It took six years, but Doug Melvin finally got his man.
Melvin, entrusted to resurrect the moribund Milwaukee franchise after it finished losing 106 games in 2002, wanted to hire Ken Macha as his field general then. That didn't work out because Macha stayed in Oakland, where he had been bench coach for four years, taking over as manager after the A's fired Art Howe.
Well, Melvin and Macha made it official Thursday afternoon at Miller Park as the latter was named the Brewers' new skipper—ending days of speculation that dragged on because of the World Series that would not end.
So, what can be made of Melvin's decision—and Macha's two-year contract--and what kind of ship will the new guy run?
While my vote was to keep Dale Sveum after he helped the Brewers end their 26-year postseason drought upon inheriting the reins from Ned Yost—Melvin's second choice back in '02—Macha is the best selection in many ways, at least of the three finalists that included Bob Brenly and Willie Randolph.
First impressions are important, and Macha appeared personable and handled himself well in his introductory press conference, outlining who he is, how he deals with players and what his basic philosophies are while tactfully answering questions or avoiding aspects about his departure in Oakland despite four winning seasons and reaching the American League Championship Series in 2006.
So, here are a few other reasons why he came across as the right man for the job at the right time in the team's development as a playoff contender.
First, he is willing to bring Sveum and other members of the staff—namely pitching coach Mike Maddux, bullpen stalwart Bill Castro and first-base coach Ed Sedar—back and maintain a large degree of continuity, which from a chemistry standpoint should ease the transition.
Second, he talked about playing a style that best suits the team, whether it be small ball or long ball, and more importantly, knowing when to do both, emphasizing that everybody should know how to bunt and hit and run, etc., especially late in games when one run makes all the difference. Several players, if they were watching the festivities, should have taken notice.
Third, Macha knows what it's like to coach and manage in a small market, and he did it extremely well, helping Oakland finish first or second all eight seasons and reaching the playoffs five times in the Bay Area.
And he did it while working under Mr. Moneyball, Billy Beane, and a constantly changing roster landscape that emphasized developing younger players before having to fork over gazillions of dollars to keep them around.
He wouldn't go into details, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist or baseball expert to know that his relationship with Beane—or lack thereof—caused his ouster more than Macha's reported problems dealing with certain veteran players, including current Milwaukee catcher Jason Kendall, who was the A's starter from 2005-06, taking over for Damian Miller. I don't see Melvin or owner Mark Attanasio to be micromanagers or meddlers, so Macha should pass or fail on his own merits, as it should be.
And finally, the numbers don't lie. Macha's teams compiled a .368-280 record (.568), a four-year success rate that has been seen around Milwaukee only once, from 1978-83.
Only time will tell if Melvin made the right choice, but that time is now as expectations from a 90-win season and October baseball are at an all-time high.