Our Views: Brewers, Bucks raising hopes for sports fans

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Friday, June 27, 2014

When the Milwaukee Brewers sprinted out of the starting gate this spring, skeptics suggested they would soon stumble.

That didn’t happen. This week, the Brewers managed just two runs in 25 innings against tough Washington Nationals pitchers in back-to-back losses. On Wednesday, the Brewers sent the struggling Marco Estrada to the mound and fielded a light-hitting lineup against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg. The result? The Brewers won, 9-2. Coupled with Thursday’s win over visiting Colorado, Milwaukee was back at its high-water mark, 17 games above .500 as the team reached the season’s midway point.

Milwaukee leads Central Division rival St. Louis by 5 games. The Brewers are playing great on the road and sport the best National League record and second-best mark in the majors.

It’s time to admit Milwaukee is good. Time to order tickets, gather fixings for a tailgate party and take a trip to Miller Park to cheer on the Brew Crew.

Sure, the baseball season is long—longest in professional sports. The Brewers still might falter. Yet the team has much going for it. It has solid starting pitchers and prospect Jimmy Nelson waiting should Estrada remain inconsistent or injury befall another starter. The relief corps has been strong if not spectacular. Baseball analysts argue good teams are solid up the middle. The Brewers are with potential all-stars Jonathan Lucroy at catcher, Jean Segura at shortstop and Carlos Gomez roaming center field.

Who said small-market teams can’t compete? Credit General Manager Doug Melvin with assembling the right pieces. Even the weak spot—first base—beats last year’s revolving door. Though first basemen Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds have two of the team’s lowest batting averages, they’re fielding well. Besides, Reynolds is second on the team with 13 homers.

If a playoff run looks likely as the season wears on, Melvin might be tempted to trade for a complete first baseman. He also might go for a star pitcher to boost hopes of reaching the World Series, like he did by acquiring C.C. Sabathia in 2008.

Melvin, however, traded four youngsters for the brief rental of Sabathia. Making a similar move might gut the team’s prospects for years to come.

Regardless of what happens this season, the Brewers are demonstrating what a ball club with a good home park, shrewd general manager and outside infusion of cash can do. Owner Mark Attanasio is willing to spend on quality players.

Milwaukee’s other pro team should use the Brewers as a model. Overshadowing Thursday’s Brewer victory was news that the Milwaukee Bucks made Jabari Parker the second pick in the NBA Draft.

Though Parker played just one season at Duke, many experts think he’s the collegiate player most ready for the NBA. Team this 19-year-old with Giannis Antetokounmpo, the youngster the club picked last year, and the Bucks hope they’ll someday have all-stars manning the forward spots. Fans hope so, too. After all, the team set a franchise record for futility, losing 67 times last season.

New owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, like Attanasio, plan to pump money into their franchise. They hope to contend for a title within three to five years. If they can get a new arena built and team up with General Manager John Hammond and follow the Brewers’ path to success, Bucks fans should see brighter days ahead.

Having the Bucks and Brewers playing winning ball in the same year would be a rare treat for Wisconsin sports fans. With good health and the right moves, those days might not be far off.

Gazette editorials express the views of the newspaper’s editorial board. Readers are encouraged to comment on editorials through letters to the editor.

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