Giannis, Brewers Round Bases to Championship Homes


“There is no momentum in baseball,” former Bob Uecker assistant Cory Provus repeatedly reminded Brewers fans.

“Baseball is just a batter against a pitcher.” Some of the soon-to-be-equally-great podcasters for The Lead, however, argue otherwise. Since Craig Counsell took over as the Milwaukee Brewers manager in 2015, the Bucks and Brewers continue to rise. Hot off his Finals MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo reinvested his earnings in the city by becoming a partial owner of the Crew.


The NBA champion used his fans’ energy to build momentum in four straight Finals wins. Meanwhile, the 2021 Crew continues the legacy of the epic 2018 NLCS team. By examining each team’s successes in the Counsell era, fans will appreciate the value of Cream City loyalty in an age of too many free-agent contract chases.

2015-2017: Solid Single

The 2014 Brewers led the NL Central for most of the season. Unfortunately, the Crew typically (back then) collapsed, allowing the hated St. Louis Cardinals to win the division. Thankfully, ownership made two vital moves. First, General Manager Doug Melvin moved into an advisory role, allowing the brilliant David Stearns to enter the position.

Second, after a horrible start in 2015, Milwaukee fired Ron Roenicke, allowing former player-hero Counsell to begin managing. Unfortunately, the changes seemed to have little effect as the Brewers had no success that year or 2016.

But just a few miles away, Giannis began to reverse the tide pool of defeat.

Although the Bucks made the playoffs in 2014-15 under Jason Kidd, they slumped to a 10-14 start in the next campaign. A memorable night in December, however, arguably sparked all the subsequent success fans enjoyed since: the 24-1 game.

True, the Bucks still didn’t make the playoffs, but Giannis started to find confidence. Then, in 2017, Milwaukee fought valiantly against Toronto, and cynicism began to melt into hope.

The 2017 Brewers surprisingly bolted to first place going into Independence Day, but a hated foe loomed. Today, the Chicago Cubs are further away from the Crew than home plate is to the Uecker seats. Somehow, though, the scrubs battled back to win the division. Shockingly, the Cardinals again knocked the Brewers out of the playoffs in Game 161.

Here’s the fact Provus didn’t see: sometimes, one play does make a difference. Sometimes it just takes one action to revitalize the sports heart of a city.

And at certain moments, even a near-miss is enough impetus to revive careers.

2018-2019: Rounding Third

The Bucks neared contention after firing Kidd. Giannis and his shape-shifting roster battled to a game seven in Boston, against every “expert’s” odds.

Sadly Milwaukee couldn’t keep up, but Giannis recognized something. An overlooked Greek talent could succeed in the world’s best pro basketball league; he did have the needed skill and passion– he just needed the proper guidance. Bucks Lead has repeatedly covered coach Mike Budenholzer’s impact, but what about the Brewers?

In 2018, the Brewers flew around the bases, trying to catch the Cubs. First, a note about karma: it’s tricky. How it pays back a good or bad deed depends on later intentions. In 2015, Ryan Braun almost had an inside-the-park home run against St. Louis but tripped rounding third.

Thankfully, the Hammering Hebrew laughed off the mistake. St. Lombardi must have smiled on Braun because the play reversed itself in Milwaukee’s 2018 playoff-clinching win.

Pinch-runner Adolis Garcia tripped around third and gave up as Erik Kratz found the throw home just in time. The Brewers continued their momentum to game seven of the NLCS before the mighty $180 million Los Angeles Dodgers finally pulled away.

As Bucks Lead amply relayed, the Bucks slipped in the 2019 playoffs and experienced bubble heartbreak in 2020. This year, however, life as a Milwaukee sports fan improved permanently and unforgettably.

2021: Safe At Home!

While the Bucks famously survived the battered Brooklyn Nets because of Kevin Durant‘s too-big shoe, it was one play that ensured Deer followers could wipe away 50 years of tears. In game five of the Finals, Devin Booker drove to the wrong spot in the paint. Jrue Holiday stole the ball and, as Mike Breen advised, fouled Giannis.

But too late.

The only thought Giannis missed so badly was the last skeptic holdouts. Milwaukee earned its championship after his 50-point performance in game six (although Chick-fil-A quickly ran out of chicken). Note, however, that a champion never allows success to sate. As September nears, the Brewers continue the Bucks’ legacy.

Although there are too many Brewers wins this season to mention in even the most comprehensive tribute article, two especially stand out. First, on June 30th, the hated Cubs bolted to a 7-0 lead before the Brewers saw a pitch. If this were the Ned Yost or Roenicke Crew, Milwaukee probably would have sleepwalked to the ninth.

But not Counsell’s Crushers. His Crew scored 15 unanswered runs as the bullpen shut out Chicago over 8 and 1/3 innings.

The triumph kept Milwaukee firmly in first place, but a later win reinforced Milwaukee’s athletic pride.

Every Pitch And Possession Is Important

In the 2018 playoffs, a particular Brewers fan became dismissive of the Dodgers’ chances. But a kind seat-neighbor reminded him, “every pitch is important.” In Chicago on August 11th, a crucial at-bat proved the mentor correct. After a leadoff double, Christian Yelich fell behind 0-2. He patiently let three balls pass by until hitting an RBI single.

The Brewers avalanched to seven runs, allowing Corbin Burnes to attack the strike zone. The result? An unthinkable MLB-record ten straight strikeouts.

With a new boss, the Brewers appear even more motivated to win the pennant. On Tuesday night, Giannis and his young son Liam celebrated a Brewers seventh-inning rally.

Should the Crew win the division, a National League playoff crucible awaits. But when the Brewers prepare for their first October pitch at American Family Field, it won’t take a major-league announcer to narrate the outcome.

“Giannis, and the renewed passion of Wisconsin, collectively stand at the plate. Here’s the pitch: big swing-and-a-miss!”

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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