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Contending Crew should go all in

July 1, 2017

What a great time to be a baseball fan living in Milwaukee.Even if you're the Commissioner Emeritus.Bud Selig is losing sleep over his hometown Brewers again -- but this time in a good way."I'm up until the last out every night, no matter where they're playing," Selig said. "It's not

What a great time to be a baseball fan living in Milwaukee.
Even if you're the Commissioner Emeritus.
Bud Selig is losing sleep over his hometown Brewers again -- but this time in a good way.
"I'm up until the last out every night, no matter where they're playing," Selig said. "It's not easy when they're playing out west, but you better believe it, I'm watching when they're in the game -- and they're in the game every night."
Selig has been busy lately working on his Hall of Fame induction speech when he's not teaching classes or adding to a chapter of his memoir. But the Brewers are a pleasant distraction.
"It's amazing to watch the way they play," Selig said. "They're having fun, and it's fun watching them."
You bet it is.
Did you see the Brewers' game on Friday night?
Stephen Vogt, acquired off waivers from the Athletics a week ago, received a curtain call in his Miller Park debut. He homered twice in a 3-2 victory over the Marlins, making the best kind of impression on Milwaukee fans.

It was the perfect piece for the puzzle being put together in a city where life is good when Bob Uecker is calling the game on a delicious summer night -- with brats on the grill, needless to say.
There's been a script change for a team that embarked on a rebuilding program less than two years ago, with the midseason trade of Carlos Gomez to the Astros. Many other trades followed, the biggest of which meant parting with Jean Segura, Khris Davis and Jonathan Lucroy for a collection of prospects.
Look at the Brew Crew now.
David Stearns, who helped Jeff Luhnow build the Astros into baseball's newest powerhouse, was hired as general manager about 21 months ago. He and manager Craig Counsell, whom he wisely kept on, have the Brewers atop the National League Central standings at the dawn of July. It is not a misprint.
With the Cubs misfiring, Milwaukee has led the division for all but four days since May 17. They've done this while playing .500 baseball (21-21), mostly with longtime No. 3 hitter Ryan Braun on the disabled list.
Soon, it will be time for the Brewers to declare what they are -- a true contender that believes the autumn can be magical or simply a nice story.
Could Milwaukee become buyers this quickly, after doing such widespread selling?
It's going to be fascinating to see how owner Mark Attanasio and Stearns play this hand.
Making an appearance in the dugout before the game on Friday, Attanasio said Stearns has his blessing to play it either way -- get aggressive to try to seize this opportunity or take a step back and let the young, up-and-coming team continue to percolate on its own, with an eye on long-term, sustained success.
"As someone said to me, 'The only thing that's certain in baseball is uncertainty,'" Attanasio told's Adam McCalvy. "We just have to come in and be smart every day. I think we're going to assess things at the time we have to assess them. It's premature, right now."
At 43-39, the Brewers are on the Continental Divide of baseball. Their season could go either way. But I'm saying go for it. They have the stuff to go the distance as a legitimate contender.
There are two ways this can happen: Either they can make life miserable for the Cubs until the 162nd game or they can jump into the Wild Card race if the Cubs start winning the way they have the last two seasons.
What happens if Braun, Eric Thames, Keon Broxton or Domingo Santana catch fire in July and August? Or any one of a half-dozen other dangerous hitters on a young roster that was assembled by Stearns and his predecessor, Doug Melvin (who remains as an advisor)?

Let's consider Broxton for a moment.
He's got such speed that the Pirates had him on their postseason roster in 2015, yet was traded to the Brewers for first baseman Jason Rogers after that season. It turns out he borrowed a little bit from Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte -- as he's got power, too.
Broxton has played 159 Major League games over the last three seasons. He's hit 22 home runs, while stealing 38 bases -- and he only started 124 of the games he's played. Sure, he needs to cut down his strikeouts (an NL-high 104 entering Saturday) -- but that's the definition of impact talent. Like 22-year-old shortstop Orlando Arcia, he's only going to improve with experience.
Pitching is probably the Brewers' biggest area of need, as it is for just about anybody. But the work of Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson and Matt Garza has given Milwaukee's rotation a 4.21 ERA, which ranks fifth in the NL.
Anderson's on the disabled list with a strained oblique, so depth is a concern. The Brewers could move rookie Josh Hader into the rotation for the second half, but he's helped the bullpen immensely. It would be smart to add an arm or two while they can get them.
Jose Quintana's cost-controlled contract would be a perfect fit for Milwaukee, and there's probably no prospect the White Sox would covet more than the Brewers' Corey Ray, who is headed for the Futures Game. He's not only a Chicago native, but is a product of the Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) program, which helped prepare him for the University of Louisville.
That's just one thought. There are certain to be dozens more between now and the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for