Last week, in this space, I wrote about Dave Dombrowski’s Achilles Heel in the wake of the Tigers letting go of their long-tenured General Manager. Yesterday, another long-term General Manager was relieved of his duties, as the Brewers have moved Doug Melvin “into an advisory role”, opening up their GM position for the first time since 2002.
Like Dombrowski’s start in Detroit, Melvin’s first few years in Milwaukee were pretty rough. The team lost 94 games in both 2003 and 2004, then hung around .500 for the next three years, so it was five years of laying the groundwork for a competitive team. But in 2008, things started to come together around a strong young core that included 24-year-old sluggers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and 25-year-old middle infielders J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks. To supplement the team’s homegrown core of All-Star hitters, Melvin made a big mid-season trade for CC Sabathia, whose dominant performance helped carry them to the team’s first postseason berth since 1982.
While Sabathia was just a half-season rental — and predictably signed for big money in New York that winter — the Brewers retained the young core that looked like it should form the foundation of a perennial contender. However, since the start of the 2009 season until Melvin’s resignation, the team went just 540-545 and only made the postseason in one out of those seven years. While Dombrowski is leaving Detroit on the back of a long run of success that may just now be coming to an end, Melvin’s track record is more of a long string of unfulfilled potential.
So why weren’t the Brewers able to turn one of the best young groups of home-grown hitters into a consistent winner? Unlike with Dombrowski, Melvin didn’t have one glaring flaw that came back to haunt him on an annual basis. Instead, the Brewers lack of success can be chalked up to three significant organizational failures over the last seven years.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.