Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Evoking memories of Denny Hocking's classic "I'm feuding with someone on this team" hissy fit in the '02 play-offs, Doug Melvin reported to King of All Brewers Media Tom Haudricourt that he's "ticked off" at Ryan Braun after Braun pointed out that the Brewers can't expect to contend for the post-season with Mike Burns and McDouche taking the ball every fifth day.

For some reason, rather than addressing Braun in the clubhouse or his office or at Braun's next Remetee launch party or ANYWHERE BUT THE FUCKING NEWSPAPER, 'Stache, who's apparently an ardent supporter of the "two wrongs make a right" philosophy, decided it was a good idea to publicly air his gripes about his 25-year-old leftfielder.

Now, hear this: I'm not saying that Braun was right to toss Burns and McDouche, specifically, and the entire pitching staff, generally, under the bus on Sunday, even though what he said is what we've all been thinking for the last month. That kind of stuff is best addressed in-house, not in print.

That said: Braun made his comments after an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of a bitter rival, in a game where the Crew's starting pitcher put the team in a hole before the hitters could get the tops off of their tins of Skol. And that game came on the heels of McDouche's meltdown on Friday -- the one where Big Red proved, conclusively, that it's difficult to be an effective starting pitcher if you've only got one pitch. So, fine: Braun was pissed on Sunday, and he's 25 and, truth be told, a bit of cockbag. (And: he's gone .326/.409/.557 this year; OPS+ 155.)

Melvin, on the other hand, had a day to stew on Braun's comments before he talked to Haudricourt. He's 56, and he's Canadian, and he's got a pushbroom mustache. (The last two things have nothing to do with the point I'm making. I just like Canadians with pushbroom mustaches.) He's also responsible for saddling the Brewers with Suppan's albatross contract, and for giving Looper $5 million, both of which are going to make it difficult for the Crew to make a trade during the season. (Again: this really has nothing to do with the point I'm making. I'm just pissed off about both of those deals.) He's been a GM for (roughly) 85 years, and he's dealing with the media -- on things ranging from injuries to trade rumors to call-ups -- on a daily basis.

Long story short: Melvin should know better than to continue a verbal slap fight with one of his star players in the papers. Nothing good is going to come of this.


FPMKE said...

'stache is not your guy, buddy.

That said, agreed, 'stache should have kept this in-house instead of adding Canadian maple syrup to the equation and making it sticky.

I think Braun has shown in the past that he can be a little emotional after rough games and I'm sure the pitching staff knew EXACTLY who he was talking about.

Softball's Tony Gwynn said...

i'm fine with both sides bitching...maybe it will light a fire under everyone's asses. Braun shouldn't have said what he said, but Melvin has every right to fire back since Braun directly criticized the GM for not make a deal.

Rubie Q said...

I don't disagree that Melvin's got the right to do it. I just question whether it was wise to do so.

blueguitarbob said...

Doug Melvin is the GM, which is the only position in the organization who _should_ be making public comments about player acquisition. I don't think Melvin minds players giving their opinions to the media, but Braun crossed the line and actually caused damage to the organization in two ways:

One, he insinuated that Melvin and his staff were not working hard enough pursuing trades. Melvin strikes me as a manager that is highly protective of his staff, and when a high-profile player issues a vote of no-confidence, that's a direct hit on staff morale. Out of ignorance, Braun insulted the dedication, intelligence, and professionalism of over a dozen people in the organization.

Two, he made trade negotiations with other teams more difficult. Everybody in baseball knows the Brewers need starting pitchers, which undercuts Melvin's strength in negotiation. However, _now_ other teams see that pressure for a trade is coming from within the team, from the Brewer's All-Star. Before, Melvin could threaten to stand pat and not make a deal. Now, the whole world knows that Melvin is under internal pressure to do something, or else risk his valued "team chemistry." It's a ticking clock that wasn't there before. It doesn't matter if it is real or not, either. Braun and Melvin can publicly make up, but the damage to the perceived need has been done.

Melvin and his job have a hard enough job, without Braun making it harder. Braun's statement was so far out of line, Melvin had to match it with a public comment. The whole organization, players included, need to know that the GM has the final word on all subjects.

Finally, Melvin's conversation with Tom H was a planned PR move. GM's don't have on-record conversations with senior beat reporters without preparation. I am certain that Mark Attanasio signed off on it. I am also certain that Braun or his agent have been contacted by Attanasio and Brewers PR staff, and that a statement by Braun is forthcoming.

Rubie Q said...

I don't know that I disagree with any of your comments, BGB, except for this line: "Braun's statement was so far out of line, Melvin had to match it with a public comment."

I still don't understand how Melvin participating in a war of words in the Journal-Sentinel benefits anybody. Why not call Braun into the office, say: "Listen, you little shit, that's conduct detrimental to the team, and if you ever do it again, we're suspending you for a game or two," and then tell Haudricourt: "We've handled it internally"? Doesn't that show the whole organization that Melvin's the boss? Doesn't that impress upon Braun the seriousness of his transgression?

In sum: Where's the benefit in our best player and our GM having a big swingin' dick contest in the papers?

Devil's Threesome said...

Agree with Rubie. Braun's stupid action shouldn't elicit an even more moronic response from Melvin. He should know better.

I also don't think this hurts the Crew's bargaining power. Any GM not named Steve Phillips would recognize that the Crew is in desperate need of pitching.

blueguitarbob said...

Why not call Braun into the office... Doesn't that show the whole organization that Melvin's the boss? Doesn't that impress upon Braun the seriousness of his transgression?

No, it will not. Braun made an internal conflict into a public one. Public conflict can only be addressed through public statements. Braun and Melvin need to settle things privately, but that's a different issue than public perception.

The GM is the spokesperson for the organization on issues of player acquisition, player development, and direction of staff. It is completely within his responsibility to make a strong public statement that re-establishes order within the organization. If Melvin made such statements regularly or were known to have a thin skin, I would agree with your characterization of the event as a "big swingin' dick contest." However, Melvin is known to be calm, measured, and professional. That gives him the leeway to make rare strongly-worded statements, and not have it turn into a circus.

By the way, per Tom H, Braun and Melvin will be meeting today. The Brewers obviously intended Tom H to report that a meeting is scheduled. After the meeting, you can expect Braun to issue at least a written statement. Within the next day or so, Braun will express confidence in Melvin and his staff, even if he doesn't actually agree. Even if Braun still doesn't grasp the basics of PR, I'm sure his agent does.