The Brewers went 68-94 in 2015 as the painful process was begun. And yet, in Major League Baseball's smallest media market, more than 2.5 million people showed up at Miller Park. It was the ninth straight season in which the Brewers' attendance had reached that mark.
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In the last 33 years, the Brewers have reached the postseason twice. It is not difficult to make the case that this unfailingly loyal fan base deserves better. So during this season of giving, it was good to get a letter from the Brewers' chairman and principal owner, Mark Attanasio, in which Mr. Attanasio repeatedly thanked the fans and pledged his total commitment to this rebuilding project.
This letter is available for inspection on MLB.com and also appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The owner extended to the fans "sincere thanks for sticking with us through a tough, challenging and -- most aptly -- disappointing season.
"The commitment you've demonstrated to the Brewers, I assure you, is equaled by my own commitment to doing better. Each of you deserves that. By doing better, I mean fielding a playoff-competitive team and one day bringing a world championship to Milwaukee. To move toward accomplishing this lofty goal, I believe we need to take a step back and build more intensively from within."
Reasonable people can agree that this is the course that must be followed. In the past, the organization attempted some rather expensive pitching patch jobs. Jeff Suppan got a bundle of money and then got hit hard and with deadening regularity. There is still evidence of this marginal strategy on the current roster. The name Matt Garza comes to mind.
In other places, fans would be shouting curses and throwing objects in the face of similar ill-fated acquisitions. Here, people just keep buying tickets and remaining steadfast.
Why are Wisconsin people so patient? I preface the answer with the fact that my family has been in this state since 1848. This isn't some outsider talking.
Anybody who lives through Wisconsin winters on a regular basis specializes in patience, as well as snow-blower maintenance. This current El Nino winter doesn't count. It is a winter from a warmer climate and we have just borrowed it. Anyway, you either develop patience here, or you move to a place where they play Spring Training games.
One way or another, the fan base is genuinely patient. And this will be a useful trait in the 2016 season, especially in the National League Central. Last season, the three best records in baseball were compiled by NL Central teams. The Cardinals won 100. The Pirates won 98. The Cubs won 97, and since the end of the season have become, oh, man, notably better.
The task before the Milwaukee organization cannot be adequately described with a term such as "difficult." But at least it has a definite direction in mind.
In this regard, Mr. Attanasio detailed in his letter the various personnel moves that had been made by the Brewers' new general manager, David Stearns. People who have worked with Stearns speak highly of him. He'll need to be one of the very best at his trade to pull off the task that is before him.
How long will this baseball revival take? "We do not have a rigid timetable because we believe it is vital to build a proper foundation for sustained success," Attanasio wrote.
As the owner also noted, the rebuilding had started last May, even before the arrival of Stearns, with the hiring of Craig Counsell as manager. Counsell, who filled integral roles as a player on two World Series championship teams, had served an apprenticeship as an assistant GM for the Brewers. He has respect throughout the game for his intelligence, for his work ethic, for his preparation. As another Major League manager told me: "Craig should be a tremendous manager."
Mr. Attanasio also made kind remarks about Doug Melvin, who has been replaced as GM but remains in the organization in an advisory capacity.
"So, as we approach 2016, I want to reiterate how much the entire Brewers organization appreciates the community's strong enthusiasm for the club," Attanasio concluded. "We are dedicated to building something special here in Milwaukee for you, the best fans in baseball. I thank you once again for your steadfast support.
It was a good letter, a necessary letter, a letter that gave credit where credit was due, when it comes to the devotion of Wisconsin baseball fans. It was not a Christmas card, but it could be termed a letter in the spirit of the season. Wisconsin fans, still waiting for the kind of baseball present that generally comes in October, will understand that the thought counts.