I now understand why Billy Beane doesn't watch A's games.
The whole mess we're in today starts in summer 2002. I was 19 and home for the summer between my freshman and sophmore years of college. I had spent most of the previous few summers watching and attending Brewers game, making the most of an ability to drink alcohol underage with little restriction. Perhaps the best part of the games were that we took joy in the Brewers misery. Condescendy still has pictures of the record for team strikeouts that stood until 2010 (another reason to cheer against the Diamondbacks). Jose Hernandez made a couple attempts at the individual record. and later in that summer, Brewers baseball reached its nadir, with the on-the-mound fight between Jerry Royster and Mike De Jean.
Two months prior to that fight, the Brewers began a major course correction. Their approach to the draft under Jack Zdureincik is the singular reason the Brewers are in the playoffs today, and while he had some success prior to 2002 - Hardy, Sheets, Hart - he amassed talent and built his reputation as the best drafting scouting director of the decade (per SI) beginning with the selection of Fielder in 2002. The pick was ridiculed in Moneyball (too fat for the A's!), but was the first in a string of top flight selections that directly or indirectly produced the rest of the roster (Weeks, Braun, Gallardo, LaPorta, Lawrie, Jefress, Odorizzi) and the catalyst for the organization's revival. With that success, everything changed.
It took a few years to get things humming, but in reaching the 2008 playoffs, on the back of the repeated acquisition of premium talent through the draft, the Brewers erased 25 years of futility. In doing so they exhausted most of their resources and expended all of their energy. The accomplishment in 2008 was not winning the World Series, it was merely having a date to the dance.
Three years later, following the gutting of nearly every useful asset in the minors, the core of premium talent secured a return trip to the playoffs, in what is all but certainly Fielder's final season in Milwaukee. The stakes just feel different than in 2008. The team is as healthy as it has been all season. They've managed to identify all of the weak spots in the starting lineup not named Betancourt, and are generally firing on all cylinders. Their opponent in the first round is an overachiever and eminently beatable, particularly compared to the Phillies, who were a legitimate possibility as recently as Wednesday evening. In short, getting a date to the dance is no longer sufficient, now the Brewers need to get laid.
This is the last year with Fielder. Next year three pitching contracts come off the books. At best, in 2013 Greinke signs another deal, Jungmann is a serviceable 4th/5th type and Estrada holds his own. At best. In reality the team won't have the pitching to win more than 75 games and won't have the farm system to fill in the gaps. It's this year, and maybe next, to see a successful (ie championship) team in Milwaukee. This is the point at which hard realities set in.
We've all been able to watch the playoffs for years with the keen understanding that each team has somewhere between a 40% and 60% chance of winning any given playoff series, rendering their odds of winning a championship a veritable crap shoot. Fine when you're antiseptically watching other teams, not fine when you've only got one or two cracks to get your dick wet. My point, in all of this (and I realize this is random rambling, I just can't focus on work and wanted to save my observations for posterity) is that I'm really not going to be able to enjoy any of these games because the expectations are too high. I'm going to take losses personally. This isn't just a bird in the hand. There don't appear to be any birds in an entire field of bushes. If they get swept out this week it's entirely plausible I'll never see a Brewers World Series. I get drunk at Notre Dame games because I can't stomach how bad the team is. I'll be getting drunk this weekend because I can't stomach the thought of fully appreciating the gravity of each loss. Not to worry, though. I'm sure the Brewers will be chasing some record for futility in 2013, and I can finally enjoy going to games again.