Brewing up America’s pastime: Confirming a place in the cellar


Logan Schafer and Ryan Braun celebrate Jean Segura’s RBI single during Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately for the Brewers, wins like Thursday have been rare, and the season has resulted in many frustrated fans. Photo provided by Getty Images.

The smell of the freshly made hot dogs, taste of David sunflower seeds and sights of the players warming up fill the aroma that is Miller Park during the summer as our beloved Milwaukee Brewers play an old-fashioned game dating back to 1845. But it’s more than just a game: it’s a national pastime, one that has become a staple of American culture. Since I was handed a baseball bookcase when I was eight days old, I have become infatuated with the sport, and as I have aged it has become the hallmark of my interest. With this backdrop, I decided to take to The Highlander Online to showcase my thoughts about the local bunch of guys living out thousands of children’s dreams: the Milwaukee Brewers.

I was born in the Chicago area, but moved to Milwaukee at the age of three, during the summer of 2001. A month before I moved, I attended a Brewers game, specifically Scott Podsednik bobblehead day. Even though I still have that bobblehead on my bedroom shelf, the experience that afternoon at the ballpark has faded from my memory.

However, oddly enough, what actually remains in my mind is that of the on-field production. On that afternoon, the Brewers were abysmal to say the least. Replete with errors, inconsistent pitching, and an inability to advance runners in scoring position, my young and rudimentary baseball brain was confused at how such production, or lack therof, could occur.

That year, the Brewers finished 68-94 which was good for third place, but the three years that followed the team was fairly accustomed to the cellar, as they hung around last place waiting for a miracle. That miracle came in the form of trading Podsednik for the power slugger by the nickname of “El Caballo,” then White Sox player Carlos Lee, in 2005. Since then, the Brewers have maintained roughly .500 seasons or above, and have made the playoffs twice.

In short, the last time the Brewers were in last place, the biggest worry on my mind was what I would get from the tooth fairy. However, the Brewers this season find themselves in dead last in the entire major leagues, sitting at a mesmerizing and unacceptable 3-13 record, with that third win being just yesterday at home against Cincinnati.

This season has been characterized by exactly what I saw on that sunny afternoon in 2001. Paltry pitching, horrendous hitting, and mediocre managing has catapulted this team to its current state of despair. Furthermore, the fan base that has been so used to quality summer experiences at Miller Park, and who has been energized by the Milwaukee Bucks zero-to-hero season and “Own The Future” motto, is utterly disinterested in supporting the boys of summer with the same intensity that they did just a few months ago.

As I mentioned in last week’s piece, the Brewers are in the midst of a stretch against 23 consecutive divisional opponents. Not only does their inability to win in the division raise questions about their ability to compete, but also it forecasts a rough future against teams from other divisions. With the Crew having played the same opponents already multiple times, the fact that they are consistently unable to figure out other teams heightens this issue.

Let’s take a look at the past week. This past weekend, the team traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates, but was swept out of there quickly with losses of 6-3, 6-2, and 5-2 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. Raising tension, Carlos Gomez was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to the series for a hamstring injury.

When the team left Pittsburgh, they were down another key contributor to injury, as star second baseman Scooter Gennett  cut his left arm during his Sunday postgame shower on the metal bar holding soap in the stadium locker room. Posting a picture of his stitched arm on Twitter, it became evident to fans around the world that Gennett’s circumstance was no joke. Currently, Gennett also faces a 15-day trip to the disabled list, forcing the Brewers to continue to improvise on the field.

Returning home to face Cincinnati, all it took was the first game for the largest contributor on the field, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, to suffer a toe fracture. Lucroy has not played since.

However, the takeaway from Monday’s game was Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani allowing two hits over eight shutout innings to stifle the Brewers. Only when DeSclafani left the game could Ryan Braun hit his first home run of the season. Braun’s dinger made little impact, as the Reds waltzed to a 6-1 victory.

Tuesday was a different story offensively. For a team unable to score more than four runs for most of the season, the team looked like they took out their offensive anger by plowing 10 runs onto the board. Led by Elian Herrera’s grand slam and Martin Maldonado‘s two-run shot, the Brewers offense finally seemed to click.

Of course, however, the Reds offense was just a little stronger. Four home runs, including grand slams by both Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, allowed the Reds to put up 16 runs and win the battle by the score of 16-10.

Wednesday took a turn back to normality, as the Reds won 2-1. Johnny Cueto threw for eight innings, striking out eight and allowing one run, to outduel Jimmy Nelson, who also pitched eight innings. It seems like the Brewers simply mirror whatever the opposing team gives them, but just does so in a slightly worse manner which allows them to lose.

Most pitchers have ERA’s around 3-3.50, however a lower ERA correlates to a stronger pitcher. For the Brewers, Nelson is the only pitcher with an ERA under 5, a pathetic remark. Nelson’s 1.35 is incredible, but he is the lone star, and the marginal support that he receives while on the mound makes me feel incredibly sorry for his unfortunate circumstance.

On Thursday, the Brewers picked up some resemblance of confidence, as their 4-2 win snapped an eight-game losing streak that was in dire need of some change. Jean Segura‘s RBI single in the seventh was crucial, and Kyle Lohse, the Brewers worst statistical pitcher, picked up a badly-needed first victory.

Nevertheless, these moments of happiness are negligible compared to the overall performance. Mark Attanasio, the Brewers owner, expressed this week that neither Doug Melvin, general manager, or Ron Roenicke, head coach, are in danger of losing their job soon. Regardless of those comments, some change, whether operational or not, needs to inject itself through the walls of Miller Park. If not, the Brewers are going to lose a lot of money on their celebratory fireworks budget.

This weekend, the Brewers continue their home stand against the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, and next week they will travel to Cincinnati for another stab at the Reds.