Melvin's peaks with Crew outweigh team's valleys
Milwaukee GM's contributions paved way for playoff teams of 2008, '11
Doug Melvin leaves the Milwaukee Brewers in much better shape than the team was in when he came on board.
This is one measurement of success. It's not the flashiest, the gaudiest or the most adoring -- but in this case, it will stick. Melvin, who said Tuesday that he is stepping down as general manager but will remain with the Brewers in an advisory role, came into a dismal situation in Milwaukee after the 2002 season, a season in which the club had lost 106 games. But Melvin patiently built an organization that was capable of reaching the postseason.
The Brewers, under Melvin, reached the postseason in 2008 via the National League Wild Card after a 26-year absence from the postseason. They won the NL Central in 2011, putting up the franchise's best regular-season record (96-66) and advancing to the NL Championship Series. Melvin was named Executive of the Year for 2011 by Baseball America.
It hasn't all been roses -- particularly this season, with Milwaukee in last place in the NL Central, being sellers of front-line talent at the Trade Deadline and getting into what they hope will be a rapid rebuild mode.
This season was an organizational miscalculation. The Brewers had been in first place in 2014 for 150 days, but they crashed late in the season, finishing 9-23. The organization chose to view that late swoon as an aberration. Apparently, it wasn't.
The 2015 Brewers opened the season 5-18. Their play improved markedly after Craig Counsell replaced Ron Roenicke as manager, but it wasn't enough to offset the dismal start. Melvin traded substantial players, most notably outfielders Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra, and in the process was able to restock Milwaukee's farm system.
Now, Melvin will transition to an advisory role. The club will immediately begin a search for his successor.
The Brewers did a splendid job of scouting, drafting and developing talent in the early years of Melvin's tenure, most notably with such game-changers as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun coming up through the ranks. But the quality of Draft selections diminished after 2008 following the departure of Jack Zduriencik, who had been Milwaukee's director of scouting. He left to become general manager of the Seattle Mariners.
The Brewers drafted and developed impact position players, but until recently, they did not have the same success with pitchers. Up until last year, they had developed just one front-line starting pitcher in Yovani Gallardo, who is now with the Rangers. Wily Peralta emerged last year, and this year both Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann have demonstrated that they are legitimate big league starters. All three have top-shelf stuff, and they offer the Milwaukee club the promise of better days.
Melvin compensated for the pitching shortage by trading prospects for front-line starters. A deal with Cleveland for CC Sabathia in 2008 was central to the Brewers earning the NL Wild Card berth, while the trade with Kansas City for Zack Greinke helped Milwaukee win the division title in '11. The latter was a classic trade that helped both teams, as two former Brewers -- outfielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar -- were mainstays for the Royals team that reached the World Series last year.
Though Melvin is stepping away from the general manager's job, he did produce some notable high points for a franchise that was suffering prior to his arrival. He leaves a far better situation than the one he found in 2002. And for that, Melvin clearly finishes on the positive side of the baseball ledger.