Minor League Coaching History
Roenicke’s 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 Angeles’s manager in the middle of the season. In 1999, Roenicke left the Dodgers organization to manage San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies. The next year, he was appointed to Mike Scioscia’s coaching staff on the Anaheim Angels.
Serving Under Scioscia
Roenicke joined Anaheim’s coaching staff in 2000 and has served under Mike Scioscia for 11 years. Roenicke has served the last five years as the team’s bench coach after spending six years as a third base coach. Scioscia’s 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 Scioscia’s 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. Roenicke’s reputation seems to have grown recently and Anaheim papers have speculated that if he doesn’t 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. Roenicke’s 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 doesn’t 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 Scioscia’s 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 club’s 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. It’s very possible that if Maddon and Black hadn’t been offered managerial positions, five-sixths of Scioscia’s original staff would still be with the team.
It’s 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 Scioscia’s 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 Scioscia’s 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 team’s biggest controversy in 11 years was probably an incident with perennial malcontent Jose Guillen. As Scioscia’s 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.
Scioscia’s Managerial Style
Roenicke likely won’t be an indentical manager to Mike Scoscia, but it is worth noting briefly Scoscia’s 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 he’s 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 doesn’t rely upon the starter heavily is at catcher, where Scoscia almost always utilizes a platoon (to many fans’ 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 hasn’t always been the case for hitters, as Brandon Wood never developed and Howie Kendrick hasn’t quite become the hitter people expected. There’s 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.
The more I read about Roenicke, the more I think he should be one of the top names on Anthopolous’ list. Although he doesn’t 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 team’s 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 Roenicke’s minor league managerial tendencies (and if he follows Scioscia’s style), it seems likely he will try to bring elements of “small ball” and contact-oriented offence to Toronto that tries to manufacture runs, which is something fans of the Blue Jays haven’t seen recently. I would think, and hope, that Roenicke would recognize that this isn’t 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.