The Milwaukee Brewers hired Ron Roenicke. The Pittsburgh Pirates hired Clint Hurdle.
Roenicke didn’t have managing experience. Clint Hurdle managed to take a young Colorado Rockies team to the World Series.
When the Brewers realized that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder would be together for just one more year, the Brewers went all in. Doug Melvin made a move to acquire pitcher Shaun Marcum.
But it was the move to acquire another starting pitcher that proved the Brewers had slid a serious amount of chips to the center of the table. Grabbing Zack Grienke would be the jackpot of the off-season.
The Royals sent them SS Yuniesky Betancourt and the Brewers gave up some youth. (shortstop Alcides Escobar, pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi and CF Lorenzo Cain were sent to the Royals.)
The Pirates said they were all in.
Clint Hurdle repeated it about twenty times, just to make sure we heard it.
He said Bob Nutting was all in, too.
The Pirates had the worst pitching staff in baseball. To improve it, the Pirates expected more production from each pitcher. The off-season additions would be signing Kevin Correia, Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel. We weren’t sure they were even at the table, but the “we are all in” mantra stuck around anyway.
The Brew Crew kept adding, as they picked up Nyjer Morgan and Mark Kotsay.
The Pirates signed Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay.
Each team was playing well at the All-Star break. The Pirates had shocked the world, and the Brewers were getting it together. But it was what would happen after the break that told the tale of 2011.
The Brewers had fans pouring into Miller Park at a record pace, so at the All-Star break they made another bold deal. Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin added Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez.
At the All-Star break the Pirates had fans pouring into PNC Park at a strong pace, too. But the Pirates simply enjoyed the AS break. Fans were told the price was too high for any deals. “Other teams know the Pirates are desperate” was repeated to any Pirate fans that would listen.
So, instead, the Pirates waited until the trade deadline. The team added Derrek Lee. And in the final minute, outfielder Ryan Ludwick was also added to the puzzle. Neal Huntington’s expressed desires for a starter and a reliever? Didn’t happen.
The Brewers added stop-gaps at the deadline, picking up Jerry Hairston and Felipe Lopez.
The Pirates would leave their fans with the image of an epic collapse in the season’s final few months. The attendance figures came in under two million and, while encouraging, it could have and should have been so much more.
The Brewers went on a stretch of dominance as they cruised to the NL Central pennant. The Brewers went over the three million attendance mark last night.
Sure some of you will say it’s easy to sit back as the final game of the season is upon us and realize the Brewers were poised for greatness before this season. But it still took all of these right moves for the team to make it happen.
The Brewers hit on almost every deal that was made this season as their pitching staff was bolstered.
It’s also easy to see the Pirates weren’t expected to be great this season. For a few months they played very well, but the poor moves made in the off-season caught up with them. Diaz was traded for a pitcher. Overbay was cut. Beimel was cut. Correia was hurt. Lee was hurt. Ludwick was Ludwick.
While the Brewers were riding the success of proven arms acquired at what some would argue wasn’t that high of a price, the Pirates were riding the success of unproven arms that were dirt cheap. The arms for the Pirates aren’t developed yet-and the waiting is brutal.
Melvin knew he needed pitching, and he got it.
Huntington knew he needed pitching, but couldn’t get it.
Huntington knew he needed offense, but couldn’t get enough of it.
Huntington still knows he needs both moving into 2012.
Melvin still knows he has big questions in 2012, but right now he will sit back and see how his cards play out after going all in.
We don’t think the Brewers are built for a championship run, but it’s still damn impressive to sit back and watch what Doug Melvin put together in such a small market.
No matter how bad your hatred for the Brewers is.