Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Updated: September 17, 12:17 PM ET
Fired Yost: No regrets managing Brewers; Sveum makes changes off bat
ESPN.com news services
MILWAUKEE -- Once he finished packing, Ned Yost figured he'd begin the long drive back home to Georgia. He might even tune in a ballgame.
"I've got XM Radio, so I'll be able to listen to the Brewers pitch-by-pitch and be rooting Dale on in his first win," Yost said.
A day after being abruptly fired as Milwaukee's manager and replaced by third base coach Dale Sveum, Yost insisted Tuesday he had no hard feelings toward the team that let him go with 12 games left while tied for the NL wild-card spot.
"If anybody thinks that I've got sour grapes or I don't want this club to succeed, they're crazy. I'll be rooting them on every inch of the way and I hope they can win that wild card and go deep, deep into the playoffs and win the World Series," he said.
Sveum lost his debut Tuesday night as the NL Central-leading Cubs defeated the Brewers and ace CC Sabathia 5-4 at Wrigley Field. The second game of the three-game series is Wednesday night.
"It's no mystery something like this hasn't really happened too often in the history of baseball, so obviously my emotions have been as good as my emotions ever get," Sveum said Tuesday before his debut.
"There has been a lot of anxiety obviously leading up to tonight. ... there is nervousness, there is no doubt about it. I'd be lying if I said if I wasn't a little amped up right now."
Yost intended to be in charge when he flew into Chicago on Monday. Instead, he's got a new plan: taking wife Debbie out to dinner for their 31st wedding anniversary Wednesday night.
Yost said he had no idea he was about to be fired when he went into general manager Doug Melvin's room in the team hotel in Chicago and saw principal owner Mark Attanasio.
"When I walked in, I hadn't even sat down on the couch and Doug said we were going to make a change," Yost said.
"They didn't ask me any questions [or] what did I think we needed to do," Yost said. "There was none of that."
That contradicted what Attanasio and Melvin said Monday at a hastily called news conference about four hours after the move was announced. The two said they had asked Yost for answers for the team's recent woes -- including a 3-11 stretch in September and a four-game sweep in Philadelphia -- before the firing.
The slide left the Brewers, trying for their first playoff spot since 1982, tied with the Phillies for the wild card.
Yost, known for never criticizing his players, said it didn't matter whether the final decision to replace him was made by Attanasio, the eager owner who talks to his front office daily, or Melvin, who hand-picked Yost six years ago.
"I don't agree with the decision, but I respect Doug Melvin's decision," Yost said. "That's what I ask my players to do. If I make a decision, I don't ask you to agree with it all the time. I just ask you to respect it."
The firing was unprecedented in baseball history, coming so close to the end of a full season with a team in playoff position. The Brewers, who slumped late last year, came into September with a 5½-game lead in the wild-card race before a September swoon.
"We have not played good for the last two weeks, that's well-documented and I, being the head of the club, must take responsibility for that," Yost said. "They felt my responsibility was to step down and let somebody else take over."
Attanasio said Monday night that replacing Yost with Sveum wasn't desperate or rash. Yost's club went 20-7 in August before the poor start in September.
Attanasio made it clear that the Brewers are aiming at a playoff spot this year when he allowed Melvin to deal four prospects to Cleveland for reigning AL Cy Young winner CC Sabathia on July 7.
Both Sabathia and Ben Sheets are eligible for free agency this offseason, and the payroll is currently over $90 million, meaning Sveum has a short window to succeed.
"Dale is a real calming influence. He's a very steady guy, he's a very smart baseball guy," Yost said. "I honestly don't think they could have picked a better person to finish out these last 12 days."
Sveum went to work right away Tuesday night, altering the Brewers' batting order by moving veteran Mike Cameron to the leadoff spot with another veteran, Ray Durham, batting second.
Chicago can clinch the NL Central again by sweeping the three-game series at Wrigley Field.
But Sveum and the Brewers have other ideas for the final 12 games of the season.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I can make any difference. They have to obviously perform," Sveum said.
"What I'm going to do is try to bring an ease to them and let them go play and let them have fun. It's the time of their life right now. If March 31st, when we started Opening Day right here in this ballpark, if you'd say, 'Hey, would you take being tied for a playoff berth at game 151?' Everyone in that clubhouse would say 'Heck yeah.' ... So game 151, we're tied and we got 12 left, so win more games than the other team."
Left fielder Ryan Braun said Sveum was a sound choice to run the team. Sveum managed three years at Double-A in the Pirates' organization from 2001-03.
"We're obviously very familiar with him and we have a lot of respect and just comfort level with him," Braun said, adding that the Brewers' play over the past two weeks was responsible for Yost getting fired.
"Nobody quit on him [Yost] by any means. We believed in him, we believed in his strategy, we believed in him as a person and as a manager," Braun said. "Ultimately I think the manager gets too much credit when a team has success and ultimately gets too much fault when a team struggles."
Yost worked under Atlanta's Bobby Cox for 12 seasons, and the Braves won their division each year except for the strike-shortened 1994 season.
"Bobby was pretty upset when I talked to him last night. He called right as soon as he heard," Yost said. "He was really, really upset. There's no advice to get through it. You have to understand where you're at. I think I would be really upset if I felt like I could have done something different."
Cox certainly didn't like the Brewers' move.
"It's just a terrible thing to do to a manager with 12 games, the way he had them playing," the Braves manager said before a game against Philadelphia. "They're looking at the last 10 days. You've got to look at the whole season.
"He couldn't have had a better year," he said. "It's just not fair, with 12 days. All the hard work he did in the spring, six months of the season. And you let him go with two weeks, 12 games to go. Unheard of!"
Milwaukee is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's collapse when it led the Central by 8½ games in late June but slid to 83-79.
Sabathia has been overwhelming, but the rest of the pitching and the hitting has vanished. Management decided it was time to act.
"I gave it my very best effort. I didn't quit on anybody. I don't feel like I let anybody down," Yost said. "I didn't take any short cuts and I didn't do anything to embarrass the organization. I feel real good about that."
How will the Brewers respond to Sveum with such a short time left? Not only is it a pressure situation with 12 games remaining, but it also could serve as an audition for Sveum, who began his 12-year major league playing career with the Brewers in 1986.
"He's definitely a different manager than Ned," right fielder Corey Hart said. "He's a more upbeat guy and different manager. Everybody is going to see that.
"It's depressing because Ned was good to all of us. But at the same time, it could be a good change. ... They think Dale being there the last two weeks might get us over the hump."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.