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October 4, 2010

On the Beat

Hanging on with the Brew Crew

by John Perrotto

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Ken Macha is out as the Brewers' manager, as his club option will not be picked up for 2011. However, general manager Doug Melvin will return next season, though the franchise has been trending downward since making its first post-season appearance in 26 years in 2008.

The Brewers finished third in the National League Central with a 77-85 record this season after going 80-82 in 2009, Macha's first year as manager. While Macha was generally disliked by his players, Melvin has also had a hand in failing to maintain the Brewers' one-year run as a playoff team. However, owner Mark Attanasio says he still has faith in Melvin.

"Doug would be the first one to tell you this was a tough season," Attanasio said. "In my six seasons here, this was his first tough season."

It seemed that nearly ever player Melvin acquired last offseason turned out to be a bust and many of them broke down physically.

Melvin signed four pitchers in free agency, left-handed starters Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, left-handed reliever Scott Schoeneweis and right-handed reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Of those four, Wolf was the only one who came close to working out as he contributed 3.5 SNLVAR. Davis was limited to eight starts, Hawkins pitched just 16 1/3 innings and Schoeneweis was released in spring training.

Catcher Gregg Zaun and outfielder Jim Edmonds were also signed as free agents and dogged by injures. Zaun logged just 117 plate appearances and Edmonds had 240 before getting traded to the Reds in August. Center fielder Carlos Gomez, Melvin's primary off-season trade acquisition, notched a .253 True Average in 316 PA and now finds himself behind rookie Lorenzo Cain on the depth chart.

Melvin did take a downtrodden Brewers franchise in 2002 and methodically built it into a winner. Attanasio, who has made his fortune as an investment manager, says he has not forgotten that and is the reason why Melvin deserves the benefit of the doubt.

"When we were building, we got to .500 that first year (in 2005)," said Attanasio, who bought the team from the Selig family the previous offseason. "We felt we were a little ahead of ourselves. This year, our performance was a little behind what we thought it would be. When you look at a sport that's predicated on failure, I compare it to stock figures because that's the business I know. As a money manager, you can be on top of your game and you can still have a tough season. The question with that is, how do you adjust to that tough season? There's a disappointing season and a body of work (by Melvin). You separate the two."

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It has been a foregone conclusion for weeks that Mets manager Jerry Manuel will be fired and GM Omar Minaya will also either get the ax or be reassigned to a scouting position within the organization. Yet while Manuel is set to be jettisoned as a manager for the second time in his career after being boxed by the White Sox in 2003, he says he has not lost the love for running a team. In fact, he'd love another shot at it.

"I'd like to manage," Manuel said. "Not that I wouldn't consider anything else in baseball, that's pretty much who I am and what I do, but I like the managing part. I don't think I'd do any good as the assistant to this or the assistant to that. I like managing."

Manuel has compiled a 704-684 record in nine seasons with the White Sox (1998-2003) and Mets (2007-09). He was the American League Manager of the Year in 2000 when he led the White Sox to the AL Central title, the lone season he has reached the postseason. While there have been multiple reports for weeks that Manuel is out, he is still not completely convinced he will be fired.

"For some reason, I don't have the same feel that I had when I was let go by Chicago," Manuel said. "I just don't, I don't know why. I just feel like there's something here for me to do and it hasn't been completed. I don't know if I will get that opportunity, but I just don't feel that I won't. I have not discussed anything. Nothing has been told to me other than just like every year, you discuss it at the end of the year. So I haven't been told anything."

Manuel said if he were to be fired that the most disappointing part is that the news was leaked to the media before he was told by owner Fred Wilpon or Mets COO Jeff Wilpon.

"No question," Manuel said.

---

Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski will be a lame duck next season and so will manager Jim Leyland and his coaching staff. All will be on the final years of their contracts and there are no extensions coming from owner Mike Ilitch following an 81-81 season that saw the Tigers suffer a second-half fade after leading the AL Central at the All-Star break.

"We're all aware that our butt is on the line next year and that's fine," Leyland said, "I'll put my fanny on the line with those guys."

Ilitch genuinely likes Dombrowksi and Leyland and believes they work well together. Furthermore, the owner feels the Tigers can be a contender next season as Dombrowski will have roster flexibility this upcoming winter to retool the club.

As far as the pressure to win in 2011 is concerned, Leyland says bring it on.

"Obviously, we're going into the last year of our contract next year," Leyland said. "We've got a one-year contract, all of us. We know what that means, but that doesn't bother me one bit. That's the way it is. I've said that all along. I'll believe that until the day I die. If you've got somebody better, get him. That's what you should do."

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Mike Quade has gone from an unknown third-base coach to the most popular man on the North Side of Chicago in the past two months. The Cubs finished the season 75-87 but went 24-13 after Quade was promoted to replace retiring manager Lou Piniella on August 23.

Suddenly, seemingly everyone from the players to the fans to the media is pushing for Quade to get the job on a permanent basis. However, Quade said he is not allowing himself to get too excited about his success or his chances.

"I want to stay away from that, but I'm smart enough to know that you want people to appreciate the job you're doing, whether it's people witnessing, whether it's guys calling games on television, whether it's players playing for you," Quade said. "Any positive feedback is better than negative feedback. I'm just happy that everybody's comfortable. I'm really happy that I'm comfortable. I think that's made a big difference in my life the last five weeks as well."

While it once appeared certain the Cubs would promote Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, manager of their Triple-A Iowa farm club, to the major-league job, Quade now must be considered a serious candidate. Regardless of if he gets the job, Quade wants to talk to the players about next season because he feels the Cubs can take a major step forward.

"I think there's a group of guys here that obviously know what they need to do, and I'm not going to burden them with any conversation that I have," Quade said. "And it doesn't matter what takes place with my situation with what these guys need to do for the organization and for themselves—just my thoughts on it."

---

MLB Rumors & Rumblings: If first baseman Adam Dunn does not re-sign with the Nationals, he likely will wind up with the Cubs or Yankees. The Nationals also plan to aggressively pursue right-hander Yu Darvish if he decides to leave Japan. … The Red Sox would love to unload right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka and hope that a deal with a club on the West Coast would entice him to waive his no-trade clause. … All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who ended the season helping set up Brewers rookie closer John Axford, plans to explore the market as a free agent. If he finds someone willing to let him close, he will play another year. Otherwise, he will retire. … Jonathan Broxton will begin next season back in the closer's role for the Dodgers. … The Pirates plan to fire manager John Russell and while GM Neal Huntington will survive, club president Frank Coonelly will make the call on Russell's successor. … Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke will interview for the Blue Jays' manager's job and Tim Wallach, manager of the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque farm club, is also expected to get a call.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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