The Milwaukee Brewers signed Hernan Perez to a minor league contract a few weeks ago. The signing brought smiles to the faces of a lot Brewers fans.
Perez had played almost 600 games with Milwaukee between 2015 and 2019. Last year he played for the Chicago Cubs (why?), and played for the Washington Nationals to start this season before being DFA’d.
Perez doesn’t represent the solution to Milwaukee’s offensive problems. He’s a career .250 hitter, who had his best season in 2017 with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs. Perez represents a time in Milwaukee fans won’t forget. A rebuilding team with a bunch of fun players.
2016 and 2017 Brewers
2016 was a mostly re-building year for the Milwaukee Brewers. Chris Carter was hitting dingers at first. Younger plays like Keon Broxton, Martin Maldonado and Scooter Gennett were trying to make a name for themselves. But then you had the three troublemakers. Hernan Perez, Jonathan Villar and Orlando Arcia.
Whenever they showed up on camera, they were goofing around. Arcia was serving drinks to players being interviewed. Villar was hollowing out cups and putting them all over himself. Perez was eager to dump Gatorade coolers on anyone if he could. The Brewers finished 73-89 that year, but no one really remembers that. They remember deals being made, and players having fun and trying to win again in Milwaukee.
When 2017 came around and the Brewers almost made the playoffs, it caught everyone’s attention. The team was still having fun, and now you had players like Jesus Aguilar, Eric Thames and Travis Shaw in the clubhouse. The team was doing better than expected, and smiling at every turn. Thames and Shaw are flexing after home runs. Brent Suter is showing his silly and infectious personality. And Ryan Braun is just glad he doesn’t have to carry the team.
2018 and 2019 Brewers
Then in 2018, they were competing for the NL Central. The team’s stock shot up after adding Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Yelich was hitting dingers and Cain was snatching homers. But moves needed to be made to keep up with the Cubs. Villar was shipped off to Baltimore for Jonathan Schoop. Was the trade necessary? Probably not. Villar added to the clubhouse and dugout environment and fun. And when Schoop struggled in Milwaukee, I doubt it was very much fun.
A year later, Jesus Aguilar was on the move to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Brewers lost a heartbreaker in the Wild Card game, and lots of roster turnover happened. Perez, Shaw and Thames were gone. Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal signed elsewhere. Out of all the dugout and clubhouse personalities left, Arcia was the only one left.
The Shortened 2020 Season
2020 was hard to watch. The team struggled offensively and were a bunch of random players thrown together. They hoped it would work, but it didn’t. Yes, they made the playoffs, but you can’t say the team had a blast. Baseball without fans just did not work. No one looked happy in the Brewers dugout. Milwaukee definitely feeds off that energy more than other teams.
Yelich and Hiura weren’t hitting well. You could tell Braun was sad that this might truly be his last season, and it was without a full schedule or fans. If you want to compare, find a video online of the Chicago Cubs dugout from 2020. I hate complimenting the Cubs, but they were having fun. They were barking from the dugout, screaming and added fun to the game under the circumstances.
It wasn’t until halfway through the 60 game season that Brent Suter and Devin Williams started adding some life to the team. Suter started hitting some of the training equipment in the bullpen, and tried to fire up the team. It helped, but it wasn’t the same.
What About Now?
Going into the 2021 season, it appeared the team would once again be fun. They signed players like Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. Wong was always smiling in the infield, and making spectacular players while doing it. Bradley Jr. charges out of the dugout to start every game. When he made his Brewers debut this spring, he sprung onto the field and it brought a smile back for fans.
But we are now almost 50 games into the season, and a fun Milwaukee Brewers team doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s not all of their fault. When you have 17 players on the injured list, it’s hard to get into a rhythm. But this can be a special year if some life is brought back to the team.
You have a shutdown pitching staff. Travis Shaw is back, who is very close with Christian Yelich and they both play better when together. Lorenzo Cain, Bradley and Wong should be able to provide some life. Suter is still being silly at every turn. But Arcia was traded. There is no Villar or Aguilar. It’s not the same right now.
What Can Be Done Now
Perez will probably be called up at some point, but how long will he stay if he can’t produce on the field? There is no doubt he will bring good energy back to the team, but they will also need to start winning or the frustrations will creep in and the fun will leave.
Do baseball teams have to be fun to succeed? Of course not. But the Milwaukee Brewers are a better team when they are having fun. It was fun being a fan in 2008. It was better in 2011. But it’s never been better than between 2016-2019.
Will the offense waking up help lighten the mood? Could players like Perez or trading for someone like Jesus Aguilar re-ignite the clubhouse? Can the pitching staff use their momentum and energy to lead this team? You know what would help? Ryan Braun re-signing and the excitement to follow that. But that definitely isn’t guaranteed this year. Something needs to give.
Brent Suter is a treasure. pic.twitter.com/rR2KifAEbV
— Nolan Bratt (@BrewersFarm) April 20, 2018
Fun Fact: When you Google “good old fun time with pals”, the Milwaukee Brewers pictures show up.