By Jake McCormick
Major League should’ve centered around the Milwaukee Brewers. The movie was filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium (R.I.P.), the two most memorable Yankee
players (Clu Haywood and “The Duke”) were played by former Brewers (1982 Cy Young-winner Pete Vuckovich and Willie Mueller, respectively), and of course, Bob Uecker made the movie great as drunk announcer Harry Doyle.
But for Cleveland, a city obviously known for hoarding sports championships, the movie gave a national audience a glimpse into one of the most underrated lack-of-success stories in baseball. After it was released, the real-life Indians went on to collect seven AL Central Division titles and two World Series appearances, causing speculation that the movie actually had a positive impact on the organization. This holds true simply because after Mr. 3000 was released, the Brewers have been to the playoffs and are looking more like a respectable franchise again. Thank you, Bernie Mac. Which brings me back around to the Brewer’s three game sweep of the Indians.
The 2009 Milwaukee Brewers might have to thank Harry Doyle, Rick Vaughn, and Willie Mays Hayes for sweeping the Cleveland Indians. Monday’s crazy win on the 20th anniversary of Major League’s release was easily the team’s strongest mental game of the year. It was a turning point for the team in the same way that Jake Taylor’s motivational “win the whole, f***ing thing” speech was for the movie Indians. I’m not predicting a pennant, but the Brewers’ collective hitting confidence is growing.
Corey Hart, Jason Kendall, Mike Cameron, JJ Hardy, and Bill Hall forgot which end of the bat to grip over the past two weeks, if not months. Hart, Hardy, and Hall have been especially painful to watch, as they have more problems with curveballs and sliders than Pedro Cerrano. The bright side is that each member of the Triple H Club hit a home run against Cleveland, and Hart has increased his season total from six to nine over the last four days.
Hart and Hardy must’ve found a couple of diamond-plated slump busters before the Cleveland series, because they’re producing like their fantasy draft positions predicted they would. Remember when Kendall (or Popeye, as I like to call him for his look at the plate and massive wad of *gum* lodged under his left lip) started last season hitting like Joe Mauer, minus the power? Kendall is a lot like Taylor because his value is more in leadership of a young pitching staff than his incredibly powerless swing.
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder will get their statistics, but they usually do it in ying-yang fashion, where one is up while the other is down. Lately they’ve been lockstep together like the West Side Story, but the scarier part for other teams is the resurgence of the supporting cast. The Brewers role players have been like the lesser known guys in Major League – shortstop Malina, left fielder Tomlinson, or pitcher Kellner, all mentioned at some point in the film.
As good as the Brewers’ hitting has been over the last few games, the pitching has been stuck in a bizarro world. Jeff Suppan is the Eddie Harris of the Brewers staff because he does well in clutch games, is religious, and looks like he’s not a real pitcher sometimes. The only difference between the two is that Harris consistently went eight to nine innings in all two games he pitched in the movie, whereas Suppan is successful with a six inning, three to four run outing. Suppan has been the team’s most consistent pitcher over the past two weeks, while Manny Parra especially has done a spot-on Rick Vaughn impression for the last month. But glasses won’t fix what ails him. Parra has some big confidence issues, and a stint in Triple A should do him well. The rest of the starting rotation has slumped lately, including a couple of wins by Yovani Gallardo where he was only able to get through five innings. It’s not what you want to see from a staff on a first place team, but as long as the rest of the division continues the “any way you can suck, I can suck better” mentality, the Brewers shouldn’t lose too much ground on anyone.
The Brewers definitely have a Willie Mays Hayes swagger, and they’re continuing to hold strong in the Central Division despite some injuries and drop offs in production. Only time will tell if the team’s hitting woes have been cured and if the pitching will turn around, but Milwaukee showed an offensive spark against Cleveland that wasn’t always around when pitching was solid. Ken Macha’s squad has more talent and better Vegas odds than Lou Brown’s Indians, but it’ll take a collaborative pitching and hitting effort to do anything close to what happened in the movie.