There is no thrift in Major League Baseball.  The Milwaukee Brewers have been a franchise that has increasingly moved away from this archaic way of thinking.  It’s a large hump to overcome, however, and it is what currently plagues this small market team from ever being able to contain any momentum what-so-ever. 

Let’s start from the beginning.  The Brewers haven’t always been the best run or luckiest franchise in pro sports.  Much like its Milwaukee counterpart (The Bucks) they have been hurt by the hands that feed them.  Baseball came to Milwaukee thanks to current MLB Commissioner and Wisconsin guy Bud Selig.  He also oversaw a franchise that had only made noise in the playoffs exactly one time in his tenure as owner.  However, his brain child, Miller Park has been a rousing success and ignited a series of events that has ultimately led us to fancy new, and more importantly rich owner in Mark Attanasio.  Gone are the days of 40 million dollar payrolls and 7,000 people in the stands on a Tuesday night in June.  Despite the lack of a killer instinct and an overall inexperience to winning meaningful baseball games, this franchise is a player.  With cornerstone players in place on good deals, and an always potent lineup, The Brewers are a team is no one’s underdog.  The only problem is that they do seem to be many teams’ underdogs.  Most importantly, The St. Louis Cardinals.   Constantly owned, often embarrassed at the hands of the self-promoted classiest team in baseball.  A side note on the tale of these 2 franchises, if I may:  The Cardinals let Albert Pujols walk 2 seasons ago, as of a week and a half ago if you were to look up 1st Base OPS for the Cardinals and Angels, you’d see that the two teams would be within one thousandth of a point of each other since Pujols left.  That is the kind of staggering stat that makes Brewer fans scratch their heads and wonder if there is any hope for the future.  If a team can replace the best player in baseball and put that 25 million a year into other areas what chance does Milwaukee have?

Now we’ll bring it all back around to thrift.  Thrift is what you do when you have to get by.  Bill Gates doesn’t shop at Wal-Mart.  He doesn’t have too, he can pay a guy to pay a guy to order stuff online for him, and still not wear it.  This is why baseball is so hard.  Always being able to resign every single on a roster is a huge advantage, and an unfair one (But we’ll leave that debate for another day).  Two things have contributed to Milwaukee’s recent turnaround in the standings over the past six seasons.  1) The sucked so much for so long that they eventually had enough high 1st round picks reach the majors and began to win on pure talent.  2) They have an owner willing to increase payroll when possible, thanks to fans willing to come out to watch semi competitive ball games.  These two reasons have allowed Milwaukee to reach the middle of the pack in payroll as of last year.  Without the small market card to play, which to GM Doug Melvin’s credit he’s never played (Publicly at least), fans have become increasingly impatient with his personnel moves.  A man who once took over the worst franchise in baseball, rebuilt and reworked a roster year after year, he’s tried almost everything in pursuit of winning.  The 3 managers he’s overseen are a triangle of disparity.  He’s paid for big name players; he’s tried to build a staff with thrift.  He’s given away prospect for big names, and given away big names for prospects.  In recent years the Brewers bullpen has been a revolving door poor performances, injuries and frankly just wasted opportunity.  Since 2010, the starting staff has been workable if not good, the lineup has been potent, and as of the moment I’m writing this the Brewers have nothing to show for any of it.   Currently in last place and June quickly approaching what can Brewer fans cling too?  In the case of poor performing teams, it’s usually the future, but in this team’s case, I’m not so sure.   The farm system is not in terrible shape, but the help is twice over the horizon.  Rickie Weeks has gone from All Star to unmovable contract, and big decisions are looming for a few star players.  Corey Hart and Nori Aoki are both quickly approaching Free Agency, and unless Mark Attanasio wants to open his check book, there is a good chance one of them is lost.  The Bullpen must be addressed for a 4th straight year.  All of these concerns will have to be handled with outside players and/or a ton of money.  The concerning issue is that the Cardinals have been rated by Baseball Prospectus as the best farm system in baseball, and is already the best team in the NL Central.

How much longer can Milwaukee live season to season and continue to piece important pieces together with this thrift philosophy?  I’m not going to argue that the answer is to tank or start trading Braun, but I cannot envision the next couple of years being successful without pitchers that are not currently in the Brewers system.  With such a potent lineup, and an average at worst bench it would be very beneficial to start looking into making some deals, and selling off assets at the deadline. 

The question is: can Doug Melvin do this?  As noted previously he’s done everything else, but he’s never been in this exact position before.  Up until now he’s always been looking to acquire assets, not deal them.  The Zach Grienke case is the exception, but when trading a past Cy Young award winner, a lot of the challenge is taken out of the equation, even though he did hit a home run with that move.  Pitching is and will always be at a premium, can Melvin find a diamond in the rough?  Does he have stomach to give away a good player like Lucroy, Hart, or Aoki?  I’m not so sure that he is willing to do that.  If something doesn’t happen at this deadline and the Brewers don’t magically turn the season around, there is going to be trouble.  I think a sub .500 season gets Melvin fired, and deservedly so.  10 years into his tenure and so many valuable pieces, yet nothing except 1 playoff series won.  Farm system is below average at this point, and a below average product at the MLB level is unacceptable. 

I do not envy the position Melvin is in.  I hope it does all turnaround and the Brewers can fight for a Wild Card spot, but realistically I’m more hoping for an advantageous deal the deadline that pays dividends next season.  Because, let’s face it, there’s always next year!  *Cringe

-          Diener34
John (Kaijen) McQuade
6/7/2013 01:54:22 am

Good read Deiner!


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    - Diener34 is a guest columnist at CC’s Third Degree and can be followed on Twitter @Galaxy_Diener


    May 2013