By Hacky von Suck
Special to Yellow Chair Sports
If the Brewers don't trade away Carlos Lee before next Monday, they are absolutely, enequivocally, probably likely making a decent-sized mistake. I think.
At least as far as I see it, the rest of this season is meaningless, and the Brewers are letting Lee walk anyway after the season. And for those that think the Brewers' season is still meaningful, let me put it this way: Come this time next year, will the Brewers be in a better or worse position than they are now?
Sure, anytime a team is in contention, they would love nothing more than to win their race. But this NL Wild Card race is so horrendously bad that it almost doesn't seem worth winning. It's certainly not worth hanging onto a departing star or trading young talent for Greg Maddux. As much as it hurts to admit, Greg Maddux is washed-up. He's old. He's easy to hit. Not very good. Below average. Sometimes lousy. Believe me; I would be the last person still denying this if I could. He might be of marginal help to a contending team, but the Brewers would be insane to acquire him.
Yeah, yeah, I know; any team can win if they just get into the playoffs, especially in Major League Baseball. But realistically, should the Crew win the Wild Card, they would be the worst team among the eight playoff teams--meaning the worst among themselves and their three potential opponents. I wouldn't like those odds a whole lot.
It's easy to say, "Look what they've done this whole time without Ben Sheets and Tomo Okha," and believe that their best baseball will come in August and September. But Sheets almost undoubtedly won't be his studly self again until next season, given how much time he's missed. Why burden him with the strain of a playoff race when any delusions of 2004 Ben Sheets will likely prove to be in vain?
The Brewers' situation is incredibly fortunate and rare. They have two second-year guys with ridiculous potential who are already among the best players on their roster and for whom free agency remains distant. Add to that guys like Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, and Gabe Gross (OPSing only thirty points below Lee--granted, in 40% of the ABs, but still), as well as the talented, mostly young pitching staff.
Why not stockpile more young talent? Even if that means a logjam at a few postions or a few guys that don't pan out, so what? Either way, next year they won't have Lee, without whom I believe the Brewers will still improve from this year and contend in 2007. And if they do, they'll still have plenty of young talent in the minors should they need to make deals then.
I simply see no reason for the Brewers to put any more stock into this season. I don't care if they close all five games in the Wild Card race by next Monday. Their best days are clearly ahead of them, and they could be even brighter should Doug Melvin think practically.
The Brewers have made difficult moves involving fan-favorites (Richie Sexson, Lyle Overbay, Jeromy Burnitz) to get where they are now, and in the process, they have increased fan interest and attendance, in addition to their talent level. If Melvin trades Lee and/or Bill Hall to make the team better long-term rather than getting caught-up in that carpe diem, "win now" trap, the fans will understand. Remember--the Brewers have the ultimate gate draw: optomism. That, and not Carlos Lee, is what has excited Brewer fans this whole season.
Who knows; maybe Sheets gets hurt again next year; maybe Hardy and Hart never fulfill their promise; maybe Chris Capuano decides to join a mission in Ghana. But just because things can destroy future hopes doesn't mean present ones should be chased at all cost. They may seem nearer or more attainable, but once they slip away, you're left with nothing.
So screw carpe diem. It's a terrible mantra for running a baseball franchise--unless years of crap for one year of thrills appeals to you. Cubs fans know this well. Braves and A's fans do too, but for the opposite reason.
So please, Doug Melvin--if the offers are there, deal Carlos Lee; deal Bill Hall; deal anyone that doesn't fit into a long-term plan. Keep the farm system strong; make it stronger. The major league talent is already strong, and free agency is still far off. Don't fuck it up.
And who knows; maybe the El Caballo-less Crew will pull off a Wild Card miracle anyway--Carlos Lee and Greg Maddux be damned.