Attanasio says manager, GM not to blame for slow start
By Mike Bauman
MILWAUKEE -- For the moment at least, prominent heads will not roll as a result of the Brewers' dismal 2-13 start to the 2015 season.
Mark Attanasio, chairman and principal owner of the Brewers, said Wednesday that he was not currently considering dismissing either manager Ron Roenicke or general manager Doug Melvin. Attanasio made these remarks in an impromptu session with a few reporters at Miller Park before Milwaukee took on the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers later endured another close, disheartening loss, 2-1.
Responding to direct questions about the status of Roenicke and Melvin, Attanasio said:
"Right now, my examinations are focused on how to improve our performance. Relative to me, I'm not looking at the manager or the general manager right now.
"I know how bad we've played, but we're 14 games into the season. You know, Ron didn't give up two grand slams [Tuesday night], Mike Fiers did. People have to be accountable, but we have to look at what people are responsible for and then hold them accountable for that."
On the other hand, Attanasio did not sugarcoat his feelings regarding Milwaukee's performance to date.
"It's hard for me, the same way it's hard for all of our fans," Attanasio said. "It's brutal. You turn on the TV every night and you expect to see something different. I know one of these nights, we will."
Attanasio said that the core problem was that 19 of the 25 players normally on the roster were performing below their career norms.
"We've got a lot of established Major League players here," the owner said. "We have very few newbies. This was not something built on false hope. I believe these guys can play the way they can, including with the injuries, which are part of the game. The guys who came in [Tuesday night in place of injured players] did a [great] job. Once everybody plays to their level of performance, we'll be OK.
"Each of these players needs to play to his expected level. They don't need to do more. They just have to do their job and do what they're good at. Last year, we had one of the top pitching staffs in quality starts, and this year, we have two quality starts. The players have to step up."
Attanasio said he had corresponded earlier in the day with a Brewers fan who had written a thoughtful letter to him.
"I understood his pain, because I feel it profoundly," Attanasio said. "The one thing I disagreed with was that we just made decisions based on hope, that we were hoping for good karma. And that's just not the case. We did a huge amount of analysis. We've got 25 players, virtually every one is an established Major Leaguer."
Attanasio said that it was difficult to keep one's emotions in check in a situation of this sort. But in terms of decision-making, it had to be done.
"It's always a challenge to harness your emotions," Attanasio said. "But we have a lot of people looking at this. Plus, we have a whole clubhouse full of people who are expecting to do better."
So neither Roenicke nor Melvin is in danger of dismissal. But Attanasio has frequently stated his goal of having not just a competitive team, but a team that regularly reaches the postseason. If this stretch of almost unbroken futility goes on much longer, it is easy to imagine Attanasio finding a different perspective.
Roenicke has maintained a remarkably positive, supportive attitude with his team throughout this collective slump.
"I don't know how else to go about it," Roenicke said.
But even Roenicke's usually calm demeanor was showing some strain after Wednesday night's loss when he complained about strikes called against his hitters.
"I'm whining a little bit here," the manager said, "but I'm tired of the pitches we're getting called on us. Just call the pitches strikes when they're strikes. I'm tired of it. The [eighth-inning] pitch on Ellie [Herrera] is high, the first pitch to [Khris] Davis in the last inning is on the white line, inside. [Reds closer Aroldis Chapman] is throwing 100 miles per hour and the umpire is calling a strike on a pitch on the white line inside. Last night, the pitch to Jason Rogers is six inches outside to end the game. Come on. Let's go."
This is the worst start in franchise history. For the purposes of historical comparison, the 1962 Mets, the gold standard for baseball incompetence with a record-setting 120 losses, were also 3-12 after 15 games.
This is not the kind of company the Milwaukee team wants to keep. But at this relatively early date, the Brewers' repeated displays of inadequacy will not result in the departure of the field general or the head of baseball administration.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.