Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Milwaukee Brewers, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
In a plot twist no one saw coming, the Brewers turned out to be pretty darn good. Even the most optimistic projections had the club going .500. To be the final team eliminated from postseason contention is one heck of an accomplishment.
An unexpected cast of characters led them all year. With Ryan Braun not producing his usual numbers, Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, Jimmy Nelson and Corey Knebel, among others, propelled them forward.
Perhaps even more impressively, general manager David Stearns made minor upgrades at the deadline without giving up any of the team’s excellent farm system. That should set up the Brewers for a nice run of contention moving forward.
In the end, the cheese curd and Schlitz celebration will have to wait until next season.
Let’s take a deeper look at the year that was in Milwaukee:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
Given the expectations, we’d say everything went right for Milwaukee just short of making the playoffs. This team came together very impressively and was a joy to watch. Much credit goes to general manager David Stearns for kickstarting a needed rebuild while mixing in some veterans who played like different makers. In particular, the signing of Eric Thames and trade for Travis Shaw, who both topped 30 homers. Impressive outfielder Domingo Santana enjoyed a breakout season, hitting 30 homers himself, while Chase Anderson and closer Corey Knebel anchored the pitching staff. The future is definitely bright in Milwaukee. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
As well as Milwaukee played, this team just didn’t have the fire power to keep up with the NL’s best. That was to be expected, of course, but it still stings considering how close they got to a playoff spot. It’s also frustrating that Ryan Braun was again hampered by injuries and delivered only pedestrian numbers. That not only held Milwaukee back, it further damaged his trade value. (Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
How’s this for an unforgettable moment? It was late August and the Brewers were trying to stay relevant in the NL wild-card and NL Central races. They were playing the St. Louis Cardinals, who were trying to do the same thing.
They had a 6-5 lead with two outs in the ninth and runner on base. Then St. Louis’ Randal Grichuk hit one to centerfield that might have looked like a go-ahead homer. Until Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton did this:
Oooooh yeah. Now there’s a catch. A game-saving catch at that. The Brewers didn’t end up making the postseason, but that is still one heck of a play. (Mike Oz)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
Ryan Braun is the Brewers’ perpetual conundrum. When he’s good, he’s an asset in their lineup. When he’s not good, he’s a liability, or he’s injured and not playing and being paid so much money. He’s been on the trade market for years, and his contract is either too big to trade (he’s 34 and is owed $56 million over the next three years), or no other team wants to touch him due to his PED troubles. Braun has kept a low profile since then, but that doesn’t seem to be helping his trade value. At this point, maybe nothing will. And that leaves Milwaukee, one of the smallest markets in baseball, with a problem. Their team took a huge step forward this year, and it’s hard to imagine Braun being part of the Brewers’ future. They *need* to figure out what to do with Braun. And maybe the answer is just continuing to do what they’ve been doing. But hopefully they find a better solution. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
The 2017 season saw some of Milwaukee’s future talent make their major-league debuts. Lewis Brinson, Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff all came up at various points. Hader was great, while Woodruff and Brinson could use more work.
They’ll have that opportunity next season, as all three should see their roles increase. The rest of the team’s elite talent is young, and need at least another year of seasoning. Infielder Mauricio Dubon and third baseman Lucas Erceg could see time up in 2018, but the club may have to wait on Luis Ortiz, Corey Ray and Keston Hiura.
That’s OK, because the talent the currently have might be enough to keep them in contention until the next batch of strong prospects are ready to arrive. (Chris Cwik)
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