The other day, newly hired Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns joined the podcast and detailed the passion he observed from the franchise's fan base in one of his first days in the city. A few hours after he was introduced by the team at a news conference, Stearns was at a restaurant. Patron after patron walked up to congratulate him, to greet him, to wish him well.
A reality in the job cycle of all general managers is that the same folks who greeted Stearns will soon enough question some of his decisions.
And nobody faces a greater challenge than Stearns, who assumes control of a fourth-place team in a five-team division inhabited by arguably the three best and most stable franchises in the sport. The St. Louis Cardinals are a longstanding model of success in drafting and player development, their roster filled with young and productive players and their bank account soon to be flush with hundreds of millions from the franchise's new television contract. The Pirates might be the closest thing to the Cardinals and have now made the playoffs for three years running, anchored by star players Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole and a farm system that has fed the major-league team steadily.
The third-place Cubs are merely viewed as having the most pure talent of any major-league team, with all of their infielders age 25 or younger and Kyle Schwarber having already established himself as someone who could be an elite hitter for years.
By comparison, the Brewers are way behind in their player development.