The Leadoff: How the Brewers saved baseball

You know that scene in “Dumb & Dumber” when the two main characters are on the way to return the briefcase and Lloyd takes a wrong turn on the way to Aspen and drives throughout the night into Nebraska? When Harry wakes up he is so mad that he gives up on the trip and decides to walk home. The next time we see Harry, he is walking down the highway, thumb out, hair blowing in the wind as a tumbleweed blows in the desert behind him, and sad music is playing in the background as Lloyd pulls up next to him up on a small, rickety motorcycle.

He doesn’t just merely pull up next to him though, no, first he thoroughly flexes all over Harry. Lloyd swaggers up next to Harry and dings the little bell he has attached to the handlebars, not once, but twice, eyes fixed upon the horizon as if Harry didn’t exist. Then he flared out both of his arms, straight out to show off his cool windbreaker that is three sizes too large. He slowly turns his head to Harry and says something like, “Got room for one more if you still want to go to Aspen.” (That's exactly word for word what he said)

Harry responds, “Where did you get that?” Lloyd tells him he traded a kid the van for it, straight up. Harry pauses for a second, brooding and then says, “You know Lloyd, just when I think you can’t get any dumber you go and do something like this and totally redeem yourself!”

If you don’t know what scene I’m talking about then, spoiler alert, you do now because that is exactly what happened. The reason I bring this up is because I love that moment of anguish on Harry’s face while he is thinking about forgiving Lloyd. Have you ever hated something but simultaneously loved and respected it, and the more you loved it the more you actually hated it and then it did something that forced you to love it and now you hate it even more?

That is how I feel about the Milwaukee Brewers. Full disclosure I had to Google how to spell Milwaukee because I’ve never written it before and what kind of word ends with two ee’s? As a Chicago Cubs fan I have never really worried about the self-proclaimed Brew Crew, not that anyone ever worried about us before 2015, they are more or less the metaphorical stepchild of the NL Central. The only other time they won the division before this year was in 2011 and, let’s be honest if baseball used normal tiebreaking metrics they wouldn’t have won it this year the Cubs would have.

I happily stoked the Brewers Twitter beehive on multiple occasions this year because for some reason I take great joy in bantering with hard-core fans of regional sports teams that do not understand nuance or when someone is making a joke. When they beat us in game 163 to take the division title I wasn’t even angry at them because I was too busy laughing at our offense swinging their bats like they were pool noodles in a water fight. However, once we were eliminated I had plenty of time for hatred to brew (pun very much intended). Then, game five began and the veil was lifted from my eyes. The Brewers started Wade Miley, on short rest, who is a left-handed pitcher. Knowing Milwaukee was starting a lefty, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stocked his lineup full of right-handed hitters. Then after one batter, Brewers Manager Craig Counsell pulled his starter and inserted a right-handed pitcher in Brandon Woodruff.

Miley’s spot start serves basically like a normal between-starts bullpen session and it threw a kink in the Dodgers lineup. A smile began to creep across my face when I suddenly thought, “Hold on a minute this is the enemy.” But the problem is that the Brewers are pretty cool. First of all they have the league’s ninth-lowest salary at $108.9 million via Spotrac’s MLB Payroll Tracker, if you were wondering the Los Angeles Dodgers have the third highest in all of baseball at $199.5 million (just for fun the Giants had the MLB’s second-highest payroll this season at $205.6 million and finished 18.5 games back, whoopsie).

The reason the switching of pitcher is so amazing is that it seems so unnecessary and petty which, therefore, makes it absolutely necessary. In all seriousness, I do love the move because I hate when teams like the Dodgers execute a full platoon swap from game to game just mixing and matching players because they have such a high payroll. Will this happening one time change anything in the grand scheme of things? Probably not, but don’t be surprised when you start seeing weird things happening at the beginning of games, like a team throwing their closer in the first, as teams begin to embrace advanced metrics because statistically the most runs are scored in the first couple of innings, mostly because the lineups are set to the most advantageous positions.

I’m a fan of teams that get creative and then I started thinking more about it and got even angrier because the analogy only gets better. The Cubs Javier Baez was the front-runner for the NL MVP most of the year until Christian Yelich most likely stole it from him. The guy almost messed around and hit for the triple crown. All I wanted was the for Javy to take home some hardware to prove wrong the doubters but now it seems a guy with the nickname ‘Yeli’ who looks like the kid on the playground that is waiting for someone to do something against the rules so he can tell the yard duty, and somehow I’m OK with it.

I’m OK with it because the Brewers traded an egg salad sandwich and an expired bus pass for Yelich from the Miami Marlins. I love this because the Marlins had the best outfield in baseball a year ago before the Jeter took over and completely gutted the team while telling the public he was trying to build a team that can compete.

I’m not ready to say I like the Brewers but I will say that I maybe don’t always hate them.


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