Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Brewers Can't Make the Easy Decision

Let's make one thing abundantly clear.

Being a baseball general manager is not easy. It often involves making unpopular moves, tough decisions, and doing things that fans don't understand.

Very rarely is anything truly easy, and usually it then involves spending oodles of someone else's money on a player who might be great, but also might badly underperform and make you feel stupid for spending all that money. Oh, and that's someone else's money. Don't forget that.

For the Milwaukee Brewers, decisions are almost always tough. General manager Doug Melvin has to juggle a pretty tight player budget. It's not like the club has unlimited funds, though owner Mark Attanasio is aggressive and will spend right to the top of his revenue to win.

Attanasio isn't here to make a ton of money, but he's also not stupid. You don't want to run a losing operation. Attanasio tows the line as best he can, with the help of Melvin.

One of those tough money-spending decisions Melvin made came in the winter of 2006, when he signed veteran pitcher Jeff Suppan to a four-year deal.

Needless to say, it's been a disaster.

Suppan's numbers with Milwaukee are awful, and they get worse every time he pitches. Sunday, as he allowed the game with the Mets to get out of hand, Suppan was lustily booed practically every time he took a breath.

While fans can't dictate the final decisions made regarding players, their frustration here is notable. Melvin and Attanasio pulled off a bad signing, and the fans feel like management refuses to cut bait.

There is probably a small percentage of them who are booing Suppan directly, but this isn't his doing. He signed a contract to be paid a certain amount to pitch. He hit the wall and has regressed, largely because he wasn't that good to begin with. But there's no reason to think he didn't try as hard or that he doesn't care.

This isn't on Suppan. It's on Melvin and Attanasio.

Their responsibility to this franchise is to pay Suppan's contract off and let him become a free agent. Simply put, the team is out of options with Suppan. He won't be effective in the rotation, and he's nothing but mop-up quality as a reliever. You can't just keep a guy as a mop-up pitcher, especially when he's making $12 million, but it's not desirable under any circumstances.

The easy decision here -- the obvious one -- is to DFA Suppan. It would make the team better to have him no longer be a bullpen option. It would make the fans a bit less on edge, because they're not worried about him coming into the game. It would take some heat off everyone in management, as no one would be calling for Soup's head anymore.

So why won't the Brewers do it? They've had a couple chances recently, and they've gone other directions. Chris Capuano and Kameron Loe joined the club from Triple-A, and the team chose not to DFA Suppan in either instance.

Is this the ego of Melvin, or the ego of Attanasio? Or both?

It's doubtful that manager Ken Macha has wasted much time trying to convince management that Suppan can be useful out of the bullpen. For starters, it's hilariously false. It's also not worth anyone's energy, because he hasn't proven he's better than any replacement-level major-league player you can come up with. Why would Macha handcuff himself by arguing for an inferior player?

Again, you can't expect Suppan to voluntarily cut himself. There might be a chance he'd settle for deferred money on at least some of what he is owed, but the Brewers will have to eventually pay up.

Why not do it now and at least give the impression that winning is more important than "making him earn that money (that he'll never truly earn)?"

No comments: