Yet another promising regular season has gone askew once the calendar turned to October as the Milwaukee Brewers have been eliminated in the Wild Card round of the 2023 MLB playoffs by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It's a tale too often told with the Brewers. They play extremely well in the regular season, especially in September as the playoffs approach, then when the playoffs actually start, everything goes wrong. Whether it's luck or too much pressure in the moment, when the lights are brightest, the Brewers were unable to deliver.
The signs were there that most fans ignored, hoping that it wasn't an actual problem. When Sal Frelick said the team was dealing with the pressure of having a magic number of 1 to clinch the NL Central, losing three straight games with the chance to clinch, it was clear with that comment that the Brewers were not mentally strong enough to handle October. They hoped that the experience of that would better prepare them to play like themselves when the real pressure was on, but it's clear that it didn't.
The Brewers did not play like themselves in this Wild Card series. They didn't play loose and fun like they did all year. They played tight and as if they needed to do everything different because it was October and it cost them.
The Brewers 2023 season sure seems like a complete bust after a fourth straight first round exit.
The Brewers haven't won a postseason series since the 2018 NLDS against the Rockies. A lot has changed with this team since then and they've had a ton of opportunities.
Just making the playoffs isn't enough anymore. Fans won't be satisfied with simply making the playoffs anymore and they shouldn't be. This team is built to be successful and they've been consistently one of the best teams of the past few years, but they always seem to crumble in October. The question that needs to be asked is: Why?
It can't all be bad luck. Anything can happen in October, anything can happen in a short series, yes, but for four straight postseasons, the Brewers haven't been able to get through the first round. That's not just luck. That's a trend and it's a bad one. There's something wrong with the approach. The Brewers need to take a long look at their plans for October baseball.
The offense, which was playing well in September, all of a sudden reverted back to early season struggles hitting with runners in scoring position. The pitching staff, which was the best staff in all of baseball this year, all of a sudden starts giving up a bunch of runs and the offense can't catch up. It's the same story from 2021. It's the same story from 2020. 2019 was a legit bad bounce on Trent Grisham that cost them, but everything since hasn't been simply bad bounces, it's been bad play.
There's no doubting the regular season success the Brewers have enjoyed in recent years. But this organization cannot continue to hang its hat on regular season success when it continually leads to no postseason success. This isn't 2008 anymore. Milwaukee shouldn't just be happy to be there.
The "bites at the apple" strategy made some sense initially, but it's clear the Brewers don't like the taste of apples. Just getting to the playoffs and hoping for the best has led to exactly zero success for the Brewers over the last five seasons. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That's what the "bites at the apple" strategy feels like now, insanity.
Milwaukee needs to do some soul searching this offseason and figure out why they crumble in October. They build really good teams that win a lot of games in a 162 game season, but they need to be more than that now. The bar is raised and they haven't been able to clear it. It won't be any easier to clear it next year and the clock is ticking.
This core is aging. The window of opportunity is closing. Co-aces Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are entering their final years of arbitration before free agency, as is shortstop Willy Adames. There's a strong chance all three might not be in Milwaukee the next time we see this team on the field.
It's more disappointment for a fan base that is getting impatient and tired of the constant disappointment. We're at the point where the Brewers can build a great regular season team all they wan, but if they come up short in the playoffs, such as getting swept at home in the first round, none of it will matter.