Milwaukee Brewers fans seem pretty excited about new General Manager David Stearns. That’s certainly justified, but it could also be like being up for that hot date you know is out of your league and doesn't work out as planned.
Stearns fits the fashionable Moneyball mode for recent GM winners like Theo Epstein, Jon Daniels, Brian Cashman or Andrew Friedman. At 30, he’s the youngest GM in the game right now, although Epstein and Daniels were originally hired at 28. Stearns comes from a three-year stint as assistant GM of the Houston Astros, who are battling to make the playoffs this season after falling on hard times in 2008.
Prior to the Astros, Stearns served in various roles with the Indians, Mets and Pirates, where he was involved with data analysis, contracts and strategy, which are good words to have on a baseball resume these days. However, not all the post-Moneyball whiz kids have exactly built winners yet as noted by Josh Byrnes, Jed Hoyer or Alex Antopolous.
Brewers fans can see how Stearns fits the mold of those other supposed boy geniuses, but they should also note that hiring younger, unproven GMs does not have a good track record in Milwaukee.
While there are plenty of Doug Melvin haters in Brew City, they shouldn’t bash the second most successful GM in club history. Playoff starved Milwaukeeans have seen post-season baseball twice since 2008 and won a dramatic series against the Diamondbacks in 2011 before falling to the dreaded Cardinals.
Melvin traded for C.C. Sabathia in 2008 and Zach Greinke in 2011 to help secure playoff berths. Only a colossal collapse in 2014 kept the Brewers from another October pennant chase. The Brewer farm system has been down in recent years after producing the likes of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and others. While Melvin sent some of those hot prospects packing to success elsewhere, they brought in Cy Young caliber pitchers needed for play-off runs.
He also hired and fired Ned Yost, now winning divisions with the Royals in Kansas City. Melvin came to Milwaukee after achieving the first real success in Texas Rangers history in the 1990s, and he will remain with the Brewers as a consultant during the Stearns transition.
Prior to Melvin, the Brewers franchise hit one of its lower points in 1999-2002 under Dean Taylor. Hired as a protégé of legendary Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz, Taylor made an almost immediate negative impact. Other than a golden resume, he never seemed comfortable in the role, hired bad managers (Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster), and blew away much of the goodwill from the Miller Park opening in 2001.
The Sal Bando era in Milwaukee preceded Taylor from from 1991 through 1998. Despite no real front office experience, Bando held onto some success in the early ‘90s under manager Phil Garner as the team transitioned from the Yount-Molitor glory years of the 1980s. However, Bando never recovered from the stain of letting the beloved Molitor leave for Toronto in 1992, so the team was in pretty bad shape when Taylor came on board.
There is no doubt that the Brewers greatest GM was Harry Dalton, who engineered the Bambi’s Bombers era of the 1970s and ‘80s, highlighted by the 1982 World Series. Dalton came to Milwaukee from the California Angels, but he's best known as the architect of the Baltimore Orioles dynasty. He started with the Orioles in 1966 at age 38, which made him a youngster in the MLB old boys club of that era.
Stearns will be part of a relatively young leadership team Milwaukee, working with manager Craig Counsel (45) and owner Mark Attanasio, who, at 57, doesn’t seem to have aged a bit since he bought the Brewers from the Selig family 10 years ago. Hopefully, Stearns retains and brings on strong talent in the front office that translates into baseball talent on the diamond at Miller Park.
While Melvin and other Brewers GMs have teased Milwaukee with marginal success since ’82, Stearns will feel a lot of pressure to play and win more games in October after the hiring honeymoon wears off.
Mike Morgan rides retro, whether on his 1976 Harley Aermacchi 250 or Heritage Softail. Mike has been a motorcyclist since 2001 having ridden in Sturgis, Daytona Beach, the California coast, New England and everywhere in between, including in the last three Milwaukee Harley Anniversary parades.
Mike worked in communications and marketing at Harley-Davidson for more than 12 years, writing and editing all kinds of content, including award-winning media kids in 2009 and 2012. He had ridden the Harley several times before Brewer games at Miller Park, and ran in one of the last sausage races at the old County Stadium when he was Communications Manager for the Stadium District Board.