Just came across this while skimming the Milwaukee newspaper, www.Milwaukeenewsandsuasagepress.com/Melvin. Given all the recent discussions about the seven-headed monster known as Heyward-Moustakas-LaPorta-Burgess-Schafer-Vitters-LaPorta -Snider in here, I thought it might be useful to some ongoing discussions (that will hopefully end by 2010).
*Melvin settles on defensive alignment for opening day*
By Marty McFly
Milwaukee News and Free Sausage Press
February 24, 2008
Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin announced today that he's settled on a defensive alignment designed to take advantage of the lineup's hitting potential, while minimizing the defensive liabilities from a team stocked with second-tier defensive players. In an interesting twist, Melvin credits internet message boards for helping solve his defensive puzzle, a tribute to the growing legions of knowledgeable fans on blog sites around the world.
"We've been experimenting with different lineups as kind of back-of-the-envelope things since last September", said Melvin. "I think pretty much everyone knows our defensive shortcomings last year. None of our pitchers were confident letting the ball get put on the ground or to the left side of the outfield. Our original hope was that our pitchers could learn to coax the ball towards wherever Corey Hart was playing, but some guys - especially Chris Capuano - really couldn't get the hang of it."
As a result, the team selected Matt LaPorta with its first pick in last year's draft, hoping his versatility could help solve the Brewers' defensive condundrum. "Matt's glove work has really been underrated by some of the professional pundits", said Melvin "and although it's true he has limited range, he's also a terrific athlete, with soft hands and the agility of a ballerina. (Assistant GM) Gord Ash and I were surfing the net the other day and came across some excellent points by Mr. Big Fly on John Sickels' site, noting that LaPorta hadn't made an error all last year, and that we could put him anywhere on the field. And so we thought, well why not?"
As a result, says Melvin, the team will open with an alignment that moves Ryan Braun from 3B to LF, Billy Hall from CF to SS, Rickie Weeks from 2B to CF, JJ Hardy from SS to 3B, and installs LaPorta as the starting 2B. Also, Corey Hart will be moved from RF to 1B, where his 6' 6" frame will help to flag down the errant missiles coming from Hall at SS. 1B Prince Fielder, an underrated athlete himself, will move to RF.
"This really takes advantage of all the strengths of our guys, while minimizing their defensive shortcomings", said Melvin. "Braun was a butcher at the hot corner last year - we need to get him as far away from the ball as we can, to give him as much time to read it as possible - putting him somewhere out there on the warning track will do that."
At the same time, Melvin continued, "Hall was pretty much lost in CF, looked like Shawon Dunston out there. Hardy's got a great arm, but the range of an elm tree, and Rickie Weeks has all the speed in the world but can't pivot to save his life. It's only a matter of time before someone angry like Milton Bradley breaks him off at the knees."
Enter LaPorta, who many people don't realize was a competitive figure skater as a teenager before turning to baseball full time in college. "If you look at the old film, he had the full repertoire of moves", said Melvin, "The triple-lux, the camel, you name it. Christina Kahrl called it "Boitano-esque." So we thought - why not stick a glove on his left hand, plop him down next to the 2-bag, and let him put those old moves to good use? Now we have a domino effect that improves our whole team. Thank God for the insights on those internet message boards."
To help with the changes, former major league all-stars Rusty Staub and Jack Clark have been brought in as defensive consultants.
Note: George Plimpton contributed research to this article.