Mr. Melvin's offseason "to do" list

One only has to look at ex-Brewers general manager Dean Taylor's length of tenure -- three years -- to realize things have gone horribly wrong at Miller Park.

Lifting a sunken and rotten ship to the surface is now the job of new team president and CEO Ulice Payne, Jr. and Taylor's replacement, Doug Melvin. Payne's job is perhaps more formidable, but it is Melvin who will have an immediate impact on the on-field product.

Though he landed the job at the end of the 2002 regular season, Melvin certainly isn't headed for the golf course now that the schedule is complete. As the Crew's 56-106 record (0.5 game better than Detroit and Tampa Bay, the co-worst teams in baseball) attests, there is an inexhaustible amount of work to do between now and Spring Training 2003. A couple items on the checklist:

1. Hire a (good) manager.

Melvin's comments regarding Jerry Royster last week could hardly be viewed as an endorsement. Royster will deservedly exit stage-left -- perhaps as early as press time. Not only did Royster fail to do much with the job for the entire year, but any GM inheriting a 106-loss team will clearly want to hire his own skipper for the reclamation.

Numerous names are out there, and numerous jobs are already available (Tampa, Detroit, Chicago Cubs). Buck Showalter has name recognition and helped build up the Arizona franchise from scratch; Jerry Narron may get fired in Texas and knows Melvin from his time there; D-Backs coach Bob Melvin interviewed for the job in April and is considered a very solid baseball guy (obvious question: how many Melvins is too many?); Dusty Baker may want out of San Fran, but he would likely end up in Wrigley Field before Miller Park; and Oakland coach Ken Macha, who has been Art Howe's bench guy for the last two years, is another up-and-comer with a shiny resume.

Robin Yount or Paul Molitor? Both sounded decidedly lukewarm on returning to Milwaukee in any capacity during the team's 1982 reunion in August.

Ideally, the coach has some experience doing something with nothing -- Baker and Showalter both fit that bill. However, both will be expensive, and Baker may only be posturing to gain leverage with the Giants.

2. Address glaring roster needs.

Though a tad embarrassing, it was good to the see the Brewers drop all pretense of competitiveness late in the season and go with a youth movement. Ben Diggins, Keith Ginter and Wayne Franklin -- these are players I can root for. As for guys like Matt Stairs, Paul Bako and Lenny Harris, what's the point? They simply won't be around if and when the team is ever competitive. In the meantime, they're comedic fodder for SportsCenter anchors.

But that doesn't mean the team should simply resign itself to 100-loss campaigns for the next few years while allowing the organization's threadbare talent to earn its spurs. The Brewers can't afford to lose that much at the gate -- especially after dropping about one million in attendance this year. Plus, the best way to develop players is to do so in a slightly competitive environment; the team needs to be technically alive in the wild-card race come June 2003.

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