SportsPulse’s Trysta Krick catches up with For The Win’s Ted Berg and USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale, who give us their predictions for this year’s baseball playoffs.
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers should send Derek Jeter a case of Spotted Cow and some bratwursts. Throw in some cheese curds, too.
By trading Christian Yelich to the Brewers in January for four prospects, Jeter single-handedly changed the course of Milwaukee’s season this year. Might have shifted the balance in the NL Central for the next couple of years, too.
Yelich is hitting .400 with a homer and two RBI in the NL Division Series, and his leadoff walk in the eighth inning Friday sparked what would be a three-run barrage for the Brewers.
Milwaukee heads west with a commanding 2-0 lead over the Colorado Rockies. Win either Sunday or Monday, and the Brewers will be playing for the NL pennant for just the second time in the last 36 years.
And they have Jeter to thank for all of it.
The Yankees great is now CEO of the Miami Marlins and he’s, well, no one’s quite sure what he’s doing with that sad-sack franchise. While shipping Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees was somewhat understandable at the time, given the monster contract last season’s MVP had, the deal looks horrible now.
Stanton hit 38 homers and drove in 100 runs for the Yankees, and he celebrated the first postseason appearance of his career with a monster home run in New York’s 7-2 win over the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night.
But Yelich might turn out to be the biggest regret of Jeter’s career as an executive.
Granted, Yelich wasn’t YELICH when Jeter sent him to the Brewers for four prospects in January. He had, however, won a Silver Slugger in 2016, and had 18 homers, 81 RBI and 16 stolen bases last year. So he at least should have given Jeter pause before giving Yelich away.
Now he’s got to be giving Jeter heartburn.
Yelich has been nothing short of spectacular since he arrived in Milwaukee. He had 36 homers, 110 RBI and 22 stolen bases in the regular season, and he is almost single-handedly responsible for erasing the death grip the Chicago Cubs had on the NL Central for the second half.
Over the last 74 games of the regular season, as Milwaukee was trying to chase down the Cubs, Yelich hit .367 with 25 homers and 75 RBI. His .770 slugging percentage after the All-Star break was the 14th-best in major-league history for the second half, according to Baseball Reference.
He became the first Brewer to win the batting title – not too shabby, considering this is a franchise that has had guys named Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Ryan Braun — and came within two homers and an RBI of the Triple Crown.
Next month, he’ll join Yount, Braun and Rollie Fingers as the only Brewers to win the MVP. (Let’s dispense with the notion this is even a question. There’s no one else in the NL who’s close.)
Despite their furious finish, the Brewers needed to beat the Cubs in a tiebreak game to win the NL Central. Yep, you guessed it, Yelich came up big again, going 3-for-4 with an RBI in a 3-1 win that was significant in so many ways.
The Brewers avoided the wild-card game, giving them two days off before the NLDS started. They locked up home-field advantage throughout the NLCS.
But most importantly, by winning the NL Central title, the Brewers served notice that they’re a team to be reckoned with – this year, and beyond.
Yelich is only 26, and Milwaukee has him locked up through 2022 on a very cap-friendly contract. (The team has a $15 million option in 2022.) That gives the Brewers both a cornerstone and money to build around it.
It’s never wise to evaluate a trade too soon after it’s made. But at least one or two of the prospects Milwaukee sent to the Marlins will need to be All-Stars in order for Jeter to be able to say the deal was worth it, and that seems like a long-shot now.
Jeter made a Hall of Fame career out of getting the best of his opponents. Now it’s the Brewers who have gotten the best of him.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.