What can one make of Doug Melvin's comments to Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt on Thursday?
Depending on how one interprets the Milwaukee general manager's close-to-the-vest statements, Dale Sveum could keep his job or he might be looking for work within the next few days.
Melvin was quoted as saying: "We're a little more attractive club now than we were in 2003. I'm getting people reaching out and saying they're interested in the position. I've got to make sure I explore some of these situations. I'm looking at more experience there. Dale has the advantage of familiarity."
Let's take that a piece at a time.
Of course the franchise is more attractive than in 2003, when the Brewers were coming off a 106-loss season. What team wouldn't be better off than the worst unit in franchise history?
Three .500 or above records in four years with a core group of players developed in arguably the best minor league system in baseball would give most unemployed former skippers that impression. A relatively new ball park with a retractable roof that guarantees a game every day, a buzz and 3 million in attendance for a small market and an owner willing to make bold moves. What's not to like? I'm surprised more names haven't surfaced already.
Melvin wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't explore his options, whether he did that before or after interviewing Sveum.
The last couple of sentences are more telling. The parts about him looking at more experience and the fact that Sveum has familiarity.
Some take the latter to mean that the former third-base coach under Ned Yost is the leading candidate, although I'm not so sure.
Many fans have been clamoring for somebody with more experience than Sveum, and those mentioned in Haudricourt's blog would be retreads, including the following:
The 54-year-old led Arizona to the World Series title over the Yankees in his first season of 2001 and got the Diamondbacks into first place again in the National League West in '02. However, he finished third in '03 and had them sitting at 29-50 before getting the pink slip in 2004.
Since then he's been singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and joining a chorus of "Cubs win, Cubs win"—during the regular season, that is.
The former great Yankees second baseman, also 54, led the Big Apple's other team from 2005 until getting the ax this season after starting 34-35. The Mets won the NL East in '06 but collapsed down the stretch the past two years to miss the playoffs.
Regardless of his credentials, that's way too much bad karma to bring to Miller Park.
The 65-year-old was last seen managing the United States team in the Olympics. He directed the Mets from 1984-1990, winning the NL East twice and the World Series title in 1986, aided by Boston first baseman Bill Buckner's infamous fielding gaffe. Johnson then coached the Reds from 1993-95, winning the NL Central his final two years. He then finished second and first with Baltimore in 1996-97 and directed the Dodgers in 1999-2000, finishing with winning overall records at all four stops.
That's an impressive resume, but why so many jobs, especially considering the money that Baltimore and L.A. could dish out?
He had five winning seasons with Texas between 1985-92, going 45-41 during the final season before being let go. Valentine, 58, and his teams never finished better than second, posting an 87-75 record in 1986. He then led the Mets from 1996-2002, posting winning records five straight years until his final campaign at 75-86, although New York never won the NL East.
What's this, a trend? The last three guys managed the Mets. If they couldn't last longer with New York's supposed talent and financial wherewithal, what makes anybody think they can succeed elsewhere for long?
He enjoyed successful runs with the Yankees (1992-95) and Arizona (1998-2000), winning a division title at each place, before leading Texas (2003-06) and recording only one winning season.
No one's questioning his skills and baseball know-how, but his strong personality or something led to him being dismissed three times and he might be better served by staying on ESPN's payroll.
Hargrove, 58, managed in Cleveland from 1991-99, turning in winning seasons six years in a row, including five straight AL Central titles that featured World Series losing teams in '95 and '97. He then finished fourth four straight years in Baltimore and his first two seasons in Seattle before "burning out" despite a 45-33 mark in 2007.
I'm sorry, but even though he has the credentials, bringing Hargrove back would be like Dick Vermeil returning for another NFL job.
Another trend: He's 58, too. Macha led Oakland to AL West Division titles in 2003 (96-66) and 2006 (93-69) and second-place finishes in 2004 (91-71) and 2005 (88-74). He was reportedly Melvin's top choice before the latter hired Yost.
Obviously the records speak for themselves. Oakland, under Billy Beane and his "Moneyball" philosophy, is one of baseball's most unique situations. The A's have fielded some of the best young players around and had one of the best pitching staffs with guys like Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder before they were all jettisoned rather than getting the big bucks.
One could argue that if Macha won in that environment, he can win anywhere. But just because he was Melvin's first choice then doesn't mean he should be now.
Melvin went on to say: "I'll probably talk to two or three other people, at the most. I'll determine if they'd be a fit or not. It's a very short list."
At least that means some of the aforementioned wouldn't fit. Melvin and many fans seem to be favoring experience, as in previous big-league managerial experience, which Sveum doesn't have. But bringing any of these guys back would be too much like the Old Boys' Club atmosphere in Washington these days.
After all, Yost had experience for heaven's sake. He lasted nearly six years in Milwaukee, which is longer than Brenly, Randolph and Macha did.
And that didn't help Yost much or keep the others from getting canned more than once. Sveum deserves more than 12 games to prove himself. Take a look at some of today's best young skippers: Cleveland's Eric Wedge (ask CC Sabathia about him), Florida's Fredi Gonzalez and Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon.
Well, of course, Maddon is 54. However, he had never managed in the majors—31 years as a coach in the Angels' system--until the Rays hired him in 2006 and look what he's done.
Familiarity and continuity shouldn't be bad things, and a lack of experience shouldn't be an automatic strike against Sveum.