Somewhere north of Pigsville, about a mile away across the freeway, they have been playing baseball below the bluffs of the Veteran’s Home for 45 of the 46 years of the franchise known as the Cream City Nine, better known as the Milwaukee Brewers. During that span they have had twelve winning seasons, one of which was shortened. Only three of their players have reached the coveted Baseball Hall of Fame, primarily because they have only won one League Championship, in a league they are no longer a member of. For those who have been living in the belief of the faith known as the True Blue Brew Crewism, only 26% of that time have the faithful lived during winning seasons. Now it takes an optimist to look at 26% within a lifetime of defeats.
In the Central Division of the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals have had 29 winning seasons in that period. The Cincinnati Reds have 23 winning seasons. The Pittsburgh Pirates have 19 winning seasons in that same period. But the ultimate insult is that even the Chicago Cubs have more winning seasons in that period (15).
This is particularly tough to swallow when one grows up in the Southern half of the State where so many Chicagoans reside during the summer months in and around Lake Geneva to Burlington. It is particularly brutal when your next door neighbor growing up was a diehard Chicago Cubs/Wrigley Field Forever fan and announced their journey to their little mecca on the North side of Chicago where vines grow on their outfield walls during the summer and all you hear about is the legend of Ernie Banks. That they have more winning season during the existence of the Crew is hard to swallow.
How do we change all of this? How do we jump over the Cubs and Pirates, even the Reds in the seasons ahead?
Change the color of the uniforms.
This might be seen as a sacrilege but perhaps the Crew could turn to the colors of the Packers. ‘Green and Growing’. Nope. That didn’t work for the Bucks who are now in red.
OK. How about changing the name of the stadium to the Great American PNC Busch Ballpark? The GAPNCBB doesn’t really have a ring to it but then we could sell Bud, Iron City, Yuengling and other tasteless brews. After all, its in the water, you know.
How about management?
We have had two basic family owners during this period. Neither seem to understand one thing that seems consistent in winning and that is winning begins with winners. We never have had a winning General Manager since the great Harry Dalton. We have never brought in a real winning manager. Wouldn’t Joe Torre bring a beautiful ring to the faithful in Miller Park? Or Joe Madden? Opps, the Cubs pulled that off.
Of course it takes a bunch of talented players, especially pitchers to make a winning course a tradition. The Brewers haven’t had much of that in their past. That last first round draft choice that made the club and contributed was Ryan Braun (2005) and the last pitcher to do so was Ben Sheets (1999). That’s a problem management has to address and has not in nearly a decade. Is the owner up to it? Is the general manager up to it?
Not a single pitcher has contributed to a top Brewer record since 2004 (Ben Sheets-strikeouts with 264) and 2011 (John Axford-Most Saves in A Season with 46). It should be noted he also won the coveted 2011 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award (although he is Canadian, as was his award honors namesake).
So, as we enter the 2015 edition of the least winning team in the past 46 years within the team’s existing division, what has Milwaukee done to improve its pitching staff? It lost K-Rod and Duke from the bullpen. It added no starters to last year’s lineup. With Lucroy and Gomez both having career years as the two top non-pitchers on the team last season, very little has been done except for longtime second baseman Rickie Weeks and one of the most reliable pinch hitters in the league, Lyle Overbay, departing.
But, the hope of spring is eternal in the provincial provence of Southeastern Wisconsin where cheese and beer along with sausage are the keys to any happy gathering. All eyes are now on Maryvale to see if the ‘standpat’ attitude of management will change the fortunes of the lowly Brewers as the desert flowers pop up across the Valley of the Sun. On these pewter gray days of winter in Wisconsin the only hope is that through sheer will the course of the past will change dramatically and all of the cheering of the beginning of last year will be repeated throughout the entire coming schedule.
Now that would be a miracle. And it would bring us all the #13 (winning season) we are looking for.