Flashback to 2006.
The Milwaukee Brewers' young prospects were just making a splash on the big-league level. Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy were to lead the next wave of Milwaukee baseball, with Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo stirring in the minor leagues, waiting for their call-ups.
Flash forward to 2011.
Each of these young core players, minus, obviously, Hardy, have become stars for the Brewers. Each of them has made at least one All-Star appearance, with Hart, Fielder, and Braun having been selected multiple times.
They, with a little help from the left arm of man named C.C., led the team to its first postseason appearance since 1982 in 2008. Now, they’re on an even better team with more talent and depth.
The 2008 NL Wild Card team was considered the best Brewers team in nearly 30 years, until the calendar turned to 2011. Think about some of the changes that have taken place on the team.
Nyjer Morgan for Mike Cameron. Yunieski Betancourt for Hardy. Casey McGehee for Bill Hall. John Axford for Salomon Torres. Francisco Rodriguez for Eric Gagne. Felipe Lopez for Ray Durham. Jonathan Lucroy for Jason Kendall. Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson for Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Manny Parra.
The biggest one, though, may be Ron Roenicke for Ned Yost.
The upgrades from the wild-card team to the hopeful division champion team are evident, and so is something else.
The time is now for the Brewers.
Let’s face it: Prince Fielder probably won’t be back next season without a gift from the baseball gods. Who knows if the team’s health will hold up or if their production will.
Though the team shouldn’t fall into the cellar of the division next year, it is unlikely that general manager Doug Melvin can put together this kind of team again.
Melvin has shown that he is all in for this 2011 Brewers team. He’s traded away top prospects Brett Lawrie, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress and Alcides Escobar to accumulate this current roster with acquisitions such as Greinke, Marcum, K-Rod and Betancourt. The talent level on this team is immense, a statement even the most oblivious and pessimistic fan can’t deny.
Milwaukee fans are buying into the buzz surrounding their beloved club. Neither the day of the week nor the opposing team matter to the fans, as they come out and fill up the stadium with 40,000-plus fans for every game.
At a recent game I attended against the St. Louis Cardinals, Betancourt received a standing ovation and gave a curtain call for a fifth-inning go-ahead home run. Try telling me Milwaukee doesn’t have some of the best fans in baseball, I dare you. I’ll win that argument for sure.
The “young core” of players Melvin and the Brewers developed in the mid-2000s is now paying dividends for the current Brewers. No longer are any of them works in progress.
They are all legitimate threats, combining to form one legitimate threat to win the National League, a threat also known as the Milwaukee Brewers.
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