When the Milwaukee Brewers signed their surging second baseman Rickie Weeks to a long-term contract extension in 2011, they were hoping the young player would help anchor their infield for years to come.
Unfortunately, that reality has not come to pass.
Weeks is currently serving as a totally different sort of anchor for a team that has sunk below the waterline and is now dragging along the bottom of the National League Central Division.
It can't be comfortable for anyone in the Brewers' front office these days. As of today, the Brewers are 18-26 and share the cellar with the rebuilding Chicago Cubs. Both teams are nearing binoculars-only territory at 10.5 games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
Given that the Brewers were only a couple wins away from the World Series in 2011, the entire organization must be scrambling for answers.
Without question, the team's fortunes cannot be laid solely at the feet of Weeks. Despite a formidable offense and defense, the team's starting pitching has been far from perfect. John Axford has also cost the Brewers more than a few games with shaky relief pitching.
However, the team most certainly has to reflect on just how bad their signing of Weeks looks since the ink hit the contract in 2011. Throw in the fact that Weeks is one of the Brewers highest-paid players right now and things really look bleak.
During the 2011 season in which he signed the extension, Weeks experienced a bad ankle sprain that cut short a promising year. Although he returned for the playoffs that year, Weeks struggled mightily in the postseason, going 6-for-41 at the plate.
Many attributed his poor play at the plate during the beginning of 2012 to the continuing effects of that injury in 2011. However, the fact remains that Weeks was terrible in the first half of 2012 and rebounded only moderately to a subpar average of .230 for the year.
What should the Brewers do with Weeks?
The injury excuse in 2012 is now looking extremely thin as Weeks has again started off the year in futile fashion. As of today, Weeks is batting .167 and also playing suspect defense at second base.
Even more disheartening is the fact that the team continues to try to draw from the same dry well. Weeks has sat infrequently this year and until recently even continued to bat in featured spots in the lineup.
The most frightening aspect of this situation is the Brewers' continuing resistance toward a remedy, despite positive indications that such a move could ultimately help the team.
Over the course of the last nine games, the Brewers have three wins. In each of those three wins, Weeks was sitting on the bench. In each of the six losses, Weeks was a starter.
Baseball is a difficult game and team chemistry plays an integral role in the product seen on the field. Baseball is also a game of percentages and matchups. Given these factors, it is extremely difficult to understand why the Brewers continue to play Weeks when all signs point to the contrary.
Milwaukee is a small-market team that relies on ticket sales, not television contracts, to fund the roster. If the Brewers continue down this inexplicable road, there will certainly be repercussions for the team on the bottom line.
If team management insists that the investment in Weeks dictates his playing time, then they should at least come out and explicitly state that fact. Especially if they expect fans to continue to pony up at the ticket windows.
The Brewers salvaged this type of situation in the past by substituting Jerry Hairston Jr. in place of a slumping Casey McGehee. If it worked once, why not twice?
The Brewers have plenty of other options at second base, including Jeff Bianchi (a utility infielder on the bench) and Scooter Gennet (a prospect in the minors). It's time to try something new on a consistent basis or give the fans the detailed explanation they deserve.