Dan Shafer

2011 Brewers brought the love back to this baseball town

By - Oct 24th, 2011 04:00 am
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Well Milwaukee Brewers fans, it’s been a week since the abrupt end to the season for the seemingly destined Brew Crew. Do you finally have that “Written in the Stars” song out of your head? If so, it’s time to look back.
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Let’s be honest, life as a sports fan in Wisconsin could be worse. You could identify a variety of reasons why the Brewers were defeated by St. Louis, but none is more glaring than the team’s abysmal defensive effort. The defense was the team’s single biggest gamble all season, and in the end it was the team’s undoing.
But to focus on the season’s frustrating conclusion would take away from all this team brought to its fans. The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers were a truly fun team to follow, and they brought the city of Milwaukee closer to a World Series than any team in almost 30 years. There’s something to be said for that. The 2008 season was marked by CC Sabathia’s singular dominance on the mound, with some clutch-hitting from Braun and Fielder in the mix, but this 2011 team was just that: a team.

From Braun’s statistical wonder of a season, Axford’s ‘stache and save streak, Prince going “Beast Mode,” Gallardo taking his game to the next level and the Legend of Tony Plush, it seemed like every last player had their moment in the sun. You couldn’t have asked for a better group to cheer for than this team. It was a blast.

Prince Fielder flips a ball to fans at Miller Park.

But change is on the horizon for the Brewers, as Prince Fielder has played his final home game in Miller Park. He’s made it clear that he will take the biggest offer on the table – something the Brewers can’t compete with.

But there is life after Fielder. Owner Mark Attanasio and General Manager Doug Melvin have given fans reason to believe this team can be competitive for years to come. Ryan Braun has signed a deal that essentially makes him a “Brewer for life,” Yovani Gallardo is signed through 2014, Corey Hart for another two years and Rickie Weeks for another three (with options for a fourth). Many players will be retained through arbitration. The Brewers have Mat Gamel (a converted third baseman) waiting in AAA as a potential first baseman in the future.

Though the Brewers don’t have the stadium sauce to pay for Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or free agency’s top starter C.J. Wilson, the team could be in the mix for Mets All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes. That said, Reyes has battled injuries in his career and it would be hard to imagine the Brewers getting into a bidding war if there are bigger offers from bigger markets.

But as he showed in trading for Greinke and Marcum last winter, GM Doug Melvin will pull the trigger on a big trade if it’s the right move for the team. The one obvious candidate going into the offseason is first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who played out of position at third base this season in Boston. A trade for Youkilis is an option Melvin should consider.

But it’s the left side of the infield that needs major attention if the defense is to improve. Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee combined for 41 regular season errors, sixth and seventh in the MLB, respectively. Bad defense will be more of a concern without Fielder’s production in the lineup, but the free agent pool at short stop and third base is slim. A trade here would help the team immensely.

The crowd goes into a frenzy at Miller Park on Oct. 1, 2011. Photo by "gesika22", courtesy flickr.com (CC Licensed)

Yes, the Brewers ultimately came up short, but it’s hard to be too upset after October’s crazy ride, especially having endured the post-Yount, pre-Attanasio years that threatened to end baseball in Milwaukee. Because when you get down to it, Milwaukee is a baseball town. This city deserves this team, and this season reminded us how much fun it can be in the Brew City be when the Crew is on a roll. The sheer joy felt when Plush walked off the Diamondbacks in the 10th inning will not soon be forgotten. Fingers crossed it’s not another 30 years before the next run.

Front page image by “Sarae”, courtesy flickr.com’s CC license and found here.

Categories: Sports

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