Photo, Article By: Melissa S. Wollering
When it’s all said and done, I know I’ve done the best job I can do. Those almost sound like words of defeat and finality. In fact, they are the words of Manager Ken Macha after the Milwaukee Brewers eighth consecutive loss at home to the Phillies Sunday night.
Perhaps more fitting, though, are the words of Casey McGehee. Managers sometimes get too much credit and too much blame. So is that the case with Ken Macha and the state of the Milwaukee Brewers? Is Doug Melvin’s management and his talent busts partially to blame? Have the players failed themselves by providing little visible player leadership presence in the clubhouse?
We start with Ken Macha. If fans could light a torch under his backside and get away with it, I’m confident they would. His apparent lack of gusto in the dugout does can’t lend itself to inspiration. Does he rev players up? Or at least get them fired up out of anger or frustration? Does he take to the umpires as much as he should to defend his players (like Charlie Manuel) even in only semi-justifiable situations?
What guidance are players getting as they come in from the field? Sure, you drive in a run, but is your manager there to discuss what you did right and what you can improve upon while at-bat or running the bases?
Can Macha’s supporting cast be relied upon to deliver all of this messaging? Pitching coach Rick Peterson, batting coach Dale Sveum and bench coach Willie Randolph are certainly making strong efforts but is Macha’s deference to them as effective as hearing the message come straight from your Manager? Apparently, Macha’s last message to the team lasted all but 30 seconds. Bob Brainerd has more in his blog on why Macha apparently doesn’t believe in talking.
The team is already in Cincinnati, which means they won’t let Macha go right now. I can’t see a changing of the guard even being considered until May 24th, the Brewers’ next off day. Prince Fielder didn’t seem too upset by questions about his manager’s future in an interview Sunday but Casey McGehee did, both of which Adam McCalvy details well.
Even if they’re not defending Macha, most Brewers players are defending the efforts they are putting forth day-in and day-out. Taking another step back then, has Doug Melvin provided the team with the adequate talent it needs to win? Effort is great but it doesn’t get the job done when the team you play can hit off your pitchers like they’re a stationary tee-ball stand and put up more K’s than a fried chicken billboard campaign.
Melvin has provided with smart signings like Ryan Braun and midseason acquisitions like Richie Sexson and CC Sabathia. He didn’t hesitate to acquire Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik and he didn’t waste a dime on resigning Francisco Cordero.
But Melvin has also signed players with salary-eating heartburn like Jeff Suppan and Bill Hall. He’s gambled on Eric Gagne, David Weathers, Jorge Julio, Chris Duffy, Braden Looper, Corey Hart, Tony Graffanino and Doug Davis and more. He also signed away Matt LaPorta.
Has Melvin’s work eroded? Over time, have the decisions watered-down the overall talent available to the team despite its record-high payroll?
Finally, who among the players is speaking to the players? Sure, McGehee, Fielder, Bush and others are going through the motions, speaking to reporters. But who is demanding more from his teammates and commanding their attention when they need a bit of do-it-yourself leadership the most?
Prince is likely to maintain a quiet presence, but his early-season slump and “on my way out” mentality cannot be helping. Ryan Braun is probably fearful of saying too much after opening his mouth last season publicly. With the most invested, I don’t think Braun should hold back whatsoever. Go ahead and say what you need to say. At this point, it might do some good.
So what do you think? Is what’s ailing Milwaukee coming from Macha, Melvin or much more than management?
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