Roenicke finishes second in NL Manager of Year honor

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, November 17, 2011
— Were it not for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ worst-to-first turnaround in 2011, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke might well have been named the Baseball Writers’ Association of America manager of the year in the National League on Wednesday.

But with Arizona’s 94-68 record and NL West Division title too much for voters to ignore, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, 54, wound up winning the award. He landed 28 of 32 first-place votes, and finished second on the other four ballots.

“All’s I know is Kirk Gibson should have won it, and he did,” Roenicke said in a phone interview shortly after the results were announced.

Roenicke, 55, led the Brewers to a club-record 96 wins, their first NL Central Division title and an appearance in the National League Championship Series.

“I really don’t think about this,” said Roenicke. “When the season’s over and I hear people talking about the voting coming up, then yeah. But it just isn’t on my mind until somebody brings it up.

“I’m really uncomfortable about accolades coming my way. I tried to do the best I can; I thought we had a great year. But the players, the way they played, they made me look good.”

General manager Doug Melvin, who hired Roenicke a little over a year ago to replace Ken Macha, thought Roenicke deserved praise.

“It’s a credit to him to set a franchise record as a manager with our ball club,” Melvin said. “There were critics who said you don’t win with a first-year manager.”

I think he proved them wrong, to go out there and win 96 games.

“Kirk Gibson did a great job in Arizona. Probably in any other year, Ron probably is a slam dunk.”

Gibson’s Diamondbacks and Roenicke’s Brewers wound up facing each other in the NLDS, with Milwaukee beating Arizona in 10 innings in Game 5 at Miller Park to advance.

Milwaukee then lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. Not long after that, Roenicke and his wife Karen hopped in their vehicle and made the cross-country trek back home to California.

There was a little bit of sightseeing along the way. But with the painful end to the season still fresh in his mind, Roenicke’s thoughts drifted back to what had just transpired - and how much the Brewers accomplished in the overall picture.

“We had 21/2 days to talk and for me to think about things,” Roenicke said with a chuckle. “I think everybody knew we had a good team coming into the season, but nobody really knew how good that team was going to be.

Roenicke was able to get some down time once he and his wife arrived back home. He also watched the Cardinals stay red-hot and go on to beat the Texas Rangers and win the World Series.

“The Cardinals, it was a special season for them,” he said. “You look at it and you can say they were destined to win, or however you want to say it.

“But there were a lot of weird things that happened in their season that kept moving them on, where you thought, ‘Wow, these guys really are meant to win this thing.’?”

The surprise retirement of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who finished third in the NL manager of the year voting, caught Roenicke off guard like many others.

“Yeah, but I guess I was surprised just because I wasn’t thinking of it,” Roenicke said.

“When you look at it and you sit back and look at the years he’s put in, what he’s accomplished in his career, I think it’s a very good time to go out.”

Roenicke also weighed in on the distinct possibility that sometime in the next few days he and the Brewers could be searching for another hitting coach, with Dale Sveum reportedly the top candidate to take over as manager for either the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs.

He said it would be tough to see Sveum go, but at the same time he’d be happy for the opportunity Sveum would be afforded to run his own team.

“That’s always the way it is with losing a good coach,” Roenicke said. “I was in his same situation for years. I’m really happy for him. If he gets one of these jobs, I think it’d be great.

“Anytime you’re with a guy and you see him work and you like his work ethic and you like the person, it’s great to see them get that chance.”

Were Sveum to wind up in Chicago, that would set up some interesting storylines - former Brewer player and coach now not only managing in the NL against his friend and former boss, but also in the same division. And for a rival, at that.

“It’s kind of nice when you go to play those teams and you know that manager,” Roenicke said. So I don’t look at it necessarily as, ‘Oh no, you’re going to be in our division.’ I look at it as, ‘Hey, that’d be kind of fun to see him and be across from him.’?”

Last updated: 6:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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