Baseball is at its best when it doesn't make any sense
It's not supposed to work like this.
If a baseball team loses its all-around leader, the heart and soul of the franchise with eye-popping skills and a fancy award to prove it, it's not supposed to just get over it and do even better.
That sort of loss, which the Brewers suffered when reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich fractured his kneecap with a foul ball in early September, is supposed to effectively end the season. Everybody's supposed to be sad and demoralized at seeing their king go down, vowing to regroup next spring and come back stronger than ever with a chip on their collective shoulder.
But because baseball laughs at what you expect and thrives on being ridiculous, the Brewers officially clinched a postseason spot with a win over the Reds on Wednesday night:
The Brewers took the odds, the probabilities, the chances of making the postseason without Yelich straight out of your hands, crumpled it all up and threw it in the trash can, laughing the whole way.
They're the Han Solo to your C-3PO, riding roughshod through the galaxy on a mission that won't be deterred by logic and reason.
When Yelich went down for the count, conventional analysis and speculation was that they were done. I thought they were done. Many Brewers fans probably thought they were done. And it'd have been perfectly OK if they had been done!
Even before Yelich's injury, they were supposedly on their way out of the race anyway. Surely, losing him would be an opportunity for the Cubs, Cardinals, Nats and other teams in the then-crowded NL postseason picture to take full advantage of the weakened Brewers.
But no. Milwaukee won 17 of its next 19 games, the Cubs and Mets were eliminated from contention and somehow, amazingly, the Brewers punched a ticket to October. And it's this very unpredictability which makes this game most compelling.
In the clubhouse after Wednesday's big win, the scene was buzzing, champagne showers flying everywhere:
They even danced around with their legendary broadcaster, Bob Uecker, because everybody is fully caught up in the moment:
It’s official now. Dancin’ Ueck is back. pic.twitter.com/JXCTdG6WS9— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) September 26, 2019
This sort of sports setup is rife with potential for cliches and platitudes. After he got hurt, Yelich's teammates vowed to continue on without him, to "finish the job we started," and all that. They rallied around him in his absence, wearing his jersey under theirs for good luck -- which, come to think of it, might have been the secret to their surge all along.
Because beyond that, what else could explain it? "Baseball is a team sport," they say, and they're right. It's not quite the same thing for a baseball team to lose its star the way it would be for the Lakers to see LeBron James sidelined or Tom Brady go down for the season with the Patriots.
But still. Yelich is as important a piece of the Brewers' puzzle as any baseball star is to his team, so it would have made total sense for Milwaukee to scuffle once he went down and fade out of the postseason picture.
They didn't do that, though. Instead, they giggled at the expectations of failure, doing airplane gestures while rounding the bases with obscene amounts of swag.
It's weird and wonderful. It's the gripping pull of baseball drama at its very best and most confounding, and it makes no sense at all.
So pop the bubbly and enjoy the ride.
🍾— Christian Yelich (@ChristianYelich) September 26, 2019
Adrian Garro joined MLB.com in 2016. Throughout his travels, both Bartolo Colon and Vin Scully have placed their hands on his shoulders. Not at the same time, though. That'd be amazing.