You’ll find people in Brewers apparel on just about every street corner in Milwaukee these days, not to mention every restaurant and bar. It’s mid-October. How are we still talking about baseball?
It’s not often that the Brewers are playing this deep into the postseason — it’s only happened twice before, in fact, that Milwaukee has reached the league championship series. So for all of you new to Brewer fandom, here are the things Brewers fans simply want you to know.
We are vigorously loyal
The Brewers have only been to the playoffs four times before this year, so you better believe small-town Milwaukee is going to embrace the successes it has.
It’s why a guy like Nyjer Morgan, who was a role player that nonetheless caught Milwaukee’s attention with his brash personality and game-winning hit in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, can come back to town and be feted with a standing ovation. It’s why the ball-in-glove logo, an emblem of the successful teams from the early 1980s, is still revered as perhaps the most popular logo in team history.
Also, the ball-in-glove logo is the best in sports, and this is not a debate.
We love to play the underdog
Milwaukee has supported its baseball team, routinely in or hovering near the top-10 in attendance despite ranking as the smallest of 30 markets.
Now, part of that attendance success is because of the roof. Even when it’s snowing in April (like it totally was in 2018), there’s going to be a game in Miller Park. It’s a huge advantage to have a certainty of inventory.
This falls in line with just about every fan base, but when a national writer doubts Milwaukee, there is bound to be backlash. And not just writers, either…
We still hold a grudge against Gary Sheffield
Brewers fans do not have a problem holding a grudge.
Sheffield, a hot-shot 19-year-old when he first appeared for the Brewers in 1988, showed serious promise when he began his career. But he was dealt after the 1991 season, at age 22, to the Padres after demonstrating clearly that he didn’t want to be here. Sheffield felt he was unfairly kept from playing shortstop (he played third base instead) and had a chilly relationship with teammates.
Milwaukee fans hear it a lot: this isn’t a big-time city, there’s nothing to do, there’s no nightlife, etc. There are only a small handful of players who have actually hinted at dissatisfaction in Milwaukee as a result, but those who have — well, Milwaukeeans don’t remember them fondly.
It also probably hurt that Sheffield went on to have a huge career, making nine all-star teams.
We do not like Chicago fans
Then, there’s our outsized neighbor to the south.
Whether it’s the Cubs, the White Sox when the Brewers were still in the American League, or even the NFL’s Chicago Bears, there’s no love lost for the fan base cheering 90 miles away. It’s particularly cringe-worthy for Brewers fans when Cubs fans flood Miller Park during games between the two franchises, then have the nerve to suggest their presence is responsible for Milwaukee’s strong showing in the annual attendance rankings.
We drink. A lot.
Tailgating feels like part of the Wisconsin fabric, but it’s an uncommon practice around major-league sports venues. Miller Park’s location west of downtown enables a large enough parking lot to accommodate it.
But that doesn’t mean Wisconsin fans can’t party on the road, either. In fact, one Denver bar had to close for a day because Wisconsin fans overran it and consumed all the food and drinks when the Brewers faced the Rockies in the National League Division Series on Sunday.
Those drinks should calm the nerves. Again, this is like a lot of fan bases, but Brewers fans are prone to panicking from time to time. You’d think all those years of losing would have calloused the Brewers fan’s psyche, but nah. If the Dodgers load the bases with one out in the first inning Friday, you can bet fans will be already anticipating a four-game sweep.
Now, what about this 2018 Brewers team we’ve been following?
We’re not booing, we’re saying ‘Moose’
Mike ‘Moose’ Moustakas was one of the team’s acquisitions midway through the season, a couple days before the July 31 trade deadline. The nickname was a pre-existing condition during his days with the Kansas City Royals, but it hasn’t struggled to latch on here. So when Moose hit the game-winning single in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Rockies? Moooooooose.
The Brewers are doing some pretty novel stuff with the pitching
The biggest Brewers storyline this postseason is the very unusual way they’ve handled starting pitching. Across baseball, starters have seen a dramatic decline in usage the past few years, to the point that the bullpen is now responsible for basically half the game. But the Brewers have taken that to the extreme, sometimes not even thinking of their first pitcher as the “starter,” with the intention of using him for, at most, 2-3 innings.
Manager Craig Counsell has begun calling them “out-getters,” which isn’t the most graceful of terms, but it demonstrates that the heretofore expectations of a “starter” going 6-7 innings are out the window.
National writers have noticed the way Milwaukee has deployed its bullpen in ways that don’t always conform to traditional roles. The team hasn’t relied on a single “closer,” and that dude isn’t just pitching the ninth inning as customary — he’ll sometimes work a couple innings.
This team is basically completely different from last year
Last year’s Brewers actually did quite well, finishing within a game of a playoff spot, and that represented an earlier-than-expected return to full-fledged contention after general manager David Stearns took over the team in 2015, looking to rebuild the club into sustained relevancy.
But there has been some crazy turnover. If you look at last year’s 2017 opening-day roster (25 players), only 10 players (Junior Guerra, Corey Knebel, Manny Pina, Jesua Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana) were on the playoff roster against the Rockies. Pitchers Chase Anderson and Zach Davies are also a big part of the equation and were there last year, but there are a lot of new names, including several midseason acquisitions (Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, Gio Gonzalez, Xavier Cedeno, Curtis Granderson).
The biggest new names were both acquired on the same day, Jan. 25. That’s when the Brewers signed free agent Lorenzo Cain and traded for Christian Yelich, who was formerly with the Miami Marlins. Yelich is going to win National League MVP after a historic second half. Cain is also an MVP candidate who has been a remarkable defender in center field.
We believe in Jesús
In this case, I’m referring to the first baseman.
Jesus Aguilar has been a revelation for the Brewers, a castoff from the Cleveland Indians who made the team last year and was one of the last guys to make the roster this year. He had a crazy first half, got voted by fans into the all-star game, and homered in the NLDS. He’s responsible for some of the season’s biggest moments.
So to review: There’s a Jesús. And a Christian. It’s divine providence, people.
We have a general manager and manager who both look like they’re in college, but only the GM is ACTUALLY that young
Not really, but David Stearns is 33. He’s the Harvard educated architect behind the team’s quick return to power. When he took over in 2015, many fans speculated that it would take five or six years before the Brewers competed again, using recent examples from Chicago and Houston as blueprints. But Stearns has made it happen a lot more quickly.
It helps to have a manager in lockstep with the vision. Craig Counsell, 48, the former Brewers player who was part of the last two Brewers playoff teams (2008, 2011) and the native of Whitefish Bay, has gotten a lot of credit for his management of the bullpen and the team’s offensive assets.
Show me the love
Oh yes, that gesture Brewers players give the dugout after a big moment, where they hold their hands up and do what appears to be a “gimme” move? That’s code for “show me the love,” and Lorenzo Cain is at the heart of that.
We’ve got a mustachioed guy sliding down a slide and a bunch of racing sausages
Every time a Brewers player hits a home run at Miller Park, Bernie Brewer slides down a slide. At County Stadium, he slid into a giant beer mug, which was perhaps more appropriate (he’s a brewer, after all) but not as great a message to The Kids.
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, the famous racing sausages make their full-on sprint from down the left field line, around the backstop to the right field line. No, those races aren’t rigged; those folks (usually members of the Brewers in-game entertainment staff) are booking it. You might think it’s weird (it is), but many Major League ballparks have since adopted their own “racing” concept, from the presidents in Washington to the pierogies in Pittsburgh.
Ours came first.