Yesterday, I received a phone call from a friend of mine and among other things he asked me if I would be interested in going to a Brewers game on Wednesday evening.
The game was against the Cubs, a team that most Brewers fans love to hate, and for me it always is a special rivalry since I reside a few blocks away from Wrigley Field but am as passionate about the Brewers as a fan could be.
I turned the offer down since I had made different arrangements for Wednesday evening already. Now, my plans, although established way in advance, were not for an event that I would absolutely regret missing. Yet, I did not even flinch upon the thought of turning down an offer for a game of this local magnitude, a game that under normal circumstances I would die to see.
And I had every reason to go considering I am a Milwaukee Brewers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
All of this got me thinking about the Brew Crew and the prospects they are facing in a bear market and a stabilizing but still depleted economy.
I mean, if I am willing to turn this offer down how are people who attend games just for the fun of it, and to hopefully see a win, going to react in a similar situation? Also, how were hot commodity tickets from a year ago, readily available in high numbers? It's still the Cubs, it's still a pleasant experience that Miller Park has to offer, it's illogical.
Or maybe not so.
Only a year ago another friend of mine called me at 3:30pm one Fall afternoon, again offering me a free seat at Miller Park for the second-to-last series of the season, coincidentally also against the Cubs. I had plans for that evening, too, but jumped in my car and took the drive up I-94 to make it for a short tailgate and a 7:05pm game start at Miller Park.
Of course, the major difference is that last year the Brewers were in the heat of the NL Wild Card pennant, whereas this year they are in the heat of experimenting and trying to solve the pitching rubik's cube they have been presented with since the All-Star break.
But I am not a fairweather fan. I still religiously go to games when I am presented with a good opportunity, and to turn a free ticket down was a sign that something somewhere went wrong.
In thinking about the situation I found myself realizing that it is only natural for a follower of a team to reach a point of disinterest when a team goes from making the playoffs one season to experiencing constant blunders the following year.
Recently, the Brewers released information that the club had reached the three million mark for tickets sold in a single season for a second year in a row. However, what was not clearly stated was the fact that the majority of the sales occurred before the season started, or during the first half when the Brewers and their pitching staff were staying afloat in the NL Central, and even leading the way for a large period of time.
The disappointment following the All-Star break were so dramatic, however, that many fans who already held tickets to games started looking for ways to dump them. Empty sections became a common sight at Miller Park in August and September and the interesting thing about it was that some of these seats were actually sold, with the club capitalizing on the cash inflow.
But the Brewers need to be very careful because their offseason direction will define the club's financial fortunes for many years to come. Bringing in more than three million spectators through the gates near Hank Aaron's statue for two straight seasons is an impressive mark and it shows that baseball is very much alive in Wisconsin, but the club can not live off old laurels.
It has to fight to maintain the following and build on the momentum created in the previous two seasons.
Things don't come down to just bringing in good pitchers that will hold up better next year. They also don't come down to trading players away for young talent or about making facility updates to Miller Park.
What the Brewers need to do is convince their fan base that they are dedicated to winning, and not just for a year or two.
Because of the market size of Milwaukee, the above goal may not be easy to achieve but by no means is it impossible. Mark Attanasio, the owner of the club, has shown passion for this team and has provided sufficient financial support to allow the club to compete at the highest level.
By providing sufficient financial resources Attanasio has passed the ball in Doug Melvin's court, and it is up to the Brewers GM to find a way to balance the finances and keep the team afloat. It is easy to be the GM of the Yankees, who can buy anyone and for any price, but being the GM of the Brewers requires a different mindset.
The current young star caliber generation the Brewers have is at the end of its tenure in Milwaukee and that should be clear to everyone. There is no way the Brewers can afford Braun, Fielder, Gallardo, and Hart. Something has to give and fans should not be stunned to witness a rebuilding act this winter.
But no matter what direction Melvin decides to go in he has to ensure that the fans are buying it. If they do not, the three million mark may become an immaculate dream. How Melvin is going to play his cards, whether the city of Milwaukee will be able to cheer both Braun and Fielder next year, and whether the pitching will improve significantly remains to be seen.
But be sure that Attanasio is monitoring the situation also, and if Melvin is unable to get the job done under pressure his days in Milwaukee may be numbered.
Boris Yovchev is a Milwaukee Brewers Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report and a supporter of the children's story "A Glove of Their Own."
"A Glove of Their Own" is the award winning children's story that teaches Pay It Forward through baseball and is being supported by Louisville Slugger, International Baseball Federation, iFungo, Rawlings, Modells, as well as players and coaches including Jason Grilli, Joe Torre, Luis Tiant, Dick Drago, Ken Griffey, Craig Biggio, and Sean Casey.
Please visit www.agloveoftheirown.com for more information.
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