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Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010

Maybe Macha Didn’t Have Enough Vision

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Ken, we hardly knew ye. The Macha managerial era in Brewers history ended after two seasons when the team finished at 77-85, three games worse than the year before. The quiet, professorial Macha had nothing but winning seasons and two playoffs in four years with Oakland, but things didn't click here. The usual laments about "the wrong style" and "lack of chemistry" were heard, but the Observers have another theory.

Frank
: Silver hair, glasses, the bookworm look—I swear, Ken Macha and Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon are dead ringers.

Artie
: Except that Maddon's specs have those thick black frames.

Frank
: And maybe that was Macha's fatal flaw. Maddon's mighty frames have to support some powerful lenses. Maybe if Macha had bulked up in his eyewear, he'd have seen whatever Maddon saw to get the Rays to the playoffs.

Artie
: Like consistently good pitching?

Frank: Well, Tampa Bay was second in American League ERA at 3.78; Milwaukee was 14th, at 4.58, in the league with no DHs.

Artie: Macha saw decent pitching in the last month, when it didn't matter.

Frank
: I will say that Maddon is a little looser, plays to the media more.

Artie
: Hell, Macha makes Charlie Manuel look like Mick Jagger, ain’a?

Frank
: But that composure was one reason Macha was hired to succeed the increasingly excitable Ned Yost. Now there's all this stuff about Macha's not "relating" to young players, with Corey Hart saying he didn't understand what a bunch of exuberant free spirits he had. Are we supposed to believe that things would have been different if Macha had approved of untucked shirts after victories or the Prince Fielder "earthquake" stunt after a walk-off homer?

Artie
: Bobby Cox wouldn't have liked that either. But the young players in Atlanta didn't have any problems with him, and they made the playoffs.

Frank
: Macha was refreshingly candid for a manager. Not harshly, but he'd say, "We didn't get that done," or, "We needed more innings out of our starter," in situations where Yost would have contorted himself to sound positive.

Artie
: Ah, those Ned-isms. "Soup pitched great except for those three pitches that landed in the bleachers."

Frank
: Maybe that's really what the young players didn't like; Macha didn't stroke them enough.

Artie
: Maybe he didn't patronize Ryan Braun's restaurant enough.

Frank
: Is it Macha's fault that the pitching generally stunk, that Carlos Gomez was a bust in center field, that the graybeard free agents Doug Melvin signed broke down?

Artie: Or that Prince Fielder turned into a weakling with men on base? His RBI total fell by fifty-eight! Some people said Macha was too "American League," hardly tried the running game. But the speed guys, mainly Gomez and Alcides Escobar, are young guys and still learning.

Frank: Gomez didn't learn how to get on base in the first place, and Escobar faded in the last few weeks. Both finished under .300 in on-base percentage, which is pretty awful.

Frank: In ’08 the thinking was that Yost was wound too tight and conveyed tension to the young players. So here came Macha, the calming influence.

Artie
: So now they may go to someone with more "energy."

Frank
: It's the eternal carousel in sports. Quiet guy, lively guy, quiet guy... But here's some good news: The Brewers say they won't raise ticket prices for next season.

Artie
: It's the least they couldn't do!

A Packful of Pain

Frank: Not a good day for the Packers back East, surrendering two 10-point leads in the overtime loss to Washington. I only saw the first half live...

Artie
: What kind of observer are you?

Frank
: My sister was in town and we went to the symphony.

Artie
: I rest my case!

Frank
: Hey, I DVR'd the game and wound up squandering a lot less time on it than you.

Artie
: Can't deny that. I had a bad feeling going in, and by the fourth quarter when Clay Matthews was out with another hamstring problem, I said, "Here we go again."

Frank
: "Banged up" doesn't begin to describe this team.

Artie
: Any NFL prediction has to include "barring major injuries." But cripes, toward the end of the game I tallied up 10 guys—important guys—who either never saw the field in the first place or couldn't finish the game.

Frank
: And that's not counting Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a concussion on his last pass when he got clocked while throwing an interception.

Artie
: Holy cow, they lose Jermichael Finley, their top tight end, on the second play from scrimmage, they lose Ryan Pickett, one of their top defensive linemen, on the fifth play. Then they lose Donald Lee, their second-best tight end, and eventually Matthews, who was wreaking havoc on the ’Skins all day...

Frank
: To say nothing of the guys missing from the start. Ryan Grant and Morgan Burnett out for the year, Nick Barnett maybe that way, and Mark Tauscher gone from the offensive line.

Artie
: Al Harris and Atari Bigby are due to come off their injury status after this weekend's game against Miami, but who knows how effective they'll be?

Frank
: Despite all the injuries, the Pack could easily have won. In the first quarter they piled up yardage but not points.

Artie
: The receivers must have had cramps in their hands. Seven dropped passes!

Frank
: Still, Mason Crosby almost won the game in regulation with a 53-yard field goal.

Artie
: Clanked off the left upright! And like the 52-yarder he made, that kick had enough juice to be good from 70.

Frank
: But he also pushed a 48-yarder wide right in the fourth quarter.

Artie
: While you were enjoying the music. Matthews really worries me; hamstring problems can last for weeks. And he's been fabulous! When he left, it changed their whole scheme for rushing Donovan McNabb, and you saw McNabb throw that long TD pass to turn things around.

Frank
: We won't know the extent of the injuries for a couple of days at least. And Rodgers has to go through the NFL-required tests to play against Miami.

Artie
: And all this with the Vikings invading Lambeau Field on the 24th. The Pack's season could be like the Brewers', where we know before the halfway point that it ain't gonna end pretty. Say, is the symphony playing again this Sunday?

Purple Passions

Frank: Speaking of the Vikings, they've sure gone "all in" by trading for Randy Moss.

Artie
: Getting Moss can't be good for any team in the long run. Sooner or later he'll become a cancer. It'll be sooner if Brett Favre doesn't get him the ball enough, or if the Vikes don't offer him the new contract he wants.

Frank
: But the Vikings don't care because for them there's no "next year." They really can't count on Favre in 2011 so this is their version of the Brewers getting CC Sabathia in ’08, only to the nth degree. At least the Brewers knew they'd still have their young sluggers after the CC "rental."

Artie
: And behind everything in Minnesota is the desperation of the owner, Zygi Wilf, to get funding for a new stadium. A Super Bowl would sure help that.

Frank
: It's like anything else in sports. Brilliance or stupidity rests in the results. If the Vikings go all the way with Brett and Randy, then it's the greatest move in team history. If they don't, Zygi's a dope.

Artie
: So they're going for broke, and I'll be delighted to see the Packers break ’em.

Frank
: If they're physically able. But the Jets, Favre's old pals, certainly were as they spoiled the Brett-Randy debut and dropped the Vikes to 1-3.

Artie
: There's no love in Jersey for the tractor boy from Mississippi after the Jets' collapse two years ago. Plus now we get these reports that Favre text-ually harassed a female Jets employee in ’08.

Frank
: He could wind up suspended for a while by the league.

Artie
: Just don't let it happen before the 24th. No matter how wounded the Packers are, they've got to get revenge against No. 4!