Blog Entry

Hold off on judging Brewers, but not the manager

Posted on: April 19, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 7:49 pm
 
PHILADELPHIA -- It's too early to judge the Brewers.

It may not be too early to judge the Brewers' new manager.

We still haven't seen the Brewer rotation as it was designed, because we still haven't seen Zack Greinke throw a pitch for Milwaukee. We still haven't seen the Brewer lineup as designed, because Corey Hart still hasn't had an at-bat this year. We haven't even seen the Brewer bullpen as designed, because Takashi Saito appeared in just two games before going on the disabled list, and LaTroy Hawkins has yet to make his debut.

Within two weeks, the Brewers could have all those players back.

As infielder Craig Counsell said, "We're getting our team."

So no, we can't judge the Brewers yet, except to say that through all the injuries, they've hung in there so far in what is looking like a balanced (mediocre?) National League Central. Heading into play Tuesday night, the Brewers were 8-8, one game behind the first-place Reds.

So why does it feel like we can already start judging Ron Roenicke?

Simply because all the injuries, and everything else the Brewers have already gone through, makes it feel like he has already managed a lot more than 16 games.

"They haven't been easy," Roenicke said. "But the guys here, they've made it easy."

People around the Brewers say that those guys, the Brewer players, have taken to Roenicke in a way they didn't take to Ken Macha, the manager he replaced. They also say that Roenicke has already proven to have a trait that every good manager needs, the ability to stay consistent through good times and bad.

"Nothing ever festers or lingers with him," said John Shelby, who is on Roenicke's coaching staff as the Brewers' eye-in-the-sky. "You're not going to see him come in and tear up a locker room.

"There's no way you can tell anything different from [Monday] night's game [when the Brewers beat the Phillies in 12 innings] or the first day of the season, when we lost."

On the first day of the season, the Brewers didn't just lose. They blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning in Cincinnati, losing to the division rival Reds on Ramon Hernandez's three-run walkoff home run off closer John Axford.

Of the 29 other active managers in the big leagues, only two lost on a walkoff in their first game. Eric Wedge's 2003 Indians lost in 13 innings in Baltimore, while Ozzie Guillen's 2004 White Sox gave up six in the ninth and lost on a Carlos Beltran walkoff home run in Kansas City.

"I don't know if people think I can manage or not," Guillen told reporters that day.

Roenicke said nothing that colorful. He won't, but he seems as at ease dealing with the media as he does in dealing with his players.

And he's dealt with a lot already.

The difficult opening day loss began a four-game season-opening losing streak. Axford has struggled with his control in nearly every outing, and this week Roenicke had to deal with questions about whether he has a closer problem (he responded by expressing confidence that Axford will get straightened out).

Rival scouts have noticed. They also praise Roenicke for the multiple shifts he has used to help out the Brewers' subpar defense, and for the aggressive style he prefers on the basepaths.

None of that should come as a surprise. Roenicke coached under Mike Scioscia with the Angels, just as Joe Maddon and Bud Black did. And just as Maddon and Black have proven to be successful with the Rays and Padres, Roenicke looks like he could be a success with the Brewers.

The Angels connection is strong.

When a reporter asked Roenicke the other day about Carlos Gomez, Roenicke said that other players in baseball were off to slow starts, too.

The two players he mentioned: Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, both of the Angels.

"I'm watching them," he admitted with a smile.

You can be sure they're watching him, too.

They'll keep watching, and in a couple of weeks they'll be watching a Brewers team with Greinke, Hart and the others.

They've done all right so far without them.

"I think we've handled it really well," Roenicke said. "Fortunately for us, they weren't year-ending things. [The players] know Zack's coming back. Hopefully, we'll get everyone healthy, and then we'll get on a roll."

Maybe then, we'll know what kind of team the Brewers have.

We already have an idea what kind of manager they have.

Comments

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Since: Oct 30, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 12:50 pm
 

Hold off on judging Brewers, but not the manager

Roenicke has done an admirable job thus far. He's aggressive on the basepaths and I like that, especially with a power lineup. It leads to defensive mistakes and more fastballs to the power hitters. Even without Hart and Lucroy for the first couple weeks, they are scoring enough to win. The bullpen has dropped a couple they should have won, but overall very good.

The key (which no one wants to admit for fear of eating crow down the road) was Doug Melvins late spring training pick up of Nyjer Morgan.
He's been on base a ton, running bases aggressively and effectively.  His played stellar defense and is showing the form he started out with Pittsburgh when I thought he was one of the most exciting newcomers in the league.  There's some hesitation to get excited about him, both from the press and the fans, because some think his days with the Nationals branded him as a mini me of Milton Bradley or something.  But with the right leadership (Roenicke has appeared to connect with him), I think he will run smarter and go back to being the spray hitting nuisance against right  handers that he's proven to be in the past. I LOVE his fearless approach on the basepaths as long as it doesn't become reckless. He's already been key in two of the Brewer wins with his running.

When Hart comes back, I hope Morgan get the CF at bats against right handers and Gomez faces the left handers. With that balance, we will have power and speed up and down the lineup. Weeks, Hart, Morgan, Gomez and Braun can all steal bases and run very well. Hart, Fielder, Braun, McGehee and Weeks all can go longball...When the weather warms up, there will be some serious runs scored by this lineup.

Roenicke will have his hands full finding the right defensive mix late in games but when Greinke and Hart come back, I see the Brewers fighting the Reds for first all season.


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