The baseball calendar is interminably long, but it is remarkable how just a small portion of that schedule can make or break a team's season.
The Milwaukee Brewers have reached that point.
The Brew Crew came out of the all-star break like gangbusters, winning their first two games in front of massive home crowds. Since then, the Brewers have lost seven of eight against inferior competition, while the Chicago Cubs have made headliner trades and won eight of nine contests to pull within a half-game of Milwaukee.
Which brings us to this week, maybe the most critical on the calendar for the entire sport, but certainly so for the surprising Brewers.
The 5.5-game cushion is gone; it is clear Milwaukee is going to need to win some games, preferably right away. This task is made harder as Milwaukee travels to first-place Washington, followed by three games at home against the same Cubs they are trying to fend off.
But besides the two series against playoff-quality squads, the looming July 31 trade deadline furthers the importance of the next seven days.
Should wunderkind GM David Stearns make a play for starter Sonny Gray, who not only kick-start this season, but is under contract for two more years?
Is there a rental arm available, such as Yu Darvish, who could put together a C.C. Sabathia-esque run down the stretch?
Do the Brewers stand pat and continue with their rebuild as planned?
A bad week makes the decision easy. A good week complicates things, but Stearns seems likely to make a trade if the wins are there, especially if the Brewers take the Cubs series.
But say Milwaukee splits these games, and remains in this nebulous territory. What then? Stearns will probably hold onto his assets through the deadline, but it is hard to pass up an opportunity to improve a solid club when a playoff spot is in reach.
Walking the line between short-term success and a long-term rebuild is incredibly tough. Just ask the Boston Celtics, who have tried to maximize both current and future value on the court. This week's games could point the Brewers in a clearer direction, or it could just continue to muddy the waters.