Remember the ride, not the finish

Right now, it’s going to hurt. It’s okay to be sad, mad or confused about how things ended. The last two games of the Brewers’ season were hard to watch, and they were two wins away from the World Series.

But please, for the love of God, refrain from calling this season a failure.

This is a team that won 96 games despite starting Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee every day. They survived Zack Greinke and Corey Hart missing the first month, Jonathan Lucroy missing the first couple weeks, and Rickie Weeks missing nearly a month and a half.

They won 96 games despite starting the year with Erick Almonte, Jeremy Reed, and Wil Nieves sucking up spots on the bench, while Sean Green and Sergio Mitre were extremely hittable out of the bullpen.

Despite starting the year slow, they won their first division title since 1982. They led the NL Central for an even 100 days, leading by as many as 10.5 games and finishing the year six games ahead of the Cardinals. While it certainly didn’t feel that way at the time, the Brewers never really had to sweat about making the playoffs once the calendar hit August.

When August did come around, the Brewers kicked it into another gear. They went 21-7. They outscored their opponents 138-89. Thanks to the strong second half, the Brewers were able to nearly dig themselves out of the hole they dug on the road. After starting the year terribly away from Miller Park, they finished with a road mark of 39-42. By the end of the year, a road trip was no longer a death sentence.

They had two MVP candidates in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. You could make a legitimate case that Braun was the best all-around hitter in baseball in 2011, and possibly put up the most impressive offensive season we’ve ever seen from a Brewer. Rickie Weeks proved last season wasn’t a fluke, although a gruesome ankle injury derailed what was another promising year.

In the end, they won a playoff series in just about the most dramatic way possible, and gave everyone something to remember for years. Sure, the end result wasn’t what anyone wanted. But if can’t eventually look back on this season and realize just how fun it was, I have nothing for you. I can’t help you feel better. If you hold the standard of “anything less than a World Series is a failure,” you’re going to be miserable as a baseball fan just about every year.

We remember the 1982 Brewers fondly even though they came up short. Hopefully, sometime in the future we can get over Ron Roenicke not wanting to risk Yovani Gallardo on short rest and remember this season in much the same way. The Brewers may not have won the World Series, but for a franchise that hasn’t had much success, it was a successful year — the type of year you can build on in the future, even if nobody knows what it holds (presumably) without Prince Fielder.

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