The Brewers, holy crap. The postmortems have already begun for a season that has five weeks to go, and a franchise that did so many things right during the past decade seems fresh out of good options.
Look at the Brewers' highest-paid players this season, and you begin to see the first part of the problem. Ryan Braun tops the list, of course, at $11 million. Three other key members of the lineup -- Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks -- made $10 million each. Starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo banked almost $8 million, and reliever John Axford made $5 million.
That's six players who are collectively responsible for about two-thirds of the team's payroll. Astonishingly, every single one is having the worst year of his career, and more troubling, it's unclear what Milwaukee should do with them. Hart missed the entire season and now owns two surgically repaired knees. Ramirez has a bad knee of his own and is past his prime at 35. It's no secret that the usually reliable Gallardo has lost several miles per hour off his fastball since 2012. Braun's dumbassery has been covered to numbing effect and needn't be recounted here, but remember that the Brewers elected to keep Braun instead of Prince Fielder two years ago, a decision that looks questionable for the first time.
If all that isn't worrisome enough, Milwaukee has a bigger structural problem: The farm system that produced most of the aforementioned talent is now among the worst in baseball. Not only have the Brewers raided the farm in recent years, trading away young players to help acquire temporary starting pitchers such as CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, they still have not effectively replaced former scouting director Jack Zduriencik and four key scouts who took promotions with other franchises during the past few seasons.
The bad old days could be back for a while.