Doug Melvin is a Whiny (Brewer)

click to enlarge You'd think Doug Melvin would prefer beer as a Brewer, but it's pretty clear he's all about the whine.
You'd think Doug Melvin would prefer beer as a Brewer, but it's pretty clear he's all about the whine.
Doug Melvin is the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers are a baseball team in the National League Central

The Milwaukee Brewers have had a rather heated rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals the last couple of years. 

The Milwaukee Brewers played the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series last year. 

The Milwaukee Brewers were beaten by the St. Louis Cardinals en route to the Cardinals' World Series Championship. 

Those are the pertinent facts. What follows is one man's opinion. Doug Melvin, in fact, the guy back in that first pertinent fact. Oh, and then there's some stuff from me insulting Doug Melvin. 

Melvin has a problem with the way Major League Baseball handles roster expansion in September. It's been a part of the game for as long as just about anyone can recall; after September 1st teams can expand their rosters from 25 players all the way up to 40 players. The idea is to allow teams to bring up younger players for the proverbial cup of coffee, while also resting some of their other, older players who may be a bit on the worn side heading into the late stages of a 162-game schedule. Doesn't seem like a huge deal, right? 

Well, except for Melvin, who is convinced the Cardinals wouldn't have made the playoffs -- and hence not beaten his team in said playoffs -- without the expanded rosters. Melvin had this to say to Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal

"I still say that St. Louis doesn't get in if it's 30-on-30," he said. "Tony La Russa was a master at manipulating all the players that he had. They had a kid, (Adron) Chambers. They won a couple of games pinch-running with him late. They got Arthur Rhodes late. They play a team like Houston late in the season. They say they're rebuilding with minimum-salary guys. They're not going to bring up guys to accumulate service time. That's my biggest beef."

OK, so leave out the fact for a moment that Arthur Rhodes joined the team before the first of September. What Doug is trying to tell us is that the Cardinals made the playoffs because Adron Chambers pinch ran a couple times in September. Really, Doug? The Cardinals sneaking into the playoffs had nothing to do with the Atlanta Braves' historic collapse, and everything to do with Adron Chambers' miraculous base-running ability. That's...quite a leap in logic there. 

Here's the thing about Melvin's complaints: None of them have any validity. He says expanded rosters favor large-market teams, because the little guys just can't afford to pay the extra players. He then cites the Cardinals getting into the playoffs. Two things: One, the Cardinals are not a large market team. Not even close. Two, the major-league minimum salary was just over $414,000 last year. When a team calls up a player in September, they have to pay him one month's worth of the MLB minimum. One month of a six-month season = one-sixth of $414K. That's $69,000 dollars. Multiply it by the absolute maximum number of players a team could call up, fifteen. That's $1,035,000. So just a shade over $1 million dollars for the whole month if a team were to push the outer limits of roster possibility. The lowest payroll in baseball last year belonged to the Kansas City Royals, at $36,126,400, or a per-player average of $1,338,015. In other words, to call up the fifteen-player maximum for the whole month of September, the huge advantage Melvin is worried about, would cost less than the average yearly salary for one player on the cheapest team in all of baseball. I don't think it takes a large-market team to afford that. 

Here's the bigger problem, though: Every team has the same chance. It isn't as if some teams get to expand their rosters and others don't. Every team can call up as many guys as they'd like, up to the same number. If your team doesn't do so that is a choice. If some other team doesn't take full advantage, that's still a choice. The playing field is still level, Doug. Teams can take as much or as little advantage as they want. 

I'm sure Doug is also trying to say teams who don't want to start arbitration clocks early are upsetting the competitive balance by keeping their kids in the minors, rather than bringing them up in September. Unfortunately, that argument doesn't really fly either. Bringing up a bunch of minor leaguers isn't going to magically make a team better. In fact, I seem to recall this past season some pundits making the argument that teams should be playing their veterans and best players in September, rather than tanking the season and looking at the kids. So we have Melvin complaining teams playing their best players instead of a bunch of minor leaguers is somehow...a disadvantage. Sorry, Doug, nope. Not buying that one either. 

In the end, Melvin may have a point about roster expansion in general. He wants to see the same size roster all year long. Fine. I don't agree with him, but there is a certain logic to the roster size remaining the same throughout the year. But then he goes off on this tangent about how the Cardinals wouldn't have even been in the playoffs without the roster expansion, and turns his decent argument into nothing but an excuse for sour grapes bitching about the team that beat his in the playoffs. How about this, Doug: instead of whining about the 40 Cardinals (and it was actually only 33; the Cards never take advantage of the full 40), who sneaked into the playoffs in September, how about worrying about the 25 Brewers you couldn't get to play well enough to win in October? 

Melvin does have one thing right, though: Tony La Russa absolutely was a master at utilizing every player on his roster. I was not a huge fan of La Russa; I think he got an awful lot of things wrong. But the man did know how to squeeze an extra base or two out of a utility infielder. So really, maybe what Doug Melvin is saying is that it isn't fair for other teams to have better managers than Doug Melvin. Which is kind of a tough situation -- 90 percent of the teams in MLB would have to fire their managers if that were the case. 

So I just can't agree with Mr. Melvin. I have a hard time believing a handful of minor leaguers on the roster, which each an every team has the same opportunity to call up, is the same kind of unfair advantage as, oh, I don't know, synthetic testosterone or a loophole in the rules that will allow the Brewers to keep their best player on the field for the whole 162-game schedule in 2012 despite a positive test for said synthetic testosterone. 

But good try anyway, Doug. 
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