Doug Melvin has some regrets

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Michael Hunt
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When Doug Melvin looks back on himself with constructive criticism, the Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager said he regretted not getting Jarrod Washburn at the trading deadline.

Maybe Doug Davis, too. And, he said, he might have taken a longer look at Pedro Martinez had the Brewers been more competitive at the end of July.

It’s doubtful if any of those additions would’ve accomplished anything, because by then, starting pitching had buried them to the point that one guy would not have made a difference.

So to the real question:

How did Melvin feel about a staff down CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets coming out of spring training?

“I thought we had middle-of-the-pack pitching,” he said. “If we were seventh or eighth in ERA, between 4.30 and 4.50, we’d have a chance. It didn’t happen.”

The fact that the Brewers are next to last at 4.81 tells the story of their fall from the playoffs to a contention-free September. Injuries and notable underperformance aside, Melvin was responsible for breaking camp with that off-key quintet. Whether he could’ve done more in the off-season beyond the Braden Looper signing, little else was available.

But what’s done is done with a disappointing year. It’s more important to know what the Brewers plan to do about it during a

challenging, urgent off-season made that way for a small-market franchise that can’t afford for guys to not reach expectations. It’s different from when we were developing. We’re trying to win now.

“We’re not going to be in rebuilding. We want to do it again.”

So the Brewers might have everyday holes at catcher, third, center and right to fill? So be it.

“We cannot be distracted by that,” Melvin said. “Our focus has to be pitching.”

Maybe in the past, medical liabilities (John Smoltz and Brad Penny come to mind) might have deterred them. Maybe a young, wild arm would’ve scared them away. Not saying the Brewers are going to be reckless in their relentless pursuit of ’10 pitching, but it sure sounds like they’re going to be much more aggressive.

“We might take a little more chances and risks than we’re accustomed to taking,” Melvin said.

Of course, everyone wants pitching and no one wants to give it away. But the Brewers have movable assets, like two major-league shortstops. A lot of teams want Alcides Escobar. Some might want J.J. Hardy at a lesser cost.

But just about everyone wants one of the most dangerous men in baseball. The consequences of blowing a massive hole into the middle of the lineup by trading Prince Fielder before the 2011 deadline are apparent, but Melvin is not in a position to rule out anything at the moment.

“It would be very difficult to move a guy like Prince,” Melvin said. “There will be a lot of talk. Teams that have top pitching, that’s hard to give up. I’ve got one of the best hitters in the game and that’s hard to give up.”

That’s the kind of franchise-turning decision Melvin will be faced with this winter because, as we’ve seen this season and with these last three series in particular, front-line pitching changes everything. With all due respect to Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals are where they are because of Chris Carpenter’s return.

Like a lot of teams, the Brewers can hit and be ordinary. Without pitching, they’re guaranteed to stay that way.

Last updated: 11:26 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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