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Posts Tagged ‘Ken Macha’

Could Anyone Fix This Staff?

September 28, 2009 2 comments

The rumor mill was buzzing today, with Fox Sports reporting that Rick Peterson may be in line to become the Brewers’ next pitching coach.  Among other things, Peterson is known for helping develop the “Big Three” in Oakland (Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson) and resurrecting the careers of talented-yet-struggling pitchers like Oliver Perez.

While Peterson would probably be the best pitching coach the Brewers have had since Mike Maddux left town, how much could we possibly expect him to improve the pitching staff?  In order for Peterson to work his magic, he has to have some talent to work with — outside of Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, and arguably Dave Bush (I remain a fan of Bush’s…that curveball is just too pretty when everything’s clicking), there isn’t much to work with.  Peterson and Willie Randolph lost their jobs with the Mets largely because the pitching staff was a mess — while Peterson was able to work out a couple of Perez’s kinks, the lefty was still inconsistent under his watch (of course, since Peterson was fired, Perez has completely fallen off a cliff…take that for what it’s worth).

Bill Castro was lauded for his performance when the team was pitching well in the early months of the season.  When injuries and regression to the mean caught up with them, suddenly Castro was constantly criticized and eventually fired.  Chris Bosio was praised for his work with Manny Parra in Triple A when Parra returned to the big league club with a string of very strong starts.  When Bosio became the big league pitching coach and Parra struggled with the rest of the team, his performance was criticized.  The front office currently claims that Bosio will have a fair chance to interview for the full-time job this winter, but if there’s any validity to this rumor, it appears as though Bosio will also be shown the door.

It’s the natural cycle of things for pitching and hitting coaches in the majors.  They’re easy targets despite the fact that they don’t have much to do with the performance on the field.  The top flight coaches — those like Peterson or Dave Duncan — do seem to have a small effect on a few pitchers, but rarely are the results sustainable.  We’ve seen this first hand with how Jeff Suppan and Braden Looper have fared after learning under the “genius” of Duncan in St. Louis. 

Could Rick Peterson have a positive effect on the Brewers’ pitching staff?  Sure.  If he’s the next guy to hold the job, I especially hope he can teach Gallardo and Parra to stop trying to strike everyone out, which in turn leads to less walks.  But don’t expect him to work miracles with the piles of stale crap that are Suppan and Looper (if he returns).  Even if the Brewers hire Peterson, the pitching improvements cannot stop there.  Doug Melvin & Co. still need to find a way to add depth, otherwise they’ll be right back to square one next year the minute someone gets hurt.

Heyman: Macha Likely to Return

September 23, 2009 1 comment

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, Ken Macha is expected to return as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers next season, with one caveat — he likely won’t be getting an extension.

That would make Macha a lame duck manager in 2010, which would go against everything we’ve come to expect from GM Doug Melvin.  We’re talking about the guy who quietly gave Ned Yost a (largely undeserved) contract extension after the 2007 collapse just to avoid having Yost enter the 2008 season in the last year of his deal.

While Macha seems to be returning, Heyman’s source makes it seem like that won’t be the case for pitching coach Chris Bosio.  It makes sense that Bosio would be given an interview and a chance to keep the job in the offseason, but we’re being given the impression that he won’t be brought back.  Whether or not that’s fair is up to debate — as interim pitching coach, it’s certainly not Bosio’s fault that the team had little-to-no starting pitching depth, but he’s the easy target for “improvement.”

Considering how the team has struggled to get comfortable under Macha’s watch, it’s hard to feel good about this report.  The only comfort to be gained is that Macha should and probably will be on a very short leash on 2010. 

Sometimes Different Doesn’t Equal Better

September 16, 2009 1 comment

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. 

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Is Macha Next?

After all the events on what was called “Black Wednesday” at One Brewers Way, one man managed to escape with his job — manager Ken Macha.  While Bill Castro, J.J. Hardy, and Bill Hall were all shown the door yesterday, Macha will continue to manage this team.  Of course, the question is just how long he’ll be the manager.

During yesterday afternoon’s press conference, Doug Melvin sounded less than enthused about Macha’s performance at this point in the season.  When asked whether Macha should feel nervous, Melvin alluded to the fact that changing managers (again) will be considered.

Some of you will remember that Macha signed a two-year deal upon securing the job this past offseason, a contract that many found as an early sign that the Brewers’ front office wasn’t entirely confident in their new hire.  The Brewers, like most Major League teams, don’t like having their managers answering questions about job security when they’re in the last year of their contract.  As a result, they typically give an extension before the manager enters that final season — it happened with Ned Yost, and many anticipated Macha to get that extension with a reasonably successful season this year.  The only problem?  Macha hasn’t done much to warrant that extension.

We saw what happened to Castro when the entire pitching staff except Yovani Gallardo and Trevor Hoffman underperformed compared to their career numbers.  Hitting coach Dale Sveum may be on the chopping block considering how poorly most of the roster has hit this year, too.  Macha has seemed out of touch with his players at times this year, and has shown a propensity to prefer crappy veterans over promising prospects in his starting lineups — something you don’t want to see when you’re running a small-market club.  The fact that Melvin had to sit Macha down and explain to him that Alcides Escobar will be starting 4 or 5 times a week seems to indicate that the front office wasn’t pleased with how Macha handled Mat Gamel’s time on the active roster and wanted to make sure Craig Counsell wasn’t going to be the everyday shortstop with Hardy in the minors.

The only staff member who’s seemingly done their job well this year is Willie Randolph, who’s connected well with many of the team’s younger players and made the likes of Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder passable defensive players.  It’s only speculation, but to me, it seems logical and entirely possible that Willie Randolph could be this team’s manager at the start of 2010.

I’m curious to know what others think.  Should Macha be brought back?  If not, who should the Brewers target to replace him?

The Black Hole That is Milwaukee Catching

The Brewers have a number of weak spots in their lineup this year, which is part of the reason why they’ve been outscored this season and have had problems finding consistent offense.  While the likes of J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart have been disappointing, there hasn’t been a bigger black hole in Milwaukee’s lineup than the catcher spot.

Catchers are typically weak offensive players, but Jason Kendall has been horrible this year, even by catcher standards.  His back up, Mike Rivera, hasn’t been any better — he’s been even worse in his limited playing time in nearly every statistical category, and is much worse defensively (even though Kendall’s nothing special, either, at his age).  

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Question Marks Heading into Second Half

July 16, 2009 1 comment

Let me take a minute to introduce myself — I’m Jaymes Langrehr, and I’ve been writing for MVN for about two years now.  I’ve been writing MLB pieces for MVN Outsider since the start of the season, and I’ve been a Brewers fan me entire life.  I’ve been to games at County Stadium, I’ve been to games at Miller Park (including seeing the immortal Jamey Wright pitch in person).  I’ve suffered through Davey Lopes, Jerry Royster, and Ned Yost.  In short, I’m just like every other Brewers fan. 

I’m starting at Brewers Bar during a time that’s both convenient (it’s the All-Star Break, a nice built-in start date) and frustrating (the team’s been maddeningly inconsistent for a solid month and a half).  You’ll eventually come to realize that I tend to be more optimistic than most, but even I can see that some pretty big question marks are looming for the Brewers as they get ready to start the second half in Cincinnati.

For one, the starting pitching is (still) a mess. 

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BREAKING NEWS: Brewers name Macha manager

October 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Earlier today, Brewers’ Vice-President & General Manager named former Oakland A’s manager Ken Macha as the new skipper of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Macha, 58, agreed to a 2-year contract and is the 17th manager in the franchise’s 39 years of existence.

Macha managed the A’s from 2003-2006, won the AL West crown twice, and won at least 88 games each season with Oakland.

During the press conference, Macha revealed that he had and would have an open door policy with the players, that the “perceptions” that players and he didn’t get along were overblown, and that he felt that he was better prepared as a manager now after having been let go by Billy Beane and the A’s.  Melvin added that he first met Macha during Spring Training with the Pirates in 1972 and was the first guy that he threw batting practice for, as well as that he’d talked with numerous people that have worked with Macha, including Brewers’ starter Jeff Suppan and Red Sox skipper Terry Francona.  Melvin also revealed that he did not contact Jason Kendall, a player thought to have had problems with Macha in the past.  Melvin also stated that he talked to Dale Sveum earlier in the day about his interest in joining Macha’s staff, and Macha indicated that he had spoken with Brewers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux about his interest in returning, to which Maddux indicated that he’d contact Macha at a later date.  Maddux is thought to be leaning towards joining the Rangers for 2009.

My whole take on this: Macha’s résumé is rather impressive, and Brewers’ fans will favor him over Ned Yost–but he’ll need to get off to a quick start, especially if Sveum stays within the organization.

Next on tap: Melvin needs to decide by Monday if he is going to exercise the $10 million option on Mike Cameron or not.  My guess is that he will, signaling the Brewers’ interest in continuing to field a competitive team, as well as setting up trading Tony Gwynn, Jr. to another team.  Gwynn alone is not enough to land a decent starter, but he may be worth a decent AAA relief pitcher jammed up in another organization.