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The Boxís series looking at some of the candidates to replace Cito Gaston as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays continues by looking at Ron Roenicke. The Blue Jays recently requested permission from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to interview the teamís bench coach, who happens to be the uncle of a contender for a spot in the 2011 Jays bullpen.

Minor League Coaching History

Roenickeís playing career saw him spend 8 years in the majors between 1981 and 1988, playing for 6 different teams. After ending his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1988, Roenicke decided to enter the coaching ranks.

It is unclear what he did immediately following his playing career, but Roenicke surfaced in 1992 as the bench coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers under Tommy Lasorda. After two years in that position, he began his managerial career in Rookie ball with the Great Falls Dodgers in 1994. The next year, in recognition for leading the San Bernardino Spirit to the California League championship, Ron won the California League Manager of the Year award. He was promoted to hitting coach for the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes for the 1996 season.

Roenicke managed the Double-A San Antonio Missions in 1997 and led the team to Texas League Championship, winning the Texas League Manager of the Year award. He split the next season between Double and Triple-A. Roenicke began the year managing San Antonio again, but was promoted to Albuquerque, when Dukes manager Glenn Hoffman was named Los Angelesís manager in the middle of the season. In 1999, Roenicke left the Dodgers organization to manage San Franciscoís Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies. The next year, he was appointed to Mike Sciosciaís coaching staff on the Anaheim Angels.

Serving Under Scioscia

Roenicke joined Anaheimís coaching staff in 2000 and has served under Mike Scioscia for 11 years. Roenicke has served the last five years as the teamís bench coach after spending six years as a third base coach. Sciosciaís original coaching staff included two individuals who have gone on to have successful managerial tenures after apprenticing under Scioscia: Joe Maddon and Bud Black. Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher and first base coach Alfredo Griffin were also members of Sciosciaís original coaching staff and are still employed in the same capacity for the Angels. Roenicke interviewed for openings in Seattle in 2005 and Cleveland in 2009, but he spent much of his earlier coaching career overshadowed as manager-in-waiting by Maddon. Roenickeís reputation seems to have grown recently and Anaheim papers have speculated that if he doesnít get an opening this offseason, he will soon.

Potential Managerial Tendencies

It is difficult to evaluate what sort of manager someone may be based on five seasons as a minor league manager, particularly when one of these was spent in Rookie ball and another was split between two different teams. Roenickeís only had two full seasons managing teams in the upper levels of the minors, which are San Antonio in 1997 and Fresno in 1999.

Roenicke had success with both clubs, despite not having impressive rosters. With Fresno the leading hitters were Felipe Crespo, Doug Mirabelli and Calvin Murray and the most recognizable pitchers were Joe Nathan (as a mediocre starter), Julian Tavarez and Ben Weber. Fresno led the PCL in stolen bases by 24 stolen bases, which was nearly the difference between second and eighth place teams. Fresno was second in the PCL in sacrifice hits and had the second lowest total of intentional walks issued.

Some similarities are discernable when comparing his time in Fresno with his full season in charge of the Missions. San Antonio led the 8-team Texas League in stolen bases and caught stealing. San Antonio was third in the league in sacrifice hits, but only four behind the league leaders, and also led the Texas League in fewest intentional walks and fewest non-intentional walks issued.

While Roenicke is almost certainly to adapt his managerial style to the strengths and weaknesses of the players on his club, these two teams seem to show that Roenicke is inclined to attempt to steal bases often (he also led the California League in stolen bases and stolen base attempts while manager of San Bernardino), will use the sacrifice bunt and doesnít like to put opposing batters on base via the intentional walk. Interestingly, Fresno and San Antonio finished first and second, respectively, in their leagues in strikeouts by their pitchers. That probably is a function of the quality and nature of their pitching staffs rather than Roenicke himself.

Stability in Anaheim

The stability of the Anaheim coaching staff seems rare in the modern era (or at least will be once Cox and LaRussa retire), as three members of Sciosciaís six man coaching staff have served under him during his entire tenure in Anaheim. In fact, only nine men in total have coached under Scioscia in his 11 years in charge of the Angels. Roenicke, Hatcher and Griffin have been a constant presence in Angels red. Mike Butcher replaced Bud Black as pitching coach in 2007, when he left to manage the Padres, and he is still the clubís pitching coach. Ron moved from third base coach to bench coach to replace Joe Maddon, when Maddon left to become the bench boss of Tampa. Dino Ebel replaced Roenicke as third base coach in 2006 and has served in that capacity ever since. Orlando Mercado replaced bullpen coach Bobby Ramos before the 2003 season and Mercado is still working under Scioscia. Itís very possible that if Maddon and Black hadnít been offered managerial positions, five-sixths of Sciosciaís original staff would still be with the team.

Itís hard to see this stability as doing anything but reflecting positively on Scioscia and his staff. Not only have they not worn out their welcome with the front office or each other, most importantly they have maintained the ability to communicate effectively with the players. There has been no need to bring in a manager with a different style to shake things up or because Sciosciaís message is getting old. The front office has never found it to be necessary to make a change to improve on areas of weakness in the staff.

During Sciosciaís time in Anaheim, the Jays have seen Carlos Tosca lose the dressing room, John Gibbons get into confrontations with several players and clubhouse unhappiness at the end of the 2009 season under Gaston. These facts should not obscure their successes, but it does demonstrate what an accomplishment it is when a teamís biggest controversy in 11 years was probably an incident with perennial malcontent Jose Guillen. As Sciosciaís second-in-command, Roenicke has likely not only learned from a successful manager, but also played a role in maintaining the stability in the Anaheim clubhouse.

Sciosciaís Managerial Style

Roenicke likely wonít be an indentical manager to Mike Scoscia, but it is worth noting briefly Scosciaís managerial tendencies. Scoscia, who has won two AL Manager of the Year awards, has built his team around putting the ball in play. The Angels have led baseball in singles in four of the eleven seasons heís completed as manager and are notorious for playing a small-ball style that eschews walks and strikeouts in favour of contact and batting average.

Scoscia also relies heavily on his starters, particularly in the outfield, where starters regularly average over 150 games a season. The only position that Scoscia doesnít rely upon the starter heavily is at catcher, where Scoscia almost always utilizes a platoon (to many fansí chagrin in the case of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis). Anaheim has often had a strong bullpen and has seen several young starters develop into good starters, such as John Lackey, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. This hasnít always been the case for hitters, as Brandon Wood never developed and Howie Kendrick hasnít quite become the hitter people expected. Thereís a lot more that could be said about Scioscia as a manger, but these are some of the most obvious trends that could potentially have influenced Roenicke. However, it would be premature to presume he would have the same style as Scioscia.

Conclusion

The more I read about Roenicke, the more I think he should be one of the top names on Anthopolousí list. Although he doesnít have major league managerial experience, he has served as a minor league manager and hitting coach and as a major league third base coach and bench coach. I do think it's noteworthy that he's won two Manager of the Year awards out of, effectively, four possible seasons. Roenicke has enough experience, both in a major league dugout and as a teamís manager, where I would not worry at all about his lack of MLB managerial experience. Ron has served over a decade with Scioscia, who is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game, and has also spent considerable time on the same coaching staff as Joe Maddon and Bud Black and likely has learned from their expertise, as well.

Based on Roenickeís minor league managerial tendencies (and if he follows Sciosciaís style), it seems likely he will try to bring elements of ďsmall ballĒ and contact-oriented offence to Toronto that tries to manufacture runs, which is something fans of the Blue Jays havenít seen recently. I would think, and hope, that Roenicke would recognize that this isnít where the strengths of the several current members of the roster currently lie and that players like Bautista and, if retained, Buck, should be allowed to continue to focus on driving the ball, as they have been this year. However, Roenicke may be the sort of manager who would utilize a bench/platoon player like Darin Mastroianni frequently and get the most of his abilities.

Another point to consider is that, given the stability in Anaheim, Roenicke would likely not be bringing any coaches from the Angels to join him. There is no way to intelligently speculate about the friends and associates Roenicke has made over his time in baseball and individuals who he might want as members of his coaching staff. However, the situation in Anaheim may increase the likelihood that current members of the Jays coaching staff are offered their positions for the 2011 season, as Roenicke may not have replacements or preferred candidates in mind for the position. I have no objection to all of them keeping their job and particularly would like to see Walton, Murphy and Butterfield retained, although I do think Butterfield will leave if he is not given the job. If the Jays do not offer their current third base coach the managerial position, I think they would do well to give a serious look to the man who used to patrol that position in Anaheim.

You can read other profiles of potential managerial candidates on Batterís Box by clicking here to read about Don Baylor or here to read about Fredi Gonzalez.

The Case for Ron Roenicke | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Anders - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 01:00 PM EDT (#223562) #
This was really well done Thomas, I had never heard of Roenicke the elder but you have sold me to a large degree.
Mike Green - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 01:33 PM EDT (#223564) #
Excellent, Thomas.  Ron Roenicke is, of course, the younger brother of Gary Roenicke, of the famous Roenicke/Lowenstein platoon.  As a player, Ron Roenicke's most notable feature was excellent plate discipline.  He is now 54 years old.

Roenicke is a very interesting candidate.

85bluejay - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 02:10 PM EDT (#223569) #

Good Article - Roenicke seems a good candidate - My top 3 are Dave Martinez, Tim Wallach and Roenicke - I tend

to slightly favour Martinez because of his AL east connections, youth, and Hispanic background ( not that any of

these factors are necessary)

Magpie - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#223570) #
After ending his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1988, Roenicke decided to enter the coaching ranks....It is unclear what he did immediately following his playing career,

He was still playing in 1989, putting in a full season at AAA. The missing years are 1990 and 1991. Who knows? Maybe he went straight and found, like Butch and Sundance, that it wasn't for him.

It seems strange that Roenicke would go from out of baseball one year to bench coach with the Dodgers next year - but it appears that this was not the case. Although he is regularly described as Lasorda's bench coach in the usual reference sources, he was actually their "eye in the Sky" - his duties were to position the outfielders. (When Roenicke was let go after the 1993 season, bench coach Joe Ferguson took over as the eye in the sky and Bill Russell replaced Ferguson in the dugout.)

He's described as smart and observant baseball man, not at all a brash personality. He's spent lots of time in major league dugouts and managed (successfully) in the minors. He played in the majors. These are all good things, and presumably he's smart enough to know that thoroughbreds do a lousy job at hauling carts and nags make terrible racehorses.

And his nephew will be trying to make the team next spring.
Thomas - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 02:35 PM EDT (#223572) #
It seems strange that Roenicke would go from out of baseball one year to bench coach with the Dodgers next year - but it appears that this was not the case. Although he is regularly described as Lasorda's bench coach in the usual reference sources, he was actually their "eye in the Sky" - his duties were to position the outfielders. (When Roenicke was let go after the 1993 season, bench coach Joe Ferguson took over as the eye in the sky and Bill Russell replaced Ferguson in the dugout.)

Thanks for the clarification. I found it strange, too, but I saw references to Roenicke serving as bench coach on a couple of different sites and took it at face value.

China fan - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 02:49 PM EDT (#223573) #

....he was actually their "eye in the Sky" - his duties were to position the outfielders....

This is all new to me.  Does every MLB team have a full-time coach doing this?  Where exactly are they stationed -- in the press gondola?  Who does this job for the Jays?

Mike Green - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 03:29 PM EDT (#223575) #
Ron Roenicke, Joe Ferguson, Bill Russell.  Cue Glory Days.
Magpie - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 03:45 PM EDT (#223576) #
I saw references to Roenicke serving as bench coach on a couple of different sites and took it at face value.

Me too. I went searching everywhere I could think of to try to find out what he was doing from 1989-91. Mostly without success, but I learned about the eye in the sky. Have no idea where he was stationed, or how he moved the fielders.
China fan - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 04:07 PM EDT (#223578) #
It's interesting that Roenicke began his college career as a pitcher, switched to become a hitter, and then -- at the age of 36 -- tried to make a late comeback as a knuckleball pitcher.   The comeback didn't work, of course, but it might be nice to have a manager who has playing experience as both a pitcher and a hitter....   Presumably it allows him to understand the niceties of the pitching arts and the hitting arts, from the inside.
Magpie - Monday, October 04 2010 @ 08:21 PM EDT (#223591) #
It's now official that the Pirates, Brewers, and Mets will also be looking for new managers this season, along with the Braves and Blue Jays. More spots are likely to open up, as there are a number of guys with an Interim label firmly affixed. Kirk Gibson will be back in Arizona, Ned Yost in Kansas City, but I haven't heard (or noticed) what the plan is in Chicago, Seattle, and Florida.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 01:33 PM EDT (#223637) #
Makes one wonder what the record for managerial changes in one offseason is. 37 managers were used in the majors this year according to B-R. Gaston, Torre, Cox all gone plus the 3 mentioned above. Pinella left earlier, Tony LaRussa is on thin ice iirc, many others are probably also on edge.

Phew.
vw_fan17 - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 02:27 PM EDT (#223646) #
Just curious about Butterfield: the consensus seems to be that if he doesn't become the manager, he'll leave.

One thing that keeps coming to my mind: why not just pay him more (maybe nearly as much as the manager) to continue his current job? By all accounts, he's a great asset to the team. An extra $100K (or 3 or 5, no idea what the exact salaries involved are) shouldn't be that hard to find when you're paying VW $20M+. If it were up to me, I'd actually PREFER that in terms of job responsibilities: no media pressure/involvement, and nearly all the salary. Just a thought..

I do realize that this might play havoc with the traditional "power" hierarchy, where the manager gets paid (significantly?) more than the coaches, but... Why not try it?

Kasi - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#223649) #
The general thing for a new manager is when they come in they get to choose their own staff, or at least have a say on it. Not sure how many prospective managers would be happy with being told who their bench coach will be.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 03:26 PM EDT (#223655) #
A good question is always 'what is the value of coaches'. To me this is one of the areas a team can jump ahead of the competition still. Coaches, with the odd exception, are (by baseball standards) low paid, low respect, low priority. Managers come in and pick who they like generally, rather than having it be the GM who decides on who is the best for each role. I'd figure a team that figures out how to judge the skills of coaches will have a significant advantage - just look at Bautista and how in Pittsburgh no one ever thought to tell him why his swing was behind and how to fix it. Many players won't see a big shift, but when a coach figures out how to fix something boy can it reap rewards.

I figure AA seems to be the type who would notice this stuff, given his expansion of scouting and some investment in the minors. Now he needs to find the very best coaches for raw instruction (send to rookie/low A), the best at adjusting kids (A+/AA), and at fine tuning (AAA/MLB). Spend a couple million on getting the best of the best in coaching and you could increase the value of your assets (players) drastically.
TamRa - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 06:43 PM EDT (#223683) #
Just curious about Butterfield: the consensus seems to be that if he doesn't become the manager, he'll leave.

In his interview with Wilner, he strongly implied that even if he didn't get the manager job he wanted to stay a blue jay. Now whether that extends to being re-assigned within the organization if the new manager doesn't keep him on the major league staff, i don't know - because we've been told every coach has been offered a role in the organization which would seem to put the ball in Butter's court.
so that's my guess - if we keep him on the major league level he'll stay, if not, he'll go to Baltimore

(all that asusming some OTHER team doesn't hire him as a manager which is certainly possible)

DaveB - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 08:12 PM EDT (#223687) #
Really enjoyed that article, Thomas. Great job. Roenicke certainly deserves a lot of consideration. He may never have had a Major League managerial job, but he has a heck of a good resume.

Here's a link to a Baseball Prospectus interview done with Roenicke one year ago ... http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9669 ... some good nuggets there about his role as bench coach and baseball philosophy.

I don't think it's possible to underestimate the value of Roenicke's 11 seasons with Scioscia, coming in right from the start of that regime and seeing how a WS winning team was built and how it has stayed in contention with, as you point out, so few controversies in the locker room or with the media. In the five seasons Roenicke has been the bench coach, the Angels have won an average of 93 games a year and three division titles. Roenicke is 7-0 as interim manager during Scioscia absences for suspension or family obligations. Roenicke has also seen how Scioscia has to deal with a level of media scrutiny much higher than in Toronto, and for much of the past decade the Angels have had a strong Latin content to their lineup, though obviously that is the case for many teams.

Roenicke probably has some of his own philosophical preferences, but with Maddon and Black you can see they have brought a lot of "Scioscia-lism" to their managerial approach and I suspect it would be much the same with Roenicke. In that Baseball Prospectus interview he says as much. He also says Maddon is the smartest coach he has ever seen and learned a lot from him. When Scioscia took over the job, he kept Maddon (who had been interim manager the year before) as his bench coach. Perhaps the same could be done with keeping Butterfield.

Some of the prospect moves that AA has made can be viewed as being compatible with a more Scioscia-like team. He has built up the depth of young pitching (Scioscia has never been reluctant to put young pitchers to work, as starters or closers), and added defense and speed up the middle (D'Arnaud, Hechevarria, Gose). There's a young power hitting catcher with defensive liabilities much like the Angels had with Napoli, and there are young, better defensive catchers in the minors behind him, as there was on the Angels with Mathis. There was a former GG winner in CF (Hunter) who was shifted over to make way for a younger, better defensive centrefielder (Bourjos). That day is soon coming to Toronto, too.

From me, a big thumbs up for Roenicke.









Mike Green - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 09:14 PM EDT (#223690) #
The link to the BP article doesn't quite work.  This one should.

As for "Scioscia-lism", I guess it's the "from each according to his abilities" part that applies in this case.
DaveB - Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 10:15 PM EDT (#223695) #
Thanks for that link correction, Mike

And yes, your explanation of  "Scioscia-lism" works for me, too. That's as far left as a baseball team needs to go.



The Case for Ron Roenicke | 18 comments | Create New Account
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