Is it time for Brewers to panic?
You hear the question all over the place now and it's a tough one to answer.
Is it time for the Milwaukee Brewers to panic?
You hear the question on talk radio and in print and on television. I don't really think they mean panic, in the truest meaning of the word. Nobody wants panic.
What people really mean is whether it's time for the Brewers to admit that a playoff spot is out of reach this year and begin to concentrate on player movement with an eye toward the next season.
It's a surprise that the question is even being asked this year. Injuries to important players have played a big role in the poor record for the team. The story behind at least one of those injuries, the broken hand suffered by Jonathan Lucroy when a suitcase fell on it, is only the latest in a long line of bad breaks.
June 1 has always been kind of a traditional day to look at your record, see where you stand, and make some decisions. Summer is starting. You've got a little more than 100 games left in the season and now is when owners and general managers start talking in earnest, and in private, about what to do.
The process is not unique to baseball. NBA teams find themselves facing the question as well, but it is baseball season now so let's focus on that.
For public consumption there is almost never an admission that there even is a question. The party line is that "we've still got good players here and we just need to play better, cut down on mistakes and make a run for a playoff spot." The concept of the stiff upper lip applies.
Privately, though, this is the time when the front office brain trust and the owner start talking about what they are going to do the rest of the way.
Several things go into the equation, the most important of which is an evaluation of your team.
Can the Brewers put together a streak or two? Can they win 7 out of 9 or 15 out of 20? It's going to take at least that for the team to get into the discussion for a playoff spot, either as a division winner or as a wild card team.
Like most decisions at this point in the season this is not an easy question. The Brewers go into Los Angeles and beat perhaps the best team in baseball four straight. Then they start a nine-game home stand by losing two of three against Pittsburgh.
The next thing you have to examine is your opposition. Can you catch the division leaders or can you catch the wild cards ahead of you in the standings?
The Brewers aren't in horrible shape here. They trail Cincinnati but not by an insurmountable amount. A good winning streak could get them to a point where they are knocking on the door of a repeat of the division championship.
In the wild card race the Brewers were just six games out of a spot as of the weekend. Clearly there is room to catch up there.
The last thing you have to consider is what you can trade away that will make your club better. I think the Brewers major-league roster is not filled with players who are going to be high in demand. They've got Zack Greinke, who will be a free agent, but with pitching as hard as it is to come by, the odds are that the team would love to keep him.
Those are the questions. And it seems like the answer to all of them is "not yet ... but ..."
It's not time to open the door to panic and let it inside. But it's pretty clear that panic is right outside, huffing and puffing and waiting to blow this house down.
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