Roenicke to make Brewers more aggressive
Club's 18th skipper has grand vision in first managerial job
MILWAUKEE -- If the Brewers wanted something different in their new manager, then they picked the right guy.
Ron Roenicke was introduced as the 18th manager in franchise history on Thursday, and at each turn, whether he meant to or not, he presented himself as a complete opposite to Ken Macha. The team let Macha go last month after two sub-.500 seasons and now has replaced him with Roenicke, the former Angels bench coach who signed a two-year contract to manage Milwaukee that includes a club option for 2013.
Get ready to watch Roenicke's Brewers run.
"At times, you're going to say, 'Why are you running so much? Why are you getting thrown out trying to take extra bases?'" Roenicke said at an afternoon news conference at Miller Park. "It's going to happen, but that's the style I like to play. I've seen it win a lot of ballgames over the years. We're going to be aggressive from third base scoring, we're going to be aggressive from first to third and, at times, we're going to get thrown out. But over the course of the season, I guarantee we will score a lot more runs being aggressive.
"Plus, what it does for the players. The players, when you let them be aggressive, they have more confidence. That's what this game is all about -- confidence."
Are you listening, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart? They were among the Brewers players most critical of Macha's station-to-station style, with Hart telling Milwaukee's NBC TV affiliate just this week that over the past two seasons "we were scared" to run.
Roenicke's running philosophy isn't the only thing that separates him from Macha. In the wake of Macha's departure, there was much said and written about his relatively distant relationship with the team's stars, Prince Fielder and Braun. Macha says he tried to rectify that before the start of 2010, but for whatever reason, the approach was not reciprocated.
It won't be a problem in the new regime, Roenicke vowed.
"Players today are a little different, and we have to adjust to that," Roenicke said. "If the player needs to know that I'm behind him, the player is going to know that. I'm going to have their back, and they're going to know that. I think in the long run, they're going to play better because they know I care about them."
Here's something Roenicke will share in common with Macha: An urgency to win. Roenicke's two guaranteed years coincide with what's left on general manager Doug Melvin's contract, and considering the Brewers' strong attendance over the past three seasons and the way in which the team has stretched the payroll, the next two seasons are critical.
Roenicke, a former outfielder, played in 527 games over eight Major League seasons for six different teams, but he has made his Major League mark mostly as a coach under Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Roenicke joined Scioscia's staff in 2000 as the third-base coach and was promoted to bench coach in '06 after the Rays hired away Joe Maddon.
Roenicke is the third member of Scioscia's original staff to be handed a team of his own. Maddon has managed the Rays since 2006, and former Angels pitching coach Bud Black has managed the Padres since '07.
Roenicke has not managed in the Major Leagues, but he did manage 775 games in the Minors for the Dodgers and Giants before joining the Angels' coaching staff. His teams went 404-371.
"This is a great opportunity for me," Roenicke said. "But the opportunity is really about the players. It's a chance for me to work with a group of guys who I don't know -- and I'm looking forward to get to know them -- and to get the most out of them. It's a challenge. I've worked hard to get to this point.
"But the focus is not on me, it's on the players. It's getting then to perform to whatever abilities they have. Once we get there, it's about getting to September and have those games mean something."
Melvin interviewed eight initial candidates, four with previous Major League managerial experience (Bob Melvin, Bobby Valentine, Don Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge) and four without (Roenicke, White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, then-Nationals bench coach Pat Listach and Dodgers coach Tim Wallach).
Roenicke's initial interview took place in Phoenix with Doug Melvin and Brewers special assistant Dan O'Brien. He was in Milwaukee's final four along with Cora, Bob Melvin and Wedge, and went through a second interview with Doug Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash and Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio in Los Angeles.
Attanasio then had one final meeting with Roenicke in Los Angeles on Monday night, just as the Giants were winning the World Series. On Tuesday morning, Doug Melvin offered Roenicke the job.
"It took him about 2 1/2 minutes to accept," Melvin said.
Melvin again disputed any speculation that his first choice was Valentine, the former Rangers and Mets manager who is currently working as an analyst for ESPN. He was an impressive candidate, Melvin said, and likely to get a shot to manage again soon. But the Brewers never made Valentine an offer.
Instead, they picked Roenicke after a series of very strong interviews and even stronger recommendations from his peers. Among the calls made by Brewers officials were to former Angels GM Bill Stoneman and to Maddon, who has had enormous success in his five seasons with the Rays.
"His passion for the game [shone through]," Melvin said of Roenicke. "Joe Maddon gave glowing reports, and he said Ron sees things that other people don't see. That's important in the game when you're trying to out-manage the other team. But it's also important in the clubhouse [in terms of] communication. I think people view communication as only talking back and forth, but the most important thing to me with communication is listening."
Melvin was also impressed when Roenicke responded to a common interview question: Why should we hire you?
"He said, 'I'm not experienced, but I've experienced a lot,'" Melvin said. "That stood out for me."
That's one way Roenicke convinced Melvin to go with a first-time Major League manager. Never mind that he was described by the local newspaper as a "dark horse" and by one national baseball writer as the Brewers' fourth choice behind Valentine, Cora and Bob Melvin.
Roenicke took those slights in stride.
"Over the last week, maybe a little longer, my wife has been on the Internet," he said. "My wife has two new nicknames: Dark horse and No. 4."
Wisconsin has had enough of No. 4, but they may be willing to give dark horse his shot.