Brewers Supporters Hope Doug Melvin Has Learned a Lesson in 2009
A few weeks after the All-Star Game, the Milwaukee Brewers seem to have surrendered all sorts of hope of reaching the postseason.
For a large portion of professional baseball followers, this comes as no surprise. In fact, many experts predicted that the Brewers would not be able to fair well this year even if the team's offense was highly regarded by most.
The general feeling was that Milwaukee was prone to allowing too many runs, and, since a team cannot reasonably rely on a strategy of outscoring the opponent on a regular basis, the Brewers would suffer too many defeats in which they face good opposition on the mound.
The team had a very bad start of the season, but after the first two weeks all aspects of the game the Brewers played suddenly fell into place, prompting experts to wonder if the pitching staff at hand had initially been underestimated. Milwaukee held one of the best records in baseball for a period of time, and the best record for a month stretch from May to early June.
People were beginning to turn heads, wondering if this team was for real and whether the Brewers starting rotation was massively overlooked prior to the start of the season due to the losses of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets.
Supporters of the team once again regained hope that their team could make it to the postseason for a second straight year.
But then the good form of the pitching staff, including the bullpen, disappeared as miraculously as it came. Fans were quick to demand trades, and so was the face of the franchise in Ryan Braun, who did not shy away from pointing the team's deficiencies in front of the media.
Doug Melvin, the Brewers general manager, blasted Braun's remarks, deeming them inappropriate. Even if it appeared as if the Brewers were looking to conduct a trade for a good starter, a big move never took place.
Maybe it was the unfair market, in which teams looking to move arms were asking for too much in return. Maybe it was the fact that the Brewers were not willing to trade another highly touted prospect in Alicides Escobar or Mat Gamel. Or maybe it was the fact that the Brewers were looking to achieve financial balance in the smallest markets of baseball.
Whatever the reason, supporters were left with a sour taste in their mouth when, on the last day before the no-waiver trading deadline, the Milwaukee Bucks made more trades than the Brewers did for three months since the season started.
My personal opinion was that the Brewers had too many holes to fill, and the addition of another arm was not going to solve all of their problems. And once a handful of teams loaded their rosters with championship-caliber players, it became apparent that the Brewers would need much more than another standout pitcher to get to the promised land.
Melvin did make a mistake, but it was not on the last day of free trading in Major League Baseball. His mistake was committed much earlier, in preseason, when the Brewers were first trying to identify their starting rotation and bullpen.
Melvin seemed to believe that the pitching the Brewers possessed heading into this season would allow his team to stay competitive in the division. He believed that if the rotation and the bullpen were able to keep this team afloat until the trading deadline the Brewers would be in a very good position to pull the trigger on another big trade, which would give the city of Milwaukee another October to celebrate.
In my preseason preview of the Brewers I created a ranking in which players were ordered in regards to the need to step their game up. The top of these rankings was occupied by players like Many Parra, Rickie Weeks, Jeff Suppan, Bill Hall, Braden Looper and Dave Bush.
Among the players listed near the top, four were members of the pitching rotation.
Weeks was having a breakout years before he landed on the DL with a season ending wrist injury. However, the rest of the players on this list did nothing to up their performance, which consequently lead to the downward spiral in the team's performance.
Even though I expected a little more from players like Parra, Suppan and Looper, I still never believed all players would improve their game to the level required for the Brewers to stay in the playoff hunt.
Melvin appeared as if he believed it was possible.
The Brewers are now finding themselves in a difficult situation. Football is still the number one sports in the state of Wisconsin, and with the approaching NFL and college football seasons the relevance of the declining Brewers is at its lowest levels since the late stages of the 2006 season.
And while in the past the failures of the Brewers were deemed normal and expected, the current expectations were for another great year of baseball in Milwaukee.
Melvin has to pull out the drawing board and correct all the mistakes he made starting with the incorrect assumptions he made about the pitching staff. Then he has to consider the possibility that Ken Macha may not be the right person for the head coaching job and see what alternative options may be available.
Another fallout season will be very destructive in terms of maintaining a high level of attendance and merchandise sales and this has been a very big positive for the Brewers franchise over the past couple of seasons.
Owner Mark Attanasio has made it clear that he is willing to invest in the team within reason, and his arrival has propelled the Brewers to achieving a more stable status as a franchise.
But revenues cannot be taken for granted. The team has to do more than just attract fans. It has to figure out a way to keep fans through difficult times. And if the Brewers are unable to be consistent and avoid fallouts like the one this season, they will have a hard time retaining the flow of fresh cash coming from fans.
This year's attendance may not reach the three million mark, which was achieved last year, but it will suffice to put the Brewers over the top in terms of profits. This is especially true when we consider the fact that the Brewers did not bloat salaries with a big midseason acquisition.
Brewers fever is still alive in the state of Wisconsin, but Melvin needs to refuel its prominence if he hopes to be seen as a transformational figure for local baseball.
And I am not sure how many similar seasons Attanasio will be willing to tolerate.
Boris Yovchev is a Milwaukee Brewers Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report and a supporter of the children's story "A Glove of Their Own."
"A Glove of Their Own" is the award winning children's story that teaches Pay It Forward through baseball and is being supported by Louisville Slugger, International Baseball Federation, iFungo, Rawlings, Modells, as well as players and coaches including Jason Grilli, Joe Torre, Luis Tiant, Dick Drago, Ken Griffey, Craig Biggio, and Sean Casey.
Please visit www.agloveoftheirown.com for more information.
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