That was one highlight of a wide-ranging press conference in the new Gehl Club at Miller Park in which Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash, scouting director Jack Zduriencik and executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger summed up the Brewers' 2007 season. The team set an attendance record and finished 83-79 for its first winning season in 15 years, but missed the postseason for the 25th consecutive season.
Melvin called the starting rotation the team's biggest disappointment, promised to make a "very aggressive" contract offer to free agent closer Francisco Cordero this winter, said the team will examine signing some of the young talent to multi-year contracts, and mused over the team's annual road woes.
Melvin also took time to defend a bullpen that endured its share of criticism during the second half of the season.
"Our bullpen was the reason we got off to a good start," Melvin said. "And then we asked them to take on an extra workload when our starting pitching faltered. ... Last year, our starting pitchers [combined] for 62 starts where they pitched seven innings or more. This year, we had 33 starts of seven innings or more. There are a lot of innings there that we had to pick up, and the bullpen was forced to do it."
Later, he added: "I thought our starting pitching would be a little better -- well, a lot better."
As Melvin sees it, the Brewers have as many as eight starting options for next season: Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas and Carlos Villanueva. Those arms can either be penciled in for 2008 or used as trading chips.
"Right now, we have more starting pitching than most clubs," Melvin said. "I've already had clubs calling me and asking if we have starting pitching available.
Melvin will convene his baseball operations team in Phoenix during the week of Oct. 15 for organizational meetings, at which time the 2007 Brewers will be picked apart, one-by-one. General managers meetings begin Nov. 4 in Orlando and the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings begin in Nashville on Dec. 3.
Before any of that happens, Melvin intends to speak with Yost to further evaluate the team.
"Ned did an admirable job," Melvin said. "I think he did a very good job. Ned has strengths and weaknesses, just like any individual has with his job. I have strengths and weaknesses with my job."
Melvin specifically praised Yost for his patience in the organization's approach in 2005 with shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was batting well below .200 in July of that season, and in 2006 with second baseman Rickie Weeks, whose defensive troubles were evident. Melvin also credited Yost for being on board with the December 2005 trade that sent steady first baseman Lyle Overbay to Toronto, opening the position for a then unproven Prince Fielder.
"He is a builder of an organization," Melvin said of Yost.
In terms of game management?
"Hey, we're all managers," Melvin said. "We're all the biggest second-guessers in the world. There are teams going to the playoffs that were second-guessed. ... There are areas that Ned has to improve at, and he knows that."
The GM declined to pin the team's road struggles on the manager. They were 32-49 this season away from Miller Park, where they were 51-30, continuing a three-year trend. Since the start of 2005, the Brewers are 145-98 at Miller Park and 94-149 everywhere else.
"It's an issue," Melvin said. "We've talked about it. We have to get better on the road."
They have to be better late in games, too, Melvin said.
"We've looked into it. I went to dinner with Ned [Tuesday] night and we reviewed the season, and he will admit there are a number of places he made mistakes with the management of his bullpen," Melvin said. "Ned is growing, too. He is somewhat inexperienced as a manager. He has been to the postseason as a third-base coach, but believe me, it's a whole lot different [as manager].
"He is in a position as a manager with a team that this was its first legitimate year [it] contended to the point where [it] really had a shot. From an experience standpoint, Ned is experiencing this for the first time, too. Like anybody in any business, if you make the right corrections, you can get better. If he doesn't, then sometimes you have to suffer the consequences."
Yost is under contract for 2008 with a club option for 2009. Melvin said part of the team's evaluation process over the next week will include a discussion of exercising that option.
But there is plenty else to do. Cordero and fellow relievers Scott Linebrink and Ray King and backup catcher Damian Miller are among the free agents who could be courted by Milwaukee. The team also has a long list of arbitration-eligible players, including Hardy, starters Bush and Capuano, catcher Johnny Estrada and valuable reliever Brian Shouse.
Because the free agent crop is "not very attractive," Melvin said he expects to make most of his changes via trades.
"We know we have a lot of work to do," Melvin said. "I'm not going to sit there like hair conditioner and think that I'm working. We will be working this offseason, and we have a lot of work to do."