This has been a tough year. I don't think anybody on this site, even the naysayers among us, thought we'd be 55-62 midway through August. The only reason that we're even remotely hanging in the race (7 back of the Cards, 5.5 back of the WC) is because of the absolutely disaster that is the NL Central this year.
I'm curious, guys: what keeps you going as a Brewers fan right now? It's not like Brewers fandom is full of fair-weather fans, since there hasn't been any fair weather for a decade, but for some reason this, right now, feels really bleak.
What I can't help but be excited about right now is the triumverate of Chris Capuano, Prince Fielder, and Bill Hall. Capuano took a major step up this year, elevating himself to All-Star status. Fielder has proven he belongs; in another year or two he could be scary. And Bill Hall has established himself (again?) as someone deserving of a starting job. All three are fun to watch; all three will keep getting better.
After that, it's a bit tough for me. I'm glad Corey Hart is going to get more regular ABs now, but I'm kind of in "I'll believe it when I see it" mode. I keep expecting to check the lineup one night, see Geoff Jenkins back in the fifth spot, and Corey back on the bench as a result of back-to-back ohfers. It's fun to watch Dave Bush pitch, but it'll be more fun when he catches up to Capuano on the learning curve.
What's particularly frustrating is the number of lame ducks in the lineup every night. Brady Clark could/should be traded this offseason to make room for Hart/Gross/Gwynn. Kevin Mench may not last the offseason. David Bell and Tony Graffanino are stopgaps. When Bell comes up with Graff and Mench on base, it's terribly obvious that we're just rooting for laundry. Damian Miller doesn't quite fit in this group, but he's clearly not part of the Brewers long-term plans. None of those guys are quite Royce Clayton, but the feeling is similar.
Even Doug Melvin's finds--the sorts of players who remind us we have a great GM who will lead us to the promised land--have fizzled out this year. Doug Davis is below average, Matt Wise looks like a very pedestrian middle reliever, and Derrick Turnbow...well, the less said about that, the better.
Worst of all is the way that the Ben Sheets saga has played out this year. While he may come back strong and start 33 games next year, it's really tough to predict that with a straight face. No matter how carefully the medical staff brings his rehab along, it seems like he can't get fully healthy. I don't know whether that's anyone's fault, or if Ben has a low pain tolerance, or what's going on. But when our one exciting, marquee player may or may not ever make his start next week, you've got a problem.
Of course, there's always next year: Rickie Weeks and JJ Hardy will be ready to play; maybe Jenkins will be exiled; maybe Capuano will take yet another positive step. Perhaps Zach Jackson and Carlos Villanueva will fill out the rotation and give us the cheapest, most effective 4/5 in baseball. But maybe that's the worst part: this year, in August, we weren't supposed to be saying "There's always next year."