Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011

Money out as AAA manager; Gamel comments to blame?

By Nicole
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The Brewers decided to shake things up on their off day by announcing a complete restructuring of their minor league coaching situation.

A lot of changes were made, but none are so glaring as the removal of Don Money as AAA manager. Money spent three years as manager of the Sounds and has been in the Brewers minor league system for 14 years. While he was manager, the Sounds has just one winning season.

 Money is being replaced by AA manager Mike Guerrero. Guerrero was the manager in Huntsville for two seasons. He has been with the Brewers for 16 years.

This is where it gets a little confusing: Al LeBoeuf will serve as coach. I did not know that minor league teams had both managers and coaches. I have no idea what the division of labor is. LeBoeuf was coach of the Stars last season.

Former Brewers Minor League Hitting Coordinator Darnell Coles has been named Manager of AA Huntsville.

Money has been named Special Instructor, Player Development.

But it’s not clear that that’s actually a promotion for Money. In fact, this whole jumble of reassignments is a little bit fishy.

Guerrero’s Stars were pretty abysmal this year. They finished 64-73, their second consecutive year without postseason play. It was their sixth losing season in the last eight years. (For a pretty unhappy take on the Stars season, check out this AL.com article)

Huntsville drew only 93,340 in 59 dates this season, an average of 1,582 per game, the lowest of all 30 Class AA franchises.

They had a losing season Guerrero’s first season as their coach, as well.

So clearly, Guerrero didn’t earn a promotion with his superb team leadership.

So what’s the story here?

The conspiracy theorist in me says that this is all stemming from comments Money made 11 days ago about Brewers prospect Mat Gamel.

Money joined the major league club after Nashville’s season ended and has been spotted in the dugout. This isn’t the first season he’s coming to Milwaukee after his other duties ended. Talking to Milwaukee’s MLB.com reporter Adam McCalvy, Money kind of threw Gamel under the bus and called into question his major league preparedness.

Responding to a question about whether Gamel will make a good major leaguer, Money said:

"If he can get his head right, and that's the thing," Money said. "He's hard-headed. He doesn't carry himself well. You have to carry yourself like a professional, and he doesn't do it and I've said it to him."

Money went on to bring up some incidents from 2008 and 2009 that he says show Gamel doesn’t have his crap together.

Gamel was late to Spring Training and also declined to take optional batting practice once and Money uses these two episodes to damn Gamel.

But a thread on BrewerFan.net about Gamel not getting called up in September brought out someone who appears to be close to Gamel who points out that these incidents were a couple of years ago and have not been shown to be a recurring problem. He wondered when or if Gamel would ever be able to live down mistakes that he made when he was younger, which I think might be a fair point.

Money also speculated that Gamel showed up to Spring Training this year 30 pounds overweight and then said that Gamel made excuses for it, claiming he couldn’t train on an injured toe.

This claim is a little harder to deal with. If the claim is true, it would be hard to defend Gamel. But we do have to call its truth into question. First of all, Gamel was in a boot for the offseason after the 09 season, not this past year. Thirty pounds is a lot of weight - A noticeable amount of weight. Yet no writer, local or national, mentioned it in Spring Training. A number of members of both the prominent Brewers sites I’m a part of went to Spring Training this past year and none of them thought enough about it to have remarked on it. Can we really believe that Gamel was strolling around significantly heavier and no one thought to comment on it?

That being said, the 2010 Sounds Media Guide lists Gamel at 200 lbs. The 2011 Media Guide lists him at 215 lbs.

I guess I’ll leave you to make your own decisions on that one.

The question remains, though, why Money would choose to publicly vilify Gamel. As far as we fans understand, Gamel is meant to be the major league first baseman next year. He was moved to first base this season in anticipation that Prince Fielder was leaving the organization.

I’d love to know the situation that led up to these comments. McCalvy is not known to bait people, so what prompted Money to share these thoughts that seemingly come out of the blue.

The question has always been why Gamel wasn’t called up and the Brewers official line has been that with Mark Kotsay, Logan Schaefer, Taylor Green, Craig Counsell and George Kottaras on the bench, they didn’t need another left-handed batter. So why did Money stray from the company line?

And while we’re talking about it, why not bring up Gamel, even if he might be superfluous? If, as Money seems to imply, maturity is a concern with Gamel, wouldn’t being around noted professionals who carry themselves well like Braun, Weeks and Fielder be a good influence on him? And if we’re not sure that Money and he are on the same page, wouldn’t it make sense to put Gamel in front of the major league staff to see how he is performing?

Gamel has struggled against major league hitting the few times he’s been brought up, but I don’t think it’s fair to judge him on a few cups of coffee. He’s been a hitter his entire minor league career. It’s possible it’s going to take him awhile to adjust to the majors and seeing more consistent time at the plate will help even him out.

If the Brewers are truly planning on Gamel playing first next season, it seems inexcusable to me to leave him out of this season. They’re creating unnecessary resentment and it seems to have led to this Money tirade. The Brewers are headed for the postseason. Why wouldn’t you want the future of the franchise to get a taste of that and put the desire to accomplish that himself in his head?

I think the Brewers made a statement today – I think they silently backed Gamel. But the act seems counter to everything else they’ve done with Gamel over the past few weeks. Color me confused. I don’t see these moves today as anything other than a disciplinary action against Money. It’s been less than two weeks since his comments. It takes time to realign all the coaches, makes offers and get commitments, and have the whole slate lined up. They couldn’t come out and publicly reprimand Money, but I think this is the next best thing. It’s clear that they were desperate to make a change. Nothing could be more of a slap in the face to Money than to replace him with a guy who’s been completely inefficient at the level below him, but the Brewers had little choice.

I don’t think this story is near over and I can only hope reporters ask Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio the right questions about this situation. Even without implicating Money, someone has to ask how Guerrero’s tenure at Huntsville has shown that he’s capable of handling Nashville.

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