When John Hammond became the general manager the first move he made was also his best move so far. He hired Scott Skiles. As I said at the time, the two decade long dark era of bungling defense and mediocre win production had finally ended the day Coach Skiles “walked through that door”. It was not only the best hire possible, it was the only path available to the team back to respectability, or anywhere near that level. When you play in a small market like Milwaukee, you have to add value where it comes cheapest — defense.
The usual path, hire some superstars, is too erratic and time consuming. The Deer would have a hard time assembling a team that was loaded with high powered offensive players, anyway. They did it in the early millenium, but that was a fart in the wind. (the Big 3 on that team did not actually include Glenn Robinson — the Big 3 win producers were Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, and unsung, unloved Ervin “Tragic” Johnson. When Johnson’s win production fell off the next season, the team went back to .500%)
Instead, the Bucks are doing it the right way, the cost effective way — the way they did it in the days made famous by the Academy Award winning movie “Hot Tub Time Machine“. (Actually, when I say “cost-effective”, there’s really no such thing in terms of “dollar cost” in the “Zsa Zsa Gabor” NBA pay structure. What I mean by “cost” is the scarcity of really elite level talent — that’s hard to assemble).
The Buck’s greatest sustained winning period in its existence was from 1980 to 1989. That entire period was driven by a few highly productive all-around players and one of the NBA’s best and most consistently dominant defenses. That was the only way the team could have sustained such a run. Defense is always undervalued, and if its dominant, it can turn an affordably efficient offensive team into a big time winner.
The Milwaukee Brewers increasingly unpopular “Canadian Mafia” management team needs to pick up on that, eh. Stop blaming everything on the pitching. Sure, the team’s pitching staff is undertalented and underproductive. But its hardly all their fault. The main fault lies with what I call “the phantom menace” — the team’s sieve-like positional defense. Actually sieve implies a “small” hole, doesn’t it? The Brewers diamond lineup is like a bullet riddled Wiley Coyote.
According to “Stat of the Week”, the Brewers are the very worst team in baseball at turning hit balls into outs. Understand, I’m not talking about errors. Get that out of your head. That’s not how to judge a baseball defense. I’m talking about “range factor” UZR as the Sabers call it. I’m talking about the ball that rolls past Rickie Weeks just two short feet to his left and dribbles into the outfield for a cheap hit. That’s a ball that would have been an out on most teams. By routinely failing to make those kind of “invisible outs” the Brewers have produced a situation where only the very best pitchers can succeed in Milwaukee… high strike out pitchers, ie expensive pitchers.
That’s a recipe for missing the playoffs for another 25 or so seasons… the Brewers can’t afford the very best pitchers.
They need to get smart. They need to take a page from the beloved Deer. Instead of waiting for the day that will never come when they can afford a fleet of Bentleys, the Brewers need to instead “pimp their rides”. Hire some out producers like the Oakland A’s do, cheap players who will augment the value of a middle market pitching staff by getting them extra outs per game… instead of forcing them to work for extra outs per game.
The smart kids are all doing it. The slow kids can’t see it. Look at the very best defensive teams on “Stat of the Week”. You can generalize — by and large — that these are among the very best run teams in baseball. Now look at the teams at the bottom. Duhhh. Ouch.