You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t disappointed with the way this season played out for the Brewers, especially when it comes to playing at home. For awhile, the Brewers couldn’t buy a win at Miller Park, so the fact that Sunday’s win over the Marlins meant they finished the year 40-41 at The Keg is a bit surprising.
But the team winning wasn’t the most important thing about the home finale. It was the class that Ken Macha and the organization showed by honoring both the fans and the players that most likely will not be back next season.
It’s easy to poke fun at the idea of class when teams like the Cardinals are preaching about it, but when it comes to treating your players and fans well, it’s absolutely a big deal. Small-market teams like Milwaukee aren’t going to draw many free agents based on being a perennial contender or being a fun place to live. They need to be known as an organization that will take care of their own, and days like today go a long way in improving your reputation among the players.
Starting Craig Counsell at shortstop in September would usually be annoying, but it was the right thing to do. Counsell says he wants to play again next year, but if you believe that the Brewers brought up Luis Cruz to see if he could handle Counsell’s role next year (like I do), you have to think that this was his last Brewers home game. Considering he’s a Wisconsin native and a fan favorite, seeing Counsell start was simultaneously a tip of the cap to Counsell and the fans.
I was nervous that many of the fans in attendance wouldn’t recognize the significance of this game when it comes to Prince Fielder, but my worries proved to be unfounded — Prince got a nice standing ovation as he stepped to the plate in the 8th inning. He drew a walk (a homer and a walk today — sums up Prince’s time in Milwaukee nicely), and Macha pulled him for a pinch runner, which led to an even bigger ovation. Much like when Geoff Jenkins was pulled by Ned Yost for a pinch runner in his last home game, it was the right thing to do. The curtain call was a very cool moment, even if it made me sad to think about how the Brewers largely wasted their time with Prince.
Finally, there was Trevor Hoffman pitching the 9th inning. I covered a lot of this in the 600th save post, but despite the struggles this season, Hoffman remained one of Milwaukee’s favorites. It was only fitting to give the fans one more chance to see him — with Hell’s Bells! — before he ultimately moves on. I don’t know if Hoffman is planning on pitching again next season, but whether or not he does, you couldn’t have pictured a better ending to the last home game of the season.
So thank you, Brewers management, for letting the players have their moment (and maybe some extra cash, in the case of Hoffman). And thank you, Craig, Prince, and Trevor for the hard work and memories.