The Brewers are at it again, trying to keep Miller Park from becoming "Wrigley North" by offering a presale promotion for Wisconsin residents for games against the Cubs.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, tickets for the Brewers' 10 games against the Cubs at Miller Park will be available to Wisconsin residents only. The promotion ends at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
As the Brewers' Twitter account put it: "Any claims that this presale is an attempt to prevent Cubs fans from getting Brewers tickets are . well, pretty accurate, actually."
The Brewers put on the same promotion last year, over a six-day span in February. The big difference between the 2018 promotion and this one? No one can deny that the Cubs and Brewers are rivals now. Not after the Brewers won the National League Central Division over the heavily favored Cubs in a Game 163 tiebreaker on Oct. 1.
"If last season's Game 163 taught us anything, it's that every single game matters — especially in a rivalry like this," the Brewers said in a statement. "And, while we don't dislike all Cubs fans, we just really prefer when Miller Park is packed to the brim with Brewers faithful."
Cubs fans historically haven't considered the Brewers much of a rival, due in part to Milwaukee's relatively recent addition to the National League in 1998 and Cubs fans' preoccupation with trading barbs with followers of the Cardinals and White Sox. Another big reason is the ease with which Cubs fans have taken over Miller Park during series between the teams since the stadium opened in 2001.
That subject has long been a sore one in Milwaukee, and the Brewers have tried to battle it since at least 2006, when a "Take Back Miller Park" promotion was aimed at providing a better home-field advantage against the Cubs and Cardinals, another NL Central team with an eager-to-travel fan base.
Pitcher Cole Hamels summed up most Cubs fans' views on Sept. 3, when he said he didn't consider Cubs-Brewers much of a rivalry after his first game as a Cub at Miller Park.
"I know the rivalries I've had in the past, you can definitely feel it," Hamels said after the Brewers' 4-3 win in a Labor Day thriller. "When you have majority Cubs fans in the stands, I don't know if it's a rivalry yet."
Ultimately, though, rivalries are created on the field. It was easier to dismiss the Brewers when they went 227-259 (.467) while the Cubs went 292-193 (.602) in 2015-17.
Things started trending toward a real rivalry in September 2017, when the teams played one of the best MLB series of the season at Miller Park. The Cubs won three of four games, but each was decided late and played with playoff intensity. The Brewers finished the season 86-76 and finished in second place in the NL Central, six games behind the Cubs.
Last year, the teams tied for the best record in the National League after 162 games at 95-67, forcing a one-game tiebreaker for the NL Central title. The Brewers won 3-1 at Wrigley Field, sending the Cubs to the wild-card game, which they lost to the Rockies the next day to abruptly end their season while the Brewers eventually advanced to the NLCS.
The Brewers felt like they had slayed a dragon, much like the Cubs did in 2015 after eliminating the 100-win Cardinals in the NL Division Series.
"There's a reason they won the World Series (in 2016)," Brewers outfielder and longtime Cubs nemesis Ryan Braun said. "They are so talented, such a good team. Ultimately we had to take it from them, and we did."
Three weeks earlier, Braun actually agreed with Hamels' assessment of the rivalry but looked forward to a day when more Brewers fans filled Miller Park for games against the Cubs.
"To me, the rivalry has more to do with us arriving as a team and playing competitive baseball games in which both teams are winning and you have great games . more than how many fans for each team attend at any given venue," Braun said.
"But we'd love for there to have more Brewers fans here when we play against them, obviously."