My first reaction to hearing that the Brewers fired their manager over the weekend was the image of a July 4th firecracker that got set off before anybody bothered to check which direction it was pointing. Someone's losing a hand.
The Brewers just had a really bad week against a couple of imminently beatable teams, and the men upstairs have either 1) freaked out to the point that they'd do anything to change the momentum, or 2) already given up on 2008 and decided to put the blame on Yost, who's taken this team to the brink of the postseason two straight years but hasn't quite gotten them over the last hurdle.
My vote is for option 1. The Brewers traded their best hitting prospect to get C.C. Sabathia in July, even though they knew there was little to no chance of keeping him for 2009 and beyond. The front office made their big statement with that trade: it's happening this year, if it's ever gonna happen. Now, two weeks away, they've watched a relatively healthy lead slip away from them, and they're understandably nervous. Nervous like every Democrat I know was all last week when they couldn't get out of the Never-Ending Sarah Palin News Cycle.
Which is to say, terrified. Walking around with that WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!?!? look in their eyes. And in their terror, they made a change without considering the consequences.
Now, there is a precedent. Kind of. Three years ago, the Astros rode a mid-season managing change all the way to their first National League pennant. Unfortunately for the good people of Wisconsin, it's not mid-season anymore. And Dale Sveum is no Phil Garner.
The most vivid recollection I have about Sveum is from a Yankees-Red Sox game in June 2004 (or 2006?), when he was still coaching third base for Boston. He sent a potential tying run home from second on a very, very shallow single through the left side and Matsui threw the guy out by about twenty-five feet. The Yanks went on to win the game, and Terry Francona had a hell of a time defending his subordinate for that particular call.
(My reaction? I remember emailing Bill Simmons, ESPN's Sports Guy, asking how much George Steinbrenner was paying Sveum to coach third for the Sox.)
Of course, one (comically) bad play does not a career make. But that's a first impression that wouldn't instill a great deal of confidence in me if I was a Brewers fan. Someone on ESPN compared this firing to the Boss and Billy Martin. Get back to me if Ned is back on the bench with these guys in May. For now, it's just looking like a really bad move.
Anyway...Can the Brewers win with this guy as manager? Sure. But it's not going to be on him. As it wasn't entirely going to be on Yost.
It will be because Sabathia, Sheets and Parra win nine of their last ten or eleven combined starts. It will be because Braun and Fielder and company hit out of their minds for a week. It will be because something falls on Eric Gagne.
Or it will be because the Mets are the Mets.