The Milwaukee Brewers were in another tight divisional race when they arrived at Wrigley Field on Friday for the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
So I asked Brewers President David Stearns the obvious question: Can you still show your face in Milwaukee?
“Yes,” Stearns replied.
Is your face on any posters?
Are you OK?
“Yeah, I’m OK.”
The impromptu wellness check was conducted nearly three weeks after the shocking Aug. 1 trade of closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres, a move that was not greeted kindly by many of Wisconsin’s most devout baseball fans or even the bandwagon jumpers.
Seeing as how the Brewers were, you know, pennant contenders, the anger is understandable.
It takes quite a bit of chutzpah to trade the best closer in baseball to another National League contender when he’s still more than a year away from free agency and your team has World Series aspirations.
But that’s what Stearns did, and all he could do was explain his rationale and trust Brewers fans would understand he was doing it to lengthen the team’s window for winning.
Still, if the Brewers’ 2022 season ends without a postseason berth, few are going to shrug it off and be satisfied if the two prospects the deal was centered around will make them better down the road.
“If you start thinking like that, you’ll never make a trade,” Stearns said.
Stearns conceded it was a difficult decision but one he felt was in the best long-term interests of the franchise.
“Understandably, when you make a trade of a player who has been very good in one place for a long time, people are going to be surprised,” he said. “That’s what we had. That’s what we felt.
“I also think our players and fan base recognize we have a really good team. We’ve got a lot of people in this clubhouse who are very capable of stepping up, and we’ve seen that the last week to 10 days.”
The Brewers were in first place in the NL Central on Aug. 1, three games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. But they are 6-10 since the trade and find themselves chasing both the Cardinals and the final NL wild-card spot.
Hader was in a slump at the time of the trade and hasn’t yet returned to form, posting a 16.20 ERA in five appearances with Padres. Of the four players the Brewers received for Hader, two — left-hander Robert Gasser and outfielder Esteury Ruiz — are in the minors. Starter Dinelson Lamet was designated for assignment two days later and claimed by the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 5.
Left-hander Taylor Rogers is in the Brewers bullpen, taking Hader’s roster spot, while Devin Williams assumed the closer’s role.
Stearns maintained the trade was done to avoid the “boom-and-bust” strategy many teams employ. He didn’t mention any names, though he didn’t have to.
“Our goal is to create an organization than can be competitive year-in, year-out,” he said. “We understand there are cycles in baseball and we want to do everything we can to avoid the prolonged down cycle.
“There are a lot of organizations that have gone through periods where they are not competitive for five to seven years. I don’t think that’s in the interest of our fan base. I don’t think that’s in the interest of our ownership group. It’s certainly not in the interest of our players in the clubhouse.”
Stearns’ logic makes sense for a fan base that probably won’t support a rebuild. Hader’s value might have been at its highest now and would decrease in the offseason. Cubs President Jed Hoyer did the same by dealing Yu Darvish to the Padres after the 2020 season, though he held onto Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo until last year’s trade deadline when the team was out of contention.
Cubs fans were upset when the Big Three were dealt. But a year later, only Rizzo has had a season that could be considered productive, while Báez has struggled in Detroit and Bryant has mostly been injured in Denver.
The Cubs are in a rebuild that can’t be called a rebuild, but Stearns believes Hoyer will put together a contending team quickly.
“Look, they are clearly executing a strategy right now, and they’re executing it well,” he said. “It remains a really well-run organization, and I would expect this to be a team that competes for playoff spots very soon.”
We’ll find out this offseason if Hoyer follows through on the promise to be aggressive on the free-agent market. The Brewers, meanwhile, are still in contention and coming off a four-game split with the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers.
Stearns said he doesn’t look at Twitter to check fan reaction and only reads his beat writers’ stories. I told him to read the mentions under the tweets of the beat writers. He wisely declined.
“Whether things are going good or bad, I don’t think that’s a productive way for me to get feedback,” he said with a laugh. “But people have told me (the reaction to the Hader trade). I don’t live under a rock.
“I couldn’t tell you what the sentiment is today. But by the enthusiasm and excitement we had this week at American Family Field, I think our fans are very much into this season and engaged. We had four really good games against the Dodgers. I think our fans still believe in this team.”
Check back in October to see if another wellness check is needed.
Source: Berkshire mont
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