Opening day is just five weeks away. I will be in attendance at Miller Park when the Brewers take on the Giants. For all intents and purposes the Brewers are not going to be a good team this year. They will lose a bunch of games, but they will show signs of greatness. They will have a slump somewhere in the middle of the season where nothing will go right and everyone will think that this “rebuilding” year is actually a “tanking” year. Then they will have a two week stretch where they will be coming together and gelling and everyone will be psyched for the coming years and even some will think they have a shot at the playoffs.
90% of the roster that started the season with the Brewers last year is gone. They are somewhere else in the league or gone all-together. When the Brewers hired a new GM they got a guy from Houston who helped them do the same thing the Brewers are doing now. Jettison any dead weight that isn’t going to help you in the future and either release them or trade them for someone who can help you in the future. The thing with this plan though is that you have to prepare your fan base for some pretty lean years. Houston took almost 3 years to turn their ship around. The Cubs were at the bottom of the standings 4 years ago and this year they are favorites to win the World Series and break their 100+ year drought of championships.
The one major difference that the Brewers have going for them in this situation though is that they have the perfect fan base to do this with. Sure, they won’t have a ton of sell-outs or any after their opening day game, but they will have a loyal fan base that will still come to games and support their team.
It’s mostly due to the fact that in the years where the Brewers don’t contend for championships the baseball is an afterthought to the fans. Not that that’s a bad thing. But to be a Brewers fan is to be something that is way different than any other fan. For most teams the game starts when the first pitch happens. For Brewers fans it starts when you pull into your parking space at Miller Park. The grills get fired up, the beers are opened and the yard games are set up. For Brewer fans it’s not about wins or losses this year it’s about making that one, two or twelfth trip a year to Miller Park to have a better time than last time.
I’ve been to a few games in other cities. San Francisco, Boston, New York the theme I got from those teams was leave work, wear a baseball hat and try to get to the game before the 2nd inning is done. Now that happens too in Milwaukee on weeknights, but for the most part even if there is 15 minutes to spare that means you have plenty of time to open a beer, eat a sandwich and walk up to the gates with another beer and be in before the Brewers get up to bat.
If the game was that important the parking tickets wouldn’t say, you need to be in the stadium by the 4th inning. They would say, “Park your car, lock your car, and start heading to the stadium. Please no dilly-dallying.”
And that’s why this will be the perfect season for the Brewers. Not from a wins and losses stand point but from an enjoyment stand point. Fans will still go to the game and still have fun. Sure expectations will be low, but for the guys that are new to the team and have never played in the Big Leagues they will get to see something pretty special. They will see a fan base that even if they are in the middle of a slump will still show up and cheer. The fans and players alike will give each other glimpses of what they are capable of. Because the overarching thought on both sides will be, “Boy if this is what it’s like when we are in the doldrums, it’s going to be pretty amazing when we are contenders.”
Even though I know this team will lose 90 or so games I will be attending 12 of them this summer, including Opening Day. And I have committed to these games tickets and parking are paid for. (Thanks Greg from the Brewers ticket office). I committed to these games when I knew they weren’t going to be very good. I don’t know what that says about me, but a day at the ball park is better than a day in the office.