Sure, it took a little longer than expected.
But the immutable fact remains: the Milwaukee Brewers sit alone atop the National League’s Central Division, earning the franchise’s first pennant in (gulp!) 29 years!
Ryan Braun’s three-run homer catapulted the team to a 4-1 win over the Florida Marlins before 45,000 title-starved maniacs at Miller Park Friday night.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, it was Alfonso Soriano hitting a three-run dinger which lifted the Chicago Cubs to a win over the Cardinals, thereby turning the Magic Number into an instant memory.
This magical season, which in many ways is only getting started, began last winter when General Manager Doug Melvin pushed his chips toward the middle of an ethereal, green, felt-covered table and declared: “I’m all in.”
Melvin, along with principal owner Mark Attanasio and rookie Manager Ron Roenicke went about the business of shoring up a pitching staff that never quite could fulfill the promise of the likes of the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.
Enter Zack Greinke.
Enter Shaun Marcum.
Enter Takashi Saito.
Enter Francisco Rodriguez.
Add those arms to the aleady impressive Yovani Gallardo.
And Randy Wolf, who started to show himself in the second half last year.
Then, Melvin rolled the dice and got Nyjer Morgan.
It was no secret that Morgan had a volatile past. He brought along some baggage.
But Morgan and his multiple alter egos, headed by Tony Plush, kept the bags in the closet and for whatever reason, the chemistry just bubbled over like so many bottles of Dom Perignon in the locker room tonight.
There are still five games to play until the calendar turns to October and the Divisional Series begins.
There is a little thing called home-field advantage to play for in those contests.
There are pitching matchups to roll out.
There are playoff rosters to submit.
This team survived a non-baseball related injury to Greinke during the Cactus League that delayed a much-anticipated debut by the former Cy Young Award winner.
This team sputtered at points during the summer.
You could say the Brewers limped into the All-Star break.
And as good as they played at home was as atrocious as they played on the road.
The defense looked suspect at times.
Third baseman Casey McGehee, who was like a powder keg offensively in 2010, has been spotty…occasionally coming up big.
Carlos Gomez, who is like human velcro in center field, broke a collarbone making a spectacular catch.
Second baseman Rickie Weeks turned an ankle running to first base and was lost for, well, weeks.
But then there is Braun. And Prince Fielder.
The two have had anchored the No. 3 and No. 4 spot in the lineup for years now.
They have each had MVP-type seasons.
The fair thing would be to vote them as co-MVP’s.
Because without either of them, it is doubtful Milwaukee would be where they are today…division champs.
Three years ago, after the Crew ‘rented’ C.C. Sabathia, the Brewers backed into the playoffs and went down to the Phillies in pretty short order.
Sabathia was pitching on three days rest and was flat-out gassed when they got to October.
This has an entirely different feel.
The Brewers and their still-giddy fans are hoping the results will be as well.