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Sometimes Different Doesn’t Equal Better

When a team struggles, it’s a natural reaction to point to the manager as the root of the problem.  They’re simultaneously the most visible and most expendable part of the front office, and it’s become common to associate any success or failure with the manager’s decision making.  For the most part, that’s why firing your manager is step number one in proving to your fans that you’re trying to improve.

Sometimes, the change helps.  Buck Showalter was fired by both the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the next year, his old teams won the World Series.  More often than not, though, having a new face in the dugout doesn’t change anything.  Sometimes, it can even make matters worse.

I bring this up because the Brewers are in danger of becoming one of “those teams” — an organization that’s quick to fire its manager whenever things go south instead of working to actually fix the problem. 

Ken Macha’s job performance has been criticized multiple times this
season.  Part of it is a natural reaction to seeing a team out of
contention in late August/early September after making its first
postseason appearance in 26 years.  Part of it probably has to do with
the fact that the team axed Ned Yost with 12 games to go last year and
suddenly made the playoffs.  Unfortunately, firing Ken Macha at this
juncture probably wouldn’t do the trick.

Most of us knew what we were getting when the team hired Macha to begin
with.  He was a guy with a history of not following the General
Manager’s directive for the team and not backing up his players when
they’re on the field screaming about a blown call.  For the most part,
we’ve gotten that this year: Doug Melvin says that Mat Gamel needs to
be starting if he’s playing the big leagues, Macha sits him in favor of
Craig Counsell or Casey McGehee once the DH is no longer an option. 
Mike Cameron gets upset over a bogus called third strike, and the only
reason Macha leaves the dugout is to stand between Cameron and the

According to Anthony Witrado,
one player has had in-office meetings with Macha seven times this
year.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that the player in
question is Ryan Braun, who’s voiced his displeasure about the
direction of the team numerous times this year.  Jason Kendall had some
pretty nasty things to say about him after Macha was fired from
Oakland, and you still get the sense they don’t like each other every
time Kendall gets a day off and looks like he’s going to kill someone.

The lesson here?  When Ned Yost was fired, most people thought the
Brewers would be better off.  While they’re better off in some regards
(Macha is smart enough to realize that, say, you don’t use your LOOGY
to intentionally walk Ryan Howard and pitch to Pat Burrell with the
game on the line), overall, the team has regressed with Macha holding
the reins.  The players don’t seem comfortable playing for him.  He
doesn’t seem to trust young players.  These are not things that are
good qualities for a guy managing the Milwaukee Brewers.

Do I think Macha needs to be replaced?  Yes, but I’m not saying it with
the usual refrain of, “ANYONE is better than Macha!” — if the Brewers
are going to choose to let him go, they have to do a better job of
finding someone who isn’t afraid to trust young players and actually
has a sliver of interpersonal skills.  Do not immediately refine it to
a search of retreads like Bob Brenly and Showalter, and do not assume that simply swapping managers will get the team back into the playoffs.  It’s become pretty clear this season that the team needs to do something to address the pitching situation this offseason, otherwise it won’t matter who’s steering the ship next year — you might as well call it the Titanic.  The next managing
hire by Doug Melvin needs to be able to stick around for more than two
seasons, otherwise he may be the one losing his job the next time

  1. Ron
    October 1, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Best analysis I’ve read this year. Depressing, but accurate

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