By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jul 18, 2002 at 5:21 AM

As the Brewers continue to struggle on the field, the next couple weeks could determine the fate of GM Dean Taylor.

Over the All Star break, rumors of Taylor's imminent departure increased. The hottest one now is that D-Backs coach Bob Melvin will replace Taylor. Melvin was the only candidate outside the organization to be interviewed for the manager's job after Davey Lopes was fired.

A few weeks ago, Dan Duquette, former GM of the Expos and Red Sox and a disciple of former Brewers GM Harry Dalton, was rumored to be in line for Taylor's job.

Throughout this the Brewers have denied the rumors, but Taylor, who has another season on his contract, likely is on thin ice and could be replaced after this season.

Taylor might save his job if he makes a deal or two before the waiver deadline of July 31. He has made it clear he would be willing to deal one or more of the Brewers' potential free agents for a prospect, ala the David Weathers for Ruben Quevedo deal of last season.

Potential free agents after this season include All Star Jose Hernandez, Tyler Houston, Alex Ochoa, Matt Stairs, Mark Loretta and Jamey Wright. All are veterans. That could be a positive and negative in the market.

The players could be attractive to a contender looking to beef up for a pennant drive. Yet, they also carry veterans' salaries. Loretta, for example, has been on the market all season, but Taylor hasn't found a taker because of Lo's $5 million salary.

You would think an All Star would have value on the market, but Hernandez is 33 and will probably ask for $7-$8 million in salary. Houston was red hot earlier this season, but has cooled off. Ochoa and Stairs are platoon players on most teams. Wright still struggles with his control and has difficulty pitching .500 baseball.

A respected scout this week told BCR that the Brewers' free agents are not all that attractive on the market. What Taylor likely will have to do is package one or two of the players, and be willing to pick up much of what is left on their 2002 salaries.

The tenuous labor negotiations also complicate the situation. Will teams want to beef up for a pennant drive that might be interrupted or cancelled by a work stoppage?

Taylor has made a couple good deals -- the Richie Sexson deal, bringing Luis Vizcaino to Milwaukee, getting Jose Cabrera and Paul Bako from Atlanta. But, other deals, for Wright, now departed Jimmy Haynes, Jaime Navarro and others, have not improved the ballclub. In fact, the records show the Brewers are stuck in reverse.

It could be that the Brewers' farm system has been strengthened under Taylor, but you really can't tell if that is true or not for a couple seasons.

The Brewers don't have that long. They have to demonstrate that they are making some progress at getting better ASAP. Otherwise, the club faces another fall-off in attendance next season and a further reduction in overall interest.

If Taylor can't make any moves to demonstrate that progress, expect him to be history after this season.

Hard Luck Sheets

Ben Sheets has slipped to 4-11 this season, after getting off to a 10-4 start last season as a rookie. Who is the real Ben Sheets? Probably somewhere between the two extremes.

Sheets has gotten pitiful run support most of this season. Yet, he isn't complaining.


"I think I've pitched as well this year as last," said Sheets, who has a decent 3.93 ERA. "All I can do is keep going out there and pitching as good as I can. I figure I'll get some wins eventually."

Players of the Week

Jose Hernandez had an eight-game hitting streak, was averaging over .300 for the homestand and hit two homers on his 33rd birthday Sunday to help the Brewers avoid a sweep by the Pirates. "I feel like I've been celebrating my birthday since the All Star game," said Hernandez, who went 0-3 in the big game at Miller Park.

Plays of the Week

Hernandez's two homers are the picks. Without them, the Brewers likely would have been swept by the Pirates and have started the second half with six straight losses.

Goats of the Week

Jamey Wright should be taking charge of the top spot in the starting rotation. Instead, he continues to struggle with his control and make bad pitches in key situations.

Matt Stairs, who started hitting before the All Star break, has gone stone cold since and is stranding runners in key situations. Stairs was not alone in stranding runners most of the week.

Gregg Hoffmann writes The Brew Crew Review on Thursdays during the baseball season for OMC.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.