The I-94 Rivalry, as it’s called, has been pitting the Milwaukee Brewers against the Chicago Cubs since the Brew Crew came back to the National League in the 1990s. For several years the rivalry seemed to have lost its luster, but not anymore.
Early in the 2000s, the Cubs were one of the best teams in baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers were one of the worst. The Cubs almost went to the World Series in 2003, until Steve Bartman showed up in the NLCS. At least that’s who the Cubs fans blamed it on, even though Moises Alou admitted he couldn’t have caught the ball….five years later.
Then came 2008. The Milwaukee Brewers were making a push for their first playoff appearance since 1982. The Cubs were good as well. Chicago won the division that year and the Milwaukee Brewers took the Wild Card spot. The rivalry was alive and well down the stretch in 2008 as both teams were battling for playoff spots. But that was the last time both were good at the same time.
The Brewers took a step back in 2009 and 2010 (Thanks, Ken Macha!). In 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers were ready to compete and eventually win the NL Central. Meanwhile, the Cubs had begun their long rebuilding plan and were at the bottom of the division. Then, after 2014 when the Brewers took a major step back and went into a rebuild mode, the Cubs came out of theirs.
The Chicago Cubs have been good for the past couple years as the Brewers were rebuilding. Now both teams have winning records at the same time and the rivalry is back.
It all started back in April after the Brewers visited the Cubs in Chicago. Eric Thames was on his ridiculous hot streak and hit some unbelievable home runs that series that the Cubs just found to be…well, unbelievable. Cubs Pitching Coach Chris Bosio and pitcher John Lackey suggested that Thames couldn’t be playing clean and had to be taking steroids.
Thames underwent several tests for PEDs during the month of April, and passed every time. The Milwaukee Brewers didn’t respond to the comments by the Cubs that were completely out of line.
In May, the Brewers traveled to Chicago once again for a series with the Cubs. The weather was awful for the first game, but they played through it.
The Brewers were rolling at the time and the Cubs seemed to be in a World Series hangover. The next day, the game wasn’t going to be played in ideal temperatures, but the weather was much better than the storm they played through the day before. However, they postponed the game.
It rained earlier in the day, but the last raindrop fell before they called the game. There was nothing the Brewers could do about it, but they were upset. One look at the radar showed that there was no rain anywhere close to moving in over Chicago. The Cubs had a pathetic excuse that “the weather is hard to predict,” but it’s not that hard if you check the report.
Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell had the best zinger, saying “First time, for us, that we’ve had players treated for sunburn after a rainout.” The Cubs bullpen just pitched six innings in the rainy mess of the day before. Even though the Brewers didn’t openly accuse the Cubs of gamesmanship, they were probably thinking it.
A makeup game was scheduled for July 6th, with the Cubs hoping the Brewers hot streak would have ended by then. By the time July 6th rolled around, the Brewers were just beginning to get hot. That game against the Cubs just made them hotter.
All the players were upset that they had to use an off-day to go down to Chicago. Milwaukee pounded the Cubs 11-2 and that win felt fantastic. It was karma.
The Brewers were up 5 1/2 games on the Cubs at the All-Star Break. Brewers fans had the trash talk going. The Cubs weren’t performing up to expectations, while the Brewers were leading the division. They seemed ready to cruise into October, but Milwaukee went into a skid and the Cubs have been hot, overtaking the Brew Crew.
Now, a very important series with the Cubs has just started here. The trade deadline is coming up and the Brewers are currently buyers. The results of this series will determine how aggressive Brewers GM David Stearns will be at the deadline.
These two teams will be battling down the stretch for this division crown. When it comes to September baseball, rivalries only get hotter. Cubs have been calling Miller Park “Wrigley Field North,” for years and it never fails to upset Brewers fans. We started calling Wrigley, “Miller Park South,” a few years ago to return the favor.
Adding fuel to the fire, the Cubs won the World Series last year, which seemed to double the amount of Cubs fans in existence. It’s unclear if it’s all bandwagon fans or just Cubs fans coming out of hiding now that the team is good. Either way, there’s a lot more of them and they seem to be more obnoxious than before.
The rivalry is back and it’s better than ever. Both the Cubs and the Brewers are good at the same time and the organizations have shown this year that they don’t like each other. Players, coaches, and executives have made public criticism of the other organization this year and the fans are getting into it.
If the Milwaukee Brewers are able to win this series, they’re going to be right back into this division race. The horrible road trip they just finished will be a memory. The upcoming September series against the Cubs will be fun to watch as both teams battle for the playoffs.