Results tagged ‘ Ken Macha ’

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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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. 
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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Recapping a busy home finale

The Brewers beat the Marlins in a 7-1 rout in Sunday’s home finale, but the result was secondary on an emotional afternoon at Miller Park. For those who have yet to sift through the links on, here’s a bit of a recap:

— Their 2010 season was a dud, so Brewers fans instead made the team’s home finale a celebration of individual milestones and sendoffs for players who are likely moving on. They turned a win over the Marlins into a series of standing ovations and almost made everyone forget that the team still has a week to play.
Ryan Braun came from behind to win the Brewers’ three-man race to 100 RBIs, Prince Fielder homered in what could be his final home game with the Brewers and Trevor Hoffman made one last entrance to AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.” All three players were showered with love from the 29,059 fans, who pushed the Brewers’ season attendance over 2.75 million.
— On more note on Hoffman: Sunday marked his 35th game finished, a milestone that pushed the cost of the buyout of his 2011 club option from $500,000 to $750,000. That financial boost aside, Hoffman once more thanked his supporters for never giving up on him.
“I can’t begin to say thanks enough,” Hoffman said. “For a guy sitting on a six-ERA and part of a big problem, to get treated like I did by the fans here — I appreciate their support.”
— Hoffman was offered a standing ovation and so was Fielder, who might just have played his final home game for the Brewers. Fielder commented before the game to me and after the game to me and 30 of my closest microphone-wielding friends about his uncertain future. 
He didn’t offer much in the way of insight, saying that he’s under contract for 2011 and planning to be back. Whether he departs this winter, Fielder said, “is not up to me,” once again glossing over the point that he reportedly turned down a significant contract offer earlier this year. 
— The only blemish of the Brewers’ win over the Marlins came in the seventh inning, when starter Chris Capuano exited with a groin injury. He downplayed its significance and talked instead about his inspiring comeback season from a second Tommy John surgery, and touched briefly on his own uncertain future. Capuano is a free agent for the first time. 
— Staying on the “uncertain future” theme, manager Ken Macha made sure to get Craig Counsell into the lineup for Sunday’s finale. Counsell, too, is a free agent, and said he’s going to take the best available offer this winter. He’s earned that right. 
— Then there’s Macha himself, who was asked by reporters after the game about his own contract status. Here are Doug Melvin’s brief comments on that situation, saying that the team will wait until after the season to announce any personnel decisions. 
And while we’re at it, here are a couple of other links you may have missed over the weekend:
Mark DiFelice is coming back to the Brewers in 2011. I learned subsequently that catchers Patrick Arlis and Anderson Delarosa, infielder Anderson Machado and left-hander Chase Wright have also already signed Minor League deals for next season. 
— Our report about the Brewers’ Minor League player and pitcher of the year includes video of both Erik Komatsu and Jake Odorizzi, not to mention amateur scouting director Bruce Seid. 
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Could Rogers, Jeffress get Phil Hughes treatment?

Brewers manager Ken Macha offered an interesting idea for recently-promoted pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Mark Rogers, both of whom have history as starters but are currently in Milwaukee’s bullpen. Treat them in 2011 like the Yankees did right-hander Phil Hughes, who pitched in relief in 2009 before moving permanently to New York’s starting rotation this season. 
“If you took those guys and you started them, their innings would probably pile up to the point where you’d get into July and say, ‘These guys have enough innings,'” Macha said. “If you took a year and you pitched them out of the bullpen, say for 70-80 innings in multiple-inning stints, kind of like the Yankees broke in Phil Hughes, then you have a starter for the next year.”
It’s an intriguing way to get Jeffress and Rogers, neither of whom have much experience above Double-A, into the big league mix for 2011 without giving up on them as starters for 2012 and beyond. The Brewers’ long-term need is obviously starting pitching, and they have already moved Zach Braddock to relief. 
Something to think about as we start looking ahead to next year.
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Melvin conducting annual club review

Brewers manager Ken Macha met for more than 90 minutes Saturday afternoon with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash, part of Melvin’s annual review of the organization. The sit-down did not include any discussion of Macha’s future beyond 2010. 
Macha is in the second season of a two-year contract, though the club holds an option for 2011. 
“We just talked about the players,” Macha said. “We spent equal amount of time on all aspects [of the team].” 
Melvin holds similar meetings every year with members of the coaching staff, athletic training staff and scouting department. 
Last year, Melvin pre-empted speculation about Macha’s future on the final day of the regular season by announcing the manager would be back for 2010 with an option year added onto his contract. Macha has been given no promises about a similar heads-up at the end of this season. 
“That’s entirely up to them, how they want to handle it,” Macha said. 
It’s been a disappointing season for the Brewers, who once again rank near the bottom of the National League in starting pitching and entered Saturday’s game against the Cubs with a 65-75 record, in fourth place in the NL Central. The Brewers have owned a losing record every day since April 23, when they were 8-8.
“I want to win,” Macha said. “It hasn’t happened this year. We’ve got some young guys in there now and we’ll see how they do.” 
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Rookies making impact

It seems to me that the silver lining of an otherwise lost Brewers season is the slew of rookies who have proven they fit at the Major League level. With that in mind, here’s a preview of a feature set to hit later today:

The Brewers broke camp with one rookie on the Opening Day roster — shortstop Alcides Escobar. Now, they’re everywhere. 
“It feels like half the team!” Escobar said. 
Not quite, but the Brewers have certainly skewed younger since the start of the season. On a given day in August the Brewers could start Escobar at shortstop, Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate and Lorenzo Cain in center field, with Zach Braddock ready in relief to face the opponent’s toughest left-handed hitter and John Axford on hand for a save opportunity.
When rosters expanded on Wednesday, right-hander Jeremy Jeffress joined the group. He’s only 22, and when he trotted in for the bottom of the eighth inning against the Reds, he threw his first pitch above Double-A. 
This is not necessarily the way general manager Doug Melvin drew it up in Spring Training. Cain and Lucroy, in particular, probably could have used more Minor League seasoning considering they both began the year in Double-A. But as needs arose, Melvin reacted. 
And the kids responded. 
“When we came up, we knew we had a job to do,” Braddock said. “There was going to be a learning period, but we also needed to do the job that was asked of us.”
Braddock and Axford — along with non-rookie Kameron Loe — were crucial in the Brewers’ midseason makeover of a bullpen that cost them dearly in April. Braddock has a 2.76 ERA in 36 games and, while he allowed a couple of inherited runners to score on Wednesday, is unscored upon in all but four of his outings. Axford claimed the closer’s role brilliantly from Trevor Hoffman, going 19-for-21 in save chances including seven saves of four or more outs. 
Lucroy was summoned in May after the Brewers lost starting catcher Gregg Zaun to a season-ending shoulder and top catching prospect Angel Salome to personal issues. Lucroy has proven serviceable, hitting .265 with four home runs and showing improvement in his game-calling and defense. 
The Brewers promoted Cain briefly in July and then recalled him for good in early August when center fielder Carlos Gomez went on the disabled list with a concussion. Cain has taken hold of the position, flashing some surprisingly spectacular defense while hitting .300 with a .351 on-base percentage in 70 at-bats.
Escobar has had the ups and downs the Brewers expected during his rookie season. He’s hitting .251. 
It will take some time for them to really settle in. 
“They’re coming along,” manager Ken Macha said. “But my experience is that normally it takes about three years for guys really to settle into the Major Leagues. You know who’s pitching, how they pitched you, you start to learn the hitters, what they do, all that kind of stuff. 
“You’re comfortable with your surroundings. You know what to expect when you come to the ballpark. It takes some time for guys to make that leap forward to being a Major League player.” 
Which Brewers rookie do you think will end up being the best Major Leaguer?
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Big week ahead for Cain

Brewers rookie outfielder Lorenzo Cain made the most of his two weekend starts against left-handed pitchers, and now comes the really interesting part. The D-backs will feature right-handed starters throughout the four-game series this week at Miller Park, and Jim Edmonds won’t play all of those games in center field. 

That means a key opportunity for Cain.
“He’s not going to sit all four of those games,” manager Ken Macha said. “He’s going to play.”
Macha would like to see Cain log some more Triple-A at-bats before playing him every day in the Majors, but necessity is forcing the manager’s hand. Carlos Gomez is out with a concussion, Jim Edmonds is hobbled by a sore Achilles and Joe Inglett has been much more effective off the bench. 
Cain is 6-for-12 in his first six Major League games and on Sunday logged his first three RBIs and his first stolen base. 
“I’m hoping for many more stolen bases, many more RBIs,” said Cain, 24. “I’m just trying to go out there and be consistent.” 
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Macha concerned about beanballs

After this week’s rash of beanballs, Brewers manager Ken Macha again called on Major League Baseball to better enforce the spirit of Rule 8.02(d), which instructs umpires to either warn or eject pitchers after intentionally pitching at the batter. 
Melvin showed reporters a March 23, 2010 memo from Major League Baseball executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon that was sent to general managers, field managers and umpires. 
“In exercising their judgement [of whether a pitch was intentional]”, Solomon wrote, “umpires have been instructed to be mindful that, given the skill of most Major League pitchers, a pitch that is thrown at the head of a batter more likely than not was thrown there intentionally.”
In Macha’s view, umpires need to take a harsher stance against pitchers who throw pitches at batter’s heads. The Brewers’ Carlos Gomez was beaned on Monday at Wrigley Field and missed the rest of the series as a precaution. Both the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen and the D-backs’ Mark Reynolds were hit in the head on Tuesday. 
“Everybody is getting hit in the head and nobody is getting thrown out,” said Macha, who has had a series of conversations with Major League officials on the topic of hit batsmen this season. The Brewers had been struck 57 times this season entering Wednesday’s finale in Chicago, most in baseball. The White Sox were second with 51. 
“It’s only going to change when some hitters go to the Players Association to say, ‘What are you going to do to protect us?'” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. 
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Macha: Cain needs Triple-A time

Outfielder Lorenzo Cain was “impressive” in a weeklong stint with the Brewers, manager Ken Macha said. That didn’t stop the team from shipping him back to the Minor Leagues. 
Cain, 24, was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on Thursday to clear a spot for right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo’s return from the disabled list. Cain went 3-for-5 in his brief Major League debut, and was robbed of extra bases in his first big league at-bat by Braves left fielder Matt Diaz. 
In sending out Cain, the Brewers opted to keep its other speedy center fielder, Carlos Gomez, who entered Thursday with a .292 on-base percentage. Gomez and Cain both have Minor League options remaining. 
“[Cain] was impressive,” Macha said. “Very impressive. But this is a guy who has [41] at-bats in Triple-A. He needs to go play. That’s not eliminating that he may be back up here in a month or two weeks or something like that. He certainly has the tools to play center field and steal bases and swing the bat, but he missed a lot of last year with injuries, too. … 
“The honest answer is this: Lorenzo Cain missed a lot of the year last year, has [41] at-bats in Triple-A. He hasn’t even proven himself in Triple-A yet. To expose him to Major League pitching every day at this particular point in his career would probably do a disservice to him and our organization.”
Cain missed most of last season with a knee injury and began 2010 at Double-A Huntsville. Following a promotion to Nashville, he went 14-for-41 (.341) in 10 games with four stolen bases. 
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