Amid a disappointing season for the Milwaukee Brewers, principal owner Mark Attanasio did what most people in his position do when addressed about their team’s struggles, he gave manager Ron Roenicke a vote of confidence. Speaking to Fox Sports on Wednesday, Attanasio said that Roenicke’s job was safe until the end of the season. But how often have we heard that before and the manager is fired within a few weeks? Far too often for Roenicke’s comfort I’m sure.
But should Roenicke be fired?
The 56-year-old is in his third season as Milwaukee’s manager and has compiled a .525 winning percentage over that time, and led the Brewers to a division championship in 2011. Last season the team started slowly before charging into playoff contention. They then faltered in September and finished with 83 wins, which put them five games out of the last wild card spot.
This season Roenicke has presided over the worst month in club history, a 6-20 May, which sunk the team’s playoff hopes for the season. However, the Brewers are 22 -21 combined in April and June, so other than one historically bad stretch, the team has been fairly average. That is actually surprising given the injuries and poor performances the team has seen thus far.
The heart of the Brewers’ lineup has been in flux for large portions of the season due to injuries. First baseman Corey Hart has missed all 69 games this season and will not be ready until around the All-Dtar break. Ryan Braun is on the disabled list currently with a thumb injury and third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed time with a knee injury, and he’s still working his way back into shape. Braun and Ramirez bat third and fourth respectively and once healthy Hart is likely to slide into the five hole since shortstop Jean Segura has flourished batting in Hart’s normal second spot.
Milwaukee’s pitching hasn’t been much healthier, as pitchers Marco Estrada, Hiram Burgos, Mike Fiers, Chris Narveson, Tom Gorzellany, Mark Rodgers and Jim Henderson all having spent time on the disabled list this season. That, and the ineffectiveness of Wily Peralta and John Axford, has forced the club to move relievers into the rotation and constantly shuffle roles .
So while injuries have clearly contributed, and so have the poor performances by Axford, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo and Peralta, how much of that blame can you place at the feet of Roenicke? The manager does not throw a pitches, make errors or strike out. It’s the manager’s job to put the players in the best position to succeed and then let them do what they do. With that in mind I’d say the results have been mixed.
Going back to 2011 I still have an issue with Roenicke deciding to start Shaun Marcum against St Louis in the National League Championship series. In two outings Marcum compiled an ERA of 16.20, giving up five runs in four innings to start Game 2 and another four runs in one inning to start the decisive Game 6. It would be one thing if those two starts had been aberrations, but Marcum had not pitched well for over a month to close the regular season.
This season Roenicke has continued to show unwavering faith that his veteran players will rebound to their previous levels. Jonathan Lucroy was batting in the .220s in late April but is back close to his career average .277 now. John Axford pitched his way out of the closer role to start the season and ended April with an ERA of 8.44, but he compiled a 3.46 ERA in May and hasn’t been scored upon in June.
But for every Axford and Lucroy you have Rickie Weeks and Jim Henderson, both of whom I believe have been mishandled. Weeks spent the first two months of the season playing every day, and compiling a .183 batting average with three home runs and 10 RBIs. With Jeff Bianchi on the bench and Scooter Gennett waiting at Triple-A there was no reason to give Weeks that long to come out of his slump. I don’t believe you should pull a guy after a bad week or two, but after a month of him showing no signs of coming out action should have been taken.
Then there is Henderson. After John Axford collapsed to open the season, Henderson took control of the closer role and was nothing short of dominant. He was nine-for-nine in save opportunities with a 0.92 ERA until he hurt his hamstring against Pittsburgh and went on the disabled list. When he returned, he was not the closer anymore, as he was replaced by Francisco Rodriguez. While K-Rod has not blown a save yet, it seems incredibly inconsistent with Roenicke’s approach to take away the job of a player who had performed so well just because he was injured.
Is the fact that Roenicke has kept the team afloat and positive through this dismal season enough to counterbalance the faults he has? In my opinion it is. The team should give him the rest of the year and see if the team continues to rebound. If it does then he has earned the right to keep his job, if not it’s time to move on.