We’re number four! We’re number four! Seeking significance in the final Brewers-Cubs series
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Since Milwaukee was realigned to the National League in 1998, the I-94 rivalry between the Brewers and Chicago Cubs has been a consistently entertaining source of competition. Despite the teams combining for just six playoff appearances during that timeframe, the combination of proximity and at least a modicum of a storyline every season—not to mention parking-lot fights and occasionally overwhelming visiting team attendance—has made an appearance by the Cubs in Milwaukee a little more special than the average Brewers series.
However, the four-game Miller Park meeting between the Brewers and Cubs that begins today pits two losing teams against one another. Each is a shell of its Opening Day roster, looking to end a lowly season on what can be generously deemed “a high note.” The majority of the starring roles occupied by superstar Alfonso Soriano, pure Ryan Braun, immortal Derrek Lee, certified “aces” Yovani Gallardo and Kerry Wood, and living/breathing Brewers first baseman (Prince Fielder) have been relegated to a group of understudies. Aramis Ramirez is still here, but has since switched sides and is a husk of his former self.
With both teams in rebuild mode (with only the Cubs courageous enough to publicly admit and fully commit to it), The A.V. Club seeks meaning in the last Brewers and Cubs series of the season.
We’re number four! We’re number four!
Last week, both the Brewers and Cubs were mathematically eliminated from post-season contention and officially guaranteed to have sub-.500 seasons. In recent years, the Houston Astros could be counted upon to dwell in the N.L. Central cellar. Houston is in the American League now, leaving the bottom spot of the now-five-team division up for grabs. Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh each already clinched the top three spots in the Central (and might all make the playoffs), so the booby prize is down to the Brewers and Cubs. With two weeks left to play, the fourth-place champ won’t be cemented by Thursday. But winning the series would go a long way to help one team pull away.
Reunited and it feels so meh
Glancing at the name on the Cubs coaching staff, you’d think you were reading a County Stadium game program from 1987. Longtime Brewers player, coach, and interim manager Dale Sveum is in his second year as foreman of the ongoing Cubs reclamation project. If Sveum was forced to serve as a lame-duck skipper, at least he had the foresight to employ some ex-Brewers teammates.
Chris Bosio—best known for throwing a no-hitter during his playing days and taking an inordinately long time to run to the pitchers mound as a coach—serves as Chicago’s pitching coach. Rob Deer, a career .220 hitter who averaged 198 strikeouts a season during his career, is the Cubs assistant hitting coach. On the field, the name Carlos Villanueva may ring a bell. It should: He logged 425 innings of work for the Brewers between 2006 and 2010. During his first year with the Windy-shitty baseball team, Villa has been so-so (with an ERA a smidge over four) while pitching primarily out of the bullpen, with the occasional start when necessary. He also grew a wacky mustache.
Save Miller Park
Seemingly a lifetime ago, the Cubs were perennially playoff contenders while the Brewers employed Junior Spivey and regularly used a middle reliever to pinch hit and play outfield in double-switches. Understandably, Cubs fans overtook Miller Park to see their mini-Bears play in a facility with unfamiliar amenities like individual urinals and no threat of being hit by fallen century-old debris.
This year there’s probably more than enough room for sadists from both the Brewers and Cubs corners to half-fill “The Keg.” Still, if more than half the 12,000 nightly attendees have a C on their caps and an unnatural appreciation for Jim Belushi, Brewers fans should be ashamed.
Just because the games hold little team significance doesn’t mean the remaining contests are devoid of personal meaning for players. Ramirez is within striking distance of 450 career doubles, a total just 99 other players in baseball history have reached. In the single-season realm, Carlos Gomez could realistically post his first 20-20 season (20-40 season, really), and Jonathan Lucroy is one hot streak away from his first 20-homer campaign. It’s difficult to quantify, but you have to think Scooter Gennett is nearing the franchise lead in the categories of “gamer,” “scrap,” and “grit.” Gennett already leads all Brewers in “moxie.”
Maybe the Brewers will win
Who knows. It’s happened 60-some times since April, so it’s possible.