Dear Ken Macha

Winding It Down Right (66-70)

By - Sep 6th, 2009 11:07 pm
There's still heart in this team, even if they're not going anywhere (photo by Matt Schilder)

There’s still heart in this team, even if they’re not going anywhere. Photo by Matt Schilder

Dear Ken Macha,

It didn’t take long for your team to snuff out any remaining postseason hope I had for this season. An unlucky 2-4 week when you were on the cusp of wild card contention sealed the deal for me. Impeccable timing, Ken.

But in the process of affirming that this team isn’t going anywhere in October but to the TGI Fridays at One Brewers Way, I think I actually gained a greater respect for the organization and a renewed confidence in where you’re headed next year.

It’s not a stretch to say that we all had overly optimistic hopes for this year, Ken. Last year was a total sugar high for a fan base unaccustomed to success and this year is clearly the hangover many of us saw coming after the team let Ben Sheets’ injured elbow walk away and admirably tried to keep C.C. Sabathia from taking his XXL jersey to the Yankees. The season was built upon a foundation of “ifs” that as the season progressed gradually became “wonts.” As the pitching staff has demonstrated with aggravating regularity, you can’t even count on being average when a certain amount of luck is necessary just to feel okay about our chances.

Yet for such a disappointing year, it’s not entirely clear what Doug Melvin, or you honestly, could have done to keep the team’s upward trajectory going for another year. Looking back on the rather thin free agent market and the surprisingly dismal performance from several of our returning players, it was practically inevitable that we’d need to take a step back and suffer through this year before we could try to top last season’s wild card berth. Too many of the important bricks from last year’s foundation were removed for you to build upon that success.

So it’s through this resigned perspective that I see you’re starting the Nashville-tanned J.J. Hardy over the eminently more deserving Alcides Escobar. After the initial surprise, I can accept that it’s a move borne from the fact that Hardy is as good as gone this offseason. Anything he can do now to raise his trade value is just gravy on a rotten turkey leg. And that turkey is definitely rotten, Ken — Hardy’s demotion cost him a few million since his reduced service time keeps him from reaching free agent status for an additional year. As justified as it was to send him down, that move by Melvin was definitely — hell, I might as well get the “J.J. Hardy lives life to a soundtrack of Bon Jovi” jokes out of my system while I still can — bad medicine to J.J.

It’s also why Jody Gerut, Frank Catalanotto, Jason Bourgeois and Corey Patterson are sharing time in the outfield; and it’s why Craig Counsell is resting comfortably on the bench more often than not. As much as everyone would love to have this final month of the season mean something, it’s clear that at best it’s going to serve as a little more than a moral victory lap for our beleaguered pitching staff and stat-padding for Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Be that as it may, it makes perfect sense that September should become a de facto early spring training.

That’s not to say that accepting the reality of the situation and continuing to play hard are mutually exclusive. Not in the least, as Sunday’s fantastically turned triple play and hilarious post-game celebration demonstrated. But as fans readjust their expectations going forward, I think it’s important to understand that just because you’re not playing for this season anymore doesn’t mean there’s any less effort put forth. Certainly not when so many players are already playing for spots on next season’s roster and beyond. So keep it up, Ken. The way you finish out this season will reveal a lot about what we can expect for the next.

Best Regards,
Rob Vosters

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