October 2010

Uecker to have additional heart surgery

Brewers Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker, who missed about 10 weeks of the 2010 season following heart surgery, will undergo an additional procedure next week, the team announced Thursday. 
The surgery, scheduled for Tuesday, is necessitated by a tear at the site of Uecker’s valve replacement.  According to a news release from the Brewers, doctors believe the tear occurred due to a skin-related staph infection which entered the bloodstream about six weeks after Uecker’s April 30 surgery and seeded itself into his surgical repair site.  
Uecker will need a minimum of eight weeks to recover from this latest procedure, according to the team. 
“I’m approaching this with the same optimism that I had the first time, and I appreciate all of the kind thoughts and well wishes from Brewers fans and everyone who has reached out to me,” Uecker said in the Brewers’ statement. “I have the highest confidence in the doctors and staff at Froedtert Hospital and I look forward to being ready to go well before Spring Training in Arizona.” 
Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin cardiothoracic surgeon Alfred C. Nicolosi performed the first surgery and will operate in Tuesday’s procedure as well. 
“Bob’s heart is stronger now following his initial operation and therefore I think he will tolerate this operation very well,” said Dr. James Kleczka, Uecker’s cardiologist.  “I expect that he will need 8-10 weeks to fully recover, after which he will be back to life as usual.” 
 
The Brewers will provide an update on Uecker’s condition following Tuesday’s surgery but made it clear that neither Uecker nor his caregivers would have further comment before then. 
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Melvin shoots down Brenly rumor

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin just told a Milwaukee radio audience that the rumor he was close to hiring Bob Brenly as manager was inaccurate. 
“Unless somebody else has been doing the hiring process, that’s not true,” Melvin said. 
Melvin said he had yet to conduct any interviews, and had not even set the criteria he’s looking for in his next manager.
Melvin made his comments on 540-AM, Milwaukee’s ESPN Radio affiliate. A rival station, 1250-AM WSSP, reported Wednesday morning that Cubs broadcaster and former World Series-winning manager of the D-backs Brenly was “close to agreeing” to be the next manager of the Brewers. 
Citing unnamed sources, WSSP morning anchor Doug Russell made the report via Twitter. Brenly told Russell he had, “nothing to say right now.” 
The Brewers announced Monday they would decline manager Ken Macha’s contract option for 2011, ending Macha’s tenure after two seasons. Brenly was one of three finalists for the Brewers job two years ago, along with Macha and Willie Randolph, before Macha got the job. 
Brenly managed the D-backs from 2001-04, going 303-262 in the regular season and winning the ’01 World Series over the Yankees in a seven-game thriller. He was dismissed midway through the ’04 season with Arizona off to a 27-50 start. 
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Money, rest of Triple-A staff to return

Thumbnail image for DonMoney.jpg

The Brewers announced Tuesday that manager Don Money and the rest of Triple-A Nashville’s coaching staff will return intact in 2011. With that pronouncement, it appears Money will not be considered for the Major League managerial opening.  
Money’s staff in Nashville includes hitting coach Sandy Guerrero, pitching coach Rich Gale, athletic trainer Dave Yeager and strength and conditioning specialist Andrew Emmick. 
Money, 63 and a former Brewers All-Star, has led the Sounds to a winning record in each of his two seasons at the helm. In 13 seasons as a Minor League manager, Money’s teams are 892-916. 
He’s made it clear in the past that he has Major League managerial aspirations, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin declined to name any candidates for the big league opening when he met with reporters on Monday to discuss his decision to dismiss manager Ken Macha. 
The Brewers last month signed a two-year extension of their player development contract with Nashville. The Sounds went 77-67 in 2010 and have posted a winning record in 22 of their 33 seasons. 
Guerrero has coached under Money for each of the past six seasons and has been a hitting coach at the Brewers’ Double-A or Triple-A level for each of the past eight seasons. He finished 2010 on Milwaukee’s big league staff as an extra coach. 
Gale, who pitched for parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues during a 12-year pro playing career, joined the Sounds’ staff prior to last season. Nashville pitchers produced 60 quality starts, and their 4.27 ERA ranked third in the Pacific Coast League behind Omaha (4.01) and Oklahoma City (4.03). 
The Sounds’ 2011 schedule will be released at a later date. 
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Another emotional day for Melvin

A visibly hurt Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spent time with reporters this afternoon discussing the team’s decision to part with manager Ken Macha after a second consecutive losing season. You can tell this stuff hurts him. 
Here’s some of what Melvin had to say:
“We didn’t win here,” Melvin said. “We didn’t meet our expectations. Whether our expectations are realistic or not, that’s probably what we have to look at. … I think he understood.
“When we brought him in here, we brought him in because he has a winning record. He still has the sixth-best winning percentage of any of the current managers in the game today,” Melvin said. “So he’s had a lot of success in his career. 
“But obviously we’ve raised the bar since we won in 2008, and we didn’t meet those expectations. It’s not always the manager’s fault, but sometimes they’re the ones who get blamed.”
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Melvin is certainly aware of the problems that dragged-down the Brewers in 2010. They got off to a very poor start in April and May, got little from veteran free agent additions Doug Davis and LaTroy Hawkins and then skewed very young in the second half. 
“I thought [Macha] did the best that he could under the circumstances,” Melvin said. “He played right down to the last game to try to win every game that he could. That’s what good managers do, and he’s a professional about it.”
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Melvin wouldn’t say when he decided a change was necessary. He also declined to say anything about the futures of the team’s coaching staff because he had yet to speak individually with those men. Pitching coach Rick Peterson is the only one of Macha’s coaches under contract for 2011. 
Asked specifically whether bench coach Willie Randolph, a finalist for the Brewers’ managerial opening in 2002 and again in 2008, would again be considered, Melvin said, “I’d rather wait until I talk to the coaching staff.”
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As Melvin was weighing the decision, what went into it?
“There’s a lot of things involved — wins and losses come into play,” Melvin said. “Your ballclub — are they a young club? A veteran club? Working with coaching staffs. Managers’ jobs are so much tougher in the big leagues. When you’re managing in the Minor Leagues, you’re managing a pitching coach and a hitting coach. Two guys. When you’re managing in the big leagues, a guy’s got a first base coach, he’s got a third base coach, he’s got a bench coach, he’s got a pitching coach, he’s got a bullpen coach, he’s got a hitting guy, a video coordinator. He’s got to meet with the trainers every day. He’s got to meet with the media every day. He’s got his talk show every day. The GM goes down and bugs him every day. Ownership has issues that maybe have to be discussed through the GM. And then you have to deal with player issues. So there’s a lot that goes on for a manager. It’s not just sitting down and making up a lineup. With the statistical stuff today, it’s a lot more detailed job. It’s a lot more detailed than you can imagine.”
Melvin would not say much about Macha’s relationships with stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder other than, “that’s something I can use myself as a learning experience. … I think those kind of things happen with any manager on any ballclub.”
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Macha turned 60 during the team’s final homestand, and he was leading a team that had no regular starting position players older than 28. Was there some sort of generational gap?
“Bobby Cox is 69. Charlie Manuel is 67. Bruce Bochy is 55,” Melvin said. “The youngest manager of the eight postseason teams is Joe Girardi, and he has a $200 million payroll. Everybody else is 53 years of age and older. They’re probably all old enough to be fathers of today’s players. 
“If that’s an issue, then I think it’s an issue that players have to understand, too. Look at all of those managers going to postseason, they’re all experienced guys. They’re all hardcore, down to earth, baseball guys, very similar to Ken. Today’s players are a little bit different, I’ve always said that. … I know the NBA goes to a lot of hiring of young head coaches. In baseball, you look at the experience of some of the guys. Was there a communication gap there? There might have been.”
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Melvin plans to take his time hiring the next Brewers manager. He wouldn’t say whether previous big league experience was a prerequisite or if he would seek somebody fresh. 
“That’s what we’re going through right now,” Melvin said. “We’re discussing that. There are a lot of qualities involved with a manager. Do you want an older guy? A younger guy? A proven guy? Obviously, to get a guy who’s won more games than Ken Macha is going to be tough, with him being sixth on the list. That’s going to be hard to find.”
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For many outside the organization, Macha’s dismissal was a foregone conclusion. But for Melvin, it was very personal, and he was visibly distraught as he addressed reporters on Monday outside a party suite dedicated to the ’82 Brewers. He showed similar emotion after letting go manager Ned Yost with 12 games left in the ’08 regular season. 
“I’ve been a GM for 15 years and I’ve only let two managers go,” Melvin said. “I talked to [Reds GM] Walt Jocketty, and I don’t think he’s ever fired a manager in his 15 years. [New D-backs GM] Kevin Towers has only done it once. There’s [something to having] stability. People want to know why the Minnesota Twins have had success, they have a lot of stability. They’ve had two managers in 30 years. …
“Ken came in in a tough situation. He came in after the team won for the first time in 25 years. I told him to take on a couple of the coaches that we had. A lot of times, a manager gets to pick all of their coaches. So he came into a little bit of a tough situation, and he understood that. 
“I think he did the best he could. We had a $90 million payroll, but really it was $70 million because [Jeff] Suppan and [Billy] Hall weren’t here. I take responsibility for those kinds of things when it comes to player decisions. We’ll have to build up from here and see where we go.”
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Is there a timetable to identify Macha’s replacement?
“Not really,” Melvin said. “I want to go through the process. I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and go over it. I don’t think it’s going to be something that takes place in the next 10 days or two weeks.”
Melvin was traveling to Phoenix on Tuesday to address the change with the Brewers’ player development staff there. He’ll then convene his pro scouts for four days of organizational meetings in Arizona, a process of reviewing the Brewers’ own players, looking at other teams’ rosters for trade purposes and analyzing the pool of free agents. Melvin has said he does not expect to be active in free agency this winter. 
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A final thought from the GM:
“He did best he could,” Melvin said. “Did he have the best talent out there? The team is not as talented as the 2008 team. We haven’t got to that point. I told Mark [Attanasio, the team's principal owner] that we have to get a little more talented.”
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Macha gets moving help

Ken Macha had what he called an amicable farewell meeting with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin at Miller Park on Monday in which Macha was formally told what he already knew — the team will not bring him back as manager in 2011. 

After the 45-minute sit-down, Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash helped Macha load up a rented SUV for the drive home to Pittsburgh. 
“I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign,” Macha joked. “Maybe they wanted me out of town. I thought that was pretty funny.”
Melvin was scheduled to meet with reporters later in the day but he may not be able to offer any news about Macha’s coaching staff. Pitching coach Rick Peterson signed a two-year contract last winter, so he is expected to return. The team could wait until it hires a new field manager before deciding on the other coaches. 
The Brewers went 157-167 in their two years under Macha, who was given a two-year contract in October 2008 and had an option year added to his deal at the end of the 2009 season. 
“I tried to do what’s right,” Macha said. “I think if you’re sitting there worrying about, ‘What’s this guy going to think?’ it’s not going to work. You come to the ballpark, study what you’ve got there, put out the best lineup and do what you think is the right thing. If you win enough games, then you’re going to be there.”
Macha enjoyed his two years with Melvin, whom he called, “a gentleman.” 
“We have similar philosophies about a number of things,” Macha said of his Monday morning chat. “We both know baseball. We’ve been in it a long time and understand. He encouraged me to stay in baseball, said that I know what I’m doing and that if there’s another opportunity, I should do it.”
Macha was particularly touched by a line of “10 or so” players who stopped by the visiting manager’s office at Great American Ball Park following Sunday’s season finale to say goodbye. Among them were pitcher Randy Wolf, the prized free agent pick-up who struggled early in the season, third baseman Casey McGehee, who thanked Macha to giving him a shot to start last spring, and Manny Parra, who thanked Macha for sticking with him. 
“I felt good about that,” Macha said. “You hope that you can help people out and get their careers on the right track.”
The subject of Brewers pitching did come up during Macha’s meeting with Melvin. Brewers pitchers ranked next-to-last in the National League with a 4.83 ERA in 2009 and moved up only one spot in 2010 to 4.58. Melvin expressed regret that Doug Davis and LaTroy Hawkins did not work out as free agent signings and conceded the team was “at a deficit,” Macha said, because of that.
If wins and losses were the bottom line, consider that Dusty Baker was 152-172 in his first two seasons managing the Reds. Now he’s celebrating a National League Central title and a contract extension. 
So the question at least bears asking: Was it fair to pin the Brewers’ disappointments on the manager?
“There’s a lot of people who don’t necessarily merit getting a promotion or getting fired,” Macha said. “That’s just the nature of this game. Do I think that I merited this? I don’t know. Did I merit getting the job in the beginning? I’m not sure. That’s just how things work out in baseball. That’s the game. That’s the business.
“Look, I want this to be positive as it can be. I enjoyed working for Doug. I got to know him better through this process, and he was great. And I’ve said this a bunch: the people in the City of Milwaukee were tremendous. That’s a tremendous baseball city, and I wish people understood how supportive they are. I don’t understand why more free agents wouldn’t want to come there. You’ve got a packed house every night, and everywhere you go the people were encouraging you. That was tremendous.
“Any time you get into a situation [where you're let go] you sit back and say, ‘How can I make myself better?’ Sure, there’s a couple of things I would do a little differently. But not a whole lot.” 
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Macha, Melvin to meet Monday morning

Someone had to take the fall for the Brewers’ second straight summer of missed expectations, and manager Ken Macha endured speculation for weeks that would be the guy. On Monday, it’s expected to be official. 
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cited unnamed club sources on Sunday evening in reporting that Macha had managed his final game for the Brewers. Macha was to meet face-to-face with general manager Doug Melvin at 8 a.m. on Monday. 
It would an easy break for the team — Macha just finished his two-year contract and the Brewers could simply decline to exercise his 2011 option. 
If the Brewers indeed name a change, Melvin would begin the search for the 18th manager in Brewers history. That pick would be the team’s sixth skipper in the past eight years, and the fifth different manager under Melvin, if you count the man he inherited (Jerry Royster) at the end of 2002. 
The Brewers won the National League Wild Card under interim manager Dale Sveum in 2008 but couldn’t repeat that success under Macha, who, depending on your outlook, either did not get much from his pitching staffs or was saddled with poor staffs to start with. The Brewers finished next-to-last among NL teams in starters’ ERA in 2009, and moved up only one spot in 2010 despite a stellar September. 
Hitters, meanwhile, expressed off-the-record frustration with his station-to-station brand of baseball, but Macha tried to stress what he insisted was an open-door policy with players beginning this spring with individual sit-downs with the team’s stars, and he often defended his lack of movement on the bases as playing to the team’s obvious strength — its power. 
Along the way, Macha made no apologies for his steely style. 
“I had a little sit-down with Mark [Attanasio, the Brewers principal owner] a couple of months ago, saying that I’m not here to schmooze up to anybody or anything like that,” Macha said after the Brewers’ last home game. “I just want to come in and try to do what’s right. I think if everyone approaches their job that way and says, hey, look, I just want to do what’s right, you can go to sleep that night and wake up the next morning, regardless of what the results were that day before, and look forward. … 
“At the end, you should have peace of mind because you’re doing the right thing.” 
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Brewers hit home stretch

You can add outfielder Corey Hart to the list of those wondering what could have been for the Brewers this season had they been able to hit and pitch at the same time. 
“It might have been different,” said Hart. 
Instead, the pitching scuffled early and the hitting sort of scuffled late, leaving the Brewers to finish another lost season this weekend in Cincinnati. Mark Rogers, Chris Capuano and Randy Wolf are your starters for the final series of the year. 
The Brewers are going out on individual high notes. In Thursday’s win over the Mets, Chris Narveson lowered his ERA under 5.00 for the first time since April, Casey McGehee and Corey Hart each reached 100 RBIs, Ryan Braun scored his 100th run and Prince Fielder matched his own club record with his 110th walk. 
Those offensive milestones all came during an 11-batter rally that put a 9-2 win out of reach. 
“[Manager Ken] Macha was really good about it because he knew what we were going after,” Hart said. “Obviously, you have team goals, but he saw we were right there and he was determined to keep us in there until we got it done.” 
McGehee played seven games without driving in a run before finally notching RBI No. 100 on a ninth-inning error charged to Mets catcher Mike Nickeas, one of three New York errors in the game and two on that same play. Fielder followed with a walk, matching his club record set last season, and Hart followed with a sharp single to right field to score Braun, giving the Brewers two milestones with one swing. Hart reached 100 RBIs for the first time in his career, and Braun scored 100 for the second straight season. Braun joined Cecil Cooper (1982-83) as the only players in franchise history to post consecutive seasons with 100 runs and 100 RBIs. 
The Brewers and Yankees are the only teams with three 100-RBI players this season. It’s the fourth time in franchise history that the Brewers have had at least three, and the first time since 1982. 
If you think this stuff doesn’t mean anything to the boys in navy blue, think again. After McGehee’s RBI, Braun pumped both of his fists in the air in McGehee’s direction. When Hart slapped his hit to right field, he pumped his right fist on the way to first base. 
“We all pretend like we don’t pay attention, but it’s impossible not to,” Braun said. “Especially because that 100th RBI is kind of the number that solidifies that you’ve had a great year as a run-producer.” 
McGehee had been working on his for a while. He drove in four runs on Sept. 22 but was blanked in the week that followed. 
In the end, he logged No. 100 on a 40-foot grounder that was misplayed by the catcher. McGehee wasn’t sure at first that he would get an RBI, but learned later that the official scorer had ruled in his favor. 
“Definitely a relief,” McGehee said. “As much as I tried not to worry about it, it was hard not to be aware of it. Really, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know how big a deal it is. It’s just a nice, round number, really. At the same time, you’re so close to it, you might as well push to get that one more.” 
Don’t forget Narveson in this discussion, because he did just enough to lower his ERA just below 5.00, where it had stood since he was working out of the Brewers’ bullpen in April. 
He exited with two outs in the seventh inning and a runner at first base, and reliever Carlos Villanueva preserved Narveson’s ERA by striking out Jose Reyes with a runner at first base. Reyes had a dreadful night, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts and a pair of groundouts to the mound. Reyes also dropped an easy pop-up that extended the Brewers’ half of the fifth inning for Lorenzo Cain’s two-run double. 
“When I came out, [Dave Bush] told me, ‘You’re at 4.99,’” Narveson said. “It was pretty sweet. It was kind of a goal of mine to get there in the final month and I was able to get there.” 
Narveson’s last start was also my last game of the season covering the team from the press box. I’ll be back next week with the beginning of what should be a very interesting offseason, but wanted first to say thank you to everybody who read the blog, followed me on Twitter and dropped me e-mails throughout the season. It’s been a fun back-and-forth, and I look forward to continuing the conversation over the hot stove. 
Enjoy the final three games…
 
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