Hope Springs Eternal – Even for the Brewers
Can Milwaukee break out beyond a break-even season in 2020?
Editor’s note: With the coronavirus outbreak, the MLB season is on pause, but since we don’t yet know when it will begin, here’s Luc’s planned baseball season preview column for whenever the games begin.
Rarely can a season of baseball be accurately predicted. In sports, the phrase “hope springs eternal” is seen most frequently in reference to Major League Baseball’s spring training, with the promise of warmer weather accompanying the possibilities of a winning campaign. Of course, only one of 30 teams will see that hope come to fruition, and for many teams, that hope will collapse within a month of Opening Day.
The uncertain nature of the coming campaign can be crystallized in what we think will happen with the Brewers. Are they a playoff team? Are they rebuilding? Are they trying to avoid losing money? Are they sneaky good?
Pardon the pun, but the 2020 baseball season lacks 20/20 vision, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Besides the ever-evolving response to the coronavirus outbreak at all levels of sports (the pandemic has already caused MLB to cancel spring training and move back the start of the regular season), the uncertain nature of the coming campaign can be crystallized in what we think will happen with the Brewers. Are they a playoff team? Are they rebuilding? Are they trying to avoid losing money? Are they sneaky good?
There are three things we know for sure with regard to this year’s Milwaukee Brewers. One: They have a new version of their classic UW-Eau Claire student-designed “ball-in-glove” logo and an accompanying new uniform set, and they look awesome as a result. Two: This is the final year that we can call Miller Park “Miller Park,” as that company’s naming rights deal expires after 2020, and the stadium will become American Family Field in 2021. And three: Wearing that awesome uniform set for several years at Miller Park/American Family Field will be Brewers’ superstar Christian Yelich, as the team prevented a pending free agency by signing him to a contract extension through 2028.
The Yelich signing in early March was somewhat unexpected timing-wise; he already was locked up for a handful of years, so a Giannis-style “Will he leave?” storyline had yet to develop. It was also a surprise in the financial aspect, as Yelich seemingly will get paid less than other elite MLB athletes. He still gets about $26 million a year (with some of the payments actually running until 2042), but for the Brewers, they catch a break.
That break could help alleviate a cloudy outlook on the diamond for the ’20 season and beyond. Owner Mark Attanasio admitted that the organization lost money in 2019; this word came after the Brewers were relatively reserved with free agent acquisitions during the winter. That, combined with the loss of two players who provided a good amount of offense in 2019 – Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal – has led the two premier baseball analytical websites – FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus – to predict the Brew Crew to finish around .500. Having an equal number of wins and losses means Milwaukee might not be playing October baseball this year.
Thus, a team-friendly contract for the best talent on the squad could allow the Brewers to pay some free agents going down the road. Perhaps the team is on the verge of the playoff race this July and trades for a high-quality free agent-to-be who not only gets them in the playoffs, but then could get signed to a longer deal. Confidence about this upcoming season requires faith in Attanasio, General Manager David Stearns, and Manager Craig Counsell to know who to play, who to get, and how to get the good ones paid.
Around the rest of the baseball scene this year, a look across the border sees the Twins preparing for another year of copious home runs and victories, especially after some free agent upgrading. Their key may well be avoiding the New York Yankees in the playoffs; Minnesota has lost an MLB-record 16-straight postseason games, with the last 10 and 13 overall to the Bronx Bombers since 2004. Regardless of each game’s outcome, several will look better with the Twins’ new powder blue-alternate uniform; the Twins-Brewers games at Miller Park could be especially aesthetically pleasing.
Locally, anniversaries and ordinals make for season-long occasions at Carson Park. The Cavaliers are playing their 50th season in the coniferous confines, while the Eau Claire Express are spending their 15th anniversary celebrating their “Sweet 16.” 2020 will also mark the final time for you to “enjoy” the metal bleachers at Carson Park, with the stadium due for renovations this autumn.
While final records and championship trophies may be in doubt, baseball will always be around regardless of payrolls, injuries, or even a pandemic. We can be sure of that.