By Drew Olson Special to Published Nov 12, 2006 at 5:22 AM
The biggest announcement of the Brewers’ off-season -- at least to date -- hit fans like a punch to the solar plexus.

Robin Yount isn’t coming back.

The bench coach / Hall of Famer / franchise icon informed general manager Doug Melvin that he wanted to spend more time with his family. The Brewers, who have learned a lesson or two about bad news, slipped the press release out just after 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

"This was a very difficult decision for me," Yount said in the team’s statement. "I have such a passion for the job and I did not want to shortchange the club by not being able to fully commit to the position. The decision came down to devoting more time to my family."

Since this is a relatively quiet period on the baseball calendar (the general manager’s meetings begin this week in Naples, Fla., but what happens there is generally more preliminary than earthshaking) some fans may be tempted to look at Yount’s departure in a search for signs.

That trail will lead many to some predictable stops. For example:

Robin wanted out because he thinks the Brewers stink and doesn’t want to be associated with a loser. In the space of a year, he recognized the same traits -- penny-pinching, dumpster-diving and praying for miraculous overachievement --  that he experienced as a player.


Robin had major philosophical differences with Ned Yost. He doesn’t respect his managerial acumen and didn’t want to be at his side when the ship sinks next spring.

Along those lines, there is this variation:

Yount still likes Yost, but fears that his friend will be fired if the team gets off to a bad start next season. That would put him in an uncomfortable situation similar to the one he faced when he worked in Arizona. The Diamondbacks fired manager Bob Brenly and reportedly looked to Yount, who was bench coach at the time, to take over the reins. Yount, who is exceedingly loyal, refused the offer and resigned.

And finally, there is one from conspiracy theorists for whom searching the grassy knoll isn’t enough. They have to toke up, as well:

The Brewers weren’t impressed with Yount’s coaching ability and / or work ethic and let him play "the family card" in order to camouflage the fact that they fired a franchise icon. (Note: In order to subscribe to this theory, one must believe that bench coaches play a pivotal role in team’s success or failure. The meeting for that group will be held in a phone booth next week).

During a down time for the industry, these theories may provide an interesting diversion. In terms of validity... let’s just say they fall a little short.

I haven’t spoken to Yount since the season ended, but let’s just say that nobody who was around the clubhouse last year was surprised to hear that he hung it up. You may have read or heard his sound bites from the final homestand about 'everybody who knows me knows I go year to year,' or 'I don’t think about the future until it comes...'"

Yount also said at the time that he would be stunned if he wasn’t back with the club in 2007.

So, what happened?

Here are two theories that you can pretty much take to the bank:

Yount’s wife, Michelle, wanted him home.

Can it be that simple?


Robin Yount played for 20 seasons for the Brewers, which means Michelle raised four children -- Melissa, Amy, Dustin and Jenna -- with her husband gone for much of the year.  If the Brewers played their home games in Phoenix, things could be a bit different. But, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

When Yount joined the Brewers’ staff a year ago, one of the big reasons he cited was that his youngest daughter, Jenna, was a senior in high school and wasn’t going to be around much, anyway. (She’s now attending the University of Colorado).

The Yount’s nest in Paradise Valley is empty. After all the sacrifices that Michelle Yount made over the years, it’s easy to understand why she wouldn’t want to be left home alone while her husband hits fungoes and studies spray charts.

That brings us to our second theory, and it’s equally important: Being a Major League coach is not an easy job. In fact, there are parts of it that stink.

Before the protest Talkbacks start rolling in, let us state for the record that we aren’t comparing coaching to digging ditches, tarring roofs or cleaning the Slurpee machine at the corner Stop ‘n Go. The travel is first class. You get access to good tickets (they’re taxed now, so not totally free) and you get to spend a lot of the summer outside.

But, the pay is not great (compared to what players make). The hours are terrible. (Coaches often show up at 1 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game). And, the travel places excruciating demands on family life. (Yount missed a few games last year to attend Jenna’s graduation and he felt guilty about it). Yount was one of the harder-working coaches the Brewers have had in the past 15 years and his ability to communicate with players was uncanny.

The bottom line is that Robin Yount doesn’t need to be a coach. Talk to him for 90 seconds and you’ll be convinced that he still loves the game, the camaraderie and competition. But, you also have to figure it doesn’t approach the kick he got from playing it at the Hall of Fame level he did.

Yount would never say this, but in a way coaching and even managing seem somehow "beneath" a Hall of Fame player. How many Hall of Fame players have been good managers? I remember watching Billy Williams coach first on a frigid April afternoon at Wrigley Field and thinking "Why would a Hall of Famer want to put himself through that?"

For Williams and other players of his generation, the reason was probably money. Money likely isn’t a motivator. Although Yount had some widely reported financial troubles during his playing career, those have apparently been alleviated to the point where cash flow is not a concern.

So, it comes down to a lifestyle question. Could Robin Yount be happy traipsing around the country, putting on a uniform, hitting grounders and encouraging players who will never approach his skill level?

Sure, he could.

Is achieving that happiness worth putting any strain on his relationship with Michelle or his family life?

On balance, it probably isn’t.

The only way our theory can be blown out of the water is if Yount resurfaces with another organization in the next 12 to 18 months. That seems unlikely, but not out of the question. Yount’s close friend, Bob Melvin, manages the Diamondbacks, who would have a home-field advantage in trying to lure Yount back. (But, Yount is pretty sour on the management group at Insert-bank-name-here Field in Phoenix).

There is little doubt that the Brewers will always have a spot open for Yount if he wants it. The club tried for several years to get Yount to come to work for them after his retirement. He tried it for a year and decided he’d rather stay home. He leaves with no bitterness. If the Brewers ever make the playoffs, Yount will be the first person they call to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Yount will show up, smile and receive a standing ovation.

That’s how it should be.

Although Yount’s return generated a lot of hype, his exit shouldn’t engender a lot of hard feelings. Rather than worrying about why Robin Yount left after a year, Brewers fans should just thank him for being Robin Yount.
Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.