The MLB Divisional Series are already underway, and for those casual fans who don’t know which teams to root for while waiting for weekend football, selecting a favorite among the remaining eight teams can be difficult.
There are the powerful juggernauts, the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, and storied franchises like the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. Then there are the glory-less teams that have relatively little postseason experience over their long history—the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers, as well as seemingly recent newbies such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays.
So which team should you root for? The old standbys or the young up-and-comers?
Here’s a look at five reasons why you want the Brew Crew from Milwaukee to take home the World Series title.
What’s not to love about a ballclub whose team name is associated with beer? Nothing. Nothing at all.
In fact, the team has taken on the characteristics of the stadium beverage, rising to the top when under pressure. The Brew Crew have mashed their way to the NL Central crown and into the playoffs, hopping to a 2-0 lead in the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Led by the jolly Prince Fielder, this fun-loving motley of no-names have held their own all season. With the charismatic Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan, the Brewers are a fermented bunch personalities. Throw in the excitable animated reliever Francisco Rodriquez, acquired midseason from the New York Mets, and even the pitching staff has a boisterous and boiling character.
But Milwaukee’s roster, while eccentric and laid-back, is also diverse and well-rounded, combining youthful talent with veteran stability. Blossoming All-Stars like Fielder, Braun and Weeks are countered with bench players that have playoff experience, including infielder Craig Counsell, outfielder Mark Kotsay and reliever LaTroy Hawkins.
The balance of the rotation—which includes former American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke—along with closer John Axford, who established a franchise-record 46 saves, makes the pitching staff hard to overcome. Though the names don’t jump out at you, the consistency and depth should not be taken for granted or overlooked. After a few innings, before you know it, the starters will have you drunk with excitement, handing the ball over to a stellar bullpen.
Needless to say, this band of overachievers is going to be exciting to watch.
The Brewers definitely have Milwaukee fans abuzz.
The quirky center fielder was acquired in a player-for-prospect trade by Milwaukee from the Washington Nationals in spring training; but little did the Brewers realize they actually received more than one person. Known for his eccentricity and hyperactive conduct, along with apparently a minimum of four known alter egos—Tony Plush, Tony Hush, Tony Gumble and Tony Tombstone.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke stated, “It’s an awful boring team if you have guys with no personalities.” Good thing for him, Morgan has at least four. Having a player with that many colorful personae certainly adds some character to a rather unknown team. Aside from All-Stars Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, there are few recognizable names on the Brewers’ roster. Morgan’s many aliases, though, make up for any perceived lack of identity.
And with his multiple personalities comes the unexpected schizophrenic behaviors. Known for his volatile outbursts, aggressive style of baseball and confrontational enthusiasm, Morgan has had several blowups in his career, including a heated exchange with Giants fans in his hometown of San Francisco and a bench-clearing flare-up with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter in September. He even called out slugger Albert Pujols on Twitter.
Yes, Morgan is a brash, spunky little fella.
Needless to say, Morgan is one extremely intriguing to watch on the baseball field. He’s the type of player who gets under everybody’s skin but is lauded for his hustle and all-out effort to do anything it takes to win. Though he is spotlighted for his zaniness, Morgan contributed mightily to the Brewers’ playoff berth, batting .304 with 61 runs scored and 30 extra-base hits in only 119 games played, while playing solid defense in center field.
His unbridled passion for playing baseball is appreciated by and is entertaining to fans.
Look for him to make an impact on the rest of the playoffs as the Brewers aim to advance beyond the NLDS.
As mentioned, the Brewers are a wonderful blend of youthful hops and well-aged veterans. This mix provides a perfect thirst-quenching, leveled attack, up and down the lineup, from the first inning to the ninth, on the field and on the bench. And of course, the manager, Ron Roenicke, has seasoned experience from the 2002 Fall Classic. So while the Brewers may appear to have come out of nowhere, their steadiness across the board is evident throughout the team.
On offense the Brewers were a mashing unit, leading the National League in home runs while ranking second in OPS and third in batting average. However, for a team of free swingers, the offense had the third-fewest number of strikeouts. And because they were not the swiftest ballclub on the basepaths, Milwaukee formulated small ball enough times, ranking second in the NL in sacrifice bunts. Talk about balance. Oh, and right fielder Ryan Braun had a 30-30 season.
Then there’s the pitching staff. Milwaukee was right in the middle of the pack, placing seventh in the NL in ERA but producing the third-best WHIP and the second-fewest bases on balls. In fact, all five of the starters were strong, posting the third-most quality starts, with each of the five starters winning at least 11 games. Meanwhile, the bullpen is backed by former 2002 World Series stud, K-Rod and closer John Axford, the NL co-leader in saves.
All of these numbers suggest that the Brewers are a well-balanced all-around machine, one that can make noise offensively and defensively. Roenicke’s leadership can take this group a long way, if they stay true to who they are as a team—one with few weaknesses.
It's hard not too enjoy for a full-bodied brew.
Ron Roenicke is not the most recognized manager in baseball—in fact, this is his rookie season as a big league skipper. But, the Milwaukee’s brew master is not without experience.
Up until last offseason, Roenicke was known around MLB for his work as a member of the Los Angeles Angels coaching staff under the helm of manager Mike Scioscia. His 10 seasons, he served as the third base coach during the Angels’ 2002 World Series title run, as well as a bench coach.
All of his managerial experience, however, was at the minor league level, where he was named Manager of the Year at Single-A San Bernardino, and Manager of the Year at Double-A San Antonio. Thus, Roenicke’s hiring last offseason was somewhat of a surprise, as other candidates for the Brewers’ managerial opening included veterans Bobby Valentine and Bob Melvin.
But Roenicke has maintained a steady hand over this quirky group of players. He has allowed them to be who they are, playing loose and free, all the while guiding them to second-best record in the National League. Suffice it to say, it’s likely Roenicke will add to his hardware, a likely candidate to win the Manager of the Year award at the big-league level, too.
Everyone loves the underdog. Well, at least they should.
The Yankees are perennial World Series contenders, made so by their limitless budget. The Phillies have followed suit in recent years, purchasing an all-time great rotation to go with its powerhouse lineup. Those teams are supremely too easy to root for.
Meanwhile, the Brewers are a jovial crew that seems to have a lot of fun playing baseball, doing so with a passion and fervor that is hard not to appreciate. They have the second-lowest payroll of the remaining eight teams, 17th overall in MLB. And oddsmakers during the preseason predicted that Milwaukee were 65-to-1 shots to win the World Series.
It probably seemed like longer odds in May, when the Brewers looked up at four teams ahead of them in the National League Central. Even on May 22, the Brewers were in third place, five games back of Cincinnati and three and a half back of St. Louis. Milwaukee overcame the absence of right-hander Zack Greinke for the first month of the season, and injuries to second baseman Rickie Weeks and center fielder Carlos Gomez for parts of the season.
But the Brewers surged past everyone in the NL Central, bridging July and August with a 25-4 record, vaulting into first place and never relinquishing their lead. To suggest that their division crown was unexpected is not unwarranted. But they have believed in themselves all along, and their ambition doesn’t stop with the NL Central title.
Still, of the remaining eight teams in the playoffs, Milwaukee has the second-fewest number of postseason appearances in their team history—the Tampa Bay Rays have three postseasons, but in 30 fewer seasons of existence. The Brewers have not won a World Series, and in fact last appeared in the Fall Classic in 1982, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. So in essence, they are the most starving franchise of the remaining eight.
For fans, rooting for the Brewers is like sipping for an ice cold beer—thirst-quenching and fun. They currently hold a 2-0 lead in their NLDS against Arizona. Cheers to the Brewers.