Monday, Sept. 15, 2008

Ding dong the Ned is dead

By Nicole
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The prayers of many Brewer fans were answered a few minutes ago when the story broke that the Brewers fired manager Ned Yost and promoted third base coach Dale Sveum to interim manger. Ted Simmons, who had been the bench coach, was moved to an "advisory role" according to the report on jsonline.com.

The move is frankly more than a little surprising so late in the season and the move may be considered too little, too late by many. Currently tied for the wild card, despite having a 5.5 game lead less than a month ago, the Brewers have just 12 games to hold off the streaking Phillies and Astros for the Wild Card slot.

Sveum is a surprising choice as the interim manager. I haven't been a huge fan of him at third because he's been overly aggressive with sending baserunners and it's cost us outs and possibly runs throughout the season. Sveum has no major league managerial experience, though he did manage the Pirates' AA team from 2001-2003 and was considered a top managerial prospect despite a record of 213-211 during that time.

It's possible that Sveum's experience as the third base coach with the 2004 World Champion Red Sox is something the Brewers value in the late stages of this playoff push. When Sveum came to Milwaukee, it was as a bench coach, but he was moved to third base coach this season after they fired Nick Leyva at third and brought in Ted Simmons as the bench coach.

Many assumed Ted Simmons was the heir apparent to the Brewers managerial throne, though his closeness to Yost made some wonder if he'd take the position under the circumstances of Ned being fired. I'm dying to know about the Simmons move to an "advisory role." Is that a demotion? Is it assumed that Ned and Simmons were acting as one united front and they've removed all traces of Ned from the dugout? Or is it a strategic move to give Sveum the backup/experience behind him that he might be lacking. If Simmons is moved off the bench, it gives the illusion of Sveum having control, but maybe Simmons will be the one pulling the strings in the background.

It's assumed that, should we ever get anyone on base, the baserunning will be super aggressive from here on out. Sveum was known for his windmill arm at third base, sending guys both here and in Boston at an alarming rate.

The question is whether or not this is a desperation move and just makes us more of a laughingstock. I've heard mumblings that this is probably the first time a playoff contending team has fired their manager this close to the offseason, but I think the argument could be made that we're not contending for much of anything.

A fire needed to be lit. Ned's incessantly uninformative explanations for moves like leaving Brian Shouse in the game to face several right-handers despite his awful numbers against right-handed batters were beyond old and did nothing to hold himself or his team accountable. I'm all for protecting the players and not hanging them out to dry, but at the same time, the prolonged slumps cannot be excused and the continued failure of the bullpen cannot be overlooked. Not mixing up a slumping batting order until we're already lost 2 to the Phillies? Not bumping CC to the Philadelphia series? These seem like small moves that might have made a difference for Ned.

It seems unlikely that this move came from Doug Melvin. He's continued to support Ned and even gave him a contract extension when many were calling for Ned's head. Could it be that Mark Attanasio was sick of seeing his oh-so-promising team run into the ground by Yost? And shouldn't Doug Melvin be accountable along with Yost?

Here's a theory. Mark A. told Doug Melvin to put up or shut up. My guess is that Ned was gone after this season, no matter what. If we miraculously end up in the playoffs, it would look ridiculous if we fired our manager after reaching the post-season for the first time in 26 years, so we did it now. Additionally, Melvin's head is most assuredly on the block. Did Mark A. tell him that his butt's on the line too if we miss the playoffs?

I don't think it's too far of a stretch to consider that Melvin could be gone next season and scouting director Jack Zduriencik gets promoted to GM. Jack Z has said GM is on his radar and if that brilliant mind would stay here and take our GM position instead of hying off somewhere else, I think Mark A would be an idiot to not make that move.

In none of the announcements were stipulations made about who would be coaching at third base. An unusual tie-in to this story is that the Brewers let Frank Kremblas go this week. Kremblas has been the coach of the Nashville Sounds for the past four seasons and with the exception of this season, led the team to division titles. The official reason is that Kremblas has aspirations of being a major league coach and the Brewers told him it wouldn't happen in our organization. Kremblas has coached pretty much every guy on our roster. This would have been a great opportunity to bring him up to coach in the majors. The players are comfortable with him - they've won with him.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, of Ned's hard-headed decisions will be changed in the next few days. Doesn't it seem obvious that Tony Gwynn Jr and Craig Counsell will not be the #1 pinch hitting options, Mike Rivera will see more playing time, Ray Durham and Rickie Weeks will be more of a platoon and Brian Shouse will return to being a LOOGY? Those are just a few of the moves Ned's insisted on sticking with, no matter what. If Sveum overturns some of those decisions, we'll know immediately what the rest of the coaches thought of Ned's moves.

What I'd give to be a fly on the wall right now. Was Yost riding the guys too hard behind the scenes? Or not enough? Are the players relieved?

  ___

edit:

Baseball Prospectus has picked up the story and ABSOLUTELY must be read. Want to know how bad Ned is at managing the bullpen:

Think about this for a second. Yost had a 481 OPS pitcher facing a 697 OPS hitter. He elected to issue an intentional walk in that situation to allow an 817 OPS pitcher to face a 905 OPS hitter with an additional runner on base. That's when you start looking around the roof of the stadium for snipers, because gunpoint is the only place where that kind of decision makes sense.

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