I bet you’ll just never guess what we’re talking about this week, folks. It’s late in the year, the major league team is [insert interesting-sounding synonym for bad here], and we’ve got big news in the front office this week. Let’s dive in:
Brew Crew Ball || Hiring of David Stearns cements new direction for Brewers
BP Milwaukee’s own Derek Harvey walks through the announcement of the hiring of new Brewers’ general manager David Stearns, formerly the top assistant for Jeff Luhnow in Houston. Harvey says the hiring of the 30-year-old Stearns signals the beginning of a new era for Milwaukee; although he lacks experience as a department head, he’ll be backed by “special advisor” Doug Melvin and highly-regarded veteran scouting director Ray Montgomery.
Warning: This piece is behind the ESPN Insider paywall.
The Brewers feature heavily in this article in which Tony Blengino talks about some under-the-radar prospects on whom he’s higher than most, as well as some of baseball’s most improved farm systems. Brewers’ 2014 first-round pick Kodi Medieros is mentioned among the former. Blengino notes that while the left-hander’s surface numbers are pedestrian, his peripherals point to better days ahead. Among the league’s most improved systems, Milwaukee is listed first, though no ranking is explicit or necessarily implied.
Grant Brisbee for SB Nation says Stearns and the Brewers are in a good position to win in the near-long term. Drawing comparisons between the current Brewers, the 1997 Athletics after Billy Beane took over, and Stearns’ former team, Houston, after Luhnow took over, Brisbee notes that all three teams had ragged major-league rosters without a competitive pitching staff, promising and rising minor-league systems, and were looking at a top-five draft pick. Brisbee says the stronger comparison is to the Astros of recent history — with which I would quibble given Oakland’s more similar salary restrictions. He also fails to make mention of the fact that Milwaukee will be rebuilding while sharing a division with three of the five best teams in baseball, a situation perhaps most like the Baltimore Orioles of the early part of this decade. Brisbee rightly concludes that, rather than being charged with turning the franchise around, all Stearns really needs to do is stay the course and not screw anything up.
FanGraphs || Craig Counsell on Decision and Collaboration
David Laurila, king of the Q&A at FanGraphs, shares a conversation with Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell in the wake this week’s hiring of Stearns. Of the relationship between himself and the GM, Counsell says, “The general manager is selecting players in a way that he thinks they’re going to succeed if they’re used in (a certain) manner. It’s important to put them in a position to succeed, and that’s my biggest job.” He’s right, of course. As we’ve seen with the train wreck that is the 2015 Washington Nationals, a strong roster can struggle if the manager fails to properly utilize the talent at his disposal. Counsell and Stearns have just met, but early reports point to a positive first impression between the two.
For MLB Daily Dish, Mike Bates offers his own take on the Brewers’ hiring of Stearns, who he says signals the possibility of change from Milwaukee’s decades of (mostly) mediocrity. While Bates makes a number of astute and encouraging points, of their future he says, “Aside from their payroll, Stearns and his vision will be the only thing determining whether the Brewers can be a successful franchise from this point forward,” implying Stearns will enjoy the utmost autonomy as Milwaukee’s GM. More realistic fans know that Stearns’ ability to shape the franchise as he sees fit will be curbed by the wishes of owner Mark Attanasio, who has publicly committed to a rebuild but is not at all likely to submit to a complete teardown like the one the Astros recently suffered.
Grantland || Yogi Berra: 1925-2015
For Grantland, the incomparable Jonah Keri reflects on the life of Yankee great Yogi Berra, who passed away this week at the age of 90. Berra, of course, is much more well known for his silly ‘words of wisdom,’ which is a shame, because he was an incredible ballplayer as well. One of the all-time great catchers who was among the best hitters in the game during an era during which catchers were abused to an extent unheard of in today’s game (he caught both games of a doubleheader 117 times in his 19-year career), Berra won three MVPs and never finished lower than fourth in the voting during his peak years from 1950-56.