The Milwaukee Brewers appeared to have a lock on the National League Wild Card at the end of August.
However, September has been a disaster for them. They have gone 3-11 since Labor Day and were just swept in four games this weekend in Philadelphia by the Phillies including a doubleheader yesterday. Consequently, the Phillies have moved into a tie for the NL Wild Card with the Brew Crew. The Houston Astros have also been moving in fast on the Brewers' heels.
Add the spectacle of the NL Central Division leading Chicago Cubs celebrating jubilantly in Milwaukee last night after Carlos Zambrano tossed a no-hitter against the Astros which only added insult to injury. (See my previous post on Zambrano's no-hitter.)
Yet no one expected the Brewers to fire Ned Yost as their manager today. But Yost was summarily dismissed after being at the helm since 2003. Yost has been replaced by third base coach Dale Sveum on an interim basis. One wonders if something happened in the clubhouse to precipitate such a sudden demise for Yost.
The Brewers have not been in the post-season since 1982 when they were an American League team. In 2007, the Brewers were the biggest surprise in baseball winning 24 of their first 34 games and led the NL Central for much of the season and led the Cubs by as much as 8½ games. But they ran out of gas in the second half of the season and the Cubs went past them to win the division and the Brewers spent October at home. Like Yogi Berra said, "It's déjà vu all over again."
Dale Sveum is an interesting choice. Sveum began his major league career with the Brewers in 1986 and enjoyed his best major league season in 1987 when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 95 runs on a Brewers team which started that season 13-0, only to lose their next 12 games. Sveum would break his leg in an on-field collision in 1988 and was never the same player. Sveum became a journeyman player and bounced around with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and two stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring after the 1999 season.
Boston Red Sox fans remember Sveum as the team's third base coach in 2004 and 2005. Sveum earned a World Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox. Sveum was remembered as a very aggressive third base coach and often had runners thrown out at home plate. If not for the World Series ring, he would have been nearly as notorious as Wendell Kim who was known as "Wave 'Em Home Wendell" who was the Sox third base coach between 1997 and 2000.
Sveum returned to Milwaukee in 2006 where he became the Brewers bench coach. Prior to this season, he was named the Brewers' third base coach. Sveum does have some minor league managerial experience. From 2001 to 2003, he was the manager of the Altoona Curve - the Double A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Altoona is a long way from Wrigley Field where the Brewers begin a three game series with the Cubs tomorrow. Sveum does have his ace C.C. Sabathia starting for him but the Cubs counter with the equally capable Ryan Dempster.
This is, as far as I remember, the latest point in a season where a manager has been sacked while still in the midst of a pennant race. I remember back in 1981 when the Montreal Expos fired Dick Williams on September 8th replacing him with Jim Fanning. I recall this because the first major league game I ever attended was at Olympic Stadium on August 30, 1981 when the Expos lost to the Braves 5-4 in 12 innings. In fact, in that game Williams had his ace starting pitcher Steve Rogers pinch run and he ended up with a broken rib which sealed Williams' fate. The Expos went 16-11 under Fanning and it was enough to give the Expos their first and only post-season appearance.
Fanning had 27 games to set the Expos straight. Sveum has only 12 games in which to right the Brewers' ship. No pressure. No pressure at all.