Week in Rebrew is a look back at the week that was for the Milwaukee Brewers. Sometimes. Other times, it is something quite different. Today’s version is very much that.
Friday through Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves met at American Family Field. It wasn’t very pretty baseball — the Brewers haven’t played anything close to pretty baseball in close to a month. The Braves asserted themselves in a convincing 6-3 victory Friday and a wire-to-wire 5-1 win Saturday. The Brewers salvaged Sunday’s affair, but not without nearly crapping away a comfortable eight-run lead. This wasn’t the first time the Brewers crapped away a comfortable lead.
May 30, 2007. My wife’s first trip to Miller Park. My brother had outstanding seats several rows behind the Brewers dugout and invited us along for the matinee. Tim Hudson started for the Braves. Dave Bush started for the Brewers. The home nine scratched out two runs while yielding only one to the visitors over seven innings. Manager Ned Yost went to the bullpen to deposed closer-turned-setup man Derrick Turnbow.
Turnbow, a textbook Doug Melvin scrapheap find, emerged as a hard-throwing country boy closer with a perpetually-gaped mouth and a mop of hair under his cap. His control was Ricky Vaughn-esque, pre-glasses, but he harnessed it for an amazing 2005, in which he closed 39 games, striking out 64 in just over 69 innings of work while walking 24. That 2005 turned out to be lightning in a bottle: he followed up with 24 more saves in 2006, but his WHIP jumped as he started pounding the strike zone and giving up more hits, home runs, walks and 30(!!) more earned runs over his breakout ’05.
The Brewers responded to these red flags by trading for Francisco Cordero, along with the corpses of Kevin Mench, Mench’s giant head and Laynce Nix. In exchange, they ceded Carlos Lee and Lee’s heir apparent in left field.
That heir’s name? Nelson Cruz.
*bangs head against desk repeatedly*
Cordero had pitched the night before, locking down a 5-4 Brewers win. Turnbow had actually pitched the night before as well, but was deemed in good enough shape to return to the mound 18 hours after the fact.
Turnbow’s 2007 wasn’t awful, but he clearly lost confidence having been supplanted by Cordero and cult icon Brian Shouse. And the freefall had just begun.
Turnbow entered that 2-1 game almost 14 years ago to the day and this is how it went down.
Top 8: Turnbow faces Matt Diaz — 6-3 putout.
Turnbow faces Kelly Johnson — walk.
Turnbow faces Willie Harris — walk.
[The crowd starts to get quite restless under an unusually hot May sun.]
Edgar Renteria steps up to the plate and dribbles an infield single to short, loading the bases.
Turnbow is rattled. Yost pops out of the dugout and pulls him for Shouse. The crowd lets him have it.
Turnbow, staggered and frustrated, saunters back to the dugout. Being the jerk I was 14 years ago, I piped up: “It’s OK, Derrick. It’s not your fault yet!”
He looked up and, under the shade of the cap’s bill, you could see the whites of his eyes, enraged, glaring a death ray into my soul.
Shouse gave up a Brian McCann bases-clearing double to the LC gap and was replaced by Chris Spurling. Andruw Jones greeted him with a double of his own, Jeff Francoeur tacked on another run with a single down the line, Scott Thorman flied out to center, Pete Orr singled. Diaz drove him in with another base hit and Johnson scored Diaz with yet another single. Harris struck out and the crowd booed the Brewers off the field.
(Former Brewers closer Bob Wickman finished the Brewers off an inning later.)
May 16, 2021. The Brewers have staked an eight-run lead with Freddy Peralta pitching another dominant performance through six. Perhaps that was part of the problem, not sticking with Peralta for one more inning. J.P. Feyereisen, tasked with the seventh, decidedly isn’t Derrick Turnbow, but he has been almost certainly overused, appearing in roughly every other game this season. The stage is set.
Feyereisen faces Ozzie Albies: fly out to center.
Feyereisen faces Dansby Swanson: single up the middle.
Austin Riley walks.
William Contreras walks.
Ender Inciarte drives in a run with a seeing-eye single.
Brent Suter replaces Feyereisen. Suter has not been effective with men on base this season and even shakier than that in high leverage situations.
Ehire Adrianza reaches on a Urias error. The inning by all rights should be over.
Freddie Freeman launches a grand slam, making it a one-run game.
Marcell Ozuna and Albies are retired.
It’s not the same, admittedly — history seldom repeats itself exactly. But there was enough of an echo Sunday afternoon to that fateful day in 2007 that I found myself reliving that Turnbow incident as Feyereisen put men on base. It’s ok, JP. It’s not your fault yet. And it wouldn’t be his fault, thanks to a backend of the pen that is markedly better than Shouse, Spurling or Matt Wise de los Salad Tongs.
And the Braves have seldom been reticent to remind those of us who care to know our local baseball history that the story of Milwaukee baseball franchises — first, the original Brewers, who became the St. Louis Browns, then the current Baltimore Orioles; then the Milwaukee Braves, who bolted for Atlanta for 1966 amidst bad faith perpetrated by all parties involved — is very, very different if certain things don’t happen in certain ways. Crap, even our beloved Milwaukee Brewers are ours because Bud Selig bought them practically on the steps of the courthouse where they declared bankruptcy.
It may not have been that a Milwaukee Braves franchise wins 15 division titles in 16 seasons or is treated to the Greg Maddux–John Smoltz–Tom Glavine triumvirate. A erstwhile Milwaukee Brewers club doesn’t necessarily have the four 20-game winners in Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson in 1971 or claim six pennants in 18 seasons from 1966 to 1983, or Cal Ripken Jr.‘s streak. And we certainly don’t have a Camden Yards ushering in a new era of ballparks and controversial forms of financing.
Time may not be a flat circle, but it does closely resemble a diamond. And while there are no fates cursing the better city abutting Lake Michigan, it does make one stop to wonder why the Orioles were the Brewers’ bugaboo in their early 80s heyday or why the Braves continue to return to the Menomonee River Valley to wreak havoc one slab of beaten-up asphalt away from where Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews launched dingers and Warren Spahn locked down hitters and Bushville laid claim to being the baseball center of the universe in 1957.
Sometimes, crap happens. This is how history works; in the accumulation of misery and suffering and crap, there are genuine moments of joy. And, when one pays attention long enough to the events around them, things start to look the same. And across the void of time and several parking lot spaces, one can hear the past colliding with the present, forming what will be the future, destroying those things that might have been and will never be.
Everything else in sports comes and goes: stadiums get razed, teams move, hearts are broken only to be broken anew the next year, leads are crapped away late. We are the ones who remain, because it is our love, as misplaced or naive or foolish as it may be, that keeps us coming back and keeping score. Because it is better to root for laundry than to not root for anything at all.
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville. Stats courtesy Baseball Reference and his own scorebook.