Results tagged ‘ Gord Ash ’

Weeks sets deadline for contract talks

Brewers officials say they aren’t worried about second baseman Rickie Weeks self-imposed start of Spring Training deadline for talks between his agent and the club about a contract extension.
Weeks is in his final winter of arbitration eligibility and could reach free agency following the 2011 season if the sides cannot reach an agreement on an extension. He doesn’t want to be distracted by those discussions after reporting to Maryvale Baseball Park later this month.
“After Spring Training [begins], I want to focus on the year and the team,” Weeks said.
But that deadline didn’t bother Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who has been handling discussions with agent Greg Genske regarding Weeks. 
Ash and Genske were believed to have tabled multi-year talks to focus on a one-year deal on Jan. 18, when Weeks filed for $7.2 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $4.85 million. But Ash said Sunday at “Brewers On Deck” that the multi-year talks were never totally abandoned, and that the sides have had “parallel” discussions all along in hopes of avoiding an arbitration hearing that is scheduled for Feb. 17. 
“I think the process creates a deadline, to some degree,” Ash said. “We continue to talk about all kinds of different things, ever since the first of December. I don’t see [Weeks' deadline] as an issue at all. …
“In fact, I’m glad he said that, because that’s the way it should be. Once you get on the field, that’s where your focus needs to be.”
The gap in Weeks’ filing figure and the Brewers’ is $2.345 million. The midpoint of figures is $6.025 million.
Ash said that if the talks swing toward a multi-year agreement, a deal could be struck very quickly. 
“We’re still talking,” Ash said. “That’s good news when you’re still talking. … There have been multi-year deals of significance done in a half-hour. You know what the market is and you have willingness on both sides, they’re actually pretty easy to do if there’s an understandoing of that the ‘deal zone’ is.”
The trouble with Weeks has been finding that zone. On one hand he’s coming off his best season,having led the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot. On the other hand, it was Weeks’ first injury-free season in years.
Weeks said he’d spoken to Ash and general manager Doug Melvin and expressed his interest in an extension. The more difficult part is reaching an agreement.
“I can’t say if I’m disappointed or not,” Weeks said. “It is what it is. Of course, I’m a Brewer this year and that’s all that matters. I’m happy for the team. They made some great moves this year to help us get to that next level and go deep into the playoffs. It sounds good on paper, but we have to work it out.”
Weeks is one of two arbitration-eligible Brewers still unsigned. The other is pitcher Shaun Marcum, who is seeking $5 million in 2011. The Brewers countered at $3 million. Marcum’s hearing is scheduled for the week of Feb. 7.
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New fix for Miller Park shadows: Move the roof

shadow.jpgPhoto courtesy Bob Brainerd/FS Wisconsin
After getting approval from the stadium operations staff and the umpiring crew, the Brewers tried a new fix for the notoriously tough daytime shadows at Miller Park on Sunday by manipulating part of the ballpark’s fan-shaped retractable roof. 
General manager Doug Melvin said it was manager Ken Macha’s idea. Usually, the roof panels stack on top of each other above each of the foul lines, two movable panels in left field and three in right, creating a line of sunlight and shadow that creeps across the infield early in afternoon games. The effect is particularly tough, hitters say, when the pitcher’s mound is bathed in sunlight and the batter’s box is in the shade.
On Sunday, two of the right-field panels were left hanging over right field instead of being tucked in their usually, full-open position. That meant both pitcher and hitter were in the shadows from the first pitch. 
“This has to be an ongoing experiment,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said, “because the position of the sun is different at different times of the year.”
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are the two most prominent critics of the hitting conditions during the day at Miller Park. They have suggested simply closing the roof for day games, but that is not considered a good option, partly because Miller Park is heated, but not air-conditioned, and partly because part of the fan experience is enjoying the game on a beautiful, sunny day. 
The Brewers were interested in a third-party opinion of the shadows issue so they contacted Mike Port, Major League Baseball’s vice president of umpiring. Port who surveyed the umps and found that they, too, have particular trouble seeing the baseball on sunny days in Milwaukee.
“This is a real issue,” Ash said.  
The Brewers are moving two day games to the night in 2011, Ash said — one Saturday in April and another weekday during the summer. But they cannot — and do not wish to — completely eliminate daytime baseball, so club officials have tried taking other steps. 
Last offseason, the Brewers removed ivy beyond the center field wall that created glare, and re-painted the hitting background with dark, glare-resistant paint. 
One big problem remains, and the Brewers are not sure there is a fix for the large banks of windows above the grandstands that allow light in during the late afternoon and early evening. Players have suggested tinting the windows, but that would block the light necessary for grass to grow on the field. The Brewers have looked into a massive system of blinds, but it would require a seven-figure investment. 
That’s cost-prohibitive, officials say, at least for now. So manipulating the roof to cover the early innings was the next best option. 
Major League Baseball has rules governing the operation of retractable domes, but they mostly cover the timing of such moves and not the positioning of panels. When Ash was GM in Toronto, for example, the Blue Jays would manipulate a certain roof panel to provide shade for fans in the stands. But it didn’t affect the way sunlight hit the field, he said. 
“You can’t, for example, open the roof while [the opponent] is hitting and then move it like this when we’re up,” Ash said. “Wherever you set it, it has to stay there.”
To make sure, the Brewers consulted with umpire Mike Reilly, the crew chief working the Brewers-Pirates series this weekend. 
Neither team had trouble hitting in the first inning on Sunday. Pirates rookie Neil Walker connected against Brewers starter Dave Bush for a two-run home run in the top of the inning, and the Brewers scored three runs on three hits against Charlie Morton in the bottom half. 
Braun finished 4-for-4 with his 19th home run, and reached safely all five times up. But he declined to talk to reporters after the Brewers’ 8-4 win. 
What did Dave Bush and the rest of the Brewers’ pitchers think?
“I’m smart enough to know it’s not a pitching game any more,” Bush said. “It’s an offensive game between the ballparks and baseballs and everything else. Everything is geared toward hitters right now. In that regard, I’m not surprised. 
“But it’s just part of the game, and when I’m out on the mound I’m worried about what I’m doing, the pitch I’m trying to throw. If we score eight every time with the roof half-closed, I’ll be all right with that.”
Macha deflected questions to the players, especially one about whether there are times a manager tries psychological ploys to draw out performance. 
“Me? Psychological things? Those are all questions for them,” Macha said. “I come to the ballpark and my focus is there. I’m ready to go.”
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Melvin counters critics of his pitching record

Brewers GM Doug Melvin has begun a vocal campaign to counter critics of his club’s record of drafting, developing and otherwise acquiring pitchers over the years, and he called a couple of the team’s regular beat reporters up to the new “war room” at Miller Park this week to air some of this thoughts. You can read his defense in a story that went live over at Brewers.com this afternoon.
Melvin admits mistakes but argues that they are no more glaring than those made by other teams. More importantly to him, the team has a plan in place that Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash believe will help limit those mistakes in the future. 
It was a very candid chat about the Brewers’ recent past and their future, and I hope you enjoy it. The comments section here is typically quiet but I’d like to get the discussion going on this one: What do you think of Melvin’s self defense?
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Fielder talks begin quietly

If the Brewers have begun discussions with agent Scott Boras about first baseman Prince Fielder’s contract, club officials were not willing to talk about it on Thursday.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash returned to camp on Thursday after an absence all day Wednesday. Asked specifically whether it had anything to do with Fielder, Melvin said only “we took a little trip.” 
Asked where that trip took him, Melvin said again: “We took a little trip.” Ash wouldn’t dish, either, joking to a reporter that, “we don’t have to tell you guys everything.”
Fielder himself was more forthcoming, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Brewers officials indeed met with Boras but did not make an offer. 
It made sense that the trip took place since Melvin, Ash and principal owner Mark Attanasio spent some time last week discussing how the club would approach talks with Boras, who is based in Los Angeles. Melvin has said repeatedly this spring that if and when negotiations begin, they would happen in private. 
Fielder is under contract for 2010 and has a year of arbitration eligibility remaining for 2011, but he has been a topic of internal conversation for Melvin & Co. because the Brewers have to figure out how best to handle the next two years. If the sides cannot work out an extension — Fielder, after all, has the same right to test free agency as any player — then the Brewers would have to at least consider whether it makes sense to weigh trade offers. 
The last time they faced this situation was in 2006 with left fielder Carlos Lee. When Lee’s camp turned down a four-year offer worth about $48 million, the Brewers traded him to the Rangers for a package that included closer Francisco Cordero rather than lose him via free agency and get nothing but Draft picks in return. 
The difference is that Fielder is still two years removed from free agent eligibility, and both sides have made the point that there is no rush to negotiate. 
While that business matter continues to simmer, the San Francisco Giants took care of their own business with Fielder on Thursday afternoon when Barry Zito’s first pitch to Fielder plunked him right in the middle of the back. It was almost certainly a punctuation mark to Fielder’s choreographed celebration with his teammates at home plate after his 12th-inning home run beat the Giants last Sept. 6. The Giants didn’t appreciate the show because they were still fighting for the playoffs. 
Nearly six months later, Fielder simply flipped the baseball that had struck him back in Zito’s direction and trotted to first base. Casey McGehee then struck out to end the top of the first inning. 
“I hit the home run. Hit me,” Fielder said after coming out of the game. “If that’s what you’ve got to do, then that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Fielder said he had no regrets about the September celebration. He was proud of himself for staying calm and avoiding a scene like the one that unfolded at Dodger Stadium last August, when television cameras caught Fielder charging toward the Dodgers clubhouse in search of former teammate Guillermo Mota, who had plunked him with a pitch. Mota, coincidentally, signed over the winter with the Giants.
“Every time someone does something I’m always the one videotaped. So I’m trying to be a good guy,” Fielder said. “I [don't] want kids to see me that way so I’m trying to maintain. Unfortunately, some people like to test it sometimes. I’m working on it. I’m tired of being the bad guy. I took my base and everything was fine.”
 
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Report: Hart hearing is Thursday

The Brewers remain in a contractual standoff with right-fielder Corey Hart and appear almost certain to go all the way to an arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday afternoon.  
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was first to report the top-secret date of Hart’s hearing, and two Brewers officials confirmed it. Hart’s hearing comes on the first date of trials between teams and their still-unsigned arbitration-eligible players, and he may be the first hearing of the year, though Brewers officials cannot be sure.  
Hart, who earned $3.25 million last season in his first year of eligibility, filed for $4.8 million this time and is represented by agent Jeff Berry. The Brewers countered with a $4.15 million offer and have not spoken with Berry since Jan. 29, when a team-imposed deadline passed without a compromise.  
Either way, Hart will be a Brewer in 2010 and will get at least a $900,000 raise. But for now, the sides remain in disagreement over his value.  
“There has been no movement,” Brewers negotiator Teddy Werner said. “I haven’t spoken to Jeff since two Fridays ago when we made that hard deadline. We’re certainly open to getting a deal done before hand because nobody really wants to go to a hearing. But the way the discussions have evolved, it appears we are headed that way.” 
Berry was not immediately available to comment.  
Werner and assistant general manager Gord Ash were scheduled to take a Tuesday afternoon flight from snowy Milwaukee to Tampa-St. Petersburg ahead of Thursday’s hearing. If it goes that far, it would be the Brewers’ first arbitration hearing since they lost a case to pitcher Jose Mercedes in 1998.  
Only three players have gone all the way to a hearing with the Brewers. Mercedes won in ’98, but the Brewers successfully argued against pitcher Mike Fetters in 1995 and infielder Jim Gantner in 1992.  
The process has evolved over the years, but today, each side presents a 60-minute oral argument to a three-member panel of judges along with a binder of statistics and graphs supporting its case. After a very brief recess, each side then has 30 minutes of rebuttal.  
After that, it’s up to the arbitrators. They have 24 hours to render a decision and must pick one figure or the other. There’s no more room for compromise.  
While the Brewers are waiting for the decision on Hart on Friday, they will be paying close attention to the Giants’ scheduled case with ace right-hander Tim Lincecum, who is seeking a record $13 million in arbitration. If Lincecum wins, it could affect the Brewers’ negotiations next year with right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Manny Parra, who are both eligible for arbitration for the first time. 
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Brewers have worked waiver wonders

casey-mcgehee.jpgThe addition of Marco Estrada on Wednesday had me thinking back to some of the Brewers’ notable waiver wire additions, from GM Doug Melvin’s first-ever acquisition (Scott Podsednik) in 2002 to a Cubs castoff-turned-Brewers starter (Casey McGehee) in 2008. 

The waiver wire is especially important to lower-budget teams like the Brewers, and Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash, head pro scout Dick Groch and the rest of Milwaukee’s front office has fared pretty well over the years. 
Here’s a look at their pick-ups, organized into three tiers. Who would you rate as Melvin’s best find? What about the biggest disappointment?
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Technically, 35 on the roster

Just wanted to correct something from several Wednesday articles published after the Brewers claimed catcher George Kottaras from the Boston Red Sox. I wrote in a couple of places that the move left the Brewers with 36 players on the 40-man roster, and while that eventually may prove true, at the moment it is not. Players claimed off release waivers have five days to decide whether to accept the claim and remain on the 40-man roster, or to decline and become a free agent.

As of this writing, Kottaras is still in that grey area. Unless he is sure that another team will offer him a place on its roster, he’ll probably accept and join the group of catchers under consideration by the Brewers for 2010.

Thanks to our Jonathan Mayo for asking why Major League Baseball is listing only 35 players on the roster, and to Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash for providing the quick answer. You learn a new roster rule every day.

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Melvin: Trading Fielder, Braun would be 'tough one'

Detail05 copy.jpgBrewers general manager Doug Melvin said he may need to sacrifice some of the team’s offense this winter to improve the pitching staff, so he was asked the obvious follow-up. Is he willing to trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder

“Wow. That would be a tough one,” Melvin said. “I didn’t mean it that way. I don’t see that happening.” 

The comment came Wednesday during Melvin’s annual year-end meeting with local reporters at Miller Park. Both Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash said what they have been saying for weeks, that in order to improve a team that finished 80-82 they will have to bolster a pitching staff that finished next-to-last in the National League with a 4.87 ERA, including dead last with a 5.37 starters’ ERA. Melvin said he wants to add at least two established starters.

Thumbnail image for fantasy_a_braun_fielder_300.jpgThe team’s most valuable pieces at the moment are Braun and Fielder, who combined in 2009 for more RBIs (255) than any duo in the Majors this season. Braun hit 32 home runs, joining Albert Pujols as the only players in history to belt at least 30 homers in each of their first three seasons. Fielder finished second in the NL with 46 home runs and tied Howard for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs. 

“But it’s a 25-man — and, really, a 30-35 man — team,” Melvin said. “In fantasy baseball, you can dream about what you could get back for Prince or Ryan Braun. In reality, there’s not too many teams that can give up the package that we would really want that would guarantee you to be competitive.” 

Ash said there have been spirited internal debates on the topic. Is there more value in a bona fide No. 1 starter who makes 30-plus starts and affects perhaps 20 other games by leaving the bullpen fresh? Or in an MVP candidate like Fielder who plays every inning of every game and has the potential to affect all 162? 

“I’m going with the hitter,” Ash said.  

In fact, Brewers officials have had internal discussions about whether Fielder could be locked into a longer-term deal, according to Melvin. He’s entering the second season of two-year contract through 2010 that buys out the first of Fielder’s three arbitration years. He will still be under Brewers control in 2011 but would hit the free agent market following that season. 

Compare that to Braun, whose contract runs through 2015. If the Brewers could convince Fielder and agent Scott Boras to take an extension, it would give the Brewers a larger window in which to put the right pieces around their slugging duo. 

“That’s something we have talked about with Mark [Attanasio, the team's principal owner],” Melvin said. “We don’t have a plan for doing that at this time. You can say it’s in the back of your mind or whatever, but it’s coming more forward as a decision we have to make in two years’ time. …

“Mark, from an ownership standpoint, knows that’s a major decision that’s down the pike. It’s not next week, it’s not next month, but it probably comes up in our conversation every time we get together.”

In the short-term, the Brewers’ focus is on the pitching. Melvin knows that it won’t be easy to find solutions. 

“There’s not any downtime this offseason, but I’m looking forward to it,” Melvin said. “It’s a challenge. I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m ready to improve the ballclub.” 

Melvin03 copy.jpg
Ash01 copy.jpgAll photos courtesy of Scott Paulus/Brewers

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Tidbits: Hoffman, Suppan, Sheets, Hardy

The discussion about whether the Brewers would trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder was the most interesting part of general manager Doug Melvin’s year-end wrap-up with the media, but here’s a taste of the other topics discussed:

- The Brewers officially announced their new deal with closer Trevor Hoffman, who re-signed for one year plus a mutual option for 2011. The contract guarantees $8 million and could pay as much as $16.5 million over two years. 

 “By signing Trevor Hoffman, that was a big splash for us,” Melvin said. “If our pitching is going to improve, we have to keep the success we had at the back end of our bullpen. And also, to attract free agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, ‘Who is the closer?’” 

- Melvin hinted that the focus on pitching could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its key free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall. Rickie Weeks is the second baseman, Melvin reiterated, making it likely that free agent Felipe Lopez will also be let go.

Assistant GM Gord Ash conceded that it’s difficult for teams to win with unproven players up the middle but insisted it can be done. He mentioned Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer as the team’s top center field prospects and said Jonathan Lucroy was the team’s top catching prospect. Interestingly, Angel Salome’s name was not brought up.

- Jeff Suppan, the Brewers’ 2009 Opening Day starter, is not guaranteed a spot in the 2010 starting rotation despite his $12.5 million salary. It will be the final season of his four-year contract, and he projects as the team’s highest-paid player for the second straight year. 

“I think Jeff is a professional and he knows that he will come into camp and [compete],” Melvin said. “You have to give him some credit for the fact he’s been given the ball a lot of years. He’s very seldom injured. … I don’t think there will be very many guarantees about who will be in the rotation. We probably have to make it more competitive to get better.” 

- Free agent righty Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, is still on the Brewers’ radar.

“Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody’s list when it comes to improving your pitching staff,” Ash said. “We’re not up to date with his physical condition right now since he’s no longer in our care, so that would have to be Step 1. But from our point of view, we enjoyed Ben as part of the Brewers and there’s been, ‘once in a while’ conversations with his agent to remind him that we still have that ongoing interest. It hasn’t been followed-up yet.”

- Melvin already interviewed one potential pitching coach on Monday and was to travel with Ash on Thursday to interview another candidate. He wouldn’t say whether he had already spoken with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, an early favorite for the position because of his past working relationships with Brewers manager Ken Macha and bench coach Willie Randolph

“We don’t want to advertise who we’re looking at,” Melvin said. “The cat’s out of the bag on one guy. I interviewed him on Monday and another team interviewed him the next day.” 

- Ash shed more light on the options that faced third baseman Casey McGehee, who underwent successful surgery on Tuesday. McGehee has a lesion in his knee, Ash said, that causes fragments of bone to break away. He could have had a more intensive procedure to inject healthy cells into the knee to promote re-growth but it was a riskier procedure that could have sidelined McGehee weeks or even months into the 2010 season. 

“He elected, after consulting with a couple of surgeons, to have kind of the intermediary procedure done, and that was to take out all of the fragments and hope that area of his knee remains intact,” Ash said. “We don’t have 100 percent guarantee on that. What we do know about Casey is that he’s an excellent worker and he’s motivated.” 

- Melvin did little to dispute the notion that shortstop J.J. Hardy will be traded this winter to make room for Alcides Escobar. Hardy’s value is down both because of his poor 2009 season (he batted .229 and was optioned to the Minors in August) and because the rest of the league knows that the Brewers are ready to install Escobar. 

“It might be down a little bit,” Melvin said of Hardy’s value. “But there are still clubs that have interest in him. Shortstop is a big hole to fill.”

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No Macha news today

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash re-joined the team on Friday on St. Louis, but Melvin said he didn’t plan to make any announcements about manager Ken Macha’s future until Saturday at the earliest.

“I’m not going to do anything today,” Melvin said.

Macha is under contract for 2010 and Melvin is expected to ask him back. What’s unclear is whether Melvin will be willing to tack anything onto the deal, be it a club option for 2011 or more guaranteed years. Macha expected to sit down with Melvin following Friday’s game.

“I’ll let him be the spokesman,” Macha said.

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio arrived at Busch Stadium with Melvin and Ash about an hour before the start of the season’s final series to address the team.

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