New Brewers general manager has experience, intelligence to lead rebuilding process
By Mike Bauman
"I would not have come here if I did not think it was possible to win a World Series in Milwaukee."
-- David Stearns, new general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- David Stearns said all the right things Monday, especially that "Yes, we can!" reference to the World Series. Fans of the Milwaukee Brewers can hope that this leads directly to doing all the right things.
The Brewers officially announced Monday that Stearns will be their new general manager, replacing Doug Melvin, who is expected to remain with the club in an advisory role.
Stearns is 30, but he has packed a remarkable amount of baseball experience into a relatively short career. As Brewers chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio said Monday, in the search for a new GM, the club focused on experience, not age.
Stearns was the assistant general manager to Jeff Luhnow in Houston for the past three seasons. That in itself has been a success story. But Stearns has also worked for the Mets, Pirates and Indians, in positions of increasing authority as his career progressed. And he has worked in the Commissioner's Office.
Stearns is solidly representative of the new breed of general managers: educated at Harvard, analytically inclined, young, but already respected for his intelligence and diligence.
That intelligence was on display Monday.
"When you do this for a living and you work in baseball operations and you think about becoming a general manager, you do so with the hope that you're going to be able to do it in a place with an extraordinarily passionate fan base, with a knowledgeable fan base and with an owner and ownership group that cares about winning and winning consistently and sustainably," Stearns said. "I'm very fortunate that, for me, I get to check all the boxes across those criteria."
That was all good. Stearns, originally from New York, also mentioned getting his fiancée, a native of Houston, accustomed to snow. That was astute, too. If you come to Milwaukee and mention snow, that lets us locals know that you are aware of a basic Milwaukee fact of life. And this gives you potential as at least a future insider.
Attanasio said that there was a strong field of candidates -- 44 of them, in fact -- in "a very detailed and comprehensive" search for a new general manager. The list of potential GMs was trimmed to "a handful" of candidates who were then extensively interviewed.
Attanasio said he was hoping to forge "a partnership" among himself, Stearns and Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
Everything Stearns said at his introductory news conference made inherent sense. Asked about his goals for the organization, he interspersed his answer with terms such as "industry leaders,"best practices," "best scouting" and "best player development." He offered assurances that he would be seeking information from all available, credible sources. In other words, this is someone who understands the traditional, time-tested franchise-building techniques, but also knows that the latest analytical tools are a necessity in the process.
There were inevitable questions about the fact that a prerequisite for taking this job was accepting Counsell as manager. This could have been seen as a hindrance in some cases, because one thing GMs want is their own guy as manager. But no, Stearns sees Counsell as a plus. That was another intelligent choice.
"Craig's a really impressive guy," Stearns said. "He has a tremendous reputation in the industry. I think, given that Craig is who he is, that was not a hindrance, it was probably an attractive part of this job."
To comments about his age and youthful appearance, Stearns joked that he had received numerous communications suggesting that he would "age tremendously during the next couple of years."
Asked about a timetable for the rebuilding project the Brewers are currently undertaking, Stearns didn't lay out specific plans. That may have been frustrating for his media audience, but it was the correct way to address this topic.
"I'm a big believer in not setting limits for any team, any year," Stearns said. "We're going to take each decision as it comes and make the decision that is best for the overall health of the organization."
Asked about the difficulty of competing in the National League Central -- with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago being among the best teams in baseball this season -- Stearns responded that if the goal is to win the World Series, then the Brewers will have to beat the best teams, no matter their division.
All in, all this was a very good start for Stearns. Now comes the harder part, but the Brewers' new general manager gave a strong first impression that he is ready to tackle what will be a very challenging job.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.