Milwaukee Brewers: Playoffs would be their own reward

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

When the Milwaukee Brewers were kicking butt and taking names in April and May, it looked like Brewers fans could finally allow themselves to dream big, about postseason series wins, not just about a potential playoffs appearance.

After a humbling and long stretch beginning before the All-Star break, however, expectations are falling off a cliff for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018. At this point, simply making the playoffs would be a major step forward and an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Older Brewers fans will remember the gaping void that existed for the Brewers before they finally returned to the playoffs in 2008, and again in 2011. Before 2008, it had been over 25 seasons since Milwaukee had reached the postseason, a cruel trick on a loyal fan base and under-rated baseball city.

Unfortunately, 2008 and 2011 are now anomalies, joining 1981 and ’82, for the Brewers and their unenviable team history of futility and disaster. Not only has missing the playoffs become the team’s tradition once again, but they’ve found excruciating new ways to collapse and implode in recent seasons (2014 and 2017 among the most painful).

To miss the playoffs again would be a very unwelcome blow to the Brew Crew and Milwaukee’s psyche. Yes, it’s almost presumed that the Brewers will fail, but each time this failure occurs again, it becomes more entrenched and ingrained in the team’s identity and the perception of the team and city on a national scale.

Just as the Milwaukee Bucks need to snap their putrid string of no playoff series wins since 2001, the Brewers need to break this streak and make the playoffs in 2018, even if they are bounced immediately in the Wild Card round. Milwaukee teams need to show some backbone and at least make it to the dance.

The pitching staff has broken down, the starters are fatigued and the bullpen gassed, the hitters are boom or bust (except for Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain) and just about every odd injury, error, umpire decision and failed replay challenge imaginable has plagued the Crew over the last two months or so.

Reinforcements will help ease the burden, but it will be a difficult slog to overcome the Cubs, Cardinals, Rockies, Dodgers and Phillies, not to mention the Braves and D-Backs, who currently run the NL East and West, respectively.

Assuming the Nationals and Pirates are not going to pull off a miraculous return to playoff contention this season, the Brewers must finish ahead of at least three of the seven NL playoff-hopeful teams. It’s not going to be easy, and day by day, Brewers losses will hurt a little more.

The best possible solution would be a good, if not burning hot month of September baseball to get Milwaukee back to its swagger and fun-loving joy that made watching the team so much fun in the early going.

A convenient late-season winning streak of five or more games may be too much to ask, though, and sadly a tad unrealistic. Thankfully, the Brewers have 15 games at home in September, and the fans should be there to support them en masse through their trials and tribulations.

If the team keeps fighting (and winning games), it could be a whale of a good time over the next month. Reinforcements have arrived after a trio of trades on Friday. The Brewers acquired outfielder Curtis Granderson, starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and reliever Xavier Cedeno.

There’s something about the Brewers and their seemingly perpetual quest to find the palace of wisdom via the road of excess. It’s often a whole lot of winning early in a season and then a whole lot of losing late in a season. It’s a club displaying a magnificent home run barrage or a posse of salty strikeout artists. It’s a lights-out bullpen or a bunch of misplaced and error-prone relievers.

This crew just doesn’t do things on an even keel very well, and maybe they shouldn’t try. (Disclaimer: They definitely should try).

Even if the Brewers learn nothing and change nothing going forward, however, a playoffs appearance would go a long way toward making sure this season doesn’t get added to the list of woulda-coulda-shoulda campaigns for Milwaukee. If GM David Stearns and his front office see 2018 as part of a grander scheme to position the club as consistent contenders for the first time ever, the baby step of a Stearns-led Brewers team’s debut appearance in the playoffs can’t come soon enough.