By Jeffrey Newholm
The 2018 Brewers were in a tough spot. GM David Stearns foolishly traded away Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto for an OK Marlins outfielder. Now, all four prospects have a chance to enter the Hall of Fame. A very, very small chance. Meanwhile, that outfielder, Christian Yelich, has pumped premium rocket fuel into an already crowded Brewers bandwagon. A team famous for tailgates and running sausages is suddenly a very real threat to make a triumphant World Series return 37 years overdue.
Although Miami has (somehow) won two more World Series than the Brewers, today they’re no more than a Yankees farm team. That’s why Yelich was fortunate and capitalized on a new chance with an actual MLB franchise. He recorded career highs in hits, home runs, batting average and slugging en route to the NL MVP.
Milwaukee won its most games ever, and its 96th in a tiebreaker over the always hated Cubs. But Yelich was inconsistent in October. He hit two home runs but batted just .194. The season ended with a dispiriting 1-5 loss in Milwaukee’s Miller Park to the big-money Dodgers. Was it the end for Yelich? The very brief dominance of the Royals, followed by a return to horridness, was a small reason of concern. But last weekend Yelich knocked those concerns into Lake Michigan against the longtime rival Cardinals. St. Louis has been the Brewers’ foil for decades, even defeating the crew in the ’82 World Series in Milwaukee’s AL days. But finally, the red birds can’t fly into first.
Yes, the Brewers won three out of four from St. Louis. But more important was how, or rather, who won it. Yelich was just the sixth man to homer in the first four games of a season. Still not impressed? Consider his walk-off double to clinch the series win. Yelich and the Brewers have so much fun, they can’t even get through a routine interview without Gatorade hijinks.
The first step for the Brewers was assuring skeptics they’re no flat beer fluke. Obviously, they’re safely on base there. Next, the Crew must navigate a tough April schedule and establish itself as an NL Central contender. Now, in April, it may be too early to think about the pennant. After all, it will be tough without…who was traded for Yelich again? No one worth remembering as a beautiful 2018 prelude is forgotten for a surprising hero’s sure swing into the majesty of baseball’s autumn.