Listening to the Voice of Reason
That would be me.
Last week in this space, I wrote that that the Milwaukee Brewers must base their final roster decisions on performance rather than roster eligibility considerations. Commendably, the Brewers seem to have followed through on that advice.
The release earlier this week of veteran infielder Mike Lamb, combined with asking waivers on outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr., confirmed that the Brewers are dedicated to taking their best team into the season. Lamb refused an assignment to Triple-A Nashville and will become a free agent. Gwynn cleared waivers this afternoon and will be optioned to Nashville. Clearly, the spring training performances of Brad Nelson, Casey McGehee, and Chris Duffy along with that of holdover Craig Counsell made those two players expendable.
This is not to suggest that too much should be read into the spring training stats of the remaining players. Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin admitted as much when he commented that they already knew what they had in Gwynn. While Gwynn is still a young player and the Brewers would like to keep him around, his skill set doesn’t translate to that of a difference maker. It could even be argued that he’s gotten more of an opportunity than he otherwise might have because of his last name.
Nelson, McGehee, and Duffy were all top prospects at one time in their careers who got derailed along the way for one reason or another. It’s probable that the Brewers feel these three still have more of an upside than what they could foresee from Gwynn, Jr. and Lamb. There was speculation that the Brewers were concerned about losing Gwynn, leaving them short of outfielders in the high minors but since he cleared waivers that is a moot point and may be a further indication that Gwynn isn’t as highly regarded outside the Brewers organization.
The moves could represent a sea change in the thinking of club management; recognizing that the Brewers are at the point in their program where they can no longer be as patient in waiting for players to produce on the field. It was also important that the new managerial staff be seen as expecting results. It would have undermined their credibility to send down players who performed better than the ones that remained on the big league roster.
The hiring of Ken Macha as manager, along with a highly experienced coaching staff, is designed to take them to the next level. One side note on Macha: whatever his qualifications as a field boss, he has already displayed a wry sense of humor. That is a personality trait that will serve him well once he’s gotten a true guage on his team’s pitching and defense. And it might even help keep his team loose when the pressure to win starts to mount.