The Milwaukee Brewers have had 18 managers in their franchise history, dating back to the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969. Of those 18, only five (including Dale Sveum’s 7-5 record in the last 12 games of 2008) have had winning records during their tenure with Milwaukee. Ron Roenicke, manager of the Brewers since 2011, is one of those managers, guiding Milwaukee to a 335-313 record in his four years at the helm while leading Milwaukee to its first playoff series win since 1982.
Following the epic September collapse in 2014 that saw the Brewers fall from first to third place while their offense dried up, Roenicke’s future with the organization seemed in doubt. Though Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin decided to bring Roenicke back following the season, Ron was still set to operate with 2015 as the final guaranteed season of his managerial contract. Roenicke was offered a bit of security today, however, as the Brewers officially picked up his 2016 contract option.
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By exercising the option on Roenicke’s contract, the Brewers helped to avoid the manager being put in a “lame-duck” type situation, and offers some more certainty for Ron and the Brewers should the team struggle out of the gates to begin the season. Ron certainly has the backing of his players, as well, several of who were very pleased to see their manager come back.
Carlos Gomez had bounced around with three different franchises before coming to the Brewers in 2009 and toiling on the bench under Ken Macha. Gomez finally got his full-time shot under Roenicke in 2012, and has blossomed into a superstar. “He’s been really good to this organization, and he’s good to players,” Gomez said. “He always gives you protection and belief. He’s fun to play for, because when you make a mistake, he believes you can learn from it. Some managers just get mad and get upset. When he tells you something, it’s because he knows he’s right.”
Ryan Braun, now the team’s longest tenured player, added this about Roenicke: “We’re happy and excited for him. We’ve said many times that we enjoy being his [players], we appreciate his support, we appreciate what a great communicator he is. He’s a lot of fun to play for. So, certainly we’re excited that it’s not something we’ll have to answer questions about or he’ll have to answer questions about this year…It’s not his fault (that the Brewers collapsed last season), it’s not the front office’s fault. It’s our fault as players. So we were certainly hoping he wouldn’t have to take the fall for our poor play the last month. More than anything, we’re all thankful that he got an opportunity to come back, because we would have all felt terrible had he been gone, knowing it was our fault and not his fault.”
While the Brewers did afford Roenicke a bit of security by guaranteeing his deal through 2016, the team did not add an another option year on the end of it, meaning that the deal will expire after 2016. It is common practice in baseball not to have managers on lame-duck contracts, so the Brewers may have simply been maintaining the status quo by picking up Roenicke’s option. Should the Brewers suffer a similar collapse to last season or spend all year in the cellar, Roenicke could still easily find himself on the hot seat.
The Brewers will likely turn their attention next to figuring out what to do with GM Doug Melvin’s contract, which is set to expire following the 2015 season. Melvin is the fifth longest tenured GM in all of baseball, having started with Milwaukee in 2002. Under his watch, the Brewers have had five winning seasons and two playoff appearances. Prior to Melvin, the Brewers had eight winning seasons and one playoff appearance in their first 33 seasons. When Doug took over in 2002, the Brewers were in the midst of a 106 loss season. Doug started with basically nothing, and working with limited funds, has built a team with a winning culture that is in contention for a playoff spot year in and year out. While some may think Melvin should be joining Roenicke on the hot seat, I believe the wise choice would be for the Brewers to give Doug a multi-year extension.
Though Roenicke has his faults (inflexibilty in lineup slots, insistence on bunting), he is generally an all-around good major league manager and gives the Brewers their best chance to win this season. The Brewers gave Ron a little bit of security by picking up his 2016 contract option, but by no means should he rest on his laurels, and he could still be gone by the end of the season if the Brewers go in the tank. If all goes according to plan, however, we will see Ron Roenicke guiding the Milwaukee Brewers into the 2015 postseason and beyond.