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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Milwaukee’s Melvin still crying in his beer

The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers won 96 regular season games on their way to the National League Central Division title. They dispatched Arizona in their Division Series matchup three games to two before meeting the St. Louis Cardinals in the Championship Series.

During the regular season, the Brew Crew and Cardinals had split their series, each club winning five at home. In the Championship Series however, St. Louis eliminated Milwaukee in six games.

Apparently the bitter taste of defeat remains in the mouth of Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, reigning NL Executive of the Year.

In an article posted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Melvin claims the Cardinals had an unfair advantage in September. His belief is that an imbalance occurs because clubs from “large markets” can afford more September call ups from the minor leagues.

Melvin went on to say this:

“I still say that St. Louis doesn’t get in if it’s 30-on-30,” he said. “Tony La Russa was a master at manipulating all the players that he had. They had a kid, (Adron) Chambers. They won a couple of games pinch-running with him late. They got Arthur Rhodes late. They play a team like Houston late in the season. They say they’re rebuilding with minimum-salary guys. They’re not going to bring up guys to accumulate service time. That’s my biggest beef.”

Let’s take Melvin’s claims one by one.

“large markets” – The Cardinals play in the 20th largest market of the 30 MLB clubs. That may appear huge when you are in Milwaukee, ranked #26.

Let’s give Melvin the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant to say “payroll” instead of “markets.” In that case, it still doesn’t hold water as neither club was in the top third in player payroll in 2011, with St. Louis at 11th and Milwaukee 17th.

The two clubs that experienced colossal folds in September, Boston and Atlanta, are located in considerably larger markets than either Milwaukee and St. Louis. The Red Sox had the third-largest payroll in MLB last season with the Braves in between St. Louis and Milwaukee. Their substantial resources clearly did not help them down the stretch.

“30-on-30” – This may be the strangest charge of all. First, let’s check the facts.

The Brewers added seven players to their major league roster in September, while the Cardinals added eight.

The Cardinals promoted six minor leaguers for the final month. They are Brandon Dickson, Shane Robinson, Maikel Cleto, Tony Cruz, Tyler Greene and Chambers. Two other Major Leaguers were activated from the DL during September, Nick Punto and Eduardo Sanchez, for a maximum roster size of 33. That compares to Milwaukee at 32.

Most of the new Cardinals rode the pines, while the Brewers, with a huge division lead, proudly announced their callups would play. I did not check the Milwaukee group’s September at-bats and innings-pitched, as I don’t see it being particularly relevant to this discussion.

The contention is the benefit received by St. Louis. The veteran Punto had more final-month at-bats than the four kids combined. The youngsters hit a combined 6-for-20 (.300) while Punto went 8-for-26 (.308). The Cardinals’ three September call up pitchers were a complete non-factor, throwing just 6 2/3 innings in total with an aggregate ERA of 4.05.

Did the Brewers add one fewer player for financial reasons or because their farm system just isn’t as good? In all fairness, even after several highly-publicized trades of prospects for veterans (Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke), the Brewers certainly must have had additional Triple-A players had they needed them. If not, shame on them.

“Tony La Russa was a master at manipulating all the players that he had.” – OK, so does that mean his skipper Ron Roenicke was less adept at roster management of his 32 players than was La Russa with 33? Is Melvin suggesting the Cardinals should have stopped trying because their manager was too good at his job?

“They got Arthur Rhodes late.” – This is clearly a red herring. It seems a major stretch to tie the addition of a bit player signed on August 11 to September roster size. Rhodes played the role of the second left-handed reliever, a spot almost always occupied in La Russa’s bullpen, whether April or October.

Further, I would like to see anyone with a straight face assert that the 41-year-old with a 4.15 ERA was a 2011 difference-maker. If Melvin truly felt that way, he could have signed Rhodes himself for the mere pittance of a pro-rated share of the MLB minimum salary, less than $150,000. (Texas paid the majority of the 2011 salary of Rhodes, a player currently out of work.)

“(Houston is) not going to bring up guys to accumulate service time.” – Another very questionable claim.

Melvin implies the Cardinals unfairly benefited by playing the lowly and rebuilding Astros in September. The facts are that both clubs, St. Louis and Milwaukee, met Houston in only one final-month series.

The Cardinals won two of those September contests and Houston one. Of course, the last St. Louis victory is most memorable as it was in the final game of the regular season.

How about Milwaukee? They also played the Astros three times in September, earning a sweep. Despite the big division lead, individual games were still significant to the Brewers in the fight for home-field advantage. The Brewers took home field by just two games over Arizona. Didn’t they also benefit by playing Houston?

That one additional home game could have been the difference maker in their NLDS that went a full five games.

Despite Milwaukee earning the right to play more post-season games at Miller Park, they still lost to the Cardinals in the Championship Series. That brings us to a final point which Melvin did not make.

Rosters are of equal size in the playoffs. – The most relevant fact is that in the post-season, the best 25 players on the Cardinals and their manager defeated the best 25 players on the Brewers and their skipper. This cannot be disputed.

While Melvin admitted “I kill this thing to death…,” he is apparently so focused on his personal roster-size crusade that he presented a case that doesn’t hold water and makes him look like a sore loser.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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36 Responses to “Milwaukee’s Melvin still crying in his beer”

  1. blingboy says:

    Melvin didn’t have much to say about unfair advantage before Braun beat the juicing charge on a technicality.

    Dougie is having a rough spring with his big star getting heckled (by Barry Bonds fans) and Cory Hart going down with a torn meniscus.

    “But about half of the 6,619 fans cheered for the Giants and greeted Braun with catcalls. They serenaded the Brewers slugger with chants of “Ur-ine Sam-ple!” before Braun struck out swinging against Madison Bumgarner in his first at-bat. His second time up, Braun was greeted with chants of “Cheater!” before looking at strike three. ” . . . .

    . . . ” An MRI exam revealed Hart has a torn meniscus and needs arthroscopic surgery that will sideline him three to four weeks. ”

    • STLfan51 says:

      What’s the excuse going to be next year, “It’s not fair, we lost our 1B to free agency” ?????!!!!!

      This is why he’s in Milwaukee plain and simple.

      Your team got worked, your manager got worked, and YOU GOT WORKED. Deal with it. Get used to it. Everyone plays by the same rules. Win more games.

  2. crdswmn says:

    Maybe Mrs. Melvin has Dougie sleeping on the couch.

  3. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Juliet to Romeo………” but what satisfaction canst thou take tonight my lord”………………. “let me count the ways” say WC……………..

  4. crdswmn says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that having Matt Adams make the team only to sit on the bench is a bad idea?

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      he pinch hits everyday ………………….. when Mo says that they will look outside the organization if Craig isn’t ready…………………… thats indication enough to suggest they are thinking about it ……… Lets see how long the keep him around …………………………….. iI thought Matheny was cool today ……. didn’t over react to any of the crisis situations ………………. his keeping Salas and the pinch hit by DD were his only self interested moves …………. I like to see him make players clean up after themselves ………

      • crdswmn says:

        Seems like a waste to me.

        • blingboy says:

          He’s making it hard to leave him behind. Salami one day, three run triple the next. 7 of the team’s 16 RBIs so far. But its early. Nice to have him in the wings in case some of the geriatrics or patched up knees and ankles go down.

          Carp has a sore neck.

          Seems like a lot of patience at the plate so far. Guys taking a walk when it matters. Good.

          Its going to be fun seeing what a Cards offense not built around whats-his-name looks like. I’m sure it will have to evolve as we go. Should be plenty to talk about. I’m sure Mike will be able to tune in here for all the expert advice he could ever want. Mo already knows that, as I understand it, so he is sure to tip off the new guy. Everybody got a fresh roll of tinfoil ready?

      • crdswmn says:

        Yes, I realize that, but if he keeps hitting like he is now, there is going to be strong pressure for him to make the team. So, where he is going to play? Unless Berkman goes down, he can’t play everyday and when Craig comes back he should be the favorite to be Berkman’s back up. Adams can’t play any other position but 1B. A pinch hitter off the bench is a waste of his talents imo. He should be playing everyday in Memphis and then he would be the strong contender to be the everyday 1B in 2013.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Adams isn’t going to keep hitting like this. Just remember all the Matt Carpenter excitement last spring. Just like Adams, he was reigning Player of the Year in the system after a big year with Springfield. Carpentermania lasted a lot longer than four games. He began the season at Memphis.

          Now you will have no reason to read my next blog post. 😉

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Matt Adams is not going to make the ML roster, because slated to spend a season or two at Memphis, getting competitive for the Show.
          If Berkman went down, we could put Matt Carpenter or Freese at 1B. Or, Steve Hill or Hamilton.

          Big Matt will be wowing Beale Street during 2012.

  5. Kansasbirdman says:

    Query, BB might know the answer to this one.

    I have a friend, a Cardinal fan, who drinks Miller beer, and while I myself prefer more ‘flavorful’ beers than the mass produced lagers, if I do drink them I try to buy Budweiser products (probably a lot has to do with relatives that worked for AB brewery back in the day and my mom’s family’s habit being from St. Louis- they even had a dog named Michelob).

    So, is he in anyway financiall ‘supporting’ the Brewers team and am I in anyway ‘supporting’ the Cardinals by buying the beers. I know that AB buys add time on Fox Sports Midwest, and the stadium is named “Busch” but I thought Brian pointed out one time that the Card’s financed their stadium. Then the Brewers have Miller park, I assume the companies pay for naming rights.

    • Brian Walton says:

      If the question is “Did A-B pay for the naming rights for the new stadium?” the answer is “yes, through 2025.” I did a quick search and it looks like Miller’s deal with the Brewers runs through 2020.

    • blingboy says:

      With A-B no longer owning the team, and itself now owned by the frogs, I’m less loyal, going in more for the micros and europeans. I like Billy Busch’s new brew also. I really have no information on whether buying A-B products would equate to supporting the team. As to a Miller drinker, one would naturally question his manhood. But I’ve learned the hard way to keep it to myself. I’d advise doing the same.

  6. Kansasbirdman says:

    And to throw in my two cents on Brian’s article: Anyone think that Mr. Melvin is trying to answer to Brewer’s fans by throwing out excuses to them. By playing the poor little small market Brewers card (which only umbrage-seeking homecrowd fans would buy into) he basically excuses the huge blown opportunity from last Fall. The Brewers had a lot of pieces, and on paper were a formidable foe, but they got beat out by the surprisingly surging and comeback Cardinals.

    I think when Brewers fans see this year’s roster (and it’s still not terrible by any means) they are going to really feel let down by letting last year pass them bye. They will realize they also lost Fielder, which is another thing some fans may feel the GM has to answer for. So by playing the small market sympathy card he provides an excuse for all of those things. His audience for those remarks are the team’s fanbase.

  7. blingboy says:

    “persistent neck stiffness” + Med staff track record = ? ? ?

    • crdswmn says:

      I could infer many things from this, some of which are not fit for this blog. 😉

      Hopefully, all he needs is a chiropractor and a better pillow.

    • T8Ball says:

      then add two months to the return date that the Med staff announces.

      • crdswmn says:

        I’ve heard it described as “neck stiffness” and “neck discomfort”. Stiffness suggests a muscle issue which is less worrisome. Discomfort could be either muscular or nerve. Nerve issues are more scary. Of course, the club will play it down until they are forced to reveal the grizzly news.

        • blingboy says:

          If Chris doesn’t make his first start by the middle of next week (three weeks from opening day), which seems increasingly unlikely, then the opening day thing seems unlikely.

          So I’d bet Roy’s agent is sticking pins in his Carpenter doll. Conveniently, Roy just announced he is no longer concerned with trying to stay close to home.

          • blingboy says:

            Nothing against Roy, but saving Mo’s dry powder for mid season needs/opportunities would be better. I hope somebody emerges as a fill-in. And it would be better if that were not one of the guys pencilled in for the pen, like Lynn.

            I’m not saying Carp is a scratch yet.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Do any of you figure that Carp started to back off his weights program when he started feeling it?????

          Now that he has………………do any of you figure that conflict was about something?????????

          So the real issue is……with massage….anti inflames……… and with rest he should feel fine……..

          Now we approach the real issue ………………… does that matter ……… can he pitch on heart alone????

          And the big question ………. since no one is doing any of the research ……… Cardinals FO…. all the way down to the medical staff did not play to win last year…….until Tony crapped out ……… they are very definitely playing to win this year …………… does that effort make a difference here?????? How much does Carp depend on the high energy momentum and the pumped feel to preform in his pitching style……………….. they are still gearing him to open……Garcia and then Waino to follow…..which sets up the home opener for Waino……………….. will they pressure that posture…to sell tickets……….. or do they make a realistic evaluation of what is becoming a setback …… you witnessed Carp out of phase last year…………… it took him a long while to recover…….all the way down to the “trade talks”………………. this is a tough challenge for all involved…….. it may mean making Carp the 4 or 5 starter until June….hoping for better match-ups……. one way or another…burying the problem….. by sacrificing the commercial end of it for the long range well being of the team is the solution…one way or another………….. like last year….maybe he runs best from back in the pack… relying on his heart for the big kick…… is the finish that counts…..

          • blingboy says:

            Carp’s clutch heroics late last season makes it easy to forget he looked rather bad much of the year. After losing to the lowly royals in the middle of June he was 1-7, 4.47 ERA. That’s 2 1/2 months into the season. Yet its hard to imagine anyone I’d have rather had on the mound at the end when it was live or die. So I’d say its less important when he can be in top form, and long as he can be at some point.

  8. friendmouse says:

    CW, I supposed you’re “stoked” about Waino’s debut today, huh? I am, too! I hope he “wows” us all!

    • crdswmn says:

      I’d be a lot more stoked if I could watch it. But yes, I am excited and nervous about it. I have to resist the temptation to let my expectations get too high, but I feel positive about it.

  9. crdswmn says:

    Now they are saying it is a nerve issue. Not good.

  10. blingboy says:

    Wainy looked good. 2 IP, 0 H, 2 K, 1 BB.

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