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Redoing the Dark Ages: An OOTP 21 Series with the Milwaukee Brewers

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What if the Brewers didn’t go 14 years without a winning season?

0501008P Milwaukee County Stadium

From 1993 through 2006, the Milwaukee Brewers went 14 consecutive seasons without posting a winning record. The club never finished higher than third place in their division and wound up in the divisional cellar five times. Only two years did they finish fewer than 10 games back of first place; the average finish for the Brewers during this period was more than 23 games shy of the leader. Fans endured five years of 90+ losses, including the 56-106 debacle that was the 2002 season.

But what if we had the opportunity to redo this dark age for the Cream City Nine? How much better — or worse — could the squad have been with different leadership? What would change about how we perceive the franchise’s history today in 2020?

With no real MLB baseball going on due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are presented with a perfect opportunity to dedicate time to explore these pressing questions. So let’s hop into our time machine engineered by Out of the Park Baseball 21!

We arrive on January 1st, 1993. What were you doing back then? Brewers’ owner Bryan Mikolajczak busy finalizing the deal for his new General Manager. Out the door was Sal Bando after a brief tenure that lasted less than a year and a half, and now at the helm is a 28 year old wunderkind with some new ideas about how to build a successful organization. Despite his youth, there is an air of optimism surrounding the new executive.

The new General Manager immediately gets things off on the right foot by making his face known in the community. This young, handsome fella could become pretty popular in this town, I think — as long as he can put a winning product on the field. And the pressure will be on him from the word go, as the owner has rather high expectations for his club in the near-term.

With a limited budget — $19,000,000 to run the entire organization, the 26th-highest total in baseball — the new GM entered Spring Training with Bando’s roster pretty much intact. Some financial adjustments were made, of course. The developmental budget was maxed out at $2.8 mil. With a “small” market size, poor fan loyalty, and middling interest in the team, a couple of decisions were made to engender some goodwill. First, ticket prices were dropped by 4% down to $7. Then, star closer and fan favorite Jesse Orosco was given a one-year extension on top of his current two-year deal. Maybe it’s a risk locking up a soon-to-be 36 year old, but it fulfilled one of the owner goals and boosted fan interest (and if things go south, he can probably be traded later on).

The Brewers executed a couple other minor moves during the spring. Our new GM was approached by the Blue Jays with an offer of third base prospect Howard Battle for journeyman catcher Tom Lampkin, and accepted. Later, the Yankees made suggested a swap of their outfield prospect Jalal Leach in exchange for reliever Mike Ignasiak, and that was completed. Our new General Manager also hired Adrian Nunes to serve as his AGM and right-hand man, as well as power-pitcher specialist Erik Leonard to fill the vacancy coaching the big league hurlers and the sabermetric (what is that?!) minded Bryce Curtis to serve as bench coach next to manager Phil Garner.

Some notable stuff happened around the league, too:

  • C Rick Wilkins of the Cubs broke his elbow and will miss six months.
  • The Tigers dealt young 3B Scott Livingstone to the Mets for veteran RHP Frank Tanana.
  • The Yankees sent top relief prospect Robb Nen and veteran shortstop Randy Velarde to the Rangers for, uhh, Nolan freakin’ Ryan.
  • Phillies outfielder Milt Thompson fell while running on the treadmill and injured his groin.
  • Roger Clemens signed a seven-year extension with the Red Sox worth nearly $34 mil.
  • The Orioles shipped Brady Anderson to the Mets in exchange for prospects OF Jeromy Burnitz and LHP Eric Hillman.

The Brewers did not fare very well during their spring slate of games, tying for the league’s worst record at 9-21. The projections for the upcoming regular season aren’t very optimistic either, with the club forecasted to finish 65-97 and in 6th place in the AL East division. The farm system is considered middle-of-the-road ranked at #13 overall, though the club does boast four top-100 prospects — Mark Loretta (#27), Jeff Cirillo (#35), Scott Karl (#55), and Jose Valentin (#99).

We’ve arrived at April 6th, 1993 and it is Opening Day. The Brew Crew is on the road against the California Angels, with Jaime Navarro set to face off against Chuck Finley. Here is the 25-man roster that they’ll begin the season with:

So, how will these Milwaukee Brewers fare in 1993?