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Headache in a Suitcase 12-11-2003 01:15 PM

Milwauke Brewers pick up option on Manager Ned Yost
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin took field manager Ned Yost to lunch on Wednesday with a tongue-in-cheek proposition: Pick up the tab and the Brewers would pick up Yost's option.
"I got stuck with both," Melvin joked.

Yost, who orchestrated a 12-win turnaround in his first season as Brewers manager, is now under contract through 2005. The team also added an option for 2006.

Most of Melvin's other hires, including assistant GM Gord Ash, are also under contract through 2005, and Melvin is locked up through 2006. By then, the Brewers expect at least the first wave of minor league prospects to have emerged from a much-improved farm system.

"I think it's a message our players will read loud and clear and our fans will read loud and clear," Melvin said. "Part of our baseball plan that we're staying with and we're focusing on involves all our people in the front office, but it also extends down to the field to Ned. There's no one we would rather have in charge of that plan."

In addition to the 12-win improvement, the 48-year-old former Brewers backup catcher put life back into what had been a difficult clubhouse. Players respected a fiery optimism that Yost credited to his mentor, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, and his old best friend, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt.

Milwaukee still finished last in the National League Central at 68-94, but the season included a 10-game winning streak beginning in late August and the emergence of players such as Scott Podsednik, Doug Davis and Dan Kolb. All will be expected to contribute again in 2004.

"I think in the past, guys were going out and playing for themselves in Milwaukee," said infielder Keith Ginter. "I don't think that's the case anymore."

Extending Yost's contract also added stability to a franchise that has endured a series of difficult weeks. After a separation from former president and CEO Ulice Payne amid a heated debate about plans to cut payroll, Melvin had to trade Richie Sexson, the team's most popular player, rather than risk losing him to free agency next year.

The appearance of stability could also help Melvin in his search for free agents, especially this weekend at the Winter Meetings in New Orleans.

"I don't think, on the baseball side, we've lost any momentum," Yost said. "If you talk to our players, they're excited about what happened last year and they're excited about the prospect of starting a new year in February."

Yost was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1974 but went to Milwaukee as a Rule 5 Draft pick. After his playing career ended in 1987 he took a $16,500 job managing at Single-A Sumter in the Braves chain.

"When I was done playing, I told my wife, 'We're going to have to go back to square one and work our way back up. It could take 10 years, it may take 12 years, in the minor leagues before I get a chance to be a Major League coach,'" Yost said during the season.

His wife, Deborah, was on board. Yost managed three seasons, then spent 12 years on the Braves coaching staff under Cox, first as bullpen coach and then third base coach.

When the Brewers job came open after 2002, Yost started pushing. He called his agent and asked him to contact Melvin and the Brewers. Cox started dropping hints to Atlanta reporters that Yost would make a great big-league skipper. Yost even nuzzled up to longtime Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, and asked him to put in a good word with Brewers chairman Wendy Selig-Prieb.

"I did everything that I could do, just to get my name in there," Yost said.

Ken Macha passed on a Brewers offer to take Oakland's managerial opening, and the Brewers turned to Yost.

He had an immediate impact. Melvin traded for third baseman Wes Helms and signed free agent catcher Eddie Perez on Yost's advice, and both made significant contributions.

After a tough 0-6 start, the Brewers began to gain a bit of momentum in May, when Yost, with input from Melvin, Ash and the coaching staff, decided to bench supercilious outfielder Alex Sanchez in favor of the more blue-collar Podsednik. Sanchez was later traded to Detroit and Podsednik emerged as a rookie of the year candidate.

"There were some moves made during the season, and maybe some of them were people who didn't buy in," said pitcher/outfielder/pinch-hitter Brooks Kieschnick, a Yost favorite. "All of a sudden, those people weren't around. I think that was a testament to Ned and the front office, saying, 'Look, we need to get people to believe in the same thing the rest of us believe in.' That's what we ended up getting."

Said Podsednik: "I credit Ned Yost with keeping the morale upbeat and positive. When the losses were racking up, he came in and said, 'Hey, stick with it. Continue to go out and play hard.' That's all you can do. I'm excited about the next couple of years, I really am."

Podsednik was not the only one. Ginter said Yost's rare team meetings kept the club on track.

"He only did it maybe four or five times. But when he did it, it was really powerful," Ginter said. "Scott and I would walk out of there and say, 'Shoot, man, that guy is unbelievable.' He may not like to do it, but he has a niche for it."

It made for a much more functional Brewers family than in years past. Yost set the tone early, setting strict rules in Spring Training and moving the coaches into the clubhouse during the regular season, a la Cox's clubhouse in Atlanta.

"I think a lot of it is communication," Yost said. "If you take a group of guys and you communicate with them exactly what you want from them, they will respond."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

U2ME3 12-11-2003 01:20 PM

Isn't it ironic that the Brewer's manager's initials are NY? Coincidence?

Hewson 12-11-2003 01:24 PM


Originally posted by U2ME3
Isn't it ironic that the Brewer's manager's initials are NY? Coincidence?
Yakov smells a conspiracy-ski.

Headache in a Suitcase 12-11-2003 01:29 PM


zoney! 12-11-2003 02:16 PM


Mets signed someone yesterday, no?

Headache in a Suitcase 12-11-2003 02:23 PM

kazuo matsui... i didn't post that because i am protesting against fred wilpon signing a shortstop when the only position that we had a solid lock player for the next 10 seasons going into this season was... ba dum... shortstop

zonelistener 12-11-2003 03:37 PM

I read about his press conference at lunch...sounded interesting.

Headache in a Suitcase 12-11-2003 04:05 PM

i dunno he could turn out alright... i just don't see the point of signing a shortstop when you already have one who's supposedly "the future of the new york mets."

zonelistener 12-11-2003 04:15 PM

trade potential? :shrug:

He wore a 1986 Championship ring during the press conference

popacrobat 12-11-2003 04:45 PM

maybe matsui will play 2B?

i dont get it either.

Headache in a Suitcase 12-11-2003 05:24 PM

matsui will play short and reyes will move to second

Hewson 12-12-2003 07:58 AM

I didn't realize Matsui was on the roster in 1986.

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