It’s an annual rite of passage for Milwaukee Brewers fans to complain about their team’s GM either during the season or in the winter. Considering the lack of moves this offseason, it won’t be long until fans begin calling for Doug Melvin‘s job once again. Thus, it seems appropriate to actually examine Melvin’s tenure in Milwaukee.
Melvin joined the Brewers on the heels of a 56-106 season, the 20th consecutive year of the team sitting at home for the playoffs and 10th straight season of them finishing below the .500 mark. From 1993-2002, the 10 seasons from the last winning season until Melvin’s first day, the Brewers had a .444 winning percentage to go with no postseason play and zero winning seasons.
In Melvin’s 11 seasons (2003-2013), Milwaukee owns a .491 winning percentage, has four winning seasons and reached the playoffs twice. The Brewers won 90 games in taking the 2007 wild card spot, then grabbed the National League Central division title in 2011 with 96 victories.
During his time as GM, Milwaukee has the seventh-most wins in the NL. His best five-year span took place from 2007-2011 when the Brewers went 426-384 (.526), good for the third-most wins during that span, behind only the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies.
Melvin has done a solid job finding value in the scrap heaps, even if their time has been limited. He was able to get quality seasons out of guys like Derrick Turnbow, Scott Podsednik and John Axford among others. Though he’s sacrificed highly-touted prospects and organizational depth at times, Melvin has also shown a knack for striking big to bring in the talent the club needs to get over the hump.
His bold move to bring in C.C. Sabathia brought Milwaukee one of the greatest half-season performances in baseball history. That move also delivered the Brewers’ first postseason berth in 25 years.
Four years later, knowing he had to improve the starting rotation to complement the offense, Melvin swung deals for Shaun Marcum and former Cy Young winner Zack Grienke. Those powerful trades gave Milwaukee a franchise-record 96 wins, its first division title in almost 30 seasons and a thrill ride to within two games of the World Series. He then flipped Grienke to get Jean Segura, making the original deal even sweeter.
Melvin, of course, has his warts. The farm system has gone from one of the best in MLB to bottom of the barrel. Developing any sort of pitching has been a huge issue throughout his time in Milwaukee. His reliance on big power, low on-base percentage guys who struggle defensively has been a source of frustration.
There have also been a number of bad contracts that have hampered the franchise, particularly the Bill Hall and Jeff Suppan deals. Some would even argue that the aforementioned trades weren’t worth the postseason appearances because of the young talent and leverage they lost.
It’s a fine line of developing young talent and using them to acquire proven stars. Because the Brewers can’t spend freely on the open market, many say they need to keep their prospects and build from within. On the flip side, draft picks don’t always pan out and windows close quickly, especially when the margin for error is so small.
When taking into account the Brewers’ financial constraints and the culture of losing that was rampant in the organization before Melvin arrived, it’s hard to argue that his time has been anything but successful. Under Melvin, the Brewers have sent 36 players to the All-Star game and drafted an MVP in Ryan Braun (yes, I know). For these reasons and more, I have a hard time understanding the people who want Melvin gone.
Melvin has to be considered one of the top 10-12 GMs in MLB, especially with the challenges in Milwaukee. Looking for the next great GM is fine in theory, but it would be a gamble to try and predict which man (or woman) would be better.