The “second half collapse” is one of the more painful realities in sports. Nothing hurts more than having your favorite team’s once high hopes melt away right in front of you. Even worse: as a fan, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You are forced to sit there and watch it unfold. Unfortunately for Brewers’ fans, the Brewers are no stranger to this reality.
Many collapses have occurred in the team’s existence. Some led to the postseason, some led to close finishes, and one led to the implosion of the team’s core. Some of these collapses even relate to the team today. Here are a few notable collapses in the franchise’s history.
Honorable Mentions: 1982, 2008
These two don’t really belong here, as both teams qualified for the postseason. However, they both came very close to losing that honor.
The 1982 Brewers were a remarkable story. A team that had playoff aspirations was left treading water early in the season. After a 23-24 start to the ‘82 season, Harvey Kuenn took over as manager, in what turned out to be a great move. “Harvey’s Wallbangers” caught fire in the second half as they were up three games in the AL East division with four left to play. If they avoided a four-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, they would be division champs.
You can probably see where this is going.
The Brewers lost the next three and fell into a tie for first in the AL East with only game #162 left. Luckily, the offense would come alive as they won that game 10-2. They would go on to win the AL pennant before losing the World Series to the Cardinals. They avoided total collapse, but just barely.
The 2008 Brewers were a different story. They had built a solid five and a half game lead in the NL wild card at the end of August. Led by a dominant CC Sabathia, you would think that they would hold it, right?
The Brewers would flounder down the stretch before a gassed Sabathia was able to will his team to the postseason. They would lost the NLDS to the eventual world champion Phillies 3-1.
The First Year of a Window Ends in Disappointment
The 2007 Brewers seemed hopeful to finally break through and take a playoff spot after decades of disappointing finishes and generally bad teams. Luckily, with a new owner and GM, the Brewers seemed to have a core set up for the future.
Milwaukee had Prince Fielder at first, Rickie Weeks at second, JJ Hardy at shortstop, and a top prospect coming in at third to round out the young infield. They also had old friends as veteran presences in Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, and Craig Counsell. Although that team is solid, they were about to get a massive boost at the hot corner, in the shape of a twenty three year old top prospect.
With the fifth pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, the Brewers took Universty of Miami (FL) third baseman Ryan Braun. Braun skyrocketed through the Brewers’ minor league system in 2005 and 2006 until his call up on May 24th, 2007. The Brewers were already six games into first place in the Central, and were looking to make it to October.
.Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen.
The Brewers would lead the NL Central by six and a half games in June, before losing 46 of their next 76 games, falling two games shy of the Cubs for the Central Division crown. Despite a Rookie of the Year effort from Braun, the team just couldn’t get over the hump.
A Blown Division Lead Leads to a Rebuild
The 2014 Brewers had decent expectations coming into the season. Ryan Braun was back playing again after his suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs as a part of the Biogenesis Scandal, and their core that had formed in the mid-2000s was getting older, but still had some decent years ahead of them.
The Brewers jumped into a division lead in early April, and held it until August 30th, when they would fall into third place in the NL Central by the end of the regular season.
The collapse is bad enough, but the more important piece of this is what happened next.
After the collapse of 2014 and an abysmal start to the 2015 season, the Brewers front office deemed that the core wasn’t salvageable, and began to sell off pieces, starting with Manager Ron Roenicke being fired in 2015.
That’s right, a second-half collapse directly lead to a rebuild.
The Surprise Contender Falls Just Short
I’ve covered the 2017 Brewers before, but here’s a quick catch up.
The 2017 Brewers didn’t have a lot of expectations coming into the season. Although they had a solid roster and some young talent, they were still about a year from contention.
That was until that team got hot. Really hot.
The Brewers came out of nowhere and took a large division lead at the All Star Break (four and a half games) as they hoped to continue their hot streak into the second half.
Do I even have to say it?
The Brewers would go on an epic skid to finish out July and by the end of the month, the then-defending World Series champion Cubs (*shudder*) were hot on their tail.
The Brewers still had plenty of hope for the second Wild Card spot, but that hope would be ripped from them in Game 161, as they blew a large lead in St. Louis. They would finish 86-76, one game short of the second NL Wild Card spot.
How Does 2021 Stack Up?
Should The Current Lead Scare Us?
The Brewers have been siting on a 6-7 game lead in the NL Central for a few weeks now. Of course, it has fluctuated here and there, but the lead has bounced back after that.
If you’ve watched the Brewers for a while now, this should terrify you.
Personally, I like to joke about the Brewers being “allergic to a division lead larger than three games”. Of course, as you could imagine, that joke is much funnier when the Brewers have a seven game lead in the NL Central.
After being down a few games to the Cardinals and Cubs in the Central earlier this season, the Brewers would climb to the top of the standings to tie, and eventually leapfrog, the Cubs for first, all while winning eleven games in a row. With that, the Cubs began to falter down the stretch of the first half, and they would fall to a scrum for third place with the Cardinals. Although the Reds would close the gap to four games at the All-Star break, the Brewers have since crawled back to a seven game lead.
Now, of course, this raises the question: will this Brewers’ team collapse?
I think that’s a story for another day.