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Redoing the Dark Ages: 1993 Milwaukee Brewers

A rebuild kicks off.

Cleveland Indians v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

In the absense of real baseball during thee COVID-19, we are using OOTP Baseball 21 to redo the dark ages of the Milwaukee Brewers, when the team failed to post a winning season for 14 years from 1993-2006. Here is how we’ve gotten to this point so far:

The 1993 season got off to a fast start for the redo Milwaukee Brewers. An RBI single by Pat Listach in the top of the 10th inning scored Greg Vaughn to give the visiting Brew Crew a 12-11 win over the California Angels in extra innings. The Brewers would go on to win their first four games in a row, in fact. But the season went quickly downhill after that.

After a respectable 10-11 start in the month of April, Milwaukee would combine to go 18-38 during the months of May and June. The pitching was downright awful, especially after the loss of Cal Eldred in May with rotator cuff inflammation. That would send him to the 60-day disabled list and shut him down for two months. Two early additions via the waiver wire — Larry Carter from the Giants and Charles Nagy from the Indians — failed to provide much useful help. Carter was outrighted to the minors after posting a 6.63 ERA while walking 16 batters in 19.0 innings. Nagy was the only member of the staff to make 32 starts for Ol’ (Young?) Scrap Iron, but he finished with 25 losing decisions and an 8.25 ERA in 144.0 innings. That the manager kept running him out there every fifth day is a testament to the in-house options that were available to replace him.

With the team struggling, things started to get testy in the clubhouse. Tom Brunansky expressed concern regarding his playing time after getting only a handful of starts during the first month of the season, and on June 16th, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Chris Jones. Reliever Bob Wishnevski earned a seven game suspension for throwing at Alan Trammel of the Tigers and inciting a brawl. Josias Manzanillo was lost on waivers to the Angels after a 7.80 ERA through his first 15.0 innings; he would go on to post a 3.02 ERA in 62.2 frames out in California.

As the club continued to falter, more veterans came to the young GM trying to get out. BJ Surhoff requested a trade. So too did veteran face of the franchise Robin Yount.

The Twins demolished Milwaukee, 27-6, on July 11th in the final game before the All-Star break to drop their record to 33-54. The team earned zero representatives in the annual Midsummer Classic. Clearly, the roster that was assembled by the outgoing Sal Bando was a dud. So our young GM began working the phones, calling around and exploring deals for pretty much every player on his roster. After a couple weeks intense negotiations, the process of turning over the roster began in earnest. Here is a rundown of all the transactions that were completed leading up to the trade deadline:

  • 2B Bill Doran and SS Pat Listach to Montreal for C Tim Spehr and SP Miguel Batista
  • RP Jesse Orosco to Kansas City for C Mike Macfarlane
  • C Mike Mafarlane flipped immediately to Chicago Cubs for SP Ramon J. Martinez
  • C BJ Surhoff and 2B Edgar Caceres to Oakland for CF Jerry Browne, SP John Wasdin, SP Bronswell Patrick, SP Willie E. Adams, and 3B Marcos Armas
  • CF Robin Yount to Kansas City for RF Felix Jose
  • LF Greg Vaughn, C Jimmy Kremers, 3B Dickie Thon, and SS Mike Huyler to New York Yankees for RP Robb Nen, SS Carlos Rodriguez, RP Mike DeJean, 2B Kevin Jordan, and CF Lyle Mouton
  • SP Bill Wegman to Montreal for LF Matt Stairs
  • RF Darryl Hamilton to Los Angeles for SS Jose Offerman
  • SP Jaime Navarro, 1B Leon Glenn, and 1B Hayland Hardy to Cleveland for LF Albert Belle, SP Paul Byrd, and SP Dave Mlicki
  • 2B Bill Spiers to Colorado for 3B Vinny Castilla and RP Bobby Gamez

Fans were understandably upset with some of these moves. Fan interest decreased with the losses of popular players Orosco, Hamilton, Vaughn, and franchise-icon Yount, but did get a noticeable boost from the addition of Belle in the outfield. BJ Surhoff’s presence in the clubhouse had apparently become a problem, and those players that remained after the bloodletting were appreciative that he was sent elsewhere.

On the whole, the moves that were completed accomplished various goals — the farm system had improved, MLB-level and upper-minors pitching depth was supplemented, the players who wanted out were moved, and enough money was taken off the books to both get under total budget for 1993 as well open up financial flexibility for future seasons. Orosco ($2 mil in 1994, $1.75 mil in 1995) was an effective closer (3.44 ERA, 2.68 FIP in 34.0 IP) but was a risky asset due to his age. Yount ($1.6 mil in 1994 and 1995) had hit a wall at age 37 — .238/.297/.309 for a 60 wRC+ before the trade. Some of that money that was opened up was used right away to sign 25 year old Ramon E. Martinez to a two-year extension with a team option rather than let him reach free agency after 1994.

After most of the established veterans were jettisoned, several spots were opened up for young players to come up and try to seize jobs at the MLB level. Castilla (49 wRC+) and top pitching prospect Scott Karl (6.77 ERA) struggled, but the rest of the youthful hitters acquitted themselves quite well. Jeff Cirillo (84 wRC+), Mark Loretta (107 wRC+), Dave Nilsson (95 wRC+), Jose Offerman (102 wRC+), and Jose Valentine (141 wRC+ as a Sept. call-up) all showed that they should be useful players for the club in 1994. Young first baseman John Jaha also enjoyed a full-season breakout, going for a 119 wRC+ with 23 HR and 17 SB to lead the club with 3.2 WAR. Mid-season trade acquisitions Belle and Martinez also made good on their reputations; the outfield hit .310/.373/.595 (156 wRC+) with 12 HR and 11 SB in 46 games after the trade, and starter Martinez went 8-3 with a 4.30 ERA and 3.46 FIP in 14 starts and 90.0 innings.

The young team struggled to come together in August as everyone got to know each other. They finished with an ugly 8-22 record for the month, but things perked up in September/October. An 11-17 finished allowed the club to narrowly stave off a 100-loss season, giving the Brewers a 63-99 record during our young GM’s first season at the helm. Here’s how things looked across the league:

The Brewers were the worst team in the American League but not the worst team in baseball, finishing ahead of the Mets and expansion Rockies. They did get beat in W-L record by the expansion Marlins, though. At least our young GM will enjoy the benefit of a top-5 selection during his first MLB Draft coming up during the offseason.

The Philles would go on to win the pennant on the Senior Circuit and take on the Mariners in the World Series. Apparently that year’s squad couldn’t be stopped in real life or the redo timeline, as they would dispatch the Emerald City Nine with relative ease. Second baseman Mickey Morandini was an unlikely series MVP, hitting .368/.400/.684 after posting a 58 OPS+ during the regular season.

Our Brewers ended the 1993 season with the following players on the active and expanded roster. As you can see, no one is over the age of 30. There is a talented young core of position players who could be ready to take the next step as a group, which should let our GM focus on addressing the lack of depth and impact on the pitching staff. The club’s owner wasn’t thrilled with the last-place finish, but after turning a profit and bringing in a new crop of young, talented players to hopefully boost the future of the franchise, our GM was rewarded with a two-year contract extension and a 25% increase in the budget.

1993 Real-Life Milwaukee Brewers: 69-93
1993 Redo Milwaukee Brewers: 63-99