Brewers introduce Stearns as new GM

30-year-old was assistant general manager for Houston for three years

September 20th, 2015

MILWAUKEE -- As he pushed deeper into the process of choosing the Brewers' next general manager and found more and more to like about the 30-year-old assistant GM of the Houston Astros, principal owner Mark Attanasio focused not on David Stearns' age, but on other attributes.

"In our interview process, we focused on his experience," Attanasio said. "He's got quite an impressive resume."

That resume includes a degree in political science from Harvard, front-office positions with the Pirates and Mets, as well as positions with the Arizona Fall League and the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office. Combined with an intangible "something special" that Attanasio recognized during an in-person interview that spanned more than four hours, it led to Stearns becoming baseball's youngest current GM on Monday.

Stearns, who was introduced as the ninth GM in franchise history during an hour-long news conference at Miller Park, will visit the team in San Diego next week but won't formally take over the job until Oct. 5. Doug Melvin will continue to run the team until then before transitioning into an advisory role on a multiyear agreement struck with Attanasio last month, when the two announced Melvin would step aside from the post he's held since September 2002.

Craig Counsell will continue as the Brewers' manager, as expected. Stearns said he would make other staffing decisions in due course.

The Brewers did not reveal the length of Stearns' contract, but new general managers typically receive multiyear commitments.

"I don't think it's really a secret. You need to acquire, develop and keep controllable young talent -- quality Major League talent," Stearns said. "If you look at the sustainably competitive teams throughout the industry, regardless of the market size, regardless of the city, that's what they have to do. You can't build a team through free agency. Even the biggest-market teams in baseball can't do that.

"The trick is to develop a process and a system that allows you to consistently generate that pipeline, even as you are competitive at the Major League level. There are a couple of teams that appear to be able to do that, and that's certainly our goal here in Milwaukee."

Stearns' introductory media session covered everything from his childhood in New York, where he fell in love with baseball watching the Mets at Shea Stadium, to his place in baseball's trend toward young Ivy League-educated executives, to his pending engagement to Whitney Ann Lee (they plan to be married in early 2017) to his current task: Rejuvenating an organization currently finishing a lost season at the Major League level.

The first question was this: How long until the Brewers are competitive again?

"That's a good question, and it's interesting," Stearns said. "I've worked for a couple of organizations, and we've gone into seasons where we expected to win a division and we had very disappointing years. And I was recently with an organization [Houston] where there weren't a lot of external expectations as we went into the season, and right now, they're in the middle of what is turning out to be an extremely special year and on pace to make the playoffs.

"I am a big believer in not setting limits for any team, for any year. This is a game with a tremendous amount of variability, and we're going to take each decision as it comes. We'll make the decision in the interest of the overall health of the organization, and the product on the Major League field is certainly a large component of that."

Attanasio shed some light Monday on the process. With organizational assistance from the executive search firm Korn Ferry, it began with an initial list of 44 candidates. In order to whittle that list to a manageable number of finalists, Attanasio was presented with a list of 40 criteria and asked to rank them all by importance.

It produced a top 11 of data points from which to score potential candidates. The No. 1 criteria, Attanasio said, "Has the vision, intelligence and strategic mindset to build the alignment necessary for consistent postseason play."

In the end, there were "a handful" of candidates -- Attanasio declined to be specific -- who went through three-hour interviews with Attanasio, ownership advisory board member Eric Siegel, COO Rick Schlesinger and a representative from Korn Ferry. At the end of each session, Attanasio spent at least an hour one-on-one with each candidate.

Attanasio would not name his finalists, but published reports indicated the interviewees also included Pittsburgh's Tyrone Brooks, Tampa Bay's Chaim Bloom, Oakland's Dan Kantrovitz and Milwaukee's amateur scouting director, Ray Montgomery.

"I wanted to drive to a decision, because I didn't want to wake up and find the candidate we would have maybe preferred had signed with another team because we were moving too slowly," Attanasio said. "So we had a very intensive week last week, and here we are."

Stearns spent the past three seasons as right-hand man to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who relied heavily on advanced analytics to build Houston into an ahead-of-schedule contender this season. Stearns laid out a similarly bold vision for Milwaukee.

"We want to be industry leaders and employ best practices across every function of baseball operations," he said. "We want to have the best scouting information. We want the best player development department. We want to use all the new information sources at our disposal, and we want to be able to combine them in an effective and coherent manner to help our decision-making process. That's what the best organizations in baseball are doing."

It is a big task for a man one year younger than the Brewers' best player, 31-year-old outfielder Ryan Braun. Stearns had a direct answer to a question about his age.

"Throughout my career, I've always been on the younger side for positions I've held," he said. "It's never proven a hindrance for me, and I certainly don't anticipate the youthful appearance to hurt me in this one. Trust me, I've had plenty of text messages in the last 24 hours to tell me that I will age tremendously over the next couple of years."