With a 4-2 loss today to the Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers wrapped up their final home stand of the year at Miller Park. They’ll board a plane to Texas tonight for three games against the Rangers (and Jonathan Lucroy!!!), before their final series of the season at Colorado next weekend. While many people have already tuned out their local baseball team in favor of the men in green and gold, a number of noteworthy events took place this week that I’d like to touch on.
With their 70th win on Friday night, the Brewers surpassed their 2015 win total.
This is important for a couple of reasons, one is that it clinched a $100 bet I made on Opening Day. If you want to find a way to force yourself to stay engaged with a baseball team that is unlikely to make a playoff run, I’d highly recommend over/under bets on total wins. I found myself tuning in to watch games this month just as frequently as I would in April and May (you know, before the team was mathematically eliminated).
On a more serious note, the somewhat arbitrary feat of surpassing last year’s win total is a very welcome sign to Brewers fans who fear that this rebuilding process may take a half a decade. At the beginning of this year, I stated that the Brewers would be back to playoff contention in 2019. That belief was based on the thought that the Brewers would start to bottom out towards the end of this year and hit rock bottom in 2017 while waiting for the best of the minor league system to make their way to the major league roster. Make no mistake, I thought the Brewers would lose 100 games this year. If they go 3-3 this week, they’ll avoid losing 90.
This brings me an immense amount of hope. It shows me that the competitive process is working. There are talented young players trying to make a name for themselves RIGHT NOW. They have no interest in waiting for a highly ranked 20-year old to come to Milwaukee and steal their starting spot. This is exactly the type of environment the Brewers were hoping to foster at all levels of the organization. It’s the reason they flipped the coaching staff and organizational leadership from top to bottom. It’s the reason they trusted the managerial duties to Craig Counsell. And while I promise you nobody in that stadium will be jumping for joy next Sunday, passing the 2015 win total is a reason to be hopeful. Perhaps, just maybe, we bottomed out in 2015 without even knowing it.
The Brewers sold 2.3 million tickets this year.
Hats off to you, Brewers fans. There are 30 MLB teams, and 10 of them make the playoffs. The Brewers ranked 15th this year in home attendance, but will likely rank about 21st in total wins. When you couple that with the fact that Milwaukee is the only MLB market with a population of less than two million people, I think it’s a real accomplishment for fans of all ages across the state of Wisconsin.
Lots of people deserve credit for this. Credit the Brewers ticketing staff for finding creative ways to put butts in the seats. Free T-shirt Friday is one of the best giveaways in all of sports, and the shirts have drastically improved in quality and overall style. I see them EVERYWHERE in Milwaukee. Credit whoever invented tailgating – something that I still can’t believe hasn’t been shamelessly replicated in other cities. Even if you don’t like baseball, you probably like drinking beer and grilling out if you live in Milwaukee. Credit the baseball team, who remained competitive on a consistent basis despite their losing record. There were a multitude of 1 and 2 run losses this year: yet another reason to be hopeful. And last, but most certainly not least, credit the fans for coming out and supporting their team. I hear them talking on the radio, I see them commenting on the web, and I hear them talking in the stands. They love their team, and they believe in this process. Well done, Milwaukee, for not letting a year of baseball go unwatched.
I wouldn’t be a good baseball fan if I didn’t mention the absolutely tragic passing of Miami Marlins ace José Fernandez, who died in a boating accident early this morning. Fernandez was a two-time All-Star with a career 2.58 ERA. He was just 24 years old. The Marlins rightfully cancelled their game today as teammates, coaches, family, and friends try to pick up the pieces of a life that was ended far too soon. He will be remembered not only as an incredible pitcher, but as an outstanding teammate and friend.
In sports, we often forget that our favorite (and least favorite) athletes are actually real human beings. They’ve got lives just like we do. And while we share in their joy in celebrations of success on the field, we sometimes forget about the challenges they face when they’re not in front of the camera. This week, and every week from here on out, there will be someone missing from the Marlins dugout. The entire Marlins organization will come to work, and José Hernandez won’t be there. It’s a gut wrenching reminder of just how fragile life can be. Say a prayer or send some positive thoughts towards the Marlins community tonight. It’s a sad day for baseball. Rest In Peace.