COMMENTARY | It was over a decade in the making, but the Milwaukee Brewers were finally building a contender. In 2006, the Crew flirted with the top of the NL Central before encountering a devastating 10-game losing streak, derailing any shot at the postseason.
But with top prospects like Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo ready to burst onto the scene and young up-and-comers like Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart coming into their own, there were high expectations for the Brewers entering the 2007 season.
Those expectations increased significantly when it was announced on Christmas of '06 that free agent starting pitcher Jeff Suppan had signed a four-year, $42 million contract with Milwaukee.
Suppan, who was 32 entering his first season with the Brewers, was fresh off an incredible postseason performance with the St. Louis Cardinals. Following Suppan's NLCS MVP effort, the Cardinals went on to win the World Series in '06.
The signing of Suppan was made possible by owner Mark Attanasio, who bought the team following the 2004 season. Offering a player such a sum of money was a foreign language to Brewers fans, and they naturally were excited to land a prominent free agent.
It was that anticipation to see Suppan pitch for the Brewers combined with hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time in a quarter-century that placed Suppan on a dangerous pedestal. Making over $10 million a year, Suppan's best season -- by a large margin -- prior to the signing came in 2005 when he went 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA.
Suppan wouldn't even come close to matching those numbers in Milwaukee.
His best year came in his inaugural season with the Brewers in which he went 12-12 with a 4.62 ERA, essentially the statistics of a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. While Milwaukee finished the season above .500 for the first time in 15 years, it was really no thanks to Suppan.
The 2008 season brought another .500 season for Suppan, but his ERA rose to 4.96. Once again, the Brewers were successful with him on the roster, reaching the postseason, but fans were beginning to turn on Soup, especially after losing Game 4 of the NLDS to eliminate Milwaukee from the playoffs.
The following season, Suppan was unable to stay in the rotation, finishing the year 3-8 with a 5.06 ERA. Only this time, there was no success to distract fans from the way Suppan was performing on the mound. By June of the 2010 season, Suppan was released, failing to even complete his fourth and final year under contract with the Brewers.
Suppan was a standup professional and religious man who gave back to the community and took full responsibility for his woes in Milwaukee. But the combination of big hopes and little return -- both for Suppan and the team -- created the perfect storm for scrutiny and hatred, making Suppan the most despised Brewer of all time.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Jeff Suppan