It's been a bumpy ride
The journey is always sweeter than the destination.
Case in point: Last year we were all enraptured by the local nine and their return to October after two seasons of abject mediocrity. After 26 years of total futility, in the span of just four seasons, an entire franchise's playoff appearances doubled and once again the Brewers were the toast of the town.
Last year, our expectations were raised to a level not seen in a generation. In 2008 there was a sense of just being happy to finally be playing in October. But when the final out was made at Miller Park last Oct. 16, it felt as if the air had been let out of Milwaukee's tires. So close, yet still so far away.
The funny thing about baseball is its fickle nature. One day you can win by 10 runs, the next, against the very same team, you can get shut out on two hits. It is just how the game is played. Nothing more, nothing less.
Unfortunately for us, it is also our baseball reality year in and year out.
Last year was a magical ride that unfortunately ran out of gas in the National League Championship Series' final two games. And while many were outraged that this playoff indignity was at the hands of the hated St. Louis Cardinals, others were assuaged by the very fact that the Brewers simply ran into a buzzsaw that forgot how to lose when August turned over its calendar page.
And while no one should just accept falling short of stated goals, long-suffering Brewers fans have to be pragmatic, as counter-intuitive as that may be.
Baseball's revenue disparity problems have not been solved. One only has to look at the Yankees' $198 million doled out to player personnel this season as compared to the Padres' mere $55 million payroll to see that.
But, this season's 358 percent disparity, while massive, is actually the lowest percentage difference between the top and bottom clubs in Major League Baseball since 1994.
If we take a trip back in time, despite the ugly players strike that wiped out the World Series and nearly brought the sport to its knees, baseball was a much simpler business 18 years ago. The Yankees' total team payroll was a relatively paltry $45 million. Baseball's highest paid player was Pittsburgh's Bobby Bonilla at $6.3 million.
After 1994, a growing problem only got worse. Whereas markets like Pittsburgh could have the highest paid player in the game, the next generation of the National Pastime made that a laughable proposition, particularly when George Steinbrenner started spending money like a crazed lunatic.
Most years the disparity between the highest payroll club (each year since 1994 has been the Yankees) and the lowest hovered between 550 percent and 800 percent. The largest disparity was 2006 when the Yankees ($194,663,079) spent a whopping 1,298 percent of what the Marlins did ($14,998,500).
For all of the 1990s, Milwaukee was at or near the bottom of the payroll rung. The team was bad, the farm system was barren, whatever good players the Brewers could develop were shipped out, County Stadium was a ghost town, and a general malaise settled over the entire franchise like a persistent black cloud of doom and despair.
The fight to build Miller Park was ugly and protracted and nearly killed off the franchise once and for all. But while the new ballpark gave the Brewers a chance, good baseball decisions still had to be made.
When Doug Melvin arrived as general manager after the nightmarish 2002 season, he had to wonder just exactly he was getting himself into. Melvin inherited a team that wanted fans to believe that Ruben Quevedo, Jayson Durocher, and Ben Diggins were legitimate big leaguers and had drafted first round stiffs Chad Green, J.M. Gold, Antone Williamson, Dave Krynzel, and Mike Jones in recent years.
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