The Milwaukee Brewers made the not-unexpected announcement on Tuesday that general manager Doug Melvin will relinquish his role as soon as a new GM is hired. Melvin entered the 2015 season on the last year of his contract, leading to much speculation that this season would be his last as GM. Though Melvin did a commendable job with the Brewers, it is time for a new GM in Milwaukee.
The Brewers have a 1,004-1,053 record under Melvin, but this does not tell the whole story. Melvin took over in September of 2002 when the franchise was at its absolute low point. By 2005 the Crew had snapped their 12-season losing streak and in 2008 they made the playoffs for the first time since 1982. In 2011 they won a franchise record 96 games and came within two victories of the World Series.
When the Brewers were not making the playoffs they were at least in the conversation. Despite the agonizing late-season collapses in 2007 and 2014, as a fan you had to at least appreciate the Brewers being relevant again. It’s better for a season to be “fun while it lasted” than no fun at all.
Melvin deserves a ton of credit for his accomplishments in Milwaukee, but it’s also clear that the Brewers are capable of ascending higher than Melvin took them.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics are two small-market franchises with horrible stadiums and often sparse crowds, yet they have enjoyed more success over the past eight seasons than the Brewers. In fact, the Rays were so successful a book chronicling their rise was written. The Brewers have a loyal fan base, one of the best stadiums in baseball, and an owner willing to spend money to play October baseball. As the Rays and Athletics have shown, it’s possible for the small market Brewers to be more consistent contenders.
Looking at larger trends in baseball, personnel management is now driven by analytics. The Brewers need to bring in a GM that is both an expert in sabermetrics and capable of managing an analytics team. As Major League Baseball has seen with Jeff Luhnow and the Houston Astros, baseball roster management is more of a science than it’s ever been before. More importantly, it’s also a highly effective method of building a team. Doug Melvin does not quite fit this mold of GM.
Doug Melvin will likely stay with the Brewers as an adviser once a new GM is hired. Melvin helped lift the Brewers out of the dark ages and he is still a great resource to have on staff, so this makes a lot of sense. However, with the Brewers hitting the reset button and baseball being so analytics driven, it’s the right time for him to hand the reins to someone else.