Brewers Braintrust Still Trusts Roenicke

Club’s decision to exercise manager’s 2016 contract option goes beyond the obvious reasons.

If your team has not just celebrated a World Series title, it is, of course, always the manager’s fault. But even if that last game begat showers of beer and champagne, it’s his fault they didn’t win by more. And the next time the team loses, well, it will be his fault again.

That’s been the case since 1846, when Alexander Cartwright first penned baseball’s rules. Has been since spring 1970, when the Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers. Has been since November 2010, when those Brewers hired Ron Roenicke into the hot seat. And it was never truer than in September 2014, when the club’s epic collapse meant his seat had never been hotter.

Many organizations would’ve fired Roenicke back then, but the Brewers, after taking a postseason cleansing breath, decided against it. And perhaps that same Brewers brass would’ve fired many other managers, but would not do so with this particular one.

You fire a manager for one of two reasons: You’re convinced he can no longer help your team win, or you’re poised to hire someone else who will help the team win more. The September collapse was enough to make the Brewers consider both points, and to conclude Roenicke was worth keeping. And on Thursday, the Brewers re-emphasized the point by exercising his club option for the 2016 season.

Many fans are asking why, and the simple answer is this: They didn’t want the distracting scenario of having a lame-duck manager. But there’s a deeper answer too.

They trust him. And they surely trust him more than fans do because they see his work in ways fans cannot. Roenicke’s greatest criticisms stem from things that play out in full public view: overaggressive baserunning, in-game strategy, lineup decisions, bullpen management. But his greatest strengths play out behind the scenes, where nobody is there to see the results. It’s there that he’s creating an environment of camaraderie and an atmosphere of trust, which is the kind of clubhouse so many teams strive for and so few achieve.

Roenicke’s built all of that upon his ability to craft relationships. For evidence, just look back to September. As bad as things got during one of the worst months in club history, you saw no signs of dissension in the ranks, no finger-pointing at the manager or among players. If there were any cracks, that’s exactly the time when they’d have shown up. That none did is a testament not just to the bond Roenicke has forged with the players, but the one he facilitated among the players themselves. And in the aftermath, when Roenicke’s job was in the crosshairs, players were adamant the blame should not fall at his feet, but theirs.

That type of reaction wouldn’t happen if the players didn’t trust Roenicke. Which is surely a big reason why the front office chose to keep trusting him, too. It’s a decision that will be tested by the next Brewers slump, because that will surely be his fault, because it’s always the manager’s fault.

But some good things are his fault, too.




Howie Magner is a former managing editor of Milwaukee Magazine who often writes about sports for the magazine.