This article is dedicated to my fellow Wisconsinites (or transplanted Wisconsinites) who share my love for the Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers.
Throughout my lifetime, it's been second nature to disregard the Brewers every year once September—or even August—rolls around.
Take this year for example. On July 30, the Brewers stood at a season-worst 11 games below .500, with the Packers set to play their preseason opener in just over a week. At that point, it was an easy decision for the people of Wisconsin to make. It was time to focus their attention on the team that has reigned supreme in this state for decades.
The frustrations of the Brewers' bullpen and their diminishing record were enough for fans to abandon ship, and it's hard to blame them. With the exception of last year and 2008, there has always been a feeling that overtakes me when the Packers begin playing. My unyielding support of the Brewers over the duration of the summer tends to take a backseat to the Green and Gold.
Even in 2011, Green Bay was coming off of a Super Bowl victory. Throw in a Wisconsin Rose Bowl appearance, and there was a buzz circulating the state that I had never seen before when it came to sports. The Packers were able to follow up their magical run in 2010 with a record-setting 15-1 regular season in 2011, and even though it ended in heartbreak, Green Bay is the cream of the crop entering the start of the NFL season.
But enough of the scene-setting.
Since the Brewers found themselves sitting at 54-66 just over two weeks ago, they have gone on their best run of the season—winning 13 of 16 to improve to 67-69.
So what? Just to pump some false confidence into the Milwaukee fanbase?
At first, that's what I thought. With 26 games left to play, the Brewers have quietly entered the wild-card discussion, sitting 6.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals and the newly added second wild-card slot. I know what you're thinking—the Brewers aren't back in the wild-card discussion. That's wishful thinking. I like to call it cautious optimism.
The Cardinals, who won the wild card last season, stood 8.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves for the fourth playoff spot with 26 games to go. Granted, they didn't have any other teams to surpass while tracking the Braves, while the Brewers must leap the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates to catch the hated Cards.
Could it be a reversal of fortunes this season? Once the Brewers finish up play in Miami Thursday afternoon, they'll travel to St. Louis for a three-game series that will ultimately tell if Milwaukee is truly in the chase. But, the (slim) chance the Brewers have at making the playoffs—a 0.6 percent chance, to be exact—is not the only reason you shouldn't abandon this team.
The month of September is essentially a tryout for many players to either make the 2013 squad or define their role for next season. Tryouts bring competition, and competition brings excitement.
Although Mark Rogers has already been shut down for the season to protect his arm a la Stephen Strasburg, he is someone who has already earned a spot in the 2013 rotation. Now it's time to get a look at some other young arms. Being "out of contention" at the trade deadline turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the loss of Zack Greinke not only replenished the farm system, but also allowed the Brewers to call up Rogers. And if you haven't noticed, Greinke isn't exactly tearing it up with the Los Angeles Angels.
Wily Peralta made his first major league start last night, and he did a superb job, going six-plus innings and allowing three runs, two of which were inherited runners by Kameron Loe. We'll also get a few more looks at Tyler Thornburg. Both Peralta and Thornburg are auditioning to join the likes of Yovani Gallardo, Mike Fiers and Rogers next season in the rotation.
That's not to mention some of the other young arms the Brewers will get looks at in spring training. The Brewers know the key to long-term success in a small market is to scout good, young pitching and then build those arms in the minors. We've seen it in Tampa Bay, and now we're seeing it this season with the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles.
Milwaukee also has some young position-player prospects. Outfielder Logan Schafer and shortstop Jeff Bianchi are fighting to earn a role as, well, role players with the Brewers next season.
With so much at stake individually for players, there is still a lot for fans to enjoy. Not only that, but the Brewers' offense is one of the best in the National League, and its explosiveness alone is enough reason to tune in each night. Plus, every position is locked in for next season, and it's nice to have that security, especially with how insecure Brewer fans have felt all season long.
And just imagine if Milwaukee legitimately enters the playoff race. Ryan Braun has already received some National League MVP discussion—that would only further support his cause. Last season, Braun was given the edge over Matt Kemp because the Brewers reached the postseason while the Dodgers failed to do so. In turn, it's been Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey garnering the most MVP hype this season, even though Braun has the best WAR (7.1) in the NL.
If you're truly a baseball fan—and a Brewers fan—these reasons ought to convince you to stick with the Crew for (at least) one more month.
Besides, the Packers only play once a week. Do yourself a favor and devote your other six days to the Milwaukee Brewers.