Ned Yost did a good job for most of the year. But with a recent floundering by his Brewers, Yost has been shown the door.
As a Devils fan, I find myself slightly less surprised than everybody else. Two seasons ago, I saw Claude Julien get fired three games before the playoffs, only a few years after Lou Lamoriello fired Robbie Ftorek nine games before the postseason.
Just like the Brewers, these Devils teams were playoff-bound (in fact, they were already headed to the playoffs, unlike the Brewers who are still fighting to get in), and Ftorek's old squad won the Stanley Cup that year under Larry Robinson.
So I've seen this before. I've seen it twice. I've seen it done closer to the playoffs, and with better teams. And I've seen it pay off. But never have I seen it in baseball, and it's still quite a shock, no matter what my Devils-loving eyes have witnessed.
It never does seem justified. A team contending for the postseason loses its manager? Shouldn't it be the lousy teams whose managers are canned? And can't it wait until after the season? Shouldn't a manager or coach get to carry through with his season-long plan?
Well, Doug Melvin apparently felt this was the right move at the right time. The Brewers have lost 11 of 14, including a four-game sweep to the Phillies, who have thereby tied them in the wild card race. According to Melvin, "[Yost] didn't have all the answers for what is going on the last two weeks..." And despite the initial shock, I think this was the right move, at least in the short term.
Melvin has put together a great team that can win now, and he has pieces for the future. Adding CC Sabathia made the team championship-caliber, as two aces in a playoff series are very tough to beat. But the way the team has looked, they may not even get that far.
Seeing my team fire its coach twice before the playoffs has not only dampened the shock, but it's given me a chance to hear justifications. Lamoriello felt, in those cases, that the team needed a spark to carry over into the playoffs, because they were stalling at the wrong time.
Melvin apparently had the same attitude. The team was stalling, and now is not the best time to do that. Even if the firing does nothing more than fire up the team and give them a little boost the rest of the way, it's a successful move.
Melvin saw what happened to the Mets last year, and how slow they were to fire Willie Randolph. He didn't want to take that chance: His team had already blown a five-and-a-half game lead, and wasn't looking any better. So he made his move now, the way Sweet Lou did in Jersey.
He couldn't wait until next year, letting Yost fail before giving him his just desserts. This team may have parts now and in the future, but not the immediate future: both aces, Sabathia and Ben Sheets, are free agents after the year. Now is his chance to win, and he couldn't let Yost watch it float by.
In the big picture, this move may appear rash, but I don't think it'll be too much of a problem. Like I said, this team will be rather different next year and may not compete again for another couple of years.
Yost was a good manager while he lasted, but I don't think he'd have done a lot for this team much longer. The long-term investment isn't all that great, so the short-term move can pay off nicely.
The move is shocking and unprecedented, at least in baseball. But after getting over the initial reaction, the move actually makes sense and could pay huge dividends for a team that may be championship-caliber.