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With the departure of manager Ron Roenicke in Milwaukee the glare of the spotlight will shine on general manager Doug Melvin, who’s been the Brewers GM since 2003. Prior to his current stint Melvin was the Texas Rangers GM from 1994-2001, the heyday of Rangers baseball prior to their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 & 2011.
Melvin’s Brewers teams have made two playoff appearances and are 963-1005 in the regular season during his tenure. Their post-season record is 10-5 with one NLDS victory in 2011. The current squad has a team slash of .227/.278/.351 and has seven victories in their first 25 games with a team ERA of 4.42. Those numbers meant the end of Roenicke, the fourth manager to work under Melvin.
Melvin hired Craig Counsell to become the Brewers 19th manager, the fifth under Melvin. Counsell, who has never managed an inning of baseball, takes the reins of an organization that was desperate for a change.
Change is what the Brewers have become accustomed to under Melvin. As GM Melvin has never been shy about making trades or signing players to big contracts, while GM of the Rangers he signed Alex Rodriguez to $252 million deal. He brought Carlos Lee, Zack Greinke and C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers for the opportunity to win. That attitude has kept fan interest high with Miller Park attendance averaging over 34,000 per game in the last five years.
The deal making has come at a cost. The farm system that once boasted Baseball America’s Executive of the Year, scouting director John Zduriencik, is now depleted of pitching prospects. The Brewers built powerful teams through the draft early in the century drafting position players like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Andrew Bailey and Michael Brantley. Pitchers were another story. Never having success in drafting or developing pitchers they were forced to trade prospects for established Major League talent, thereby gutting their farm system. That, combined with the departure of Zduriencik in 2008, has led the Brewers to where they are today.
Experts are divided over the quality and quantity of the Brewers current farm system, some have them ranked as high as 19th others as low as 28th, six of the top ten prospects are position players. Ultimately the success of the Major League team will depend on talent acquisition and development; this is an area where Melvin struggles.
The Counsell hire will define Melvin’s legacy in Milwaukee. Any success the rookie manager has will reflect positively on Melvin, however if the slide continues the hire will cost Melvin his job. Success will be difficult to achieve in the National League Central where the Brewers must battle perennial power St. Louis and the up and coming Pitrates and Cubs.
The winner in this situation is Counsell, with limited experience the expectations will shift from the manager to the GM who hired him. He holds the key to the future of Doug Melvin in Milwaukee, the manager’s fate will be determined at the end of this season.