Monday, June 14, 2010

Suppan Stunk, But Showed Classy Side

No one can possibly deny that giving pitcher Jeff Suppan a $42 million contract in late 2006 was a total disaster for the Milwaukee Brewers.

The veteran was touted as a playoff performer and innings eater. For the Brewers, he was nothing close to either. Instead of eating innings, he threw gopher balls like they were going out of style, and he was never a big-game pitcher. His only playoff start was an elimination game against Philadelphia in the 2008 Division Series that turned into the Brewers' elimination from the playoffs because Suppan was terrible on that day.

He never could consistently keep his pitches down, leading him to give up a ton of hard hits and making him susceptible to big innings.

While Yovani Gallardo blossomed into a star and guys like Dave Bush at least ate some innings once in a while, Suppan was an awful addition.

That said, it's not like he didn't try. He was active with the Brewers in their charitable efforts, and he was always visible in the community, even if he wasn't terribly popular among the majority of fans.

When the time had come where releasing Suppan was obvious, the Brewers struggled to pull the trigger. It was understandable in a way, as it's hard to admit big-money mistakes, and it's even harder when you make so few moves like this. Eating $10 million isn't an easy thing to do, either.

Suppan was released last Monday. It was telling how both sides handled the matter, starting with general manager Doug Melvin.

“Jeff has always been a true professional. He gave his best effort to the organization, whether it was on the field or in the community. I am confident that he can return to a starting rotation with another organization. We wish Jeff and his family nothing but the best.”

Suppan also issued a statement.

"I want to thank Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin for all they have done for my family and me, especially how they handled this situation. I"ve played with a number of organizations and the Brewers are one of the classiest.

"When I signed in 2007, I was committed to winning and to this day I still am. Nobody is more disappointed with how things have turned out. I enjoyed my time here in Milwaukee, as both a player and a member of the community. As such, I will continue my involvement with the Brewers Charities for the remainder of the 2010 season. My commitment to this cause and the people it serves is unwavering.

"I wish the current organization, its fans and especially my teammates all the best."

Class all the way. How can you hate on a guy like that?

It doesn't change the reality. Melvin made a huge mistake in signing Suppan, especially when the money spent was largely based on the small sample size of the 2006 playoffs. That year, virtually everything -- including Suppan -- was overwhelmingly going the way of a Cardinals team that probably wasn't better than any team it faced in the postseason.

The Brewers can't recoup that money in any way, nor should they be allowed to. It was offered up because the team felt Suppan could stabilize the pitching staff. It wasn't given to "Soup" with any promise that he would become a 20-game winner.

Since these developments last week, Suppan has decided to join the NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals, where pitching coach Dave Duncan will try to work his latest masterpiece by finding a way to make Suppan good again.

Naturally, this opens the door for Suppan to face his old team, and you all know he'll probably no-hit them or something.

But it's still hard to wish ill will upon Suppan. He didn't complain when the Brewers skipped him in the rotation, had him on a short leash, put him on the DL with dubious injuries, and eventually kicked him to the bullpen before kicking him to the curb. He tried his best. It didn't work out.

These things happen. But Suppan deserves another chance in baseball, simply by how well he has handled adversity. As long as it's not against the Brewers, it's hard not to want to see him do well.

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