and his veteran glove will no doubt be looked to for help in the O’s push into the playoffs.
And then there’s the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. How could we forget that Zack Greinke was traded there mid-season at a time when all hope in Milwaukee was lost? You can’t, obviously, but you can take a look at the fact that even though Greinke struggled in early days with the Angels, he quickly turned it around and became – no surprise here – one of the most dominating pitchers in his league, if not in both. Just two days ago, Greinke fanned 13 batters in five innings. Yes, you read that right. The Angels are not quite dead in the AL Wild Card Race, only two games behind division rival Oakland, and Greinke has everything to do with that pace so far.
Speaking of the Oakland Athletics, you may remember another mid-season sell made by Milwaukee. This one included fan favorite backup catcher George Kottaras, who went to Oakland to help the struggling Kurt Suzuki get a handle on the backstop. He has, effectively, announced himself as a definite power threat for Oakland behind the plate – hitting six home runs, one triple and two doubles in 23 games played for the A’s. It’s just the kind of versatile threat behind the plate or off the bench that Oakland will need in order to stave off the competition en route to the playoffs.
But what about the National League, you say? Former Brewers are making waves in that playoff race, as well. In the city of Angels, the Dodgers have picked up more than a few former Milwaukee pieces in their hopes to overtake both the Brewers themselves, and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. Helping them along are pitchers Chris Capuano, who is currently 11-11 with a career low 3.74 ERA, and reliever Todd Coffey (currently on the DL) – famous for his sprint from the bullpen and very tiny pants. And let’s not forget the spark plug of the 2011 Brewers Postseason, Jerry Hairston. Hairston, unfortunately, is also on the 60-Day, but before he went he was hitting .273 with 26 RBI coming off the bench and making a difference in Los Angeles the same way he did in Milwaukee.
Everyone else in the Senior Circuit’s Wild Card chase are looking up at the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are no strangers to Milwaukee baseball – not just because of a shared baseball history, but because some more current Brewers are enjoying a revitalizing of their careers. Besides Lyle Overbay still being productive with Atlanta, Ben Sheets has had a tremendous rebirth in the Braves system. He is currently 4-4 with a 3.54 ERA after pitching only one season in the Major Leagues since he left Milwaukee in 2008.
Now what about those World Series Champion Cardinals? It just so happens that the team’s skipper, Mike Matheny, played in the fourth-most games as a Milwaukee Brewers catcher with 439 games. He finished his time in Milwaukee after the 1998 season with a .231 career average, 19 home runs and 128 runs batted in.
So what’s the point of all this? Does it mean that in order to be successful heading into the postseason you need to have a few Milwaukee Brewers? I would never say that.
But obviously, it doesn’t hurt.