Roenicke comfortable with win now’ approach
Attanasio tried his best to keep secret the job offer that would come the next day from general manager Doug Melvin, but it wasn’t easy.
“I tried to do what I could to tell Ron it was all good and it was really just a formality,” said Attanasio, who had made up his mind and wouldn’t change it unless “he threw a drink at me.”
The most important rookie in the Brewers’ organization is the new manager.
Roenicke certainly has made all the right moves so far with measured responses on both big picture plans and the everyday issues he’ll deal with. He keeps his focus on baseball, steering discussions of his hobbies like hunting and golf back to putting his team in the best position to return to the postseason after a trip in 2008.
“I expect this group to win. I do. Doug does, Mark does. That’s why they made the moves they did in the offseason. It wasn’t to just, well, we want to have a nice team. It was to say ‘We want to win,’ and I think they’re committed to that,” Roenicke said. “I know it’s my first year managing, but they’re telling me they want to win, and how awesome is that for me to have a team that’s able to do what they asked me to do?”
Roenicke certainly has a lot of talent to work with from Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and the rest of the Brewers’ big bats to a pitching staff that has three opening day starters from last year in 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke (Kansas City), Yovani Gallardo (Milwaukee) and Shaun Marcum (Toronto).
The Brewers struggled with two lackluster seasons after former manager Ken Macha’s hands-off approach didn’t mesh with a team that grew up through the minors together and learned to win under the ultra-protective Ned Yost.
While Roenicke worked in the Angels’ organization the previous 11 years, he has his own ideas on how he’ll run his first team after watching Mike Scioscia.
“I have great hopes for Ron. He’s off to a great start. I think when everybody talks about the energy the players have, some of that is a function of the collection of players we brought together and some of that is the energy I think they’re feeling from Ron,” Attanasio said. “He’s completely his own man. He may be a rookie manager, but he’s got very definitive ideas on how to run things.”
The first thing that Roenicke did was to call all the Brewers’ top players in the offseason, often having several long chats with many of them.
“I had a missed call and I was like, ‘Who is this guy? I’m not going to call this guy,’” Corey Hart said. “But he called back like a week later.”
The 54-year-old Roenicke has made it a point that he doesn’t want to change the atmosphere this group of players formed together years ago.
“I tried to talk to everybody and I did,” Roenicke said. “Some of them it was a little difficult. They like to text more than they like to pick up a phone.”
Still, his message has stayed constant and the Brewers like what they’ve heard so far.
Roenicke was most recently a bench coach for the Angels, developing his strategy of putting pressure on opposing defenses after long talks with Scioscia during their days in the organization and firsthand experience.
As a minor league manager beginning in 1994, Roenicke’s teams were an assertive bunch, looking to exploit weaknesses in pitching staffs or outfield arms beginning with his championship at Class-A San Bernadino in 1995.
“I really saw the difference on when you can be aggressive, when you can take advantage of the other team,” he said.
Macha’s tendencies led him to avoid the risks of being thrown out on the bases, a style that didn’t suit players like Hart, Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks and Braun.
“We’ve got like five, six guys that really can run,” Gomez said. “It’s going to be exciting.”
Hart heard complaints from fans after only stealing seven bases last year, never getting comfortable trying to steal. Roenicke’s message to him was decidedly different.
“We’re going to run. I don’t care if we get thrown out half the time, we’re going to put pressure on teams,” Hart said. “We were so scared last year. I’d get thrown out half the time because I would never get a steal sign, or I’d get a steal sign on a 1-2 (count). It was just a weird philosophy.”
The organization believes it’s back on the same page now.
When Roenicke left the dinner with Attanasio, he was certain he’d at least represented himself well, not knowing for sure if he’d get an offer. That’s similar to what he hopes his team will do each day—and even conceded that there will be “good losses” in the season if the Brewers play hard and stay focused.
“I told them what I wanted from this camp and what I want from this season, but I also told them to have fun, they need to enjoy themselves,” Roenicke said. “If you can be relaxed when you start your job every day, the mood is going to be a lot better, the effort is going to be better, the quality you get is going to be better. It’s really important.”
And a good start.
“He knows he’s got a great opportunity here,” Attanasio said. “And he’s seizing it.”