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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ken Macha Felt Rebuffed by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder

It was only 2008 when the Brewers seemed like an up-and-coming team. They reached the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and had their first 90-win season since 1992. Alas, the team lost ace CC Sabathia in free agency despite offering him a big contract, and Ben Sheets later followed. There was optimism in Milwaukee because the team still had franchise players Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, both of whom had become All-Stars and MVP candidates. Though last year’s team was in first place all the way until early July before falling out of the race, this year’s team never had a shot.

The easiest target for blame was the pitching. Yovani Gallardo was good but got hurt and only made 24 starts. Randy Wolf got roughed up to start the year before settling in. The bullpen was a mess aside from the mustached one, and every flier they took flamed out. The other targets were the aforementioned sluggers, Braun and Fielder. Expected to carry the offense, Braun had his worst season as a pro and needed a late surge to post nice season-ending numbers. Fielder was similarly bad, posting his worst season since his rookie year in 2006. While Braun has a long-term deal and Prince is searching for one, manager Ken Macha became the casualty getting let go by the team.

On his way out, Macha made sure he wasn’t the only one carrying the blame. He explained his efforts to reach out to Braun and Fielder that were turned down by the sluggers:

“If the effort wasn’t reciprocated, then there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. You can’t force guys to do that,” Macha said. “Some guys were open to discussion and some guys weren’t, I guess, but that’s the same with every club.

“I talked a lot to Ryan, almost every day, but he does his own thing. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

“With Prince, I think he had some issues this year to deal with, the contract probably being the main thing, and at times he was hard to talk to. I don’t know if there were any guys on the staff that talked a whole lot to him this year.

“Those are the two guys, but the rest of the guys it was all positive. I opened up to (Braun and Fielder) but you have to have a back and forth. The faces of the franchise, that’s what they are.”

Now that he’s out he’s trying to cover his butt. Those are things you can’t really say publicly while you’re on the job but it’s the type of thing you can after you’re fired to get sympathy on your side. And you know what? I can believe what he’s saying. If the team had a halfway decent pitching staff, or if Braun and Fielder produced like normal, Macha might still have his job. If they can find the money to add a starting pitcher and re-work the bullpen, they have a chance to bounce back next year. Of course it might take a trade of Prince Fielder, but that would only make things more interesting.



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