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MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers became the latest Major League club to fill a managerial vacancy by raiding Angels manager Mike Scioscia's coaching staff.
The Rays plucked away Angels bench coach Joe Maddon before the 2006 season, and three seasons later Maddon was celebrating an American League pennant. The Padres brought in Angels pitching coach Bud Black before the 2007 season and San Diego enjoyed a resurgence in 2010, contending for the National League West crown until the final game of the season.
Now comes Milwaukee, a club that on Tuesday hired Maddon's successor as Angels bench coach, 54-year-old Ron Roenicke, to be the 18th manager in Brewers history. A source close to the Brewers' managerial search confirmed the hire, but the official announcement is not expected before late Thursday because of some final administrative steps.
The Chicago Sun-Times was first to report that Roenicke was Milwaukee's choice. He has served on Scioscia's coaching staff since 2000, first as third-base coach and then as bench coach after Maddon's departure.
The hiring capped a month-long managerial search that included a couple of false alarms. Days after the Brewers cut ties with manager Ken Macha by declining to exercise his 2011 option, a Milwaukee radio station reported that the Brewers had offered the job to Cubs broadcaster and former D-backs manager Bob Brenly, a rumor that general manager Doug Melvin quickly shot down. One week ago, the Wisconsin Radio Network reported that the Brewers had an agreement in principle with another finalist, former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine. Both Brewers officials and Valentine later denied being in negotiations, and in fact the team did not talk about a contract with any of the candidates before offering the job to Roenicke this week.
On Tuesday, the unnamed sources finally got it right in naming Roenicke, who beat a field that included Valentine, Mets scout and former D-backs manager Bob Melvin and White Sox bench coach Joey Cora. Valentine was seen by pundits at the World Series as the frontrunner for the job, and at least one report on Tuesday surmised that the Brewers chose Roenicke because Valentine's price tag was too high. Not so, insisted the source with knowledge of the Brewers' process, who said financial considerations played "no role whatsoever" in Roenicke getting the job. The Brewers did not engage in contractual discussions with any of the candidates before offering the position to Roenicke this week.
Reached by MLB.com last week, Roenicke said he wouldn't comment about his interest in the Brewers' job until the team made a formal announcement about its plans for the position.
Doug Melvin also declined to comment until the process is complete.
Roenicke, a former outfielder, played 527 games over eight Major League seasons for six different teams, but has made his Major League mark mostly as a coach for Scioscia. Roenicke also managed six seasons and 643 games in the Minor Leagues.
He came highly recommended by a number of current and former colleagues, including former Angels GM Bill Stoneman and Rays manager Maddon, who lauded Roenicke's ability to see things that others miss.
When they were together on the Angels staff, "He was always looking for the advantage, and I was doing the same thing," Maddon said. "Believe me, you're getting a really bright baseball person, and one of the most honest people I've met in my life. That's a real good thing when talking to Major League players. He's going to talk to those guys straight-up."
"I'm excited for Ron," said Black, who just finished his fourth season as Padres skipper. "I know that he will be very well-prepared. He's well-equipped to take on this. There's no doubt in my mind. He's going to come to this position prepared and with a great understanding of players. What I like about Ron the most is he's a realist and a straight shooter. He tells it like it is. He'll look you in the eye and tell you."
Maddon was not the only acquaintance to tout Roenicke's ability to communicate with players, or his focus on baserunning and outfield defense and his commitment to the Angels' aggressive style. Brewers officials want to see their own team return to that style of play after a more station-to-station approach under Macha for the past two seasons.
Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash and Brewers special assistant Dan O'Brien all called around for input on the various candidates, and were impressed by Roenicke as a family man and a baseball man with a record of working well with diverse personalities.
Melvin entered the offseason leaning toward choosing a manager with previous managerial experience, and ended up with two such finalists in Bob Melvin and Valentine. But Roenicke and Cora, who had managed before in the Minors but not the Majors, were especially impressive in their interviews. As the search continued, Roenicke rose to the top.
"The more people they talked to, the more he stepped up," the source said. "You kept hearing from people, 'This guy is ready and has been ready.'"
Melvin and other Brewers officials heard the same thing over and over: What's taken so long for Roenicke to get a shot? Maddon thinks he knows.
"He's not going to go out there and say how wonderful he is. That's not his style," Maddon said. "Somebody was going to have to go out and find him. He's just not a self-promoter."
Said Brewers television play-by-play man Brian Anderson, who has known Roenicke for more than a decade and also offered a recommendation to Melvin: "He's just not charismatic. He's not outspoken. That's one of the things people like about him."
That's not to say Roenicke doesn't have a personality, Maddon cautioned.
"It's not like he's not capable of handling the spotlight," Maddon said. "He's just never thrown himself into it. He's really bright. When you ask him a question, he's going to have a really good answer. It's hard to argue against him."
Maddon figures that Roenicke will have an immediate impact on the details-oriented facets of the game, like baserunning and defense. Those are key areas in which the Brewers are looking for improvement next season.
Maddon will get a chance to reunite with his old buddy. The Rays come to Miller Park for an Interleague series from June 20-22.
Anderson won't have to wait as long to reunite. He was calling games for the Double-A San Antonio Missions back in 1997 when Roenicke was in the middle of a seven-year stint managing Dodgers farm teams.
"We'll see how it translates to wins and losses, but I know they got a Major League person," Anderson said. "He's probably the most impressive guy I've ever known, or he's on the short list, anyway. He's a great character guy. He'll never take the credit for wins but he'll always take the blame for losses."
Roenicke's brother, Gary, is a scout for the Orioles, and his nephew, Josh, pitches for the Blue Jays.