Though the Cubs are still the favorites to win the NL Central, few would argue against the fact that the competition in the division is tougher this season.
The Milwaukee Brewers are not who they were a couple of years ago. As the Chicago Cubs continued to rise en route to winning a World Series championship, the Brewers finished with a losing record for a second straight year.
In 2017, though, they were one of the big surprises in baseball, going 86-76 and narrowly missing out on a trip to the postseason via the Wild Card game. It was a season in which the Brewers challenged the Cubs more than some people thought they would. The Cubs won their season series with the Brewers last year, but by a mere game, edging out Milwaukee 10-9.
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A new challenger emerges
Is this a budding rivalry? Last season indeed laid the groundwork for one. After all, this is the first time in quite a while that both of these teams have started the season with postseason aspirations.
If a tight season series wasn’t enough, the Brewers decided to add some fuel to the fire during the offseason by announcing a “Wisconsin resident only” pre-sale for tickets to games when the Cubs visit Miller Park in 2018.
If you’ve watched or attended any Cubs-Brewers games in Milwaukee these past couple years, you’ve undoubtedly noticed Cubs fans filling up the seats in a seemingly 50/50 ratio of home and away fans.
The Brewers also took a somewhat similar approach to the Cubs in their efforts to become competitors again. They put the bulk of their focus on building a strong lineup. Milwaukee made a huge statement this winter by trading for former Marlin Christian Yelich and signing free agent Lorenzo Cain.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has even chimed in, voicing his support for the growing enmity between the two teams, saying, “It’s good for the game.” He mentions that rivalries really can’t be artificial. They just happen. And that seems to be the case with the Cubs and Brewers.
Brewers overtaking the Cardinals?
Regarding competitiveness, at least for the time being, the Brewers might be ahead of the Cardinals. They held their own against the Cubs in a way the Cardinals could not. St. Louis got crushed by Chicago in the 2017 season series, losing 14-5.
Will the Cubs-Brewers rivalry overtake the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry? Short answer: no. The Cubs-Cards rivalry existed long before the Brewers were even a franchise. It’s one of the oldest and most classic rivalries in all of sports, dating all the way back to the late 19th century.
No matter how good the Cubs and Brewers are, there’s just never going to be the same animosity between fan-bases as there is between Chicago and St. Louis. That kind of hatred can’t be replicated.
The rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. But for right now, the Brewers might pose a bigger threat to the Cubs than the Redbirds. Whether or not this Cubs-Brewers rivalry lasts, there’s undoubtedly something to it at the moment.