In 1981, the Brewers were a loose, professional and happy bunch. They also won, and whether the former bred the latter or vice versa, the personality of the team and the results were starkly different last season than through May 23 of this season.
Far too much is going wrong:
- Two players have demanded a trade already at some point in 1982. Charlie Moore started the trend in spring training and only agreed to stay once he was assured playing time in right field. Roy Howell requested his trade during the spring as well and continues to be unhappy about his role as the third third baseman. Yet there are no takers of his paltry batting average.
- Rollie Fingers, who won both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 1981, has been less than perfect in 1982. He has lost five times when entering tied games. He’s also shown his displeasure with the way that he has been used.
- Pete Vuckovich injured his ankle either when sliding down a slick hill behind Royals Stadium in a rain storm prior to the game or when a video game fell on it. Either way, his absence caused immediate problems on the staff (Jerry Augustine started that game in Kansas City and allowed 12 earned runs in five innings) and Vuke threatened to take legal action when rumors surfaced that he was less than forthcoming about the source of his injury.
- Bob McClure was hit on the elbow by a line drive and missed time as well. The Brewers’ brass made a serious miscalculation when neither pitcher was replaced on the roster and the Brewers instead went with an eight-man staff while they awaited their return.
- While there are some offensive players performing well (Paul Molitor is hitting .301, Robin Yount.291 and Cecil Cooper .340), others are downright offensive. Gorman Thomas went the entire month of April without a home run and is hitting .228. Ben Oglivie is hitting .224 and catcher Ted Simmons is hitting .203 and continues to look like his best days are behind him.
- The Brewers aren’t getting consistent pitching. The staff is led by Moose Haas with a 3.22 ERA, but Mike Caldwell’s is 4.45, Bob McClure’s is 5.14 and Randy Lerch’s is 5.36, all pitchers who have made several starts. Pete Vuckovich may have a 3.79 ERA, but he hasn’t pitched since May 6.
The biggest problem, though, is a lack of leadership. Whether Buck Rodgers is a poor leader or simply a bad fit for this team, his players do not have his back. They routinely call him out in the press and refuse to sugarcoat their feelings about the man in charge.
And that, along with the swirling rumors that former team captain Sal Bando is ready to take over, are the main reasons that it is time to make a change. Even when they win, the team isn’t happy. They aren’t loose. And they aren’t professional.
It is time that the Brewers find a leader, as Bud Lea of the Milwaukee Sentinel said, who is more of a den mother than a major league manager. They need a leader who will stroke egos and let his players play instead of micromanaging with strategies that many of his players aren’t comfortable carrying out.
The Brewers need a player’s manager, and they need him now.