SEATTLE — Contacted for his comments on being fired as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers today, Buck Rodgers tried to be diplomatic.
On whether he feels like he failed: “Sure, there’s a little sense of failure. I thought this club could win. I’ve never failed in my life. I don’t like to fail. But that’s all part of the game, you know that. It wasn’t exactly unexpected. I’ve had my mind made up for the last two weeks it might happen.”
Then Rodgers decided that if he were going to go down, he’d take someone with him. He went down swinging.
“I think there are a couple of cancers on the club,” he said, not mentioning their names. “I think you’ve got 18 or 19 players who want to win. You’ve got three or four who will go any way the wind blows. I’m not going to name the cancers, and I’m not going to name the ones who blow with the wind.”
If you’re going to go down swinging, you might as well throw the full punch. We’re left guessing about the two players he’s speaking of, but those following the team tend to believe they are Mike Caldwell and Ted Simmons.
Caldwell was often a critic of the way Rodgers handled pitchers. In fact, as recently as May 23, he made this comment to the press following a loss to the Mariners: “I don’t know. I’m just a player. I’m just trying to do my job. I don’t know if I’m getting a chance to do it.”
The Brewers also tried unsuccessfully to trade Caldwell during the winter. Knowing that the team didn’t want him likely didn’t make relationships with management or his performance on the field any easier. Caldwell is sporting a disappointing 2-4 record and 4.70 ERA.
While Ted Simmons didn’t provide the juicy quotes like Caldwell, he and Rodgers did not see eye-to-eye. Rodgers, a former catcher who prided himself on his defensive ability, was thought to prefer Ned Yost and Charlie Moore as defensive backstops. Simmons has yet to live up to the hype as an offensive producer either, and Rodgers may even prefer Don Money or Roy Howell as the DH.
In other words, Simmons was forced upon him, and Rodgers wanted him off of the team. Some believed that if Simmons stayed with the team all season, Rodgers would quit.
If Rodgers wasn’t referring to one or both of Caldwell and Simmons, he may also have been talking about Roy Howell. Howell has received very little playing time and has been a thorn in the side of the team since spring training. Unable to trade him, Howell has sulked and thrown tantrums while producing very little.
Not Howell? It could also be Gorman Thomas, Rollie Fingers or Pete Vuckovich. But at this point, we’re reaching. And to be honest, it’s why making the comment without naming names is a cowardice act. We’re left guessing who it is he was talking about and now we’re dragging potentially innocent names through the mud.