Yost ‘toasted’ by Brewers
Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 2:40 pm
By: By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Firing the manager of a skidding playoff contender with only 12 games left in the regular season is unprecedented in baseball. It’s the front-office equivalent of a suicide squeeze play.
But Milwaukee Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio insists that replacing manager Ned Yost with third-base coach Dale Sveum wasn’t desperate or rash.
“Whatever it looks like from the outside, nothing we do is rash,” Attanasio said Monday. “It’s all reasoned and thoughtful, and I believe always in the best interest of the Milwaukee Brewers. We don’t give any thought to what it looks like to third parties because we know that our process works.”
It certainly hasn’t worked this month. Yost’s firing comes in the wake of a late-season slide that has jeopardized the team’s chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 1982.
Milwaukee went into September with a 51/2-game lead in the NL wild-card race, but has lost 11 of 14 games this month and went into this week tied with Philadelphia for the wild-card lead.
“Something obviously went wrong the last two weeks,” Sveum said. “We’re just trying to send a shock wave through this team and get them going for 12 days and through the playoffs.”
It marked the first time in major league history — except the strike-split 1981 season — that a manager was fired in August or later with his team in playoff position, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
Speaking at a news conference in Chicago on Monday evening, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin made it clear that he wasn’t trying to make a scapegoat out of Yost. Melvin said Yost has been “knocking his brains out” to figure out what was wrong.
The Brewers arrived in Chicago early Monday for an upcoming series with the Cubs. By 7 a.m., Yost was wandering the streets with a cup of coffee and trying to figure out what was wrong.
He didn’t come up with any new answers.
“It does seem odd to let someone go when he has given his heart and his soul to the organization, but we didn’t have any option at this point,” Melvin said. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Yost did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone by The Associated Press. He is scheduled to speak to reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning.
Sveum wasn’t sure how players would react to the sudden change. But he didn’t seem to mind if they’re a little bit shocked and said he didn’t consider winning them over to be a goal.
“I’m a very straightforward person, probably sometimes too brutally honest,” Sveum said. “That gets in my way some times and it benefits me sometimes.”
Sveum’s tone was a departure from Yost, whose stubborn refusal to abandon or criticize young players during prolonged slumps likely helped their long-term development but made him a lightning rod with some fans.
“Ned was always terribly loyal to his players, and it didn’t always come back, unfortunately, in the other direction,” Attanasio said.
The decision to fire Yost was portrayed as a mutual agreement between Melvin and Attanasio that was finalized in a meeting Monday morning. But Melvin expressed some doubt.
“(Yost) didn’t have all the answers for what is going on the last two weeks and I’m not sure I have all the answers,” Melvin said. “I’m not sure this is the right one, either.”
Members of NL Central rivals Chicago and Houston expressed surprise. They played another neutral-site game in Milwaukee on Monday after Hurricane Ike made it too difficult to play their scheduled series in Houston over the weekend.
“That was a shocker,” Astros owner Drayton McLane said. “Has a team ever done that at this point of the season this close to the playoffs?”
During the rejiggered 1981 season, the Montreal Expos fired future Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams in early September. The Expos went 16-11 under Jim Fanning to win the second-half title and make the playoffs.
In 1983, Philadelphia fired Pat Corrales in early July when it was in first place with a 43-42 record. Under Paul Owens, the Phillies reached the World Series.
In 1982, the Brewers fired manager Buck Rodgers after a 23-24 start. Popular Harvey Kuenn took over and his “Harvey’s Wallbangers” went to the World Series.
“It was a big surprise to me,” said Astros infielder Mark Loretta, formerly of the Brewers. “It makes you wonder who really made that decision.”
Cubs manager Lou Piniella called Yost a “good baseball man” who was likely to get an opportunity to manage elsewhere.
Brewers bench coach Ted Simmons, considered by many to be a potential successor if Yost got fired, instead was reassigned to an “advisory role.” Sveum immediately hired Brewers’ Hall of Famer Robin Yount, a close friend and former teammate, to be his bench coach. Garth Iorg will coach third base.
By shaking up its on-field leadership, Milwaukee is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s collapse. The Brewers held an 81/2-game division lead in late June but slid to 83-79 and missed the playoffs.
The Brewers came into 2008 with even higher hopes, and received a major boost when they made a trade with Cleveland for ace CC Sabathia in July. The reigning AL Cy Young winner is 9-0 in 13 starts with six complete games and a 1.59 ERA.
But little else — not the other starters, the shaky bullpen or a home run-happy offense that has gone colder than a Wisconsin winter — is working for Milwaukee these days.
“He’s taken us home 95 percent of the way,” Melvin said of Yost. “It’s the players’ job, and they have the biggest responsibility to get this thing together with 12 games left.”
AP Sports Writers Colin Fly in Milwaukee and Rick Gano in Chicago contributed to this report.