MILWAUKEE -- The worst thing you could've called the Brewers during a two-plus-decade stretch that spanned part of the '80s, most of the '90s and a sliver of a new millennium was, well, pick pretty much any adjective befitting a team that occasionally flirted with, and once even breached, the indignity of triple-digit losses.
The worst thing you could've called the Brewers between 2008 and now would've been one-hit wonders.
You know, the fluke-ish team that made the playoffs with CC Sabathia and an unprecedented 11th-hour managerial change, only to be never heard from for the next 26 years.
I think we can all rest easy now that the Brewers are on their way to earning another description altogether:
A small-market team in the postseason for the second time in four years.
Mark Attanasio never likes to read that because, to his credit, he never minds his wallet with such a readymade excuse. Plus, it's good for the local civic ego to hear a New Yorker-turned-Los-Angeleno refer to Milwaukee as mid-market. We'll take the compliment on behalf of all the big-city amenities that never get in the way of easy living.
But think for a moment what the Brewers are about to accomplish in a sport that probably never will have a salary cap. Outside of the Minnesota Twins, who do business in a market almost twice the size of the Brewers' workplace, there aren't many comparables.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, about as flagrant a violator of the spirit of baseball's revenue-sharing policy that exists, are back where they belong after briefly defying the game's economic realities. Ditto the Kansas City Royals.
And the best thing about the Brewers' situation? They're set up for success at least through next year. Like Zack Greinke said the first time he agreed to be interviewed back in the spring, this never was a must-win year.
That's easy to say now when the Brewers, in all practicality, won't be able to re-sign Prince Fielder, especially if he becomes the franchise's first MVP since The Kid's second 22 years ago.
But why even think about that on the 22nd of August? In the moment, this season has a chance to officially, and respectfully, consign the '82ers to history.
Still, I'm not prepared to say that the game has fundamentally changed to the point that the Brewers could become a long-term player.
Most everything Bud Selig has done on behalf of franchises like the one he used to shepherd needs to be recognized and applauded. You really think Attanasio would've bought the team without revenue sharing and Miller Park?
Beyond that, Selig is going to skate right through the next collective-bargaining agreement without the problems that gave the NFL a temporary PR shiner and threaten to radically change the NBA as we know it. Almost two entire decades of labor peace would put Selig on the Nobel shortlist if baseball weren't, you know, just a game.
The commish wants to limit the coin drafted players can earn, but I can't fault Selig for not going to the mat with the union on a salary cap. With the concessions baseball has gained, it's OK to let that one go, like a cap has really helped the Bucks.
Baseball needs to get a handle on HGH and figure out a way to expand the playoffs with dignity and without tedium, which probably would've happened by now had the train-wrecked Los Angeles Dodgers not taken up so much time on the game's agenda.
Baseball's business structure can never be ideal for its smallest market. But with Attanasio and Doug Melvin finding the loopholes, it really is OK to like the Brewers' longish-term outlook.