RFB Offseason Roundtable - 2008 Decisions
This Week’s Topic: Think back through the entire year of 2008. What were the best and worst decisions made in 2008?
I’d say the worst decision of the year had to be the Eric Gagne signing. Melvin needed to bring in somebody to close out games. The team looked like it could be competitive and somebody needed to pitch in the ninth with the lead. The market for relief pitchers was through the roof and Gagne got $10 million despite some injury concerns, declining velocity and his ineffective pitching at the end of the year in Boston. Every Brewers fan (and Doug Melvin too, I’m sure) prayed that Gagne could recapture the momentum he had in Texas previous to the Boston trade in 2007 and we all dreamed of him being as dominate as he was in his prime in LA. No such luck… Gagne struggled from the get go. He came back strong in a lesser role as the season progressed, but he was not worth anywhere close to $10 million. That said, the guy can pitch and he proved to be a class act. I’d be happy to see him in a Milwaukee uniform again in 2009, just not for $10 million…
An under-the-radar move that came back to haunt the Brewers was trading away Gabe Gross. Gabe is not a world beater, but he’s a decent player offensively and defensively. The team could have used a left-handed hitting outfielder many times during the season and Gross’ patient approach at the plate would have been nice off the bench or in spot starts, especially on a team full of free swingers. How nice would it have been to have that Gabe after our other Gabe (Kapler) got hurt and couldn’t play late in the season? Gross could have given Hart a few days off and maybe Corey would have shook out of that horrible funk he was in. The Brewers basically gave Gross away too…I think the best decisions the Brewers management made in 2008 were the little ones. They filled the roster with veterans and role players and it worked out beautifully. Jason Kendall played outstanding behind the plate. Gabe Kapler came out of retirement to play a huge role as a reserve and spot starter. Russell Branyan provided a much-needed offensive spark as the Brewers were struggling in May. Salomon Torres filled in admirable as the closer. Ray Durham and Craig Counsell were important reserves and got plenty of starts too. Even Todd Coffey and Mike Lamb contributed down the stretch. Melvin and company did an outstanding job filling in the gaps on the roster and it was the difference between reaching the playoffs and watching them from home.
It’d be blasphemous not to mention the CC Sabathia trade as a great decision too. The big man put the Brewers on his back and carried them into the playoffs. The package Milwaukee gave Cleveland is impressive and one or more of LaPorta, Brantley or Bryson could easily turn into good Major Leaguers, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. The moments CC and the 2008 Brewers gave us will be among some of my fondest Brewer memories for the rest of my life.
I could go with the obvious answer here and say that the greatest move of 2008 was the CC Sabathia trade, but I think I’ll take the high road and find something a little more under the radar. My personal favorite move was the signing of Russell Branyan, who in his short time on the Milwaukee 25-man roster was worth 1.2 wins. Next, I’d go with the decision to put Gagne on the DL. Easily.
As I’ve already mentioned, the potential move of 2009 for me would be the signing of Joe Crede. However, hopefully that’s unnecessary, and Mat Gamel’s promotion to the ML level will turn out to be the big move of 2009.
On the other side of the spectrum, we again have an obvious pick for the worst move of 2008 – namely, the signing of Eric Gagne. But I think that clearly worse was the multi-year signing of David Riske, a player who was below replacement level last year and will likely continue to hover around that level.
The move going into the new year that I fear most is a possible signing of either Oliver Perez or Jon Garland. These are two players who have terrible peripheral stats but have nice and pretty W-L records and ERAs. I think that signings of these two could turn out as bad as the Suppan signing, and I hope we stay away.
There are two decisions that were the best this year: The first was signing Ryan Braun to a long term deal. The second was trading for C.C. Sabathia.
Ryan Braun is now the face of the team. I know big Prince is still a great leader, but the fans have this feeling that we know he’s going to chase the money in a bigger city so it limits our love for the big man. With Ryan, we have a young All-Star who says all the right things and is a complete team player. How many amazing moments has Braun already given Milwaukee? It’s amazing to think that I’ll be in my 30’s when Ryan Braun’s contract runs out.
The C.C. trade ultimately brought the Brewers to the playoffs. The Brewers were going to do their September collapse again, but C.C. wouldn’t let them. Yes he was costly and yes, we don’t even get a first round pick anymore, but for 4 months, C.C. was the biggest star in Milwaukee and the main reason the Brewers didn’t completely collapse again.
There were many more, such as the Kapler signing and Torres trade (which is still underrated by fans), but those two were the best.
As far as worst decisions go, Gagne was a rough one, so was Julian Tavares, perhaps it was batting the pitcher 8th, or using Cameron in the leadoff role, but one thing stands out in my mind as the worst decision.
This summer, we saw gas prices rise massively. It almost reached 4 and a half dollars a gallon. It became financially hard for many fans to make it to the game. Once fans were finally in the stadium, what did we see? A HUGE gas pump with numbers that kept going up, up, up all summer long! What an awful move by Citgo. I understand they put the thing up in 2007, but the decision to keep it was awful. Were they trying to find a silver lining to the gas price crisis? There are soooooooo many ways to tally home runs. There are soooooooo many ways for Citgo to promote themselves. But to have a gas pump rise all summer while real prices were rising causing fans to sweat more than ever was the worst decision of 2008.
Thankfully gas prices have fallen for now, but if they start climbing again Citgo should think about maybe sponsoring a concession stand instead of a giant gas pump. What would be smart would be for an investment company to put something out there so even though stocks are falling right now, the Brewers home run totals are up, up, up!
I’m probably not the only one who will mention this, but I view Eric Gagne’s one-year/$10 M contract to be Milwaukee’s most siazable front office error. As easy as it is to jump on Gagne, Doug Melvin and anyone else with bearing to this occurance now, I - as I know many others were - was happy with the transaction initially. Yeah, the price tag was a bit hefty, and Gagne’s directly preceeding bout with the injury bug and ineffectiveness in Arlington and Boston carried a great deal of uncertainty, but Milwaukee felt it needed to address the closer situation and went out and nabbed a player a few years removed from legendary closer status.
But alas, every legitimate worry of failure that accompanied Seth Rogen reincarnate was almost immediately realized, his mention in the Mitchell Report left Milwaukee’s brand new (ironically very old) bullpen with another PED-related black eye and the funds cherished by a mid-market franchise seemed sucked into an empty hole. Sure, he pulled it together to be a pretty good option for the 7th and 8th innings, but the price tag wasn’t fitting of a middle reliever. At the right price, I would welcome Eric back with open arms, and (as the current bullpen sits) even ponder letting him battle for the closer’s role in Spring Training. But you’d be hard pressed to find a fan who doesn’t feature Eric Gagne high on his or her (well hello, there) list of 2008 Brewers disappointments.
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