Brewers mix winning recipe

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

How about those Brewers?

As much as we wanted to like the Milwaukee Brewers this spring, we couldn't.

Yet there they were going into last night's game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers with a 61/2-game lead in the National League Central.

Only the Boston Red Sox had a larger lead in their respective division.

Maybe a lot of the credit should go to former owner/commissioner-for-life Bud Selig -- yeah, right. We prefer to go with new owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin of Chatham; assistant GM Gord Ash of Toronto; and energetic manager Ned Yost.

In the past 10 seasons only 10 of the 30 major-league teams have not made post-season play, which says something good about baseball's competitive balance.

Those who have not tasted post-season ball: The Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Kansas City Royals, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds, the Colorado Rockies, the Blue Jays and the Brewers.

Of that group, the Brewers by far have the best chance of playing in October. They are in better shape than the New York Yankees.

The Brewers haven't had a winning record since 1992 -- when manager Tom Trebelhorn took the club to the next-to-last day of the season in a divisional race before finishing behind the Jays -- with Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, B.J. Surhoff, Chris Bosio, Jaime Navarro and Dan Plesac.

Back then, before Selig was paid to switch leagues, Milwaukee was in the AL. The Brew Crew has not reached the playoffs since it lost the 1982 World Series to St. Louis.

Harvey Keunn managed the Brewers, known as Harvey's Wallbangers, with Ted Simmons, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas, Young and Molitor, and with Mike Caldwell, Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers on the mound.

Now, the Brewers are led by the son of an ex-Jay who is a Fielder, as well as a hitter along with J.J. Hardy and Geoff Jenkins.

Cecil Fielder spent four seasons with the Jays before his contract was sold to Japan. His son, first baseman Prince Fielder, who we first met in a Boston hotel lobby as a four-year-old in 1988, was hitting .293 with 14 homers and 35 RBIs.

Prince is his father only when it comes to the power department. He is a better overall hitter and plays with more of an "edge" than his happy-go-lucky father. There is not any difference from the 2006 Prince, except experience and confidence.

Shortstop Hardy has nine homers and 24 RBIs. The Brewers expect 25 homers a season and a .275 average. He is not a flashy fielder -- he doesn't dive for balls --but knows where to play and makes the routine plays.

Left-fielder Jenkins has spent his time stumbling through the Wisconsin wilderness, with 81/2 years of service.

"In the past, we've had some horrible teams," Jenkins told reporters. "You come to the park, it's July and you're already out of the race. It's natural (for fans to worry) because we haven't lost that many games, so if you lose a couple in a row. I have confidence in all our guys."

The Brewers had a 9-1 home stand against St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington to start the month. They then headed on the road where they dropped four of six against the New York Mets and Philadelphia.

After losing two of three at home on the weekend to the Minnesota Twins, they opened their six-game west coast trip as Jeff Suppan beat the Dodgers 9-5.

Combined, the NL Central teams were 16 games under .500 going into last night's play. The NL East is six games over, while the NL West is five over. In the AL West, the four teams combined have a .500 record. The AL Central is a whopping 11 games above sea level. And the fierce AL East is three games under.

What was all that talk about the mighty and all-powerful AL East?


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