The Milwaukee Brewers 2020 season was nowhere near as successful as hoped. Losses of two important people played a big factor.
Everything changed on July 31st for the Milwaukee Brewers. The day they were supposed to begin a weekend series against St. Louis, several members of the Cardinals team tested positive for Covid-19, which postponed the series. In light of the postponement in the early goings of a season that was struggling to get underway, star centerfielder Lorenzo Cain opted out of the rest of the season.
Cain has said he was already on the fence and had thoughts about opting out before, but decided to stay with it and see how things went. After the Brewers had their own games postponed because of positive tests from another team, that was the final push Cain needed to decide to opt out. On August 1st, Cain officially opted out.
Still, the Brewers needed to work out and try to stay fresh for their next series. At a workout the next day, on August 2nd, bench coach Pat Murphy suffered a heart attack at Miller Park. The training staff took him to the hospital for treatment and he ended up being okay, but he still wasn’t with the team for the next six weeks.
In a span of two days, the Brewers lost Lorenzo Cain and Pat Murphy, two core pieces to the clubhouse.
It’s difficult to put into words the impact that the presence of those two people have on the Brewers’ team culture. Over the years, the Brewers have built a team culture centered around having fun, laughing, and most importantly, winning. Without Murphy to provide the jokes and his valuable baseball acumen to the players and the rest of the coaching staff, the team suffered in all of those culture areas.
It’s quite clear that the Brewers missed Lorenzo Cain over the final two months of the season. They missed his presence in center field, where Avisail Garcia did his best to fill in, but he was playing out of position and it showed.
They missed Cain’s presence in the lineup, where he has done a great job of setting the table for Christian Yelich and the rest of the order by getting on base at a high clip. The Brewers had a revolving door at the leadoff spot this year without Cain and no one could perform well in the role.
They also missed Cain’s clubhouse presence, which is something that’s hard to quantify. But he’s been a leader on this team since he arrived in Milwaukee and even though he’s not a loud guy, he’s someone who when he speaks, everyone listens.
To be clear, this is not a rebuke against Cain for opting out.
This is simply pointing out that the Brewers were negatively impacted by the loss of Cain and it dramatically altered their season. If Cain is there, does the offense continue to struggle? Does the pitching look even better with great defense in center? Does Garcia play better being in his natural position in right field?
The same thing goes for Pat Murphy, although being away from the team wasn’t his choice. If he never suffered from a heart attack, and is with the team the whole season, how different would that clubhouse be? How much different would the team’s performance be?
These are questions that are impossible to accurately answer. The past can’t be changed. Based on what is known about Cain as a player and leader and what is known about Murphy as a coach and leader, if they were with the team for the entire 2020 season, it can be inferred that the Brewers would’ve been better than their 29-31 record this year.
But that stretch of three days, July 31st through August 2nd, negatively impacted the Brewers organization in a big way. With the postponement, the loss of Cain, and then the loss of Murphy, the Brewers didn’t get any chance to build momentum and then lost two key people in that clubhouse who could’ve helped build that momentum.
Losing those two guys had to be a huge shock to the rest of the team, and losing them back-to-back like that didn’t make it any easier. It just seems like the team wasn’t quite able to recover from the shock and the loss of those two guys from the clubhouse.
We’ll never truly know how much exactly things would’ve been different. The 2020 season is over for the Crew, and sights are now being set on 2021.