Coming off a sweep of the Houston AAAstros (see what I did there?), the Milwaukee Brewers have won four straight and 11 of 12, with the lone loss coming at the end of a classic against the St. Louis Cardinals in extra innings. In that stretch, Milwaukee has beaten Houston six times, the Chicago Cubs three times, and the Cardinals twice.
It’s no surprise that the Brewers have been able to beat up on the bottom feeders of the National League. What surprised me was the text I received from my mother, the most bandwagon of fans I know, after the game Sunday afternoon.
“On to St. Louis! How is Weeks doing? Can we beat the Cards on the road?”
There was a whole lot in that text that made me realize a few things not only about where the Brewers are this season, but where the franchise is as a whole.
For starters, the Milwaukee Brewers are officially here. They are nationally relevant, locally loved, have star power, and appear to have the possibility of staying.
Nobody is going to have this conversation about a team from a major market (anyone from Boston, New York, Los Angeles, etc.) or a team with a storied history (take fellow Wisconsinites the Green Bay Packers for example); but the Brewers have crossed a few big hurdles on the way to national relevancy.
1) The Brewers have star power that casual fans recognize
The Brewers excel in this area, with perennial All-Stars Ryan Braun in left field and 1st baseman Prince Fielder, who was this season’s All-Star Game MVP and hit 50 home runs in 2007. They also have former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke as their ace, the single-season record holder for saves in Frankie Rodriguez as their set-up man, and a few other former All-Stars in Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks.
This step is important because if there are not names for fans (and the media) to latch onto, it is hard for a team to become and stay relevant. The fact that Milwaukee has a number of these players locked up long term bodes well for the franchise.
2) The Brewers receive consistent national attention
There haven’t been as many nationally televised games as I’d like to see yet, but they will come. Tuesday’s game, televised by the MLB Network, was a classic for a number of reasons, enough for Buster Olney to tweet this.
I watched that whole series, and there were plenty of national writers chiming in. Twitter is a start, with segments on shows like Quick Pitch and Baseball Tonight devoted to Milwaukee and the NL Central race helping to elevate the Brewers’ stature.
3) The Brewers act the part
The Brewers made it to the playoffs in 2008 thanks in large part to the left arm of CC Sabathia. The trip was brief, bowing out to the eventual World Series champs in four games, and since then owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin have worked hard to get the Brewers back to the postseason.
Milwaukee kicked off trade season by grabbing K-Rod on the night of the All-Star game to bolster the pitching staff that Melvin improved over the off-season with the likes of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. The organization realizes that this is their moment to pounce and is doing whatever necessary, including trading top prospects such as Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Brett Lawrie, to succeed.
4) The Brewers are the talk of the town
I was visiting my parents last weekend when we saw a family friend outside of a local sandwich shop, and I noticed that three of the four of us were wearing Brewers t-shirts, and the conversation immediately started with the Brew Crew. None of us were going to the game that day, but the team were on our minds when picking out our wardrobe for the day. I have seen far more gear outside of Miller Park in recent years, which is a very encouraging sign for a franchise.
5) The Brewers have now brought casual fans into the conversation
My mom’s text caught me off guard for a number of reason. For one, she remembered who Rickie Weeks was and that he was hurt. She knew that he was a talented player who the Brewers need to play well for them to succeed.
She also knew what happened in last week’s series against the Cardinals and that there is a big series starting this week. She also knew it was in St. Louis, and that the Brewers have had road struggles this season.
It was a short message, but one that let me know that the Brewers have officially arrived.