You Can't Fire 25 Guys
Hope you're happy, Brewers fans.
Some of you probably cracked open the champagne the nanno-second JS/ Online broke the story about manager Ken Macha's firing, reportedly to be announced Monday morning. To way too many of you, the team's woes started and ended with the gray-haired guy in the dugout, someone who you claimed didn't have enough fire to get his team ready for games. You chided him for his lack of personality, and dismissed him as too old.
Personal slams aside, the Brewers' 2010 problems were much larger than one man, but as is often the case, you can't fire 25 guys.
Macha was no threat to land a gig on Comedy Central, and he was no Bobby Cox when it came to fighting for his players or getting tossed out of games. How personality and the ability to get run by the ump make you a better field general, I don't know. The managerial grave yard is littered with the remains of skippers who were funny, warm, chatty and the first to buy in the hotel bar after the game but who couldn't win. Cox certainly fights for his players, but he's also had a ton of talent to work with. The fact he could get tossed so often and still win shows how irrelevant a manager can be with the right combination of players. And, Cox's age never seemed to be an issue. Funny how winning can "young" a guy up.
Everyone knew at the start of the season that Milwaukee's fate would hang on the starting pitching and, as many feared, holes developed in the rotation from the virtual get-go. That put strain on the bullpen. Toss in Trevor Hoffman's spring woes, and what you've got is a skipper who pushed all the right buttons but who got little in return. How many fans second-guessed Macha for going to Hoffman in those dark days? How could he NOT? The vaunted Brewers offense could score 10, 12, 15 runs on occasion but could also go into hibernation for long stretches. GM Doug Melvin's most recent free-agent acquisitions did squat, especially Carlos Gomez who was supposed to be the answer in center field. Toss in the flame-outs of Greg Zaun, LaTroy Hawkins and Doug Davis, and you've got what you've got: a team that was pretty much a non-contender after Flag Day.
Macha can rightly be criticized for not running enough. The 2010 Brewers had speed that the team didn't capitalize on, either via the steal or the hit-and-run. Macha hated so see his guys make outs on the bases, and was a graduate of the Earl Weaver School of Offense that says you wait until you get a few guys on and hope for a three-run homer. Being a little more aggressive might've sparked the unexpectedly sluggish offense.
JS/Online's Tom Haudricourt wrote several times of the team and Macha never melding--that the skipper was seen as an outsider, a manager who younger players tuned out. It's sad, but it happens. The '82 Brewers had no use for Buck Rogers and damn near staged a team mutiny before Harry Dalton replaced him with Harvey Kuenn. You know what happened next.
Personally, I found Macha to be a refreshing change when he was our guest on "Brewers 360". Predecessor Ned Yost had a "you-never-played-the-game" mentality that made our Tuesday morning appointments a chore. And, he fiercely defended his players, to the point where it was an insult to any knowledgeable fan. Macha, conversely, answered every question directly, even if he didn't know what was in the paper that morning. When Ryan Braun popped off last season, Macha wasn't afraid to tell us what he thought about it, even though we were the ones literally reading the story to him on the air. He treated us like adults, and answered the phone each week, win or lose.
You may dismiss me as a Macha apologist who works for the team's flagship station and thus will take it easy on the club because they help pay our bills. B-S. The team doesn't tell me what to say. With Melvin coming back there was no way the team could trot Macha out again in 2011, too. Fans needed a pound of flesh so they feel good about buying 2011 tickets.
So begins the speculation about who's next. Hopefully, it's someone the clubhouse can meld with. It's sad the players reportedly dismissed Macha so soon, and maybe the fact that these guys all came through the Milwaukee system together created somewhat of a cliquey atmosphere. Indications are that Melvin may have to deal some of those very guys if the team is to get better by next spring. He can't fire 25 of them, but he can make a few go away. Hopefully, he has better luck than he did last off-season, lest he's the next guy the club says farewell to. Owner Mark Attanasio isn't afraid to pull the trigger. Yost found that out in the midst of a playoff run, and Macha is about to get the bad news later today. That's cool, but with every firing comes a new hire and that's where Attanasio and Melvin need to make a bold stroke, not just to stoke the fires of ticket-buyers but to turn a decent team into a contender again.