A day off today? Not fair for any pundit trying to gauge this team. It is far too easy to take this down time to proclaim the Brewers a new team under interim manager Harvey Kuenn.
So I won’t do it.
What do we know? We know that Buck Rodgers was a bad fit. We tried to accept him for a while. We blamed a bad attitude here, bad luck there. But Brewers fans have collectively come to the realization that the reason for their team’s under performance may have been much easier to explain than we thought.
When rumors surfaced of Rodgers’ demise weeks ago, you couldn’t find a player who had their manager’s back. And whether it was Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons, Mike Caldwell, Pete Vuckovich, Roy Howell, Jim Gantner or the countless other malcontents, someone was always spouting off.
Players weren’t happy. They didn’t respect their manager. The inmates were running the asylum, and they were plenty crazy. Should it be any wonder that they played below expectations?
Roy Howell is a role player. He never understood his role. As a result, he was never happy when each day passed by and he wasn’t on the lineup card. Isn’t this a communication issue? Howell should never be surprised about when he will or will not be playing.
Buck Rodgers lacked confidence in his starting pitchers, often giving them the hook rather than letting them fight their way through jams. Based on complaints from Mike Caldwell, it’s also possible that he lacked respect for pitchers in general. Is it any wonder that the rotation as a whole has been shaky?
In steps Harvey Kuenn, destination unknown. He’s known as a loose leader, one who wants his players to relax and have fun. He’s a communicator. He’s everything that Buck Rodgers wasn’t.
The change, whether directly or indirectly, resulted in a win. One win in one game. But what we saw were things we had seen rarely during the past two months. A starter fought through his own jam and pitched a complete game, shutting down the opposition during the final three innings. The offense was timely, collecting 12 hits. And the defense didn’t commit an error.
Most importantly? The players are happy. For the most part, that was rarely the case under Rodgers, even after a win.
Soon after being fired, Rodgers didn’t hold back when referring to two cancers on the team. Given the time to cool off, he hasn’t backed down: “I can’t say too emphatically how good this club is, except for a couple of players. I know who they are, the players know who they are and the front office knows who they are. They may have tried to stab me in the back, but they didn’t get me fired. They’ve stabbed everyone they’ve been involved with in the past, and they’ll do the same in the future.”
We shouldn’t be surprised about reports surfacing that Mike Caldwell, during a card game on the May 30 flight after a 7-3 win over the Angels, said, “I hope we lose 10 games in a row just to get rid of that sucker.”
The Brewers are littered with strong personalities. They need someone to lead them. They don’t need someone who is paranoid, constantly worried about who is trying to stab them in the back. This happens when a leader fails to communicate or loses the respect of his team.
Does one win mean that the Brewers are World Series bound? Absolutely not. At .500 and in fifth place in the AL East, it may be too late to completely repair the damage. But there is every reason to believe that the atmosphere in the Brewers clubhouse is going to improve. The results should follow.
In other words, I just wrote an entire article doing what I said I wouldn’t in the opening paragraph. I have proclaimed the Brewers a new team after one game.
That’s what a day off will do to you.