This past week of baseball gave Brewers fans a healthy punch to the gut. We watched Mike Fiers pitch a no hitter in an Astro’s uniform just three weeks after being traded from Milwaukee. As someone who was a fan of Fiers during his time as a Brewer, it was incredibly bittersweet to watch him make baseball history (while celebrating with Carlos Gomez, nonetheless) in another team’s colors.
We’ve had a tough year, Brewers fans. It began with the disappointment of missing the 2014 playoffs still fresh in our minds, and it spiraled out of control as the Brewers were out of the divisional race before May 1st. We’ve been through the firing of a manager who didn’t deserve to remain employed beyond last year, a rash of injuries that took down veteran players in bunches and at key times, and the ceremonial “stepping down” of a General Manager who many blame for overestimating the ability of his team and delaying an all too important rebuilding process. The complete overhaul of the front office coupled with the aggressive selling of a number of starters has left the Brewers with a team that is forced to field a lineup of disinterested veterans and minor league prospects that aren’t ready to be playing in the majors. Even I don’t love baseball enough to watch a team that is 25 games out of the divisional race on a daily basis.
I’ve written often about the rebuilding process this year and what that would mean for this team and organization. Before the trade deadline, when I felt as though the Brewers needed to be convinced to rebuild (but was not naive enough to think they were taking strategic advice from a baseball writer at The Squeaky Curd), I frequently referenced the Cubs organization and the slow and oftentimes painful process they took to prepare their organization for long term success. Baseball is just starting to see the results of this four-year long process in Chicago; the Cubs are 70-51 even though they rank 28th in the majors in team batting average and 19th in team slugging. We hear the names of Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler on ESPN all the time, but they are batting .257 and and .268 respectively, and Addison Russell hasn’t even made the jump to the majors yet. All of these players will continue to improve, giving the Cubs a real shot at remaining competitive for the next half decade. The route Chicago took to get to this point is process I continue to endorse, and I believe the Brewers are starting to embrace it as well- but I didn’t think it would feel so sad so quickly.
Our local sports fans have been blessed to experience what a properly executed full rebuild looks like in the Milwaukee Bucks, who went from being the worst team in the league to a potential contender in just two years. It’s exciting to watch this city start to believe in basketball again. Unfortunately for baseball fans, it just doesn’t work as quickly in the MLB as it does in the NBA. There is no such thing as a major league ready draft pick in baseball. It takes years to develop even the best of the best prospects in baseball. It’s a sad but humbling process that makes our sport so unique; you can’t fake success in baseball, there’s just too many games to weed out the pretenders.
It’s going to take time, Brewers fans. If this process is done correctly, the Brewers will have another round of high performers next year that they will need to trade away to contending teams. I fully expect to be sitting here one year form now looking at another potential 100-loss team. It’s the price we need to pay now if we want to watch meaningful September baseball later. Until then, it’s just a sad time to be a Brewers fan; it’s just going to hurt for a while. The crowds have begun to thin, the play by play commentary has lost it’s mojo, and as we get closer and closer to football season, the Brewers will put the final touches on a one-year long transition that saw them fall from a playoff contender to a mere afterthought in a city that has waited far too long for far too little success.