Why Brewers Fans should be Encouraged
As a lifelong Brewers fan, I admit that watching the Kansas City Royals battle for their first World Series title in twenty-nine years gives me just a twinge of discomfort. After all, three of the Royals’ starters are former Brewers who Milwaukee dealt in trades (Escobar, Aoki and Cain) and two are players the Royals acquired as a result of the Brewers dealing Jake Odorizzi to KC in the Zack Greinke trade (Shields and Davis). The Aoki trade – one that upset me at the time – paid dividends as Will Smith stymied hitters consistently before Brewer manager Ron Roenicke overused him, resulting in a tired arm, but there’s no arguing that the Greinke deal was instrumental in propelling the Crew into the playoffs in 2011, when they fell just two games short of their first World Series in twenty-nine years. Still, a little part of me wonders what might have been had Milwaukee played its cards differently.
But overall, Brewer fans should be encouraged by what the Royals have accomplished: not only a World Series appearance, but a miraculous 8-0 run before losing game one of the Series. Kansas City, long the doormat of the American League, has finally achieved some success despite it playing in the second smallest market in the MLB (Milwaukee is now the smallest) and competing in the same division as Detroit and Chicago. Other small markets – Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay – have also achieved some success, though Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are still trying to get to their first World Series since 1979 and 1990, respectively. The St. Louis Cardinals are perennial playoff participants despite playing in the sixth-smallest market in Major League Baseball.
In short: it can be done. Maybe not every year, but every once in a while a small market team can in fact make a run at a World Series ring. And Milwaukee has no excuse despite it playing in the smallest market. Milwaukee’s attendance continues to impress, drawing more fans relative to the size of their metropolitan market than any other team in baseball. In 2014, Milwaukee drew 2.8 million fans, good for eighth out of thirty teams. Not too shabby. (By contrast, Kansas City drew 1.9 millions, good for twenty-eighth.) And as the success of Cain and Escobar shows – not to mention Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and numerous others – Milwaukee’s farm system has in fact produced some quality players.
It can be done. Kansas City has proven it. Win or lose, I am happy as heck for Royals fans everywhere. But I’m even happier that maybe – just maybe – I’ll get to witness the Brewers in a World Series before the bottom of my ninth inning.